Hello, 5 AM, My Old Friend

So I woke up this morning after a dream that was apparently inspired by elements of “Goodbye Earl” by the Chicks (no justified killing of an abusive husband, but I observed two couple’s arguments, spent some time in a really nice kitchen that overlooked a great apartment complex after one boyfriend decided to switch apartments with his old girlfriend and go move in with his new girlfriend, and wound up in the middle of what looked like Wisconsin, judging from the rolling hills and all of the silos, as part of a mass job interview for a tech writing position. Yeah, I don’t understand that last part, either).

And then it was 5 AM, and my brain said, “Okay, you went to sleep at midnight, that’s enough, we’re going to play “Goodbye Earl” on earworm loop until you get up.” Thanks, brain. So I’m here, having fed and watered the J Crew, and I figure I’ll get in maybe four hours of writing before that stupid mass in my skull gives up and I can go back to bed at 10 AM for three more hours of sleep.

And then I made the mistake of checking Twitter and found out that not only does DHS intend to take its cobbled-together SS shitshow in Portland nationwide, but John Lewis died this morning. The best way to pay tribute is to get into some good trouble.

Sometimes you have to improvise

Being a reasonable person who doesn’t want to catch the ‘rona, I try to plan meals in advance so that I can cut down on the number of store runs and still have everything I need on hand. Sometimes, however, you (and by you, I mean I) forget things, which throws a wrench into the meal planning procedure.

Such as today, when I had planned on making burgers and fries for dinner. Because I knew damn well I’d gotten ground beef the last time I went to the store, you know? Except that apparently my mind was playing stupid games for stupid prizes once again and I’d already used the ground beef (either that, or it fell out in the trunk of my car. The temps have been around the triple digit point here for the last few days. I’m dreading what I’m going to find when I go out there tomorrow and check).

So, sweet potato fries but no ground beef, and I don’t want to hazmat up and go out to the store just for protein. I check the freezer — tilapia (nice, but we don’t have any fresh veggies that Ramón can eat without extreme digestive unease), kielbasa, hot dogs, OOH. I still had a container of the homemade gyro meatball mix I’d made back in May.

Pulled that out and let it defrost while I continued my study of the fridge. Nope, no tzatziki sauce, but I did have light sour cream, minced garlic, and green onions. That mixed up into a lovely creamy sauce, and one of the white onions that are a staple here got chopped up for garnish. Ramón doesn’t like spinach so I couldn’t add any to his sandwich, but I was able to slather it on mine.

One last issue — bread. We didn’t have any pita bread, but I did buy some naan bread when it was on sale back in March and froze it. Pulled that out to defrost. (If worse came to worse I would’ve made biscuits and ladled everything over that, or taken a crack at making frybread. But the cooking gods were smiling on me for once.)

Et voila — homemade gyro meatballs on garlic naan bread topped with a sour cream sauce, onions, spinach, and sweet potato fries on the side. Turned out to be darn tasty, and I didn’t have to put on a bra. I call that a win.

Shadow of the Swan: Closing in on the halfway mark

This was taken a few minutes ago — I haven’t gotten much of a chance to write today because I had to mask up and go do a multiple stockup run (meds, kitty food, human food), come home and sanitize/take a shower, do laundry, make dinner, and handle a couple of other tasks. But it’s 9:14 PM at the moment (you’ll be reading this tomorrow morning), and I probably won’t be going to sleep until midnight so I very well may be able to knock out 2647 words before I turn in.

And yeah, that’s an odd and very precise number, but if I crank out that many words every day for the next seventeen days I should have the book done and dusted by July 31st. Because I’ve jumped around the book and added scenes here and there I have a fair chunk of Acts II and III done already, and right now I’m doing the wrap-up for Act I, where Louisa finds out what her uncle has actually been doing for the Ministry of Antiquaries all these years and why she’s been brought back to London for a bizarre shotgun wedding. Oh, and Henry has been shot by goblins while trying to get her out of Whitechapel in one piece (she was trying to get out of London), so she now knows he’s a vampire.

Heh. I love these two — they are bickering and snarking at each other so much, and neither of them want to acknowledge the attraction between them because that’s simply not done. By the time they actually kiss, it’s going to be pyroclastic. Here’s an unedited snippet to whet your interest:

The omnibus rolled to a clattering stop on the corner of Garrick Street and Rose Street. The only thing that could be said for that particular section of Covent Garden was that it was slightly less dangerous than Whitechapel, with its history of street violence among the working-class residents offsetting the fame of the nearby open-air market that hawked everything from carrots to flowers.

Henry escorted Miss Wallingford from the omnibus’s upper deck, ignoring the trio of humans who had been outraged at their transport being pressed into ministry service. “Your fee,” he said to the driver, handing over the requisite coins.

The driver grinned as he stuffed his payment into a coat pocket. “And thank you for choosing the Bayswater Line, sir,” he said cheerfully, flicking the reins. The omnibus set off, ostensibly to return its complaining passengers to their original destination.

Eyeing their surroundings, Henry kept his hand around his companion’s upper arm as he guided her down Rose Street. It was a narrow road, hardly more than an alley, and shadowy from the lack of street lamps. In other parts of London, the lack of illumination would guarantee at least one man loitering in the shadows armed with a short club or brass knuckles, waiting to set upon anyone walking alone. That wasn’t the case for Rose Street, primarily due to the pub situated at its bend.

The Crimson Ribbon had been a staple of the area since the early eighteenth century, having opened as a pub in 1772. One of its early draws had been the bare-knuckle prizefights held in one of its upper rooms. That had earned it the nickname “Bucket of Blood,” which its new owner had capitalized on when it was reopened as the Crimson Ribbon in 1888. There were still shadowy figures on the street these days, but they were far more interested in what flowed through the veins of any passing unfortunates than their wallets.

As they approached the pub door Henry sensed the other vampires’ attention focusing on Miss Wallingford. It triggered an unfortunate protective response, and his canines ached with the need to drop down. He clenched his jaw to keep the sharp teeth properly retracted. “You’re safe with me,” he said through his gritted teeth, willing that to be true. “Just don’t do anything foolish, like try to run.” If she ran, the others would chase her, and he wasn’t sure he’d be able to leave them alive.

The pub’s interior was far cleaner and well-kept up than the exterior would have suggested, with polished wooden wainscoting below a rich red wallpaper and brass gaslights giving the space a warm. A human might be fooled into thinking it was a standard public house until he noticed the lack of beer pulls behind the bar, the absence of pint glasses, and the lager-less smell of the air. Of course, very few humans made it that far into the pub, and even fewer survived to carry tales.

A number of patrons sat at tiny pub tables off to the right, nursing stemmed glasses of blood or wine, while a reed-thin vampire Henry didn’t recognize stood behind the bar. He glowered at their approach, nostrils flaring wide at Miss Wallingford’s scent. “No outside refreshments, sir,” he announced.

Henry felt Louisa stiffen at the implication. “I need to speak with Madame Njata now, please.”

“She’s busy.”

He refrained from grabbing the vampire’s grubby neckcloth and yanking him over the bar. “I’m sure she is, nonetheless I need to speak with her. Tell her Harry’s here.” He pulled out his ministry warrant card and flashed it. “Ministry business.”

With a reluctant nod, the barman left his post and headed through a door near the back. Henry made sure to keep his human ward behind him as he scanned the clientele. After a few half-hearted stares, they all returned to their own conversations.

The barman returned. “Follow me.”

They did. A flight of stairs led to a narrow hallway that ran the length of the building. Lined with six doors, it terminated at a larger room at the very back. Henry knew the former site of the bare-knuckle prizefights now served as Madame Njata’s office.

Instead of being led there, however, they were shown to one of the other doors. “She said she’ll be right with you,” the barman said, opening the door and waving them inside.

Henry was tempted to argue, but the rising scent of fear from Miss Wallingford made him choose prudence. The room featured an old but still sumptuous red velvet chaise, a wooden table, and a plain wooden chair. Judging from the lingering scents, the room had been used for sleep, feeding, and intercourse, and not in that order.

He waited until the door was closed, then sat on the chaise. He knew it would seem rude to leave the wooden chair for Miss Wallingford, but doubted she would want to rest on the chaise if she knew what had taken place on it within the last day. “Will you sit?”

Reluctantly, she took the chair. “What are we doing here?”

“I need to feed.”

She went pale. “Not from you,” he added quickly. “This is one of the places in London where a vampire can feed in privacy and safety. Think of it as a very exclusive supper club.”

The tension in her limbs didn’t fade, but she nodded in understanding. “So you feed on … people?”

“If they’re willing, yes. Live blood taken directly from a human is more nourishing than blood that’s been drawn and stored. And in my case, it’ll help speed my healing.”

The color rushed back to her face. Guilt? Good. Hopefully that will keep her from doing something so damned foolish again. Then he realized the smallness of the room was concentrating her scent, and his teeth ached again as his hunger rose. To his dismay, something else ached as well. Carrying her across the roofs of Whitechapel had been an unfortunate reminder of how long it had been since he’d touched a woman with more than feeding in mind. And she most definitely had a lush little body under that masculine disguise.

Don’t be an idiot. Louisa Wallingford is young, headstrong, and far too impetuous for her own good. Not to mention she was good as married, by command of the Queen herself. And she’s human. Lush as she may be, she’s not for you.

So, that lurgy I was talking about back in January…

You may remember this post on January 10th, where I mentioned that I was just getting over a rather nasty cold that I’d caught over New Year’s, and how it had produced the most amazing neon yellow mucus I had ever seen (a color that has never come out of my nose before, by the way).

There was a fairly significant gap between that post and the next post on March 16, and the truth of it was that I was sick as a freaking dog in January and February. My cold did finally end, but on January 15 I started coughing. The cough settled in my chest, and despite drinking lots of fluids and taking OTC cough meds it didn’t resolve, to the point where I assumed I had developed bronchitis. (Why assumed? Well, because our health insurance is the HDHP type that doesn’t pay for doctor’s visits, and I was damned if I was dragging my exhausted ass over to the doctor’s office to be told, “Yeah, you have bronchitis, go home and drink lots of fluids” and pay $181 for the privilege.)

My coughing and general malaise got to the point where I had to tell my project manager, “Look, I know we’re on deadline but I am barely functional right now. So this is what I’m gonna do — I’ll get up, do some work for as long as I can, then go back to bed when I have to, then get back up and do some more work, and I’ll keep doing that around the clock until I have my deliverables done.” Yeah, I know — I’m insane. But it was only the two of us on this project and if I went to bed for a week there was simply no way she’d be able to get everything done, so I sucked it up. I’ll be perfectly honest, I don’t remember much of that week, but apparently I do good work even on autopilot.

I started feeling moderately functional after about ten days, but the cough never really stopped, and I never got “better.” Things would start to improve and I’d have hope, and then I’d feel like crap again and sleep the weekend away. This continued until the third week of February, which means I had five weeks of feeling like absolute garbage. I was hoping to hold out until my physical at the end of February because I wouldn’t have to pay for that, but after week five I gave up and headed into a local CareNow to see if they could help. The doctor listened to my symptoms, decided I had a sinus infection (which I assumed I had as well), prescribed me antibiotics and prednisone, and told me to go home and use saline sprays lavishly on my nasal mucosa. I did, and by the time my physical rolled around the next week I was feeling pretty okay thanks to the prednisone.

Two strange things happened at my physical, though. My blood pressure, which had been under control, had gone up again, to the point where my doctor increased my BP medicine. And my blood oxygen, measured by one of those pulse oximeters, was 96%. In all the time that I’ve had one of those things clipped to my finger during an exam, my blood oxygen level was almost always 99%. Once it dropped to 98%, but that was the lowest it had gone.

Now it was down to 96%, and my blood pressure was up. Right around this time, we started getting the first real warning signs that the US was going to be hit by COVID-19. That’s when I started doing incremental stockups at the store, in case one of us caught it and had to be quarantined for two weeks. But I wasn’t worried about what had just happened to me because everyone said that we hadn’t had any cases of COVID in the States yet, so it couldn’t have been that, right? It had just been a weird, nasty viral respiratory bug that had knocked me on my ass for five weeks, elevated my blood pressure, and reduced my blood oxygenation…

Except. The first laboratory-confirmed case of COVID-19 had been confirmed on January 20, 2020. So for me to have developed it on January 15 was not impossible.

Now, to answer the expected questions:

  • How could I have caught it? Well, I had spent the time around NYE wandering around the DFW metroplex with my family and interacting with other people a lot more than I usually did. Also, Dallas is the American Airlines hub and we have people coming in from other countries all the damn time, so it was hardly unexpected that a virus that originated overseas would show up here.
  • If I caught it, wouldn’t Ramón have caught it as well? Since he doesn’t have sick days, he isolated himself from me as soon as I got sick — he slept downstairs for a week and only saw me when he brought up food and meds. Even then, he did spend a number of weeks in February and March feeling like crap, but we assumed it was a milder case of what I had.
  • Have I gone in for a COVID-19 test? Well, no, because they weren’t available here in February. By the time I realized there was a good chance I’d had it, I would have tested as negative.
  • Antibody test? Those are now available, but as research is indicating that COVID-19 antibodies fade after 2-3 months and I’m well past that period now, there doesn’t seem much point to it.
  • Why do I think I had it? Apart from the neon yellow mucus, the symptoms of that respiratory bug, and those weird readings at my physical, I have not felt *right* since December. My mental acuity and ability to focus have definitely gone down a couple of notches, I have to take naps now to get through the day, and I get winded vacuuming the living room.
  • But you’ve been staying at home since March 13 — couldn’t some of those symptoms be related to staying inside for so long? Yeah, but I’m a writer — I’ve spent the last nine years inside. I never had to take naps before. And the reduction in my ability to focus is kind of telling.

So, that’s why you didn’t hear anything from me for almost two months. I’m talking about this now to explain why we’re being rigorous about masking, only going to the store, and disinfecting anything that comes in the house. If it is possible to catch COVID-19 multiple times, as research is beginning to indicate, I do NOT want that shit again and neither does Ramón. Once was more than enough.

Oh, my little darlings

As you know, Bob, I have five cats collectively known as the J Crew. Since I like to write in the living room, they have what I can only describe as a rota system where they take turns sitting on me while I’m in here. I have accepted this as my lot in life and use it as a break to comb them (best way of getting rid of excess undercoat, I’ve found).

Two of my little darlings, however, have lost lap privileges for awhile. Last night, Jessie (the dilute grey tabby at right) climbed up for a cuddle. Not a problem, I was just doomscrolling through Twitter, so I had an arm free. And then Jasmine, the striped tabby below, climbed up because by GOD, if Jessie was sitting on Mom she was going to get in on that action, too.

Now, Ramón refers to Jessie and Jaz as the Tabby Twins of Terror because 1) they’re both grey tabbies and 2) they did not like each other for a long time. Jessie is very much the alpha of the J Crew, and I think Jaz is a wannabe alpha. When Jaz and her sister Jemma arrived back in 2013, we spent a year with plastic picnic tablecloths covering all our furniture because Jessie used to pee on it as a way of marking her territory and warning off the interloper. So much fun.

Things have gotten better over the years, and the girls are now at the point where they’ll sit a foot apart on the bed or lick each other’s heads. Sometimes they’ll even climb up and sit with me at the same time. I have always been aware, however, that Jessie still gets annoyed with Jaz at times and will take a swipe at her, so I’ve always been cautious when they’ve decided to camp out on me.

Well, my luck ran out yesterday. Jaz jumped up and immediately tried to worm into her favorite position, which is sprawled across my boobs. Since that would have put her far too close to Jessie (and I also wanted to be able to scroll), I gently pushed her onto the other side of the lap desk. She did her grumbling growl and tried again, at which point Jessie lost patience with her and took a swipe.

Bless her heart, Jessie is neither the most graceful nor the most precise of cats, and her swipe promptly landed on my chin and lip, laying open the lip and creating two divots in the skin directly under my mouth. I started yelling, unsurprisingly, and both cats promptly scrambled off the lap desk, which promptly sent laptop, lap desk, and cooling deck sliding to the carpet. Because getting clawed in the mouth wasn’t bad enough.

Luckily the hardware is all right — if it hadn’t been, trust me, you would have heard the cursing from wherever you are. We always keep triple antibiotic ointment in the house as both Ramón and I are klutzes, so I cleaned up the wounds and liberally coated them with the stuff. Everything seems to be healing well today (although I can’t eat anything salty, as I learned to my dismay at lunch). As for the cats, Jessie has been slinking around apologetically, while Jaz clearly doesn’t remember anything and is her usual ditzy self.

So while I love them both very much, they’re not coming up on the Chesterfield for awhile because ow.

An unexpected benefit of ageing

So many thing start going wrong with your body as you get older that it’s nice when the aging process actually provides something useful. As you can see at right, I wear glasses — have since fifth grade or so, and up until about eight years ago my vision prescription stayed roughly the same.

In 2012 I was told by my ophthalmologist that my near vision was starting to go and I would need bifocals. Luckily modern plastics technology has gifted us with progressive lenses so I don’t have that extremely obvious half-moon at the bottom of my glasses, but still, it was an annoying reminder that my eyes were starting to crap out on me. As there was no way to avoid it, I sucked it up, got the progressives, stuck it out through the week-long adjustment period until I could wear them without getting a humongous headache, and continued on my merry way.

And then three years ago, I was having problems focusing. I went in for a checkup, expecting to hear that my near vision had gotten progressively worse and I would need a new scrip. “Oh,” said the ophthalmologist after examining me, “yeah, your prescription has changed.”

“Near vision, right?”

“Actually, no. It’s your far vision. It’s improved.”

I blinked, which is kind of difficult in one of those “which one is better, one or two” eye exam thingies. “Come again?”

Well. As it turns out, people with myopia (nearsightedness) will start developing presbyopia (farsightedness) as they get older, as do many people with normal vision. However, in a myopic’s case the presbyopia starts to offset the myopia, meaning that your far vision actually starts to improve as you get older. The ophthalmologist said that I’d probably never have 20/20 vision, but I could expect my far vision to continue to improve until I was in my 60’s.

Why am I bringing all this up? Because, dear reader, my far vision has very clearly changed again in this last year, which has resulted in me leaving my glasses off whenever possible (unless I’m driving or need to see the TV) so that I don’t get a headache. I can see my computer just fine, both the laptop and desktop, and I have  cheaters for any sort of up-close work. I was finally able to get into the optometrist’s office in June after they reopened from the pandemic shut-down, and yup, my far vision has improved to the point where I only need a bit of correction in my right eye (left eye’s improved as well, but it’s always needed more correction than my right eye).

Thing is, I got used to wandering around without glasses for the first time since fifth grade, so I’m still doing it unless I have to drive somewhere or watch TV (frankly, wearing the new glasses is weird because it’s hard to see the floor, something the optometrist warned me would happen). And I have to say — have my eyes always been this deep-set or did I just not notice because of the glasses?

This is not the time to beat yourself up

Justin A. Reynolds posted something on Twitter today that really resonated with me:

I know a lot of writers who are monsters when it comes to output. They plot everything, they schedule everything, they crank out books every six weeks or so. We’re talking dedicated, y’all. But a lot of them haven’t been able to maintain their previous schedule these last few months, and they’re worried and scared because this is how they make their money and pay their bills.

Non-writers are feeling this, too. They’re trying to juggle WFH, taking care of the kids, taking care of the parents, keeping a roof over their heads and food in their bellies, and do all of this while wearing masks, washing their hands, and taking every precaution they can to keep the ‘rona away.

So let me reiterate that you’re all doing the best you can in an incredibly stressful and dangerous situation. Be kind to yourself. Don’t beat yourself up because you missed a deadline, or your house is messy, or your kids ate waffles for dinner again. Right now, we’re in survival mode — if eating cookies helps you get through another day, fuck it, eat the damn cookies. Color in your coloring book, turn off social media and decompress, do whatever it takes to cut yourself some slack.

History shows that humanity will get through this, just as we got through the Black Plague and the Spanish Flu. Mind you, the world on the other side of those pandemics was a different place from the world before them. And the world after COVID-19 will look different from the world we knew in 2019.

But it will be there. Hopefully it’ll be a better world where we learned some badly needed lessons. We won’t know until we get there. In the meantime, as Justin says, YOU be kind to YOU. Stay safe.

COVID Changes: Snacks

On Day 120 of Casa Cameron being in COVID-19 “stay at home” mode, I got to thinking about some of the things that have changed around here due to the pandemic. Some, clearly, are not good (masking, disinfecting, not being able to go anywhere, deaths, long-term health problems, etc.), but some are interesting.

Because I have a medical background, I took the epidemiologists’ warnings seriously back in February (especially after I got over my horrible respiratory bug that might have been COVID after all, but more on that in another blog post). I started doing incremental stock-ups every time I went to store — getting an extra pack of toilet paper here, extra cans of beans there, etc. By the time March rolled around our pantry was in pretty good shape in case one or both of us got sick (again) and we couldn’t go out to get food. (This, BTW, extended to wet and dry cat food and litter. Gotta make sure the J Crew is taken care of, after all.)

One issue with stocking up, however, was that certain things go really fast in this household, such as snacks. Now, I was able to snag enough flour and baking materials to make all the cookies we could possibly want, but sometimes you want something savory. We tend towards sweet potato and quinoa chips in that department, but my personal favorite is white cheddar cheese popcorn. I’ve found that a bowl of it in the afternoon can keep my brain up and running for quite some time.

Unfortunately, popcorn also tended to make me retain water, mainly because of that yummy, yummy salt. Yes, there were low sodium varieties, but those kinda tasted like cardboard. What to do? Then I remembered back to my childhood (because I am Olde™), when we used to make pots of popcorn on the stove. Could I still do that? Was unpopped popcorn even available anymore?

Turns out it was. I grabbed a couple of bags of popcorn kernels and some vegetable oil on my next food run, then returned home and experimented. The end result was that our 6 quart stock pot could pop enough popcorn for days — I could make a pot of it on Monday, put it into a big airtight container, and snack on it all through the week. In addition, that six quarts of popcorn was more than I got in your average bag of popcorn, and it represented maybe a sixth of my bag of popcorn kernels.

So, quantity plus savings — booyah, right? But it gets even better. Want to know the best part of making my own popcorn? I can control what goes on it. Kroger sells various popcorn seasoning flavors and I quickly fell in love with garlic parmesan, but meh — salt.

However, I remembered  that Alton Brown recommended putting nutritional yeast on popcorn. I already knew I liked how it tasted (kind of cheesy/nutty, very much an umami flavor), so I tried it. If I sprinkled maybe two tablespoons of nutritional yeast on the popcorn first, I only needed a shake of the garlic parmesan flavoring and the whole bowl tasted like cheesy, garlicky goodness, plus I was getting additional protein, minerals, vitamins, and GI bennies from the nutritional yeast, and there was no more bloating problems. Sweet.

So making popcorn at home and eating more nutritional yeast is one of the ways the pandemic has changed life here at Casa Cameron for the better. I’ll talk about some other ways in future blog posts — let me know in the comments if you’ve been able to find any, as well!

Writing With Cats

One of the many, many ways COVID-19 has impacted my writing schedule is my inability to go out and write at a coffee shop. Yes, I know, I have an office, but the furry little darlings consider it their bedroom when our bedroom door is closed, and the ruckus they raise when I try to close the door is ridiculous so I usually give up and let them in. When I write downstairs (as I’m doing now), they work on what I can only assume is a rota whereby one of them jumps up on my lap desk and insists on being petted/cuddled/combed. And as you can see below, it’s a little difficult to get any work done when you have a huge Orange Beast on you demanding chin scritches. Once that cat is done, I get to go back to writing for a bit … until the next cat jumps up.

We have five cats. You do the math.

If I was on deadline and simply didn’t have time to cater to the J Crew, I used to go to a little coffee shop that is, ironically, right next to my vet. It has a great conference table with big comfy chairs and lots of electrical outlets, and they make some amazing Thai bubble tea. I’d go there, buy some bubble tea, water, and snacks, and sit there for a productive afternoon tapping away.

Unfortunately, that’s not an option at the moment so I’m trying to find a happy medium with the cats where they can sit on me for a defined period of time (five minutes), after which they have to go down and let me work. A spray bottle full of water has come in handy for this. Granted, I have gotten a number of glowers and pathetic looks, and they’ve started sprawling in various pathways around the house so that I have to pay attention to them (even if it’s only stepping over them very carefully).

Have you ever had cats (or any pets) that did that? If so, leave a comment and tell me how you managed it … or didn’t, as the case may be.

And it’s *checks calendar* Friday

Yeah, I know. COVID cabin fever is hitting a lot of people at the moment, and Casa Cameron is among those households. Let’s see, what can I tell you?

Needless to say, I didn’t finish Shadow of the Swan or Shifter Woods: Growl in May, as I had hoped. I wound up getting called back to the contract job for a week to wrap up the project I’d been working on, and then I spent about a week cleaning out our garage so that I could refinish that bookcase the cats had peed on, then I got stuck into the actual refinishing, and it turned out so well that I decided to refinish the other bookcase that Ramón’s been hauling around for over thirty years, and the world is on fire due to COVID and the current US administration and climate change and a lot of other things so, yeah.

On the plus side, I’m still working on both books, as well as Uncertainty Principle and King of Blades, depending on how I’m feeling when I get up, so there is progress? It’s just kind of slow. But I’m currently at 32K of a projected 80K on Swan, which pleases me.

I also ran an A/B test on Twitter to get input on two potential covers for Swan:

Cover A turned out to be the more popular one, so I’m probably going to go with it or a very similar variant.

I’m also taking an online class in Indie Publishing 101 from Dean Wesley Smith — yes, I know, I’ve been indie publishing since 2015. But I’m not making nearly the number of sales I should be, so I’m hoping to pick up some tips and tricks from a powerhouse in the indie publishing field because I would really like to sell more books and maybe not have to go back to contract work if I can manage it?

Speaking of the contract job, I’m still on furlough and I don’t see that restarting anytime soon, since a lot of the work I did was for industries that were slammed by COVID and the assorted closings (another reason why I’d really like to make more sales). Ramón is still employed, knock wood, but his job is a contract one and he’s concerned that he may be out of work at a time when a whole bunch of other telecoms people are looking for jobs. If the book sales don’t pick up, I’ll probably start looking for more contract work in August, assuming I can find a place that will let me work remotely.

Health-wise, we’re still good. Because our governor is, well, an idiot, Texas is one of the new COVID hot spots in the nation, so we mask up every time we go out to the store, anything that comes into the house is disinfected, and we change clothes and shower afterwards. Our trips out are limited to store runs and fast food, with the occasional treat such as running the tax prep paperwork to the accountant or hitting the post office after hours (sometimes I have to mail Etsy sales or other stuff, and they have an automated postage machine). Luckily our Kroger is requiring mask usage to enter the store, and 99% of the people I see in there are masked, although there was one maskless woman today who, I shit you not, had the classic Karen hairstyle. Everyone was giving her dirty looks, so hopefully peer pressure will have an effect.

Oh, I learned how to trim Ramón’s hair, thanks to the angel who made this YouTube video. As his hair was getting to Doc Brown stage and it was driving him crazy, he was happy for me to take a crack at it with the clippers. I managed to give him a nice, short, but stylish do (made a couple of mistakes in back, but as he pointed out he didn’t care because nobody but me would be looking at his neck), and I may well keep trimming his hair from here on out. I mean, I already have the clippers, barber’s scissors, and T-outliner, so why not?

That pretty much brings us up to date. I’m going to try and blog more frequently, basically to keep both of us entertained (and up to date on the progress of all the WIPs). One amusing thing that happened today — someone had responded to this tweet:

with the comment, “Alexa, play S&M.” Which reminded me that I really did like that song and should buy it. Which then prompted … let us say … a mental vignette that one could entitle, “My Own Pet Duke.”

I really don’t need to be writing a BDSM Regency right now. I don’t even have an pseudonym for that subgenre (hur hur, see what I did there). Back into the inspiration hutch with you, little plot bunny.