The new normal

Nearly 10 weeks along now and I am mostly blorft, almost all the time. Since week 6 I’d been manic about food, having to eat every hour, even before bed, or risk waves of nausea. If I ate too little, I was punished. If I ate too much, I was punished. To be honest it took all the fun out of food and eating for me, although finding something that I actually wanted to eat was exciting.

No no’s? Chicken (in all its forms), salads, most vegetables. Other meat I can eat in limited amounts before disgust overwhelms me, and I have been able to eat pureed vegetables (saag!) and meat-that-doesn’t-look-like-meat (sausage, ground meat).

Mostly, though, I can only get down carbohydrates and protein shakes. And sour things, in abundance–pickles, lemonade, sour hard candies, sour gummies. I can eat healthy carbs like oatmeal, but they make me gassy in the extreme. Actually, everything makes me gassy. I think I woke myself up last night tooting in my sleep.

However: this morning, I feel good. I wasn’t ravenous when I woke up, and have been okay with a protein shake and an apple so far. This weekend was good, too; I haven’t been stuffing my face at every opportunity.

It’s been letting up these past few days but I know better than to assume that I’m out of the woods–yet. Give it three more weeks and I’ll trust the occasional bursts of normality a tad bit more.

For a few weeks I felt resentful of all these changes and was generally disgruntled about the whole affair. It felt like my body wasn’t my own anymore, that it had been taken over by some alien being that was intent on inflicting a world of mild discomfort on me. Its master plan was subtle; nothing so obvious as endless vomiting, but every mild annoyance on the books: rhinitis of pregnancy, gassiness, food aversion, itchy skin rash, fatigue, light heartburn, constant mild queasiness. Death by duck nibbles.

I’m more reconciled to this state of affairs today. I know that this isn’t forever. Every day is different.


“I was a little excited but mostly blorft.”

“I was a little excited but mostly blorft. “Blorft” is an adjective I just made up that means ‘Completely overwhelmed but proceeding as if everything is fine and reacting to the stress with the torpor of a possum.’ I have been blorft every day for the past seven years.” -Tina Fey, Bossypants

So, rough times on the corporate hamster wheel of late. I’ve been getting sucked into more and more work (with no accompanying glory) and have been finding office politics more obnoxious and more difficult to get away from than ever. I guess that goes with increasing tenure and knowledge of my role, but I find it tiring, as most people do.

I decided in a fit of pique last night (a very quiet and serene fit of pique, right as I was drifting off to sleep) that I want to be off the corporate hamster wheel (CHW) within 5 years. That gives me plenty of time to (1) birth 2 babies, because no one pays you maternity leave once you’re self-employed and (2) grow a stable foundation for self-employment via writing. I worry about the feasibility of accomplishing the massive undertakings above, but time waits for no woman.

What’s the magic number? $60,000 per year. It’s a number that I picked out of the air, but I think that is quite a modest amount on the grand scale of writerly salaries for genre writers, when factoring the megawriters like Howey or his like, and thus achievable for someone with a full time job. If I hit a point where I can project $60,000 in a year, then that will be the moment when I seriously consider quitting.

So, how close am I? With the check that rolled in yesterday, I have made $4,962, pre-tax, for the first half of this year. The goal for this first full year, then, is to make it to $10,000. If I can double that or more in 2016, then I’ll be well on my way to that sweet, sweet quit number.

I think I will hit $10,000 quite easily, as long as I keep my productivity up. I’ve been learning the ins and outs of different distributors, different advertising strategies, and general best practices; it’s been paying off. I’m not going as fast as some writers just starting out, but my growth has been steady, even in the absence of a constant release schedule.

Luck clearly plays a huge factor, and I hope it will be on my side as long as I put my nose to the grindstone. In my last post I was so delighted about hitting $54 on non-Zon platforms, and rubbing my virtual palms together at the thought of reaching the $200 threshold?

Well. I hit $1200 instead. WHAT. Lady Luck must have blown me a kiss because that series of 3 books took off on iBooks. I idly Googled my pen name in the middle of this gravy train and realized that at some point, I’d landed on the iBooks paid bestseller list in Australia! I was #48! I started getting tens of subscribers from Australia, and for a while I even outsold Stephen King and GRR Martin. It was only for a few days, but wow. I will hold this tiny, prawny achievement to my heart for a long time yet.

I made another $400ish dollars on Amazon and will be skipping past the $1,500 mark for June totals. July will be much lower, as there is an inevitable sales decay on all new releases, but I’m rather pleasantly shocked at how well my non-Zon experiment went. Some of that was random luck and lightning rarely strikes twice, so I’ll continue to guesstimate on the low range for non-Zon platforms. Also, some non-Zon platforms pay quarterly rather than monthly, so that lowers numbers a bit.

Goals hit in 2015 so far
-$1,000 month! YAY!
-Newsletter subscriber list past 50 (hanging at 99; so close to 100! So close!)
-Website revamped and host migrated
-Posting to website 1-2x a month

Goals failed
-Finish space opera (le sigh)

Goals for 2nd half of 2015:
-Finish contemporary novel; submit to 1-2 trad publishers
-Submit to 1-2 writing contests
-Write sequel to bestselling series (1)
-Write sequel to bestselling series (2)
-Do paperbacks for bestselling series; learn how to format
-Do audiobooks for bestselling series; learn how to format
-Get newsletter subscriber list to 150 people (bonus points: 200 people)
-Start running large scale paid promotions (Nov-Dec)
-Make $2,000 in one month

It’s ambitious. It’s so ambitious that it necessarily leaves space opera behind in the dust for a while. That’s okay, I think. Let it marinate. Scifi has never been a crazy lucrative genre unless you’re at the top, so if I try for that genre, I want to work out more of my writing kinks first.

I’ve got bigger fish to fry at the moment if I’m going to try and launch a career while sprinting on the CHW at the same time. Excelsior!

“Art enables us to find ourselves and lose ourselves at the same time.”

“Art enables us to find ourselves and lose ourselves at the same time.” -Thomas Merton, No Man Is an Island

A feeble attempt at an OOTD drawing.(from my sketchbook, last week.)

Life never ceases to be interesting, and I have learned now that if ever things seem to be dull or boring, gird your loins: the other shoe is about to drop.

Carter is recovering from appendicitis and appendectomy, and we are midway in the process of purchasing a little brown house in Berkeley. I think I am still mildly sleep deprived from the last week, although I did get in a few nights of sleeping in the center of the bed like some kind of debauched pagan queenThere is a lot of uncertainty right now, but the important thing is that he’s on the (slow, achey) path to recovery.

Assuming all goes well with the house purchase, we’ll be committing every weekend to renovations so that the house will be livable when Carter starts law school. It’s tiny and needs a lot of work – new bathroom, new kitchen, hardwood floors to be refinished, etc. I think it will look cozy and dainty when done. We’ll have to downsize some of our furniture, but there’s room for my baby grand!

What will I have time for in the next few months? I have no idea. Life is speeding up again.

I have been able to get some small amounts of drawing and journaling done. Not much beyond that at the moment, which is okay. It won’t be forever.

“It’s a burden, being able to control situations with my hyper-vigilance, but it’s my lot in life.”

“It’s a burden, being able to control situations with my hyper-vigilance, but it’s my lot in life.” -Tina Fey, Bossypants

I love the New Year and I love setting goals and resolutions. My track record for achieving said goals is spotty at best. But, I decided that this year I’d track things more carefully. Almost two months ago (!), I set the following goals:

Adopt healthier habits:
1. Weigh-in every morning as usual to track my weight [Meeting target]
2. Continue calorie counting/estimations on MyFitnessPal [Meeting target most days]
3. Walk a minimum of 10,000 steps per day. [Exceeding target]
4. Do 1 video workout per week [Under target], although I did do a 30 min workout last night.
5. Attend 1 class workout per week [Attending ballet 1x a week, so meeting target]
6. Make and attend annual checkups, dental cleanings, etc [Need to make an appointment to see the optometrist, but otherwise on target]

Write every day:
I am getting approximately 1,000 words/day written on side project, which is separate from journaling or blogging. Taking journaling into account, I’m really doing pretty well here. It’s a slog in the middle, far from the beginning or the end of my writing project. [Exceeding target].

Draw every day:
Figure drawing is helping a lot on this count. Carter has been helping by reminding me to draw a doodle in my journal in bed at the end of the day if I haven’t done any drawing earlier. [Meeting target].

Read 75 books:
Raised the number to 100 on Goodreads. [Under target] currently, but working on it.

It’s fun to set goals and begin projects, and fun/a relief to be finished with them, but the other 98% of the way…it can be slow. And demand a level of discipline that makes me want to flop around on the floor like a dying fish. Does anyone like the middle of a project? Anyone? Sometimes there are exciting bursts of activity/inspiration, but actually doing the daily grind to keep up with one’s goals…less fun. Sometimes downright awful.

I do think that the quality of my work suffers when I force myself to do something – writing in particular. There is a sense of flatness and hurriedness that shows up when I reread those sections. On the other hand, this is all editable. And sometimes surprising things happen after slogging through, just trying to hit a certain word count.

Still undecided as to whether trying to enforce these goals as habits is going to be worth it. I’ve got a toddler living inside my brain and she does not like to be forced to do anything, and would much rather throw a tantrum and then run in circles and then take a nap.

“The best is the enemy of the good.”

Here comes the ferry!
Good morning, March. This month kicked off in a good (if fattening) way: on Friday I had lunch at RN74 (Michael Mina’s restaurant) with outside counsel. It was a long and decadent meal, although portions were quite reasonable. But there were several courses. I tasted my first raw oyster (not a fan. It just tasted like a dash of ocean phglem on the tongue), and loved the maitake mushroom tempura. My main course was a dorade with a side of mussels, and the best dessert was the house made almond roca bar.
I tottered out of the restaurant and dialed Carter, drunk on the unseasonal sun and the glorious food, and asked him to play hooky with me the rest of the day. He responded that he couldn’t, but then twenty minutes later I charged up the Flood building and into his office and he was unable to resist my charms. I was wearing my silk giraffe-print blouse, after all.
We strolled down Market towards the Ferry Building, stopping to purchase a peanut butter
flavored creme brulee (more or less pudding like, as the container lacked a wide surface area. It was a disappointment). We found a bench behind the Ferry Building and watched the Mendocino ferry come and go. The sky was nothing but an arc of blue, and the sailboats were out and about–we happened to see the Oracle yacht cross the waters in front of us. A few hopeful seagulls approached us, but hopped off when not a single cracker was proffered.
A note here that San Francisco has the ugliest, gnarliest pigeons I’ve ever seen. Every single
one is missing at least one toe. How do pigeons lose their toes with such regularity?! (Likely
answer, per Google: they stand in their own excrement and the subsequent bacterial infection
“bumblefoot” leads to gangrene).
Gangrenous pigeons aside, the first day of March was a good day.

“Here pause; pause at once.”

“Here pause; pause at once.” Villette, Charlotte Bronte
Monday and Tuesday were productive work wise, and not so much reading or writing-wise, although I did finish formatting asitwas. I think a little more tweaking is needed on Well Read Well Fed–I’m not satisfied with the template–and then it’ll be ready to go. I need ideas for a first entry: maybe the peanut butter whole grain muffins Carter and I made yesterday night, or some old favorite to kick off the blog (leeks and butter on toast?). Or maybe a review of a cookbook (I’ve got a new cookbook on Chinese cooking during the cultural revolution which looks fascinating/delicious). I’ll make Carter a fan of Chinese food yet.
In the past week since I resolved to do more reading and writing, what’s been my progress? It hasn’t been much better than usual, although I believe that the awareness of it itself is some progress. I did get through most of The Sheik, and almost ready to review it soon. And the blogs are set up, although that’s the easy part.
Yesterday work was what work usually is, and I came home around 6. After the wild trip this weekend I hadn’t really had the chance to unpack or organize the 2nd bedroom, so I did a little bit of that. I also shook off the cloudy post-work exhaustion and cooked some bolognese sauce from scratch; Carter came home and got started on the peanut butter muffins, so we got a lot of cooking-from-scratch done for a weekday. He will probably subsist on the rest of the bolognese for the rest of the week, and the muffins for breakfast. The rest of the night I spent with Carter in front of the TV; we saw the new episode of Community and that was that. I took my evening shower on the early side.
Aside from the usual work stuff, today my goals are to finish blog formatting, finish The Sheik, and pull together a review of Villette…I’d also like to pick a new book to start, and do a little tidying of the living room–it’s Beast-tastic, with toys and assorted puppy stuff strewn everywhere.
Schedule-wise: work, meeting, gym, lunch, work, meeting, shuttle home.
Currently reading: The Sheik, Villette