Sleep. Art. $. Plus, I sold a Hope Sze short story!

You know how it feels when your kids don’t let you sleep and you want to die?

No? Well, count yourself lucky.

Matt and I are just barely starting to feel human again, but now we’re back to zombie-land. Which makes it very appropriate to post my second #walkcast (podcast recorded whilst walking)–recorded before school ended, but never posted, until NOW.

My first #walkcast is about multitasking: Secrets of Highly Efficient Writers Tip #1: Make Writing a Habit. We’re called the Creative Doctor & Dog because I generally walk with our dog, Roxy. Anastasia appears in later walkcasts too.

Secrets of Highly Efficient Writers Tip #2: Zzzzzzzzz

I was thinking of doing Walkcast Wednesdays. But, of course, that would require organization. However, I do now have a few nice pictures of me and our dog, Roxy.

My artist friend Jessica Sarrazin just had a show at the Quirky Carrot. She made this original, unique cyanotype skirt by hand-exposing flowers and leaves on a wraparound skirt. She explains it much better than me here, with pictures of the process.


Meanwhile, I sold my first Hope Sze short story to Jewish Noir, edited Ken Wishnia.  Just for fun, I made up a cover already. I won’t be able to indie publish it for two years, but you know how I was anxious about losing money on going to Bloody Words? $250 helps a lot! (“Payment on acceptance, baby,” wrote Ken.) Plus Scene of the Crime Books already paid me for the books they sold, and I used Tangerine to photo deposit the cheque. Hooray!

Blood diamonds cover

Hey, if you open a brand new Tangerine account and deposit $250 before July 31st, you get a $50 bonus. And if you tell ’em I sent you (with my Orange Key: 22510100S1), I get $50 too! So far, they’re a vast improvement on HSBC, who closed my business bank account for no reason.

So I’ve got a little money, but our daughter kicked our behinds. How about you? Do you get to sleep?


What I’m Working On Now: Hope, Noir & My First #Walkcast [#MyWritingProcess Blog Tour]

First up, props to Rob Brunet. I first got to know him because a contact at Ellery Queen mentioned he’d sold a story to the magazine, so I Tweeted a hi and congratulations, and Rob was like, “Uh, hi. So…who are you and how did you know that?” Only much more polite, because Rob and I are Canadian, yo.


Rob, a.k.a. Canada’s Carl Hiassen, will launch his debut novel, Stinking Rich, in September. Meanwhile, he’s beavering away at the sequel, Ka-boom, “a story about a bible camp gone bad.” Love it. Read more about him and his process here.
Rob tagged me in What I’m Working On, a writing blog tour where we each answer four questions:

What am I working on?
I’m mostly wearing my mystery hat right now. I was invited to submit to two anthologies, Jewish Noir and Montreal Noir, so I just finished two Hope Sze medical mystery stories for them. And I’m 12,000 words into Stockholm Syndrome, the fourth Hope Sze book, but first, I want to finish editing a fun cozy mystery, The Goa Yoga School of Slayers.

Early cover which will need fixing. Feel free to critique.

Early cover which will need fixing. Feel free to critique.

Non-fiction-wise, I should polish the next collection of Unfeeling Doctor medical humour essays, Breaking Bones.

breaking bones cover

We just finished editing the audiobook for The Most Unfeeling Doctor in the World, which I hope to distribute on ACX. And I just started doing walkcasts (walking podcasts), thanks to Michael La Ronn. So. Bref (as the French would say), I’m juggling a few different balls in the air.

My first #walkcast is about multitasking: Secrets of Highly Efficient Writers Tip #1: Make Writing a Habit. We’re called the Creative Doctor & Dog because I generally walk with our dog, Roxy. Anastasia appears in later walkcasts too.

My first #walkcast is about multitasking: Secrets of Highly Efficient Writers Tip #1: Make Writing a Habit. We’re called the Creative Doctor & Dog because I generally walk with our dog, Roxy. Anastasia appears in later walkcasts too. This is a photo of a different doctor & dog, by David Mark.

How does my work differ from others in the same genre?
I’m such an oddball, I don’t worry about sounding the same as everyone else. But I like to make jokes, and I’ve been told I’m very direct, maybe not at the same time. For example, when I wrote about a patient giving birth and passing stool, my editor commented, “Is this necessary?” I was just like, “It happens.” I call ’em as I see ’em, which is part of the reason not everyone gets my writing. But when they do, heaven.

Why do I write what I do?

For fun. Or profit. Or both. If I’ve had a bad ER shift, it helps to write about it, even if I never publish it. Fantasy, science fiction, children’s books, and YA are even more of an escape. Mystery means delving into the worst of human nature, but also seeking justice. And who doesn’t need a little more romance in life? So I just kind of spin from one thing to the other, which amuses my hummingbird brain, but does add to the chaos.

How does my writing process work?
My rule of thumb is that I do 500 words a day if I’m working in the emerg, 1000 words a day if I’m not working. Small but consistent goals. I like to wake up and write right away, before working in the ER and/or before my kids wake up. Then I can relax because I feel like I’ve done my homework. Otherwise, it weighs on me. My kids are like, “Mommy, I’m a train,” and I’m like, “I haven’t even broken 200 yet! Go play by yourselves!” But if I’ve done my words, I’ll say, “Choo choo.” I do try and get one day a week to myself to write and do yoga, which means that I rely heavily on our babysitter, Aly.

Thanks to Rob for tagging me. Next, I’ll pass the baton to Steve Steinbock, the Jury Box reviewer at Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine who introduced me to Rob and invited me to Bloody Words. See? Full circle. Take it away, Steve.

Rob Brunet & Steve Steinbock, eager to tell you about their writing process.

Rob Brunet & Steve Steinbock, eager to tell you about their writing process.

Post-partum mood swings

“untouchable” by D. Antonia Truesdale, The Midnight Orange

“The Great Secret of Death”
by Rainer Maria Rilke; translation by Joanna Macy and Anita Barrows

The great secret of death, and perhaps its deepest connection with us, is this: that, in taking from us a being we have loved and venerated, death does not wound us without, at the same time, lifting us toward a more perfect understanding of this being and of ourselves.
Joanna Macy
» download (mp3, 4:00)

Letter to Countess Margot Sizzo-Noris-Crouty
January 23, 1924

Okay!  Why am I awake at 4:30 am?

Because I nursed at 2300 and then my husband woke me up at 01:50 to do it again.  And I can’t fall back to sleep.  Everyone else is sleeping, including my kids and dog, but I cannot.

I Googled post-partum hypomania and I’ll track down the best links for you: one on bipolar II disease and what meds are safe; one on how late night sleep deprivation can elevate your mood.  Yup, it can make you giddy.  That’s me for two days!  I wrote a ton, I danced, I made up secret signs with my husband and giggled at my own wit, I called a friend and read _Hand Wash Cold_ aloud to her because “this IS you,” I assured her (I was right, but I hadn’t talked to her in weeks before I said, “Merry Christmas!  I have the perfect book for you.  Can I read to you?”).

Two days before that, I realized I felt down.  Fat because I couldn’t fit into my skinny jeans or other cool pre-pregnancy gear.  Blah because I hadn’t made it outside all day because it was too cold for a 5-week-old.  I wasn’t suicidal or even majorly down, but I finally understood why my family doc kept checking if I had post-partum depression after Max was born.  Since I’m not well-tuned to psych issues, I was impressed that she knew enough to ask, but I was happy, not depressed.  I finally told her, “Why would I be sad?  I have a baby.”

I have a baby again.  I love her.  She sleeps better than Max did.  Matt is helping me 24/7. For example, he sleeps beside her while I hole up in another room, because I don’t want his snoring or her gurgles to wake me up one second more than I have to.  Then he changes her and brings her to me to nurse and, after I’m done, I bring Anastasia back and collapse into bed.

Yesterday, I kissed A. all over her face, concluding with one on the lips.  I thought, You’ll never die never having been kissed on the lips.  I welled up.  And then I suddenly, consciously remembered that when our firstborn died at 20 weeks, one of the last things I did was kiss Isadora on the lips and think, You will not go to your grave without having been kissed on the lips, even if it’s just by your mum.  I had forgotten that.

Obviously, I have some healing to do still.  Also, after reading the medical articles, I got the news flash that sleep deprivation was making me cuckoo and so, even though A is a good sleeper and Matt is a good husband and Max is an amazing big bro, I MUST SLEEP MORE or I will go round the bend.  Sorry, I can’t be a supermom or even divide sleep duty evenly.  Matt sleeps beautifully.  It is one of his superpowers.  We must profit from this or…cuckoo!  cuckoo!  (or at least wacky.  Whack-a-mole-y).

I like to ponder things, so I must recommend this podcast.  This octagenarian, Joanna Macy, talks about how she went from a CIA agent to an anti-nuclear Peace Corps activist/Buddhist, with plenty of Rilke to illustrate how God can be envisioned as an organic part of the natural world instead of a guy with a crown (although I think that’s okay if that’s how you roll, I have never been able to buy into it).

I have been putting the finishing touches on the book I wrote for anyone who’s lost a child.  It’s called Your Baby Is Safe and I’ve paired up with the brilliant D. Antonia of The Midnight Orange to illustrate it.

One of my three beta readers called our book “sappy and sentimental,” although she hastened to say that “people like that sort of thing….I think it should sell well.”

I respectfully disagree.  About the sappiness, anyway.  I hope it does sell well.  My text is only about 400 words, so it’s simple and to the point.  I chose images from D. Antonia Truesdale’s sculptures that demonstrate everything from delight to despair and back again.  If D gives me the all clear, we will publish the e-book and let the readers decide for themselves.

If you have ever experienced loss, I think you will understand our book.  And if you have processed some of your grief, you will know how darkness [can] be a bell tower/and you the bell.

So I don’t see our book as sentimental. I see myself as a bell, ringing my loss so that those who recognize

its chilling peal might feel less alone.

“Let This Darkness Be a Bell Tower”
by Rainer Maria Rilke; translation by Joanna Macy and Anita Barrows

» download (mp3, 2:12) 

Joanna Macy reads “Let This Darkness Be a Bell Tower” by Rainer Maria Rilke.

Quiet friend who has come so far,
feel how your breathing makes more space around you.
Let this darkness be a bell tower
and you the bell. As you ring,

what batters you becomes your strength.
Move back and forth into the change.
What is it like, such intensity of pain?
If the drink is bitter, turn yourself to wine.

In this uncontainable night,
be the mystery at the crossroads of your senses,
the meaning discovered there.

And if the world has ceased to hear you,
say to the silent earth: I flow.
To the rushing water, speak: I am.

Sonnets to Orpheus II, 29