First Royalties

Not a lot to report at the moment. My MFA residency started Friday, so I’m busy with that.

I did make a post to Facebook post (my first ever) about Finding Frances a couple weeks ago, and a couple people bought it. But still, getting it in front of people is nearly impossible.

I got my first royalties check, which came as a pitifully small direct deposit. But it did come, and I’ve now made actual money from Finding Frances.

royalties payment direct deposit

The only other thing going on is I’ve decided to start drawing again, which means I’m practicing with books and an art teacher. A couple of the books I’m using are about drawing cats, so here are a couple of the ones I’ve copied from one of the books:

Kittens

Review: Chi’s Sweet Home by Konami Kanata

Chi's Sweet Home book 1Normally I stick with YA here, but I couldn’t resist reviewing what is probably my favorite graphic novel series, even though it’s totally for kids.

The Chi’s Sweet Home series is twelve short manga about a little kitten who gets lost in a park while out with her mama and two siblings. After looking for them, she collapses on the grass in exhaustion and depression. She is found by a family—the Yamadas—with a little boy named Yohei. They take her home and become cat owners, despite early attempts to rehome her. After some litter box tribulations, they name her Chi, which apparently (and hilariously) means something like ”pee.” In the beginning, Chi is all about trying to get home, remembering cuddling with her mama and siblings. But she’s very distracted by food, eating herself into a stupor and passing out in her cat bed every time. Eventually she becomes so entrenched with Yohei and the adults that she forgets she’s a cat. Then, when they start letting her outside, she meets other cats and has many adventures, both fun and frightening.

The series is really quite adorable. I mean, it’s hard to describe it otherwise. Konami captures cat ownership and cat behavior so, so well—she puts all these little details in there that you've probably forgetten about, but when you see them, you think, “Yes! That’s exactly what it’s like!” The way that food is the key to her heart and how she sleeps so hard, among others. In the first book, her first visit to the vet is pretty funny, especially once they get the thermometer out.

The art is simple and in soft colors, but somehow conveys a great deal of feeling from Chi, her cat friends, and the humans. I think the story in the first book isn’t the most exciting, but the story that spans the twelve books is deeper and more interesting. I definitely feel that if you like the first one—even if you don’t love it—the others will make you happy. The Yamadas go through a lot for Chi, even moving to a new apartment. I can say that the ending was a little bittersweet for me, because Chi had to leave some of her friends and family behind in order to stay where she felt she most belonged.

I should mention there’s one thing that some people might find a little off-putting (I feel like I should have, too, but didn’t), which is Chi’s baby talk that. It’s not every thought, but Chi’s R’s and L’s are often W’s, and W’s are often inserted in unnecessary places (“gowing” for going, “wittle” for little, “scarewy” for scary). This may simply be a translation thing since I haven’t been able to read it in the original Japanese. However, I think the series still worth trying (twying?) because it might be worth it.

Anyway, this series is definitely for cat people. If you don’t like cats, I imagine it would be boring and tedious. But if you do like cats, you will probably enjoy it, whether you’re six or sixty-six. The original versions are out of print, but you can get them used for pretty low prices. Plus, there are new versions out that appear to be longer, omnibus editions (I think there are four that complete the series).

Chi's Sweet Home book stack

Writing in 2018

2018 was a tough writing year in some ways, but also good. I had a bunch of rejections on Finding Frances, but I finally heard back from the editor I sent it to in September and she requested a full. This is the last shot for that book, but she sounded really interested in the sample she read, so I am hopeful. I should hear in the next few weeks. I’m sincerely hoping that even if it’s a no, she’ll give me some feedback on it. I’ll be setting it aside, but it would be good to have some pointers on what to try next, when I do decide to crack it open again.

I also spent a good portion of the year frantically working on Ugly, my 2017 NaNoWriMo book, trying to get it ready for the PNWA conference in September. I had several requests on it, which is pretty exciting since those were my first pitches on it (six pitches and six requests, including four fulls). The five I sent are all still out there (I skipped one of the agents because she doesn’t like something that appears in one of my other books, so she probably wouldn’t be a good fit for me). I didn’t send them until early November so I’m not expecting to hear anything for a bit. 

Also, of course, I spent half of the year on the MFA, which was great. I got two short stories done, both of which I’m happy with. One of them is going to be expanded a bit, but I like the short version and plan to enter it in some contests. I’m looking forward to the residency coming up and starting the next semester, especially the playwriting course (should be fun). I already made up my reading list and just need to get my faculty advisor to approve it or make her changes to it. This semester my mentor is Allison Amend. She’s written a few novels for adults. Still, I’m hoping to learn a lot from her, even if she isn’t focused on YA. 

I also judged for the mainstream category of the PNWA contest, which was a challenge and time-consuming, but also beneficial. It still took up most of May. I was bummed not to final in any of the categories I entered, but such is life. 

I was bummed not to do NaNoWriMo this year after a five-year successful run, but I had to prioritize the MFA. I may be able to do it 2019 because I won’t be doing the MFA that semester (I don’t have enough vacation so I have to wait until 2020 to start back).

Not directly writing-related but still significant to me, I also lost my favorite cat, Marvin, who would have been my muse if I’d had one. But I got a new little guy (Maddox) who’s actually a lot like Marvin. Not that he’s a replacement, but still. He’s affectionate but not overly so. 

Marvin made creepy by a Happy Light
My favorite picture of Marvin
Maddox posing for the camera by the window
The new guy, in a rare moment of calm

I suppose that’s it for 2018. I’m hoping 2019 has more actual good news in it than 2018 did, instead of just prospects. 

Things

I’ve been working away for my MFA courses. I’ve read 7 novels, 5 craft books, and 2 nonfiction titles related to YA literature (plus most of a collection of Chekhov stories and chapters from other books) since getting back on July 15th. That’s kind of crazy. I’ve written three short papers and mapped out 3 of the novels to help understand their structure. I temporarily dropped out of one of my writing groups because it just takes too much time that I could be working. Overall, I seem to be off to a good start. I also made it through revision of Ugly. I need to go through it again before I have a new, solid draft, but I should be able to do that over the next few weeks.

I had a lot planned for this weekend but didn’t manage to get as much as I’d hoped done because the worst thing happened Friday night. I came home from Starbucks and found Marvin dead. This has never happened to me before, as with all my other cats, they were sick (and suffering) enough to need to be euthanized. Even though it came up sort of unexpectedly a couple times, I still had a chance to prepare. But Marvin had been his happy self up to the last time I saw him alive. He slept curled up by my feet the night before and took his morning medicine like a champ.

It looked fairly peaceful. I’m pretty sure he just lay down and didn’t wake back up. He had a heart murmur, was on 3 medications, and was 14. But still. Finding him like that was horrible. I ended up wrapping him up in a couple of towels and taking him to the emergency vet, where I paid for a private cremation. I’ve never done that before, but this guy was so special to me that I decided to put his ashes in a wind chime designed for that purpose. I’ll hang it on my deck.

Then, in what was probably a highly unusual move, I went and adopted a new cat Saturday. I figured, I was going to get one eventually, anyway, and it would distract me now. It worked. I went to my favorite shelter and got their only FIV+ cat—a seal point Siamese. He’s very friendly and the listing warned that he was very loud. He is a little loud, but it’s not as bad as I thought it might be. He’s just very open about what he feels and thinks that everyone should know. His name at the shelter was Sparkles, which—just no. So I renamed him Maddox, sticking with the M-theme. Currently I’ve got Maddox locked in the room over my garage because that’s where I sleep in the summer (it has the AC) and Marlowe locked in the upstairs bedroom, though I’ve been letting each of them out into the rest of the house in turns.

Here are the requisite pictures. My favorite of Marvin, because he looks dangerous but was actually super-nice:

Dangerous Marvin

The last one I took of him, chillin’ on the couch on a hot day:

Marvin chillin on the couch

And of course, the new guy, Maddox:

Maddox the cat

I’ll get some better pictures of him later. See that dark spot on his back? He had a benign mass removed in June and they shaved the area, and that’s the color the fur grew back in, rather than the lighter color it should have. Weird. They say it might lighten back up, though there’s no guarantee.

Just a Saturday

Yesterday was bit of an adventurous day for me. First of all, a couple friends came over to help me put together my dining room table, which has been sitting in two boxes for weeks. We did manage to get it together and I even set the chairs up so my house is starting to look like a real house now. Check it out:

dining room table

I even have the new chandelier up. It goes well with the sofa I put together a few weeks ago and the rug I’ve had rolled up in a closet since moving in:

sofa and rug

(Yes, that’s a giant cat wheel in the background. And no, they do not use it. Of course they don’t. They’re cats. Though if you want to see cats that do use one, check out the videos at http://onefastcat.com/. It’s sort of awesome.)

My friends also helped me move a large metal file cabinet in the garage and to get the old dining room table out of the kitchen and into the garage. Then we were standing there in the garage with the front door open when this woman shouts at someone out of sight about keeping their dog on leash. And then a minute later a dog races into the garage and nearly into the house, but my friend managed to block it (we figured out it was a she later). The dog races all around the garage, the driveway, the street, but she’s mostly centered on ramming into any of us humans silly enough to stand still for a moment.

Every time a car would go by, one of us would grab her collar. She had a pink one but no tag on it. She was obviously somebody’s very friendly but poorly-trained pet, but with no tag, we weren’t sure what to do. I live in a small townhouse complex, across from a large apartment complex, and there’s another large apartment complex at the end of the road. There’s an unfenced grassy area that serves as a dog park on my street a few houses down and houses that back up to it, but she could have easily run from literally anywhere, especially if she remembered the park. I happened to have a leash for a harness I’d gotten in case I wanted to take a cat for a walk (which I’ve never done…) so I ran inside to get that. Then we walked her down the street a little, but it was clear that wasn’t going to get us anywhere.

I ended up calling an animal control officer. We sat on my driveway with the dog and lots of cars came by but no one claimed her. When animal control got there, he scanned her and there was no microchip, which was really disappointing. I still feel really bad about sending her off, but I really didn’t know how to reunite her with her owner and I couldn’t keep her. No way would I let her in the house with my cats, and I couldn’t put her in the garage either and risk her chewing up the things out there. I think since she was so friendly she has a very good chance of getting adopted. Anyway, in my head her name was Peaches:

peaches the lost dog

Then after that, I went with my friends to a Polynesian festival where I ate Hawaiian shave ice for the first time. It was a million times better than a sno-cone, even though that’s what it looks like. The ice is shaved so fine it’s almost creamy. I got vanilla, grape, and passion fruit. Yum:

shave ice

And Hello Kitty was there (in a hula skirt with a lei, of course):

hello kitty

On another topic, Marvin and Marlowe are getting along well:

marvin and marlowe

And that was my adventure day. Any day that involves something other than being at home, work, or Starbucks is notable in my world.

Meet Marlowe

After my conference on Sunday, I drove straight to a cat rescue where I picked up a new cat. Meet Marlowe:

Marlowe the cat

Coming off a conference is always difficult—it’s so intense that it’s kind of a high, so it was nice to have something nice to distract me and make me happy.

Marlowe’s 4 years old and he’s FIV+ (that’s the cat version of HIV), which means he might have a slightly weak immune system, but they’ve found that when kept indoors, FIV+ cats tend to live mostly as long as other cats. One possible issue is that it is communicable, but only by deep bites. The rescue community used to always keep FIV+ separate from other cats, but the thinking has changed and now they mix them in, as long as they don’t fight. So now begins the process of slowly introducing Marlowe to Marvin. I hope they’ll be friends. But now I have three brown tabby cats. Not a very diverse household…

Life Gets in the Way

I am really bummed because I haven’t been able to do any writing (unless you count blog posts) for a couple weeks and won’t be able to for another couple. I’m taking a certificate course in data science that’s wrapping up with a huge, time-consuming project. On top of that, I’m trying to finish painting my entire downstairs so I can get an electrician out here to install new heaters (not that I need them right now…) and a few other electrical things. On top of all that, I have critiquing I have to do and places I need to be.

Not to mention that it’s supposed to be a holiday weekend and I technically have tomorrow off, but I still have to do some work from home.

Life is so hard sometimes. Wah.

Anyway, it’s weird to not be writing and I feel sort of like I’m forgetting to do something fundamental, like eat.

As soon as my scheduled clears up again, I’m getting right back to Sadie Speaks. I’m in the process of incorporating some more  feedback on it from one of my critique partners. I did a first pass through but there are some larger issues to address. Still, I’m planning to have it ready before the PNWA conference, which is in the second half of July, because I plan to pitch it there. This will be the first time I pitch it. I’ve kind of gotten sick of pitching the first one, Finding Frances, although I do have three full requests out on it right now—one with an editor at Sourcebooks and two with agents. I feel like it’s run its course. With Sadie Speaks, I’ll be querying people I already queried with Finding Frances. But hopefully someone will be interested in it and then will also read Finding Frances and feel tremendous regret at not recognizing its brilliance the first time around.

Sure. Here’s a picture of my downstairs, which is a vast improvement over the last picture I shared. There are many hours of work poured into it. The contractors took down that tacky little half wall, resurfaced the ceiling, and installed new drywall as well as replaced the subfloor around the walls (so it doesn’t smell anymore (!)). I’ve also primed everything, including the ceiling. So much work, and now I still have to take all that paint out of those four cans and apply it to the walls and ceiling. Have you ever painted a ceiling? It sucks. Note that the chandelier in the foreground of the photo is so going away. The box on the floor has its replacement. I can’t wait.

remodeling the downstairs

And here’s a picture of Marvin, for no reason.

marvin on a stepstool

My House is in Disarray

Missing walls
Where are the walls?

I’m in the process of completely renovating my living room and dining room. Because of damage done by the very costly Bad Cat (aka Zmije), I had to replace all the drywall. Of course, I ended up having asbestos, so that turned the removal into a very expensive and complex process.

After the asbestos people cleared the house, the first thing Marvin did was run through the old half wall and then jump on top.

Marvin on the half wall

I’ve since had the wall taken out. Right now Marvin is temporarily locked up, although he is good at convincing me to let him out when I’m in the room with him.

Marvin in his cage
Marvin. “So I can sit here, or I can lie down here.” “Or you can sit in the litter box.”

And Zmije lives in a cage permanently now, which she bizarrely seems to like. Whenever I open the door to feed her, she head butts me and sometimes puts her paws on my chest, but makes no move to escape. She just needs attention. If I’d known she’d be happier this way, I’d have done it ages ago.

Zmije. “I thought you wanted me to pee on the wall.” “No.”

I so can’t wait for everything to be normal again.

Sometimes 75% is Good Enough

marvin standing on the heater

Marvin loves the heater so much that he’s found a way to stand on it even though he can’t balance with all four paws on it. He does this all the time. It has me thinking that maybe perfection isn’t necessary–something between nothing and everything can still be okay…