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Weekly recap: me, my gym bag and I

For the first time in what feels like forever but probably isn’t, my gym bag and I have spent most the week in a single place. The old apartment is all packed up, and the plan is for me to stay at my mother’s house until the new apartment is fit for human habitation. (If you’ve been following along, you’ll know there was a plumbing disaster, among other things, that soaked its ceilings and broke a window.)

To be honest, I am relishing the idea of being in one place for a while, so I’m likely going to stay at my mother’s house for the next few months–at least until I finish the book I’m currently working on.

On Friday, I made this on Pinterest Shuffles while nursing an intense bout of fatigue:

Image Description: a digital collage of a dark-skinned woman holding a cup. She is dressed in a pale blue nightgown and robe trimmed with lace, and a darker blue head wrap. She is surrounded by books, flowers, a classical bust, a street lamp, and text that looks like it’s been cut out of a magazine that read, “How strange to dream of you even when I am wide awake.” Below it is text from a different source that reads, “but you dream of some epiphany.”

(If you have Pinterest Shuffles, which is no longer invite only and has been opened to the public, you can find me there under the username @lydiaallthetime. I usually only play around with shuffles when I’m too brain foggy to do anything else, and that seems to happen pretty frequently because I have made 163 of them since mid-September!)

My sister, who is an illustrator and has been having a lot of fun playing with AI art, ran it through one of the programs?? Software?? Website?? she’s been using and it came up with this:

Image description: four different interpretations of the above collage, all of dark-skinned women with wrapped hair, big earrings and flowers.

Someone less tired than I am would probably have some interesting reflections on both mediums. On Pinterest Shuffles, the user is able to access a library of images from Pinterest to make their own artworks. I don’t know much about AI art generators, but I imagine they work in the same way.

The art history student in me wants to chase that thought into a rabbit hole, maybe taking Walter Benjamin along for guidance. (Link leads to the Wikipedia entry for Benjamin’s paper, “The Work of Art In the Age of Mechanical Reproduction.) But I’m very tired, and brain foggy, and I have a book I’m meant to be writing. And a grandmother whose groceries I’m meant to be ordering, and a gym bag that needs to be unpacked.

So for now, I’ll leave you with a “reshuffle” of a shuffle I made a couple of months ago, another concept I think Benjamin would have found interesting…

Image description: digital collage of a brown-skinned woman in what looks like an Edwardian blouse and hat. Surrounding her are various graphic elements like scraps of wallpapers, three concentric circles made out of an illustration of a weeping willow, architectural elements, a butterfly, and of course lots of flowers.

Weekly recap: green Babybel edition

Image description: screenshot of a text I sent my sister of a picture of an open package of plant-based Babybel cheese with a message in all caps reading, “Holy shit this is the best thing that’s ever happened to me in my entire thirty whatever years of life.”

Prone to exaggeration? Me? Never! I will, however, note that I said the same thing about the vegan “holiday nog” flavored creamer I put in my coffee this morning.

Weekly recap: blogging like it’s 2012

Look at me, blogging like it’s 2012. I don’t know how long I’ll be able to keep this up, but for now I’m hoping to post one of these every Monday.

The week started out with a burst of energy. I love when this happens. It’s like when you’ve been reading in the late afternoon and you’re so caught up on your book that you don’t realize how dark it’s been getting until someone turns on a light: I hadn’t realized just how exhausted and brain-foggy I’ve been until I woke up this morning, feeling alert and, well, maybe not like I could run a marathon but like I could sit at my desk for longer than ten minutes.

On Wednesday, I took the afternoon off to spend time with friends, who I hadn’t seen in more than a month. I don’t have a car, and the friend whose large terrace we usually hang out in lives far enough for me that it’s sometimes tricky for me to get there in rush hour after-work traffic, which is when everyone can meet. So I went to a friend’s office a couple of hours before she finished work so that I could ride with her to dinner.

This was fun, on several levels. First, because she works with two of our friends from university, who I don’t see regularly, so it was a nice treat to spend time with them. Second, because we all studied Architectural Design and watching them work felt like getting a little glimpse of what my life could have looked like if I had chosen to continue on that route. (I worked as an interior designer for a couple of years after graduation before going off to Spain for a master’s in Art History.) For a couple of hours, I sorted fabric samples on the long table they use as a shared desk, then helped them and their assistants stuff down inserts into cushions in preparation for styling a client’s living room the next day.

Dinner was lovely–the friend I rode with cooked her specialty, shrimp pasta, and a different friend brought cookie dough (she makes sugar cookies with rosemary and thyme) that we baked as we had dinner and then ate fresh from the oven. There were cocktails (tequila and ginger beer) and a lot of talking under the string lights on the terrace. It was the kind of evening that does good to a person’s soul–and stomach, naturally.

Image description: my hand holding a glass with a half-drunk cocktail. Underneath is a coaster and in the background, an open package of basil.

The rest of the week was taken up with letting in various people to do work on the old apartment. Just about everything needed to be repaired, including rewiring the main bathroom and closet because I’ve been living in the dark for over a year. (Insert facepalm emoji here.) All that’s left to do is to check out the washer/dryer, which started to misbehave a couple of days ago, and to replace the air conditioner unit in the bedroom because the current one has been broken since September and the technician said it can’t be repaired.

Sunday I had lunch at my grandmother’s house with my parents–who, by the way, have been divorced since 2007. They’re still friends, though, and they’ve always been good about making sure we always have family time on Sundays. We had moorish rice with black beans fresh from the countryside, pork chops, and the crispest tostones. Afterwards, we had coffee and olive oil cake.

Image description: a flowered coffee cup, a small plate with a slice of cake on it, a ceramic frog in a yellow bikini that my grandmother has had since the 70s, all sitting on her porch’s balustrade. In the background are plants and part of a blue wall.

Then my mother asked me to accompany her to see a friend. She was at her beach house, so we drove forty minutes along the coast.

Image description: a view of the highway taken from the passenger seat of a car, with palm trees on either side and a hint of the ocean on the right.

This is what our view looked like for most of that afternoon:

Image description: bright blue ocean and a bright blue sky, framed by palm trees.

THEN–you can imagine how exhausted I was at this point–we stopped to get some groceries for my grandmother, got some pizza with vegan cheese, and went back to my grandmother’s house. We had dinner together, then she went to bed and we hung out there with her–it’s a king size with a fantastic mattress, and I always sprawl out next to her. We called some family members and generally enjoyed seeing Abuela more alert than she has been in at least a couple of years.

I am flat on my back this morning, but honestly, it was worth it. I have a lot of work to do this week and I can’t really concentrate when there’s other people around–not to mention that it’s going to be a work from bed kind of week for me–or else I’d be tempted to take my laptop to Abuela’s house and set up a little workspace on her porch…

Sunsets, luck and chronic fatigue

I’m currently sitting in the living room of my new apartment, on a temporary set up of my own desk chair and a plastic folding table, listening to the repairmen as they replace the broken window. I’m deeply grateful that I don’t have to pay for it. I’m deeply grateful that I get to sit up here and watch the sunset bathe buildings in an orange light.

Pictured: A black window set into white walls, outside of which are buildings lit up by the sunset.

I still don’t know when I’ll be able to move in. Probably not for months. Today’s visit revealed more damage from the broken pipe–the drywall ceiling in both bedrooms was soaked and part of it appears to be crumbling. That will also be replaced by the building company, at no cost to me.

I keep thinking of how extraordinarily lucky it was that I hadn’t had a chance to fully move in. I’d brought my furniture, but it’s all still wrapped, and my books are still snug in their plastic boxes.

Pictured: my current writing setup, a plastic folding table and a gray desk chair. In the background is a black plastic box with a yellow lid.

I left the new apartment shortly after writing the above, meaning to go to the old apartment to do laundry and shower. By the time the clothes I washed were in the dryer, fatigue had crashed over me and I couldn’t do much but lie in bed for the next few hours. I had Pringles and a piece of banana bread for dinner. I didn’t manage to do any writing before I fell asleep at 9pm, having dragged myself out of bed and to my mother’s house.

It’s been two years, and I’m still trying to learn how not to get frustrated with my own body when that kind of thing happens. I don’t dare make a lot of plans these days, because my body’s limits are now unpredictable. I think back to my life in New York in 2018 and 2019, when I could easily clock twenty thousand steps as I traipsed all over Brooklyn and Manhattan, walking almost everywhere so as not to miss a second of the city. In 2022, sometimes eating Pringles in bed is all I can do.

I’m still tired today, though not as badly as yesterday. I did my mother’s laundry and managed to make some more progress in packing up the old apartment. Every little bit counts. I have to remember that when it comes to writing, too. Even if it’s word by word, the next book will eventually get written.

A nourishing start to the week

Content warning: loss of family members

I’ve been living out of a gym bag.

We recently lost two close family members and since we’re all a little fragile right now, I’ve been trying to give as much support to my mother and grandmother as I can. Among other things, that has involved sleeping over at both their houses.

All of this happened just as I was in the process of moving–I was supposed to vacate my old apartment last month but that hasn’t been possible, partly because a pipe broke on the floor above my new apartment and flooded half the building, which unleashed a series of minor disasters (or possibly not so minor?? I’m meeting with an engineer this week to discuss the damage) that included a broken window in the bedroom that was supposed to be my office that has yet to be replaced.

So yeah, part of my things are at my mother’s, part at the new apartment and part at the old apartment, where I’ve been coming every day to shower because the only working shower at my mother’s house broke a couple of days ago.

It’s the mars retrograde, isn’t it?

But anyway, I didn’t come here to complain. We’re all sad and stressed and busy, but we’re doing our best to keep moving. I’m welcoming the opportunity to spend more time with my grandmother and my mother, especially when it means sitting down to a breakfast like this:

Pictured: omelette on white plate with full coffee cup, fork and knife, on a pale green tablecloth printed with flowers.

Usually I’m the one cooking for my mother, so today’s breakfast was a lovely treat prepared by her. It’s a tortilla española (a Spanish omelette) made with onions, red peppers, herbs, and some potatoes left over from yesterday’s meal, which was also a lovely one:

Pictured: Four serving platters containing sliced ham with onions, fried plantains and corn fritters, a salad and a sauce on a pale green tablecloth printed with sliced lemons.

Me and my gym bag are in my old apartment right now, packing up some of the clothes and books that I’d yet to put away. While I do that, I’ve been watching bullet journal videos on YouTube. I mean, is it a wonder that I’m craving organization? I’ve never been a planner kind of person, but I’m seriously considering popping out to buy supplies because the post-its I’ve been writing everything on are scattered around the various places I’m inhabiting and so, it feels like, is my brain.

You know what? I’m going to go right now–I do have a chronic illness and I have to take advantage of the little pockets of time when the fatigue and pain are manageable to do these kinds of things. Be right back.

Well, I’m back four hours later, sans journal, having been suckered into running a few errands. I’ll browse online while I make dinner for myself and my mother…

Audible shorts!

I’m really, really excited to announce that the three short stories I wrote for Audible earlier this year are now available!

Pearl On Her Toes* is a Cinderella-inspired Regency romance: there’s a ball and a missing shoe, plus a duke and a heroine who is as spirited as she is clumsy.

Ellie The Firemage was also inspired by Cinderella…if Cinderella was a firemage who had to save her kingdom from a dragon.

(Why was I so obsessed with Cinderella? Tbh, your guess is as good as mine!)

How To Raise A Magician… Or Two is an instruction manual for the father of two very different (but also surprisingly similar) daughters.

*All links will take you to Amazon.

They are quick little nuggets at approximately 4-6 minutes long–I hope you’ll have as much fun listening as I did writing them!

Shufflin’ Along

I have no words to describe what the past few weeks have been for me and my family. Honestly, I don’t even want to try. So allow me to instead show you the one thing that’s been saving my sanity: feverishly making collages on Pinterest Shuffles. (My handle on there is @lydiaallthetime as it is on most social media, in case you want to follow me, and I am collecting my favorite shuffles in a Pinterest Board if you’d like to see a few and would enjoy befriending me there as well.)

I started off with some moodboard-type collages, loosely inspired by the setting of my books.

Then I experimented with a book-specific collage…

I was too busy and too submerged in grief and exhaustion and anxiety to focus much, though, so I started experimenting with different styles and content.

Then all of a sudden all of the funerals (yeah, plural) and masses and family gatherings were over and I was left with a bewildering amount of free time in my hands. And I had work to do. So I went back to creating collages that were similar in tone to the books I was supposed to be writing, which didn’t actually add any words to my manuscripts but at least made me fool myself into thinking I was Getting Work Done.

And I even played around with a collage inspired by A Lifetime for Love, the companion short story to A Summer for Scandal:

We’re halfway through October, and I really can’t keep procrastinating. My schedule, carefully constructed around the chronic fatigue that has kept me home for the past couple of years, is in need of a gigantic overhaul. But I’m still making time every day to play around on Shuffles while I listen to music or podcasts, a luxury I wouldn’t have allowed myself a few months ago.

So anyway, here I am, shuffling along in every sense of the word, trying to move forward even if it’s only a small step at a time.

Well, I have a new hyperfocus

Instead of telling you just how many hours I have lost to Pinterest Shuffles since I got an invite last night (let’s just say I woke up at 11am with a collage hangover) let me instead show you some of the collages I’ve been making.

This is the only one directly inspired by one of my books (The Infamous Miss Rodriguez.)

The rest are more…what the inside of my head looks like when I’m writing one of my historical romances?

I was a Polyvore fiend in the early 00s, and Shuffles feels like an updated form of that. I’m really looking forward to making more book-specific collages and not, like, procrastinating on actual writing by letting the hours slip by while I fiddle around with pretty pictures…

What have I been up to lately?

You mean, aside from inhaling inhuman amounts of coffee and frozen Oreos?

One of the last outdoor writing sessions I managed to sneak in before the heat got to be too much for me!

Summer in the tropics usually means rainstorms, cyclones and hurricanes. The heat and humidity are unbearable–and yet, not a single Dominican will give up their mid-afternoon coffee.

It’s also Sahara dust season–for days at a time, the sky grows hazy with particles that have blown halfway across the world. The beaches are thick with brown algae, and heat gets more intense than usual. That usually means that it’s time for me to give up my outdoorsy life (of picnics and outdoor cafes: a hiker or camper I am not) and retreat into my air conditioned cave (also known as my apartment) before I become a Sweaty Swamp Monster.

Here are some of the things I’ve been doing from the blissful cool:

  • What’s it like working with my editor and what did I do when I got The Call from Harlequin Historical? Find out in this short Q&A! (The link leads to writeforharlequin.com)
  • Over at Fresh Fiction, I’m talking about the secret that will make my Abuelas and Tias disown me. (How’s that for a click-baity title?! Spoiler alert: the secret has a lot to do with my inability to cook rice and beans.)
  • I was also invited to talk about San Pedro de Macorís, the setting for Compromised Into A Scandalous Marriage, for the Mills&Boon blog.
  • I’d also love to share a Q&A I did with Andreina Rodriguez from Dominican Writers where we spoke about history, architecture, past, present and future books, and so much more.

And last of all, if you haven’t already checked out Compromised Into A Scandalous Marriage, my first title with Harlequin Historical, now would be a good time! (Link leads to Harlequin.com)

Thanks for checking in!