Tues. Nov. 30, 2021: Giving Thanks for Vaccine Boosters

image courtesy of Bianca Van Dijk via pixabay.com

Tuesday, November 30, 2021

Waning Moon

Neptune, Chiron, Uranus Retrograde

Sunny and cold, chnged over to snow as I wrote this.

I hope everyone had a wonderful weekend, and that the focus was on love and good company, rather than stress and conflict.

Wednesday was a struggle for me to get everything done. Once I’d done my quota on CAST IRON MURDER, I slogged through about 500 emails, trying to get the Inbox under control again.

I struggled with the last project I had before I could call it a holiday. But I got there, by mid-afternoon. The mental exhaustion is even more severe than the physical exhaustion, although my hip was giving me a lot of trouble. I will have to find yoga stretches to help with that.

Was relieved that the three men who hunted down and murdered Ahmaud Arbery were convicted. Unlike the Kyle Rittenhouse jury, this one took its job seriously.

Baked the Ginger Apple Crumb Cake from the Wintersweet Cookbook. It was wonderful!

Read for fun in the afternoon and evening. Played with some ideas, both for inserts I need to do for CAST IRON MURDER, the outline for THE KRINGLE CALAMITY, and the Big New Project.

A friend came up with a great name for the second workshop I’m teaching on Cape Cod next summer.

Tessa let me sleep until a quarter to six on Thanksgiving morning. It was so nice not to have to worry about anything except making the meal!

I added (in red ink), to the printout of the current draft, the reference setting up the character in CAST IRON MURDER that I need for THE KRINGLE CALAMITY to work. I thought about an insert scene I need to add, but haven’t figured out where to put it yet.

My ego was all in an uproar that I wasn’t updating “every day” or doing the 1667 words for the day. But I planned to be at 50K by Thanksgiving; except for these inserts, I have only one more chapter to write and this draft is done. The whole point of pushing hard at the beginning of the month was so I could choose to take off Thanksgiving without stress.

So that’s what I did.

That’s what these people who scream how the “write every day” mantra is “wrong” don’t get. You write every day that’s designated as a “work” day; that way, you choose when to take time off, be it for life commitments or holidays. But the work is steady. Often, I choose to write on holidays, especially if I’m deep into a piece. But writing every day and meeting daily quotas mean I have the breathing room to CHOOSE when and where to take time off, not just letting the writing slide. Because once you start letting it slide, it’s more difficult to get back into the rhythm.

Every book, every story, every script, has its own innate rhythm. One of the reasons outlining helps so much is that I can jump right into where I left off, and slide back into that unique rhythm much more easily than staring at a blank page, wondering what I meant to do next.

Talked to the family in Maine. We had no intention of traveling this year for the Big Dinner (which is usually held in the VFW Hall and is 60+ people). Both because of the pandemic, and because I’m still unhappy with the lack of support around the move. Since the rule is to put aside all arguments for the day, no matter what, I’d have had to grit my teeth and smile. I don’t have the physical or emotional energy for that right now, especially with all the cooking and cleaning up involved. We’d expected bad weather, and had already bowed out. The dinner wound up being cancelled, due to the rising virus numbers in Maine, even though everyone in the family is triple-boosted or about to be, and the younger kids are all on their way to being double-vaxxed. We might have our differences over plenty of things, but NONE of the extended family is anti-vax or a supporter of the Narcissistic Sociopath.

My cousin, who’s led the organization of the dinner for 50+ years, ordered the meal for the nuclear family this year, from a restaurant. She picked it up yesterday, and all they have to do today is heat it up in the oven for 2 hours. Good for her; after all these years, she’s earned a rest.

I have a feeling the Big Dinner might be a thing of the past.

Which I’m okay with. I have plenty of fond memories of it.

Made the stuffing, stuffed the turkey, and got it in the oven a little after 9 AM. Yes, I cook the stuffing in the bird. I’ve been doing it my entire life. Because I cook the turkey at a higher temperature than most, the interior surpasses the recommended temperature. Because I also basically poach it, by keeping the cover on the roasting pan and using a lot of liquid in the pan, the meat remains tender and practically falls off the bone.

Enjoyed a quiet morning reading while the turkey cooked; Around noon, I got the potatoes going, and make the parsnip-carrot in mushroom sauce dish. I’d saved a precious bag of frozen peas (a rarity right now) and heated them up, along with making corn for myself. I’d stockpiled our favorite cranberry sauce from Trader Joe’s before we moved (closest Trader Joe’s here is over an hour away).

I’d set the table in the morning, there were candles in the candelabra. I think we were the only ones in the entire building. The cats discovered that apples roll better than potatoes, and played with some apples up and down the hall. At least they were getting along.

The turkey came out of the oven, just gorgeous and tender. Needed two platters for it, since it was a 16-pound turkey. One platter for the main bird, and one platter for legs and wings.

The gravy turned out well, too. Giblet gravy, with plenty of fresh herbs.

Put the rest of the stuffing in the oven as soon as the bird came out, so that could bake. Because turkey sandwiches lathered with stuffing and cranberry sauce are a favorite way to use leftovers.

Anyway, the dinner was delicious. We eat around midday (well, closer to 2 PM this year). We had cider from the Berkshire Cider Project, made from Windy Hill Farm apples down in Great Barrington. It was good. I still prefer wine with the dinner, but it was a nice change.

For years, I always had Beaujolais Nouveau with the turkey. I’ve finally accepted the fact that I don’t like that kind of wine, and I’m looking for another red that goes well with the meal.

Cleaned up the leftovers, which I will use in various dishes over the next few days, and some of the turkey went into the freezer. The gravy will be fun to use. Made stock from the turkey carcass. It didn’t make much, so I used it on Friday to make a nice turkey soup that was a good, filling lunch over the weekend.

Got an idea for a stand-alone romantic-comedy-mystery and jotted some notes.

Spent the afternoon and evening with a glass of wine, a book, and French jazz on the CD player. It was lovely.

Scrolled through social media a bit, enjoying people posting photos of their cooking, baking, and starting the Christmas decorations.

Charlotte woke me up at 4:30 on Friday, chewing on my hair. Tessa started singing a few minutes later. I moved to the sewing room, but Tessa and Charlotte started fussing at each other, so I gave up and got up to feed them.

It was gloomy and rainy, with predictions it would turn to snow. It did so by mid-day. Which was fine, since I had no intention of going out and about on Black Friday.

Instead, I started the holiday decorating, made chocolate walnut butter bread, and made turkey soup from scratch (which was really good).

I also read, for fun, although I admit I did a little work-related reading on the Marie Corelli research. Mostly, it was just about having some time off. Spent a good bit of time just watching the snow fall because it was so pretty.

Saturday was sunny and cold. The street was plowed early. People were out and about getting things done.

I wrote a bunch of inserts for CAST IRON MURDER, to fix some plot holes, before I write the last chapter and put the book aside for a couple of months to percolate.

Did some more decorating. After lunch, I did a run to Big Y for a few things, once I’d scraped the snow off the car, and then went on the hunt of liquid Tylenol. You can tell that people are getting their boosters, because almost every store is out of liquid Tylenol. I finally snagged a lonely bottle.

On the hunt for taper candles for the Advent table. Couldn’t find any. Even Wild Oats, which has the lovely Mole Hill candles, was sold out. Hit up way too many stores, and was irritated that people are letting masking protocols slide. With the new variant, that’s not acceptable. At least I wasn’t in any one store for long or that was too crowded.

Tired and grumpy when I got home. Just reheated turkey and trimmings leftovers, and read two scripts at night. Since I don’t know whether I’ll have a reaction to the booster, I’m doing Monday and Tuesday’s work over the weekend. Resent not taking the whole weekend off, but needs must.

Reading Hermione Lee’s biography of Penelope Fitzgerald, which is excellent. How much creative work has been lost because so many talented women remained tied to useless husbands?

Tessa, who hates people food, has decided she likes raspberry rugelach, so we had to put it out of her reach.

I was really proud of Charlotte and Tessa on Saturday. They were both on the couch together for most of the day without fighting. Didn’t even fuss at each other all day. Progress.

Amazon claims they delivered a package on Wednesday “in the mailbox” at 1:08 PM. In Pittsfield. First of all, I don’t live in Pittsfield. Second of all, the only things “in my mailbox” on Wednesday were an LL Bean catalogue and a flyer from the Sierra Club. Since Amazon doesn’t have a customer service email anymore that they share, I had to call them out on Twitter. Where they pretended to help, but only sent links that kept sending me around in circles.

I’ve only ordered 4 times from them in the past 2 years (other than eBooks). All four times, they’ve claimed the packages were delivered when they weren’t. After a big fight, they give a partial refund, then take back the full amount when they claim it’s been replaced/redelivered. Which it never is.

Done ordering anything except eBooks from them.

I’m tired of the lies and the double-charging. I don’t mind everything taking three or four weeks longer than they say. I mind the constant lying. And the attitude that if I expect a package to be delivered, it will only happen if I join Amazon Prime.

Tessa let me sleep until 5:30 on Sunday morning, mostly because she and Willa were playing. I’m glad the three of them are finally getting along. It’s taken three years of nearly constant work.

Wrote the final chapter of CAST IRON MURDER. This draft of the book is done, coming in a little over 62K. For a not-quite-cozy, I might almost get away with that, in subsequent drafts. It feels good to have it complete. It’s done a lot to help me regain my confidence that I CAN write another book. And another. And maybe even one after that. In other words, get my career back on track.

I also put all my chapters into a single document to upload to the Nano site on Tuesday, for verification.

When I write I draft in standard manuscript format, and I draft every chapter in a separate file (each draft is a separate folder).

It saves ever so much time and frustration later in the process.

After breakfast, found some cream-colored taper candles at a store I don’t like, but I did manage to grab the last box of any taper candles they had. Then, over to a place we do like, Whitney’s Farm over in Cheshire, where we bought a live wreath. Brought it home, decorated it, put it up. It makes the front door look festive.

I procrastinated in writing up my coverages. Instead, I took a short course with Sisters Enchanted, and updated my Amazon author page (well aware of the irony of that, since I am so unhappy with Amazon).

I finally got both coverages written, and then read two more scripts. Tessa and Charlotte didn’t fuss at each other all day Sunday, either. Progress.

Up early on Monday, with the usual routine (cats, yoga, meditation, shower, writing). Worked on the outline notes for the Big Project, which I have to start this week. Wrote up the script coverages and sent them off. Wrote a letter to my mom’s insurance – even with Senator Elizabeth Warren’s help, there are things that need attention. Sent off my blurbs, bio, etc. for next summer’s conference. All before 10 AM.

Drank most of a bottle of water and we headed off to CVS for my vaccine booster. Pfizer, this time. The young male nurse was very kind and chatty. I was in and out in 15 minutes. My arm hurt and the fatigue set in fast, but nowhere near the reaction I had with the Moderna shots.

My mom drove us home – her first time driving in this area. She did very well. My Tamed Wild box arrived, so that was something fun to open. I had enough appetite for lunch, and enough energy to read a delightful script, write it up, and send it off, before I crashed.

I slept on the sofa most of the afternoon, and had some scrambled eggs for dinner. I read in the evening, took Tylenol as my arm started hurting more, and went to bed. My arm hurt, I was fatigued, had chills here and there. For about 10 minutes, the palms of my hands turned bright red, which was weird, but then it faded. Much milder effects than Moderna.

Charlotte and Tessa fussed at each other. Back to square one.

My mom promised to get up and feed them in the morning, so I could stay in bed. Well, by 5:14 AM, I had all three cats in my room performing the feline version of the “Hallelujah Chorus” and gave up. I fed them. Tessa started yowling when I went back to bed. I picked her up and dumped her in my mom’s room and closed the door. Five minutes later, she was out again and yelling.

I am not a happy camper.

Especially since they’re all fast asleep now.

Can’t figure out where to upload CAST IRON MURDER for verification. It used to show up right on the landing page. Other than that, I’d cleared today, in case I felt bad. I don’t feel terrible, but I’m fatigued, achy, my arm hurts, I have a bit of a headache, and a bit of lymph node swelling. Not bad, especially in comparison to the Moderna, but I’m glad I cleared things so I could take it easy today.

There are things I can do if I feel up to them; but there’s nothing that HAS to get done today, except that I rest.

Finished the Penelope Fitzgerald biography by Hermione Lee, and now I want to read Fitzgerald’s novels. Will order them from the library before I go back to bed.

Peace, friends, and catch up tomorrow.

Wed. Nov. 24, 2021: Holiday Meal Prep

image courtesy of Sarah Chai via pexels.com

Wednesday, November 24, 2021

Waning Moon

Neptune, Chiron, Uranus Retrograde

Sunny and cold

After yesterday’s quota on CAST IRON MURDER was met, I headed for the post office to mail the two packages (one overseas, one domestic that I wanted to arrive during Chanukah). The overseas rate has gone way up, but it’s the only package, so I’m not worried. The domestic package rate has gone up somewhat, but along what I expected.

Then, off to the library, to drop off and pick up books. To Big Y, for a few last-minute items.

Home, unpacked, and worked on script coverage. I was done about midafternoon. I have one more to read/write up before the holiday, but I was just too tired. Each script deserves my ability to concentrate and respond at top capability.

Leftovers for dinner. I’m trying to clean out the fridge to make room for turkey leftovers!

Pondering how I want to change things for next year, as far as work schedule, the way the workload is spread out, etc. I’m on the right track; I need to make a few decisions about where to put my focus and energy. I need to figure out the roster of projects I need/want to get done, and how to juggle them so I don’t burn out and can truly enjoy each of them.

I want to go back to Sundays (or at least one day a week) being disconnected from social media, email, etc. I want to use that day for yoga, meditation, projects I WANT to do, rather than things I feel I HAVE to get done before the next week starts. I want to shift some of my focus, copywriting-wise in the next few months, with a bigger emphasis on certain areas, while pulling back in others. I like the flexibility I have now, and I like taking what Americans consider a long-ish break in the middle of the day, even if it means working later at night.

Went to bed early. Tessa woke me up at 4:10. I moved to the bed in the sewing room, and she settled down, happy. Then Willa and Charlotte came to check in, and I gave up and got up.

Headed for the laundromat early, and got everything done in about an hour and a half. I was the only one there. Sometimes it’s creepy, but today, it wasn’t.

I worked on the outline for the second HEARTHSTONE book (the series started with CAST IRON MURDER). I’m calling that book THE KRINGLE CALAMITY, at least for the moment. Outlining is something I can do at the laundromat, because the hum of the machines gives the writing an underlying beat, and I can still be aware of what’s going on around me. If I’m deep in scene work, I’m not alert enough to my surroundings.

I realized I have to seed a couple of things in CAST IRON MURDER for it to make sense in KRINGLE CALAMTIY, so when I go back in a couple of months to revise CIM, I’ll seed them in. Unless I put them in as inserts in this draft. I forgot to write a scene in CIM that’s kind of important to set something up for the end of the book, so I’ll go back and do that this weekend. When I go back and revise, I have to clean up some timeline stuff; it’s too vague the way it is right now.

Made some notes on the project with which I’ve been playing. It’s still mostly world-building and character relationship notes, although I’m starting to feel more than see how the first three major arcs will go.

When I came back, after breakfast, I wrote 2951 words on CAST IRON MURDER. I realized about two pages of this chapter needed to be the end of the previous chapter, not the opening of this one, so I moved them back into that chapter, and then this chapter made more sense. I need to smooth out a bit of logic, which I can do once I’ve added the insert scenes.

One more chapter (and insert scenes) and I’m done with this draft.

Since it’s not a contracted, deadlined project, I can then put it aside to rest and marinate for two months, before I start working on revisions.

And get back to my contracted, deadlined projects.

I hope to do the revision of “A Rare Medium” early next week, and get that in before deadline. I’m hoping to start the Marie Corelli play this weekend.

I got through about 500 emails this morning. I’m trying to get (and keep) the email situation under control.

I’m a little concerned, because the COVID numbers are going up again here, and Pittsfield is back in the red zone. Since we were shopping in Pittsfield last weekend, I’m monitoring us.

I have one more script to cover, and I’m done for the holidays. I’m debating reading another couple of scripts Saturday/Sunday, in case the COVID booster knocks me out Monday/Tuesday. I’ll see how I feel on the weekend. My brain needs the break.

I’ve got some baking to do this afternoon – cheddar and apple turnovers, an apple/ginger cake, and possibly the chocolate walnut butter bread. Or I might do the bread over the weekend.

Tomorrow morning, I make the stuffing and put the turkey in the oven. I’m serving it with traditional mashed potatoes and homemade turkey giblet gravy, peas, and I’m doing my carrot-parsnip dish in mushroom sauce. I have a bottle of local hard cider from Berkshire Cider Project that I bought specifically for the meal.

Friday, we start the winter holiday decorating, and work on the domestic cards. Sunday is already the First of Advent and the beginning of Chanukah. At the very least, I need to get the Advent table up.

Yes, there will be photos, especially since this is the first time we’re decorating this space, and it will be very different from the past ten years in the Cape house!

Monday, I get my COVID booster in the morning, mixing Pfizer with my previous Moderna shots. Hopefully, I won’t have strong side effects. My mom had 3 Pfizers, with barely any side effects, except sore arm and fatigue. My first two Moderna shots kicked my ass.

Have a lovely weekend, my friends. Enjoy the holiday. Rest, eat, enjoy.