Category Archives: Things I really care about

Happy Writer is Happy

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Blogging? What’s that?

I can’t believe I never do this anymore. I know why. Because I will write, and before I know it a week or so has gone by and so much has happened, and I think “there’s no way I will be able to cover everything” so I don’t post. Instead I just puke everything out on an ongoing basis every day on Facebook. Because it is easier.

I don’t even blog on my website! And that’s what I should be doing for my writing career. Most of the writers I look up to and even the ones I don’t look up to, but have large followings, post every day and share amazing advice and insights into their work. I just don’t feel into doing it for some reason. I’m way more about absorbing things right now, than finding things to share with others. I’m being selfish, and damned if I don’t care. Selfish is just where I want to be right now. It helps me get things done.

Since my last post, I joined up with a few other local writers to form a novel critique group. We share one chapter at a time of our books with one another, two weeks before we are to meet up again. Then we meet and go over all of our work in person. We’ve been meeting at a Barnes & Noble Starbucks, and we’re usually there for almost two hours. It’s excellent discussion, too. I just love that these women are all where I am regarding writing fiction. We’re all novel-writers (no non-fiction). We’re all devoted to our work. All of us have the same goal: to write excellent books and be published. We support one another, we encourage and help brainstorm to help one another out of challenges that come up when you’re trying to get a scene to work.

Our meeting for January was the best one yet. OK, it was only our 3rd meeting, but still. We added a new member to our group who has turned out to be a most valuable connection for me (more on that in a minute). I’d spent a lot of effort on each of the women’s critiques, writing up detailed notes and doing track-changes on their files. Everything went over well and I was able to help one of the girls “flip a switch” with one of my suggestions and she was so grateful. But my ego was stoked, big time. Why? Well, my book is the one that everyone is going crazy about. I can’t believe it.

Now, all these women are excellent writers. Well…one isn’t as good at it yet, but damn, her heart is in the right place and she is one hell of a reader and energy-cheerleader. Still, they know what they are doing and they are connected. They participate in all kinds of writers’ pitch contests, go to conferences, host blog tours and are on street teams for a handful of debut authors we all know through Twitter, and one of them has even self-published a book already. They have read all of the books. (Well, it feels that way. They bandy around titles and authors so fast my mind spins and I can’t always write down the titles/authors in my notebook fast enough!)

When we get to my work, the compliments astound me and just flatter me. They love the concept, they love my main character, they love the way I’m structuring it, and they sometimes go back and read passages I’ve written out-loud because they enjoyed the descriptive language, the way I have worked in all 5 senses to what my MC experiences, the dialogue, and the fact that my MC has very healthy relationships with her family. (Ever notice how many books have troubled family dynamics, or absent parents, or siblings they hate, etc? There are a LOT. And I, for one, am tired of those.) But most of all, I’ve got them HOOKED. They are dying to see my Tarzan guy.

I just sent off chapter 3 today and I’m psyched because this is the one where we finally get a good look at him. It’s only Olive, my MC, and “the jungle man” in this chapter. Close, intense interaction. I can’t wait for them to read it.

I can’t get over this. That my book is working this well on the first draft. I’m like giddy-jumpy-nauseous-hyperactive excited over it. And I can honestly say I LOVE THIS BOOK. Just love it. I love the world it takes place in, I love the things I get to describe, I love the between-the-lines themes I’m working into the plot, I love thinking of a hot, super sexy guy and I’m burning with the anticipation of the intimate and hot scenes I have coming up very soon.

I’ve never written anything like this one. It’s like my own custom candy store! I’m including so many things I love into this one. I get to write about wild jungle animals; the untamed, not-quite-human-man thing I have a near-fetish over; a girl who is best friends with her sister (something I have experience with and that I cherish); and the early days of the NJ shore boardwalks and carnival/sideshow culture.

And I’m currently doing some heavy behind-the-scenes work to develop an antagonist that’s fully developed and, I hope, will be somewhat liked by the readers. I’ve been inspired by Loki. Yeah. How cool is it that the villain has become more loved than the hero in the Thor movies? Why is that? Well, I’ve given it a lot of thought, I’ve done a lot of reading and…well, OK, I have to admit, a LOT of lusting. Tom Hiddleston is the shit. So talented and so fucking sexy-cute. I can’t believe the first time I saw Thor, my reaction to Loki was just uncomfortable. I didn’t think he was good-looking back then. I didn’t know why I was unsettled by Loki. But once it hit upon a second viewing of Thor, it hit hard. It was because of this scene. Sympathy for the villain. I don’t know that I’ve seen this kind of thing much in movies before, and it’s surprising it happens in a comic book movie. Huh.

My villain is nothing like Loki. Doesn’t have the same kind of backstory, doesn’t look like Tom H. But the model of how Loki was built to become so complex and hard to shrug off as “just evil” has influenced me so much. I want to attempt that model. Make my readers feel weirdly conflicted every time the villain disappoints us again by doing something bad. Just when you think he might be reformed, is giving in to his emotions and allows ‘sentiment’ to come to the surface–blam. Stabs the good guy in the stomach.

The latest villain to make me go, “hold on just a goddamn second here” is Moriarty from Sherlock. Which, by the way, is an excellent show. I knew it would be, b/c the friends who have recommended it to me wouldn’t lead me astray, since we share the same tastes. I only started watching it about a week ago, but I’ve already re-watched a couple of episodes and then went online and read some analyses of the themes and nuances of the characters. Sherlock alone is fascinating. He’s kind of a jerk but the way they’re handling his genius-thing is fascinating. He’s the hero who is somehow, not-quite-sure-how, perilously close to being a villain. I hate when he doesn’t appreciate John. OMG. I love John, too. ANYWAY… I digress.

Moriarty is batshit insane and it’s great. The actor they chose is mesmerizing; that sing-song voice is creepy and when he all of the sudden screams with fury it’s like a firecracker going off 6 inches from your face… And then there is this line:

“I will burn…the heart… out of you.” (I’ve watched this scene many, many times already)

I have held off watching the last episode available on Netflix (season 2, ep. 3) because I know the basics of what will happen and I’m positive I need to give it my full attention and have a notebook ready. Yeah, I’m a nerd. I take notes during things I’m watching sometimes. But I can’t wait to let myself find out more about Moriarty. Who is he, where does he go, where did he come from, why is he the way he is, what does he love, what drives him, what’s the obsession with Sherlock all about (I already know that one, I think: the two of them are almost mirrors of one another, which is a dynamic I am dying to dig into because that’s another one I have never given much thought to before now)… sherlock_and_moriarty_by_jaxparabellum-d4q6ap6

I really can ramble about the things I love, can’t I? 🙂

Suffice to say, my brain is in full character-development mode. Because I love my book and I love my characters. Because having this much fun writing a book should be illegal.

I couldn’t be happier.

Oh. There’s another huge piece of writing-career news. Remember how I mentioned the new girl in the critique group earlier in this post? Well, she and I hit it off that day and hung out and talked for awhile after the meeting. She’s an intern for a publishing company and told me all about it and what it entails. Then she mentions that there is a current opening for a new intern; someone to cover New Adult manuscript submissions. She gave me the name and contact info for the editor at the company, and encouraged me to apply.

I applied a day later, and then the day after that I was “hired.” The editor was excited when she saw my work experience as an editor and contributing-author coordinator. Since I know how to read a ‘disaster first draft’ and revise it and work with the author the whole way, I was a good fit. Even though I’d yet to do any of this with a book, my experience counted. Wow– another excellent revelation. All of my day-job nonsense has not been in vain.

So anyway, I got my first assignment and spent the next 7 days reading it. Unfortunately, it was a manuscript that just didn’t work. I couldn’t get into it; I saw the problems with it within the first 10 pages and knew I wasn’t going to see the things a good book needs in order to engage readers. I soldiered through, and still didn’t finish the whole thing. But when, by page 100, you still can’t tell who the antagonist might be, what the plot really is about, and what’s so damn special about the supposed love interest… I’m confident when I say it’s not publishable.

I have to write up a report about each manuscript I read, discussing as many of the key elements as possible and explaining what is good and what is bad about the book. It is NOT easy to do this. But I’ll tell you: when I finished that report and edited it up, I felt amazing. I felt like I had just learned something really important; that this is something I could really get into. I love having to work hard at something I am legitimately interested in learning. Sadly, it has been so damn long since that’s been the case for me in my adult life.

So, the internship is going great so far. I just started assignment #2 last night. It looks like I might be expected to do a book a week. This is already cutting a little into my usual writing-time, but I’m not that worried yet.

Between the internship, the critique group, networking through Twitter and the other writers I’ve connected with in the past year… it’s all coming together.

I am on the right path.

I’m going to get paid to do things I love. Someday, sooner rather than later. I won’t waste away in a go-nowhere, thankless business magazine job for much longer. My resume is morphing into gold by the minute.

It’s such a satisfying feeling. And it also feels comfortable; like, “I totally GOT THIS, yo.”

Time for bed now. It took me two hours to write this overall. See? This is why I don’t blog! I can’t shut up and I take too damn long!

Ms. Passive Aggressive

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No one likes passive aggressive people. They’re assholes. I mean, just say what’s bothering you and be direct about it. Don’t play these silly games that dance around the issue and *hope* your point is noticed by the offending parties.

Well… I’m an asshole. And I’m going to be passive aggressive right now.

First: I’m so disappointed because my boss has decided to buy a purebred Great Dane.

He’d approached me a few weeks back because he and his wife were thinking, yet again, of adopting getting a dog and he wanted my advice. Well, great! I have so many connections to all kinds of local dog rescues and could even help him narrow it down to the right dog with the right personality for his family’s needs. I gave him links to specific dogs and contact information for my favorite rescues.

I should have known something was up, because I didn’t hear a thing about it. Until today. When he says: “I was afraid to tell you about this, but… we’re getting a Great Dane puppy.”

He was afraid to tell me because he knows how incredibly important it is to me that I successfully spread the ADOPT, DON’T BUY message. And he knew I would be pissed at his ultimate decision. He was right.

I’m pissed for several reasons, besides the obvious one of “there’s one shelter dog’s life NOT being saved”… such as:

1) He bought a puppy about 2 years ago from a shady breeder in southern AZ somewhere. His wife decided they had to have an English golden retriever. So they went and got this dog and had no clue what to do to train it. The dog had insane energy and all kinds of health problems. (It had eaten a magnet at the breeder’s house before they even had her, and ended up spending massive amounts of money to have the magnet surgically removed.) At the time, his twin daughters were only 2, and the dog was “too much for them” and then, apparently, one of the twins developed an allergy to the dog. I don’t know what the fuck he was thinking, getting a high-energy, large breed puppy with two little toddlers in the house. It was an ongoing disaster for months, until that convenient dog allergy showed up and they had no choice but to return the dog to the breeder. They gave up on a dog for no good reason at all. A dog they never, ever should have adopted in the first place.

2) Next, they got a Saint Bernard. A Saint Bernard!!! That one lasted for an even shorter time period before it was returned. Again, it was a very young dog and had tons of energy and needed time, attention and TRAINING to get it to be the dog they wanted.

3) Today he told me that he spent a lot of time “exhausting the rescue option” and in the end they just knew they wouldn’t find a dog that was what they wanted, in a rescue. In the Great Dane rescue, the dogs were mostly “4 or 5 years old already, and with the short life spans of Great Danes, we knew we’d only get a couple of good years out of one of those dogs and we’re not ready for that.” Apparently he is of the naive belief that only old dogs die. Look. You get a dog, you’d better be ready for whatever comes your way regarding illnesses and accidents. If you’re “not ready for that”…don’t get a dog.

4) They have two pet rabbits and they also said at rescues they wouldn’t be able to find a dog that would be both good with little kids AND rabbits. Notice I said “wouldn’t be able to” in that sentence up there. This shows that he never really investigated that part of it seriously. He’s lying to me about “exhausting the rescue option.” I hate being lied to. Anyway, who wants to place bets that there will be an incident with the Great Dane puppy and the rabbits within the first 6 months? How about the first 6 weeks?

5) He says he wants a dog he can take on walks, but back when he had the other two dogs, he “hated walking them” because of the work and effort of trying to control them. OH CHRIST, GET ME A DRINK AT THIS POINT!

I look forward to the inevitable failure of this, his latest Worst Decision Ever.

Second: I don’t understand the people who tell me to send them my book because they want to read it, and then they never read it.

I can think of EIGHT friends right now who fall under this category. Eight. All of them friends, not just people I kinda know/strangers. They all said to me, “please let me read your book” and I told them yes.

I also told them to be honest and fuckin’ tell me if you are bored with the story and stop reading.

This is important.

I need to know if my story doesn’t engage people. It’s not a matter of “I’d like to know”… NO. I NEED TO KNOW. So I can fix it.

Some of the people tell me, “Oh, well… I don’t really read that genre, but I’ll give it a try.” This is not the right thing to say to an aspiring author. It’s not that I am upset you don’t read my genre. It’s that you are clearly not the target audience, but you’ll give this a look anyway, probably out of some unspoken obligation. Don’t do that. Just don’t offer to read my book, because it sucks getting excited waiting for feedback that NEVER comes. And I don’t want you doing a pity-read, either. Lame.

Third: Writers who don’t know a thing about my genre, and yet feel they have the right to tell me all the things wrong with my book. Or what they would do differently, to make it sell.

Writer Ex did this to me a couple months ago, and I’m still annoyed by what he said. I wanted him to be brutally honest about my story, and he wasn’t.

He was brutally honest about what he would do with my story idea, if he’d had it.

The first lines of his critique: “Great title. The rest? Not so much.”

Then he went on to explain he never reads YA sci-fi or paranormal so he has no idea what the market is for those books. But if I want people to buy my book, I need to make Zachary some kind of mutant freak with big, flashy superpowers he can’t control. I should write it in the style of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. And so on, until I felt like puking.

Again, maybe you shouldn’t offer to critique my query and first few pages if you are unfamiliar with my genre.

At least I know better now. I won’t ask anyone who doesn’t READ this kind of stuff (or write it) take a look at my work.

OK. My passive aggressive rant here is done.

I’m going home now to write my kick-ass new book, play with my dogs and enjoy my fuckin’ weekend!

Truly scary

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HAPPY HALLOWEEN!

I wish it were different this year. Normally, I’d be all excited and geeked out about it being Halloween. But then, Hurricane Sandy hit, and it changed a whole lot.

It’s still surreal that a storm of such force slammed NJ and hit hardest right where I grew up. I realized the majority of my FB friends are from the East Coast, because whenever someone posted about something other than the storm, I was surprised. Over the weekend when they were talking about the storm, I thought it would just be like the other hurricanes over the years: a little flooding along the coast, some trees and power lines knocked down, but nothing major. I remember how we all panicked back in 1985 with Hurricane Gloria. We were evacuated, and went to stay the night at my friend Tracy’s house since they were at a much higher elevation than we were in Atlantic Highlands. And then nothing really happened. I think we got some water in the basement, but that was pretty much it. (And water in the basement at that house was nothing new… happened almost any time it rained hard.)

On Monday, everything became more severe. The flooding was already starting, and spots along the shore were already underwater. People were being evacuated, and I got pretty scared. My sister and I talked to our dad, who lives in a coastal zone only a few blocks from the bay, and he said he wasn’t going to evacuate. He was still of the same mind that this storm wouldn’t be as bad as they were saying it was gonna be. But yeah, as the hours went by and the news kept coming in about how bad it was getting, we got VERY worried about him. (Not necessarily his wife, of course. She could stay in a dangerous, flooded house and we wouldn’t blink an eye.)

Yesterday I had to stay home to take care of my back and sciatic nerve, so I was glued to FB and the internet for the latest news about what had happened back home. It just got worse and worse.

Entire houses were pulled from their foundations and were drifting in the flood water or were blown out to sea. Boats in the Atlantic Highlands marina were thrown up and into the neighborhoods, so several houses actually had damage from boats hitting them in addition to the expected hurricane damage. It seemed like almost every friend on FB lost a tree or even a car in the storm. A LOT of big trees came down. One of my friends posted a photo she’d taken while driving down route 36– someone’s back porch was in the highway. It had been ripped off a house, and was now floating into the road. Crazy!

The photos and videos just make me so sad. I keep getting all emotional and crying, the more I see. I am really upset about Seaside and the other boardwalks, because that’s what NJ is all about, to me. Those boardwalks are so important to all of us in NJ. Everyone went there while growing up, every summer… all our lives. Everyone. I can’t think of a single person back there who doesn’t have very specific memories of at least one or two of those boardwalks. (For the record, my favorites were Seaside, Point Pleasant, Ocean City, Asbury Park and Cape May/Wildwood.) Like, Remember when Asbury was beautiful in the 1970s, and then it went to the crackheads in the 80s? And then it was brought back from the dead in the 2000s by a thriving, passionate gay community? Or Remember going to Wildwood after the senior prom? Or Remember when Kid’s World burned down in 1986, down in Point Pleasant? That sucked! Or Remember going to Keansburg and steering clear of the white trash that congregated along the beach there? But it was worth going there because the games were great, and that italian ice place was the best.

Every single morning from 1993-1997, I drove down Ocean Avenue in Seabright to go to college. We lived in Belford at the time, so I’d take 36 down, over the bridge, and follow that road all the way down to Monmouth. I took that route in particular because as you go east on 36 through Highlands, you can see the ocean ahead. Then you go over the drawbridge and get a great view of the water right beyond the ocean retainer wall. I always looked for whales! I always had hopes that I’d happen to spot a tail or a waterspout in those few minutes I had, but I don’t think I ever did. Sometimes, if the weather was bad, the waves would crash up against the retainer wall, and you’d see water splash up over the rocks! One time, during finals for the fall semester, I remember I was driving home during a really bad storm. I had to detour through Little Silver and Rumson because Ocean Ave. had flooded when the ocean came over the wall. I turned left at the intersection below. It looked like this, back then:

Hurricane Sandy turned it into this:

I am just stunned. It’s insane.

One of the worst things about yesterday was not being able to get in touch with our Dad. None of the phones were working. Miraculously, a girl I know on Facebook messaged me and offered to walk over and check on my Dad! I was floored that she would do that. I haven’t seen her in over 20 years, since we were in Girl Scouts together! But I guess once a troop member, always a troop member, right? She went to his house and let him call me on her cell phone. He was so happy and incredulous that he could call us! He had no electric since 8pm Monday night, no phones or internet…nothing. Fortunately he has a gas water heater so they could still take warm showers. But there’s no sign as to when the electric will come back on at this point.

I finally heard from Kristen this morning. She’s in the dark, too, and she’s not even on the shore. They have no electric or phones either. She finally got cell service after driving around for awhile. She said it’s so trippy, how everything is dark and everyone’s learning to live “like it’s the 1700s or something.”

And if all goes according to plan, tomorrow I will be there, staying as a guest in her 1700s-style house.

That’s because T and I are going back for her friend Amy’s wedding on Saturday.

We’ve been planning the trip since July or so. No one had a clue this would happen. As of right now, Amy’s wedding is still on (fortunately, it’s a smaller wedding at a restaurant) and our flight to Newark is still on schedule. What kind of NJ we’ll be landing in is another story. Nothing’s on schedule, nothing is working out.

The schools in Middletown will be shut down until November 13.

Kristen warned me to bring lots of warm clothes because they have no heat, and don’t expect a hot shower. They’re boiling water to bathe in. This is so crazy…! We don’t know if the electric will come back on while we are there, or not. How frickin’ weird is that?! It will be like camping. In suburban NJ. It’ll be like that show Revolution. I hope it won’t be completely apocalyptic, but we’ll see how it goes. As of now, the looting is starting, sadly. It’s really, really scary and disgusting.

But people are pulling out the kindness in droves, though. Left and right, friends who fared better than others are offering to help anyone who needs a place to stay or a hot shower. Some men are driving out in their trucks to bring water or batteries to people who need them, or offering to cut apart fallen trees. No one’s asking to be paid, of course. It’s definitely heartening to witness all of this on Facebook right now. It’s such a community back there, it really is. I mean, my friend from Girl Scouts absolutely did not have to offer to do that. I hadn’t even considered asking anyone to go check on my Dad, thinking they all have problems of their own! But yet, she still did ask, and it made such a tremendous difference for my family.

I absolutely love New Jersey. I always have, of course. And you guys who read my blog know how serious I have been about my love, for awhile now… and how I want to move back home soon.

This tragedy almost makes me want to move back even more.

I can’t explain it. It’s just that I feel a pull to be there, to help it bounce back, to help out people who might need it… people who would help me, or have helped me. I don’t even know most of my neighbors out here in AZ, and I never have. And the ones I do know are weirdos that freak me out. I couldn’t imagine people out here pulling together to help each other if a catastrophe hit here. What I think would happen would be much more of an “every man for himself” situation, with people hoarding supplies and leaving town as soon as word came that there was trouble coming. They’d probably even leave their PETS behind, if the foreclosure crisis was any indication of people’s behavior when they are forced to leave their homes. It’s just different out here. No one has long-term roots. It would be very nice if I was wrong about the community-factor kicking in… if people did turn out to be helpful to others even if they had nothing to gain by doing so… but I swear to God, I can’t imagine it. It’s very different out here. (I know it’s the same story in Vegas, Cupcake Blonde, right?) Must be something about cities that are migratory and not full of a stationary population. Mehh.

So, I don’t really know what to expect when (and if) we get to NJ tomorrow. I will take lots of photos, for sure. Part of me doesn’t even want to go anymore, knowing the whole trip is going to be strained and sad.

But I do know that T and I have some incredible friends there, and they’re taking this so well. I know we’re going to find ways to have fun, and we’re going to laugh really hard like usual… it’ll be so good to be there with them.

I wonder if NJ will ever look the same again. I mean, will the boardwalks all rebuild? So many structures cannot be replaced. I got all teared up when I saw a photo of the merry-go-round at Keansburg, crushed by a building. Where do you go to get a new carousel, for Christ’s sake? Who knows? Anyway, I really do have high hopes that things can and will get back to normal at some point in the future. Hopefully not too far into the future, but still. It has to happen.

It’s New-fuckin’ Joisey! Only the strong survive! 🙂

Bookin’ it through this draft!

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Between 7:45 and 12:15(ish) last night, I made significant revisions to 36 pages of my book, and relatively minor edits to 17 other pages. That’s a total of 53 pages in one night, motherfuckerz. I think I really like not having any TV reception. It’s true: I have nothing. Not even one crappy local station. Well, it’s all good, and the timing is serendipitous. It is forcing me to work my ass off at a time when I truly need to be doing that!

I want this whole thing done by the end of this weekend. It’s absolutely possible. I’m on page 221 of 310. That final page count isn’t absolute yet, of course… since I am adding things almost as much as I’m deleting other stuff.

There are some scenes I’d like to pare down even further, but I have to keep going at this point. I’ll let my friends read the whole draft and see if they pick up on the things I plan to fix. Maybe they will, maybe they won’t. I know good and well that it’s fucking critical to get this book in front of other people’s eyes now. My own are way, way, way too close to this whole thing.

I know this is ALL I think about, and all I really want to talk about these days. So I just wanted to thank my friends for being patient and letting me ramble now and then! And most of all, the positive encouragement is humbling and empowering at the same time. I am so lucky to have you guys in my corner. Thanks for cheering me on! ❤

Here’s a quick taste of a new flashback scene I wrote. My character is 7 years old here:

She paused before she opened the door to leave. She looked a little confused. “What should I call you? Do you have a nickname or anything?”

“What’s a nickname?”

She tilted her head and thought. “Well, Feem is a nickname, I’m sure. Does she have a number, too? Like you?”

“Oh. Yes. But I don’t remember her number. I just call her Feem.” I looked down at my bare feet on the cold floor. “They only call me 4001.”

She lowered her voice. “Would you like to have a name? Like Feem?”

I thought about it. All of the people had names. Doctors, nurses, soldiers and officers. I couldn’t think of one of them that used numbers in their names. Names were for humans. Well, and dolphins. But I wasn’t human, and I wasn’t dolphin. I never thought about it before then that I might have my own name and not the number.

She walked over and patted my shoulder, reassuringly. “It’s OK. You don’t have to answer right now. Just something to think about.”

If you’re into writing, too, check out this piece on McSweeney’s: The Ultimate Guide to Writing Better Than You Normally Do. Lots of good stuff in there. You have time to look it over.

The part I currently love the most:

While editing is a grueling process, if you really work hard at it, in the end you may find that your piece has fewer words than it did before. Which, is great. Perhaps George Bernard Shaw said it best when upon sending a letter to a close friend, he wrote, “I’m sorry this letter is so long, I didn’t have time to make it shorter.” No quote better illustrates the point that writers are very busy.

“I’d Rather Be Tweaking.”

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Hi. My name is L, and I am addicted to tweaking.

Not that kind of tweaking. Although that would make for a far more interesting blog post, I’m sure. Nope, I’m fighting the urge to “just go in and read over what I’ve done” with my book and then change this word here, and add that sentence here, and then because I added that sentence, I go even further back and add a tiny detail so there is some foreshadowing goin’ on… STOP IT!

I can’t seem to pull myself away from Editor Mode. And I have to. It’s crucial that I do this. I am never going to finish this final draft if I don’t learn to “pick up where I left off” and move forward in the novel ONLY. None of this shit with being a perfectionist. And certainly, none of this shit with suddenly comparing my protagonist’s voice with characters from books I happen to be reading. That bullcrap’s got to stop now, too.

I’m reading three books at once, although Dragonfly in Amber is hanging out on my nightstand all, “Mehhh.” I’ll get to it sometime. But right now I’m reading a book highly recommended by one-a you guys, and the writing is so fantastic in terms of characterizations and building believable, relatable and unique people that seem to live and breathe someplace: Dark House (Experiment in Terror #1).

The protagonist is very true to herself, always. The author doesn’t ever put thoughts in her head or words in her mouth that don’t fit. The character seems like someone I could know, she’s drawn so vividly. She’s funny, too. And I love her quirks and the way she is reacting to all the weird ghostly shit going on in the lighthouse… Layered. Nuanced. And still, wrapped in down to earth, friendly, unpretentious language so you don’t even notice the skill of the author without stopping to think about it. It’s amazing, and I definitely strive to create characters who exist like that.

That means I can’t sit down at page 1, chapter 1, and start trying to mess with my own protagonist’s voice. No way, not right now. Maybe not ever. I know better. I must have faith that I know what I’m doing. I’ve gotten this far. My character exists, and has his own voice, and it’s never going to sound like any other character. That’s how this novel-thing works.

I guess it’s just tempting to apply some of someone else’s coolness to your own project. It’s gonna happen. There are a lot of great books out there, and a universe full of individual characters. Some will grab me more than others. It’s supposed to be that way. That’s the fun and joy in all of this fiction-loving madness!

The third book I’m reading is My Name is Memory by Anne Brashares. I picked it up in the store months ago because the cover and title intrigued me, and then the back flap and a few sample passages hooked me in. I haven’t gotten to it yet… along with about 5 other books in that same particular stack in my living room… but yesterday morning I picked it up out of the blue for some reason and started reading it. I should have been getting dressed for work, and instead I was lying on my bed turning pages.

I did the same exact thing this morning before work, too! It’s stupid! I have enough to read, and enough of my own stuff to work on! Leave it alone. I should make this a reward for finishing the revisions: Once I’m done, I am allowed to read this new book for real.

I feel absolutely surrounded in fiction these days. It’s really nice. I find myself resenting the non-fictiony stuff, though. Like housework, actual work at work, social obligations and party planning… all things I do need to do, and cannot put off for a number of very good reasons. My book’s all I think about when I am not thinking about other people’s books. That’s what’s important to me right now. I don’t really know what to do to change that. Or if I even want to.

I’m walking around, doing what I have to do every day, but inside I am somewhere else most of the time. I wonder if people can see it, or if it’s just me feeling narcissistic. Mostly, I’m just curious… because of all the characters out there, I’m the one I can’t step outside of and really see for who she is.

Other things on my mind these days

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Hey, so there are other things going on in my life besides polishing up my book. Maybe I should think about that stuff for a few minutes and let my book-brain take a break. Yes. Yes, that’s precisely what I need to do.

* My sister is still in Australia on her all-expenses-paid trip through her job. (Well, I guess meals aren’t included. So it’s actually a majority-of-expenses-paid trip.) She is having a great time, according to her sporadic posts on Facebook! She has had trouble logging into her regular email, and T-Mobile gets no reception down under, apparently. But, she did manage to call us on Monday from the lobby of the hostel she was staying in. It was mid-afternoon here, but about 8 or 9am on Tuesday morning for her. I loved hearing from her, and wished we had more time to talk. I seriously can’t wait to hear everything, and see her photos. I miss her so much!

* She took surf lessons. And got to kayak in an area of Byron Bay where a pod of dolphins live, and whales are passing through since it’s their migration season. I would die to see that in real life! Holy crap.

* I finally dyed my hair. I went with dark brown, so when I do the color streaks, they’ll show up well. If I’d done dark red, the colors could clash in a weird way. I still need to make the appointment for the streaks… I might be chickening out on it. I don’t want to look stupid.

* I love, love, love my pets so much. Sorry, I have to brag! My boys are so good, it’s ridiculous. On any given day, Gremlin will cozy up to Moose, purring like crazy… Hurley will sit with Moose and they’ll weirdly be doing almost the same poses at the same time… Simon swishes past, all orange cloud-and-whispy-tail, talking to me while I work on my book, watch TV, or just walk through the house (he likes to follow me, saying “merr, merr” the whole time)… They don’t fight, or cause messes. Well, OK, Gremlin has done it a few times now, but for some reason, he gets a pass. I can’t explain it! I just forgive him so fast. I’m really in awe of the harmony and the sweet nature of each pet. I am so damn lucky, it’s not even funny.

* Grem’s new thing is to sleep up next to my head at night, with his chin resting on my forearm or hand (I sleep on my side). The cool thing is that he doesn’t wake me up to do this. I simply wake up and there he is. I say good morning to him, and he flops around and reaches toward me as he stretches. He’s stopped the weird humping thing for the most part, but he still loves to stand on me. He doesn’t care where I am, what position I am in, or what I’m doing. I was lying on my side, talking on the phone the other day, and he jumped up and balanced on my side, between my hips and ribs. It was pretty funny. I’m touched he loves being with me so much. It’s cute.

* My sister brought her dog Jack over to the house about a week and a half ago so he could meet his two canine cousins. Everything went very well. Jack is sweet and happy, and clearly still a puppy. He bounces, and has a crazy-short attention span, all of which is adorable. He loved Hurley and Moose. I realized Moose doesn’t actually know the proper way to play. He wants to play, and he is friendly about it, but he tends to show his teeth and sometimes make bark-growls that startled Jack. His other body language at the time is perfect, though… he’s wagging his tail, no hair is up on his spine, and he does play bows and everything. He’s just got to learn not to put such a scary face on when playing! I think it did, actually, serve a purpose: Jack learned not to be sooooo insane and in Moose’s face thanks to the teeth-baring and growl/barks. Either way, they were working together to figure out their particular play threshold, and that made me so happy. There was never a moment of aggression.

*Jack didn’t meet the cats yet, but I’m sure he will. Simon, in particular, is very curious and wants to check him out. They’re in for a surprise– they have never had to deal with puppy energy!!! They’re spoiled with mellow Hurley and laid-back Moose. Wait till they realize not all dogs are that calm. Hee hee hee.

* I’m back to juicing on a frequent basis again. My goal is to get back to one homemade juice each day, replacing one meal… the only thing holding me back is getting my ass to the grocery store to get fresh veggies and fruit on a more frequent basis. I hate food shopping, even if it is at Sprouts or the farmers market! I wish I liked preparing food more than I do. Anyway, I’m watching what I eat again and trying to go as organic as possible. I had my green juice for breakfast today, and washed and prepped some stuff for my next juice. I don’t know… I might do a carrot-apple-ginger one tonight, we’ll see.

* I still have a ghetto-ass roof situation. Those shingles are still blown off/twisted up in the air, and I haven’t found someone to come fix them for me. I don’t want to pay a whole lot, and I don’t want to call a roofing company b/c I already know the recommended upgrades and repairs I *should* make, and don’t want to get hassled about things I can’t yet afford… I was hoping a male friend or acquaintance could come over and just do it for me. I’d pay, of course. Still, can’t blame people for not wanting to get up on a hot roof in 108-degree weather with the sun blazing down the whole time. Oh, well. In the meantime, my house is trashy. I should embrace it, and put a rusted car body up on cinder blocks out front. Borrow someone’s old coonhound to sit and bay from his place, chained to an old tractor tire under the tree. And I definitely need to throw empty beer cans in the driveway. (This gives me an excuse to drink beers. Many beers.)

* The current season of So You Think You Can Dance is almost over already. I hate the new format, but I do love that there will be two winners now instead of just one. All of my favorite dancers–except for Amelia, who was cut a couple weeks ago on a night they sent FOUR home all at once, yikes!– are in the top 6. I just adore this show, but again, I wish so much it wasn’t a competition. Just a showcase of different choreographers and dancers– they could have a new ‘cast’ every season. I don’t understand the reality TV obsession with competitions. Who says there has to be a winner when it comes to artistic stuff like dance?

* I watched most of the Republican National Convention, and last night the Democrats got started on their own. (Side note: Has there ever been a better First Lady than Michelle Obama?! She is so classy, intelligent and inspirational.) This is the first time I have watched these conventions, and the first time I am quite opinionated and sure of my decision to vote for Obama. I can’t help it– I see the glass as half-full when it comes to the issues in this country. Progress is being made, and that’s a good thing. Why anyone would want to HALT progress that helps other people simply doesn’t make sense to me. Ugh. The pessimistic viewpoints of a lot of (not all!) the Republicans freak me out and make me sad. I don’t feel they’re looking at things in a good perspective. I think people forget about all the blessings we do have just by virtue of living in the US, and how on the other side of the world people are starving, dying, there is violence and terror… Uh-oh, I am starting to rant again.

* I am trying very, very hard not to rant. Or talk politics too often. I don’t want to be a jerk. Or try to talk someone into my way of thinking. I’m just passionate and excited about my own choice, and that’s what’s at the heart of it for me.

* I’m soooooo, soooo close to being completely done with my book. So I do need to get back to it. I really can’t help myself right now–it’s all I want to do. Seriously.

Not settling for vanilla anymore

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VENT!

So, I am taking an online course called “How to Blog” for work right now. Honest to God, it’s the most useless, waste-of-my-time ever. I didn’t have a say in taking this course; my boss signed me and my co-worker up for it because we might, one day, create a blog for our magazine. But since there are red-tape hurdles in our way, it might not be for a long time, yet. Still, he thought we could all benefit in a class to learn about blogging.

Some of the class’ questions: What is a blog? How do you set up a blog? What kinds of things should you blog about? How do you add links in your posts? Ad nauseum.

I know it’s good for people who know nothing about blogging, but it’s so boring for me. I already know how to write in business-blog style (as opposed to my regular voice), so the one thing I could have benefited from learning– how can I retain an individual voice while remaining very professional/factual?–isn’t going to be addressed in class. I know, because I asked the instructor flat-out and she told me, “I can’t really give you recommendations on your writing style. Your work is great, though! Good job!”

Oh, wow. Thanks.

My boss and co-worker are complete newbies to blogging, though. I actually had to set up both of their blogs because they were utterly confused, and I’ve been teaching them more than the class has. The class didn’t really TEACH anything. The assignment for the first week was: Create a blog. Write 10 posts. Seriously, that was it. And the teacher recommended looking at Perez Hilton for an idea of what a good blog looks like!!!!! What?! We’re paying for this?! (Thank god it’s the company’s dime and not mine.)

Boss and co-worker need help with everything. I made them blogs in WordPress, since it’s easiest, but they’re still floundering three weeks into the class. I have to show them how to edit a post, how to comment on another person’s blog post, how to add in photos (something one of them has not mastered yet at all, which seems weird to me) and change the title of the blog itself. (Both of them still have just their URL’s name as the title of the blog– without punctuation or anything. It annoys the crap out of me.)

I’m somewhat amazed that people who use the internet all the time don’t know anything about blogs. And this is my BOSS, to make it even more mind-boggling. How’d he get to this point, as an editor, without knowing anything about blogging? Oh, well. My amazement doesn’t change the facts. Sigh.

I wish I could get some kind of extra credit for all the help I’m giving them right now. I won’t, though. I just had my performance review and he just sort of glossed over all the stuff I am doing to help them get through the blog class.

I’m ready to do something else. I mean, when the next phase of my life kicks in and if an opportunity to do something else to earn money for a living comes up, I’m going with it. This job’s been fine. I made decent money, and I don’t lose sleep over my work. Sometimes I get really busy and have to work at home and on the weekends, but other times it’s slow and I have time to waste and/or work on my real writing. So it could be a LOT worse.

But, you know, this is IT for me, at this job. There is no potential for advancement unless my boss leaves, which he won’t, because he has three kids at home and needs the job (he’s not dynamic enough to get hired anywhere else easily, to be honest). Every year it’s the same old thing. I write the same type of articles each issue, I coordinate the same two columns and I attend the same conferences. I’m bored. My creative headlines and leads get dumbed down and pasteurized, for lack of a better word. I don’t have the final say on that stuff, and it shows. (I would never willingly use the word “thus” in an article– yet, my editor puts it in there all the time. All the time.)

I could not be more ready to plunge into this fiction industry than I am right now. I’m doing tweaks to my book’s first draft now, which is fun, because I’m revising and tightening up sections and writing neat little flashbacks. I’ve begun my pitch and query letter drafts. I’ve begun to outline the sequel. And then, I am formatting two other short stories to submit to some writing contests and magazines (each one has different formatting standards, which is time consuming, but I’m playing by the rules). I am SO doing this. I’m done being vanilla and safe.

When I sell my house this coming year, I’m gonna be so psyched to leave the responsibility of home ownership behind me. I would much rather rent and put money toward experiences; things like travelling. I’m ultra aware of how short life really is, and I am done wasting it doing the safe, expected things. None of that has made me any happier, first and foremost. And none of that ‘responsible’ stuff has brought me a good man, or the ability to adopt or have a child. So, what’s the point? Why not have more fun with my everyday life?! Make the most of what life’s dealt me, and move into a newer, more creatively-fulfilling existence?

I’m changing my appearance to better match my real personality, too. The first, easiest change is my hair. I cut off about 5 inches last night, so no more layers. They only made my hair look thinner and drier. Now I have a blunt bob cut, just above my shoulders. I love it. I will be dyeing it a darker color within the next couple of nights and then going back to the salon for weave/extensions of dark purple and/or blue streaks. I’ve wanted to do this forever, admiring it on some people I see online or at events, and yet I always go conservative. WHY? My job doesn’t require me to have a certain look. We don’t even have a dress code. What am I waiting for? I have to do it now or never, otherwise I will be old and look really weird with purple hair. (Or… it will make me look younger…? I don’t know.) All I know is that I want to be able to compliment myself when I look in the mirror, instead of going, “Ugh. So boring, again.”

The rest of my changes in appearance will simply come from how I carry myself once I start feeling proud again, and feel more like the real me. I’m really excited for that.

I know I am just rambling here at this point. I am simply so ready for What’s Next. I feel like tap dancing towards it! Which is a feeling I will gladly take, for sure. It’s so preferable to the depressed, low-energy, mundane-everyday way I have been living for years. I’m not scared, because I’m not doing anything risky like quitting my job to go “be a writer” or something… and I am older, wiser, more experienced, every day. I’m bringing good things to this fiction journey. I’m not so hung up on trying to keep my expectations realistic as I once might have been. I am allowing myself to believe my writing is strong and unique, and that I do have an honest shot at being picked up by an agent and selling some of my work. It’s a really, really new way of thinking, but it feels nice! I welcome it.

Now: here’s where I ask you if you might be interested in reading my book.

Not right this second. But, before October. Before I take it to the Conference. (Plus, like I said, I am still tweaking it at the moment.) But I do need some readers to just read through it, beginning to end, and give me HONEST impressions and criticism. I don’t need proofreading, per se (although I won’t turn it down, of course), but more or less I want to find out if the story holds your attention, if you are sympathetic to the main character, if it’s got enough action, if it’s paced OK. The ‘big picture’ stuff. I just want to know. I am waaaaaay too close to it to ever really know for sure. Outside, critical feedback is what I’m craving.

I know some of you have already read some of the early chapters, so you will be familiar with many parts of it, but I do think the entire thing has changed since then and so it won’t be a total repeat for you if you read this again. Plus now, it’s an entire story, not just singular chapters. 🙂

Anyway, if you are interested, let me know. When I finish the tweaking-stage, I can send you the document. I really recommend reading it on a Kindle or something, because I can safely say it looks terrific on that screen as opposed to sitting in MS Word. 🙂

Thank you so much! (Oh, one other thing: You are so, so, SO not obligated to do this, so please don’t do it out of guilt, or anything like that. That would suck for both of us.)

The Writing Conference!

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I took a big step in an overwhelmingly positive direction today: I just registered for the Writer’s Digest West Conference. It takes place in Los Angeles October 19-21. I am so deeply excited about this, I can’t stop smiling!

Interesting — yesterday morning, I was writing in my journal about how bored and uninterested in anything I have been feeling, and then one day later it’s a whole different story. I’m so glad I went on the Writer’s Digest site yesterday to read a little about a new contest they’re doing… and saw the ad for the conference… and clicked… and then I knew, instantly, this was something I simply had to try to go to.

The cost is prohibitive, and I spent the afternoon trying to think of ways I could come up with the money in time. Maybe I could sell some stuff? Like a kidney? (only half-kidding…) But then I remembered a very fortuitous thing coming up: At my company, when you’ve been here for 5 years, they give you a bonus check at the end of the fiscal year. I don’t know how much it’s going to be, but at least a couple hundred dollars or so. I should be getting this bonus in the next few weeks.

The only problem with that: the early bird registration, which is $70 less than the regular registration, closes on August 17. I won’t be getting any bonus until at least the following week. So, after talking with my Mom about it, she offered and then, actually insisted, that I let her lend me the money so I can register now. I hate borrowing money from her so much, but I decided this was as good a reason as ever. And she will have that money back by the end of this month, as long as all goes well and they don’t decide, suddenly, to stop doing the 5-year bonus checks for some reason! (That would be just my luck.)

ANYWAY! This is a big deal because I need to do this to kick my writing career into drive, already. It’s been sitting here, getting all dusty in my mind’s garage, for way too many years now. I have always known that writing books is ALL I want to do with my life. Well, that and rescue animals. But for a career? This is it. I have been telling stories since I was a little kid. I love making up stories so much. I love living in my imagination, letting go, encouraging my mind to surprise, amuse and scare me. I am proud of my weird brain. It’s what makes me Me.

FIGHTING MY WORST CRITIC:

I’m not sure why I have pushed it all to the back burner for so much of my life, though. It’s like I am afraid of trying. Why? I mean, I can handle rejection. At least, I think I can. (I haven’t submitted enough to have mountains of rejection letters yet, although I SHOULD.)

I want as many rejection letters as Neil McCormick, in this awesome shot from Killing Bono… enough to spell out “wankers”! (This is a cheap way for me to get a sort-of picture of Ben Barnes into this post… yes, I still adore that man, I can’t help it… and Killing Bono is on Netflix now, you should watch it, amen.)

Getting back on track: I can handle criticism and feedback, and in fact, I love it. It’s fascinating to see what other readers think, notice or want when they read my stuff. I’m always surprised and anxious to change my stuff to make it better. The thing is, I am already my own worst critic, so anything anyone else says is going to be insignificant in scale to the things I already think about my writing.

That right there is my biggest problem: I am too critical of myself. WAY too critical. I get bogged down in trying to analyze everything I’ve written, trying to read it the way an outside reader would, trying to identify plot holes, places where the story drags, worrying that my characters aren’t well-rounded or even likeable, and then I freeze up when it comes to time to do a transition… it’s stupid, that’s what all of this is. I know I need to learn this, but I don’t ever do it, it seems: JUST WRITE. Edit later. Get the story out. Have fun! It’s a waste of time and energy to let myself spin off into this negative territory at the writing stage. Let that come later, when I am revising and trying to make an editor happy. But this part needs to be fun again. I know it can be. I did some writing this week that was fun. So that’s something.

What can I do to keep myself on track? How can I pump myself up and believe I am capable and worthy of putting this time and attention into my stories? Because it’s becoming a do or die situation here. Do I want to go another year feeling like a loser who doesn’t finish her stories? No, I really don’t want to do that. Not anymore. All I feel these days is a crippling sense of regret, for all the lost, wasted years I have had since I moved to AZ. I didn’t accomplish much of anything here. Number one: I didn’t finish my book. But also, I didn’t find the love of my life. I didn’t push myself, challenge myself, professionally. I languished. I have wasted time on things like the houses where I live, worrying about things I can’t control, awful relationships, and just general time-wasting stuff like playing on the internet when I could be writing, or watching TV mindlessly.

All of it has been a distraction. Each of those things was a reason why I couldn’t write, not right now. I’ll do it later. Even this whole new obsession with moving back to NJ is a distraction from my real calling.

It doesn’t matter where I move to. If I don’t act like a writer and do the work of a writer, I am NOT a writer. I’m just someone who says in that vague, non-committal way, “I want to be a fiction writer…someday…” and that’s no longer acceptable. I realize now how life is short and how easily time can be frittered away on useless activities and harmful self-opinions.

I have a few ideas to make actual changes and get things accomplished leading up to this conference.

1)  Join the gym. I know I need to exercise for so many reasons. To lose weight. To look better, to be healthier. But in this case, it’s really to get my blood flowing and endorphins pumping so I can have more energy and motivation to write. I always liked making a playlist for one of my books (always Zachary at this point—I almost can’t remember a time when I didn’t work out to music and think of him) and zone out as I worked out, getting ideas and letting my mind wander. I know I have the treadmill, yes. But I need to do some weight training, too. And I want to try rowing, to get my upper body in shape.

2)  Make my own motivational signs/posters for my house. Put one on the fridge, another in the living room and another in my room. All the places where they will have the most impact; all the places where I am most likely to fall into old, energy and time-wasting habits. I’m tempted to eat mindlessly—so, put a corresponding sign on the fridge. I tend to sit around in my living room and mindlessly watch TV or use the internet—so, a sign needs to go in there, too. Probably right over my TV, in fact. And finally, I want the first thing I see in the morning to be a motivation to get up, and make my day the best, most productive day possible. Maybe I’ll write it on the mirror itself. I don’t know yet.

I love that now I have a goal. A date on the calendar that’s like a deadline. I want to have Zachary’s story finished by the time I go to the conference. It’s not so I can hand it to an agent or anything right then and there. It’s more to know, for myself, that I FINISHED one of my books and it’s ready to go if anyone wants to read it. It’ll make me feel like a real novelist. No, wait. It will make me a real novelist. Unpublished, but still a novelist. And that’s what I want for myself. Regardless of what happens/doesn’t happen at the conference, I want this accomplishment very, very much.

AGENTS:

What’s my main goal for the conference? Landing an agent. Definitely, that. To that end, I am also developing my other two novels so they can be pitched as well, if it comes up. I will write two more chapters of each one of those books. It won’t be that hard, really… the first several chapters of a book are always easier for some reason.

I already know which agents will be there at the conference, and what they are looking for–what genres, what kinds of writers, etc. Sweet. Then, there is a pitch slam on the second day, where for 90 minutes, writers get to visit with as many agents as they can, and share 90-second pitches for their novel(s). Fortunately, the night before, there is a “pitchcraft” session that will help eveyone polish up their pitches and get all geared up to pitch like crazy the next day. I’m ridiculously excited to learn how to pitch these books to get the agents’ attention.

My tendency is to downplay my stuff; to be all modest to a point of it being counterproductive. But now’s the time to stop doing all of that. Now’s the time to SELL IT. Play myself up! Be excited about my unique books! All three of my books are very different from one another, and that’s awesome, I think. I can write so many varied ways. I can write for business magazines, and I can write marketing copy. And my fiction writing covers the following three genres:

* Speculative fiction/ contemporary science fiction

* Paranormal romance

* Fantasy satire/ humor

It’s OK to be proud of this range. I have got to make myself believe that and stop being all humble and crap. Not every writer has this range. This is a very, very good thing and bodes well for my chances at landing an agent.

And I am well-versed in rewriting and revising my writing. That’s what I do, most of the time, in my job. Sure, it’s for the business articles I write and coordinate, but it’s still a skill I am good at after all these years of paid, daily practice. I’m not a total newb at this. I can say I have had 14 years of experience as a professional writer and editor when I speak to an agent. I have to believe that’s a selling point. Sure, it was all non-fiction stuff, but still. It has to count for something.

INVESTMENT:

I’ve never spent this much money on one thing that’s just for me… not since I paid off my college loans, that is. But yeah, spending hard-earned cash on something that’s not flat-out practical and responsible is very hard for me to do. (I don’t mean buying small stuff, like books and clothes. I’ve got no problem there, sadly!) If it’s over $100, it has to be for a VERY GOOD REASON. Like a vet bill, or getting some work done on my house. Or paying down a credit card.

Spending hundreds of dollars on something like this, though? A totally new thing. I’ll admit that my first thought when I saw the cost to do this was “I can’t throw that kind of money away; I’m not that good of a writer yet, anyway.” But for whatever reason, a light went on. A much-needed light. I realized no… this is exactly what I need to spend money on. Screw the house. I’ve sunk enough money into that thing as it is. The pets have the CareCredit card so if I need to take them, I can use that account. It doesn’t need to be cash. And finally, those pesky credit cards: Let’s face it, they’re not going anywhere anytime soon. Even if I threw $1,000 at my largest balance, it’s not making the kind of dent I wish it would. It’s plenty adequate that I pay every month, on-time and well over the minimum due.

Spending money on this conference is the responsible thing for me to do right now!

Once I got my head around that viewpoint, suddenly it made all the sense in the world to do this. Not doing it would be a big mistake.

So, that’s what’s going on! The biggest thing in my life right now. I’m so happy about it. I feel almost bipolar, given how I felt earlier this week. I was so “mehhh” and lackluster in general. Now, there’s a little surge of bright, shiny happiness that’s woken up my mind and, it also seems, my body. I feel like I’m carrying myself different today. I feel like I can more easily smile and look people in the eye. It’s very cool.

I must make this all last until the conference. And then, I really believe I’ll get a brand-new surge of energy and inspiration to carry me further into whatever the future holds for me and my writing. Either way, this is the start of something BIG.

Monsoon rains, promising winds of change…

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I feel quite happy right now. This has been an exceptionally good, peaceful weekend. First we had lots of rain yesterday, which dropped the temperature down to an incredible 79 degrees! My sister and I got pedicures and waited out the rain storm–which was more like a true monsoon storm than anything else– by wandering around a shopping center and getting soft serve ice cream.

Today, it was still cool out in the morning so I was able to open all the windows and turn off the A/C for awhile. Ahhhh! I called my Mom and we went to the movies. We saw “Brave,” which was absolutely adorable and well done. I highly recommend it! I also recommend not reading much about it beforehand, because that’s what I did in this case and it totally helped make the movie feel more magical and the story unexpectedly touching. Plus it is gorgeous. My Mom just kept gasping quietly and leaning over to whisper, “Oh, it’s that beautiful? Amazing!” at many of the scenes. She doesn’t go to the movies very much at all–like once a year– so she just gets into it and appreciates the experience. I love that.

After the movie, Mom and I went to dinner. And that’s when the best part of my weekend happened:

Mom: “I could kick myself for selling the condo on Middlewood sometimes.” (That was in NJ before we all moved to AZ)

Me: “Yeah? Why? Do you wish you could move back to NJ?”

Mom: (Nods empathetically) “Oh, yeah. I mean, my friends are all there, ya know? I like the winters out here, but the summers are getting to be intolerable.”

Because she said this, I was finally able to tell my Mom about the plan to move away. Finally. I haven’t wanted to say anything to her b/c she usually talks about how much she loves living in AZ and in the past, when I’ve mentioned moving back to NJ, she’s been kind of discouraging about it. She hates the NJ winters so much, and she talks about how expensive it is back there. But to hear her talk today and be so positive about my plan was just… the best!

I told her NJ is my first choice, because yeah, I would love to live near my friends and family again so much. I mentioned Oregon, too, and she was even interested in that option. She mentioned Seattle, actually, and said she’d heard how beautiful it is there. I made her laugh by saying, “But Mom, if you move there, you’ll never sleep again. Never. You’ll be sleepless,” and she took a minute before getting my lame joke. (She loves that movie.)

Overall, I’m just feeling so much lighter and excited to have it out in the open and to know she is completely on-board for this when it happens. She wants to split the moving costs (one van) and would be interested in either rooming with me for awhile until we both get on our feet back there, or if we definitely go back to NJ, approaching her old best friend about renting the mother-in-law suite in her house, which has been sitting empty for a couple years now. Wow! That would be amazing if it worked out.

Next, I have to talk to my Dad about it. It would help if he knew, because he might be able to scope out a few rentals in the area once it gets closer to the time I move. (I’m still thinking early June 2013 at the moment.) That 1851 house is still for sale, by the way. The price dropped another $3K this past week. Yeah, I’ll admit I am a little obsessed with that particular house. I don’t want to buy–I want to rent, and not have homeowner responsibilities anymore! But damn, rentals are not as plentiful out there as they are in AZ for one thing, and the monthly rental rates are much more than a mortgage payment would be. Yeeesh. I don’t know what will happen yet! But I love it. I’m excited about the unknown!

Well, I’m off to wash all my fruits and veggies for this week (the first part of the week, anyway) and get to bed soon. I’ve been staying up way too late, researching real estate (rentals) and the job markets around NJ and, yeah, Oregon a little bit. I have to quit daydreaming and get things done in the now, of course. It’s just been lots of fun to let myself get excited about the possibilities. I’m very optimistic that by this time next year, I’ll be in a different state, feeling all keyed up and nervous about having just moved and trying to get settled somewhere completely different. It will be sweet.

Time to switch gears!

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I guess I’m feeling kind of off these days. What I mean is that it’s been tricky for me to organize my thoughts into something cohesive because I tend to jump around from topic to topic very fast. I don’t give things a chance to really percolate. There are so many things I want to do, need to do, and then so many silly distractions.

It’s the same old story. I have to start exercising. I have to stick to eating better. I have to work on my writing. I have to take care of my house and keep it clean. All of this swirls around and around in my head and instead of sorting it all out and taking one step at a time towards action, I do nothing. I don’t get why that’s my reaction, especially since I know better and I aware of what I am doing.

I feel like I need a severe ass-kicking to get me out of my lethargic “whatever, I’ll do all that stuff I need to do later… sometime…or never” funk. And no one’s gonna kick my ass but me, so it’s time to do it.

The first thing is probably to make meaningful lists of all the things I have to get done. And break it down accordingly. I can’t make one master list and hope to just cross everything off one by one; that doesn’t work for me. I need to say OK, I’ll do this, this and this on Monday night, and then on Tuesday night I’d do this and this, and on Wednesday…etc. I need to plan and schedule things. I am bad at planning and even worse at scheduling things.

The main point here is I must take action. One way or another. DO something and not just kinda think about doing something. This shit’s gotta stop here, now. I have goals. Things I want for my life. (And things I don’t want) So it’s now or never.

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A few weeks back, I made a decision to simplify my life by getting rid of half of my possessions. So far, I’ve only managed to do this with my shoes, but it was really worth doing! It felt amazing to do a massive purge like that. It really does take hauling everything out and dumping it on the floor, rather than picking at the pile here and there like a little wimp.

Next is my clothes, because that’s the biggest challenge of all. I have squirreled away old clothes all over the place. I’ve long had the misguided idea that I will want to wear all of those old size 10 jeans and medium shirts again once I lose all the weight. In reality, who wants to wear stuff they last wore in 2002 or so? And besides, it’s not smart to keep clothes around that no longer fit. Just have what you can wear right now. End of story. It’s simple.

Anyway, I am doing all this simplifying so it will be easier when it comes time to move out of Arizona. The second major thing I decided a few weeks ago is that yes, I am absolutely going to leave Arizona within the next year or so.

I’m done with it. I’ve been here for 14 years now, which is much longer than I’d ever intended. But it’s true that time goes so fast! It doesn’t feel like 14 years in a lot of ways. However, when I think of the messed-up situations that have happened out here in my life (the bizarre relationships I had with guys being the most obvious ones, but also the illnesses, the bad luck streaks, the struggles at different jobs and two different layoffs, for starters), it feels like I have been here for all 37 years of my life, and counting. I feel kind of worn out and dead in some ways.

It’s like sludge around me, all of the memories, lessons learned and the general ugliness of this particular state. I mean, this place is run by some psychotic Republican conservatives and they seem dead set on halting anything that could be considered progress. Maybe it’s the heat, but no one here knows their neighbors. We scowl at one another in stores and in traffic. We have no place to go in the summer except to work and home because we can’t function outdoors. I am not charmed by the people here, whatsoever.

I think it’s like this because there are no roots here for people. As I get older, I see how important it is to have a true community, a fundamental “home base” where you can be who you are with people who accept you for who you are and what you can bring to the table. Most of the people in AZ are from some other place, so you have a lot of hollow-feeling people walking around here every day, lacking a basic connection to a community, because they left theirs behind a long time ago. I feel like that. And I am tired of feeling this way. I really am.

You can’t fake, or force, community or friendships. It’s never going to work. Real relationships with other people come with lots of time and shared experiences. That’s why my biggest dream right now is to move back to the NJ area so I can rejoin a community that makes sense to me. I have true connections and ties to people and places back there; nothing out here compares to what I have there. I can count on one hand the number of friends I would sincerely miss seeing every day if I left AZ. Interestingly, I can’t see those people really living here in AZ for the rest of their lives, either. They belong living alongside an ocean or lake somewhere, or in a ghost town, or in a big city like NYC…

If I can’t make a move back to NJ work for financial reasons, then I’m considering the Pacific Northwest. Particularly, Oregon. I know it’s kind of a hipster paradise, with lots of do-gooder liberals and people like that, yes. The thing is, I wouldn’t mind being around positive, open-minded people again. It seems like people grow and flourish, like flowers, in a place that is alive with rain, living plants and trees, and soil with real substance you can dig your hands down into. Out here, it’s dry, dusty and the plants that do grow here naturally are tough and covered in thorns or spikes. Nature is on the defensive here, because it’s such a hardscrabble existence. You have to fight for every drop of water, every life-giving nutrient. This isn’t an environment conducive to true growth and development, physical or psychological. The longer I am here, the more stifled and dried out I feel in general. And I’m tired of it.

I’m very excited about whatever happens next. I’m keeping an open mind about where, exactly, I will end up living… It makes me happy to have a nice, lovely unknown in front of me. I like knowing the mediocrity of the life I’ve settled into will be coming to a close. I love that fact, actually.

I’ve thought about moving away before, many times. I even started to make plans here and there. But this time it feels a lot different, a lot more concrete and planted in reality.

And there are so many little things I’m excited about experiencing. I can’t wait to see Hurley and Moose in a new, wetter environment. They hate the rain now. Which is silly, especially in Hurley’s case, since he has a coat designed to hold up well in the rain. But they’ve never known anything different than hot, sunny, dry weather 98% of the time. I cannot wait to walk them someplace where the pavement isn’t on fire even at 9pm at night.

I’m excited for the sound of crickets outside in the summer as I fall asleep.

I’m excited about being able to go sit down near the water, any old time I want. What water? The ocean, a lake, a river, a creek, I don’t really care. Just having access to something like that again without taking a 2+ hour car ride and then the place is swamped with people all seeking the same exact thing… man, that will be amazing.

I’m excited for leaves falling off trees in the autumn. Not in December or January.

I’m excited for snow days and actually wanting to eat/drink something hot.

I’m excited to see old buildings and historic sites; feel history around me again. You just don’t get that out here. It’s really strange, when you stop and think about it. Or try to feel it out. In Arizona, everything’s kind of plopped down on the surface of the earth, and anything old is demolished. I have to laugh when people make fun of NJ and say it’s nothing but malls. Whoever thinks that has never been to the Phoenix area. This entire city is one giant mall, basically. I never had a real shopping problem until I moved here, because shopping’s one of the only things you can do sometimes. Stores are everywhere. I have to drive miles and miles to find an actual park or some kind of open space, and only 3 minutes to reach the nearest strip mall to the east, and 4 minutes for the nearest one to the west. It’s kind of lame.

Yeah, the time has definitely come to move on.

I can’t wait.