Saturday, August 31, 2013

Early experiences of living in Somerville: the RMV

This is a helpful advice post for any Canadians moving to the US.

Andrew and I have been living in Somerville for a month and a half now (yeesh, has it really been that long already?) and it seemed time to take care of our drivers licenses and car registration. So, last Thursday we waded into bureaucratic hell for the day (so maybe just bureaucratic purgatory). I cried, twice. And at the of the day I still didn't have a license or a car registration.

So, what happened?

The RMV opened at 10:00 am. We'd been told it would be a good idea to show up early, at least half an hour, so we did. We biked over to the RMV as it seemed the a better plan over driving through rush hour, then trying to find parking/pay for it when we found it. The line up at 9:30 was already stretched along three quarters of the block--thankfully it was a nice day, so waiting outside wasn't too unpleasant. Neither of us remembered to bring a book, so it wasn't very interesting waiting.

Once the doors opened the line moved fairly quickly, with a front reception desk that directed people to where they needed to go (which was a good thing since there were at least 3 floors to the RMV we went to). Each person was handed a ticket with their number and the estimated wait time. I headed off to the licencing area, while Andrew tried to get our car registered.

When I got up to the desk I handed over my papers (driver's abstract, visa documents, drivers licence), then I was asked where my application form was. Application form? I didn't have one. So, the lady handed me a form and told me to come back when I'd filled it out. I did as quickly as possible, then re-approached her desk. She took everything again, then as she was going through things I pointed out that I didn't have a social (security number, they're big here in the US, they're needed for everything). Then I was told I had to get a social security denial form. Of course, this wasn't available at the RMV, so I'd have to go several subway stops away to the nearest office.

The lady polite enough, she even told me if I could get back by 2:00 pm (it was around 11:15 at this point), I could come back up to her desk without waiting. I mumbled out a thanks then left. By the time Andrew and I got down to our bikes I was blinking back tears.

We biked home (about a 30 minute ride), had some lunch, and decided it would be best if we did the social security stuff that day. There was one located in Cambridge, so we drove over there, managed to find some on street parking and a cafe where we could get change for the meter. The line up at the social security office wasn't too long, we probably made it to a desk in 15 minutes. The woman who helped us was very nice, then she noticed I'd handed over Andrew's passport instead of mine.

No problem, I had my visa info, did I have my driver's licence (photo ID)? Of course I did...I opened up my, I didn't have my driver's license, it was with all the other papers I'd taken to the RMV and was still tucked in my pannier. We couldn't proceed without at least my photo ID or my passport. By the time were back to the car I was in tears. I had a nice little breakdown in the car. The tears were mostly just stress-related, and I hadn't slept well the nicght before. Andrew drove us back home, I ran up stairs and grabbed the documents I'd forgotten, then we drove back to the office (it closed at 3:00 pm). This time we were successful in getting the forms we needed.

I went back to the RMV on Monday, I received my Mass driver's licence on Friday.

What you need to get your Canadian driver's license switched to an American one (you can also double check this online at: Mass DOT RMV):
1) You're out of state driver's license.
2) A document showing your birth date.
3) A document showing your signature.
4) A document proving your residence in your new state.
5) A driver's abstract no more than 30 days old.
6) A social security number, OR a denial notice.

An out of state driver's license can be used to prove your birth date or your signature, but NOT both.
All documents must be originals.

I handed over:
1) My Alberta driver's license.
2) My passport (with supporting visa documents to show I was legal to be here).
3) My cheque book (to show my residence in Somerville).
4) My Alberta's driver's abstract (which I had to get my friend Lisa [thanks Lisa!] to order since the one we got before we moved expired).
5) My denial notice for a social security number.

You also need to fill out an application form, which you can get when you get online, or at the RMV.


Monday, August 26, 2013

My venture into self-publishing: my cover

One of the steps involved in self-publishing is getting/developing/creating cover art. You need something to catch the eye of a browser, right? Because people really do judge books by their covers.

When it came to thinking about my art, I knew I didn't possess the skills to create something cool, so I contacted a friend of mine, Anna Krider, who has tons of skillz in graphic design. To see her work, you can check out her website: Peach Pants Press.

I didn't have any particular ideas of what I wanted my cover to look like, I just wanted it to look "professional." After a little back and forth, Anna created something funky and abstract. I like the sparkly bits throughout the body, plus she used some nifty layering techniques (that I can't tell you about because it's actually spoiler related!). Anywho, here's my cover:

Now I have a super awesome cover, and I got to employ the skills of a friend. Two birds down with one stone, I'd say.


Monday, August 19, 2013

Early experiences of living in Somerville: churches

I really wanted to write a blog post about how Andrew and I went windsurfing on Saturday--we did, it was super fun, much better than surfboarding--but I don't have any pictures to include in the post. We were, you know, on the water, on easily tipped sailboards, which wasn't a conducive setting for picture taking. We spent most of our day at Old Silver Beach either in the windsurfing lesson (1 hour) or actually windsurfing (4 hours), so we don't even have any pictures of Cape Cod, or of the nearby town of Falmouth.

Instead, this post is about some of the churches in our area.

I've noticed over the last month that there are a lot of churches in the Boston area and so I thought it might be interesting to take pictures of the buildings. Just the exteriors. These are small-ish churches that I wouldn't expect to be open to random visitors/tourists. And I feel weird enough standing on the street taking pictures, so I'm not about to knock on doors and try to get inside.

The first church is the Mission Church of Our Lord Jesus Christ of the Apostolic Faith (whew, what a mouth full). From what I can tell, this is only the name of the congregation and sadly, the church's website doesn't seem to provide any additional historic information about the building.

The second building is actually a Jewish Temple, Temple B'nai Brith, which is described as: an independent egalitarian congregation with historical roots in the Conservative movement. Again, I'm struggling to find any historic information on the Temple (the website appears to be down), but a secondhand source suggests it was built in 1922.

Right around the corner from the Temple is a Spanish-language church, Vida Real, which from what I can tell is a large Spanish-Christian organization that runs several churches around the United States. I'm really striking our on trying to provide background information on these buildings. The website for this one is all in Spanish, which of course I can't read. At least there was a stone with the date 1908 carved into it this church, so I'm going to hazard a guess and say that was the year it was built or founded.

The final church I photographed today was the Somerville branch of the Christ the King Presbyterian Church of Boston. This congregation also seems pretty new and their website says that Presbyterian Church of America wasn't founded until 1973, which surprises me, as I assumed it would be older. Maybe that's only in Canada?

And this concludes my not very informative tour of the churches, and temples...the worship facilities? I suspect there's a proper word for describing churches and temples en mass, but I can't remember what it is right now. Maybe next time I'll succeed in finding some historical background information on buildings in my neighbourhood.



Thursday, August 15, 2013

My venture into self-publishing: the why

I haven't looked back over my blog posts to see how many times I've said I wasn't going to self-publish. It's probably been more than once, or twice, or...enough times, anyways. Sometimes I feel like I have no constancy. I tend to run with an idea for a while, while it's exciting and new, but once things aren't going so smoothly, or they're taking too long and the excitement wanes, I change my mind, or perhaps more accurately, I just give up.

So, what's changed this time around?

Back in April, around my birthday, I was exchanging messages with a friend. A friend who I contact whenever I need publishing advice, usually when I get a hint of success (I've had 2 different publishing companies interested in my work, one for Nora, one for Ava, but they've both fallen through). When we were talking this time, she mentioned that she had released some work through the Amazon Kindle Select program. I'd already released Nora here on my blog, but it hadn't gotten a large readership, and so I got to thinking.

It still might not get a large readership on Amazon, but would it hurt? It couldn't hurt. Right?

E, self-publishing is popular. Occasionally authors see a great deal of success--not that I'm expecting big numbers and big money--but authors are also seeing decent success. With the Amazon Kindle Select program anyone can publish with it (although there are some rules about what type of material can be published) and editing isn't required (although I hired an editor to go through the manuscript). The royalties are also much better with an e-book than a print book, which is a plus--assuming I can get people to buy mine.

And so I hope to have The Cure available early to mid September. This isn't exactly how I'd always dreamed of making my publishing debut, I've clung to the idea of being traditionally published for a long time, but at least for Nora, it's the only way she's going to see a wide release. I feel that I've racked up enough rejections with her to have to take the hint that no one's interested. I'm still going to query agents and editors with my other series Cimwai's Bay, but who knows, maybe if Nora does well, I might try the same thing with Ava.

So does has this post answered the why?

If not, feel free to ask a question, although as I note, I moderate the comments, so it won't show up immediately.



Saturday, August 10, 2013

My venture into self-publishing

I haven't exactly started my venture into self-publishing yet (if you consider the start to be once the book is finally available for purchase on Amazon), but I've been getting ready. I've been editing and formatting my manuscript, acquiring cover art, etc. It's coming and soon (I'm aiming for early in September).

I plan to compose a few lead-up posts prior to the book's release describing the processes I went through such as finally making the decision to self-publish, getting an editor, finding an artist to create a cover, formatting the manuscript and then finally making it available on Amazon.

But, you might be wondering gentle Reader, what manuscript am I publishing? Well, I've decided to start with The Cure. Which means I will soon be taking down the posts which I released last fall and winter. It's partly, the cow v. the free milk scenario. It's also that Amazon has an exclusivity clause so I'd be contractually obligated to remove it.

So, watch this space over the next couple of weeks for more details on the release of The Cure, and maybe even consider purchasing it once it's not available. Or, if young adult speculative fiction isn't your bag, consider passing it on to someone to whom it would appeal.



Monday, August 5, 2013

Early experiences of living in Somerville: a walk around the neighbourhood.

I took a walk around my new neighbourhood this afternoon. This served the duo purpose of giving me some exercise, but also giving me the opportunity to take some photos. Further, the exercise was also a method of getting myself out of our apartment, and the photos might give those of my readers who don't live in Somerville (which I assume are most of you) an idea of where I now reside.

Garden's are very popular in Somerville. Lots of houses have flowers out front, and we've also seen some extensive vegetable gardens. I felt it would be a bit weird to photograph other peoples' residences, so I didn't, but I did stop in the small public space we pass on our way to the local grocery store. It's the Quincy Street Open Space, if you can't tell from the picture, which includes chairs and stones to lounge on while you enjoy the shade and flowers.

As I said in my last post, Union Square is the square closest to us. It takes less than ten minutes to walk there and it contains a number of restaurants, a few businesses, churches, and our local grocery store. There's a farmer's market on Saturdays (in the space shown in the third picture below), but it seems that all the produce is fancy-pants organic, for which I'm unwilling to pay. I also noticed while I was out this afternoon that there was an interesting mural painted on the exterior of one of the buildings (fourth picture below).

It seems that we've landed in an area with lots of history--perhaps not difficult since Boston itself was founded in 1630, and Somerville was established in 1842 when it separated from Charlestown. There are several monuments close by. The first is for men who died in the American Civil War, and the one below is for men who died in the war with Spain (which I'm assuming was the war over Texas). There was a memorial for the Second World War, but it isn't terrible attractive so I skipped the pictures.

The public library is also close by, and if I remember correctly, the building was erected in the 1880s ('84, maybe?). The top pictures show the exterior of the library. What you can't tell is to the left of the main column, there's a 'Fallout Shelter' sign. I tried to get a closer shot, but the picture wasn't all that attractive. After a quick survey of the initial foyer area, I determined I need to go upstairs to find the adult and non-fiction collection. The space is open and brightly light, and I headed straight up to the gallery area (so I didn't look like some weird lady taking pictures in the library) to get a couple of shots. Overall I was pleased to find that the interior was really rather nice.

The last set of pictures for today comes from the Somerville High School and City Hall, which happen to be located next to each other. I don't know anything about the High School, except that it's there. I'm really not going to try to poke around a school, especially when students are out for the summer, it just seems like a recipe for a trespassing charge. The second picture is of the HUB bikes I've talked about a couple of times. There are stations all over the city, one being right outside City Hall. The last image is the front entrance of City Hall, although again, I don't know much about it as at that point I wanted to head home.

So that's my neighbourhood. It was a beautiful day.

Ciao, Andrea

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Early experiences of living in Somerville: Getting around

I've been pondering what I should post about next now that the hubby and me are reasonably settled, but I haven't come up with any really interesting, knock your socks off ideas yet. I mean, it's been two weeks and two days (as of my beginning to write this). We still don't know many people in town and I'm still working from home (cross your fingers for me), but I think we're starting to get our bearings and figure things out.

Let me tell you a little about the Boston area. When the hubby and I decided we were going to move, we announced it as: "We're moving to Boston." That isn't exactly right. We're living in the greater Boston area, but the actual city we reside in is Somerville. MIT, were the hubby is conducting his post-doc is in Cambridge, which is about a fifteen minute bike ride from our apartment. See, Boston is actually made up of many smaller cities (like Toronto, I suppose) and they all seem to have their own mayors, parking rights, etc. Our current running route takes us out of Somerville and into Medford, and if we crossed the Charles River we'd end up in Boston.

Dotted throughout these cities are different squares where there's a hub of restaurants (mainly), shops and other businesses. We live closest to Union Square, but Davis Square is straight down the road from us, and Porter (where we go for our aerials classes) is about ten minutes by bike. To make navigating the cities fun, it would seem that streets converge in these squares at odd angles and there doesn't seem to be a parallel street in the area. Well, lots of the shorter streets that only run a block are two are often parallel to the next one over, but main streets like Harvard, Mass Ave, Cambridge, etc., are more shaped the metaphoric dog's hind leg. Oh, and streets change names even when they don't change direction--I think there's at least three Hancock Streets.

I would explain how one crosses the street here, but I don't think we've figured out any rules to go by except this: if the street is clear and you're not in danger of getting run over, go for it.

Thank fully there are bike lanes everywhere, which makes biking fairly stress free, and most drivers seem courteous to cyclists. After biking in Edmonton for seven years, the Boston area is a breeze. Plus, if you're just visiting the city you can rent a HUBway bike. The bikes themselves are kind of clunky, and it's impossible to bike very fast on them, but they came in handy while we were waiting for our belongings to arrive. Over all, I think our car is going to be doing a lot of sitting in our apartment parking spot.

Which brings me to my next point, parking. We're lucky to have off-street parking at our apartment. We're even more lucky that we don't have to pay an arm and a leg for our spot. The way it seems to work in the Boston area is this: you purchase a parking pass from the city you live in (it's actually pretty cheep, like thirty dollars/year) and then you can park where ever you like in your city (as long as it's legal of course, and it's not a metered spot). Sundays you can park wherever you like. The catch is you have to find a parking spot, which isn't always so easy. Another benefit to having a Smart car--it fits into spots no one else can use.

I think I'll leave it at that for now. I ought to post some pictures, which would mean I need to take some. Maybe if I have time over the next couple of days I'll bike around with the camera and take some shots.