I forgot to post the August list!


My apologies. I have been “Mucha” distracted. (So sorry! Couldn’t resist.) I have been distracted, though — and am likely to get overwhelmed in the upcoming weeks. I mentioned in the newsletter that I had been cast in the chorus of a Christmas show and rehearsals start this week. I’m nervous and far busier than usual. I haven’t been on stage for many years and have no idea if I can still handle it. We’ll see.

In a month of mostly usual stuff (and one impressive failure), I:

  • Paid for my Seamwork subscription and one Patreon donation with money earned doing surveys.
  • Did unspeakable things to free clip art from Creative Market and The Graphics Fairy. (Note: The Graphics Fairy website is particularly egregious to deal with and slow to load due to ads and other web clutter, but it is still a good source of free vintage graphics. Just don’t try to look at it on your phone or on a slower web connection.)
  • Pulled a very pretty 2019 wall calendar from the free pile at work. I usually wait until closer to the end of the year to give clients first pick, but we moved to a new office this month and I was afraid the calendars would be thrown away.
  • Got a bottle of kombucha and a can of a weird sparkling Kool-Aid drink as free samples from Instacart.
  • Read 16 ebooks from the library and one free Kindle book. I also read 15 Kindle Unlimited books with an approximate cost of $0.07 each due to the promotional price I paid on Amazon Prime day. I will probably cancel Kindle Unlimited before it renews at the usual rate. Although I am more than getting my money’s worth on the program at the moment — and it has been a handy source of books during an unusual library slump — I know from previous experience that the selection is too limited to maintain my interest in the long term.
  • Bought a paperback at the library for $0.25. This, however, was nothing to brag about since I spent an unconscionable $74.90 total on books. I could make excuses, but I won’t. I just plain spent more than I intended.

Who knows what September will bring? We will probably buy a second car this month, so I expect our expenditures will be, um, intense.

On arrogance and ruination.

A few quick notes for people who write in library books:

  1. If you’re going to write in a library book, use a red pen for maximum impact.
  2. If you’re going to alter punctuation in a library book, use the correct proofreading symbols to do so.
  3. If you’re going to proofread a traditionally published, copy-edited, and previously proofread book be sure that you have an intimate understanding of grammar and punctuation. Be very sure that the changes you’re making are absolutely correct.
  4. DO NOT WRITE IN LIBRARY BOOKS, YOU FUCKING MONSTER. NEVER DO THAT.

It takes a certain kind of person to write in a library book. It takes another kind of person to alter punctuation throughout an entire library book — incorrectly alter punctuation, in every single instance. I gave up reading the book in question (excerpt pictured above) because the added commas were so glaringly incorrect that it made my skin crawl. I wanted to find the inarticulate comma monster who defaced this perfectly innocent murder mystery and slap them in the face with a glove and demand satisfaction.

Let me explain something. I understand arrogance very well because I am inflicted with that particular malady. Have you ever heard of a psychological condition called Imposter Syndrome? I definitely don’t have that. I sort of have the opposite of that. When I walk into a new room, I’m not secretly worried that I don’t belong there or that I’m a fraud. Very often I walk into a room and think: Oh, come on. I am so much better than these people.

Part of the problem (and at least I do see that there is a problem) is that, as a kid genius and a long time stage performer with a truckload of training, I have often been the best/smartest/most talented person in a room. Not every time, of course. But just often enough that the feeling was sometimes justified. I have been — many times — an arrogant little shit.

I refer to myself these days as a recovering asshole. (“Hi, my name is Sarah, and I’m an arrogant asshole.” / “Hi, Sarah!”) I’m not as awful as I once was, but I still have my arrogant moments.

And even I would never deface a library book with incorrect punctuation. Never. Even if the punctuation was truly incorrect and I was in the right.

Think about the sheer moxie that would take — the pure, unadulterated hot-shitness of it all. What makes a person pick up a ballpoint pen and say to themselves, “I took an English class once, and I can clearly see that this book is missing all of the important commas. I must correct this injustice if it’s the last thing I do! BY GOD AS MY WITNESS, THIS SHALL NOT STAND!” And then, tongue tucked in the corner of their mouth in concentration, said person, in deep concentration, proceeded to add and subtract commas at will. “There,” the person must have whispered triumphantly into the night, “now everyone will see the depth of my genius and understand that only I — and I alone — can command the comma perfectly. I do not need any trained proofreader or sly copy-editor to pollute my unblemished efforts. Bow before me, library readers, and see how I have bested them all!”

I expect they devolved into paroxysms of maniacal laughter at that point.

You see, the kind of arrogance exhibited by the person who defaced this book isn’t like my on-again-off-again overabundance of (occasionally unwarranted) self-confidence. This is the kind of arrogance that ruins things for everyone who comes after them. My arrogance tends to injure me socially — no one loves a braggart — but this kind of arrogance hurts other people. In this case, it hurt me — and I’m just arrogant enough in my own right to make an issue of it.

To make a long story short, do not deface library books. Especially if your punctuation “corrections” are wrong.

List for June and July.

The last week of June saw me scrambling to get everything done before our vacation in July, so I didn’t manage to get a list posted. Considering that vacations are spendy things (and that I came home sick), I don’t have much to show for two months of combined effort. I spent more than I intended in several areas (although not, oddly enough, on the vacation itself), but I didn’t go too overboard.

In June and July, I:

  • Paid for Seamwork subscription with money earned doing surveys.
  • Watched a free Redbox rental. It was “The Commuter.” Utterly forgettable, and yet — because I enjoy watching Liam Neeson beating his way out of impossible situations — I enjoyed it. I probably would have enjoyed it less if I had paid, though!
  • Had a free Taco Bell taco and a $1 “happier hour” iced tea. I went with my Mom. She loves a free taco! (Who doesn’t? Only monsters, probably.)
  • Bought two books from the library. They have a huge sale of donated books every year, but most branches have a small table of donated books for sale all the time. The prices are so low that they’re practically garage sale prices — only $1 for a hardback and $0.25 for a paperback. I got “Texts from Jane Eyre”(*) and a P.G. Wodehouse novel I hadn’t read before for only $1.25! (*I will now always send texts as Medea, which you will understand only if you’ve read the book.)
  • Had a free drink on my Starbucks card.
  • Mom treated us to a night at the famous Stanley Hotel in Estes Park, Colorado. Though famous for paranormal activity (and being the inspiration for Stephen King’s The Shining), I didn’t sense any ghosts — but it was beautiful there, and the history was fascinating.
  • Enjoyed an at-home karaoke birthday party for one of our hosts while we stayed with friends in Colorado. I am completely jealous of their basement stage set-up! Puts my Bluetooth karaoke mic to absolute shame.
  • Used a $1.50 off coupon and a $5.00 reward from my Walgreens card on my special mouthwash, making it pretty much the same price as regular mouthwash. (Seriously, take care of your teeth and gums. Don’t ignore them for years and expect that it will all work out in the end. It won’t.)
  • Finally scanned a bunch of notes from online courses I’ve taken over the past couple of years, thereby freeing up a little physical storage space. Although that doesn’t really save any money on its own, you could argue that it does as a cumulative habit. I’m mostly paperless and have only one file box of current papers and one file box of sentimental papers and old writing. I also regularly donate and discard unnecessary things, which makes it much easier to live in a smaller, more affordable apartment. We’re not minimalists by any stretch of the imagination — I have 160+ yards of fabric shamefully squirreled away in our closet, for instance — but we live in 650 square feet and no longer pay for a storage unit, so we must be doing something right.
  • Read 31 ebooks and 7 physical books from the library. I also signed up for 3 months of Kindle Unlimited for $0.99 on Prime Day. I read 5 Unlimited books in July, so each cost me approximately 7 cents to borrow. Unfortunately, I spent $110.92 on other books. (Ouch!) I’m still averaging about $1.14 per book for all reading so far in 2018, so I suppose it could be much worse. (But still, ouch!)

Not a terrible pair of months, but it could have been better. I need to reign in our spending again, but I’ve fallen behind on client work (I have just been ill more than usual this year), so I haven’t had my usual amount of income lately. I need to focus on catching up that work in August — and getting paid by the clients who have outstanding invoices — as well as cutting unnecessary spending.

Short Story: “Breakfast for One.”

Serena studied the early morning light caressing the patterned silk adorning the breakfast room of her little house in St. John’s Wood. She rarely saw such soft, comforting illumination, as her late nights often kept her late abed.

She reluctantly turned her attention to the man sharing her table, her supposed new protector. His table manners were every bit as repulsive as she had imagined, and disgusting to observe in the flesh.

“Compliments to the cook,” he grunted, following up this inane statement with a prolonged belch. “I’ve no doubt you’re impatient to get started, but a man does deserve a meal after the morning I’ve had.”

Serena pasted on her best smile. “As you’re gracing my table, I assumed the event was settled in your favor, my lord.”

Lord Glennair, belted earl and blackened scoundrel, grinned slyly. He stopped shoveling coddled eggs into his foul maw long enough to say, “The duel went in my favor, true. But it took no effort on my part. The idiot fainted dead away. All over sweat, Sir Robert was, terrified at meeting me on the field of honor.” He took another forkful of egg and added with his mouth full, “Not that you’ve much honor to defend.”

Serena kept her eyes from narrowing at his insult, but could not keep the muscle in her cheek from twitching. “Did the surgeon revive him, my lord?”

Glennair shrugged and tore at the ham on his plate. “I’ve no idea. I left while the man was attending him. I assumed a faint was as good as a forfeit and hurried on my way here.”

Serena suppressed a smile. Events were unfolding precisely as she had planned. “More tea?” she prompted, pot in hand.

He grunted an affirmative, so Serena daintily filled his cup.

“None for you?” He pointed his fork at her own cup.

“I prefer coffee, my lord.” She was lying, although her cup did contain coffee this morning.

“Filthy stuff, that. Far too popular in the colonies,” Glennair said with a grimace. He eyed Serena with vague hostility. “A proper cup of tea should be good enough for you.”

Serena merely smiled. She wouldn’t touch the tea this morning, and if he tried to pour it down her throat, she would take the silver knife sitting unused by her plate of dry toast and shove it directly in milord’s throat. She contemplated whether such action might be more satisfying than the fate already in store for him, but glanced at the carpet and decided she would rather have less mess.

“How long have you been at this business? About ten years?” Glennair interrupted her thoughts. He had moved back to the eggs, following every few bites with a gulp of tea.

Serena refilled his lordship’s cup again. “About that.”

“Well, you must’ve started young. I’ve no complaints, as long as you’re tight enough to satisfy. But you’ve not welped, as far as anyone knows, so that’s not likely to be a problem.”

She did her best not to sneer. “I do like to give satisfaction, my lord.”

“Just so,” he leered. “And I expect to be well satisfied before I leave here this morning.”

“One of us will be,” Serena murmured.

“I didn’t quite catch that,” Glennair said. Serena noted with relish that his forehead was beginning to sweat.

“No matter, my lord,” she said soothingly. “I’m sure all will go exactly as it ought this morning.”

Glennair settled back in his chair, blinking. He seemed to have lost his train of thought.

“Did you send the contract to my man of business?” Serena asked as she poured herself more coffee.

“What? No, no. Not yet.” He waved an unsteady hand in dismissal. “I never send the contract until I’ve had a taste of the goods.” He shook his head and smacked his lips together.

“Yet you know that I never let a man into my bed without a signed contract, so I’m afraid I’m going to have to ask you to leave, Lord Glennair.”

He ran his tongue over his lips, and said muzzily, “Look here, girl. You don’t dictate terms with me. You’re little better than a whore.”

“I’m far better than a whore, my lord.” She tilted her head in thought. “Or perhaps it’s more accurate to say that I’m something other than a whore. Something far more criminal, I’m afraid.”

“What?” Glennair attempted to rise from his chair in outrage but found his legs too wobbly to support him. He glared at Serena, but there was more than a hint of fear in his eyes. “What did you do to me?”

“I’ve killed you, my lord,” Serena said cheerfully. “Do you want to know why?” she added with a seductive smirk.

“I’ll see you hang for this,” his lordship wheezed. He scrabbled against the edge of the table, seeking support, but his hands would not cooperate.

“You won’t be seeing much of anything, my lord. Save perhaps the fires of hell.” Serena finally bit into her toast. She munched it thoughtfully as she watched Lord Glennair slide slightly further down in his chair. “You haven’t much time left. Ten minutes, perhaps?”

Glennair let out a groan, and Serena nodded. “Most courtesans have similar tales of woe. Many were servants who surrendered their virtue — willingly or unwillingly, it matters not — to some man of the house and were dismissed without reference. One must work or starve, so many turn to the sole means of support available to young, uneducated women. Some of these unfortunate girls end up trading favors for coins in the alleyways, but the prettiest ones end up working the houses — at least until some man offers an exclusive arrangement. All of that when they only meant to dust a parlor!”

Serena paused to take a sip of coffee and observe that Glennair, although dazed and fading, remained conscious. “My tale is nothing like the ordinary, my lord. I was born into the gentry, although not into any prestigious or wealthy family. My father was a gentleman; my elder brother inherited the lot. He announced one evening that he had arranged my elder sister’s marriage to a cruel neighbor. She said she would rather die than be sold to such a man, and held true to her word. I’d never seen so much blood in my life. A few years later, my brother, having learned his lesson, told me we were going to visit neighbors but delivered me instead to a church where I was married to a man I’d never seen before in my life.”

Lord Glennair made a horrible gurgling sound.

Serena was so lost in her memories that she barely heard. “I will refrain from boring you with the details of my marriage, but suffice to say that I bashed my husband’s head in one night while he was sleeping. I stole as much of the silver as I could easily carry and made my way to London, where I recuperated. It took some time to learn not to flinch when someone touched me.” Serena tapped her coffee cup. “When there was no more silver left to pawn, I set about finding a gentleman I could tolerate.”

Glennair’s eyes were starting to glaze over, and his breath rattled in his chest.

“It’s not really a happy story, is it?” Serena took a bite of toast and carefully chewed. “My last gentleman was my final protector. I never intended to take on another, but I played a pretty game, pitting you against Sir Robert for my favors, inciting you to duel. I told you both that whoever won would have me, but I’m afraid I lied. I met Sir Robert last night and gave him a good luck charm — an engraved flask. As he had never dueled before, I took the risk that he would find himself thirsty before the event. I assume, from what you said earlier, that he couldn’t resist taking a nip or two for courage. I expect he’s already awaiting you in hell, my lord.”

Serena dabbed at the corners of her mouth daintily. “We courtesans talk amongst ourselves. It’s rather laughable that you and Sir Robert thought your crimes unknown to us. You were both notorious for broken promises and blackened eyes. When I heard about what you’d done to poor Elsie Greenchurch–” Serena broke off with a shudder. “I decided to end you both, my lord, as a going away present for my fellow soiled doves. No more broken ribs or unpaid contracts — or bastards dropped at the orphanage. I’ll never regret this day’s work.”

Lord Glennair huffed out one last tortured breath and became utterly still. Serena rose and pulled the tasseled bell cord beside the mantel. Her majordomo promptly entered and awaited instruction without so much as a glance toward the cooling corpse sitting at the table.

“I’ve a bit of refuse here,” Serena said, motioning to his lordship. “I suggest you drop it in the river.”

“Very good, madame,” the servant said with a bow. He and a burly footman efficiently removed the corpse, and when the majordomo returned, both his person and his composure were completely unruffled.

“Is all in readiness for our journey?” Serena asked, her attention focused once again on the morning light against the wall covering. It was stronger now, less a glow and more of a bright luminescence.

“Mrs. Hopkins has a task or two to finish, madame, but we will be ready to accompany you when the tide turns.”

“Excellent,” Serena said, smiling with a newfound lightheartedness. “I think we will find the new world very agreeable.”

Her servant bowed deeply, a smile tugging at the edges of his mouth. “I must oversee the trunks, madame.”

“Of course.” Serena watched him go and resumed her place at the breakfast table. She placed the rim of her coffee cup against her lips and murmured, “Pistols for two, breakfast for one.”

She laughed aloud. “And what a delightful breakfast it was.”


Photo credit: Heather Cowper.

Panic update.

Here’s a fun thing you can do if you have panic disorder that’s triggered by strong smells: Decide to use a tiny squirt of that conditioner sample you got in the mail. Sure, it smelled innocuous in the packet, but it actually came from Satan’s fragrant garden of horrifying chemical rot.

First, go completely out of your mind because the smell is on you, on your fricking body. You can’t escape it. Throw open the shower curtain to get some cooler, fresher air to hyperventilate. Give yourself a little pep talk as you try to rinse the horror from your hair. Sacrifice a perfectly good towel to blot away as much of the (extremely stubborn) conditioner that still remains. Wash your hair again with unscented shampoo. Rinse thoroughly, then smell the ends. Panic again. It still reeks. Wash your hair twice more. Have one more minor panic when you see how much hair has fallen out during this procedure. Condition with your shitty-but-blessedly-fragrance-free regular conditioner.

Clean up all the water on the bathroom floor from your initial shower curtain yanking hyperventilation session.

For best results (as in maximum panic), do this with a pre-existing stomach ache somewhere between the hours of 2 and 3 a.m. when you have to get up early the next day.

Try to sleep, but spend the rest of the night wondering whether you should wash your hair just one more time to be safe.

Fin.

Summer of Sewing: Belated June Update.

Sarah's Summer of Sewing

I only managed to sew a single item during June, but I still consider it a success as it was the best thing I’ve sewn for myself in years, hands down. I made myself a Suki Kimono from Helen’s Closet in black and white paisley cotton lawn. It’s as light as a whisper, and I have worn it every single day since it came off the sewing machine. In fact, one day I was under the weather and only took it off long enough to launder it — and then, after a shower, I put it right back on!

I don’t have pictures of the robe yet (though I intend to take some for Instagram), but this post was so late I didn’t want any further delay.  I know that’s practically heresy with “pics or it didn’t happen” as the law of the land, but I’ve always been eccentric and pleased to go against the grain of our collective culture.

Sewing the kimono was simple and quick, especially since I used most of the shortcuts listed in this post: I skipped the pockets, lengthened the front band, omitted the inner ties, and left the belt loose. I actually was pressed for time (I wanted to finish the robe before we went on our vacation in Colorado), but I probably would have made the same adjustments even if I hadn’t had a looming deadline. I just like the aesthetic of the lengthened band and almost never put pockets in a garment, especially side seam pockets. (Remember how I said I was an eccentric? Yeah, I’m pretty much the only woman online not lamenting that every garment doesn’t have pockets. I especially don’t understand having pockets in a dressing gown. What are you going to put in those pockets, anyway? A dainty lace handkerchief? Look, bro. The box of Kleenex is right there. Jeez.) I was able to finish the robe in two afternoons (not counting cutting time) without really rushing.

I did have some trouble with the sleeves, but I’m pretty sure that was operator error. I was reading the directions on my computer, as I normally do to save paper, but my laptop was in for repair, and the desktop computer is in a different room than the sewing machine. So I may not have followed the sewing instructions to the letter. I made it work and I’m not at all dissatisfied with the results. I am weirdly, deliriously happy with this robe. It was a minor problem — nothing compared to the difficulty I had with cutting it out. I used a border print lawn, but the fabric was printed a little off-grain, and I had to do a lot of juggling to get things lined up or mirrored in the way I had planned. I barely had enough fabric to squeak out the shorter version with an additional yard of fabric, but it did work out. I’m glad I measured the pattern pieces themselves, too, because the shorter version was mid-calf on me — which was exactly the length I wanted. The pattern is drafted for someone 5’6″ and I’m a little less than 5’3″, but I still found it ran longer than I had expected (though I was delighted not to have to add extra length or subtract it from the longer version, which would have been floor length on me).

My one regret is that I did not use interfacing in the belt. (I definitely didn’t want it in the front or sleeve bands.) It crumples and twists into a little spindly thing, but I had wanted everything to be extremely lightweight for summer use and didn’t want to risk the heaviness of the interfacing. This is not, however, a deal breaker. I’d rather have a belt that was too light rather than one that was too heavy, even if it maintained its structure better. I mean, it’s a wispy little robe. It’s not a structured thing. But I do wonder if I could have found a very lightweight interfacing as a compromise.

I’m only one inch larger than the size chart at the hips and probably could have left it as-is, but I did add extra room there so the ease at the hips would match the ease at the bust. I’m glad I did, too, because it looks exactly right. I am just in love with this robe. It’s almost embarrassing how much I want to gush about it. Will I make this pattern again? YES. Of course. Probably the only drawback about using such a lightweight and soft fabric is that it’s likely to wear out relatively quickly, especially with the level of use it’s already getting. I plan on making a near duplicate one day as a replacement, so I will keep an eye out for an appropriate fabric so I’ll be ready to go when the time comes.

The Suki Kimono was the first item on my 2018 Make Nine list that I managed to complete, too — so it was a success all around. Basically, what I’m saying is that it’s the best robe ever. And forgive my superlatives. I can’t help it. I’m robe-addled with love.

An excerpt from the novel-in-progress.

One moment Millie was knocking on a large wooden door and the next she found herself sitting in the middle of a vast conservatory, with no memory of any event between the two instances. In fact, she had only the haziest recollection of anything before the door, save her name and a few other particulars. She decided it was too great a risk to stand in her dazed state and continued to sit quietly on the bench. She pondered for a moment whether she had been drugged, but that disquieting thought proved far too elusive to hold in her mind for more than the tiniest, most alarming second.

Millie studied her surroundings woozily. The arched roof of the conservatory was comprised of hundreds of small panes of glass, some rectangular and others rounded or diamond-shaped. The ceiling stretched far above her head, with a few strangely twisted trees reaching towards those impossible heights. A walkway ran along the edges of glass walls, an entire story up, though she could see it was as deserted as the area surrounding her bench. It reminded her of a great temperate house she’d visited as a child, but both its location and anything distinct about the occasion were swiftly dashed away in the current of her muddled thoughts.

There was an unearthly quality to the light filtering through those beautiful glass panes, and the shadows cast by the highly-ornamented wrought metal struts stretched like curling tentacles on the walkway before her. Millie had a vague notion of caution, that she should be wary in this place, but felt too fuzzy to respond appropriately to this idea. The humid air pressed against her, so she yielded to it — to the entire situation. She was finding it far too difficult to do otherwise.

Millie was no horticulturalist, but even she could see that most of the plants filling the overheated space were quite out of the ordinary. She was surrounded by riotous color and buffeted by a hundred intoxicating scents, yet she could pick out nothing familiar. No frond or blossom resembled anything she’d known before; no perfume stirred a single recollection. She could not be sure, however, whether this absence of acquaintance was truly due to the exotic nature of the lush greenery encircling her, or her own absent memory.

Millie closed her eyes and thought. Hadn’t it been night time only a moment before? She shook her head as if to clear it, but her understanding remained as foggy as a wretched London evening. She turned a slightly unfocused gaze toward a tall gentleman watching her with barely concealed amusement from beside the tinkling fountain. He wasn’t a young man, but he was handsome in an aristocratic, pale way, with wavy blond hair and clear green eyes. He had an air of command about him, as though he often took charge. But how long, Millie asked herself, had he been there?

The stranger blinked and smiled in a mildly predatory manner. “Who might you be?”

Millie longed to place herself in the gentleman’s surely capable hands but mistrusted a smile of such wolfishness. Her thoughts were perhaps a mite sluggish, but a few of her instincts were still functioning. “A friend. I think.”

The man’s smile widened. “One can never have too many friends. Does my new friend have a name?”

Millie, feeling ridiculously coy, shook her head.

Something dangerous flitted through the man’s eyes, but it passed so quickly that Millie could not identify it.

“I think I shall call you Amie,” the man said. “For ma belle petite amie.”

Millie appalled herself by giggling. “No one ever calls me beautiful.” The man was much closer than Millie thought. Had he crossed the room? Or had he been so close all along? She couldn’t be sure.

“They should,” the man purred.

“But what do I call you?” Millie asked, allowing the man to draw her to her feet. She felt a little bereft to leave the bench behind; it felt as though it had been an ally in her time of need.

“A good question,” the handsome gentleman said, tucking Millie’s hand in the crook of his arm. “A very good, very necessary question.”

Millie looked up at him, craning her neck. He was so particularly tall and distinguished looking, especially for a man who had to be at least two decades older than she. He was oddly familiar, but when she attempted to recall who he reminded her of, the memory slipped away as easily as the hair ribbon she’d lost at the seaside as a child. The wind had whipped it out of her fingers, and she’d found herself clutching only air as it spun towards the oncoming waves. It had hovered above the surf for a moment, a tiny red streak against the cold, grey sea.

“Call me Bettgenossen,” the man said fondly. “Though it’s a bit of a mouthful, isn’t it?”

Millie nodded, strangely shy. The name sounded German, but apart from her native tongue, she grasped nothing but schoolgirl French and a smattering of Italian.

“Just call me Bett, then,” the man said with a confiding chuckle.

“Bett,” Millie repeated. She felt as though she floated in the bright, luminous green of his gaze.

He leaned down and kissed her on the tip of her pert nose. “Ah, Amie. You are the best present my children have ever sent me.”

“I am?” Millie breathed.

“Oh, yes,” Bett said as he ushered her down a dark corridor. “The very best indeed.”


An excerpt from my current novel-in-progress, Wolfden Cross.

(Photo credit: Sarah Ross.)

List for May.

Frugality quote.

May was better than April, thankfully. Lots of things could be seen as better than April, though, so I’m not sure I’m saying much.

In May, I:

  • Paid for half of my Patreon pledges using money earned doing surveys. I haven’t been getting as many surveys lately, which has been disappointing — but I don’t shop much (or buy the right kind of convenience foods), so I rarely qualify.
  • Watched a free webinar that was mostly a product-specific ad, frankly — but still got some good, workable information on how to use email marketing as an author. (I expect I’ll need that info one of these days, you see.)
  • Baked banana oat muffins using a slightly modified version of this recipe. I didn’t need any muffins right then — I just wanted to use up some overripe bananas before they spoiled — so I popped them into the freezer for later.
  • Had a free drink on my Starbucks card.
  • Purchased a replacement mattress cover, since our old one was falling apart. It was on clearance and is supposed to help keep you cooler in the summer — yes, please! On both counts.
  • Was pleased to see that we’ve saved $332.36 in the last six months at Costco, according to the spreadsheet I keep. That’s what we’ve saved over regular prices at Kroger or Target (or wherever) — minus the cost of our membership. Our membership renews in late November, so this should be about half of our annual savings.
  • Went to see Houston Grand Opera’s production of “The Barber of Seville” for free at Miller Outdoor Theatre in Hermann Park. Everyone was shocked that I, the former opera major, had never seen it. But it’s a dude show — and the female lead is a mezzo-soprano, so of course this soprano had never bothered with it.
  • Made a t-shirt using scraps from other sewing projects and a pattern I’ve used at least five times — pretty much free, except for my time. I sewed several things this month, but I didn’t buy any fabric and only bought one sewing pattern.
  • Spent $13 on a new battery for my three-year-old phone — which is considerably less than a new phone (obviously). This will probably save a tiny bit of electricity, too, since I won’t be charging it three or four times a day.
  • Replaced our shorted-out microwave with a brand new microwave for only $20 using points from Lennox’s Best Buy Visa. We also got a Blu-ray of “Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome”* for only $1 on that same shopping trip because the credits were applied proportionately to both items. We saved $100! (*I’m studying to become Aunty Entity in the post-apocalyptic wasteland. I want to be ready for my metal shoulder pads when the time comes.)
  • Got a free sample of Cheetos from Instacart. They also sent a free sample of mayonnaise about 3 or 4 times the size of standard restaurant squeeze packet, which turned out to be the perfect amount for the coleslaw dressing recipe I use — so it came in very handy.
  • Read 15 ebooks and six physical books from the library, and one free Kindle book. I spent $35.82 on other books in May (including a full price pre-order and a gift for my Mom), so that was much better than last month!

All in all, a much better month! Let’s hope June goes at least equally well.