the 2019 christmas card!

It’s that time again!! Every year I photoshop my family’s heads onto some ridiculous bodies, print out 30-40 copies at CostCo, and make Christmas cards.

Previous years:
2012-2013
2014
2015-2016
2017
2018

Much of my December was taken up with the recently-mentioned toothpocalypse. I scaled back my usual holiday activities (no mountain of cookies this year, alas), but I was determined not to miss the annual Christmas card!

It took me a solid week to make and ship these things. I’d have a good hour in which two kinds of pain meds overlapped, during which I worked some photoshop. Then bedridden. Then another good stretch where I’d cut things out. Then bedridden.

ANYWAY. I DID IT. IT’S DONE.

The plot this year? Well, Rudolph is leading his team back through another storm, intent on reaching the Island of Misfit Toys, but… alas. They go astray.

Photo of Santa and reindeer with text: Another year, another snowy squall. But Rudolph insisted he knew the way. "There!" he cried. "The Island of Misfit Toys!" The clouds parted. The reindeer gasped--

Text: Alas. Wrong Island. Photo: Skull Island with Sam's kids as King Kong and T-Rex, Sam tied to sacrificial post, husband running away, and cats as boat captains.

I know, I know, my pics of the cards are lacking. Here is the photo insert in all its glory:

Skull Island, with Sam's kids as King Kong and T-Rex, Sam tied to sacrificial post, husband running away, and cats as boat captains.

And that’s it for Samtastic Books in 2019! I’ll be back next month trying to finish some short stories, start edits on a book for my agent (yep!! still love saying that!!!), and post some recommended reading, because the toothpocalypse definitely put me behind schedule in that arena.

Till next year! Enjoy these Christmas cats.

teeth teeth TEETH TEETH

Do you remember when I said that November was a cursed month for productivity? Well, the god of November heard my complaint, took offense, and convinced December to team up for an earthly reckoning.

Or maybe it was my own fool fault for thinking I could schedule dental work on December 5th and then spring effortlessly back into my holiday To Do List.

WHO CAN SAY?

Alas, what’s done is done. The reason: I’ve had two wisdom teeth sticking halfway out for years, perfectly situated to collect food particles but hard to clean. My dentist recommended pulling them before they became cavity-stricken bone shards.

One came out cleanly. The second was a fight. And the second promptly developed dry socket.

*clears throat*

*lifts megaphone*

THIS WAS THE SECOND MOST PAINFUL AND PROLONGED RECOVERY EXPERIENCE OF MY LIFE!!!

haggard Sam with hot pack pressed to jaw

the author, in distress

The only thing that beats it was my c-section, during which one of my organs was literally pulled from my body, pushed back in, and stapled shut!! For ten days I did nothing but keep my children alive and monitor my jaw pain. My pain meds would wear off every 1.5 hours, followed by a horrendous debilitating gap till I could take more, 24 hours a day! I… did not sleep much.

I went back to the dentist twice, and he said he didn’t see any inflammation, but the pain and pressure worsened, so after another few days of zero progress I dragged my tylenol-addled body to urgent care and got some antibiotics.

And would you look at that, I immediately went on the mend! It’s almost like I should have been on antibiotics the week before. X(

ALAS. It was a terrible couple of weeks, and my December goals turned straight to ash–they didn’t even catch fire first, they just went insta-dust. But it’s over. Fingers crossed!!

And hey, I now have some excellent fodder for future tactile details in my writing. If I ever dive into the realm of grimdark torture, I’ll just have my villain pull out somebody’s teeth. Done and dusted! He’s a monster and that poor character will never be the same again. SUCH REALISM, SUCH HORROR, HOW DOES SHE COME UP WITH IT?

I’ll just wink. Imagination, I guess.

the silence of the hams

It’s that time of year again! The weather begins to cool, the holiday ads begin pouring into inboxes, and I enthusiastically decorate my house for Thanksgiving.

Previous years have included:
Itsa Me, Thanksgiving!
The Adventures of Young Ham Solo
Harry Potter and the Day of Thanks
THANKVENGERS: The Winter Solstice
And the tradition’s humble beginning, with Teenage Mutant Ninja Turkeys.

So what did we go with this year? You’ve seen the blog title already! It’s…

The Silence of the Hams

Obviously, we had to turn one corner of the living room into a prison cell:

hand truck with lecter mask and homemade strait jacket

A warning to misbehaving children

sam wearing lecter mask and strait jacket

…or  misbehaving adults

I, uh, might have ordered two $7 sweatshirts off Amazon and cut the sleeves off one to stitch onto the other. Super effective!

Despite the title, it was a more general horror theme. So I re-purposed some of my Halloween decorations and a bunch of Amazon package packing material to turn my bedroom hallway into a haunted cemetery!

butcher paper tree with witch decoration in front of hallway

Beware the cemetery witch!

hallway wall with paper trees, ghosts, and grave stones

proooobably shouldn’t have buried all these people in one spot

husband in Friday the 13th ski mask in front of hallway decorations

This is what I was afraid would happen!!

Good food, good fun! And afterwards, a grand Mario Party competition (on GameCube, OBVIOUSLY) and the traditional family roasting, in the form of giving only insulting answers during Loaded Questions.

Truly, the holidays are a magical time that bring us all together.

loaded questions game board with toys for playing pieces

Watch out, Finn! You’ll be caught by Toilet Duck!

Now time to go plan a Christmas party!

November’s coming. I CAN FEEL IT.

four carved pumpkins: a silly face, a bat, a cat, and a grinning emoji face

our time is nearly done

November’s coming.

I can sense it. I can taste it on the air. It tastes like wildfires and calendar panic.

November is a cursed month for productivity, and I can’t even properly explain why. All I know is that I make Grand Plans every year, and every year they get torpedoed as soon as I flip my Pets of Book Club* calendar to the eleventh page.

Some years it’s holiday planning that gets in the way. There is the grand family tradition of Themed Thanksgiving to uphold (previous years have included Harry Potter and the Day of Thanks, THANKVENGERS: The Winter Solstice, and of course The Adventures of Young Ham Solo). There is also advance Christmas prep, because I can’t just start on December 1st and possibly have everything ready in time!

And I have to confess: I wasn’t going to do a theme this year. But now that I pulled up those old photos… I THINK MAYBE I’M GONNA?? I just love it so much!

Other years I’m moving. WHY do our big moves keep happening in November? I don’t know, but it is always a disaster. I do not, I repeat, I do not recommend moving in November. Last year the move took twenty-two days of my life away. Twenty-two days! The time before that I scarcely remember, it’s such a blur. I went into a fugue, and when I emerged, I still had boxes to unpack.

Hopefully, I am in this house for the rest of my life, and never need to do that again.

So what is the problem this year? I mean, I’m not moving. I’m not pregnant or freshly encumbered with an infant. I’m not busy making a new costume (probably).

But still… November.

Will all of our pipes burst simultaneously? Will the California wildfires reach us? Will there be dramatic family announcements involving a long lost relative expiring and offering me a medium-sized fortune, but only if I spend the month of November in a haunted house?

(My last house was probably haunted, and I didn’t get a fortune, medium-sized or otherwise, for living there–so I’m saying I would definitely take the offer, if anyone’s listening.)

I don’t know. But I’ve got my eye on you, November!

I’ve got my eye on you.


*Nobody in your book club puts together a calendar every year with photos of all your pets? What a shame.

cross-stichery part 1

I learned how to do a new thing! As you can probably guess from the blog title, that thing is cross-stitch!

I really needed a hobby this summer that was not associated with writing. I was halfway through crocheting a blanket when the heat waves hit, so that was promptly abandoned. I’d love to practice drawing, but typing for hours per day have turned my hands into useless claws, so that is off the board.

Thus, cross-stitch! It’s pretty, it’s precise, but it follows a grid, so my claw-hands just have to stab at the right corner and the needle will sort the rest out.

I debated jumping in with something elaborate and complex, but my internet friends suggested maybe not going off the deep end. ALL RIGHT, FRIENDS, FINE. But I am a supremely impatient person, so I couldn’t just doodle a stick figure either.

The middle ground: I decided to practice by making a piece for my 4yo son. I asked what he wanted: a dinosaur! Okay. I tracked down a simple two-color pattern for a T-Rex skeleton. I asked what color he wanted: rainbow!!!! Er, okay! I just switched colors when the time seemed right.

And Rainbow Rex was born!

cross-stitch dinosaur skeleton in rainbow colors with caption "rainbow rex"

CHOMP CHOMP, LADIES

I learned lessons! Like not letting the back get too messy, and leaving more room to frame, and perhaps most important of all: yes, you really do need to get the magic washable fabric pen, because the pencil lines will definitely not come out.

Heady with somewhat-success, I decided to creep a little farther onto that springboard over the deep end. Instead of picking one animal, this time I bought two patterns and mashed them together to make a hybrid bird-lizard, and instead of two thread colors I jumped to fifteen. What could go wrong?

NOTHING. HE’S BEAUTIFUL.

cross-stitch of a gecko with parrot wing and speech bubble "peace out bitches"

Gideon is getting the hell out of here

He now has a lovely home with a friend of mine. The stitches are small enough that she probably won’t be able to tell which ones accidentally went in backwards when I was trying to stitch with toddlers on my lap.

I learned more lessons! Like: try to keep the toddlers out of your lap, and it sure would look nice to fill the whole hoop so I’d better start making them smaller, and also: I bet I could start making my own patterns.

That’s right, friends. I’M GOING OFF THE DEEP END. Next time I should have some creative, uh… creations to show off.

Till then!


P.S. I ought to mention, for other people who enjoy the deliciously satisfying sensation of crossing items off a list:

One of my favorite parts of the process is marking the squares I’ve completed on the pattern with a highlighter. Section by section, row by row, it’s an endless and rapidly completed To Do, visibly done!

cross-stitch pattern for gecko with most of the squares highlighted yellow

GAZE UPON THE SWEET, SWEET MEASURE OF PROGRESS

Mmm, that is some good sense of accomplishment.

the endless To Do

Subtitle: YOU, TOO, COULD HAVE IT ALL!

This has been one of those weeks where it feels like I’ve accomplished nothing, because instead of completing any particular large project, I’ve taken care of the zillion little tasks that keep a household running smoothly. Individually, they seem like nothing. Collectively, my entire week has vanished!

I’m talking

  • School shopping
  • Follow-up questions to preschool because I haven’t done this before
  • Additional school shopping because yup, should have asked those questions earlier
  • Service appointment for Car 1
  • Paperwork and stickers for Car 2
  • Return package to post office
  • Follow up on refund for old gift cards (I want my money dangit)
  • Sort endless home refinance mail
  • FILING CABINET
  • Calk hallway chair railing
  • Touch-up paint on various walls, baseboards, and door trim
  • Several coats of paint on new cabinets
  • Home Depot AGAIN??
  • Grocery shopping AGAIN??
  • Budgeting, bills, meal planning, agh
  • Brief interlude with a rattlesnake on the deck?
  • Brief interlude capturing and releasing a field mouse from under the couch, likely promptly eaten by said rattlesnake?
  • Water the trees AGAIN??

And all the usual cooking and cleaning and bathing and puzzles and arts & crafts required by a toddler and a preschooler, who gamely joined me on all of these errands because their dad is out of town for the week.

ANYWAY I’M TIRED.

Somehow, despite all of that, I managed to do all of my Hugo Award voting, polished a couple of short stories and started their submission journey, and added 3K to my next book. I was hoping for 7K, but the universe had a good laugh at the sound of that, so I’ll have to settle for 3!

I leave you my new nemesis, the snek:

These photos were taken through fence slats and a window respectively, because DUH, I’m not going to be the bozo who dies taking a selfie with a snake.

Alas, I did not get a picture of the couch mouse, because, well, they JUMP.

Also, I think I need to repaint that fence.

Things I Low-Key Want to Learn, Except Learning is Hard

I’ve spent so many years focused on writing and writing-adjacent tasks: reading for research and pleasure, practicing styles, short fiction, long fiction, blogging, getting involved in forums. When I take a break, my hobbies are still very arts & craft: I am happily mediocre at sewing, crocheting, bookbinding, and making cards.

But there is a whole world around me! So many people good at so many things!

Here is an incomplete list of skills I would dearly love to possess, if only I could find the time to devote to learning them:

1) DANCE

I would love to be a better dancer! I always bop to music in public and I am fully willing to deploy my graceless moves on a dance floor, but it is surely embarrassing for everyone around me (alas for them, can’t stop won’t stop).

I also think dance would be excellent exercise. Exercise is INCREDIBLY BORING. Dance is not boring. Dance is fun! And it would work a lot of muscles that do not get any love at my writing desk, let me tell you.

PLAN FOR SUCCESS: YouTube. Only my children would witness my fumbling attempts at rhythm, but they are far too young to realize I look ridiculous.

2) MAKE-UP

That’s right, I’m putting make-up on my list. It’s a skill! It requires a deep knowledge base! And I have neither! I had zero interest in make-up growing up. I didn’t even wear any at my wedding, to the hotel liaison’s clear dismay. And now I kind of regret putting my nose up at this in my teens and twenties, because my thirties are here, and if I want to attend more networking events in the future it sure would be nice to touch up the worst of my fatigue lines. Like a suit of armor!

Also: people do some WILD and colorful stuff, I am JEALOUS.

PLAN FOR SUCCESS: Pure walk of shame. I will have to slink to my baby sisters with my hat in my hands, and ask them to teach me their ways. My baby sisters!! D:

3) SAILING

Wouldn’t that be cool??

PLAN FOR SUCCESS: Haha no.

4) DIY SHIT

Listen, I am a homeowner now. And I get wild ideas for things I want to add to my home, just because nobody can stop me! But you see, labor rightly costs money, and I have two hands and a toolbox, sooo.

Example: My husband and I are building a window seat. And we drew up some messy plans for how to build one from scratch. But then we realized: what if we bought some unfinished kitchen cabinets, and CHOPPED THE TOP OFF TO MAKE THEM SHORTER?

Do you see why we can’t be allowed to make decisions on our own? I need woodworking skills, stat!!

PLAN FOR SUCCESS: YouTube.

5) HORSEBACK RIDING

I want to sit on a living creature and be its friend and respect that it is a powerful being that could crush me but is carrying me around good-naturedly instead. And I would pretend that it is olden times, and I live on the road with only my loyal steed at my side, and we’d share something, a bond beyond words–except for the words I say when I’m riding, because I think you say stuff, right? I’m not sure. It sounds very romantic, even though it probably also smells.

PLAN FOR SUCCESS: This one only hinges on time and money. I.e., not in the near future.

6) ARCHERY

This one would be great, except somebody would definitely die.

PLAN FOR SUCCESS: I’m not joking.

IN CONCLUSION:

I think I’ll be sticking with YouTube dance videos and eyeshadow for the time being, and everyone in my life can thank me for showing such restraint. 😉