This is hard. Writing has always been easy for me— but the older I get, the more real life leaves me less time for fiction. And then I sit down, having gotten up at 4 a.m. to write and I lose all confidence.
So this is real talk. Art is not all fun. Rewarding things can challenge us.
Day 0: Went to bed thinking of how this new novel would start. Day 1: Woke up by alarm excited for the day and cranked out 769 before work. That’s …
It’s been a demanding week with my body in revolt for most of it.
I’ve succumbed to some bad moods but for the most part kept it together— and even enjoyed another pizza outing with the teenager and my blind friend Nan where we have officially determined that Nan and I think Nicolosi’s eggplant parmesan is our new favorite pizza. The teenager is in the chicken-bacon-ranch camp.
The teenager has been housesitting and her own dog F. Bean Barker seems to prefer sleeping in her crate downstairs to being in the teen’s bedroom alone with the two foster cats, Mars and Khloe.
It has taken a few nights of sleep deprivation to discover this.
And it’s cold. And rainy. So the dog and I are both grumpy.
But this week I have started a new routine— getting up at 4:15 am so I can write for 30 minutes before work. In addition to my publishing business (Parisian Phoenix Publishing), I also need to commit to my writing.
Speaking of commitment, I’ve been trying to buy a bookshelf all week.
But I did buy a microphone for the business so that hopefully we can record some authors reading their work and have discussions with and for writers as part of our marketing material.
Nan and I got together today to run errands, see what was going on with Axiom, drink chai and read poetry. The best publication we looked at today was definitely *82 Review which featured Nan’s poem, “Brewing Chai.”
The magazine is very very diverse in its style and I am very excited to read more.
One of the best pieces I’ve read in a long time is “A Child in Need of Services” (a flash submission) where the speaker talks about the origins of their three talents, with such humor and joyful voice that you just don’t see the ending coming. The author is Amanda Skofstad.
We retrieved Nan’s laundry and I parked the car at the high school and walked the half mile in the cold rain (uphill as the teen would remind us) to the gym so the teen could have the car after school to go to work.
But I made it to the gym… for session 73 at Apex Training with my trainer Andrew. I love his current approach— a lot of back and shoulder based weight training for the upper body and creative more-or-less body weight exercises for the lower body so we can develop some muscle memory in those body parts that don’t understand how to play on a team. We also did some hex bar work and other stuff. I always feel good when I leave.
But by far, the hardest exercise for me today was wide stance squats. That had me struggling, concentrating, breathing and thinking I wouldn’t make it through. For squats. Bench squats at that.
Let me explain.
My cerebral palsy makes this the ultimate torture. Remember— my quads, hamstrings and calves never relax. My heel tendons are too short and my ankles don’t have the right mobility. My knees point in because of my femoral anteversion, and that just means the top of my femurs go into my hip sockets at the wrong angle.
So when I do that wide stance bench squat, I need to practice the most muscle control I can. I have to plant my feet and manually rotate my toes to what feels like uncomfortably out. And when I rise, I need to maintain balance, push with my upper region of my legs and force my hips out so they can force my knees out.
It’s damn hard.
But I can feel those body parts trying to cooperate and that’s exciting. If Andrew and I had more money and could work less at traditional full time jobs, I would love to train every day.
I posted this to Facebook:
I came home and stood in the rain for ten minutes holding an umbrella over the dog and she still wouldn’t pee. I took a shower, got dressed and gathered laundry. The washer wouldn’t work. My seven month old washer.
So I made myself an omelet of peppers, two eggs, heaps of Black Bear Mexican turkey, a slice of black pepper Cooper, a half slice of horseradish cheddar and piled it on my last slice of ShopRite bakery seeded rye.
The teenager came home and I googled the error code on the washer and she moved the whole wash tower and ripped the rear access panel off. When the drain pipe wasn’t back there, I had her read me the exact model number so we could Google again. We found this video, by a man with nice hands: Fixing the washer.
The teenager watched about half a minute, grabbed a bucket and ran to the front access panel. Within seconds, she had removed the whole plug apparatus and flooded the bathroom with gallons of wash water.
“How am I supposed to get that into a bucket?” she asked.
I continue watching the video. There’s a tube you empty first.
“There’s a tube!” she yells.
Oh, Pop Pop on the Mountain, wherever he is in the afterlife, is laughing his ass off now.
The apparatus is clogged with poly fill, a metal ring, quarters and other nonsense. That is fixed now. Drain hoses cleaned. Wash loads continue.
I hope this weekend to partake in some fun activities and lighthearted blog posts, but I also need to do some administrative work for my publishing company, Parisian Phoenix Publishing.
My second novel in the Fashion and Fiends series, Courting Apparitions, releases officially November 29 (my co-founder’s birthday) and could possibly be available Black Friday. Like, damn, when did that happen?
On everyday life and health front, I went to the chiropractor yesterday and like my doctor she approved of my new technique of changing work tables to try and even out my sides. I stopped at the pharmacy and picked up my prescription for muscle relaxer. I also made my last Purple Carrot meal in the fridge: mango glazed roasted vegetables with tahini butter.
Worked went mediocre/well. The night seemed long and boring and I felt like I was getting used to my body again after the chiropractor. I QCed at about 83%.
I came home and several cats were waiting for me— including Minerva, a sweet foster who started in our second foster litter of kittens, The Roman Pride.
I took a muscle relaxer to see how it impacted my pain and my morning stiffness. It didn’t make me loopy and I think it helped with my tossing and turning.
I only got six and a half hours of sleep last night, but still managed to meet up with the teenager my trainer Dan at Apex Training to lift some weights. I felt so much more limber after. The teenager easily did 105 on the barbell deadlift and 95 on the squat. I could lift the 105 but not execute the lift. My squat form is still adjusted for my limited range of motion in my lower body so I maxed out at 85 while the teen hardly had to put any effort into it.
Sometimes, as members of the human race, we have days that are full of delights from sun-up to sundown. Those days are rare, but often involve a leisurely day with the family, a vacation or a holiday.
Then there are days that are good despite— or perhaps because of — their imperfections and today was one of those days.
Maybe today was my “bones day” after all. If you don’t get the reference, it’s a prognosticating pug on TikTok (read more here).
I was originally going to blog this on the Parisian Phoenix website, but I thought I could be more honest and personal here. So here I am.
I came home from work in a lot of pain last night. I achieved 90% in my work metrics and came home, once again, in the kind of pain that leaves me crying and nauseous. Part of a marker for bad pain for me is if the pain interferes with my sleep and/or does not dissipate by morning.
I did not sleep well and I woke in pain.
But, I got up, got dressed, combed my hair and put on makeup. Because today was the Easton Book Festival. It might have been cold and rainy, but I was putting my best foot forward, even if the discomfort made it hard to put a shoe on that foot.
Now, here’s the thing.
Easton has been a part of my life for more than 25 years. Even now, I live very close to Easton. I can walk there.
Book and Puppet Company has been a part of our lives for quite some time. The teenager’s father connected with the owners of the independent bookstore. The teenager had a career as a contained character there.
Andy Laties of Book and Puppet founded the Easton Book Festival three years ago. I even appeared in the original “Read a Book” video— and they also featured a Muslim student in hijab outside the literacy center at my last non-profit job in development at ProJeCt of Easton.
My supervisor there quickly forgot the things I did well, like that placement and our involvement in the Easton Downtown Association scarecrow competition, in which they still participate. But I digress.
The teenager’s father now serves on the board of the Easton Book Festival, so when they organized a local author’s event, he invited me.
One month into Parisian Phoenix’s launch and I have a promotional spot. I didn’t sell enough books to pay for the small expenses of the event: parking, coffee, book printing (but hey, I would have needed those anyway), and the copy of the inaugural issue of the Lehigh Valley Literary Magazine I bought. And an overpriced breakfast.
But one person not only bought my book, but also came back specifically to hear me read. So that was touching.
I read a scene from the sequel to MANIPULATIONS, COURTING APPARITIONS where the villain performs a magical ritual in downtown Easton.
It was my first “reading out” in years!
I kept it very brief, because some others had run long and we were all tired.
Until the YouTube video drops— you should be able to view the Facebook live here.
I had intended to join the teenager’s father at one of the last poetry events of the festival, but I was frozen so I came home instead.
My neighbor, aka Sobaka’s mom, has now formally joined the Parisian Phoenix team as a proofread. She says we need to talk about chapters 1 & 2 of COURTING APPARITIONS tomorrow.
The teenager’s father received the copyright for his upcoming poetry chapbook so that could be going to press in a few weeks.
And tomorrow I hope to make applesauce, post some new material from Rachel Thompson on the Parisian Phoenix blog, and start typing Maryann Stephanie Ignatz’s material.
I even got to have dinner at my favorite diner with my neighbor to celebrate Jan’s official status as part of the Parisian Phoenix team.
I have mixed feelings about surprises. I like good, controlled surprises but I hate when people try to pull one over on me.
But I do like surprising people.
That statement came from one of my bosses tonight after she heard I wrote a novel that had been published by Parisian Phoenixand was available at major online retailers. (Like here.)
“I didn’t know you were a writer.”
I mentioned it to her because I know she adores her cat and she knows I do cat fostering and rehab work. So I wanted her to know I was donating $1 for every print book sold toFeline Urban Rescue and Rehab.
I teased her that there was a lot she didn’t know about me. Like when I traveled to Siberia for pizza. And visiting Yemen and Somalia.
It always makes me feel good to stand out for things I can control— my hobbies, my opinions, my talents— versus the fact that I walk funny and fall a lot.
Or if it fits your values better, ask your independent bookseller to order it from Ingram.
But back to last night…
Bill and I got together for dinner and chatter— in part to celebrate the publication of Manipulations and the launch of Parisian Phoenix Publishing (working on the web site ParisianPhoenix.com and social media channels a little every day) and in part because Bill just really really really loves sushi.
Over a wonderful wide selection of sushi (including salmon roe and sea urchin, I did not partake in the urchin as it looked like radioactive cow tongue and I wasn’t sure how I felt about the salmon caviar) at Jasmine (read about our last visit there here), Bill and I started what ended up being an hours and hours long conversation about our hopes and dreams for our lives and our careers.
The conversation continued over cocktails at County Seat Spirits (Easton) and the ice cream at Ow Wow Cow, both at the Silk Mill.
Bill and I have exchanged writing in the past and encouraged each other so I suppose he wasn’t horribly surprised when he received his copy of the book this week and opened it. But he asked a lot of good questions— why didn’t I go the traditional agent/editor/publisher route. I love that he believes in me and believes in my writing but I have shopped this manuscript.
Every few years I dust it off and send it out and every agent I have queried asks for pages. And every rejection I have gotten features personalized statement of the first 100 pages merits but how it doesn’t fit a proper genre or have the type of structure readers want.
And I know my writing can be dark, and literary from time to time. The fashion aspects are very feminine in a chick lit way but the supernatural elements are more horror than paranormal romance. My writing can be flowery, the emotions intense, but the situations can be very gritty and real.
And I don’t want to sacrifice that.
I don’t want any editor to have control over issues I discuss in my work: marriage/divorce, jealousy, domestic violence, self esteem, body image, self confidence, infertility… and those are just the first book. And I honestly hope you don’t outwardly notice these topics in the story but that they steep into your subconscious and slowly transform you like cold-brewed iced tea.
Meanwhile, as Bill and I are talking about upcoming books ( for those of you who have read Bloodletting, Punishment, and/or Debauchery— I have not only read the fourth book in the series but I also know the title of the fifth!), I am receiving texts and Facebook posts from people who have received their copies. And poor Gayle is left working on the poppet that will adorn the cover of the sequel to Manipulations, Courting Apparitions.
Courting Apparitions is a ghost story that examines the effect grief and depression has on our lives.
** $1 of every print copy of Manipulations sold goes to Feline Urban Rescue and Rehab.
So let me take a moment to say today started out hard. My body was stiff and not functioning well. This made me grouchy because I felt like I should be over last week’s pain by now. (Ultrasound Sunday, BTW).
But my workout went awesome, as it usually does, and I reflected on some of the kindnesses I have noticed lately. The help with the filter from the technician that serviced the furnace and his joy in seeing the little kittens. The consideration of the woman scheduling my mammogram wondering if 6:30 a.m. would be easier than 7:30 because I could theoretically not go to bed.
And I bribed the teenager with munchkins to get my an iced macchiato with an extra shot of espresso from Dunkin.
And then I took a Bang energy drink to work.
Speaking of work, my right leg and back bothered me all night but I still hit 132 fixes QCed. That’s 101.5% by my calculations but by my calculations I got 77% last night and they said I reached 104. So… who knows?
I am thrilled with today and let me leave you with the first page of my favorite chapter…