WiP Report: Life Happens, Part 1

Feeding the Cats

Our little panther Safa boy Bombay (on the left) isn’t a picky eater and chows down on dry food. But last March his sibling Honey girl (on the right) quit eating and became terribly thin. Thus began our attempts to keep her alive. (FYI: with our current budget, taking the cats to the vet isn’t an option.)

The staff at the local pet store probably got tired of me when I came in, and with their help chose a can or two of food to try. Over several weeks, we tried out at least a dozen different kinds. Most I took back because Honey stuck up her kitty nose at them and traded them for other kinds to try.

It took weeks and weeks until we finally discovered the magic ingredient that would pique her appetite – pork liver. Even then we had to narrow the choice to certain recipes of the brand we finally settled on. For instance, she won’t eat the hairball formula at all and the spayed and neutered only occasionally, but others like the aging formula she gobbles up so fast we have to supervise her eating so she doesn’t promptly barf the stuff right back up again. (Sorry for the graphic detail.)

Just finding the right food didn’t end the saga of feeding the cats. No indeed, it took many weeks to develop a system of feeding Honey that seems to satisfy her. Here’s the current one.

Around 6:30 AM, she begins her campaign of yowling at one or the other of her two Mommies, the young Mommy in her bedroom in the front of the house or the old Mommy in the bedroom in the back.

Some cats have a pleasant, euphonious meow. Honey has one of those high-pitched Siamese screeches about as dulcet as dragging fingernails down a chalkboard. She starts with that and progresses to vaulting the sleeper back and forth. If her prey still resists those attempts, she resorts to sneaking her paw out with nails slightly unsheathed and pricking the Mommy lightly on the nose. The thing, though, that always gets the old Mommy (me) out of bed is her purr. I can’t resist it and will get up at last to feed her.

The Mommy serves Honey a quarter of a three-ounce can of food four times a day. It must be thin slices in gravy because she eschews the (cheaper) loaf style in the six-ounce cans because 1) she doesn’t recognize that style as edible and 2) she won’t eat food from a can opened the previous day. We heap the tender morsels in a small puddle of gravy in the middle of a bowl. It has to be a perfectly clean bowl, not one that contains even the tiniest bits of an earlier serving that might be hard and dry. Before serving the cat, the Mommy covers the can containing the unused food with plastic wrap and then covers the can with a fresh bowl, so ants don’t get in it. (Note: we can’t refrigerate the food because Honey won’t eat cold food.)

So then the Mommy serves the quarter can of whatever to Honey and meanwhile tops off the bowls of dry food that Honey’s brother Safa happily munches on whenever he wants to. (Note 1: This kind of food must be a single layer or the boy won’t eat it either. Note 2: Sometimes the girl eats the dry food too, but only after she’s had her tender slices of pork liver in gravy.)

The food Honey will eat isn’t cheap. Indeed, it costs up to $1.72 per can or around $50 a month. But this Mommy will not let it be said that the cat died because we were too cheap to buy food she would eat.

Okay, let’s go back to the title of this WiP Report, which presumably has something to do with my Work-in-Progress. Indeed it does. You see, when we started dealing with this issue last year, Honey was getting us up at five-thirty if not earlier. (You try explaining the change from Daylight Savings Time to Central Standard Time to a cat.) The young Mommy usually can get back to sleep after feeding the cats, but not me, the old Mommy. So gradually I got sleep deprived. For example, the week of October 21 – 27, 2018, I averaged 5 hours and 39 minutes. (Even my usual target amount of sleep of 7 hours and 15 minutes is well below the 8 hours and something others in my age group average.)

Then I injured my right shoulder and my left hip, probably for going after my exercise routine too hard. After that I got sick. I had a cold in November while I wrote a novel for NaNoWriMo2018 and an even worse cold at the end of December and the start of January. It was torture for me to get a decent night’s sleep rolling from my sore shoulder to my sore hip and coughing hard whenever I tried to sleep on my back. And so I got bronchitis in February.

I’m happy to report that I’m feeling better now that I’ve paid a couple of visits to the doctor’s office, got some medications, and started visiting a physical therapist. But you know what? It takes time to be sick and get physical therapy and all that stuff. And all of this interfered with my writing schedule.

 

Suffice it to say here that I’m now feeling more like myself and I will tell you about some of the decisions about my writing that I’ve made in my next WiP Report.

Best, Juliet

The Churl in the Parking Lot

The Churl in the Parking Lot

It’s December 1, 2018, shortly before 11, and I’m driving through a light rain on my way to my Sisters in Crime meeting. I’m very excited about it, too, because our speaker today is Julie Mulhern, author of the Country Club Murders and Poppy Fields series, both of which I adore.

I pull into the lower parking lot outside the library. Seeing no places in the closest rank, I drive on past the filled places,, turn right at the end of the row, turn right again and right once more into a narrow slot between a black sedan and another vehicle. I turn off the windshield wipers and then the car, get out, and lock the door.

It’s then I first hear the voice. I look around. There’s nobody in sight in the rainy parking lot. I hear the voice again. I look around again and still don’t see anyone. I hear the voice a third time and this time I make out what the voice is saying and it’s very close. “Ma’am, you hit my car,” a man says.

I stoop down and see a shadowy figure behind the wheel of the black sedan. He’s holding a cell phone to his ear. “Ma’am, you hit my car,” he says again.

I straighten up and look down at the door of the sedan. I see a white blip, but it rubs off. I rub off another white blip before I lean down and look into the car. “I don’t see any damage.” About then I realize that if this guy really gave a crap, he would have gotten out of the car and looked.

“Ma’am, you hit my car,” he growls once more, sitting tight while this old lady still stands out in the rain. Maybe that’s the purpose of the exercise or just to jack me around or to show what a hard a$$ he is to whoever he’s talking to on the phone.

Regardless, I say, “I’ll be more careful next time,” and hustle down the hill and into the library.

The first person I see when I enter the meeting room is Julie. I hold out my hand and then realize it’s wet. I try to dry it off on my raincoat, also wet. “I’m sorry,” I say. “My hand is wet.”

“That’s all right,” Julie says. So we shake hands and then we hug. And soon our meeting begins.

Julie has packed her presentation on marketing books with a ton of information and–the churl in the parking lot temporarily forgotten–I take a ton of notes.

Oh, now as I near the end of this blog, the writing professor who still lives in my head after many years of retirement says, “So what’s the point of this? You’ve got to have a point when you’re writing expository nonfiction prose.”

Yeah, yeah, yeah. Well, let’s see. Why are you taking your time to write about that guy anyway?

A few answers . . .
1) It was fun for me to find the humor in the encounter with the churl in the parking lot. It’s a lemonade-from-lemons sort of situation.
2) And I firmly believe in the healing powers of laughter.
3) In life we meet lots of different kinds of people. Some of them are jerks who take every opportunity they get to make other people feel uncomfortable.
4) But we also meet charmers like Julie Mulhern. Her generosity in sharing her time and expertise with us balanced that negative experience out.

P. S. Check out Julie Mulhern’s mysteries. You’ll be glad you did.

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WiP Report: Hump Day

Yesterday my NaNoWriMo word count reached 23,147, and since I’m trying to add 2,000 words a day, I’ve almost reached midpoint or the Hump Day for Apart in April, the book I’m drafting this month. At this point it seems very chaotic, filled with brainstorms and incomplete scenes, not necessarily in the final order either. Also sometimes I’ve gone back and added notes in red to what I’ve already written. Going back and trying to rewrite while you’re drafting is something others counsel against. For that matter, I do too in Novel Basics, my book on writing the novel.

I must admit that I didn’t feel swell when I got up this morning. About six to eight weeks ago I did something to my right shoulder at my exercise class. Don’t nag. I’ve seen somebody about it and even had an MRI. Last night I dutifully took my painkiller and muscle relaxant for it before I went to bed early, so I could get off to a fast start to my workday.

But pain in my shoulder woke me up in the middle of the night, probably because I played Spider Solitaire on my iPad mini for an hour yesterday afternoon while I waited for my daughter to come home for supper. It really annoys me when something I do for pleasure turns out to hurt me instead.

And my physical frailty makes this whole business of having a career as an indie author at my advanced age seem stupid. Why can’t I just be happy volunteering at the library or a senior center like some of my friends do?

So I was gearing up to a rant when an idea popped into my head. What if Daniel is the Watkins Man in this book? And the thought made me laugh.

That’s the main reason why I write, you know. It makes me happy. And now I have to get back to it. I can hardly wait to find out what my heroine Minty does when she sees Daniel pretending to be the Watkins Man.

Best, Juliet

Juliet Kincaid’s historical cozy mysteries tell the story of business girl Minty Wilcox and dashing detective Daniel Price from newly met to newlywed and beyond in Kansas City, a place that could downright deadly a hundred years or so ago. The first four books in the series are available in both digital and print versions. Check them out at https://www.amazon.com/Juliet-Kincaid/e/B00DB4HWRG/ref=dp_byline_cont_ebooks_1

NaNoWriMo2018: Day 7

I begin Day 7 of NaNoWriMo2018 with 11,211 words written so far and a big surprise for myself. (That’s something I love about drafting a novel. Really it’s a voyage of discovery into the untold reaches of my mind.)

Specifically, once I got started, I found out that Apart in April, Book 5 in my cozy historical mystery series, doesn’t follow the advice I give in Novel Basics, An Illustrated Guide to Writing a Novel.

What advice? you ask. Why, to Keep It Simple, Student. (Yeah, I know the second S usually stands for stupid. But I happen to believe the world could do with a bit more civility. Don’t you?)

Now back to the subject at hand . . . In the first section, Novel Basics presents my unusual method of brainstorming a novel with twenty 3” by 5” index cards. (It’s fun. It’s fast. Bet you’ll like it.) I call Card # 1 “the heart card” because it asks the essential question that every story must answer to succeed: “Who wants what?”

Well, I see that I need to back up a little bit and describe my Calendar Mystery series before I travel on. So far the series includes the novels January Jinx, Fatal February, and my personal favorite Mischief in March, plus six short stories, five published as Kindle Short Reads and all six in the collection Old Time Stories. (The collection also includes nonfiction about the people and places that have inspired my fiction.) And altogether the series tells the story of Minty Wilcox and Daniel Price from newly met to newlywed and beyond in Kansas City, a place that could get downright deadly a hundred years or so ago. (Yeah, I’ve been working on the description for a while.)

Now back to the cards . . . To my surprise, early in working on Apart in April, I discovered that it has a double heart. That is, it has two answers to the question, “Who wants what?” Daniel wants to find his runaway wife Minty. And Minty wants to solve a case on her own without her husband’s help. What fun! Now I’m off to work on it some more.

Novel Basics, a compact yet complete guide to writing a novel from brainstorming through rewriting, is now available as an eBook for $4.99 at http://www.amazon.com/dp/B07K2LXFRP

You can also find the books and stories in my cozy historical mystery series at https://www.amazon.com/Juliet-Kincaid/e/B00DB4HWRG/ref=dp_byline_cont_ebooks_1

Rascally Gang in Free Short Story

The 9th Street Gang

Friday 23 February 1900

Kansas City, Missouri

Happy to be wearing her old brown coat that the wet snow wouldn’t hurt and galoshes over her boots because of the slush underfoot, Minty Wilcox marched along 9th Street at Daniel Price’s side.

Daniel had bundled up in his tan overcoat, pulled his brown fedora down over his forehead, and wrapped a black muffler around the lower part of his face, so she could see only the red tip of his strong, aquiline nose and one dark brown eye squinting against the snow.

He’s my fiancé, Minty thought. We’re engaged! In just a few weeks time, I’ll be Mrs. Daniel Price. And I’ll be in on that secret married couples keep to themselves. Just thinking about solving that mystery set up a tingling in her lower parts.

When they came to the entrance of the New England Building, Daniel put his gloved hand under Minty’s right elbow. “Watch your step, darling girl,” he said. “You wouldn’t want to trip and fall in this mess.”

“Why, Daniel, you treat me like your elderly maiden aunt.”

“You’re decidedly not my aunt. And you’re not elderly either,” he said. “Though I do hope you’re still a maiden.”

“Of course, I am, you naughty boy,” she said.

Review of “The 9th Street Gang”

If you wish for something pleasant to get your mind off the lately awful news, delve yourself into the story of three little hoodlums that steal this story from the endearing main characters and enjoy the tidbits of Kansas City history. A bonus is a peek at Jesse James Jr. as I had no idea he existed before reading this story. Good Job! This author always comes through with an enthralling story.

This fun short story is FREE from October 17 through October 21, 1900 at http://www.amazon.com/dp/B079YYVTTX

“The 9th Street Gang” is just one of six stories included in Old Time Stories that also includes nonfiction about the people and places that inspired Juliet Kincaid to write her Calendar Mysteries featuring smart business girl Minty Wilcox and dashing detective Daniel Price in Kansas City, a place that could get downright deadly a hundred years or so ago. Old Time Stories is now available as an eBook or trade paperback exclusively from Amazon at http://www.amazon.com/dp/B07F4JL8D5

Neighbor Threatens Kids and Pooch

On July 5, 1898, a future career as a business girl as a typist/stenographer weighs heavily on Minty Wilcox’s mind. But distractions ensue when her sourpuss spinster neighbor takes a broom to Minty’s kid brother, sister, and a lost dog. Her mother’s disapproval and several flirtatious gents don’t help Minty in reaching her goal in this prequel story to Juliet Kincaid’s Calendar Mysteries that tell the story of business girl Minty Wilcox and dashing detective Daniel Price from newly met to newly wed and beyond in Kansas City where life could get downright deadly a hundred years or so ago.

“What a delight to find myself in ‘old’ Kansas City again with such wonderfully drawn characters. I feel I know them and would love to follow them along the street while looking for the lost dog’s owner and I could just push that old neighbor back into the bushes after rescuing the poor dog from her vicious beating. Oh, this author brings them so alive and that is what keeps me reading her stories.” An Amazon Reviewer.

“Lost Dog” is FREE for Kindles Wednesday October 3 through Sunday October 7 at http://www.amazon.com/dp/B0752SWBG1

 

“Lost Dog” also appears in Old Time Stories, a collection that includes six short stories and several nonfiction pieces about the people and places that inspired Juliet’s stories. Old Time Stories is available both as an eBook ($3.99) and trade paperback $10) from Amazon at https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07F4JL8D5

 

Old Time Stories Now in Print

Join business girl Minty Wilcox and detective Daniel Price in old Kansas City as they sleuth, get to know each other, and fall in love in six stories that occur before, between or after JANUARY JINX, FATAL FEBRUARY, and MISCHIEF IN MARCH, the first three novels in the Calendar Mystery series. Included are “Detectives’ Honeymoon” which starts exactly where Book 3 ends and “The Shackleton Ghost,” published here for the very first time. OLD TIME STORIES also includes eleven nonfiction pieces about the real people and places that inspired Juliet Kincaid to tell the story of Minty Wilcox and Daniel Price from newly met to newly wed and beyond in Kansas City, a place that could downright deadly a hundred years or so ago.

Five-Star Review of “The Barn Door”
“This short prequel story to the first book, JANUARY JINX, is fun and introduces us to the two main characters, Daniel and Minty, before they actually meet. I especially like the descriptions of Kansas City in the 1900’s as well as the vivid descriptions of the characters. Read ‘The Barn Door’ and you will not be disappointed.” Amazon Reviewer.

Five-Star Review of “Lost Dog”
“What a delight to find myself in ‘old’ Kansas City again with such wonderfully drawn characters. I feel I know them and would love to follow them along the street while looking for the lost dog’s owner and I could just push that old neighbor back into the bushes after rescuing the poor dog from her vicious beating. Oh, this author brings them so alive and that is what keeps me reading her stories.” Amazon Reviewer

 

 

OLD TIME STORIES is now available as an EBOOK at www.amazon.com/dp/B07F4JL8D5 and a TRADE PAPERBACK exclusively from Amazon.

Dithering for Fitness

An Indie Author Lifestyle Blog

Perhaps you know the feeling. It’s ten until the hour. Your fitness tracker pulses you gently on your wrist. So you pop up from your desk where you’ve been hard at work on your next book (or story or promo pitch) and run in place. Or maybe you jog back and forth in your house, passed perhaps by another person living in the house on the same mindless journey. When your tracker pulses you again to tell you that you’ve gotten your 250 steps for the hour, you return to your desk, sit, and go back to work.

My mischievous monkey mind just flashed me an image of an open office filled with cubicles where dozens of workers simultaneously pop up from their desks to run in place. Or at the local coffeehouse, authors with their laptops hop off their tall stools and shift from foot to foot while they vigorously pump their— I just had to get up to get those 250 steps by walking through the house and met my daughter in the living room doing the same thing. (My daughter and I have become rather competitive in our fitness program. And fairly often, to her chagrin, I receive more steps, more miles, and more active minutes, not to forget all my hourly dots, than she does.)

But let us continue . . .

—arms. Sometimes my daughter gets caught short without her 250 steps completed while I’m driving us to our exercise class. So she starts stamping the floorboard and hitting her seat with her elbows until her fitness tracker gives her the message that she killed it for that hour.

Those little devices can be such tyrants and they’re also addictive, so I’d like to suggest a method of exercise that doesn’t require you to resort to dramatic measures that interfere with your writing or other activities.

What’s the secret of my success? Why, dithering of course. It came to me one day after I started from the home office at the front of the house to do something or whatever in the other end of the house. But by time I arrived in my bedroom, I’d forgotten what it was. Now as a senior citizen, I’m entitled to a certain amount of forgetfulness, but I’d like to suggest that, no matter your age, you too can exercise your way to admirable fitness and good health through purposeful dithering.

Here are some ways that I now dither on purpose to get more steps in my day.

Instead of dragging the hose from the back to the front of the house to water my planters full of zinnias in the front window, I dither back and forth half a dozen times between the kitchen sink and the flowers with a small watering can.

(My neighbor Joan does me even better by watering her plentiful array of flowers a half a Dixie cup at a time. On trash day she also puts the big bins at the curb early, so she has an excuse to amble back and forth with small bags of trash to dispose of or single items to recycle. This method also gives her plentiful opportunities to visit with passersby or to see what the neighbors across the street are up to.)

When I need more steps, sometimes I ferry items one at a time out to the assorted bird feeders in my back yard: a cob of dried corn on one trip and a suet cake on another.

I’ve also developed ways to dither in public without seeming to. For instance, occasionally I go to a grocery store I’m unfamiliar with so I have an excuse to wander freely back and forth from the bakery to the frozen food section several times in search of that special item. Youngsters, you can use this method as well. My daughter has become expert at matching coupons to products to get more steps at our drugstore.

And so in closing, I ask you to feel free to provide other methods of purposeful dithering you might use in the comments section. (P. S. To receive notifications of future blogs like this one, please subscribe.)

 

“Write Stuff Down”

An Indie Author Reflects on Senior Moments

Three of us dedicated senior hoofers have gathered near the back of the exercise center after class. We’re all 60+. (Well, to be honest, in my case, it’s 60++.) We’re all normal weight and short but not stooped over from osteoporosis. We all take at least three classes a week, so we’re far more active than the USA norm.

But still the issue of senior moments comes up. “Why . . . ,” says J. “My husband told me something yesterday and a half hour later I couldn’t remember what he said, so I had to ask him again.”

I almost parrot something I heard on NPR or read in the AARP Bulletin about the nerve endings or whatever in our brains not holding onto information like they used to. But frankly I don’t recall enough of it to talk about it, so I keep my mouth shut.

Friend D says, “I write stuff down. That helps me remember. I write stuff on calendars, things like that.”

“Yeah, yeah, yeah,” I don’t say since that would be rude. I do say, “Jess and I keep a calendar on the kitchen wall.”  My daughter and I put our appointments, classes and meetings on the kitchen calendar, a sort of plan for the household. But I also put my appointments, meetings, and classes on the engagement calendar Jess gives me every year. I put my daily to-do lists on that calendar, too.

The mention of calendars sends my friend J off into a lovely riff about the calendars her daughter gives her every year with pictures of the grand kids at Christmas, at Easter, probably summer vacations too though if she says it I don’t hear it because I’ve drifted off into a memory accompanied by considerable self-flagellation on the subject of writing things down. (I do that a lot.) Besides jotting down my daily to-do lists on my engagement calendar and print-outs of monthly calendars, I often put to-do lists in the journals I’ve kept since January 1986. Recently I created a checklist to use to track my social media activities.

And then I keep special lists, sort of like flow charts, of steps in the processes of doing new things in my journal or the backs of printouts of my work. For example, recently my daughter helped me with the cover for the paperback version of my most recent work, Old Time Stories. Specifically she told me how to work with some basic Photoshop tools. Before she started, though, I said, “Wait! Wait! Let me write that down.”

So, I wrote down her instructions in my journal, or at least I thought I did. The next day when I tried to work on that cover without her help, I couldn’t find those instructions. What I did find in my journal were many to-do lists, mostly of the same six things over and over again. (You know, some times you can go too far with writing stuff down or following any good advice, for that matter.)

So, I thought that maybe I wrote it on one of the pieces of paper littering my desk. No luck there either because I had a little throwaway party the other day to clear my computer desk. I must have had a mental lapse (aka a brain fart) and put the notes in the recycle bag.

Regardless, I had to take up my daughter’s time for her to repeat the instructions. This time I did write clear notes in my journal. What’s more, I made a frigging tab with a sticky note so I wouldn’t lose those notes. I also transcribed the notes into my typewritten log to help me remember those instructions the next time I need them.

So what’s the big deal?

It’s like this. Senior moments like these strike terror in my heart that I’ve begun that long slide into oblivion. But maybe I haven’t . . . When I was weeping about forgetting the instructions my daughter gave me, Jess said, “That’s not a senior moment, Mom. It’s a technical moment. Anybody can have them.” Thank you, sweetheart.

Here’s the cover for the trade paperback version of my new book (currently in process).  It’s the first one I’ve done more or less on my own. You can pre-order the eBook version from now until its publication on August 29, 2018, for only $0.99 at http://www.amazon.com/dp/B07F4JL8D5

 

FREE MYSTERY SHORT

Two Birthdays

An Old Kansas City Story

The office door opening that afternoon startled Minty Wilcox and she almost looked up to see who it was. But then she thought, I’d better keep my head down and look busy. It won’t do for Mr. Mathison to catch me reading a mystery novel when I’m supposed to be hard at work. Indeed, George Mathison, the manager of the Kansas City branch of the Price Investigations Agency, was quite strict about the office staff keeping busy, especially Minty, the newest member of the staff.

Not that there was much work to do at the moment, no one there to take dictation from, no operative reports to type, no papers to file.

Still, Minty closed the black book, a favorite of hers that she liked to reread that time of year, and hid it in her top desk drawer. After that, she began typing furiously at her ancient blind-strike Remington typewriting machine. As a precaution earlier, she’d loaded a blank piece of paper in the typewriter. A quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog, she typed. A quick . . .

“Where’s Mrs. B?” a man asked.

After Minty lifted her hands from the keyboard and looked up, her heart started going pitty pat.

For instead of George Mathison, Daniel Price, one of the agency operatives, stood in the open door. A young man of medium height, he wore a straw boater, a white shirt with a black straight tie knotted under its stiff collar, a white vest, and white trousers.

“Oh, Dan . . .” Minty caught herself in time. Mr. Mathison was ever so strict about employees maintaining proper decorum. He had also forbidden employees to fraternize with each other during business hours—or at any time, for that matter. It certainly wouldn’t do for the agency’s most newly hired employee to err in that respect.

“Why, Mr. Price,” Minty said. “Mrs. Bradford took the afternoon off. She said she had an important errand to run.”

Daniel Price took off his hat and ran his hand over his reddish brown hair, parted in the middle. His neatly trimmed beard and mustache were also reddish brown. “Golly,” he said. “I really need someone to help me.” He closed the door behind himself and hung his boater on the coat tree next to Minty’s parasol.

“I’m sorry that Mrs. Bradford isn’t here,” Minty said. “Is it something I might help you with?” Minty stood up, went around her desk, and took a couple of steps toward the door.

“Perhaps.” He brushed his beard. “You see. I have an appointment with Mr. Ferd Heim, Jr. at the brewery across town.” Daniel fumbled with the gold chain that crossed his vest and pulled out his pocket watch along with a couple of keys.

Minty looked down at her pendant watch at the end of a light chain and pinned to the front of her shirtwaist, white with garnet red pin stripes. She flipped her watch over and read the time. “Why, it’s already half past four.”

“And my appointment with Mr. Heim is for five o’clock. Well, you will have to do, Miss Minty.”

 

And so Daniel Price lures Minty Wilcox off on a case that starts to sound strangely familiar as he tells her about it and she wonders what he really is up to.

Click here to get “Two Birthdays” for FREE from June 20 through June 24: www.amazon.com/dp/B076JS3D2Y