Dru Faust and the Devil’s Due, part 16

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Sunday, July 16, 1922

The next morning, Alexandra and I went back to the hospital with Daddy to see Archie. “I need to check on my other patients first, but I’ll be in to see Archie around lunchtime,” he told Alexandra as we parted ways in the lobby. He held up a file folder. “I’ve got the results of his blood work here, and I’ll get them to Dr. Harper right away.”

Alex thanked him and we waved good-bye, following the corridor to Archie’s ward.

Archie already had a visitor, though. A nurse and a policeman were standing over Archie’s bed.

“Oh, he’s awake!” Alexandra ran forward, nearly knocking Officer O’Neil out of the way as she threw her arms around her brother. He was still pale, reclining on a short stack of pillows, but returned her embrace with vigor.

“It’s good to see you among the living,” I said, grinning. “You gave us a pretty good scare.”

Archie’s smile was tired but honest. “Sorry about that.”

Alexandra was crying again, this time with joy. She finally pulled away, wiping self consciously at her eyes. “Don’t you ever do that again!” she said, punching his shoulder.

“Ouch!”

The nurse, appalled at such treatment of an invalid, turned her sharpest glare on Alexandra. “Miss! I’ll have to ask you to leave if you upset my patient!”

“Don’t worry, it’s Jake. That’s how my sister shows affection.” Archie grinned, but the nurse didn’t look convinced.

“I promise I’ll keep an eye on them,” I said, my own grin stretching my face.

The nurse–whom I knew on sight, but did not know her name–finally looked at me and must have realized I was Dr. Faust’s daughter. She finally nodded. “Very well. But no more rough housing. This is a place of rest!” Straightening her crisp white uniform, she strode away quickly..

I turned to Officer O’Neil. “I’m sorry for interrupting. We’ve all been very worried about Archie.”

“That’s alright. I’m nearly done here. I just wanted to get some of the particulars from Mr. Grant.”

“So you can find the people responsible?”

“Responsible? Well, it’s unfortunate, but I’d say that Mr. Grant here is responsible for his own actions. Liquor is illegal in this country, as you know, so he who chooses to drink it does so at his own risk.”

I stared at him, unsure if I was more surprised at his lack of concern over the poisoned liquor, or in the fact he didn’t seem interested in arresting Archie for drinking.

“But what about the Devil’s Due? Aren’t you going to try to find the people selling it? It’s poison! He could have died! He’s lucky he’s not blind!”

But O’Neil just shrugged, a patronizing smile on his lips. “I’ll be sure to pass the information on to the detectives on our prohibition squad. I’m only here because your mother asked me to look into it.”

I bit back an angry retort, forcing myself to thank him and see him off as he slipped his notepad back into the pocket of his jacket. Once he was gone, I sat angrily on the edge of Archie’s bed.

“Di mi! What a creep!” Alex spat once his shadow cleared the door. “Dru, what was he talking about? Why can’t your mother help?”

“Because she’s a policewoman. She can’t go around investigating on her own. She’s basically a glorified matron.” Over six hundred policemen in Columbus, and only three policewomen. Mother was the only woman at her precinct, except the secretary.

I threw my handbag onto the coverlet, tearing it open to produce my own notepad and a pencil stub. “Alright, Archie. Start at the beginning. Everything you just told Officer O’Neil, you tell to me.”

“Why? What are you going to do?” Archie asked, eyes huge.

“If the police aren’t going to track down these–these–” My words failed me; I couldn’t come up with a sufficient insult, even if my polite upbringing would have allowed me to say it in a place as public as a hospital “–bootleggers, then I’ll find them. I’ll wrap them up in brown paper and leave them on the front step of the precinct, if I have to!”

Alex laid a hand on my arm. “Sweetie, you can’t. You’d get yourself killed.”

“Well, someone has to do it, and the police don’t seem to care. Two people have already died, and there are dozens more in the same condition as Archie. Some of them might make a full recovery. A lot of them won’t.”

“The police have already shut down almost every speakeasy in the city. What can you do that they haven’t?”

“These crooks are always one step ahead. By the time O’Neil gives that information to the prohibition squad, they’ll be long gone. There are only two detectives in that unit, and there are dozens–if not hundreds–of bootleggers and importers, speakeasies and people just the swell who hosted that party last night. They can’t keep up. But you already know where to find them.” I looked steadily at Archie. Beside him, his sister clasped his hand tightly.

“What do you want to do?” Alexandra asked me.

“I want to find the evidence the police need to make an arrest. I want to these people off the street.”

“I assume you have a plan, then?”

***

We spent another half hour with Archie, going over every detail of the evening. His memory was fuzzy in places, but he was able to tell me the host’s name, and give the address before the nurse came and insisted we leave him alone to get some rest. “Sunday is the day of rest, even for those who haven’t been ill. Out with you, now! No more visitors for today!”

Alex and I hurried out of the ward. We took a streetcar home, and went directly to the basement.

I found his notes right where I expected to, at the end of the long work table. There were still two more bottles to test before Daddy sent the results to the police station.

“What are you looking for?” Alex asked, peering over my shoulder. She wrinkled her nose; chemistry was not her strong suit.

“I want to see which of these is the most toxic.” I flipped through the lists of chemicals and the detailed notations on the tests used to determine the ratios. “Here. This one.” All of the bottles were toxic, but one had been cut with straight industrial alcohol, rather than alcohol redistilled to remove the hazardous chemicals the government required manufacturers to add. In essence, they made a poison more poisonous in the hope people would stop trying to drink it. It was a highly ineffective plan, now that the main sources of alcohol were either industrial or homemade.

I reached into the crate, pulling out the bottle with the number one label: Hudson Castle Whiskey.

“You think that’s the one? But where did it come from?” Alexandra asked.

“These all came from the raid Thursday night. If my hunch is right, then the police were trying to track this bottle to its source.”

“If they’ve gotten as far as the gin joint that sold it, what makes you think they won’t find the person who made it in the first place?”

“They might. But I think we can do it faster.” I put the bottle back in the box, arranging the notes and samples just as we’d found it.

Elizabeth’s voice at the top of the stairs made us both look up. “Oh, there you are. I thought I heard you come home. What’s going on?”

Alexandra jerked a thumb in my direction. “Detective Dru thinks she can hunt down bad guys better than the police.”

For some reason, Elizabeth didn’t look surprised at this revelation. “Oh?”

Alex picked up the bottle again, studying it thoughtfully. “Everyone knows the police are overstretched. Half of them are dirty. They’re never going to find the people responsible for this hooch. I think Dru is right.”

Elizabeth stared at us like we’d gone completely off our nut. Maybe we had. I certainly wasn’t expecting Alex to show her support. Still, I couldn’t help but smile.

I looked at Elizabeth. “I understand if you don’t want to help. But please, don’t tell anyone. At least, not yet?”

Slowly, she nodded. “I understand. I won’t tell, not unless I think you’re in real danger. I know the police won’t help. Mrs. Faust, she’s one of the good ones, but cops like her are few and far between. Especially with people like me. I won’t help, but I won’t say nuthin’, either.”

I threw my arm around her neck. “Thank you.”

“Now, how do you plan on doing this? How are you going to get into that swell’s house?”

9 Things You Didn’t Know About Montreal

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Apparently, I am becoming “that author who writes about Montreal.” I’ve come across very few books set in the city, and even fewer in English.

In THE SPIDER’S WEB, the city is almost another character in the story. When I lived there, I found the atmosphere so invigorating and inspiring, it was one of the reasons I started writing the book. Contemporary Montreal is a fascinating city, full of culture and excitement. But it also has a really fascinating history, which I’ve been exploring in ALL FOR ONE, my current work in progress (more on that some other time). (Yes, I know, Foggy. I’m writing as fast as I can. :P)

  1. European explorers first started exploring the Saint Lawrence River in the early 1500s. Jacques Cartier first claimed the Gaspe Penninsula on June 24, 1534, beginning the conquest of what we now know as Canada by Europeans. 108 years later (May 17, 1942) , a small group of missionaries established Ville Marie on the island of Montreal. This neighborhood still exists, though it’s usually referred to as The Old Port or Vieux-Port de Montréal. The most distinctive part of this area is the number of stone buildings dating back to the 1600s. The streets are cobbled, the buildings close together. It feels like an old-world European neighborhood dropped right in the middle of a North American metropolis.
  2. One of the most famous landmarks in the Old Port is is the Notre-Dame Basilica, notable for its resemblance to Notre-Dame de Paris. Unlike most churches though, the stained glass windows don’t show biblical scenes, but images from the religious history of the city. It was the first home of the Diocese of Montreal in 1821, and after construction was completed it was the largest church in North America until the 1890s.
  3. In Montreal, there is a law that all apartment leases must start and end (with few exceptions) on July 1. Don’t drive in Montreal on this day–the roads are clogged with moving vans and pickup trucks, and there are people everywhere loading and unloading. It’s a major hassle; movers have to be reserved at least a year in advance. Personally, I think this is the Quebecois sticking it to the country at large. July 1 also happens to be Canada Day (their version of the 4th of July, for you Americans), but the more popular holiday is Saint-Jean-Baptiste day, June 24, which celebrates the founding of Quebec. Personally, I didn’t mind too much when I was there, since this also happens to be my birthday, and it was nice to have a day off from work and a fireworks display. 🙂
  4. Speaking of provincial weirdness, Quebec is full of it. There are a lot of laws that are written “Do this, this and this everywhere in Canada. Except Quebec. Then you need to do that, and fill out these six forms while you’re at it.” One example would be the Vacances de la Construction, which starts the 2nd to last Sunday in July and lasts for 2 weeks. Basically, by law, all construction work in the province stops for two weeks so the workers can take their family vacations (I believe this started so that construction workers could take trips with their families, without having to take their children out of school). While it is aimed at the construction industry, it’s the most popular vacation time in the province with many other people taking off as well.
  5. While Montreal is most famous for its French heritage, it also has a long history of Irish and Scottish immigration, which is the core of the English speaking population. Basically, if you were Catholic in the 1700-1800s, Montreal was the place to be!
  6. Montreal has the highest number of restaurants per capita in Canada, and 3rd in North America. This was torture when I was a broke student living on nutella sandwiches and Kraft Dinner (that would be the Canadian version of our Mac & Cheese)! A few things Montreal (and Quebec in general) are known for: poutine (that’s fries with gravy–usually a combination of chicken/turkey gravy–and white cheese curds–usually cheddar–on top, though many variations exist); steamers (steamed hot dog in a toasted bun topped with what basically amounts to coleslaw in a vinegar dressing); smoked meat (a form of pastrami); and bagels.
  7. Many of these foods can be linked to the large Jewish population in the city. Outremont in particular was a refuge in the 1930s and 40s. In THE SPIDER’S WEB, this is the neighborhood Evie and her aunt live in, and Evie describes the many languages she hears when out for a walk.
  8. I actually found out that this was the last construction project my great-great-grandfather worked on before he drowned, while building one of the bridges over the St. Lawrence.

    No building in Montreal can be taller than the cross at the top of the mountain. It was erected in 1924, and given to the city in 1929. While it is usually illuminated in white, in 2004 the cross received a major overhaul and cleaning, and an updated electrical system that included 158 new LED lights that can turn any color. It is usually purple between the death and election of a new pope.

    The cross itself is in remembrance of a cross erected in 1643 after the city’s founder prayed to the Virgin for deliverance during a disastrous flood.

  9. The city of Montreal has its own flag.

Want more Montreal? Don’t forget to check out THE SPIDER’S WEB, available in ebook and paperback, and look for my other titles, which will be out later this year. The ebook edition is still free to read on Kindle Unlimited.

Blast from the Past

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Lately I’ve been going through and cleaning up a few things around the blog. Mostly, this means fixing some tagging issues with older blog posts–like, the really, REALLY old stuff from the first year of this blog, back when it was still on Blogger and I was in college.

It’s been kind of fun going through some of those old posts. It occured to me that I haven’t written much about my real life on this blog in a long time; mostly I’ve been focusing on writing and crafts. Personally, I prefer it this way, but I wonder if you guys feel the same?

Anyway, I was working on this post, and thought it might be interesting–eight and a half years later–to see where I stand on my list of 101 things to complete in 10001 days:
Writing/books:
1. Finish editing Fortune’s Fight and send off for publication. Former title of THE SPIDER’S WEB. Done!
2. Finish Fortune’s Prize first draft. Former title of THE FERRYMEN. Look for it this fall. Done!
3. Finish uploading stories on the Akashic Library. This was an old writing blog I had for a brief period of time. It no longer exists. N/A.
4. Read all books that I own and have not yet read. HAHA. Still working on this, though it’s a new crop of books. In progress.
5. Weed through those books once I’ve finished them. See above. In progress.
6. Get published. Counting this as done, even if my publisher folded. I still have books for sale, so it counts.
7. Update my card catalog. N/A.
8. Finish a journal before the end of the summer. It’s reasonable to assume I reached this goal, but I don’t remember for sure.
9. Write more. Fill up msc. notebooks that are lying around and do not buy more until they are gone. Calling it done. I still write, and all of the notebooks I have now were purchased within the last year. I think I’m doing pretty good on that front.
10. Keep a list of every book read over the summer, including author. I didn’t do it in 2008, but I have been doing it since at least 2013 with pretty good success.
11. Add those books to Facebook visual bookshelf. I don’t use the FB bookshelf anymore, but I do keep everything on Goodreads.
12. Get stories from desktop hard drive saved to disk and converted to word files.
13. Re-edit Ankh.
14. Finish sequel.
15. Submit for publication. These were never complete. I would still like to go back to revisit that book, though.
16. Finish reading Princess Princess en français. Still working on this. My french isn’t much better now than it was 8.5 years ago.
17. Update blog at least every other day for one month. NOPE.
18. Journal every day this summer. Again, no idea if I actually achieved it, but I probably came pretty close.
19. Get Writer’s Digest subscription. Done.
20. Join (and complete) NaNo. Done.
21. Join (and complete) SuWriMo. I’ve never been able to do the camp nanos successfully.

Crafting:
22. Learn to spin on drop spindle. Done.

23. Learn to spin on a wheel. Done.
24. Learn to dye yarn. Done.
25. Use up/donate/weed out entire stash of acrylic yarn. Done.
26. Write down patterns for all knitting projects. NA
27. Finish making the knitting bag. NA
28. update Ravelry with good pictures of all projects. And I still suck at photography.
29. add stash to ravelry. Still working on this one.
30. Set up Alchemy account. I don’t even remember what this is.
31. learn to read and write patterns properly. Done.
32. Update my artist’s portfolio. NA
33. Set up a real studio, even if it’s just a spare room in the house/apartment. Oh, to live in a place with that much space!
34. Upload finished knitting patterns to the blog and to Ravelry. I wish I could say this was done, but I still have two incomplete patterns on my hard drive I haven’t uploaded yet.
35. Get the podcast onto Itunes.
36. Updated the podcast regularly.
37. Finish the extra flags for the Peace Project.
38. Finish Alice’s Armwarmers.
39. Finish blueberry socks. (June 26, 2008)
40. Finish, upload to Etsy, and mail chemo caps for Sempai. (finished and uploaded June 18)
41. Frog too small skirt.
42. finish scrapghan #4
43. Finish the work shrug.
44. Finish the jeep amigarumi (preferably before Christmas).
45. Donate at least five afghans to nursing home.
46. Come up with gifts for everyone and have them completed/bought by Halloween.
47. Make a kickass costume for final Big Boo.
48. Find a better way to store my bazillions of knitting needles.
49. Come up with, and make, at least three pagan-related items to put in the etsy shop.
50. Find requirements for a business license, and if I need one for the etsy shop.
51. Find out how much I can make on etsy before I have to pay taxes on it.
52. Update and maintain Devart account.
53. Put together 10 patterns and a short story to make a knitting book. I would still like to do this, but haven’t yet.
54. Draw every day for a month.
55. Fill all small sketch books.
56. Make the euro coin jewelry and list it on Etsy.
57. Get Knit.1 subscription.
58. learn illusion knitting. Done
59. Follow a pattern completely just once. Done
60. learn double knitting. Done

Life in General:
61. Graduate from college. Done.
62. Move to Canada. Still working on it.
63. Stop using so many plastic bags. Done.
64. Start recycling paper. Done.
65. Make senior thesis show a success. Done.
66. Come up with more projects for senior thesis show. Done.
67. Travel to at least one new place that is on the list of cities I want to visit. I haven’t gone anywhere new since I came back from Florence. 😦
68. Make the Cloverbud dog kit.
69. Apply to grad school.
70. Get my own apartment.
71. Figure out how to do my own taxes. Done.
72. Learn how to set up a real and proper website. I need to do this. Really. And I will. At some point.
73. Learn how to make fried rice. I don’t even know why this is on my list. And I never did do it.
74. Mail Susanne that package from two years ago that has been collecting dust. done
75. Go to Ft. Peirce again. done, back in 2011
76. Visit Savannah. See #67
77. Go on a ghost hunt.
78. Get nails done professionally.
79. Get hair done professionally.
80. Get a facial.
81. Wear retainer at least two nights a week, or figure out what the heck is wrong with it.
82. Move in with Alice. Still living with her.
83. Don’t kill her brother. He survived. But barely.
84. Take a martial arts or dance course. Still want to, but haven’t yet.
85. Exercise upper body at least 3x/week. HA. You’ve seen my new year’s goals for the last, oh, five years, right?
86. Lose 5 lbs, or 3 inches off waist (curse you muscle mass! Why must you weigh more?) See above.
87. Clean closet.
88. Find better way of storing clothes/shoes.
89. Take at least one calcium pill every day.
90. Print pictures from Canada and put them in an album.
91. Drive less. (thank you, fuel companies.)
92. Go on the bike trail at least twice a month. (going with grandpa on other bike trail counts). Still want to. Still haven’t. Sadly, Grandpa is no longer around to ride with. This month is 2 years.
93. Get odometer/gloves for bike.
94. Fix handlebars.
95. Learn to cook things that don’t come from a box or involve pasta.
96. Get at least a 3.5 GPA for both semesters of senior year. Failed at this one, but I’m happy with my 3.4, all things considered.

Money:
97. Put aside at least $500 into savings account. I still don’t have a savings account. Until recently, I wasn’t making enough money that I actually could save.
98. Buy a new car. A real car, that I actually like. Done.
99. Get a job that pays enough money to live off of without relying on the parents. Done.
100. Start paying off college loans before graduation. Pay at least $500.
101. Pay off credit card. Working on it. Along with the student loans.

I don’t think I did too badly on that list. There are some things that I’ve clearly been meaning to do for an embarrassingly long time, and haven’t made the time for–like learning to make a website, or working out more. There are other things that just haven’t been possible until recently–like paying off debt, saving money, or going to a class.

The last six months or so have been a struggle, for a lot of reasons. But looking at stuff like this reminds me of how far I’ve come.

Dru Faust and the Devil’s Due, part 15

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Mother insisted Alexandra come home with us. Usually a night owl, it didn’t take much to convince her to take a hot bath and go straight to bed, even though it was still a little early. When Elizabeth and Rose heard what had happened, she found herself once again enveloped in hugs. Elizabeth went up to draw the bath, and Rose promised to put together a plate of something for her.

“You look done in. I’ll get you some roast. And pie. We have pie.” Rose was of the opinion pie could improve any situation. I agreed.

I watched Elizabeth and Alexandra vanish up the stairs while Rose went to get her dinner. Daddy peeled off his jacket, hanging it on the hook by the door as he trudged to the back parlor. Mother and I followed.

“I know you were only trying to comfort your friend, Dru, but I really wish you hadn’t made that promise,” Daddy said, sinking onto the couch. Though we’d spent hours at the hospital, it still wasn’t quite dark out. The red sunset colored the parlor in shades of blood and tangerine, until Mother closed the curtains to block the glare.

“I’m sorry.” I held out the box with the blood samples Archie’s doctor had sent us home with. “Shall I take these down to the lab?”

Daddy hesitated, glancing at the stairs, then shook his head. “No. Go be with your friend. I’ll start the tests now. Maybe by morning I’ll have some information Dr. Harper will find useful.”

I watched him leave, a tight knot in my throat.

Mother sighed, picking up the stack of mail waiting on the end table and sifting through it. “This last round of illegal whiskey is certainly living up to its name.”

“The Devil’s Due, you mean?”

She raised an eyebrow. “Your father told you about it?”

I nodded. “Yesterday, when I was helping him with the tests for the police. What’s so bad about this latest batch?”

Everyone knew they were taking their life in their hands when they drank bootleg whiskey. It could be cut with anything, from redistilled industrial alcohol, to antifreeze or some other homemade concoction. Unfortunately, that didn’t seem to be stopping anyone. Alcohol of all sorts had been illegal for more than two years, but it didn’t seem to be doing much good.

“That’s what your father is trying to figure out. All we know right now is more and more people are taking sick from it, and the people responsible have been impossible to find. The people drinking this coffin varnish are either incoherent or dead, or too afraid of getting arrested to tell us where they’re getting it.”

“Why are they so afraid? I’d think the liquor would be more fearsome.” Then again, as Caroline never failed to remind me, I was a goody two-shoes. It was the side effect of having a doctor and a cop in the house.

Mother smiled a little, a dry, humorless sort of twist to her lips that sometimes happened when she talked about the darker aspects of her work. “They’re afraid of being arrested. Chief French is not a man willing to bend on the law. It’s as bad as the girls we pick up, torn and bleeding after they’ve taken a knitting needle to themselves, or worse. They claim to have no idea what happened. Mostly, they go straight from the hospital to the jail.” She threw the mail back down on the table. “I wish they’d never passed that silly law. I’m all for reducing the number of alcoholics on the street, but sometimes I think prohibition has only made it worse.”

In the hall, I heard Rose going upstairs, and remembered Alex would need something to change into when she got out of the bath. I’d have to see if I had anything in my closet she could borrow–she was at least four inches taller than me, and had the boyish figure so in vogue.

Excusing myself, I started for the stairs but Mother called me back. “Dru?”

I stopped at the door and turned around. She folded me into a hug. “You understand this was what your father and I were worried about the other night, right? We were afraid you could end up in that hospital bed, like Archie.”

“I know, Mother.” I returned the hug, breathing in her rose perfume, which she only wore for special occasions.

“Stay safe, my girl. Your father and I see too much of the bad things in life at work. We want to make sure you have no part in them. You’re the brightest part of our lives. I love you.”

“I love you, too, Mama.”

She kissed the top of my head and let me go. With one more glance over my shoulder, I trotted up to my bedroom to be with my friend.

 

More Sewing

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img_20170207_200431_984Weren’t expecting another sewing segment so soon, were you?

Neither was I.

I found this fabric a couple of weeks ago when I took my mom to Walmart, and fell in love with it. It’s bold, it’s in one of my favorite color combinations, and I thought it would make a perfect skirt or dress.

At first, I thought about just making another full skirt, but as I was flipping though my patterns, I came across another vintage pattern I picked up around the same time as the Walkaway dress.

7970da1911921e8aee353cd97066435dThis one is from the early 1960s. My copy is actually for a 31″ bust…so once again, heavy pattern modification was involved, though it wasn’t as much as I thought.

For starters, I added about 2″ to each side of the pattern. This was way too much in retrospect, but I’d rather have too much fabric to work with than too little.

I had to move the apex of the darts out about an inch or inch and a half, and add a second dart to the side of the bust because it wasn’t laying correctly. I’m not entirely certain what caused that–if my first dart wasn’t big enough, or if the placement was incorrect. I’m still having difficulty with sewing darts, though I think it’s improving.

Because of the modifications to the pattern pieces, the facings had to be re-drafted. Once the dress was basted together, I laid it back out on the fabric and traced out new facings.

The dress includes a pattern for a belt, but this fabric is so busy I didn’t want to use the same material. I’m going to look for a brown belt the next time I’m at target, hopefully the elastic waist-cinching kind and not the (faux) leather hold-up-your-pants kind.

The last change I made as adding pockets. Every dress can be improved by the addition of pockets.

I didn’t like the pencil skirt, and I didn’t have enough material left for the full skirt, so I cut the remaining fabric into panels and made it as full as I could. If I could do it again, I’d get another half yard or yard and add one or two more panels.

My next sewing pattern will be one that is actually my size–should be pretty easy, after all this!

And as promised, a shot of the red skirt, with the leftover fabric from the walkaway dress I mentioned last week:

Full Time, Part Time, Double Time: Writing and a Day Job

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When people find out I’m a writer, the conversation usually takes a specific turn. The first question is usually, “Do you have a real job?” Nevermind the way this question makes my left eye twitch, yes, I do have a day job.

The second question is always, “How do you manage to do both?”

Oddly enough, people have been working multiple jobs for a long time. My dad worked 2 jobs for 25 years, and no one ever asked him how he managed to balance the two, even though one of them was a business he owned himself. But as soon as one of those jobs involves working from home (whether it’s a creative pursuit, like writing or design) or something more domestic (like childcare), suddenly it’s a conundrum.

All that aside, I am reasonably prolific and have a decent back list, even if most of it hasn’t made it to book stores (yet). The following is based on my own experience. I will preface it by saying that I don’t have kids, and I’m an introvert–staying home to write instead of going out is what comes naturally to me.

Writer, know thyself.

I know a lot of writers who swear by the #5amwritersclub on Twitter. They routinely wake up an hour or two earlier than necessary, make a cup of coffee and in the wee hours of the morning crank out a chapter before their kids have to get up for school.

I am not one of these people.

Nor am I one of those nocturnal authors who days up all night, with 4-5 uninterrupted hours of writing time in the middle of the night, only going to bed once the sun rises.

No. My natural sleep cycle is between midnight and 8 or 9 am. Unfortunately, my day job demands a 6am wake up call, so I force myself into bed around 10:30.

I’m lucky in that I have a day job that involves sitting in front of the computer with frequent bursts of downtime throughout the day.I know my most productive hours are usually between 10am-noon, so I try to time some of that downtime for that window, giving me about 30 minutes to write. If I can’t do it then, I usually write on my lunch break. Most days, I can get another 30 minute sprint in just before I leave work. This is usually around 2:30, right in the middle of my 2nd most productive time block, between 2-4.

My daily goal is to write at least 1,000 words. A 30 minute sprint at work can net 250-500 words, depending on how excited I am by a particular scene, or how many times the phone rings.

Once I get home, I know nothing much is going to happen. I’ll sit down around dinner time and try to get in any missing words, but usually my 6-8 time block is geared more towards business aspects–updating my budget, checking any twitter hashtags or writing conversations I’m following online, promotions, checking my blog stats and amazon sales, composing blog posts, sending query letters, etc.

Obviously, I’m very lucky on this front. But even when I worked retail and had the schedule from hell (frequently closing the store at 10 or 11, driving 45 minutes home, then coming back to open the cash office at 7am the next day), I still tried to make the most of my time. I kept a notebook in my purse and would write long hand on my breaks and lunch, and could still get in 250-500 words, sometimes up to 800 words.

There are always little clusters of time through the day I can write.

If I were to break it down, probably 90% of my waking hours are spent working in some way. If I tried to pay myself per hour for my writing, I wouldn’t even come close to a living wage, which is why I still have a day job. My day job pay the rent. It pays for my food, my student loans, and my car. It provides me with health insurance.

It also forces me to get out of the house when I would normally choose to stay in. This is a much under-rated value of The Day Job, because a writer who doesn’t get out doesn’t have much to write about.

 

Dru Faust and the Devil’s Due, part 14

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The State Hospital on Broad Street was familiar, almost home-like to me. Several times I week I went down with Daddy, watching him work or reading to some of the patients, helping the nurses make beds and do the thousands of tiny things that took them away from their patients, but needed doing nonetheless.

I loved the activity of it all, the bustle. But today, the urgency wasn’t exciting. We dodged around doctors and nurses as Alex led us to a room on the first floor.

The entire drive over, mother muttered to herself in the front seat in between asking Alex questions about her brother and his condition. “Where was he last night? Who was he with?”

“I don’t know,” Alex sobbed. George, crammed into the back seat with us, handed her his handkerchief. She dabbed at her eyes and blew her nose. “We were supposed to go to a party, but I lost track of him. He was fine when he came home.”

“Did you drive back together?”

She shook her head. “I couldn’t find him, so I rode with a friend.”

The words Mother uttered made me raise an eyebrow. I’d never heard such language from her. Daddy must not have either, because the car jerked slightly before he righted it. “Constance!”

“Oh, hush, Mitchell. I’ve heard worse and you know it, and if any situation calls for a little foul language, this is it. To think, two young people, not just drinking polluted liquor, but one of them driving home? Alone? He’s lucky he didn’t cause an accident. What if he’d lost consciousness on the road? It wouldn’t just be his life in danger.” She harumphed to herself and went back to muttering. “And where are the parents? Leaving their children alone…”

“Mother and Father are in Spain, I think,” Alexandra sniffled as Daddy pulled into the lot by the hospital. Mr. and Mrs. Grant traveled frequently; I couldn’t remember the last time I’d seen them at home, but thought it might have been around Easter.

Alexandra sniffled again, regaining some of her natural independence–contrariness, Mother called it. “And we aren’t alone. We have the housekeep and the butler and the maid…”

Even in the dark, the look Mother gave her was sharp enough to cut off her words.

We finally arrived at a bare looking ward on the first floor. I saw father’s brow crease.

A nurse tending to one of the patients near Archie looked up when we entered and started to object, but closed her mouth when she saw Daddy.

“Dr. Faust. Can I help you?”

“Just checking in on Archie Grant. Can you tell me anything about him?” he asked, leading her away from the bed. The rest of us gathered around Archie, who lay unmoving and dead to the world on the hard mattress.

“They brought him in this morning, around ten,” Alexandra whispered, once again dabbing at her eyes. “I went to wake him. I was annoyed about not being able to find him for a ride home last night, and thought giving him an early wake up call would be comeuppance.”

Mother raised an eyebrow at the idea of ten o’clock being “early,” but didn’t say anything. When school wasn’t in session, the Grant siblings were nearly nocturnal. Instead, she asked what happened next.

“I went into his room. I had glass of iced tea, and saw him laying on his stomach. I thought it might be a laugh to stick a piece of ice down the back of his pajamas, but when I did, he didn’t even flinch. I panicked, but I couldn’t wake him. Helga heard me screaming, and called for the ambulance.” Helga was the Grant’s maid.

Daddy came back, a deep furrow in his brow. “It doesn’t look good. His doctor suspects methanol poisoning, but they don’t know for certain yet. The usual treatments aren’t having the usual effect. I’ve asked for a blood sample, to see if I can do anything to help.”

Alexandra buried her face in George’s sodden handkerchief. I put my arms around her. “It will be alright, Alex. You’ll see. Archie’s as stubborn as you are, he won’t give up. And with Daddy and I on the case, you know he’ll be just fine.” I pointedly did not look at the expression I knew Daddy was giving me.

Alex reached up to squeeze my hand, her shoulders finally relaxing. “Do you promise?”

“We’ll help him. Just you wait and see.”

 

2017 Writing Plans

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Well, I’ve talked a bit about my overall goals for the year, but not much about my writing. Obviously, January was pretty focused on getting THE SPIDER’S WEB back out (P.S. Did you know you can read it for free with Kindle Unlimited?) and finishing her third book, but now that both of those are done, what next?

  • ALL FOR ONE–this is a steampunk, gender-bent re-imagining of one of my favorite novels, The Three Musketeers. I’ve been wanting to write this for a while, and have decided February and March will be dedicated to its completion.
  • The steampunk short–this is for an anthology I’m working on with Ash and several other writers, and will follow one of the characters from ALL FOR ONE.
  • THE FERRYMEN–this is Evie’s 2nd book. It’s been through a first round of revisions, but I want to give it a second pass since there are some things I want to add in. Right now it’s slated for release in fall of this year, probably September.
  • DRU FAUST AND THE DEVIL’S DUE–This is my serial novella, available here every Wednesday. Dru will have a new episode up every week until sometime this fall, when I’ll be releasing the collection as an ebook. I still need to finish posting it, and then I’m going to do another revision before ebook, just to smooth things out since it will no longer be a serial.
  • MAGIC IN BEDLAM–this is the first book in a steampunk series I’ve been working on for a few years. It’s currently being beta read. Right now, I think it will probably be self-published, but I’m not sure yet what the release schedule will be.
  • MAGIC IN THE JAZZ AGE–last November’s Nanowrimo. I hit 50,000 words, but couldn’t bring myself to finish the story in the wake of the election. I need to revisit that (it’s 3/4 done), and then both it and MAGIC IN THE HEADLINES need another revision. Not sure if that will happen this year or in 2018, though.

Those are the projects I know I’m working on this year. I haven’t decided yet what my Nanowrimo project will be. I usually write at least three books a year, and revise 3 books, but the past year and a half has been really heavy on revisions/editing.

I’ve got four books I’m thinking about writing this year. Two of them already have opening scenes, and two have full outlines. It remains to be seen which one makes it as a Nanowrimo entry.

I think I need more hours in the day. Or maybe just more time I can allocate to writing.

Sewing Break

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It’s been a while since I’ve done some sewing. I tend to sit down and binge-sew in a weekend, with a boxed set of something on my computer (which has to share desk space with my sewing machine, thanks to our itty bitty apartment).

In December and January, the boxed set of choice was Witch Hunter Robin, an anime from about 2004-05, and one of my favorites. With that playing in the background, I banged out a Walkaway Dress in about three sittings.

The Walkaway dress is a pretty popular pattern from about 1952. In theory, it’s exceptionally easy, with only three pattern pieces. There’s only three seams on the entire dress, so the idea was that you could sit down after breakfast at the sewing machine and “walkaway” with a new dress at lunch.

In reality, there were some challenges. For example, while I do have a 38″ bust, I do not have the 26″ waist or something equally ridiculous the size 18 pattern called for (this is a true vintage pattern, not the updated version with modern sizing).

I had to make a lot of adjustments to the pattern as I was cutting the pieces, erring on the side of making it too big rather than too small. I added a little over an inch to the bust and about 3″ to the waistband, and about 4″ to the skirt waist, just to make sure I had some room to play with it.

One of the reasons for all the extra fabric is that my torso length didn’t match the dimensions on the pattern. I added an extra inch in that department, and then spent an entire day just getting the darts right. In the end, I went with a curved shoulder-to-waist dart on each side of the back, and much longer, deeper darts for the bust.

The neckline presented a unique challenge. I have narrow shoulders, and the distance from the top of my shoulder to my bust is (apparently) uncommonly short. I have a lot of problems finding commercial garments or patterns that fit correctly in that neighborhood. I raised the neckline about three inches, but because my shoulders are so narrow, the neckline gaped horribly. In the end, I added an extra dart down the center front, taking in that section about 1.5″

 

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Finished dress on the left, and a couple shots before the trip and closures were added on the right.

The last changes I made were to the hemline (I raised it about 6″ from midcalf to just about knee length) and replaced the button/loop closure with two faux leather buckles. I think it gives it a sort of mid-century steampunk look, which I love. I’m going to wear it in April at Symposium.

I am going to take in the side just a smidge–about half an inch on either side. I’m still not very good at sewing on the bias, and once I added the bias tape edging, the armholes and neckline started to get a bit wavy. This will also help the waist fit better, since it’s just a touch loose–not much, mind, but just enough that I have to stop and make adjustments to how the dress hangs every now and then while I’m wearing it. This dress really needs a snug fit to hold all the pieces in place, since it’s basically a giant poncho with a built in belt.

I had enough fabric leftover to make a skirt and a project bag, too. Shots of those to come; they’re really nothing too fancy.

Next up: More sewing for Symposium!

Netflix Binge: Historical Fiction

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Yep, it’s that time again.

I spent a good chunk of the fall binge watching Netflix, and here are some of the best series I’ve found:

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The Pinkertons

This is a great series set just after the Civil War, and is based on the life of the first female Pinkerton agent. It’s a great blend of mystery and western, and will appeal to fans of The Murdoch Mysteries and Strange Empire.

Medici

If you’re a fan of Borgia, then you’ll lap this up. Intrigue, romance, history–this one has everything, all tied up in an early Rennaissance package.

The Crown

Clearly, Netflix is trying to capitalize on how popular Borgia was a few years ago. The Crown is a bio-drama about the early days of Queen Elizabeth II’s reign, the hard decisions she had to make, and their impact on her family and personal relationships. It’s absolutely flawless, and I now have a whole new respect for Her Majesty.

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Female Agents

This bilingual film is based on a joint mission between French and English forces in WWII, and the daring women who were thrown unprepared into the front lines of espionage. Warning: make sure you have tissues handy because you will bawl.

Hell on Wheels

This show can be problematic at times in the way it treats female characters, but I love it nonethless. It’s like a soap opera for dudes.

Set in a mobile railroad town, this show is best classified as a western, but it’s also a family drama, a romance, mixed with corporate intrigue and sometimes mystery. It’s 100% action.

mv5bmtkymzi5mtu3mf5bml5banbnxkftztgwnda5mti0ode-_v1_uy1200_cr8806301200_al_Two I’m currently watching but haven’t finished yet are Versailles and Rebellion. Versailles is also in the vein of Borgia, The Crown, Medici, etc, but set in France. It’s got more sex and romance than the latter two, but not as much as Borgia. So far. Of the four though, I like this one the least. I’m still enjoying it, but it’s not sucking me in quite the way the others did.
Rebellion, on the other hand, is definitely pulling me in, though I’ve only made it to the third episode. It follows three women during the Irish Revolution in the 1910s: One conservative, one moderate, one liberal. I’m still playing catch up on a lot of the historical context since this isn’t a time and place I’ve studied before, but I’m really enjoying it.