Category Archives: Lifestyle

Upheaval

The blog has been quiet, but real life has been non-stop.

Back in…June? Early July? I was offered a job back in New York City. Since then, every day (aside from a few spent with extended family) has been a frenetic mix of packing, phone calls, errands, more packing, paperwork, finding basic necessities (a new apartment, for a start), working out transportation options, resisting the temptation to buy (pretty well) and eat (slightly less well) all the things, and problem-solving. So much problem-solving.

Oh – and starting aforementioned new job. Given that common knowledge rates marriage, moving, and starting a new job as the three most stressful events in a person’s life (I’m not sure why “having a kid” isn’t in there, but who knows), I seem to have the “do two of those three things at once” down pat.

With that initial mad rush of activity safely past, and the transition into my shiny new real life moving into the “time to decorate the apartment and get back to doing things like writing once in a while” phase, I wanted to stop and take a minute to say thank you to everybody who helped me make this huge change in my life. From the friend who tipped me off about a job opening to the friends who let me crash in their guest rooms and on their sofas, to the friend who dropped everything to come help me unload things, to the one who killed the first cockroach spotted in the new place (you know you’ve missed city life when your response is, “It’s not New York till you’ve got a cockroach in the apartment” instead of screaming and running into the next room…or in addition to screaming and running into the next room…), I cannot even begin to count the ways in which I feel lucky to have people in my life who support and help me when I need it. Being on your own can be overwhelming at times, and from small actions that alleviate minor stresses to feats of friendship that kept me from falling apart in the most stressful moments, my friends really stepped up and helped make this transition as easy as they could have been.

One of my resolutions when I moved back to NYC was that this time, I was going to be more deliberate about how I live here. I was careful not to jump on the first apartment I saw, I’ve deliberately picked different lunch places every day, and I’m not hesitating to suggest exploring places I’ve heard about. I’m trying to say “yes” when people invite me to do things I might not normally take part in (though I’m also balancing this with a significant commute, which can make things tricky). I’m hoping to find outlets in both politics and theater (you’ll note my most recent review), and really looking forward to when the weather cools off later this fall.

Mostly, I’m glad to feel, two and a half years after everything went sideways, that life is getting back on track.

Hot Mess: Journey’s End

Putting together Hot Mess: speculative fiction about climate change was a challenge. I wrote two stories I’m extraordinarily proud of. I worked with four other writers, an illustrator and a graphic designer to publish the piece as both an e-book and a physical one.  The experience of releasing the anthology was emotionally and artistically rewarding.

That said, after a lot of thought, I’ve come to the conclusion that Hot Mess has reached the end of its journey.

It’s not that I think the threats posed by climate change are over – far from it, even if there was a historic climate agreement reached in Paris over the weekend. There’s still just as far to go, and it’s just as important now as it was four years ago when the anthology was published. Senator Bernie Sanders, my favorite prospective presidential nominee, has said repeatedly: climate change, more than even terrorism, is the single greatest threat to national security that the US faces.

This weekend’s agreement, which relies on governments around the world cutting their dependence on and use of fossil fuels significantly, is the first baby step towards that. With targets that are to be discussed and met every five years throughout this century, it’s a long-term plan for a long-term problem. Climate change didn’t just happen overnight, after all. Closer to home: Buffalo just smashed through a 116-year-old record because there hasn’t been snow yet. That’s right – earlier today, in Buffalo, New York, in the middle of December, I was walking around in a light jacket.

(And by the way, I’m sorry if I’m rambling a little – there were a lot of different and tangentily-related lines of thought that went into this decision, and putting together a coherent blog about it is harder than I thought it would be.)

When I first thought about taking Hot Mess down, something surprised me. I would have expected to feel a sense of sadness or dread, but instead I just felt…lighter.

Tangent: approximately one million years ago, when I was trying to decide where in England I was going to study for my junior year abroad, I had two choices: Kent, which was the program my university sponsored, and Middlesex University, in London – a program I’d applied to through another SUNY school. Each option has its appeal, and I couldn’t decide which to do. My mom gave me some advice that served me well then and has ever since: When you’re trying to make a decision and you have two choices, imagine you’ve chosen one or the other. Live with that for a few days. See how you feel. If it feels right, then do that. If not…move on to the next possibility. I wound up studying in London, and it was one of the best years of my life.

When I thought about taking down Hot Mess…it just felt right.

So…yeah. I’m not sure that it’s even that important that my thought process on this be clear to anyone else – I’m pretty sure that it’s not, so far, and I’ve only touched the tip of the iceberg on the vast cloud of ideas that have led me here. But I do know that I at least wanted to give people a heads up, that Hot Mess: speculative fiction about climate change will be taken offline at the end of this year. I’ll migrate the reviews its received from Amazon and other sales venues to a page here on my site (just to make sure they’re not lost), and that will be that.

In other words, you’ve got about two weeks to decide how many copies you want to buy before this one goes away. Avoid disappointment. Order now. Information below. Et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.

**

Hot Mess: speculative fiction about climate change will go out of print in the new year; order your digital and print copies before December 31st, 2015.

Leftovers

wpid-1127150939-1.jpgIt’s the day after Thanksgiving, the turkey has been devoured, and everyone is wandering around my aunt and uncle’s house (well, everyone who’s up so far) in a post-turkey coma, tottering towards the coffee and slowly organizing their things.

I love Thanksgiving leftovers. Mushing a giant bowl of turkey, stuffing and potato together and then drowning it all in thick, delicious gravy. Nom. Followed up in a few hours with some apple pie and maybe some whipped cream and maybe even some cake?

Of course, the other thing one has to do on Thanksgiving morning is look ahead to the next few weeks of Utter Holiday Insanity. There are gifts to be bought and mailed, cards to write, parties to go to and people to catch up with. Technically, getting through New Years Eve marks the finish line…but then (at least where I am) we’ll be deep into the snowy season.

Last year, overwhelmed with all the things one needs to take care of when one has just moved, I neglected to hire a snow plow and just watched the snow pile up day after day. This year – two days ago, in fact – I called a plow company for an estimate.

Last year around this time, I started working on a sitcom pilot. I’m now steeling myself for rewriting both the pilot and the second episodes, thanks to some great feedback and some new ideas.

Last year, I was excited about moving to a little town in the country and taking on new challenges at work. This year, the challenges promise to continue being…challenging…but I’ve come to the knowledge that despite trying, I was not built for the country lifestyle. Something on that front may need to change in the coming months. We’ll see how it goes.

That’s pretty much how I feel about everything at the moment. I’ll see how it goes. What do you want out of life? I’ll see how it goes. Where do you want to move to? I’ll see how it goes. What do you want for dinner? I’ll see how it goes.

Actually, the answer to that last question is probably “leftovers.” At least for a few more days.

Haggis & Highland Games

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Smoked haggis! And no, i do not know what the sauce is, they called it “Scottish sauce” and I think it might have been vaguely related to HP sauce.

For as long as it’s been since I visited Scotland (too, too long!), I didn’t expect that the next time I watched Highland games it would be in Western New York. And yet, the weekend before last, I stuffed myself full of haggis and watched grown men send tree trunks flying through the air.

I heard about the Buffalo Niagara Scottish Festival from my mom, who had read about it in the Amherst Bee. A couple moments of hyperventilation and many frantic Facebook messages later, I was on my way to Buffalo with plans to meet up with a friend and her family for an afternoon of fun and a mild dose of Celtic spirit.

wpid-0815151419a.jpgThe festival was held at the Buffalo Niagara Heritage Village, which is a pretty cool place way out in the swampy wilderness of Amherst. I haven’t visited the village aside from this trip, but what the museum has done is take old houses from around Western New York and preserved them on a plot of land where they can be toured and enjoyed. It was a fantastic backdrop to the afternoon, and at some point I want to try and go back to check it out on its own.

wpid-0815151320.jpgAfter filling up on haggis and a pint of Belhaven, my friends and I wandered over to the caber toss – the aforementioned throwing of giant, tree-trunk sized pieces of woods, each weighing (if I recall the announcer’s description correctly) just under a hundred pounds. As each beam was flung through the air, the crowd held its breaths, waiting to watch it go end over end. Once we’d watched both the caber toss and the hammer throw (done by professional exhibition athletes, not just guys who walked in off the street) for a while, we wandered through the vendors and checked out what they had for sale. Wares ranged from cookbooks and kilts to the skulls of mythological creatures. I managed to hold myself back from making a purchase; my friend picked up a Nessie soup ladle and a cookbook with a recipe for haggis that sounded a lot more appetizing than the one in my miniature Scottish cookbook wpid-0815151342.jpgfrom my grandmother’s house. (Hint: mine calls for bits of the sheep that are not included in my friend’s recipe. I’m hoping to get a copy of hers, authenticity be damned.) While I’d planned to get my hands on a scotch egg as a snack, by the time I was ready to eat again (that haggis was pretty filling) it was hot enough out that I went for a gelato, instead. By that point, the stage had filled up, and a band of kilted musicians was in full swing. There was an area for ceilidh dancing, but alas – my back was getting a bit sore by this point, so I decided not to risk incurring its wrath.

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Okay, fine, not ALL of them are wearing kilts.

Instead, I wandered around a bit more with my friends, people-watching and trying to stay out of direct sunlight, as I could feel my fittingly pale skin starting to warm up. (For those who don’t remember, I learned my lesson about staying in the sun too long a few years ago in St. Martin.) Finally, it was time for me to go. We said our goodbyes and I headed back to my car, thankful for the paved walkways that kept my feet above the waterline from the previous night’s storm.

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The view from the paved walkway – it’s easy to forget that the area is basically built on a swamp! Added nicely to the atmosphere, though.

I had a terrific afternoon, a great time visiting friends, some delicious food, and I left feeling more connected to Scotland than I have in a while. Next year, I’m hoping to get myself organized enough to go to the kickoff ceilidh – hopefully, I’ll see some of you there!

Stalled, but only briefly

wpid-0626152133.jpgSo it’s been a minute or two since I last updated (ha ha). It’s turned out to be a seriously busy summer. So far I’ve been to San Francisco, NYC, Madison, Bar Harbor, Buffalo and coming up there’ll be a short trip back to NYC. There’s been a bit of life upheaval (nothing major, don’t worry) and as a result I’ve had to spend a lot of time and energy on things that aren’t what I’d like to be spending my time and energy on.

The result? Most of my personal creative projects – a TV pilot, a couple of ideas for plays, my Agent Carter suit, this blog – have been shoved to one side to make time for the things that need to get done. And even when I do think I’m going to set aside some time and dig in, something keeps coming up.

wpid-0712151318-1-1.jpgI spent a very large chunk of my writing life – which is now hovering around 20 years, if we go back to my first paycheck – adhering to the strict rule of writing every single day. Creative writing, every day. I gave myself deadlines, I banged out first drafts, I ran a successful scripted web series (back when everybody was on dial-up, so basically that meant managing eight or ten people, editing, planning plot arcs and then posting scripts on a regular basis), I wrote more fanfic than I can actually even remember…and I kept pushing myself to do more. And more. And more. This carried on into my late teens and then my early-to-mid twenties.

And then, one day, something changed. I think it was when I moved back from Scotland and down to New York City. I was going through a period where I didn’t feel particularly inspired, I was getting settled in a new place, and I decided it was time to refill my creative fuel tank, so to speak. It was a difficult choice, especially for someone who didn’t (and still doesn’t) believe in writer’s block. To willingly put down my pen and go out to experience life, instead, was a really difficult thing to do. But also a very necessary one. And I’ll never forget the time I was walking through Brooklyn with a friend and another woman (a friend of the friend), and we were talking about creativity. “Are you working on anything right now?” asked the woman, who I think was some kind of junior producer at a music television channel (not the two you immediately thought of).

“No,” I said, “I’m just absorbing life at the moment.”

“Oh,” she said, in a tone that let me know exactly how much respect she had (or didn’t have) for this decision.

The break ended up only lasting a handful of months, but when I went back to my keyboard it was clear that taking the pressure off had been a smart idea. For me. For my mental health. For my writing.

I’ve talked about the pressure writers put on ourselves in the past, and every so often I have to remind myself that those few months I took off from work resulted in some really great projects that I probably wouldn’t have completed without that time. I learned about myself, about my writing, about how to create the optimal conditions for creativity. Sure, I can still sit down and pound out 500 words if I have to, but feeling like you “have to” when it comes to creative writing is never a good feeling.

All that said, writing fiction is liberating (to me, and to at least a few of you) in a way that other writing and other activities aren’t. So I know it’s something I have to do and have to make time for. But it’s nice to have the confidence to put the pen down from time to time, as well, without the fear that ALL THE WORDS WILL BE GONE when I’m ready to pick it back up again.

So, while life at the moment has sped up and creative output has slowed (though it’s still trickling), I’m trying to feel okay about that, reminding myself that sometimes life takes the wheel and my plays and pilots have to ride in the way back for a while. At least we’re all in the same car. Though they are getting suspiciously quiet back there…

My guess is, they’re plotting against me. Or life. Or both.

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New article posted on Skirt Collective

Hey all!

So, it’s been a few days – lots going on, no time to talk, bit like the white rabbit – but I did just have this article published by SkirtCollective.com, and wanted to share.

Check it out and pass it on to anyone you know who might benefit from some more information on finding help with mental health care.

Mwah!

Nine Things To Know About Getting Mental Health Help 

Wizard World Philly 2015 Recap (with more over at AgentCarter.net)

Yesterday I mentioned that I’d try and post a recap of the convention, and only minutes later arranged to do a write-up for AgentCarter.net. That piece can be found here.

Other than gaining a whole new level of respect for Hayley Atwell (who plays Peggy Carter), I also got to attend the David Tennant/Billie Piper panel, get a photo taken with them both, then get autographs. High points of the con included:

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  • Finding out Billie Piper stole bits of the TARDIS and Margaret the Slytheen’s ring from the set!
  • Screenshot_2015-02-20-05-40-26David Tennant complimenting my red fedora as I walked into the photo booth (“Nice hat!”).
  • Getting an incredible deal on a pair of custom-painted knee-high sneakers – I’ll try to post photos once I receive them, which should be at some point in June. They’re going to have the Exploding Tardis pattern on them and I’m pretty damn excited about that.
  • Eating at Reading Terminal Market, which I’d never been to but which was delicious.
  • wpid-0509151749.jpg“That’s an obscure one!” from Mr. Tennant when I handed him the play I’d brought for him to sign, which I saw him in way back in 2002 – before I even knew who he was. Just coincidence that I happened to buy the script; it wasn’t till I saw and reviewed Look Back in Anger several years later that I realized I’d seen him performing before. (The rest, as they say, is history…)

 

  • wpid-img_20150510_170943.jpgBuying a little ID badge for my Peggy Carter cosplay (which I’m hoping my mom will help me start cutting fabric for this weekend)…
  • Going to a FANTASTIC Greek restaurant with my friend and her daughter after Friday at the con – it was out of Philly a ways, I think the town was called Yardley? I can’t remember the name but holy crap best tzatziki ever.
  • The entire weekend going more or less flawlessly, after a somewhat rocky trip down there (took five hours instead of ten, but I’ll trade a long drive at the start for smooth sailing at the actual con!).
  • Being able to stop at a Trader Joe’s on the way home and doing my grocery shopping for the week, which was way better than having to shop at WalMart this week.

I’m exhausted, I’m happy, I’m not thrilled to be back at work after such a fun weekend, but what can you do. Except bask in the memory and write a blog entry about it.