Category Archives: real life

20 minutes, my ass!

I am now the proud owner of a sit/stand desk. Too much sitting irritates, well, everything and everyone.

The “20 minutes to assemble” is clearly just the frame (which you usually buy separately.) We took apart my old Ikea desk and re-used the desktop.

Three hours later… I need another shower before our anniversary dinner tonight. And what a milestone anniversary it’s been. Not that it’s any significant number, but that we actually completed a project–the non-20-minute assembly–without fighting!

And now out to dinner. Happy Victoria Day everyone.

sit stand desk

How to Make Friends in San Miguel

I wrote the following article for the San Miguel de Allende SPA (Sociedad Protectora de Animales). It appeared in their newsletter and also in the city’s newspaper, the Atención.

Paul sitting w dogs SMAHow to Make Friends in San Miguel by Paul Schiratti (It’s published under Mr. Grumpy’s name, but I wrote it.)

Years ago, while waiting in line at the Teatro Angela Peralta, I overheard the stranger behind me say he needed a fourth for tennis.

“I brought my racket,” I said.

“Great! Here’s where we’re playing…”

I’ve been playing with them ever since.

That’s hardly a unique experience in San Miguel. Five minutes in the Jardin and you’ve already met two new people and received three restaurant recommendations.

I’ve met many wonderful people and had many exceptional experiences in San Miguel, but the most fulfilling, the one I hurry back to each year, is walking the dogs at the S.P.A.

No sooner do I unpack, when I head down Canal Street to see my friends. My welcome is deafening. Barking, howling, baying—a sweet melody of doggie greeting. I walk through the well-maintained, volunteer-run facility, past each brightly painted cage to see old friends and new faces.

There’s Dulce and Guera, Shy and Nube. I’ve been walking them for years.

And years.

Paul dog walking SMAI’m delighted to see them, but it breaks my heart they’re still here, year after year, hopefully awaiting their forever homes. No matter how clean and bright each cage is, it’s still a cage. Dogs need a home of their own and a family—even a family of one. Add a dog, and now you’re two.

I volunteer because I love dogs, San Miguel and walking and making new friends—of both the human and the canine varieties. The S.P.A. satisfies all my passions.

I walk the larger dogs, together with other volunteers—strangers one minute, best buddies the next. My wife prefers the smaller dogs, and sometimes “socializes the puppies.” (Read: plays with them.) Cats, too.

Sadly, this year, we stayed home because our older rescue dog had grown too frail to board. And indeed, she crossed the rainbow bridge just before Christmas—too late for us to change our plans and join you in SMA this year.

I miss San Miguel, the Jardin, the coffee window, parque Benito Juarez. I miss Azteca soup and the soulful violin of Pedro Cartas. I miss the music and the dining and the art and the people.

But most of all, I miss the dogs.

Here's Paul with t

Here’s Paul with the casita we sponsor each year.

 

 

Why do you write? No, really. I wanna know.

In this recent post, “I Hate Self-Promotion,” Tim Grahl, one of the marketing gurus who offers good content for free, asks, “What is Your Why?”  In other words, why do you write?

He says that if you understand your “why,” you will stop hating self-promotion. So I’m thinking about my why.

I know I write to entertain. My books usually contain humor–either direct jokes and puns, or humorous situations–but that’s not enough. My latest book, UNPLUGGED (title subject to change), deals with tragedy. Oh, sure, my hero has a wry wit and a keen sense of observation, but it’s not exactly funny. So entertaining, yes, but is that enough?

After more thought, I realize I also write to encourage diversity. My characters always represent my real world: they’re not all white, able-bodied, straight people. I feature characters of color, differing sexualities, and physical disabilities.

Since I’m a “think out loud” kinda person, let’s talk about it. Food for thought has very few calories, right? So let’s all answer the question: Why do you write?

Why do you write graphic

What did you read in 2015?

In 2015, I didn’t writbest books of 2015e much, but apparently I read a whole lot.

I finished 70 books—some paper, some e and some audio. (There were 5 more I started but didn’t finish.)

The way they break down is interesting:

1 ghost story romance
2 literary novels
3 middle grades
10 mysteries
7 thrillers
8 urban fantasies
1 sci-fi
And 37 Young Adult novels

But Gina, that’s only 69.

Yes, 1 read only 1 non-fiction book this year.

And of that 70 books, 4 were re-reads.

Each year I vote for BOOK OF THE YEAR.

Of the 37 YAs I read in 2015, I’d say my fave was ME AND EARL AND THE DYING GIRL by Jesse Andrews, although DUMPLIN‘ by Julie Murphy ran a close second. And if you liked DUMPLIN’, read THE JOCK AND THE FAT CHICK by Nicole Winters.

Of all the others… The two Cormoran Strike mysteries, CU
CKOO’S CALLING
and THE SILK WORM by JK Rowling w/a Robert Galbraith. Interesting to contrast Striker with Reacher, having just mainlined 32 of Lee Child’s Jack Reacher books before reading the two Galbraiths. And there’s a third Cormoran Strike book out now. I’ve put a hold on the various versions at the library. Whichever one comes first: audio, e or print, I’ll grab that and cancel the others.

So that’s what I read in 2015. How ’bout you?

 

 

2014 vs 2015 vs 2016

In 2014, I was tremendously productive. I wrote new books, re-wrote old ones, learned how to self-publish, including formatting, hooked up with an awesome cover artist, opened a business, opened author accounts at all the major etailers, attended conferences, joined Weight Watchers and read books. In the end, I’d lost 15 lbs. and self-published 8 books!

all SP covers as one

In 2015, however, I wrote the first draft of a YA contemp book, and edited a gay historical. I wrote a couple of YA shorts that need more work. So in fact, I have pretty much nothing to show for 2015.

I think one of the differences is that in 2014, I set goals: yearly and monthly. I also goaled daily with my friend Joan Leacott.

In 2015. No goals. In fact, after I raced through the first draft of UNPLUGGED, I gave myself permission to relax. And I think I fell off the productivity wagon.

The day I left the full-time job in 2010, I made a point of keeping the nine-to-five schedule. Every day I walked the dogs, did non creative stuff in the morning, then wrote new words or edited existing words all afternoon. In the evenings I socialized, watched TV and read. In 2014, I restricted myself to 2 hours of TV a night.

But since around April, I’ve watched a lot of TV, and written not much in the way of new words.

I also gained back all the weight I lost in 2014. So in retrospect, 2015 was not my year. But don’t get me wrong. I was happy enough. I entertained visitors, was a guest at cottages, and toured China. I lost my dear old dog, Billie. I have a couple of big, ongoing issues in my life, counterbalanced by having a lot of good friends.

I’m hard on myself. But I also know about re-filling the well.

I don’t make New Year’s Resolutions, but I do set goals. And sometimes goals set themselves. My sister-in-law lent me a beginner yoga DVD on Boxing Day. I’ve done yoga 4 days in a row–25 minutes of much-needed stretching. My muscles ache now from use, not from disuse–somehow it’s a much healthier pain. And while the yoga itself is difficult, making myself do it… is not.

Here are some goals I’m setting for 2016: The first one I’m working on this very minute–to return to blogging. You all want to hear my every thought, right?

So… my goals for 2016:

–Blog regularly.

–Finish 3 short YAs for various purposes. Two are drafted, one is still in my brain.

–Get back to UNPLUGGED. My agent probably expected it months ago. Let that be motivation for me.

–I will get another round of edits on RE-INVENTING LOVE, the gay historical. Hopefully that won’t take me another five weeks to do. (The first round was painful–I think I committed the cardinal sin of submitting before it was quite ready.)

I anticipate being done with all of this by June. My rule of thumb, however, based on years of experience is… if I think this will take six months to do, double it. Oh, look. I’ve got goals for 2016.

Let’s get productive!

 

Harrington Park Press is back. Did you know that?

From their website: Harrington Park Press, previously the LGBTQ imprint of The Haworth Press (now part of Routledge/Taylor & Francis) is now re-launched as a specialized academic/scholarly print and ebook publisher devoted to emerging topics in LGBTQ diversity, equality, and inclusivity.

Huh. No idea when that happened, but I found out this morning when the Bill Cohen, Owner/Publisher, requested we connect on LinkedIn. Of course I accepted.

My very first sale was to Haworth/Harrington back in ’07. I’d submitted a short story to their then-acquisitions editor, awesome author and all-round great guy, Greg Herren, and he said the story was too long for his anthology, but would I consider expanding it into a novel for Haworth. I tried, but that particular story wasn’t expandable, so instead I offered him GYM DANDY, which he accepted. We got as far as a “coming soon” placeholder on the Haworth website when Haworth was acquired by Taylor & Francis. They only wanted the non-fiction titles and that left us fictioneers in limbo for a while.

Eventually, I got my rights back and sold the book to MLR Press, and more recently, self-published it. But I met some great people while we were trying to figure out what was going on with our books, including Toronto author Jeffrey Round who was very supportive of my stumbling efforts when I was just starting out.

So, huh. I don’t think I write what Harrington is looking for, but you might. Check ’em out.

Gym Dandy_200

 

Right to Death, Live to Write

Do you ever find that things come to you exactly when you need them? No sooner had my agent said, “Everyone’s looking for YA contemporaries right now,” when writerly pal Sherry Isaac said something that triggered THE BIG HIGH CONCEPT (and later, more input that served to round out TBHC).

Then a friend of Mr. Grumpy’s called me to ask if I could help his friend get her book published. The friend turned out to be both awesome and a lawyer, just when my plot points needed legal guidance.

Then a flyer came through the door advertising a Town Hall during which the discussion topic would be PHYSICIAN ASSISTED DYING. Tragically, I know more about the politics of Westeros than of Ontario. So yesterday I did the most political thing I’d done since marching with pro-choice hero Henry Morgentaler back in the 90s.

I went. And I took notes. What a fascinating discussion. Our MP, Carolyn Bennett, a physician by training, began the town hall with an open forum on any topic. People asked a wide range of questions and she was eloquent, informed and passionate on every subject, whether it was about the other party’s behaviour, or the proposed use of the North-West Passage. Wow!

Then she intro’d two experts on the subject of Physician Assisted Dying, both reputable and knowledgeable persons from relevant organizations. In February of this year, the law preventing physician assisted dying had been declared unconstitutional and struck down. It leaves a hole in the legal system during which the status quo stands, but the system is charged with developing a replacement law by February 2016.

Me? I’m all for it. But that’s not what I want to get into here. I’m a writer, I was interested in the process of the forum.

Taking the highly emotional subject matter out of the equation, the discussion itself was fascinating to me.

Each expert spoke for 10 minutes, rationally, factually, obviously preparedly. But following the separate speeches, they were allowed to debate each other. Then the emotions came into play.

Although they were diametrically opposed on the yes/no of the issue, when they elaborated, they were surprisingly close on their reasoning.

The language they used was interesting. I wouldn’t call it spin-doctoring, since that has pejorative connotations, but each used language positive to their stance, which only makes sense.

Jack Pasht, Director of Dying with Dignity, used words like “end of life care,” “choice,” “dignity,” etc. Michael Bach, EVP, Community Living Ontario, used words like “interveners” and “suicide.”

While Jack was pro and Michael was con, they both shared all the same concerns, that other forms of care should be considered/accessed first such as palliative care and pain strategies. That the decision process must have checks and balances. Both sides were concerned about potential mis-use of the law, should it be granted.

If I were in charge, I’d let the Jacks of the world run things, but in active consultation with the Michaels. They need each other.

The Town Hall was held in a nursing home, so most of the attendees were seniors. The general consensus in the room was that people should be allowed to make their own choices, which more than mirrored the stated fact that 84% of Canadians are in favor of physician assisted dying. In fact, I heard nothing to the contrary.

I left before the comments got heated, but by that point, nobody had mentioned God or religion. I can’t help but wonder how Oregon and Washington managed to get it passed.

So for the first time in ages, I actually hold an informed opinion. YMMV.

I might attend more of these things.

.  This book was recommended. I might pick up a copy. LetMeDecide-coverfront

 

 

#LGBT Push Back Giveway and more!

 

I’m rarely serious in my blog, but today’s post is very serious, indeed.

giveaway poster


Read the full post here

LGBT people make up less than 10% of the overall population, yet 40% of homeless kids in the U.S. identify as LGBT. Of them, 68% cited family rejection for the reason they were on the streets. Studies have repeatedly shown that homeless LGBT kids are more at risk of being attacked, robbed, and raped than their heterosexual counterparts, more likely to engage in prostitution or survival sex, more likely to turn to drugs or alcohol, and more likely to attempt or commit suicide. Despite this, less than 25% of homeless shelters cater for or specifically target LGBT kids, leaving them at the mercy of individual organizations who can pick and choose who they help and who they abandon on the streets. Laws such as Indiana’s SB 101 enshrine the legality of refusing service—including such basic assistance as food and shelter—to people specifically because they’re LGBT.

This isn’t about pizza. This is about creating a climate in which LGBT individuals feel isolated from and rejected by the rest of society. It’s about creating a climate in which parents feel justified for kicking their kids out on the street. It’s about cutting off any and all support networks which might otherwise be available to prevent kids from ending up on life’s scrapheap because of how they were born.

Want to read a happier ending?

Changing laws and attitudes takes time, and right now there are LGBT people in need who can’t afford to wait. The sooner we can help them, the better, and the more resources we have, the more help we can offer.

That’s why 224 authors, review bloggers, and publishers have got together to offer something wonderful: a reward for people who do a little bit to give back to charity. Instead of spending $5 on a book in the next two weeks, give that $5 to an LGBT charity of your choice, tell us about it in the comments, and go into the draw to win a book from one of our participating donors. And because it’s not all about money, if you can’t make a donation then please take a moment to share a charity’s links and tell us about that instead.

Three fundraisers have been set up to counter the hateful effects of Indiana’s SB 101. #Pizza4Equality is aiming to match the money raised by *that* pizza parlor, with all donations going to Cyndi Lauper’s True Colors Fund. Another fundraiser is aiming to raise $100,000 for Indiana Youth Group. Finally, Planting Peace is trying to raise $100,000 to provide beds for homeless LGBT people.

Please consider giving to one of these deserving fundraisers, or any other LGBT charity anywhere in the world. We’re not telling you where you should donate your time and money, only asking that you do. The smallest things can make the biggest difference, and together, we can do something incredible.

Thank you.

What did I read this year?

In addition to studying self-publishing, publishing 4 backlist books with 2 more ready to go early in 2015, and writing three new books, I also read.

In 2014, I read 68 books in a mixture of formats. I did some re-reading because I couldn’t find anything I wanted to read. Where’s all this content everyone’s raving about? I start a lot of books and then abandon them if they don’t grab me.

But what did grab me?

In non-fiction, I loved “Write. Publish. Repeat.” If you read no other book on self-publishing, this is the one. And that book led me to read “Fat Vampire” by one of authors of WPR, Johnny B. Truant. I quickly downloaded and read all six books in the Fat Vampire series. And gave ’em all 5-star reviews. The Kindle edition of “Fat Vampire” appears to be perma-free. Check it out if you’re looking for a fun urban fantasy with a truly engaging character.

In November, I decided to read a thriller. Since urban fantasy (what I write) is said to differ from high or epic fantasy because it moves “at thriller pace,” I figured I should actually read a thriller. I started downloading audiobooks from the library of Lee Child’s “Jack Reacher” series. I’ve listened to 16 audiobooks in about 6 weeks!

What did you read in 2014 that really struck you?

Fat Vampire

 

You had one job, Bell Canada. One job!

Bell’s phone people arrived last week to install a new phone pole. Which they chose to install DIRECTLY IN THE MIDDLE OF MY FRONT WALKWAY!!! Why not the flower bed 18 inches to the west?

Even once they take away the old one, nobody can get up or down my front walk.

You had one job BellI’ve talked to a supervisor, but I won’t be around to see if anything happens since I’ll be at the GayRomLit and Novelists Inc. conferences.

Really, Bell Canada? Srsly? You had one job…

 

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