The official blog of author Jean Marie Bauhaus

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Fire bad. Tree pretty.

zNaNoWriMo Participant 2014This week did not go as planned. Matt and I ran all over town  running errands and stocking up on winter supplies. Wednesday was supposed to involve a quick morning run to Sprouts to stock up on produce and bulk dry goods, after which I was going to catch up on writing and freelance work. But just before we left, the insurance adjuster FINALLY returned our call (did I mention here that we were involved in an accident last week?).

We spent probably 45 minutes on the phone with him, asking and answering questions about our claim, and then he approved us for a rental car, so we had to go pick that up, which ate up another hour or so. By the time we finally made it to Sprouts it was noon already. Tuesday and Thursday were even more hectic. The upshot of which is, I haven’t added a single word to my NaNoWriMo word count since Monday.

This introverted homebody is completely worn out. But at least we’re ready if the winter weather that’s expected to hit this weekend turns into a big deal. Today was all about getting caught up on my freelancing so I don’t have to work through the weekend, so it hasn’t exactly been restful. My new plan is to spend Saturday vegging out and recharging my brain, and then Sunday, while Matt is distracted with football, I will make a valiant effort to catch up on my word count before deciding whether to throw in the towel on trying to win ‘WriMo this year. Unless ice knocks out our power, in which case my chances are pretty much screwed. But at least we’ll be well fed and we won’t freeze to death.

Here’s hoping next week is much calmer.

Bits & bobs, and a NaNoWriMo update

zNaNoWriMo Participant 2014We’re into week 2 of NaNoWriMo, and I’m currently at 14,191 words (that’s words written in November. The total manuscript word count currently stands at 20,714 — about a third of the way through the first draft. I think). I should be at 16,670 by the end of the day, which probably won’t happen. But if I can put in another 2K before I call it a day, I’ll be close enough for comfort. Which means I’d better keep this post short so I can get to writing.

As for what’s happening within the novel, the plot hung a sharp left the other day and now I have to solve a decades-old murder in addition to getting my two protagonists to make with the smoochies.

What else am I up to? Yesterday, I finally put away the Halloween decorations, but left up the fall decorations and added a crocheted horn of plenty that I still need to take a picture of. Today I changed out the dirt in Matilda the Box Turtle’s tank and took her out to get some sun on what may well be the last warm day of the year. And of course there’s the freelancing. Fiverr’s keeping me busy with editing and book formatting gigs, and I just wrote this post on romance novel and wine pairings for Libib.

The forecast is showing wintry weather this weekend. As unpredictable as that crud tends to be in these parts, the rest of this week is going to mostly be dedicated to prepping, to make sure we won’t starve or freeze if we get stuck here and the power goes out. Of course, the more prepared we are, the less of a big deal winter storms tend to be, so if the sky simply sneezes out a few flurries over Tulsa this weekend, you’ll have us to thank. 😉

Right, then. Time to write. How’s your NaNo novel coming? Or any big projects you’re tackling this month, as the case may be?

PCOS, goal interference, and reluctant diet changes

Last week was just a bad week. I have those from time to time, and I’m growing more accepting of that fact — and better at extending grace to myself — now that I’m past 40. Still, it’s really annoying to have stuff that needs to get done and lack the energy or mental clarity to do it. On the bright side, spending last week feeling vaguely ill has finally helped to convince/motivate me to get my diet back under control, since probably at least 99% of what was wrong with me could be traced to not eating healthy enough.

Seriously, I’ve been doing some research on my various chronic ailments and diet, and basically I’m not supposed to be eating any of the stuff I’ve been living on lately. I already knew that PCOS causes issues with insulin resistance and that I should be eating a low glycemic-index diet and not nearly so much bread (I’ve been eating a ton of bread, y’all) or sugar (hello, Halloween candy!). But apparently the fact that I have both PCOS and hypothyroid means it’s highly likely that I have Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, which is an autoimmune disease that’s been linked to gluten intolerance. Yet more reasons for me to avoid bread. Excuse me while I cry into my pumpkin spice flavored English muffin.

And then this short podcast offered compelling reasons why dairy is also horrible for anyone with PCOS. The gist of it is that any animal-based milk contains natural growth hormones that stimulate androgen production and make PCOS symptoms worse. Also, despite the fact that dairy is considered a low-glycemic source of protein, it actually causes blood sugar to spike about as much as bread or sugar.

So lately, this is what my diet has looked like: for breakfast, an English muffin with peanut butter and a glass of milk; for lunch, tuna salad with cottage cheese mixed in on two slices of toast; a cup of yogurt in the afternoon; and something involving meat, veggies and some form of cheese for dinner.

Can you see a few problems there? No wonder I feel like crap half the time.

Of course, this is the worst time of year to try and start a new healthy eating regimen, with Halloween and the holidays right around the corner. And I’m actually dealing somewhat better with the idea of cutting out bread and sugar than I am with giving up cheese. But I’m really tired of not feeling well and it would be nice to actually have the energy to go after my goals.

I like that the podcast I linked above pointed out that it’s not like I have celiac disease or anything, so the occasional indulgence won’t kill me. That’s good to remember, because so many of my favorite things have either gluten or dairy or both. Off the top of my head, that list includes pizza, egg rolls, cookies, breakfast toast, beer, grilled cheese sandwiches and ice cream. Sure, there are gluten-free alternatives to all that stuff, but it tends to cost twice as much and often tastes half as good as the real thing.

At any rate, I’m going to need to do some more researching and planning on all of this. If you follow me on Pinterest, don’t be surprised to see an influx of PCOS and health food related pins showing up on your home page.

I think I’m having a thought. Yeah, yeah, yeah, that’s a thought. Now I’m having a plan…

This has been a terribly off week. Despite a lovely, restful, craft-filled weekend, on Monday I woke up with a stomach ache and barely any energy, and my condition didn’t improve much throughout the day. Yesterday I felt better, but we needed to make a Target run in the morning, which threw off my routine, and by 4 PM my wrist was throbbing from tendonitis and I had to log off to let it rest.

I went to bed early last night, hoping for a good night’s sleep that would let me hit the ground running today and make up for the lost productivity of the last two days, but then I woke up around three o’clock this morning and couldn’t get back to sleep until almost six, only to be woken up again shortly after seven by my dog, who didn’t care about my sleep deprivation nearly as much as he cared about being fed and let out to pee.

So I’m a little on the zombified side today, and will most certainly require a nap before I even attempt any of my freelance work. Needless to say, it hasn’t been a good week for making progress on my fiction, although I did at least add quite a bit to the PANIC outline on Saturday.

One good thing, though — after I shut everything down yesterday afternoon, I decided to go for a walk. That isn’t the good part, although I did need the exercise.

I had a lot more written here about my freelancing journey over the years, but I was getting into overshare and way too much thinking out loud, so here’s the TL;DR version: I’ve been doing some soul-searching about what I really want to be doing for a day job (until my writing can become my day job), as opposed to basing my whole business model on “what can I do that people will give me money for?”

At the end of the day, the answer to that is that I want to take all of the knowledge and experience in writing and editing, web & graphic design, social media, marketing and branding, etc. that I’ve accumulated over the last several years and focus it all on helping other self-published authors succeed.

So the good thing that happened is that during yesterday’s walk I came up with some good ideas on how to go about doing that, as well as some inspiration for branding and promoting this new venture. So that’s going to add a whole lot of stuff to my To Do list that will probably take a while to bring to fruition, but even so, it’s nice to have a goal and a direction for my freelance biz beyond “what can I get people to pay me to do for them this week?”

And that, to me, is very exciting. Or at least it will be after I have my nap.

Now taking commission orders on Halloween knits, and other fall-related blather

Heads up: I’m currently taking orders for Halloween and the holidays for Marzipan Pie. There are a lot of great knit and crochet kid costume ideas on this Pinterest board, but you’re certainly not limited to those ideas. Or to stuff for kids, for that matter. Just let me know what you want and I’ll let you know if I can do it and quote you a price. And I promise not to use any of the yarn from the cat pee bag.

The new novel, which currently has the working title Panic, is still in the outline phase. The NEW new novel, i.e. the Restless Spirits sequel, is still in the germinating ideas and jotting down notes phase. And Midnight Snacks is still with the beta readers. I’m planning to do a cover reveal for that one soon, but I still need to move the cover file off of the old laptop, which is a PITA.

I’m currently working in my craft room, in the rocker which is more comfortable than I remembered (though not enough to make me change my mind about wanting to replace it). Lately it’s been easier to get the creative juices flowing in this room — another reason I’m glad I finally took it back from the cats.

This week, I’ve been working on decluttering the living room and putting out the fall decorations — of which I have pitifully few. But now that I’ve got my craft room back, I’ve got plenty of plans to make more. I’ve also started hanging pictures on walls — something we’ve done pathetically little of in the SIX years we’ve lived in this house — but my first go at that ended in tragedy when my attempts to straighten a picture holder I’d just hung caused it to fall and break a hand-painted ceramic egg commemorating our wedding that my aunt made for us. Don’t tell my Aunt Faye, it would break her heart. It certainly broke mine.

Anyway, there’s a stack of frames here in the craft room that either already have photos that I want to hang or that will be repurposed for photo collages and other crafty “art” so we can finally get stuff on the walls and look like we actually live here. There’s also a stack of awesome Serenity propaganda-style posters somewhere that I need to dig out and put up and stop waiting until we can afford to have them framed.

I’m hesitant to write this down lest I jinx it, but I think I have finally achieved a pretty good balance between freelance work/writing fiction/home care/self care/having a life. I’m at a point where I want to look for ways to “work smarter not harder,” i.e., finding more lucrative work instead of just more work. Of course, it would also help to be more diligent about marketing and selling my books, and sideline businesses like Marzipan Pie that help fund my yarn addiction certainly can’t hurt. To that end, I’m thinking about setting up a dedicated website for MP instead of just relying on the Facebook page (which needs a makeover, anyway).

I’m also thinking about ways to expand my fiction audience, like maybe getting audiobooks made, and submitting short stories to online markets. And, of course, writing more books. I really need to get around to finishing setting up my own book shop here on this site, too. Oh, and I also need to set up a separate website for my editing and publishing services, because just having a page for it here on this site isn’t working.

And that’s a lot of thinking “out loud” in that last paragraph. I need to remember that this is my most energetic time of year, and while I need to take advantage of it while I can, I also need to be careful not to write checks that my S.A.D.-afflicted future self won’t be able to cash.

The craft room is finished! And the RESTLESS SPIRITS sequel is begun! Sort of.

Well, my friends, the cat room is a craft room once again.

I spent yesterday first sorting through my yarn and then emptying out the walk-in closet. The good news re: the yarn is that I had it stored in four different bags, only one of which got peed on, so the majority of my stash was just fine. The tee-shirt stash fared worse, but it still wasn’t as bad as I expected. Everything pee-scented went into the washer to soak overnight in vinegar and laundry soap (the yarn first went into pillow cases), and then this morning I ran that cycle, then ran it again with baking soda. After that, the shirts went in the dryer and the yarn went out on the back lawn to dry in the sun. The yarn is still drying outside, but the shirts passed the sniff-test, and are now folded and put away where those jerks sweet kitties can’t get to them.

As for the kitties, they’re much happier, and reluctant to leave the room, which is kind of nice. I fixed up the closet for them with their litter boxes and crates and plenty of places to hide and sleep and climb. Nibblet’s loving it, but so far Boudica prefers the top of what’s now the yarn and tee-shirt cabinet, a.k.a. my only work surface. I laid a fleece blanket up there for her to collect cat hair and protect the surface from her claws, and I can just move the blanket (and her) when I’m ready to get my craft on, so no big.

The only thing that’s missing in there is a good work surface. There’s a small table, but that’s wobbly, and the previously mentioned cabinet, but that’s not a large surface and it’s tall enough that I’ll have to stand. It’ll do for now, but some day I’d like to get a dedicated sewing table. A comfy chair for sitting and knitting would also be great. We’ve got an old rocking chair in there, but it’s not that comfortable, and I’d like to consign it to the back porch eventually.

I’m terrible about remembering to take pictures. If you want to see some, I’ll post some to my Instagram later.

I was hoping to be able to include a word count on the new novel in this post, but I’ve been kind of distracted all morning and couldn’t get my head in the right place for it. I guess I need to spend some time cleaning something else to give my brain a chance to develop the scene. Good thing I’m ready to straighten up the living room and bring out the fall decorations. Yes, I know it’s not technically fall yet, but the weather’s supposed to cool off later this week, and that’s good enough for me.

One thing I did do, though, writing-wise, is jotted down some notes on a proper sequel to Restless Spirits.  People have been bugging me (in the good way) about a sequel for years now, but I just haven’t been able to come up with the right story to justify one. But yesterday I streamed a few episodes of My Ghost Story while sorting through and detangling my yarn stash, and apparently these true haunting and paranormal investigator shows are my muse when it comes to this series (I guess it’s a series now), because something finally clicked. Now it’s going to be hard to make my brain focus on the Satanic Panic story instead of this. I wonder how insane I’d have to be to attempt writing two novels at once. We might be about to find out.

Seeking beta readers, non-smelly yarn and time to veg.

This has been quite the busy week, what with doing a load of laundry AND working on the cat room every day, plus editing one book while outlining another, plus my freelance writing and marketing projects. I’m pooped. Thank God it’s Friday, indeed. I plan to plant myself on the couch tomorrow and avail myself of our free Prime membership trial and stream the heck out of Amazon videos.

But first, today I need to hurry and finish up my freelance writing for the week, after which I’ll hopefully have time to type up my edits for my story collection, MIDNIGHT SNACKS (I’m looking for beta readers, by the way. Holler in the comments if you’d like to be one). And then I’m going to try to finish up the room part of the cat room (saving the closet for next week) and sort through my yarn stash to see what can be saved.

Speaking of “saving mah yarnz,” this is the funniest post about cats peeing on yarn and trying to save it that you’ll probably ever read.

Progress All Around

The cat room is really starting to resemble a craft room again. I’ve only got one more corner to deal with, but I’ve been saving the worst for last, so that will probably take a day or two to conquer. Once that’s done, I should be able to set my sewing machine up in a permanent spot where my desk used to be (if I can find something sturdy enough to set it on, since Matt has co-opted our card table for the office), thus eliminating one of my (several) excuses for never sewing.

But then it will be time to tackle the walk-in closet, where I committed the error of trying to keep both the litter boxes and various craft supplies and other odds and ends. And despite having a perfectly good litter box right there, they still had to pee on a lot of what’s in there. I know I’ve got a basket of old tee-shirts in there that I was planning to do crafty things with at some point, so I’ll need to decide whether it’s worth it to try and salvage them. Really, most of what’s in that closet is old and broken things I’d planned to recycle into craft projects, so it won’t be the end of the world if I just toss it all so I can be done with it.

***

I’m already almost done with the first editing pass for the horror collection. I just need to type up my changes, then it will be ready for beta readers.

Also, working in the cat room without anything to listen to has indeed been conducive to developing the new novel. I now have several scenes mapped out, along with some snatches of dialogue written down, plus I now know the major beats of the story and how each act needs to end. This whole coming up with ideas while cleaning thing might end up being very good for my house.

I guess they don’t call it “Labor Day” for nothin’.

Happy Labor Day!

It’s my usual Labor Day tradition to spend the weekend getting some cleaning done. Usually this means cleaning my house, but we’ve actually been doing a pretty decent job lately of keeping the “public” areas presentable.

However, there is one room that I have put off tackling for far too long, because just thinking about having to clean it makes me feel so anxious and overwhelmed that I literally become nauseous. That is the room formerly known as my office/craft room, but in the past year and a half or so has come to be known as “the cat room.”

I think the devolution of this room really started when our kitty, Sasha, became sick last year. We already used that room to shut the cats up at night, and I’d been able to stay on top of their messes, but dealing with a loved one’s cancer, even when said loved one is a pet, takes a lot out of you, and I didn’t have the energy to keep battling our other two cats’ destructiveness. That only got worse after Sasha passed away — both their acting out and my inability to care what they were destroying — and shortly afterward I moved my desk into my husband’s office and pretty much gave that room over entirely to the remaining cats.

To know what we’re dealing with here, you should know that our oldest cat, Nibblet, is psychotic, and compulsively destructive. She has pica and eats or chews everything, and when she’s angry — which is pretty much her constant state — she deliberately knocks things off of shelves and breaks things. Our other cat, Boudica, isn’t so intentionally malevolent so much as just really clumsy, although she does have some chewing tendencies of her own.

So other than cleaning up their frequent bodily emissions, scooping their litter and occasionally vacuuming the small amount of carpet not taken up by stuff we’ve dumped in there because at some point we also started using that room as a big junk closet, we haven’t cleaned in there in well over a year, and it has become kind of a scary place.

So yesterday I decided to gird up my loins and finally start the long process of taking back my craft room from the cats.

Once I got started, it actually wasn’t quite as bad as I’d anticipated. One of the things that kept putting me off from tackling that room is that we’ve got a pretty bad brown recluse spider problem, and there are plenty of places in there for those things to hide. Generally, I have no problem with spiders, but as a rule I do have a huge problem with anything that can cause your flesh to rot. The good news is, while I did run into a few spiders, only one of them was a dreaded brown recluse.

The bad news, however, is that I discovered that one of the cats (or maybe both, but I suspect it was probably just Nibblet) peed all over both my yarn stash and my sewing fabric. So that’s going to be fun, detangling and re-winding all of that yarn after I’m forced to wash it.

At any rate, after a couple of hours in there yesterday, I got all of my knitting supplies safely cat-proofed inside my old TV cabinet turned craft cabinet, restored order to one of my book cases, removed a lot of things to the garage that can either be sold or given to charity, and threw away a lot of trash. And that was just one corner of the room. Still, it already looks a lot better in there. Y’know, if you stand at a certain angle and only look at that one corner.

My weekend wasn’t entirely about spiders and cat pee, thankfully. I did manage to make a little progress on my new novel outline, albeit not as much as I would have liked. I figured out the main character arc progressions for both of my protagonists, which is a good thing, but I’m still having a hard time envisioning more than a handful of scenes and figuring out the main story beats. I may just have to start writing and do an exploratory draft, but I need to focus on getting my short story collection ready for release before I start writing the new book in earnest.

Today, as predicted, I still have to write those short pieces for Fiverr. After those are done I’ll probably spend some more time working on the cat room until Matt’s ready to cook up some brats and break out the holiday beer.

So how are you guys spending the unofficial end of summer?

Links: What’s Steampunk, Sleepy Hollow preview, and more

I didn’t get all of my freelance work done before the weekend, so I’m having to work today. It’s mostly my own fault for not managing my time as well as I could have, but then again this was a pretty hectic week that involved more errands and more reasons to leave the house than usual (including a second trip to Bixby to pick up Pete’s meds from the vet because she didn’t have them stocked when we were there on Wednesday. Let me tell you, that is quite a long way to drive for such a simple errand), so I’ll go ahead and cut myself some slack.

The plan is to get this last article written before lunch, then I’ll be free the rest of the weekend. Except I also have a couple of short things I need to write for a Fiverr client by Monday evening. I’m still dithering on whether to buckle down and get those done today so I can take Labor Day off, or just wait and do them Monday so I can enjoy most of my Saturday. Considering that “enjoying” my Saturday involves laundry and vacuuming the house, I’ll probably hold off on the extra work until Monday.

Also on today’s agenda: trimming my unruly hair (still debating whether to give myself straight bangs or keep them longish and side swept, even though I usually regret straight bangs because they never lay down like I want them to, and yet I never seem to learn), fiddling with the outline for the new novel, and pulling my horror short story collection together for beta readers.

And now I’ll leave you with some links that are open in my browser that might be of interest to you:

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