Tag Archives: life

the writing chair – an update

Last I left you, I was sitting in a holey chair with no support and little time or energy for finding a replacement. Well here is a happy ending update for you. We have this building on our property, probably from the late 1800’s, and when we first moved in over 10 years ago, I got it in my head to furnish it and turn it into a ‘playhouse’–bar, bar stools, antique collectibles, big screen TV, chess, cards, books, stereo, and–wait for it–a chaise lounge. So I started thinking, would that fit in my writing room? Would it be comfortable? I made the mistake of thinking out loud and the next thing I know I hear a strange noise outside, and go downstairs to find the husband dragging the chaise from the playhouse, up the stone path to the back door of the house, because, you know, why ask for help.

Anyway, since it was here I thought I might as well try it in the room. Between the two of us we got it up the stairs and lo and behold, I love it. It’s big enough I can fit on it with a few cats (always a consideration in this house). I can sit upright, or lay down. I can work or I can nap or I can watch TV when I’m supposed to be working. And it is finally a chair befitting a romance author. Everyone thinks we lie around on chaise lounges eating bon bons and drinking champagne in our negligees anyway, at least now I’ve got one thing right–a leopard chaise! And I didn’t even have to leave the house and go to a store to find it! Let’s see if it inspires any good stories, shall we?

Cat Johnson's Leopard Writing Chaise

Cat

a new year

New years resolutions

New Year’s Eve is just around the corner. Of course, it’s a time for bubbly (check out Amy’s post on the best bottles HERE). I’m thinking of going healthy this year and maybe splashing some pomegranate juice in my champagne on Monday night. Can’t have enough anti-oxidents, I always say!

New Years is also a time for resolutions. Are you staring at a blank piece of paper now trying to come up with some? I’m not big on resolutions, myself. Yes, I’ve unofficially tried making them in the past and yes, as expected, all I did was set myself up for failure. So this year I’m taking a new tactic. I’m looking back and seeing what I did successfully accomplish over the past year, and I vow to try to continue that success.

Like what, you ask?

#1 Well, for one I actually said no last year. To quite a few people actually. Work wise I said no to: Publishers (yes, more than one) who wanted me to write for them. An agent. And a special project. Why? I’m busy enough now I have to choose what projects are best for my career.

Saying no personally is pretty freeing too. Just last night I was too tired to drive to have a casual dinner with friends, the same friends I will spend all New Years Eve with just days from now, so I said no to last night. I was in bed and asleep by 8PM and slept until 7am. My body knew I needed it. My mouth finally had the nerve to agree out loud.

So yes, for 2013 I will resolve to continue saying no, when necessary, so I have the time and energy to say yes when it’s important. It’s scary, this saying no, but I’ve proven I can do it already.

#2 Last year I gave up the powdered creamer and the splenda artificial sweetener and started drinking my coffee with half and half, a spoon of real sugar and a little bit of all natural stevia. Quite the concoction I know, but guess what? I didn’t blimp up the way I feared I might from the change.

I will resolve this healthy change will continue in 2013.

#3 I also finally moved my “office” (and I use that term lightly). I no longer work in bed. I get up each morning, go to the spare room and sit in a chair to work on the laptop. No, it’s not by any stretch of the imagination an ergonomic office chair, but at least it’s a chair. And you know what? I’m sleeping better now that I’m only in the bedroom to sleep, not to work. All the electronics–cell phone, iPad and laptop live in the spare room, not next to the bed any longer. My brain must know this.

I resolve this too will continue. No more working where I sleep, though I have been known to sleep where I work. Authors perogative–napping in the office. Don’t be jealous.

Anyway, give it a try. Recycling small victories as New Year’s resolutions is way better than trudging into the great unknown with new ones. Trust me.

giving thanks

Warning- I’m here to bitch.

So I’m listening to the newscasters report, over and over, on every channel, how folks are up in arms that Walmart is opening at 8PM Thanksgiving Day for their Black Friday sale. Why is everyone upset? Because they think Thanksgiving should be a sacred day spent with family, not shopping.

Let me give all these people a little dose of reality as I see it. Not everyone has a Norman Rockwell Thanksgiving. Here are the people who don’t:

Deployed military work every day. Thanksgiving. Christmas. New Years. They get something extra special in the chowhall, and sometimes they get to wear civvies rather than the cammies they’ve been in for six months straight, but there’s no day off. No family either.

Policemen. My uncle was a police officer and he worked nearly every holiday, leaving my aunt home alone, or with us, on holidays.

Food service workers. I was a newlywed but still had to work on Thanksgiving Day because back then I worked as a bartender to pay my mortgage. While I served strangers, my new husband was at home. I also worked Christmas Eve catering a private party . . . while I had the flu. Moving on…

Loners. I know a few of these. No family nearby. No spouse. Friends always invite these loners to spend the holidays with them, but often, for whatever reason, they choose to stay home alone.

Here’s how I see this Walmart Black Friday situation–by 8PM the turkey has been eaten, the leftovers are put away, everyone is laying around on the couches feeling bloated and sleepy and already bored of looking at each other and watching whatever is on TV. Family time is over. Be grateful and go shopping. Get a jump on your holiday gift buying or take advantage of the sales and get yourself something. Work off some of those calories so you don’t feel like a slug.

And all those Walmart employees people are worried about? Well, they’re simply joining the ranks of all those others already thanklessly working that holiday. And I’m not sure but I can bet these employees will get paid time-and-a-half for holiday pay, and they get to be part of a new American tradition.

So get over it and, newscasters, move on.

Cat

weathering the storm

Monday Hurricane Sandy hit New York State, and I said goodbye to my internet, and house phone, and cable television, and electricity and cell phone service until today, Thursday. How did we weather the storm? Pretty well, actually, although it was mega-stressful and I’m pretty sure I gained a few pounds. Running the generator a few hours here and there during the day kept the food in the fridge good, and our gas stove meant we could cook even when the generator wasn’t running.

PumpkincoffeeUsing up what we had in the house was kind of fun. We converted some beef leftovers and a can of beer we had here into a French Dip for lunch one day. And then turned the leftover juice from that into French Onion Soup, smothered in cheese with a hunk of bread. Chili leftovers became Chili Cheese Dogs with Sauerkraut another day. We picked up some corned beef and the remaining sauerkraut and cheese became a Reuben.

Leftover coffee from the morning became a tasty gourmet treat in the afternoon when I rimmed the mug with cinnamon and sugar, added Vanilla Stevia, Pumpkin Spice booze, lots of whipped cream and a cinnamon stick and I celebrated Halloween yesterday by drinking my own invented Pumpkin Spice Coffee.

Yes, the storm was stressful. We had some tree damage. The generator didn’t work perfectly. I had to drive to town once on Tuesday to work in the parking lot of the bank because I needed the WiFi. And again I had to get in the car and go in search of signal last night to download edits from my editor that I could see in my inbox but couldn’t work on through the iPad. But all in all, we weathered Sandy well, and ate pretty damn well too.

how many sleeps til christmas?! part 2 -gifts for the foodie

I had so much fun putting together the post with the list of gift ideas for the writer in your life last week, I decided to make another, but this time for the food/drink lover in your life. So here you go…get out your Christmas lists and credit cards!

Bacon KeychainBACON!

Everyone loves bacon, right? And I heard a horrible rumor that there may be a shortage due to weather and failing crops that were needed to feed the pigs… I don’t know, it’s all too horrible to think about, so let’s move on to the gift for the bacon lover! How about a key chain proclaiming your love for both that someone special in your life, and bacon? Courtesy of Etsy.com and WhiteLilieDesigns.

Lobster Print~

LOBSTER, anyone?

How about framing this print for a unique item of kitchen decor?

A beautiful antique lobster image, printed on a vintage dictionary page from Black Baroque on Etsy. They have tons of other designs as well.

~

Trader Vic's Book o Food & Drink

TRADER VIC

I’ve just recently read about Trader Vic’s history and it’s pretty amazing. More than that, so is his famed dark rum which I also just tasted for the first time.rum_dark

Buying this cookbook for my husband was a no brainer and I’m at this very moment holding in my hand the original 1946 printing of Trader Vic’s Book of Food and Drink, available on Amazon, and it is totally cool.

Imagine how happy a gift of a bottle and the book would make the rum/food lover in your life.

Any other suggestions? I’d love to hear them!

Cat

going nuts

Yes, this post is about actual nuts, but it’s also about the insane cultural environment we’re living in–as a writer I do so love when words align like that!

Anyway, I’ve touched a tiny bit on here, and delved in a bit deeper on my own blog, about PayPal (and in reaction to PayPal certain retailers such as Bookstrand as well) and their recent determination that selling erotica and erotic romance is the same financial risk as selling Pornography, Prostitution and Online Gambling. As a result indie authors and publishers were all lumped into one big category and declared obscene. (This is an extremely simplified in-a-nutshell explanation culled from various official statements, as well as emails and letters written and posted on various places around the web. If you are interested I suggest you Google the topic to make your own determinations.)

Anyway, thanks to industry pressure–mainly irate readers and authors as well as Mark Coker of Smashwords–as well as a denial from Visa (whose policies PayPal cited for their decision), PayPal is reevaluating their position and backing off… slightly… but at least things are moving back in the right direction.

So, now it seems that the food industry is experiencing the same kind of issues, mainly misclassification and an attempt at censorship, and of all things, WALNUTS are the target.

In a recent article I read that many recent studies have determined that omega-3 fats may lower cholesterol, inhibit tumor growth, lower the risk of breast cancer and treat major depression. Walnuts naturally contain omega-3 fats. However, when Diamond Walnuts dared to state that on their label, the FDA cracked down on them with the following statement…

“Because of these intended uses, your walnut products are drugs… Your walnut products are also new drugs … because they are not generally recognized as safe and effective for the above referenced conditions. Therefore … they may not be legally marketed with the above claims in the United States without an approved new drug application.”

Now, I’m not talking about Diamond Walnuts making false, unsubstantiated claims. They have the omega-3 studies to cite, and the omega-3 fats are actually in the nuts naturally, but in a twisted sense of oversight the FDA has now grouped walnuts with drugs. Again, this is an extremely simplified explanation of what is a complicated situation so READ it yourself.

So, to recap, in the U.S. today, ROMANCE NOVELS = PORN and WALNUTS = DRUGS and both need to be regulated for our own protection.

What all this does, however, is make me want both more.

I’ve got a bag of walnuts here somewhere that I keep around for if I’m making chocolate chip cookies. Or if I take the time to make slow-cooking oatmeal, I’ll throw some walnuts on top to up my protein for the meal. Now, because I like to be contrary, I’m going to eat more walnuts. I’m going to put them in my salad. I’m going to leave them laying around in bowls in the house for a snack. I may make that my gift of the year this Christmas–nuts and nut crackers for everyone!! In fact, my go-to contribution for all the parties I attended last season was nuts–mixed pecans, peanuts and walnuts tossed with rosemary-infused olive oil, spiced with cumin, sugar, salt, pepper and just a touch of cayenne pepper and toasted for 20 minutes in the oven. That dish was a hit at all the parties pre-censorship, it should be huge now it’s an illegal “new” drug!

here lies insanity

Today I came across two blogs by other authors.

The first was 25 Reasons That Writers are Bug-F*&$ Nuts. It spoke to my soul. Points 4 through 8 were me to a T. As were points 10, 11, 14, 16, and 17. It basically said writers are liars, and loners, messy, insane and misunderstood. And sometimes addicted to caffeine, alcohol or both.

Then there was the second post I read. It was an author writing all about her writing space. She likes to sit in the garden, or on the balcony, and let the birds’ songs make her think of what her characters might be feeling. There’s talk of feng shui and of the importance of an ergonomic chair for proper support in her fixed writing space, I guess for when she wasn’t visiting with the birds in the garden… No judgement here. That’s her and that’s fine.

Here’s me…

I can hear the washing machine running, the closest thing to birdsong is the sound of something metal scratching inside the washer drum–I think there’s a screw rolling around in there with the clothes from the husband’s workpants pocket.

I’m in bed leaning against a pillow with a cat on my legs probably giving me blood clots, and two more cats snoring next to me on the husband’s pillow, and a dog at the end of the bed. No ergonomics here.

It’s a good day. I not only got around to showering (which happens less often than I’m willing to admit), I even remembered to brush my teeth and eat something.

My bedside table, my bedroom being my office 99% of the time when I’m not working standing up at the kitchen counter while something is cooking, contains all the things a working writer needs. Right now mine contains 2 TV clickers, a pad of paper with my To Do list scratched on it and a pen, a napkin from the last meal I ate while on the laptop here in bed, a box of tissues and a box of wine (don’t judge me! It’s a lovely Malbec from Argentina with aromas of chocolate and black cherries and it’s organic!), the house phone, my cell phone, a bottle of water, lip balm, and last but not least a bottle of nighttime cold medicine I’ve been using to put me to sleep at night (I know, that’s bad. I’ve heard it already). The only reason both a coffee mug and a tea cup isn’t there is because I was exhibiting my typical stress behavior and decided to carry them downstairs rather than keep my butt here and keep writing. I also scrubbed the bathtub this morning rather than finish the book I promised an editor would be done last December.

How’s that for feng shui?

I’d say my life is a little closer to the author of blog A than the author of blog B, but hey, if past sales and upcoming book contracts are any indication, it’s working for me so far, so what can I say. To each his own and wouldn’t this be a boring place if we were all exactly the same? Sometimes you need a little crazy.

Cat

finding calm

What?? Two posts within two days? Yes, I’m procrastinating. Don’t judge me.

Anyway, here’s the thing…my life is weird. It is a dichotomy which might give a lesser person whiplash. It certainly hasn’t done much for my sanity–or perhaps it has. Maybe it’s saved me, because when one part gets too annoying, or stressful, or [insert adjective here], I can swing to the other parts of my life and breath a sigh of relief at the serenity of it all, embracing the pure oppositeness.

What am I talking about? Let’s take a look at today and I’ll show you.

This morning I had an internet browser window open to the Inn and Spa at Norwich with another window open to my 5 friends’ many, many emails in my inbox with another friend on the phone trying to figure out our girl’s trip away.

Swing to the other browser I had open and you’ll find the site for the American Quarter Horse where I was downloading their PDF about Cowboy Manners and procedures throughout history. (Hey, it might make for good blog or research materials or at least an interesting read).

Guess which browser window made me feel serenely calm and happy when I looked at it and which one had me ready to tear my hair out?  Am I weird that I’d rather stay home in my little farmhouse on my little farm and read about cowboys from days gone by? That the planning of this relaxing spa trip may put me on Prozac before we’re done? Probably. I guess I don’t do anything normally. My Netflix queue looks like it belongs to a schizophrenic. I’ve completed the entire season of Animal Planet’s The Last American Cowboy (a reality show about 3 Montana cattle ranches trying to survive), and I’ve also watched the entire season of the PBS Masterpiece Theater historical British show Downton Abbey. And I found both equally fascinating.

Anyway, I guess balance is necessary. After all a girl can’t live in PJs and survive on cowboys alone. Once in a while I have to leave my house and see actual live people and do things, if only to build fodder for more books to write. But sometimes, it would be really nice to hide out for a while. After all, that cowboy manners PDF is still waiting to be read…

Cat

warning-soapbox ahead

You’ve been warned, I’m about to rant a little. It may be silly and in poor spirits in light of a rousing success, but I’m doing it anyway.

Last night US military forces rescued two civilian aid workers who were being held by Somalian ruffians who like to fancy themselves pirates. Of course, the superior military forces saved the one American woman and one Danish man, to the demise of the majority of the captors, and I’m happy for it.

Here’s what’s pissing me off–this was not a one man, or even a 6 man, show. Reports indicate it was a SEAL team who led the rescue, some reports say SEAL Team 6, which means Twitter and every news broadcast is chock full of SEAL Team 6. What I’m saying is, first off there are many highly trained special forces, so why must we single out Team 6 to the exclusion of all else? And even more important, though I don’t know for a fact, I think it’s logical to assume that helicopter that dropped those SEALs was not piloted by a SEAL. More likely a Navy or a USMC pilot. What about that pilot–that ‘normal’ non-SEAL hero? What about the guys (meaning guys as well as girls) that made sure that helo was in working order? Or the guys that cooked those SEALs and that pilot and those helo mechanics their dinner before they went out? Or the guy who cleans the damn toilets and showers that make conditions livable for them all on that base in hotter-than-hell Djibouti on the Horn of Africa?

Why, oh why must we make this a one man show? It is not a one man, or one team, or one branch of the military, show, and though I appreciate the need for good military public relations for the citizens of this country, what about the esprit de corps of our troops? Why aren’t they all heroes for what they do, no matter how ‘media-worthy’ it is?

Soapbox Kitty, out.