My blogging situation

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I am beginning to move away from this blog, in favor of blogging on my website. If you know my name, it’s http://myname.com. No spaces — just my first and last name dot com.

I’ll still use this one as I’ve always intended it: more or less as a diary. Meaning, I will still write here occassionally about personal things or anything I wouldn’t want the professional writing community to read for whatever reason.

So, if you’re so inclined, go check out my website and if you want to give me any suggestions or ideas to improve it, please feel free. I like the site so far, but I still have more to add to it. I want it to be a good representation of my writing range.

My journey to landing an agent just began in earnest last week. I sent my samples out to the two interested agents… but one of them has a “full mailbox” and so my email bounced back three times. I’ll wait a couple more days, and try re-sending it. Hopefully by then she’ll have checked her email! I have to say I don’t see this as an encouraging sign, because I would want my agent to be professional in all regards, and that includes keeping her email account active. We’ll have to see.

And no news is good news with the other agent, I’m thinking. I don’t expect the first agent to be the one that “bites”… I’m all set to query the next batch of agents I’ve pinpointed through my research. I will be doing that next batch– it will be 4 or 5 at a time– this week. Not sure which day, but it’ll happen. I remain psyched. 🙂

In other news, I’ve got a really painful bout of sciatica going on these days. Holy crap. It’s doing something I’m calling “seizing up” whenever I first stand up after sitting for awhile. The pain just shoots down my nerve and the muscles around it almost freeze so I can’t put my foot flat on the ground. It only lasts a few seconds, but it’s ridiculously painful for those seconds. I’m trying not to be a wimp, and definitely trying not to complain about it, but there are times when I can’t hide it– like those “seizing up” moments. I tend to gasp a little, or make an involuntary little noise. Because of this, I chose not to go to a social event on Friday night where I could have possibly spoken to the guy I kind-of like. First, I was in no shape to do a lot of walking around or sitting on bar stools, etc… and second, if I ended up looking like a total gimp or something, that would be counterproductive. Mehh. It sucks a whole lot. It really does. I hate my spine.

I’m giving it another week or so to see if it eases up on its own. It usually does. This happened around this time last year, too. I do know what to do to take care of the problem: lie flat with my knees bent with an ice pack on the discs for 15-25 minutes at a time; do my stretches after a hot shower or using the heating pad; sit up straight and only wear shoes with a lot of support and no heels. I broke out the hydrocodone on friday. I had to. I rationed it all year so I would have it on-hand when I truly needed it. I’ve only taken it twice so far since Friday, but I will take it again if I absolutely have to.

When these sciatica episodes happen, I wind up feeling depressed at the same time. No coincidence there, really. I feel trapped in this body, with the constant pain, and I am self-conscious about how I move and walk around. I try to pass it off like I am just fine when I’m in public because I hate when someone asks me if I’m OK. If it gets to the point that someone has to ask, that means I failed at hiding it. I kind of pride myself on my high tolerance for pain… I know that’s kind of weird. But I do. I have some kind of sciatic nerve pain every single day of my life. But you know how it is with things that are chronic: You get used to it. You find ways to cope and keep things under control. It becomes no big deal. It really does. Because if I were to give in and take meds for each little twinge and pain, I’d be on all kinds of drugs all the time, probably. And I’d be whining a lot, too. Both in writing and in person. Nah. I do not want to be that way. And I don’t need to be that way, thankfully. Like I said, I have the “gift” of a high pain tolerance.

Anyway, I have already blabbed enough about this. As I was saying, I’ll give this another week or so and if it doesn’t get better by then, I’ll call the last spine specialist I saw last year and see if I can get started on a pain management treatment plan. My friend L at work got two cortisone injections when her sciatica was acting up, and it worked great for her. I will look into that. (The only thing holding me back is the fact that insurance only covers a portion of the expense b/c it’s not a “medical necessity.” The things that are excluded from insurance coverage are ridiculous sometimes. I’d say pain relief from not one but THREE ruptured discs should be a necessity, wouldn’t you? But last year when I looked into it, one injection would cost me around $450 AFTER insurance. Yeeesh! However, thanks to changes from the federal government, my insurance company is one of the ones that has had to answer for their sins against patient care– maybe if I look into it now, it would be different! I know I no longer pay for my birth control pills, or my annual well woman visit… seriously, NO co-pays. I love it. Maybe now the insurance will cover more of the expense of the injection.)

OK, my bitching about my sciatic nerve is done.

Now I really do need to get down to work. I’ve got a lot of assignments this week and very little time to get them finished. Also? I got my latest jury duty notice recently. I am supposed to report on Wednesday for jury duty. As most of you know, this is a common occurrence for me. But I’ve lost count. This is either the 13th or 14th time in 14 years I have been called to jury duty in AZ. I am NOT JOKING. They can serve you with any number of court notices: it could be superior court, or the local municipal court. I get called to both. I’ve had to show up in person only twice and I have yet to serve on an actual jury! Usually, I call the day before I find out my group doesn’t need to appear. I wonder if that’s why my name keeps getting thrown back into the system so much.

Either way, it totally doesn’t seem fair at all. I know people who have lived here as long as I have, and have NEVER been called once! I’ve looked into this and asked questions to try to find out why I am always called, and the answer is that names are chosen “by computer, at random” from a database made from the motor vehicles department and voter registration records. I’ve wondered if I had traffic tickets or any kind of misdemeanors on my record, if maybe they wouldn’t call me as often? Would doing something bad help push me to the bottom of the juror list? Probably not. Still, I do wonder…

I am so sick and tired of getting these notices in the mail every 6 months or so. I wonder if I move away, if another state will harass me this frequently, too. Probably not.

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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! 🙂

The tale of two agents

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I can safely declare the Writing Conference a complete success! Here’s the rundown:

I left around 7am on Friday, with printed directions from Google, because I still don’t know how to use my GPS in the car. It’s not that I tried to understand it and couldn’t figure it out; it’s because I don’t care enough to find out how to use it. I do like seeing the map that tells me where I am at any given time, though. It’s pretty.

The drive out took longer than expected, mostly because of traffic once I got closer to Los Angeles. After Indio, CA, in fact… it was all a pain in the ass. But at least I didn’t get lost, and my car behaved very, very well. All in all, it was 409 miles.

I liked the hotel. Very contemporary, and most of the Conference activities were right downstairs. I didn’t use my car until it was time to leave on Sunday. My room was nice, but there was a strange little problem: the toilet smelled bad. It got better after the cleaning crew were in there, but it only came back as the hours went by. I have no clue what was wrong, and I didn’t care enough to bitch about it. I just kept the door closed and tried not to think about it.

Which wasn’t hard to do. I had so many other, wonderful things on my mind the entire time I was there!

The speakers were great. I took all kinds of notes and learned quite a bit about the publishing business itself (the legal issues seminar was of particular interest) and got some fantastic ideas and new techniques to try out as I build a story. I loved it so much… just being there, surrounded by people just like me, listening to speakers who clearly knew what they were doing and were willing to share knowledge with the rest of us, and only thinking about writing… ahhh! I can’t really explain it well, but it definitely felt amazing and totally new.

What a vast difference it is attending a conference like this, where I personally care about the subject, and attending conferences for work. Never once did my mind wander off somewhere else as a speaker talked. I didn’t feel like taking a nap in the middle of the day. And I didn’t question my life choices that led me to this point in my life. (Which is something that tends to cross my mind at least a couple of times whenever I am working at a conference, for the past 12 years or so now… I’m always like, “This can’t be all I am meant to do.” I’ve always wanted to be a fiction writer, so I’d spend all those other conferences daydreaming about my books. I have the notes to prove it, too. Some people doodle when they’re bored; I write scenes and notes.)

I made a couple of friends there, too. Friday night was a cocktail reception to mingle with the other attendees. I stood in line for the cheese and crackers in front of a girl with my same first name, and we started chatting. Turns out she is writing a YA fantasy novel and we tried our pitches out on one another. She lives in CA now, but was born and raised right here in Mesa. We talked about local restaurants and quirks of the city (ahem, Mormons everywhere) and basically hit it off. It was fun to just blab about the process of writing, of walking around with characters in your head all day, of the anxiety and excitement we felt about being there at the conference… I’m really excited to have made a new friend. We plan to become readers for one another if we’re working on something and we need an outside opinion. Yay!

I also noticed at least 3 very cute guys there. One was downright sexy, actually. Dark, curly hair and scruff… he was always smiling and chewing on his pen. He wore a 3 piece suit the first day, which was enough to make me nuts right there. Something about a classy, well-dressed, scruffy (!) guy in a suit just wows me, lately. And to know he was a bit of a nerd… a writer?! Too much, too much! I really was dying to find an excuse to talk to him (especially once I noticed there was no wedding ring), but it never materialized. Not to blame my new friend, but my best opportunities happened to be moments when she was talking to me and I couldn’t just walk away from the conversation. Oh, well.

It was just nice to see that kind of eye candy. And know that there are smart, handsome guy writers out there. They do exist. That’s such a relief. Maybe one day, just maybe… I can land me one of my own.

Saturday afternoon was the Pitch Slam. Every single person I talked to was nervous and freaking out as we stood in line to go into the room where the agents waited. People were rehearsing their pitches out loud to themselves, and one woman was apparently meditating with something in her hand… a crystal? Or a cross? No idea.

I had only come up with my pitch in the hour prior to the PS. I’d gotten ideas throughout Friday and Saturday regarding what I should do and what points I should hit, so at lunchtime I went to my hotel room and wrote the whole thing out on the tiny hotel notepad. Then I practiced reading it out loud, timing myself… and I came in under the 90 second mark, which was the goal! (We had 3 minutes total with each agent. The first 90 seconds, the author makes their pitch. The remaining 90 seconds was for the agent to give you feedback about your pitch, how you can improve it, ideas for what to do/ not do, etc… or, if you were lucky, they’d give you their business card and ask you to send some of your work to them because it intrigued them.)

So, I went down to the PS feeling a lot better now that I had a pitch in my hand. I didn’t plan to read it, of course. But now I had a real idea of what to say about my book that would make it stand out. That’s all I wanted.

It was PACKED in the PS. I think there were at least 12 agents in there, so there were also 12 lines of people lining up to talk to each agent. Some lines were so long, they snaked into a curve around other lines. Suddenly, I was very nervous.

I finally got up to the first agent and felt like I was bombing. It was because I wasn’t breathing right, and my face was all hot and blushing. But I pushed through, said my main points, and waited to hear the criticism. However…

The agent smiled and asked me a question I was able to answer really easily (and I can’t recall what it was now!) and then she slid her business card across the table. “Can you please send me the first 50 pages of your manuscript? I’d love to take a look.”

H O L Y  S H I T ! !

Unbelievable. I had prepared myself mentally that an agent asking for a partial was unlikely, because the PS event’s real purpose is to help you develop your pitch, itself, with feedback from real agents.

I went to my second agent. She was visibly excited and said, “Oh, wow!” twice about two of my major plot points. When I told her how it could be marketed (it’s a cross between this and this), she said, “See? You just did one of the more difficult things for a writer, and the agent both: you gave me the marketing line. Wonderful!” and then, under her breath, she actually said, “I could sell this.”

This agent wanted to see the first 3 chapters, as well as a summary paragraph of what my plans are for the sequel!

I was TWO for TWO.

Much, much, much more than I ever expected! I don’t know why I am so convinced that no one’s going to like my book and they will only think I’m weird for writing such a story, but I’m finally learning to get over that and have faith in my work. It’s good. It is. I worked so long and so hard on this thing. I have revised and edited like crazy. It’s time to see what everyone else thinks!

I spoke with two more agents after that. The third was receptive but told me that my story sounded a little too sci-fi for her, but my pitch was excellent. The fourth agent was just STRANGE. She just sat there and stared as I told her my pitch, and when I ran out of time, she just raised her eyebrows and goes, “Thank you. Good luck,” and looked to the next person in line. Later, I heard that she did this with pretty much everyone who pitched to her, so I didn’t feel bad. Maybe she was a robot. The PitchBot 2000!

So, I rode the high of knowing two agents were interested enough in what I told them about my book to want to see more. The feeling is amazing, and so validating. My family and friends are just as excited as I am, and now I can’t wait to do the actual queries now that I’m home and I’ve had time to tweak my query letter and develop the summary to the sequel.

So, in the end, this was the most worthwhile experience. I am so grateful I was able to do it, and that I gathered my courage and did what I set out to do: pitch the hell outta my book. Pitching isn’t easy, at all. But I did it. That’s what counts!

I’d love to go to another writing conference sometime. Too bad so many of them are expensive! I’ll just have to see how things pan out. For now, I came home with all the takeaways I could have hoped for, and the crazy-amazing bonus of two agents’ personal business cards… I’m good for awhile.

What the Pitch Slam looks like!

Two days

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ZOMG!!! The writer’s conference is this Friday. I have today and tomorrow to prepare and then… that’s it. I am off to Los Angeles!

The good news is my entire manuscript is complete. I formatted it according to industry standards and did a hard edit on it. I eliminated about 1,500 words and fixed a few problems I spotted once I read it on Kindle. (Amazing how seeing it in a different format brings a hundred little issues to light!)

My networking cards arrived today. They look fantastic! The only problem is that I hate the wording I entered when I designed the card: “Fiction Novelist.” Now… why in the world would I put something so redundant on my networking card? When I’m trying to be seen as a professional writer?! Oh my god. I’m so angry at myself! It would have been fine to just put the word “Fiction” up there. Why I thought adding “novelist” was a good idea, I’ll never know. I did design the card in the wee hours of Saturday morning, and I probably was a little stupid by that time of the night/morning. UGH. Well, at least it’s a start. At least I will have something to hand people and maybe I can make a joke out of the novelist part, with the right kind of people.

I still need to get some outfits together. Might need to go shopping tonight to finally get some sophisticated-looking tops and dress pants. And shoes. Dear god… the shoes. I need “lady shoes” so badly right now! I have all the Converse sneakers and sandals I could ever want. But something with a pointy toe and a nice style… that would be a good thing. (I have bad taste when I try to find this stuff on my own, so I’m hoping my sister can help me pick something out.)

I also need to work on my pitch. I keep trying and it’s definitely harder than I thought it would be. Trying to distill what this book is about into 4 or 5 sentences. And have it sound enticing to hook readers in. Good thing they have the pitch session the night before the pitch event itself. I’m gonna need it.

And I want to print out a copy or two of my manuscript. It’s 400+ pages. Not exactly something I can run off at work, that’s for sure. And I honestly don’t know if my home printer can handle it. I’m comparison shopping Kinko’s, Staples, OfficeMax, etc to see which one might be the best deal for printing it. Scary… if they charge $.08 a page, I’ll be spending about $32.00 per copy of my book! Dear G O D !

Maybe it will be cheaper to just buy extra ink cartridges and some reams of paper and do it myself at home. It’ll take at least an hour since my printer’s slow, but… it could be the best option.

So many things on my mind. I have to remember that this conference should also be super enjoyable. It’s not just about being ultra-professional and serious about finding an agent/ publisher. I’m going to have more than 2 days with fellow fiction writers; people who care about the same thing I’m passionate about! I’ll be among My People. (Not like at all the conferences I attend for work, where I’m just counting the hours until I can go to the airport and go home.) I’ll get to devote all my attention to the nuances of writing and how to make my own writing even better. That’s pretty damn cool.

And, I’ll be staying in a very nice hotel, in Hollywood. In any downtime I have, I’m sure I’ll enjoy the setting. I’ll have my own car, so I can take a drive if I want to. I also love long car rides with my music playing at a high volume. I’ll get that, too. I look forward to making new friends and networking with writers and writer-types. Despite my worrying and anxiety over the details beforehand, I know I’ll wind up having FUN.

That’s all that matters, really!

 

 

Dogs’ day out

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So, this weekend I didn’t do any writing or editing. It was really nice, but… I’m ready to get back into things again. But more on that in a minute.

I spent a lot of time with my sister this weekend; we had dinner out, we got wigs for our Halloween costumes, we played with her dog and she took photos of me that I can hopefully use on my new writing-only website. Yesterday, we took all three of our dogs out for a long walk at the park near my house. Jack is all over the place with excitement and puppy energy. Moose trotted along on his stubby little legs, tongue out and panting but he seemed super happy to be there. Hurley, on the other hand…

He does not like to walk long distances. I don’t know how much of it is caused by his weight and how much of it is just plain laziness and dislike of going for walks in the daytime. Because we’ve had some night walks that were at least as long as our walk yesterday (should have been). And he never once would sit down on those walks. Yesterday, he laid down so many times we lost count. Yes, it was kind of hot out and with all that fur, he’s not a dog made for strenuous activity in AZ heat. But I also gave him a lot of water along the way. And we walked along a shady path.

I still feel bad because he IS overweight. Just like me. It’s unacceptable to have pet dogs that are fat, I know. I plan to get them moving faster on our night walks and keep pushing the distance out again now that it’s cooling off. We all tend to do our share of moseying along on most of our walks. It’s time to stop sniffing and air-peeing on everything and get moving. (I’m the one who does the sniffing and air-peeing. Of course.)

My sister took some fantastic photos of our dogs yesterday. Here’s a couple of my favorites:

Jack, Hurley and Moose near the end of our walk

See sheep run. Run from loud, rude dogs.

First time all three boys have been in a car together! They did wonderful.

The Euphoria of “The End”

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I have wanted to write this post for so long! And now I can:

At long last, I finished my book last night at 1:30am. It is 333 pages long, and 103,239 words.

Everything’s in there now. All the flashbacks, all the pick-up scenes from other versions of the story…it’s all patched together and given a hard edit (heh heh) and in the end, there are 30 chapters. Some are quite short, but I think that’s OK. I read books with short chapters all the time.

The feeling of doing that final save and knowing it’s done just about made me lose my mind. I was laughing and crying and jumping up and down and dancing with the cats and ALL of that. Here’s what the general timeline on this story has been:

Summer, 1996: Began the first version of this book. Zachary was younger and basically an Army/Navy brat who finds out he’s actually a hybrid. Took place on a Naval base (I pictured the one in my town in NJ). Written on looseleaf, I got to exactly page 100 before …

Winter, 1998-99:…I changed my mind and thought, “Nope. I really don’t like this.” My boyfriend at the time (Writer Ex) read what I’d done and pointed out the problems it had and said the one thing that always kinda bugged me: “Why do you torture your characters?” [To this day, I still wonder about that. What’s my psychological profile that makes me want to do that? Ehh. Whatever — it’s storytelling, damn it.]

Early 1999: The new version of the story began. Same protagonist, totally different setting. It took place in a kind of commune, and Zachary was basically free to do what he wanted to. It was a breezy, sunny story taking place in San Diego. Only problem? Not much happened. I couldn’t figure out where the conflict was going to come from.

Fall, 2007: The book had been languishing for years. I went on a cruise with X that November and one of the destinations was Catalina Island. Not only was the place gorgeous as hell, I was fascinated with the fact that, by order of the Catalina Island Conservancy, 88% of the island is to remain undeveloped. There are two small towns on the island. We visited Avalon, which was quaint and pretty. I wished we had more time, because you could do tours into the island’s preserve lands…

That night on the cruise ship, I had an epiphany. I wanted to change the setting from San Diego to that island–or, at least, a fictional version of that island. It made more sense (a remote location, perhaps hidden deep in “conserved” lands, miles from the only town) would be kind of crucial for a controversial project like this).

That’s the harbor, and the town of Avalon. The roads snaking up the mountain into the rest of the island are what caught my creative attention… where did those roads go? Were any secret military bases well-hidden off those roads…?

As much as I hate to admit it, X told me that he believed “the government would have to be involved in a project like that one”… and the new version of the book was born. I wrote the first scene once we got back home, and it’s only partially changed over the years since.

Summer, 2012: I find out about the Writer’s Conference. Decide I’ve had enough with procrastinating with this thing. If I want to live the life I want to live, I have to actually write and finish my fiction. Something clicked, and I’ve been hard at work ever since.

And so, this has clearly been a huge part of my adult life. I know my protagonist back and forth, and I can see the Complex where it all takes place clear as day in my head. I know the personalities of all the dolphins and, especially, the hybrids. I admit it: I love this story. I wrote the book I would like to read, which is the most important piece of writing advice ever: Write what you want to read.

I think I’m close to completing my pitch and query letter, as well. I ordered business cards (well, they’re technically ‘networking cards’) last night from VistaPrint so I have something to hand to people who could be interested in my fiction work. I’m seriously planning my wardrobe for the Conference so I make the very best impression on everyone I meet there. I want to show everyone that, without question, I am serious and focused on becoming a published novelist. I’m not afraid of hard work, revisions, critiques, etc. I understand that if this book doesn’t sell, my next one WILL. I’m realistic. I’m also learning every single thing I can find about the business of publishing fiction. I’ve read over sample agency contracts and have a cheat-sheet about the different rights and any fees that could be on top of an agent’s 15%. I’m prepared and ready to fuckin’ DO THIS.

I’m gonna go in there and own the place.

Honestly, I don’t know where this confidence and “fuck it all, I’m going for it” attitude came from, exactly, but… I couldn’t be happier about it. I’m savoring it and plan to make the most of all of it. I’ve spent too many years shrinking away into the background, talking myself out of writing this book, putting off any hard work, and settling for a mediocre everyday existence of get up, go to work, write stories I don’t care about whatsoever all week, come home, do the same damn things every night, go to bed. I’ve been bored and unchallenged for far too long and atrophy was starting to set in, for real. If I don’t do this, right now, I could risk getting sucked into a complacent, average and uninspired existence that I’ll have a hard time getting away from as more time goes by.

I have already wasted far too many years of my adult life. That shit ends now.

GOD, that feels good!!!!

So, if you’re reading this, and you have some dream or goal you’ve been putting off because it’ll require hard work or drastic changes in your life…or because you’ve told yourself you’re just not ready/ strong enough/ smart enough/ good enough to pull it off… I really do hope that you get to a point where you make a solid try and take steps to do what you’ve always wanted to do. If you’re like me at all, you’ll surprise yourself how sucked in you can get once the ball is rolling!

Just don’t be hard on yourself. 🙂 Life is shit and it’s not easy. But sooner or later, you have to learn to say “fuck it” and move on to the next thing, and the hell with all the other insignificant stuff.

And if you want to give yourself something luxurious and extravagant, make that thing time and effort to become the person you want to be.

When I am tired, I start singing. And I am not good at it.

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It’s a strange, strange place in my brain these days. The good news is, it’s all happy stuff (or just goofy stuff) so I’m not all sullen and thinking dark thoughts or something. The bad news is, I can’t shut up.

I will just babble and babble to people… or to myself…

I think of the most random thing I can come up with and search YouTube to see if there’s a video for it. Most of the time, there is. I have been replying to friends’ status updates on FB with nonsensical comments. I have to drop everything and call my sister to tell her about running into (literally) a girl I call Big N’Sloppy and almost making her fall on the floor. Because, you know, that is the kind of news my sister can’t get through her day without. I type out the lyrics to a song I made up called “Zippy Longfellow” and email it to Kristen.

Today I’m in a particularly fun frame of mind because I haven’t been sleeping well for the past week or so, yes, but I have been in meetings ALL DAY. And only two of them were legitimate meetings. The others were meetings about meetings. I have only gotten two work-related emails out today. Good thing I’m not on deadline for something. But seriously guys, if you get called into meetings about meetings too much, you are going to be at a great risk for what the psychiatrists call “snapping.” I swear to god, something’s going to explode one of these days, and it’s probably going to be my head.

Also, I have been singing this. And I don’t even know all the words! (Just most of them.) He don’t plant taters. Get a little drunk, and you lands in jaaaaaaaaaaaaaaiiiillllll.

A girl could blow her voicebox out on those low notes. And still, a girl keeps doing it. A girl can be a real moron sometimes. But at least a girl ain’t hurting no one yet.

What happened on September 30?!

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Holy crap. I have to share this:

I just checked my blog stats and was shocked to see I received five-hundred and eighty-five views on September 30. I normally get around 40 views a day.

It turns out this stupid, random post I wrote about the end of the galaxy got 540 of those hits.

By the way, before this happened, that post was already my all-time most popular post. Every day, a few people do a search like “galaxies collide” or “galaxy explosion” and they wind up on that post. I even had a very educated-sounding person add a long comment on the post, explaining in detail how I got the science wrong in my post.

Like I was trying to be serious or something.

Now I feel really bad. I’ve thought about blocking the post, or deleting it. I am not only misleading people wanting to learn Real Astronomy Science-Stuff, but it’s definitely not one of my better posts in the first place.

The blog world is quite strange.

Happily, the other most popular search to get people to my blog is “Ben Barnes.” Yay! Let’s go with that, and forget about galaxies and shit.

Sweeeeet.

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.

We had joy, we had fun, we had seasons in the sun…

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^^ That stupid song is in my head today. Chris Elliott sang it on an episode of Get a Life once. Just those lines.

So, that had nothing to do with ANYthing. 🙂

The Halloween event was fun! My sister and I assembled badges for the exhibitors, staff and patrons with a group of people. (There was something like 700 total that had to be put together.) Everyone was really very nice. There was even a cool little kid that was talking our ears off and making us laugh. The geek cred on this kid was out the window, and he was only about 9 years old or so. He told my sister, “Nice Dalek shirt!” and held his own in a Doctor Who conversation that even I couldn’t follow. When we were all talking about Labyrinth and quoting it, he had the funniest line of the night: “David Bowie needs to wear some pants.”

Indeed he does, young man. Indeed he does.

On Saturday I got to have lunch with my sister and BIL before she and I went to the actual Halloween event. We bought stuff. Not a lot of stuff, but still… they had a lot of cool Halloween-themed things to buy there. It was awesome.

The last time I went grocery shopping, I bought some booze for myself. Why? Well, it occurred to me one night last week that all the writing might be just a teeny bit more fun if I had a slight buzz going. So I bought some wine, and did one of those 6 packs of beer where you can mix and match. I have only had one glass of wine so far, but it actually was a good time to sit and work on my book while drinkin’ the wine! I was very happy, too, that I have 14 chapters completely polished and ready to go. Now I just have about 10 more or so to go… (Part of this revision process is determining where new chapters actually start. So I don’t know what the final number will actually be at this point, but my guess is somewhere around 25.)

Yesterday I devoted to yard work. I did a lot, but I didn’t finish. I physically couldn’t go on. My back was getting that telltale “it’s about to blow out on you” tension, and I knew I had to lie on the floor and let everything just go back into alignment for a little while. My hands were shaking from all the clipping (I was mostly pruning hedges and the trees, and filled up the entire green recycling bin) and I was definitely overheated, with a bright red, blotchy face and sweat actually dripping on the floor if I shook my head. Eww.

Look, I don’t mind getting sweaty and dirty. I like the feeling of accomplishment that only comes from hard, physical labor, I really do. But sometimes, I have a day like yesterday where I am surprised at how exhausting it really can be! And gross. ALL of my clothes were soaked through, and I had a dusting of tiny leaf-clippings and yard dirt stuck in the sweat and in my hair. And I had enough of it. That shower felt incredible.

Last night was the season premiere of Once Upon a Time, so I had to watch that. I also finished reading that book Touch that I started a couple days ago. It was pretty good! I definitely feel confident mentioning that publisher and this particular book in my pitch (where it’s applicable, of course) for my own book. (Something along these lines: “Readers of Lucy by Laurence Gonzales, Touch by Jus Accardo and the Maximum Ride series will like this book…”)

Today I went to the dentist before work, and got great news: My tooth is not cracked, after all! And the sensitivity I am feeling is the usual sensitivity I’ve been dealing with for awhile with all the exposed dentin on my molars. There was a raggedy new chip in one of the teeth, but no decay or anything. The dentist–who is a new dentist, taking over the practice from the last guy– even poked at it (carefully!) and the pain that I braced for didn’t come. Whew! He also didn’t think a crown was necessary at this time. And to think the previous dentist recommended I not only crown that tooth, but also crown the perfectly healthy coinciding tooth on the top! I did NOT like the idea of doing that.

This dentist also had a surprising insight into my tooth-grinding. As he looked at my teeth, he wondered if I actually grind my teeth that much at all. He suspects that, back when I had my braces, the orthodontist may have actually sanded down my molars so the metal bands would fit better around those teeth! Because, my top teeth are fine with almost no wear that would indicate grinding. I don’t have jaw pain or anything, either. I thought this was fascinating. So, all these years, I have been blaming myself for wearing down my teeth like this, and I might not have done it, after all…? Weird! Well, I am still going to wear a bite guard every night, like I have been for 14+years now. No sense stopping that. Still, wow! And screw you, Dr. Scott! You shouldn’t have sanded down my friggin’ molars to make your job easier…! I knew that guy was a sadist. All the kids who went there knew that.

Anyway, it’s time to head out of here and go home soon. I think I’ll be working on the book again tonight for as long as I can. I have an in-town conference/meeting tomorrow in Phoenix all day, so I won’t be in the office… I should probably write my work article instead of my book, but honestly… I really don’t want to! I want to do MY stuff! So I will!