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Friday, November 30, 2012

Turkey in the Snow

The stories are out, and I have the link!
  Dreamspinner released all of their Advent Calendar stories for individual sale for December 1st, and finally, I get to talk a little about Turkey in the Snow.  
I know that a lot of you are parents, and I think you'll like the premise of this story.  
It's about a man who has taken in his niece, and is at the end of his rope.  
He's the kind of guy who needs to do everything by the book--you know the kind?  Childhood was rough around the edges, and he likes to know when he's waking up and counts out exact change, because the more he can control the world, the less frightening a place that is.  And, like most of us with children, that other human being who depends on us?  That person throws our lives into chaos, and it's a rocky transition at first.  At the beginning, all we want, all we need, all we crave, is a little bit of help.  Even if it's from the person we didn't want anything from at the beginning.  So let me introduce you to Hank and Justin, and it's up to you to decide who's our Turkey in the Snow. 
(I'll be at the Dreamspinner Press Facebook Page to chat tomorrow, 1 P.M. PST, if you want to stop by and say hullo!  I'll be giving away a free copy of Turkey then, if you want to wait until then to buy:-)

All the Drama
“But you said we can go make cookies!” Josie was trying to be patient, Henry Calder knew, but it had been a long day for him too. He swung his four-year old niece up into his arms, threw his gym bag over his other shoulder, and shut the door to his brand new hybrid  with his knee.
“I know, Bunny,” Hank said, trying hard to keep his voice from ratcheting toward irritation as he wove around the cars in the parking lot. “But if your Uncle Hank doesn’t get his workout in, he gets cranky!” He made his voice low and growly, and since she was in his arms anyway, he blew a bubble through her puffy pink jacket, just to make her laugh. It worked, and he held her close and kissed her blonde head. He’d done his best at a braid today, and he thought he was getting better.
“I promise, Bunny. If you can let Uncle Hank get in a little bitty workout, we’ll go home, and make some cookies and we can eat some mac ’n’ cheese while they’re baking. How’s that?”
Josie nodded adamantly. “Good. ’Cause Mommy’s not going to come back unless we make Christmas perfect.”
Hank smiled and nodded, and tried not to clutch his stomach and bury his face in her shoulder and cry. The odds of his sister coming home for Christmas—or any day, for that matter—weren’t great.
“We’re doing okay, aren’t we?” he asked, as he wrestled the gym bag and Josie and the door, coming in from the Sacramento cold into Cal-Fit, his happy place. “We managed Halloween and Thanksgiving okay, right?”
Josie wrinkled her nose. “That princess dress was too big!” she told him, and he nodded. It was true, the costume would fit her again next year. Well, sue him. His sister had left her daughter with him the week before Halloween. He’d managed a princess dress, candy for the door, and a friend to give the candy out while Hank took his niece trick-or-treating throughout his neighborhood. The fact that the only dress he could find at the Halloween store had been two sizes too big was extraneous. He’d come through.
“I know it was,” he said, taking it on the chin. “Next year we’ll do better.”
“Next year Mommy will take me.”
Hank held out his pass for the nice lady at Cal-Fit, who scanned his card and smiled warmly at Josie. Cindy had curly blonde-gray hair pulled back in a pony-tail and faded blue eyes. Hank felt bad—she was the closest thing to a woman in Josie’s life at the moment, and Josie lit up whenever she saw her.
“Hey Josie,” Cindy said, her voice sweet and grandmotherly. “You gonna go visit Justin today?”
“I like Justin,” Josie proclaimed, and Hank nodded. Of course she did. The guy drove Hank banana shit, but no, Josie liked Justin.
“That’s good, Bunny,” he said, and took the nametags from Cindy before giving her an absent smile and turning down the hallway to the daycare area.
“Do you like Justin?” she asked, and he smiled. For her, he’d love Justin, marry him, take the guy into his house and give him foot rubs.
“Yeah, of course I do!”
He hated that guy.
Of all the flame-outs Hank had ever seen, in college and after, Justin was by far the most dramatic, over-the-top boy-princess in the entire northern half of the state. Oh God. Even as they got near the playroom enclosure, Hank could hear him squeal. And of course, the kids loved him.
“Oh my God! Do you guys think… did I hear… is Santa going to be coming to Cal-Fit? Did you know that? Santa is coming to Cal-Fit! Are you all going to be here?”
Yes!” The cheer was deafening, and Hank actually looked at the door before he opened it and saw that there was going to be an event on Saturday. Oh wonderful. Santa.
“Santa?” Josie said, her voice all excited, and Hank started doing his mental schedule all over again.
“Of course,” he said. “Santa.” Oh God. Please God. Just let him get to the treadmill. Twenty minutes on the treadmill so he could clear his head. Twenty minutes on the free weights, and a five-minute shower, and he could do this. Just please please please please please let him have his happy time before he figured out how to fit Santa into redoing Josie’s room and dealing with the child welfare services who were going to visit on Monday and who insisted that he show that she would have her own space and—
Justin!” Josie squealed as he opened the door, and Hank looked up to see the cherry on his headache smiling so wide, Hank was surprised the top of his head didn’t fall off.
Justin was young—in his second, maybe third year of college, with widely spaced blue eyes, surrounded by a fringe of dark lashes. He had one of those Irish fair complexions, the kind that showed color easily, straight black hair, a heart shaped face, and a nose that tip-tilted on the end. The first time Hank had ever seen him, Hank had thought he was one of the prettiest young men on the planet Earth, ever. And then Justin had opened his mouth.
“Josie!” Justin trilled, opening his arms and doing a little dance. Josie squealed, trying to get to Justin as he held court at the end of the coloring table. He’d apparently been inspiring all of the young artists to put glue and green sparkles on their Christmas tree masterpieces.
“Justin!” Josie squealed, throwing herself at him after wiggling out of Hank’s arms and almost getting her tiny bunny butt dumped onto the floor of the gym’s daycare room.
“Omigah, Bunny,you will never guess what I just told everybody!”
“Santa!” Josie squeaked. “You said it was going to be Santa! Uncle Hank said we could come, isn’t that right Uncle Hank?”
Oh God. Commitment time. Hank wondered desperately who he could call to be at his house while the movers delivered Josie’s little white twin bed, so she wouldn’t be lost in the big queen sized that took over what used to be his guest bedroom. But Justin was pouting at him like he was being a big meanie and Josie was glaring at him like he was depriving her of this one and only childhood experience because he was determined to suck at this whole parenting gig, and, oh, hells, even Hank remembered that Santa was important.
“I’ll try, Bunny,” he said quietly. “Is that good enough?”
Mommy would make sure I got to see Santa,” she said spitefully, and Hank nodded. Yup, that was the truth. Amanda would have taken Josie to see Santa for the photo op. Amanda would have shown a picture of Josie sitting on Santa’s lap while wearing a red velveteen dress she hadn’t been able to afford, and then shown all of her friends just to listen to them coo, and then she would have told Josie to go away, couldn’t Josie see that mommy was talking to her friends? And then she would have dropped Josie at a friend’s house while she, Amanda, went out to party because why was a girl her age at home with a child anyway? Didn’t she deserve to party? Hadn’t she earned that right? She’d had the kid’s picture taken with Santa, after all.
“Yeah, Bunny,” Hank said, needing the freedom of the treadmill like he needed nothing else in the world. “Your mommy would have made sure you got to see Santa.”
He wasn’t sure what was in his voice when he said it, but Justin flinched back, and Josie stuck her tongue out at Hank, and Hank signed his name on the roster. “I’m going to have my earbuds in,” he muttered, because this was something they had to know. “If you need me, you need to come get me.”
And with that he fled the daycare, leaving Justin who was probably going to cry about what a big meanie Hank was and tell Josie that he was a big loser and that any uncle who couldn’t sprinkle glitter on Christmas trees was obviously not going to be a good bet as a parent.
Yeah, well, until the better mommies and uncles lined up to take her, Hank was all she got .

He changed quickly and queued some Linkin Park up on his iPod, putting it in the handy little case that wrapped around his bicep. He’d always been an active kid, and when you worked your body a lot, it tended to protest when that sort of activity stopped. He’d also always liked this gym—it was designed specifically for families—and he liked it even more now that he had a family to bring here.
But at the moment, with Linkin Park queued up, he wasn’t thinking about the daycare, or the nice supportive vibe or the kindness of the staff. He was thinking about nothing more than warming up and pushing his body to the point where all the stiffness got worked out, and then cooling down responsibly—and getting it all done before daycare closed. He didn’t want to impose.
Oh, gods! It felt so good! There was no worrying about keeping custody of Josie, no worrying if Amanda was going to come back and completely disrupt Josie’s life, no worrying if his job was too many hours or if he was doing enough as a parent, no stressing about Christmas and getting all the little details down. There was no disappointment in his sister or irritation at their mother or loneliness at doing all of this alone or—
The hand tapping his shoulder startled him so much he missed a step, which sucked because he was going fast enough for the treadmill to throw him hard against the console, slamming his shoulder with enough force to bruise. The rebound threw him backward and he was just seizing hold of the handrails so he could stabilize and press the stop button, when a long-fingered hand darted in front of him, and pushed the stop button for him. Hank grabbed hold of the handrails and steadied himself, panting and furious, and turned around ready to unload his temper and his pain and found himself face to face with the one person he hadn’t been running from.
“Justin?” he asked, his temper skating the fine edge, and Justin grimaced.
“I’m sorry, Mr. Calder—I really am. But Josie has to go potty, and company policy says that her guardian has to take her. We’re not allowed to.”
Oh. “Oh.” God, he felt dumb. “Of course.”
Suddenly Justin—who had shown some clear-headedness turning off the treadmill—started shaking his hands and trilling, and Henry was not in the mood.
“Ohmigah omigah omigah! Mr. Calder—you’re bleeding!”
Hank looked down at his aching arm and saw that Justin was right. “Fuck,” he said succinctly. “Fuck. Just… hell. Okay. Let me get Josie to the bathroom. I’ll get some Band Aids or—”
“Don’t worry about it,” Justin assured him, flapping his wrist airily. Hank had picked the treadmill closest to the wall, and Justin grabbed a disinfectant bottle, paper towel, and poly gloves from the little alcove made just for that purpose. As he spoke, he put on the gloves and wiped the console that had taken a chunk of Hank’s skin. “I’ve got the supplies, you just get your little princess to the potty before we have lots of things to clean up, okay?”
Hank grunted, sort of impressed by his competence and the triceps flexing as he worked, and Justin turned to him, furrowing his brow. “Okay?
Deep breath. The kid was doing his job. It wasn’t his fault Hank hadn’t been laid in a year and a half. “Okay,” Hank said mildly. “Proceed.”
Justin smiled, like he’d won something, and Hank followed him down past the weight machines to the daycare room again. There was a tiny little bathroom adjoining the playroom, and Hank walked Josie over to it as fast as he could.
“Wait outside!” Josie ordered, and Hank nodded.
He stood outside and listened to her tinkle, and Justin approached him. His hands were already encased in the poly gloves, and he had a first aid kit open on the tiny kid-sized table.
“This really isn’t nece—”
“Oh, of course it is,” Justin said, a playful inflection in his voice. “Besides! We’re trained to do this and everything. I’ve been dying for someone to bleed on my watch, just so I could doctor them up and prove I can! How else am I going to get my merit badge?”
Hank allowed a brief laugh to escape. “I have no idea,” he said, and then, calling behind him into the bathroom, “Josie, angel, how you doing in there?”
“I have to go number two!” she called back, and Hank looked at the clock and sighed. So much for his workout or his cool down or working out any of the anxiety that had built up in his muscles over the—
“Ouch!” he cried, pulled out of that death spiral of frustration by the sudden sting at his arm.
“Sorry!” Justin apologized brightly. He was dabbing at the cut on Hank’s arm with a cotton ball and some hydrogen peroxide, a look of concentration on his face.
Hank grunted. He didn’t want to be a baby.
“So,” Justin said, setting the cotton ball down on the absurdly small table next to them, next to the rest of the first aid kit, “why don’t you want to take her to see Santa?” He picked up another cotton ball then and smeared some antibiotic ointment on it, and his attention on those things were what let Hank answer.
“I’m dying for her to see Santa,” he said, more sincerely than he thought possible. “But the social worker is coming on Monday to give me full custody, and her bed is coming on Saturday. I want it to look like her room, so it’s perfect.” Justin smeared the ointment delicately on his arm, and Hank sighed. “She needs permanent. And that’s—”
“Ohmigah! That’s way more important than Santa!” Justin said, and Hank turned to him, surprised.
“I know but—”
“I can totally see why you’d want to do that more! Why can’t you just tell her that? She’s a smart girl, I’m sure she’d understand.”
“Uncle Hank!” Josie called imperiously. “Are you still there?”
“Right here, Bunny!”
“Mommy likes to sing when I’m in the potty so I don’t get scared.”
Hank met grim eyes with Justin, who grimaced, and then launched into something Hank and Amanda’s mother had played almost constantly when they’d been kids.
I’m on top of the world looking down on creation—” And then Josie’s voice interrupted imperiously.
Christmas music, Uncle Hank!”
Hank closed his eyes. “Deck the halls with boughs of holly—
Tra la la la la,” Justin chimed in, smiling encouragingly, and Hank smiled back, grateful for the moral support, and they continued.
La la la la.
Justin bandaged his arm and they kept singing. They made it through the entire song by the time she was ready to go—after needing some help with the cleanup, of course. Hank figured that there was nothing more guaranteed to let you know where you stood in the order of the world than a four year old, bending over the potty, waiting for you to wipe her behind.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012


I'm probably going to cross-post this one, because it's chock full of news!

First of all-- woo woo!  I finished my Nano Project.  Not just reached the word limit, but finished the project--and that's exciting.  The book is called Bolt Hole, and I tackled an African American protagonist in this one, and I love him dearly, but God, I hope readers see that love.  Race is such a fragile truce in this country--and I wanted us to see that truce in action.  Anyway, the story is written, it is submitted, and the worry is all in the accepting.  *please please please*  But I got the little badge, just to brag:-)

Second of all-- woo woo!  On Saturday, all of the Evergreen Christmas Advent Calendar will be available for individual sale, (although you may want to check it out now, because it is available at a very good price!) and that includes my Christmas story, Turkey in the Snow.  For Turkey, I started with that moment that I know well.  It's the moment when I'm exhausted and the kids need me and I'm tired from my job and my responsibilities, and oh. God, they all need a piece of me and I'm not sure if there's anything left to give.

And suddenly?  There's help.

Now, for me, my help is Mate, but there were times when he was, by necessity, not there.  That has made me appreciate all of his help, whether it's the kind I had anticipated or not.  That is the dynamic that starts between Hank and Justin, and (like Bolt Hole, actually) it's one of my more personal, smaller stories.  I wanted authentic, and I wanted real, and I wanted to show that authentic and real can also end happy.

Here is the blurb for Turkey in the Snow:

Turkey in the Snow   $3.99
By Amy Lane
Since Hank Calder’s four-year-old niece, Josie, came to live with him, his life has been plenty dramatic, thank you, and the last thing he needs is a swishy, flaming twinkie to complicate things. But when Justin, the daycare worker at his gym, offers to do something incredibly nice for Hank—and for Josie—Hank is forced to reconsider. Justin may be flamboyant in his speech and gestures, but his heart and kindness are as rock steady and dependable as anyone, even Hank, could ask for. Can Hank trust in his dramatic “turkey in the snow” to offer his heart the joy he and Josie have never known?

So I hope you enjoy this-- How to Raise an Honest Rabbit and Knitter in His Natural Habitat were both serendipitous in timing.  I wrote them when I wrote them, they were set in the holidays, and, holy cow, that's when they were released!  It was awesome.  But Turkey in the Snow was written especially for Christmas, and it's tight and small and I hope you love it.

And speaking of How to Raise an Honest Rabbit, (and how mad people were about what happened to a certain someone at the end of Knitter in his Natural Habitat) I have a special treat for Jeremy's fans.  On I've posted a free Jeremy fic called Blackbird Singing in the Dead of Night for those of you who finished Knitter in his Natural Habitat and wanted to see some more Jeremy.   (Warning-- there are SPOILERS IN THIS!  It happens AFTER Stanley's story and that plot thing we shall not mention!!!)

Oh yes-- and one more thing.

I will be at the Dreamspinner Press page on Facebook on Saturday, December 1st, if you want to log on and (GENTLY) yell at me for what I did there.  I'll be on from 1p.m. PST, and I look forward to seeing you there!

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Stanley's Hat!

Okay, so I'm starting to realize that I knit like I cook.

I have a few staples, a few things I do really well, and although I'm capable of reading a recipe, atm, my time and circumstance just does not lend itself to that much fanciness, which is a shame, because I've done some bitchin' color work in my time, and cables as well.  But that's okay.  Staples keep you fed and they keep your head warm too.  So a lot of the things I've been sharing, both on the blog and when I'm putting patterns to go with the knitting stories, have been very very basic.

And people (that's actually plural!  I'm sort of mind-blown!) have been asking for the basic pattern of the Stanley Hat.

Now not everyone has read Knitter in His Natural Habitat but I know a few of you were around for the  Family of hats, but the Stanley hat is really, just a basic stocking hat.  In the book, it's his second project, and he makes it to give to Johnny, and Johnny's head is a little big so it curls around Johnny's ears.  (Which means try not to underestimate how long you should knit it--Stanley was knitting from my own experience there.)

It's got two variations-- ribbing on the bottom, or rolled bottom, and seriously, if I were going to teach someone how to make a hat, I'd start with this one.  Nothing could be easier.  (The hat you see in the pictures here is Big T's, which is why it's so huge, and it's striped.  The stripes are a different matter-- pretend it's all one color.  The pattern is the same, swear!)

The key to making the Stanley Hat (as I'm going to call it-- mostly it's been the basic hat) is multiples of 8.  If you are knitting approximately 4 stitches per inch, with worsted weight yarn-- I personally use a size six or seven circular needle, because I tend to make my gauge really big!--you will knit a hat with a 20 inch circumference.  Most adults run between 20-22 inches, and it stretches, so I cast on 80 stitches for any adult but me or my ginormous son.  We get 88 stitches and a lot of length.  My younger son, and even Squishy, who both have a sizable noggins for spawn so short, get 72 stitches, and if I were casting on for a toddler, I'd go for 66.

So that's the first part.

Worsted weight, 4 st. per inch, circular needles and DPN's for when the decrease gets too small, and you're ready to go.

CO 80 stitches.

Big T's ribbed bottom hat.  Ignore the stripes. They're
 another blog post.
The second part is the brim.  If you want it rolled, uhm, just start knitting on the circs.  Around and around and around and around and around.  Stop when you want to shoot someone, measure it against the head in question (put it on--seriously.  Put. It. On.  The sudden decrease caused by the 16 inch circular span is offset by the extra length you put into the kind of decrease you use.  It works!)  Anyway, start decreasing when it reaches the earlobes.  Stanley's hat for Johnny rolled up because Johnny had a big, Italian head (and I know about those!) so although he probably knitted it until it went down to his earlobes, it lost that length when it was going around Johnny's head.  Remember that-- if you're knitting for someone with a watermelon that blocks out the moon, GO LONG!  If you're knitting for Mate, who has an itty bitty pin-head, or the spawn who bear his mark-- Chicken mostly--take that earlobe thing very seriously or it will fall in your victim's, er, recipient's eyes.

If you want ribbed, you cast on the right number of stitches.  A 2x2 rib works very evenly around that hat.  Work that for about two inches--more if you want more--and then switch to stockinette.

Use the same gauge for when to stop-- the bottom of the earlobe thing.  (In the case of the ribbed brim, it's better to stop early and let it ride up, because there is no easy way to get that thing out of your eyes.)

Now you're ready to decrease.  Remember, when the hat gets too small near the crown, use DPNs or two circs or whichever decreasing method works for you.  (Sometimes, when I get impatient, I manage to keep all the stitches on the same needle, but it's frustrating and makes me want to kill small animals.  Better to just have the other needles on hand.)

I use what I call the "Octopus Decrease" because that's what it looks like when you're done, and because you may have noticed my aversion to math.

Note-- if you're using 88 stitches, start out by knitting 9 stitches and knitting the 10th and 11th stitch together, and follow directions as they're written below.
If you're using 72 stitches, start out by knitting 7 stitches and then knit the 8th and 9th stitches together, then follow directions in the pattern indicated below.

For 80 stitches:
The first round of decreasing, knit 8, knit the 9th and 10th stitch together, repeat around the hat.
Knit one round plain.
The second round of decreasing, knit 7, and knit the 8th and 9th stitch together: repeat around the hat
Knit one round plain
The third round of decreasing, knit 6, and knit the 7th and 8th stitch together: repeat around the hat
Knit one round plain
And I bet you can see where this is going, right?  Continue to decrease in this way until there are 3 (THREE) stitches between decreases, so 4 stitches per section, and you've knit your one plain round.
Knit two together around
Knit two together around again.
The Octopus Decrease

You should have 8 stitches left!  If you have 9 or 10 or 7 or 11, screw it and finish off anyway.  Seriously-- unless you're totally anal retentive, (and I'm not, and I'm pretty sure Stanley isn't!) no one who doesn't knit will be able to tell.  If it's someone who knits, odds are, you will have made six mistakes by now anyway, and they'll still appreciate the effort.

Break off the yarn with an 8 inch tail and thread the tail through all the live stitches, pulling them off of the needles, and pull the stitches shut like an adorable little sphincter.  (I write m/m romance-- I'm sorry--it's an inescapable comparison.  Ask me about the little man straddling the needles and why we don't want his nuts in a knot sometime... seriously.  Ask me.)

Finish off both the ends, block and wear on the noggin.  Now, my friend Roxie (whom I love!) has one of those mannequin heads, and her hats always look amazing as they are blocking.  I block MY hats on the couch, like Stanley, where my cats can make sweet lurve to them when I am asleep, and so nobody ever accidentally gets virgin wool, because, well, off of my needles, that's just sad.

 And that's how you make a hat!

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Sequels of Note

 Forgive me-- I'm crossposting like a fiend here-- I've gotten enough e-mail about these things to want to address them in every blog/website I can:-)  You'll find this posted in my website both on the front page and in the news page, so it will be accessible for a while:-)

I've been getting a lot of e-mail lately about sequels, and I'm thrilled.  So I thought I'd give you the rundown for sequels and my plans to write them, to save you all some e-mailing and me some replying (not that I don't love to hear from you:-)  So, here's the status (or non status) on sequels I'd like to (or wouldn't like to!) write:

The Locker Room-- No.  I'm sorry, I have no plans to write a sequel at this time.  For me, the end of The Locker Room was all about Xan and Chris having possibilities because Xan had grown into having a bigger life than the box he was locked into as a kid. Unless I'm bit by the major plot bunny of all time, the one that will solve world hunger and promote world peace, I think it's fair to say I want Xander and Chris's life to remain in the possible.  Honestly, from the letters you all have sent me, any sequel I would write would be a disappointment-- you all see them so happy.  

Keeping Promise Rock-- Yes.  In fact, although the writing of it was stalled by something else that is almost finished, I'm well in to writing the FINAL installment of The Promises series.  It's called Forever Promised, and it gives Crick and Deacon everything they've ever wanted.  No lie.  I swear.  Honest.

Gambling Men-- No.  Not unless the guys take up billiards, and at this point, it doesn't look likely. 

Chase in Shadow-- Yes!  Dex in Blue is already out, Ethan Gold is going to be next in line, followed by Black John and Tommy Bright.  So, uhm, yeah.  More to come there!

The Winter Courtship of Fur-Bearing Critters-- Yes.  How to Raise an Honest Rabbit and Knitter in His Natural Habitat have been greeted so warmly that I want to revisit Granby and Rance Crawford's little yarn shop one more time.  Besides, everybody wants to see how Jeremy is doing in his little house with Aiden, and to check on his recovery.  (Stop GLARING!  He had a karmic debt to settle!  Stanley was karmically clean--as innocent as a newborn lamb.  It wasn't HIS job to confront the bogey man, I SWEAR it wasn't!)  The next story has been tentatively titled (with the help of T.A. Chase, Goddess bless you, darling!) The Naked Alpaca Hats Band, and I'll be sneaking that one in sometime next year.

Scotty and Ryan-- It's a distinct possibility.  They're just too damned much fun not to!  

Clear Water-- I swear, I had a whole little mystery series planned when this one came out.  I still have plotbunnies for these guys, running up my legs.  The next time one of them crawls up my ass and calls out for my dragon to ride me like a porn star, I'm turning Patrick and Whiskey loose on the world again.  

Talker-- No.  They're happy.  Their lives sucked.  They've earned their little community by the seashore.  I want to think of them surfing and being happy forever.  

Country Mouse-- Yes.  Aleks and I have had the phone ringing (i.e. interruptions!) as of late, but we are well into City Mouse, and we want to keep writing it.  We love working together, but sometimes, real life just yanks on your chain!  But still-- we have plans for those boys!!!

The LIttle Goddess series--aka Quickening-- YES.  YES YES YES YES YES YES YES.  When I first "transitioned" from teaching to writing as my mainstay, (i.e., was yanked out of my classroom and threatened with all sorts of horrible things I shan't burden you with here!) I knew it was going to be a while before I got back to Quickening.  I wasn't writing for "fun" (it's never been that frivolous, trust me!) anymore, I was writing to feed my family, and to keep the promises to my older children of education and security.  I'm still doing that.  But in the last two years I've rediscovered that fantasy feeds my soul.  So I can't give a timeline-- and I'm sorry for that.  But I will not give up on the dream of writing this series, either. I'm still looking into publishers, and still pulling out the manuscript and adding to it when I've got a spare moment (not so much as of late) and I still have hope.  So yes.  There WILL be a sequel to Rampant.  I have faith.  

So that's pretty much it on the sequel front.  If there's a couple here I've missed, let me know, and I'll update this list again!

A brief prayer of gratitude

Food, a roof, and folks I love.

The Goddess is smiling, God's been good to me.

My children are healthy, my older ones are productive and hopeful and my younger ones are enthusiastic and curious.

The Goddess is smiling, God's been good to me.

My husband is kind, and he loves me for my flaws, and the kids are his favorite people too.

The Goddess is smiling, God's been good to me.

The dog made it one more year, and so did my grandmother.

The Goddess is smiling, God's been good to me.

Cats, yarn, and stories to love.

The Goddess is smiling, God's been good to me.

Friends in person and online love me and care what I have to say.

The Goddess is smiling, God's been good to me.

The thing I do for a living also sustains my soul.

The Goddess is smiling, God's been good to me.

I have hope for our world, for mankind, for the future.

The Goddess is smiling, God's been good to me.

I will have a moment today to be with my family, and I will know joy.

The Goddess is smiling.  God's been good to me.  May they smile on you too, so that you have much to be grateful for.  May you know joy.


Monday, November 19, 2012

yes, Yes, YES!!!

So last week at soccer, there was an accident with the supply wagon when Mate was manning the snackbar, and we had a little of this:

Now don't get too upset, folks-- she's fine.  She had a black eye and a scrape across the chest, but all in all, I was looking forward to the end of the season.  Which was this weekend.  And the the weather looked like this:

Which sucked, because, as you can see, we were still out in it, playing soccer.  What REALLY sucked was that Mate was out in it all morning, setting up the field, because he's a board member.  So he looked like this:
For about five hours.

  What REALLY REALLY sucked was that I arrived at the field with Squish, whom I thought had the first game, and looked for him.  And looked for him.  And didn't find him.  So I called him up and said, "It's a home game, right?"  And he said, "Yes!"  And I said, "Because she's out there looking for you, and she doesn't see you!"

And he said, "SHE?  It's ZOOMBOY'S GAME!  And it STARTS 
IN FIVE MINUTES!"  And then the inside of mom's head looked like this:

And then there was much confusion.
We resolved the confusion eventually, and Zoomboy played for the win.  And Mate was like: 
And THEN there was the next game.  The next game was Squish's game.  It rained even harder.  Squish went out for one quarter, and she came back looking like this: 
And everyone was like, "Awww.... Squish, it's okay if you don't want to go out and play again!"  And her father and I were like, "Go out and play like all of the other drowned kittens out on that field!"  And Squish was like, "No."
 "Don't you want to play?" 
"Your friends are all out on that field." 
"You stay warmer if you move around."  
"Oh, come on, sweetheart, toughen up!"  
So, well, that was the end of that.  She played first quarter, and that was the end.  There was no celebration for the win, no cavorting with her fieldmates in the freezing cold, there was only the marrow-deep conviction that this entire attempt to play soccer had been a terrible mistake, and we were all fucked in the head.  I was sort of with her on that last part, but, well, don't tell Mate.
Anyway, after all of that playing in the rain, 

 *happy sigh*  This is "Ethan" (okay, his real fake porn name is Aiden, but he's cute, and he got me through the weekend, and I thought he should get to come out and play a little on the blog.  He's the model I'm basing Ethan on.  He's really frickin' adorable.  Welcome to the family, Ethan!)

But Ethan has a point-- after all of that playing in the rain, it was time for post-game pizza and awards ceremony!  And, of course, for coach to get his props!  Which he did, after saying all sorts of nice things about his boys, and having all the parents say all sorts of nice things about him!

Of course, that wasn't the only pizza we had coming that weekend, but first, Sunday morning, there was the final round of cootie-geddon, which I don't want to talk about because, well, cootie-geddon.  How wonderful is THAT going to get?  (Actually, we're using this rather interesting product for cootie-geddon that smells like peppermint oil.  I sort of like it.  Yeah, we know I'm twisted, why?)  And then, after cootie-geddon, Mate and Squish had (what else?) a Kings game.

And then, after that, THEN there was pizza, round two.  And here, at pizza round two, we see Squish with her coach, who told the entire world that she learned a whole lot about coaching from Squish's dad, who coached her daughter (and Squish) last year in the U6 team.  I thought that was really nice, and when Mate and Squish coach and another soccer mom whom I adore (and who is another board member) all started talking shop, I was okay with that.  They'd earned it, and they were enjoying themselves. 

But that didn't stop me from texting Mary with, "Now that soccer is over, I have to admit, I am SO over soccer!"

And Mary sent me pictures that looked like this:

And all of these things made mom happy!!!!
But that didn't stop her from wanting to go home and snuggle down with some of this.  
I ended up writing instead, but at least I've got pictures!

This is Gordie, who loves to hunker down on Chicken's sweater in progress.
She says it's because he knows it's hers.

 And so soccer is over.  And hence, the title of the blog.  yes yes YES!!!!!  

Friday, November 16, 2012

So it's our birthday...

It was Zoomboy's birthday yesterday.  We did many things.

We brought cookies to school and then brought home empty boxes afterwards.

We went to three different places to find him a fish (which sucked, because I thought ALL places had fish and apparently there was a fish SHORTAGE at the one place where we go for all pet needs, and an explosion of road construction in front of the other fish place which was closer, but a perfectly respectable wall of betas at the third place.)

We stopped and picked up a cake and ice so we could take the ice cream cake with us to bowling and then it wouldn't be melted by the time it was ready for dinner.

We got home and set up the fish in a corner, where we can do our homework and see the fish!

We named the fish Greg, for Diary of a Wimpy Kid.

We went bowling with grandma and grandpa and our best Sam and his family.

We went to dinner at Wongs.

We opened presents and saw that mom and dad had gotten us Diary of a Wimpy Kid merchandise, including calendar, T-shirt, and action figures.

We went home and talked to our sister on skype and told her thank you for the Angry Birds hat that she sent from San Diego.

We fell asleep at nine-thirty, after trying to finish our homework in our new fish corner.

We were grateful.


Of course when I woke up this morning, we were LATE!  Our dumb car is not starting these days.  mate has bought the part to fix it, but finding the time to install it?  Not so easy.  So there was that.  There was me, in my pajamas, checking the kids into school.  Late.

There was me, in my pajamas, looking at the sky and going, "Oh, please rain, please rain, please rain, because if it rains I don't have to feel guilty for not going to aqua!"

And then there was me, turning on the wiper blades, and going, "OH SHIT!"  Because Mate, who is a good mate, went to replace my old wiper blades.  Unbeknownst to him, the wiper blades that fit ALL minivans, do NOT fit ours.  Ours is SPESHUL.  Anyway, so there was me, in my pajamas still, going, "Please don't rain, please don't rain, please don't rain!" while I ran to the auto parts store to get new wipers.

The funniest part?  Well, there I was, in my pajamas and mismatched hand warmers (because I can never keep track of a pair and I've given up trying!) and my fuzzy hair and my morning eyes, trying to get more wiper blades.

The auto parts guy was skeptical.  "Here.  Let me see them," he said.  So we went out to the car and I turned on the wipers and the clashed in the middle and broke the one on the right further because they're too long.

Now this guy is in his thirties, and cute. He's got a bamf tatt covered by his long sleeved shirt, and while he's got short, buzz cut hair, you just know he's a badass, right?

So I turn on the car and the wipers clash and his eyes get big, and he says, "That is just frickin' odd."

Which is only hysterical when you KNOW what he was DYING to say was "That is just fucked up."

And thereyago.  HelLO plotbunny.  Damn, those frickin' odd wipers have done me a lot of service this way!

Happy weekend, everybody-- I plan to see the end of this soccer season off with two soccer banquets and our last two games.  Canyagimmehallelujah?  I knewyacouldamen!

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

A Knitter in His Natural Habitat

The Winter Courtship Rituals of
 Fur-Bearing Critters.
 Okay, back last December, I released a cute little novella about an alpaca rancher named Rance Crawford, and his sudden infatuation with his new neighbor, Ben.  I was rather proud of that sweet little story, and everyone was taken by not only Rance and Ben, but by the secondary characters as well.  And if I was a little surprised to get requests for the the story of Jeremy-- the ex-convict ex-conman-- and Aiden, his younger associate at the mill, I was stunned to get request for the story of Stanley.  Stanley was Craw's flirty little fuck-buddy in Boulder, the one who was always greased up and ready to go.  Stanley was a slutty little bottom to the marrow in his bones, with hair plugs, big blue eyes and an unexpected sweet spot (and not the one you're thinking about!) for the big, gruff rancher.

How to Raise an Honest Rabbit
Well, I wrote Jeremy and Aiden's story--and was stunned by how much I loved Jeremy.  My habit of rooting for underdogs prevails, and while some people are put off by Jeremy's country ways and small time patter, some people get that, at the heart of this guy who was used to swindling twenties off of young college students was a really sweet, really innocent guy.  One who needed gentling, and who needed Aiden to get all strong and secure on him, to make him be honest, and make him face the past, just like someone holding a rabbit is all strong and secure, at the same time they're being gentle.  Jeremy and Aiden did it for me-- they just did.  I wasn't sure how I was going to feel about Stanley, who was much slicker, much more urban, much more secure and much less vulnerable than my Jeremy bunny.

Turns out, Stanley doesn't really give a shit if I like him or not.  He just needs to flash his best ass (the one above the back of his thighs and below his lower back) at the right guy (the handsome delivery guy  that we met at the end of How to Raise an Honest Rabbit) and get his little old lady on and knit.  Stanley is happy, he is secure, and once he stops looking for love in all the wrong Jethro's, he's going to be just fine.

A Knitter in his Natural Habitat
Of course, Johnny, his Prince Charming, has deep dark secrets, and all of the people he's only sort of known at Craw's ranch and alpaca farm are about to become much closer friends, and Jeremy a guy Stanley always thought had it all together is about to seem a lot more vulnerable for a lot of reasons, but Stanley?  Stanley can handle pretty much whatever life throws his way, as long as he's got his knitting by his side.

Hell, Stanley can even handle love.

Anyway, A Knitter in His Natural Habitat is out tomorrow.  Please don't read it as a stand-alone-- you'll be really confused.  But if you've been along for this sweet little knitting ride from the get go, I think you'll enjoy the hell out of it.  By the way?  For those of you wondering about the knitting project at the end?  Well, A. The only thing dirty about it is the color name.  And B.  The prototype that you see being knit in the directions has already been claimed.  Oh yeah.  Mary Calmes jumped on that with all the ferocity of a knitter at a luxury fiber sale.  Seriously.  If I hadn't been able to hold the knitting as my hostage, I would have been very afraid!

Seriously, folks-- I hope you enjoy the story.  And I REALLY hope you enjoy the covers by Catt Ford, because so far, people can't get enough of them!

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Ukus are the Suckus!

Okay... the last two days... where to begin, where to begin, where to begin...

Let's start in a school bathroom.

Wait, no.

Let's start before that.

Let's start Thursday morning, as I was running around, tripping over laundry, thinking about laundry that needed to be done, looking at the giant pile next to my bed and worrying about dusting and all the shit I never do.


"What?"  Mate asked.

I was almost in tears.  "Would you believe I fantasize some day about taking an entire week off just to clean house?"

"Well," Mate said, very practically, "just an hour a DAY.  How's that?"

I walked away, laughing hysterically, wondering where he thought that hour was going to come from.  I mean, I had a lot to do that day!  I was supposed to be the Art Docent for my son's class, and then go grocery shopping, and I'm trying to make a deadline and then Zoomboy had dance.

And that is the day I started to have.  I went to prepare to be Art Docent, reading up on imaginary animals and Chagall in the little volunteer prep room, with some guy who thought that listening to Rush Limbaugh rant about lazy minorities in a school with  50% Hispanic population was just a dandy thing to do.  (I asked him to turn it off and claimed it broke my concentration.  It did, but only because I was fighting the urge to throw the boombox at his head.)  I finished my preparation, moved all my supplies to my son's classroom, and then went to use the potty before I spent an hour running around helping kids paint imaginary animals.

While I was in the bathroom, which, by the by, shares a wall with my daughter's classroom, my cell phone rang.

It was the school.  (I shit you not!)  Squish had lice.


Anyway, I washed up, walked out of the bathroom, and caught her walking out of her room as she was on her way to the office to wait for me.  She was in tears-- the other kids gave her a hard time about the cooties, and I reassured her that we'd gone through this seven years ago, right before she was born.  Together, we walked up to the classroom where my stuff was and told Zoomboy's teacher that we couldn't make it to be Art Docent, and told her why, and then she did the oogie-oogie-three-steps-back, and Squish started to cry more.

We groomed Zoomboy for a moment behind a classroom, and we didn't see anything crawling (although after the mayonnaise treatment he got after school we did find a few eggs) and I left him at school to take Squish home and start cootie-a-geddon at my house!

We stripped all the beds, vacuumed all the rugs, sprayed anything our head touched that couldn't be thrown in the washing machines, bathed all the kids--including the nineteen year old with the 24" melon and the uber thick, long curly hair-- picked all the nits (well, not ALL of them since we didn't pass inspection the next day) and swept all the floors and sanitized all the hairbrushes and... oh hells.  I'm sure I missed something there somewhere.  (Seven years ago, the only way we got rid of these little fuckers was to buy this uber-thick, oil-based gel that took a MONTH to wash out of Chicken's hair.  By the time it was out, everything next to her scalp had suffocated and died.  I looked for that shit-- I did-- but apparently, they don't make it anymore.  Fuck.)

And the whole time I was cleaning the house and the children to the point of numbed brain exhaustion, I was thinking, well hell. This?

 This was God saying, "You want to clean the house?  Clean THIS, bitch!  KAZAAM!"

Be careful what you ask for.  Sayin'.  And hope we pass inspection on Tuesday morning, or I may just have to shave us all bald!

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

The Race for the Rowboat is Over!

Can I have my television back?  Please?

I mean, I'm awfully glad that my guys won and all (right down to our local representatives, which was sort of cool because THAT election came down to 200 votes.  It was like, "Hooray!  My vote really DID count!")

But seriously-- me and politics, not so much of a match, and I'm glad it's over.

Because we all know I suck at politics, right?

I had a sudden moment yesterday (of all days, right?) when I was forced to meditate on the nature of politics and my insistence that, should we all be on a sinking ship and I yelled, "Everybody into the fucking rowboat!" I would be rowing that boat by myself watching the rest of y'all drown.  Not because I wanted you to go, mind you, but because when I say, "Everybody into the fucking rowboat!" that seems to be the world's cue to make a sandwich, turn on the television, clean their room, pick up a book, or, really, anything besides getting into the rowboat, and, let's face it, getting people INTO the rowboat is all about what politicians DO, am I right?

Now there's a line from a song (posted down below) that says, "charisma is the key to opportunity."  Now, I've always believed that, but it's always scared me a lot.  Charisma is that thing that makes people want to follow you, right?  Well, the key to charisma is being absolutely positive that the thing you are doing is right and that the entire world SHOULD follow you because anything else is insanity.

The really scary thing about charisma is that if you have it, you very often ARE insane.

Think about it.  We just watched a BRUTAL political contest-- and although I'm pleased that my guy won, I'm not all that excited about how either side played this.  The thought of living in a swing state, like Ohio, and literally breathing the filthy sludge stink oil of political ads as intensely as those people did makes me want to vomit.  And party members had to have known that this sort of endless campaigning is its own sort of evil right?

But they had to believe, really believe that it was worth it.

That's charisma.  You believe in yourself with such force that people must believe in you.   They have no choice.

Have any of you seen American History X?  It features Edward Norton as a nazi skinhead who is paroled for killing two black men who broke into his house.  The scene where Norton kills the guys is chilling--not just because he's cold blooded and ruthless about it, but because he's beautiful--he is so absolutely certain that what he's doing is right, you'd follow him into hell the proclaim his innocence.  Contrasted with the second half of the movie, where he is uncertain and second guessing his every move, you almost want that part of him back.  Forget that he was a mindless screeching sociopath--he was beautiful and you want to be a part of that.

But it's when he's uncertain and second guessing his every move that he shows wisdom and compassion and forethought and empathy and all of those very human values that we should give credence to in our own species.

But it doesn't make people want to follow him, does it?

And that side of leadership is the side I've always been a fan of.  I am really great about embracing my faults and my human imperfections, and about acknowledging that, hey, I'm no one to follow.  My strategy in the classroom was to make education intrinsically valuable.  The kids weren't doing it for me (although very often they did do it for me, if that's the dynamic we had to form to make them achieve what they needed to) they were doing it for themselves.  I couldn't scream them down-- I'm a silly looking woman with a Minnie Mouse voice.  I had a baby face until I was forty, and I'm a terrible clod!  It's hard to inspire awe and fear when you're tripping over your own trash can three times a day, and the damned thing was never moved!  So I would make success--and good behavior-- something they could control, and invite them to see why it was to their benefit to control in my class, and I have to say, it worked a lot more than it should have.  Giving them a choice-- calming down and having me help them or continuing to talk and being left to their own devices to succeed, for instance-- often made them see that they were powerful.  It was something I loved doing.

But it didn't exactly put my own power at the forefront, did it?  And how could I do that?  Looking back on it now, I think of all the ways that situation deprived me of power--all of the humiliating, soul-crushing ways.  The two principals who made my schedules more difficult when I asked for maternity leave-- that comes to mind.  The asshole (and department head) who did the impression of my vibrator during lunch or who yelled at me about feminine hygiene in the middle of the quad-- that was a winning moment!  The vainglorious prickweenie who wrote me up for calling him dude after locking me out of my room for half-an-hour.  OMG-- there's a moment in self-actualization, isn't it?  The times students failed and I was pinned to the wall with ways I could take back the one power I did have, because somehow, in the many chances I gave kids to succeed, this kid refused to take those chances and it was all my fault.  What about the four years running that the administration publicly harangued all the teachers about how badly our test scores sucked without ever, once telling us that our entire population had changed, and we'd gone from a school with 58% of our students eligible for free and reduced lunches to 98% of our students eligible for some sort of government assistance.  God, nothing makes you feel more powerless than assuming all the woes of the world really are your fault, and having some jerkoff in an office with the numbers to back it up, right?

And that's just my old career-- let's not even talk about some of the personal powerlessness that being the parent of a special needs child gives you.  Or having a pinball brain in a Hot wheel track world!

So yeah.  I was used to being powerless.

And I'm not anymore.

In fact, given the strength of my convictions, I might even be said to have a little bit of charisma.

It's something I need to remember--especially when a member of my writing community is asking something of me that I can give.

Yesterday, I was on the phone with someone who has a lot of pull, and, yes, a lot of charisma.  In an effort to make me feel comfortable contributing some time to the union cause, he started heaping praise on me--and I started to crawl out of my own skull in an attempt to get away from it.

It was horrible.  I felt it happening.  I even knew why it was happening when it was happening.  Suddenly I couldn't focus on the conversation, and whereas I was usually happy and fun and even charming when talking to this guy--he's one of those people who invites happy, fun and charming-- I was suddenly spacey and flaky and shy.  It wasn't his fault-- he couldn't have known.  I was so used to being powerless that when someone told me I had some power, my first reaction was overwhelming terror that I couldn't live up to this.  How could I?  I'd spent my past career--hell, I'd spent my life-- living with all of the reasons I was an irredeemable fuck up, a goofball, a flake and a ditz.

I couldn't possibly have the redeeming qualities that would make my voice important, could I?

Thinking about it rationally-- at what I've accomplished, at the people whom I admire who also think I have something to say, it seems only right that I use some of my time and ability to give to my writing community.

But it's hard to think about it rationally when your first instinct is to make light of your accomplishments before someone else does.

About two years ago, I posted (and it's one of my better, more iconic posts) a blot titled "I Do Not Write Porn."  It was there that I referenced all the times when I first started writing that I referred to my books as "trashy vampire novels" or "housewife porn" in order to be self-deprecating, and how my friends who had read my books got angry and upset when I did this. It was their reaction that allowed me to take my writing seriously, and to stop diminishing this thing-- this weird, amazing thing--that I do with words that, for them, made the world such a better place to be.

I think I'll take a lesson from that here, and try to remember it the next time someone wants me to lead a charge into a rowboat.  Yeah, sure, some people may choose to pick up their remotes and go down with the ship, but if there's at least one other person in the rowboat with me, its worth the blisters from rowing like hell.