Tuesday, January 31, 2012

The value of taking one mouthful at a time

I miss having time to respond to every blog comment, but rest assured, I read them all and have several tattooed on my body. I keep a special file for comments that seem to merit a blog post in response. This one in particular has been floating in the file – and in my brain – for awhile now:

I would love to see a post from you on how not to give up.

I’ve been mulling it for weeks, trying to find the right words, accompanied by trumpets and pom-poms and a hearty “don’t give up!” cheer. I’ve also been thinking about my bumpy road to publication and the fact that I once fantasized there’d be some magical post-book-deal moment when I’d stop wondering if removing my own spleen with a paperclip might be easier than trying to make it as an author.

As it turns out, my fantasies were misguided. (Well, not all of them. The thing with the spark plugs and strawberry syrup turned out great, but that’s a post for another time).

But I’m sorry to say, you’ll be disappointed if you’re holding out for a day when angels sing and you’re freed from the panic you’ve lost your writing mojo or your next book sucks or your editor is plotting to creep into your house at night and beat you to death with your vibrator to avoid reading one more word you’ve written.

That’s not very encouraging, is it?

But it’s reality, and it’s something you need to face early in your writing career so you’re prepared to face it again and again, and spit in its eye. That’s what it takes.

And now that I’ve told you all that, I’m going to tell you to forget every word of it. Ignore it. Erase it from your memory. Soak your brain in bleach if you need to.

Because the trick to not giving up at any point in your writing career is the same as the answer to that age-old joke, how do you eat an elephant?

Take it one bite at a time.

If you let yourself spiral down the ugly path of envisioning failure or the agony of picking up the pieces afterward, your journey as a writer will become so overwhelmingly terrifying that you’ll crumple into a ball behind your sofa to spend the day rocking back and forth humming Poison’s “Talk Dirty to Me” until someone shows up and carts you away to a room with padded walls.

Maybe that’s just me.

I have a clear memory of sitting on a hotel bed the day after I’d finished writing Making Waves. My celebratory mood was dampened by the reality of the situation – I’d written half-a-dozen manuscripts before that one, and at least that many partials. I’d racked up countless rejections, been told, “it’s just not what we’re looking for,” and forced myself to keep trying.

Could I really do it again? I honestly wasn’t sure.

I sat there feeling overwhelmed by the prospect of rejection, of starting again, of seeing that effort rejected, and another, and another. How much more could I take?

At last, I sat up straight and blew my nose on the comforter (reason #259 you should never touch hotel duvet covers. You don’t want to know the other reasons).

“Enough!” I said out loud. “You’re making yourself crazy!”

A valid point, considering I was talking to myself in a hotel room.

But also very true. Absolutely no good would come from wallowing in what-ifs. I couldn’t control any of that, and fretting would just make me nuts. The only thing I could control was my ability to get back up and focus on the smallest, most immediate tasks in front of me – submitting that manuscript, and starting something new.

Small bites of elephant, mind you. Trying to fit the whole thing in my mouth was ludicrous.

Know what’s funny? Making Waves did get rejected. Over and over and over, even by the publisher that eventually bought it. It wasn’t until a year later when we shopped a new book – the one now scheduled as my March release, Believe it or Not – that Sourcebooks requested both manuscripts as part of my three-book contract.

Making Waves went on to be nominated for “Best Contemporary Romance” in the RT Book Reviews 2011 Reviewers’ Choice Awards. The magazine gave it a 4.5 star review – their highest rating, and the same score they just gave Believe it or Not in the brand new issue that hit shelves Friday.

I’m not telling you that to be smug.

I’m telling you that because two weeks ago, I had one of the lowest points in my writing career. I can’t go into details, but suffice it to say, it’s the closest I’ve come to throwing in the towel as an author and becoming a shepherd instead.

I didn’t give up, and I won’t. Not now, and not in the future.

But if you’re looking to me to say, “don’t give up because it’ll get easy someday,” I can’t do that.

What I can promise is that if you stay focused on taking things one bite at a time, it gets easier. And while the hardships and frustrations will always be there in one form or another, the moments of glory and good fortune have a way of balancing it all out.

Oh, and the thing about elephant? It tastes delicious with whipped cream. That’s a promise.

Monday, January 30, 2012

You want to do WHAT with that corndog?

On Saturday evening, my gentleman friend and I found a recipe for mini corndogs. We decided my two twenty-something male housemates would enjoy the meal as much as his kids would, so everyone was invited to take part.

This might have been a mistake.

Turning three grown men and one romance author loose in a kitchen full of corndogs is a recipe for terrible innuendo. Luckily, the kids were in a different part of the house when the following utterances had me doubled over in laughter: 

On failing to purchase the mini hot dogs suggested in the recipe:
It’s fine, the big ones will be juicier anyway.

On deciding whether to cut the hot dogs in half or in thirds:
Do you think this is too big to fit?

On testing the batter for consistency:
I don’t think that’s thick enough.

On determining the best way to position the corndog skewers:
Should I stick it in sideways, or straight in?

On checking the deep fryer’s temperature:
It’s hot enough, you can put it in now.

On lamenting the oil level in the deep fryer:
I wish I had just one more inch.

On finding the first corndog still cold in the middle:
You pulled it out too soon.

On waiting for the corndogs to cool:
Don’t put that in your mouth yet!

Admit it – you're never going to look at corndogs the same way again, are you?

Friday, January 27, 2012

Did I forget my pants?

Do you ever have that dream where you show up to work and discover you've forgotten your pants?

I love that dream.

OK, truthfully, I've never had it. That's probably because running around naked in public doesn't crack the top 100 on my list of things I fear. Then again, my most common recurring dream is one where all my teeth fall out. Does that point to some deeply held dental phobia?

Now I'm thinking about running around with no pants and no teeth and wondering if this would be a really excellent concept for a sci-fi movie, and I've totally forgotten the point of this blog post.

Which was supposed to be that even though I don't live in fear of forgetting my pants, I do often jolt awake at midnight thinking, did I forget to blog?

I did. Sort of. It's not the middle of the night – it's actually only 5:20 p.m. – but I'm dashing off to book club for a late night of drinking too much wine discussing literary theology, and I just remembered I haven't scheduled a post for tomorrow. Since I have a longstanding policy of never blogging after drinking too much wine discussing literary theology, I'm coming up empty handed.

There's a filthy joke in there somewhere with that last line, so feel free to make it. Or feel free to share your weirdest recurring dream, particularly if it's about lost pants or missing teeth or maybe a gargoyle who eats a baloney sandwich before donning a purple tutu and winning the Portland Marathon.

Because that would be cool.

This might be the worst post ever.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

It may not look hard, but it feels good

I have the best day job on the planet.

I get paid to take journalists out for fancy lunches, or to escort people on beer-drinking adventures around the Bend Ale Trail. I've gone ice skating, snowshoeing, bloody mary tasting, camping, mac-n-cheese sampling, hiking, standup paddleboarding, and bar hopping – all required by my job in marketing/PR for my city's tourism bureau.

I love my job. But there are times I feel guilty.

There's been some PR chaos this week, and since I only work part-time, my attention has been spread thin. Tuesday evening, I checked my calendar and groaned (not in the fun way). My entire Wednesday was blocked off for a tour of local farms, ranches, and wineries specializing in organic and sustainable practices.

In other words, I'd be paid to spend the day petting animals, eating amazing food, and drinking wine. Not exactly a hardship.

But I worried about it. Could I spare a whole day with so much real work on my plate? Would my boss consider it a waste of time? Would my co-workers envy my day of play and band together to give me a wedgie in the break room?

I considered canceling, but since I'm already contracted to write a freelance article on the experience, I decided to go.

Good thing.

Yes, the day was fun. It felt great to get out of the office and suck down fresh air, good food, and great wine. I had fun petting the animals. On a scale of 1-10, my stress level was minus-3.

But it was also one of the best learning experiences I've had in a long time.
Hello, I'm an alpaca. Want some socks?
In seven hours, I packed my brain full of useful information about culinary tourism. I learned the differences between grain-fed and grass-fed beef, and which local restaurants are best suited to food critics who prefer one over the other. I visited one of the nation's largest alpaca breeding operations, and discovered the most amazing alpaca-fleece ski socks to suggest to winter sports enthusiasts. I saw rabbits and turkeys and pigs and goats in an enormous petting zoo I never knew existed, but I'll now recommend to tourists with young kids.

Sure, it seems like I spent the day eating and playing. In a way, I did. But you can be damn sure I'm more equipped to do my job than I would have been if I'd skipped the tour and written press releases until the dullness of my own prose rendered me unconscious and drooling on my keyboard.

This is something I need to remind myself constantly as a fiction writer. For the average debut author, there's a never-ending list of blog posts to write, email to answer, and manuscripts screaming for fresh words.

Still, I spent last Sunday afternoon snuggled under the covers with my gentleman friend eating pizza, skimming cookbooks, and talking.

That might be only a partial list of activities. Regardless, it was time spent connecting with another human being. A human being I'm quite fond of, as you might imagine.

Hard to argue that's not time well spent for someone who writes novels about love and laughter and the human experience.

It's taken me a long time to reach a point in life where I don't feel a constant need to be productive. Just because I'm not parked in front of my computer doesn't mean I'm not working. Just because I'm not cranking out media pitches or chapters in a novel doesn't mean I'm not supporting my career.

And just because it doesn't look like work doesn't mean it's not the most valuable thing I could possibly be doing with my time.

Now if you'll excuse me, there's a glass of wine with my name on it. What? It's research.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

So who won the Kindle? (drumroll, please)

I'm thrilled with all the fabulous participation from readers hoping to win a Kindle loaded with all four "active fiction" launch titles from Coliloquy!

Thanks so much to all of you who commented, tweeted, blogged, Facebook posted, sent photos, and tattooed the Coliloquy logo on your butt cheeks (though, alas, we had to disqualify several who placed the tattoo on the right cheek instead of the left).

I'm going to pretend at least some of your enthusiasm is for my book, Getting Dumped, as opposed to just the free Kindle.

Some of you opted to perform the photo task as part of your entry criteria, and I laughed myself silly over these entries:

Allie Sanders got into the spirit of Getting Dumped by borrowing her nephew's hardhat and dump truck.  I'm assuming the lovely handbag is hers?

Caitlin Whitaker missed out on a contest I held several months ago inviting readers to reenact the cover for my debut novel, Making Waves. She decided to make up for it by creating a Making Waves-inspired parody for Getting Dumped. I'm just hoping that garbage can was clean. Oh, and that she knows the guy she's in there with.

Sprouting Acorn (aka Lynnanne) opted to reenact a bit of the actual cover for Getting Dumped (complete with a personal note pleading for the Kindle!)

Suzy Brown embraced the designer handbag theme in Getting Dumped. She assured us these were just the bags she happened to have with her at work. JJ and Lori (the handbag-adoring heroines from Getting Dumped) would be so impressed!

I decided to let the wonderful folks at Coliloquy choose a winner, since they're the ones providing the Kindle and all. They carefully reviewed all the entries and developed a technologically advanced selection method involving a Sun Netra E1 PCI System Expander, an ATI Radeon 7200, and a quart of mayonnaise.

Congratulations to Caitlin Whitaker! You're the proud owner of a brand new Kindle loaded with all four "active fiction" launch titles from Coliloquy. Email me at tawnafenske at yahoo dot com with your snail mail address and I'll have Coliloquy get your Kindle out to you ASAP.

In case you missed it, I posted the first chapter of Getting Dumped on the blog yesterday. If you want to keep reading, visit Amazon to pick up your own copy (and a Kindle, if you don't happen to have one.

Thanks, everyone, for playing! You guys rock!

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Last chance for a free Kindle! (Plus an excerpt from GETTING DUMPED)

It's been a week since Coliloquy launched its new line of "active fiction" titles, including my romantic caper, Getting Dumped.

We've been thrilled with all the buzz, and articles like this one calling these new choose-your-own-adventure stories, "the future of reading."

Not a bad thing to be part of as a writer, and kinda fun for readers, too.

You still have a few hours left to win the FREE KINDLE loaded with all four Coliloquy launch titles (Getting Dumped included, of course).

In case you missed last week's post that explained the contest details, here's the rundown:

There are several ways you can enter to win. Want more than one entry? Do more than one thing!

  1. Tweet your heart out! If you're a Twitter user, compose a tweet stating why you want Getting Dumped. Be sure to include @coliloquy and/or @tawnafenske so you get credit.
  2. About Face! Are you a Facebook fan? Put up a post explaining why you want a free Kindle, a copy of Getting Dumped, and maybe a pony.
  3. Blog it, baby. Got a blog of your own? Write about us! Share what you think is cool about Coliloquy, why you want to read Getting Dumped, or how you share my not-so-secret fantasy of ditching the day job to crush garbage with heavy equipment.
  4. Review me! Are you one of the folks who's already read Getting Dumped but want to win for a friend? Review the book on Amazon! Bonus points for positive reviews! (Kidding. Not really).
  5. Share the love! Visit my fabulous agent's blog and leave a comment letting her know I sent you and that you desperately, urgently want to win the Kindle.
  6. Capture the moment. Snap a funny photo with some Getting Dumped significance. Like maybe a picture of you beside a piece of heavy equipment. Or a picture of you with a great handbag. Or a picture of you holding the great handbag while driving a bulldozer over the top of a guy who just got busted for selling counterfeit handbags. Use your imagination and make us laugh! You can send pics to tawnafenske at yahoo dot com.
Your name will be entered in the drawing one time for each of those tasks. Do one, or do them all! It's a regular DO IT fest! (snicker)

Whatever you do, leave a comment on this blog alerting us exactly which entry tasks you've performed. We'll love you forever if you include links, user names, Twitter handles, or any info that makes it easy for us to see what you're saying.

The contest will be open through 5 p.m. PST on Tuesday, January 24. I'll choose a winner and post the pics the next day.


We've gotten lots of great entries, including some hilarious photos, but there's still plenty of time to enter. Be sure to visit the original post to leave your comment about which tasks you've performed. We'll announce the winner on tomorrow's blog.

And now, just to whet your appetite, here's a teaser of the first chapter from Getting Dumped...

When I was a little girl playing in my uncle’s sand and gravel lot, my life’s ambition was to drive a dump truck. Or maybe a front-end loader.
It began with the usual childhood fantasies about Tonka trucks, but morphed into a bit more when I spent my teenaged summers hauling dirt and digging trenches to earn money for college and designer handbags. While my peers nursed their teen angst with Seagram’s wine coolers, I relieved mine smashing boulders in a Magnum 30 Rock Crusher.
But none of the women in Cosmo wore hard hats with their designer suits, so I eventually decided I needed a real job. I was hazy on the specifics but knew a real job involved a framed college diploma on the wall, a comprehensive dental plan, and an excellent shoe collection.
It did not involve a hard hat.
I got myself a marketing degree and a great job in the public relations department for Albright County, thirty miles from Portland, Oregon. The position came with an excellent government benefits package and a chance to wear tailored skirts to important meetings. I wrote marketing plans and ad copy. I enjoyed a forbidden office romance with the director of accounting. I planned press conferences and sparred with county commissioners.
And after five years, I was so bored I wanted to set fire to my day planner.
“Do you have a pack of matches?” I asked the district attorney, handing her a copy of her retirement speech as I scanned the party crowd for any impending PR disasters.
She smiled and reached into her handbag – a fake Prada monstrosity that had me biting back my lecture about child sweatshops used in the production of counterfeit designer goods.
“Here you go,” she said, holding out a roach clip and a lighter.
I sighed, uncertain whether to be more concerned about the drug paraphernalia or the stolen silverware I’d spotted in her purse.
“Never mind,” I said, drawing back as I glanced around to make sure no media reps were near. “Thanks though. Looks like you’re all set to enjoy retirement.”
She smiled and ambled off to the other side of the ballroom.
“JJ! I’ve been looking all over for you.”
I spun on my Louboutin heels to see my handsome, forbidden boyfriend Daniel approaching, his tie slightly askew. His dark hair was adorably rumpled, and the dimples I’d grown fond of in the three months we’d secretly dated were nowhere to be seen.
“Here I am,” I said, giving him my best PR smile. “Just making sure the hors d'oeuvre trays stay filled and the HR director doesn’t grope the undersheriff.”
“Right. Can you get away for a minute? Or maybe we can talk privately as soon as this is over?”
I snatched six empty wine glasses off the table in front of the county clerk, who gave me a loopy smile as a camera flash went off. I handed the glasses to a passing busboy and went back to scanning the crowd. “I can’t do it after the event. I’m going out with my sister and Macy. And right now I’m kind of busy with work.”
I waited for Daniel to say something disapproving about Macy – my sister’s intern who was rumored to have family mob ties – but he just tugged his tie and frowned.
“Work,” he muttered. “That’s actually what I wanted to talk to you about.”
Daniel grabbed my arm and pulled me into a corner beside a fake ficus plant. “JJ – look,” he said, his voice low and conspiratorial. “Remember when we started dating and I said I’d never, ever abuse my role as director of accounting and finance to share privileged information unless it was a dire emergency?”
“Well, it’s an emergency,” Daniel said, looking grim. “I just came out of a meeting, and we’re having some financial difficulties with a few of the county departments. I feel like it’s my duty to tell you that—”
“Aw, hell. Are they going to cut my job and make me write the press release announcing my own layoff?”
Daniel winced. “No.”
“There won’t be a press release.”
“It’s just that your position has always fallen under the DA’s office, and with her retiring—”
“I’m retiring, too.”
“That’s one way to put it.”
I saw the county health director making a beeline toward the food and caught the arm of a passing secretary. “Mary, can you ask Ted not to hand out chlamydia pamphlets in the buffet line?”
Mary dashed away and I turned my attention back to Daniel.
“It’s not a layoff, exactly,” he continued. “They’re calling it a repositioning.”
“Repositioning? Like they do with cruise ships?”
“Nothing that pleasant,” he muttered. “I’m sorry JJ, I’m so mad about this, but I just made a call to my friend Sloan, and she thinks—”
“What’s a repositioning?”
Daniel sighed. “Whenever Albright County has to cut jobs, they first try to find comparable employment in an open position within another county department — allowing the employee to maintain government benefits, PTO, retirement—”
“What sort of comparable employment?”
“That’s the problem,” Daniel said, his voice growing more aggravated. “There’s nothing in public relations right now, or any other office jobs in the whole county system, and what they’re planning to offer is so utterly ridiculous that–”
“So nothing like my current job?” I asked, craning my neck to watch the county assessor showing her tattoo to a befuddled-looking reporter. “Nothing even close?”
“I’m sorry. I know how much you love your job, and you’re damn good at it too. That’s the really shitty thing here. Look, my friend Sloan owns this great PR firm downtown. I told her all about you and she wants you to come in for an interview next—”
“What’s the county job? The one I’d be repositioned to?”
Daniel sighed again. “They found out you have experience operating heavy equipment. There’s a vacancy in the Department of Solid Waste at the Albright County Landfill. They’re going to try to give you this crap about how the benefits and salary are the same as what you make now, but obviously—”
“The dump?”
Daniel closed his eyes. “I’m so sorry, JJ. Everyone knows you deserve a promotion, but you’ve got the least seniority right now and this is the only opening in the county system—”
“The dump.”
I stared at him. “Would I drive a compactor?”
“A compactor?”
“The big thing with the spikes on the wheels to squash all the garbage.”
“Um, well— I have no idea. But that’s beside the point. You can’t possibly accept this. It’s an insult. It’s– it’s—”
“Who would I be working with?”
Daniel snorted. “The landfill’s best and brightest, I’m sure. Really, with your education and professional experience, Sloan said she could probably start you at—”
“Hey, Randy,” I said, catching the library manager by the elbow and lowering my voice. “Your fly is unzipped.”
Randy jerked unsteadily on his tie and winked at me. “Saves time for when I have to take a leak.”
I released his elbow and looked back up at Daniel. He was quivering with enough indignation for the two of us, which made me feel better about my own surprising lack of it.
“JJ, I’m telling you the county is eliminating your job. Why are you still doing it?”
I frowned, not sure I understood the question. “Because I like taking care of people. And because I take my work seriously, no matter what it happens to be. You know that about me, Daniel.”
“Right, sorry. I do admire your work ethic, which is one thing I told Sloan when I—”
“So would I wear a uniform?”
“At the dump. A uniform.”
“Oh,” he said, frowning. “Well, I doubt you’d be enjoying haute couture at the dump. No more matching shoes and bags. Just dirty boots and coveralls and safety vests and—”
“So let me get this straight,” I said, taking a slow survey of the tipsy well-heeled masses. “I don’t have to iron blouses, dry-clean skirts, or suffer the shame of showing up to work in the same pair of Cole Haan sling-backs as Marti in payroll. I don’t have to listen to Sarah tell me every week how her BA from Stanford is superior to my MA from the University of Oregon. I don’t have to see you in the hall every day and pretend we haven’t been secretly dating for three months. And I get to run over refrigerators with a 150,000-pound machine.”
“JJ, you can’t seriously be considering accepting—”
“Why not?”
I forced a smile to take the edge off my voice. Then remembered the spanakopita I’d eaten five minutes earlier. Having spinach in my teeth probably won’t matter at the dump, I mused. The thought made me smile for real.
Daniel stared at me, perhaps wondering whether I’d gone completely off the deep end. I was kind of wondering the same thing. “JJ, this is an insult. It’s ridiculous. You can’t possibly—”
“Sure I can. I’ve been unhappy with my job for awhile. This could be a good thing.”
Daniel blinked. “You never said you were unhappy.”
I opened my mouth to insist I was perfectly happy with our relationship, that everything was just fine.
I shut my mouth when I realized my brain was the only one wandering down that path.
“You love your job,” he insisted.
“Not really. Having an office job isn’t really what I thought it would be. I kinda miss crushing things.”
“But I already told my friend Sloan that you’d—”
“Well I didn’t ask you to do that,” I snapped. “I mean thanks for trying to help, but I can handle my own career.”
“Career?” he snorted. “Like the dump is a career move.”
“Plenty of people do it,” I informed him. “Not all careers require a desk.”
“Come on, JJ. You’re the girliest girl I know. I’ve never seen you without high heels and lipstick.”
“Am I not allowed to wear lipstick at the dump?”
Daniel frowned. “What would people think?”
I folded my arms over my chest as my heart began to slam hard against my rib cage. “What people?”
“People,” he said, exasperated. “People here tonight. People who wouldn’t respect you anymore, or respect me for—”
“What are you talking about?” I sputtered. “Why would I care what shallow people think? Besides, no one knows we’re dating, remember? You’ve said a million times how strict HR is about that.”
Daniel’s face darkened. He glanced around, probably making sure no one had overheard me. “I just think you deserve better than this.”
“I do deserve the best,” I agreed, pretty sure we weren’t making the same point.
Daniel smiled. “Good. So you’ll talk to Sloan—”
“No,” I told him, plucking a glass of champagne off a passing tray. “I won’t talk to Sloan. And you know, I don’t think I want to talk to you right now, either. So when do I start my new job?”
The answer was, before you have to shell out fifty dollars for the pedicure required to wear those peep-toe Michael Kors sandals.
Which was fortunate, since designer footwear wasn’t required at the landfill.
Neither was showering.
“I’m Burt,” grunted a grizzled gentleman with a salt-and-pepper beard that evidently doubled as storage for breakfast leftovers. He stuck out a thick paw that appeared to have served without benefit of protective gloves for the better part of a century. I hesitated only a second before taking it.
“JJ Shultz, I’m the new heavy equipment operator.”
“No shit?”
“None whatsoever.”
“Huh.” Burt dropped my hand and scratched his crotch.
“So I’m really eager to get started,” I told him brightly. “I already went through the safety training and got my uniform.”
Burt stopped scratching and looked down at my feet. “That’s a nice touch.”
“Thanks,” I said, tipping my toe up to admire the purple laces I’d threaded through my work boots. “My sister is a handbag designer, so she made these with her scrap leather. I’ve got pink ones and a pair with blue polka dots so I can switch with the seasons.”
“Good idea,” Burt said, nodding. “The pink hard hat looks good with red hair.”
“Thanks. My sister again. Her intern’s family owns an import/export company in Portland, and they got a whole boatload of them last week. I think the color was some sort of screw-up.”
Burt nodded. “Looks nice. I got an anniversary coming up. Maybe I could get the name of the company so I can see about buying one for my lady friend?”
“Sure, it’s Sophronia Shipping. Let me talk to Macy and see if she can—”
“Sophronia?” Burt asked, frowning slightly.
I sighed. “Yes, that family. But it’s her uncle and they aren’t close and Macy is very opposed to—”
“No matter,” Burt said, apparently content to postpone a discussion of mob families until some other time. “So the boss says you’ve operated heavy equipment before. Which company you been working for?”
“Public relations.”
Burt frowned. “What?”
“Albright County Public Relations. I worked mostly under the district attorney for five years.”
Burt couldn’t have looked more confused if I’d told him my last job involved juggling flaming olives. “An office job? But—”
“Hey, it involves shoveling crap one way or another, right? Only here I get to crush televisions.”
At that, Burt looked a little sad. “Not anymore. Environmental protection and all that. They send TVs to hazardous materials now.”
“But you get to crush a lot of other cool stuff, right?”
His expression brightened. “Yeah. Bookshelves. Dead houseplants. Old carpet. Bags of rotten meat. Last week there was this piano—”
“Well let’s get to it,” I said, feeling giddy in my stiff new Carhartt coveralls and neon orange safety vest.
Burt nodded. “So you’re okay with this, um, job switch?”
I grinned. “If I’d had to spend one more day in an office, I would have strangled my boss with his necktie and fed the corpse to the vultures I worked with.”
“Fair enough. Still, isn’t it tough to go from a cushy office job to this?”
“Nope. I spent a lot of years thinking the cushy office job was what I was supposed to have. Now I finally get the chance to do the job I wanted to do in the first place.”
Burt seemed to consider this for a moment as he dug a finger in his ear, then inspected it. Flicking something over his shoulder, he gave me a warm smile.
“I like you.”
I grinned back. “I like you too. Can we crush some garbage?
Burt nodded. “Let’s introduce you to your compactor.”
He said the word compactor with the same reverence many men would use to say The Bible or The Superbowl or Playboy. I looked over at the hulking machine with spikes on the wheels.
“I’ve always wanted to operate one,” I admitted. “Of course, you don’t really ever see them outside a landfill.”
Burt started walking and I followed, sidestepping a plastic bag that oozed something orange. He stopped beside the yellow machine hunkered at the edge of the pit.
“Here she is,” he said, caressing the metal with undisguised fondness. “The Caterpillar 836H Landfill Compactor and Wheel Dozer. She’s got a C-18 engine and a semi-universal blade arrangement with the optional secondary steering system and a GPS unit for grid navigation.”
“Wow,” I said, understandably impressed. We both stood there for a moment in respectful silence. I was the first to speak.
“Does it have a name?”
“A name?”
“Sure. Like a racehorse or a pirate ship or a sports car.”
“A name,” Burt repeated, sounding thoughtful.
“Shirley,” I decided.
Burt smiled. I smiled back. He reached up and picked something black from between his teeth.
In my first hour on the compactor, I crushed a doghouse, an old dishwasher, a half ton of rotten lettuce, a bag of doll parts, a table with a broken leg, and a box from Nordstrom that turned out to contain a thousand tubes of fuchsia lipstick.
I was in heaven.
Climbing out of the cab for my lunch break, I grinned down at Burt and pocketed the keys.
“Whaddya think?” he asked.
“I love it!”
“You did good,” he said. “Nice job with that mattress.”
“The box springs were a little tricky.”
“You handled it like a pro. Didn’t even get the wires wrapped up around the bar.”
“Thanks! Should we go wash up for lunch?”
Burt frowned. “Wash up?”
The two of us began walking back to the office. I had gotten a tour of the facilities when I’d arrived at six a.m., but most of the office employees hadn’t arrived then and I was looking forward to meeting the rest of the team.
Burt and I pushed through the doors and stood there for a moment, eyes closed, breathing in the clean, odorless air conditioning. A sexy rumble pulled me out of my trance.
“Welcome to the Department of Solid Waste. You must be the new heavy equipment operator.”
I opened my eyes and stared. Behind the front desk was the most beautiful man I had ever seen in my twenty-seven years. Dark hair, bedroom eyes, chiseled cheekbones, and pecs you could pound nails with. I didn’t realize my jaw had actually dropped until Burt discreetly nudged it shut with one filthy knuckle. I swallowed hard and blinked a few times to clear my vision.
“JJ, meet Pete,” Burt said. “Pete, meet JJ. Pete is the secretary for the Department of Solid Waste.”
“Oh,” I said, offering my hand for the sex god to shake. I looked down, belatedly realizing I still wore my work gloves. And that the right one was streaked with something gooey.
“Mayonnaise,” I told him, peeling it off. “I crushed a whole crate of it. Got all over the door of the cab.”
“Excellent,” Pete said, flashing me a smile that would have caused a lesser woman to swoon.
Okay, I was a lesser woman. I gripped the edge of the counter and held on tightly, reminding myself I still had a boyfriend. Technically. Things had cooled considerably with Daniel since I’d decided to take the landfill job, and I wasn’t quite sure where we stood.
Pete regarded me through eyelashes that were thick and dark, fringing eyes the color of the Heineken bottle I’d just extracted from Shirley’s belly pan.
“Pete’s new here, too,” Burt offered. “Just started a few weeks ago.”
“Really?” I said, wondering at the reason a man who could easily make millions modeling boxer-briefs was sitting behind a plaque that said SECRETARY.
“Yup,” Pete said, smiling into my eyes. “Until you got here, I was the new kid in class. Maybe we can share a cubby and take turns on the monkey bars at recess.”
I felt my face grow warm and fought to swallow the butterflies crawling up my throat. “Did you get repositioned, too?”
“In your job. Not sexually, I mean. Or like a cruise ship. Repositioned—” I shut my mouth, realizing it was best to stop while he thought me tactless rather than insane. Pete just grinned at me.
“No, I applied for the job a couple months ago, and I had to go through a pretty rigorous interview process to get it. Typing tests, personality assessments... the county’s human resources department is very diligent.”
“Sure,” I agreed, eyeing him with interest. Gay? Had to be. Or was that a photo of his girlfriend framed on the desk behind him? I craned my neck for a better look.
“Anyway, welcome aboard,” Pete said. “Can I get you a cup of coffee?”
“It’s a hot, brewed beverage made with beans. Very tasty.”
I felt my face flame again.
“She’d love coffee,” Burt said, clearly sensing a rescue was in order. “We’re just heading to the break room for lunch.”
Pete nodded. “Sugar?”
I swallowed. “What?”
“In your coffee. Do you want sugar?”
“Right. Yes. Please. Thank you. Amen.” I turned away and grabbed the nearest doorknob. Burt touched my shoulder.
“That’s a closet,” he murmured. “Break room’s over here.”
He propelled me through another door and deposited me beside a table. I stood there catching my breath while Burt opened a cupboard above the sink.
“Wow,” I said, dropping my voice to a hiss.
“I know,” Burt said, clearly delighted. “Pretty great, huh?”
I eyed Burt, impressed that he was secure enough in his masculinity to admire an attractive man.
“I hope I didn’t embarrass myself too much,” I said, scrubbing my hands at the sink before opening the fridge and taking out my leftover spinach lasagna.
“Nah, you were fine,” Burt said, grabbing a grungy paper bag and a bottle of murky liquid. “He’s already been asked for his autograph three or four times, so staring is no big deal.”
“Sure. I thought about it myself, but decided I’d wait until the movie comes out on Blu-ray so he can sign that.”
I stared for a few beats, wondering what I was missing. Burt sat down and unwrapped a wedge of yellow cheese. He held it in one hand, his fingers smearing dirt on the greasy surface.
“Movie?” I prompted.
Burt looked up at me. “That’s Pete Wilco — he played Colt McTrigger in Bionic Cyber Cops in Monster Trucks. Haven’t you seen it?”
He frowned. “Then why were you staring?”
“Um, because he’s gorgeous.”
Burt laughed and finished his cheese before grabbing a hard-boiled egg. He cracked it on the edge of the table and extracted the squishy orb with his fingers, streaking it with grime.
“Damn fine movie,” he said, taking a bite of the egg. “There’s this cop who drives his monster truck with mind power, and these zombies with skin that glows when it rains and–”
“Geez. And people say I have an overactive imagination.” I dropped into the chair beside Burt and forked up a piece of lasagna, whining when I realized I’d forgotten to heat it. “I don’t understand. Why would a movie star work at the county landfill?”
Burt shrugged. “I guess not everyone liked the movie. They didn’t actually release it in any theaters.”
“Hard to imagine.”
“Anyway, Pete moved back here when his mom got sick. He said he wanted something with good benefits and a decent salary and no zombies chasing him with radioactive snow cones.”
“He’s still got a girlfriend back in L.A. I think she might be moving up here, too.”
“Huh,” I said again, trying for the second time to infuse the syllable with nonchalance instead of disappointment.
I stuck my lasagna in the microwave and punched some buttons, feeling more than a little perplexed. “So Pete is the secretary. Gordy’s the director I met at orientation. There’s that blonde girl who wears the miniskirts and goes around to all the county offices doing the recycling—”
“Green Barbie. She’s the recycling coordinator for Albright County, but is based here at the landfill.”
“My boss in the PR department dislocated a vertebra the day Green Barbie dropped a bottle under his desk and tried to crawl after it.”
Burt nodded and chewed some egg. “She doesn’t much like underwear.”
“Right. So who else haven’t I met?”
“You meet Collin yet?”
“Who’s he?”
“Engineering technician. Came here from London seven or eight years ago. He’s the science guy. Manages all the methane gas wells and does the groundwater monitoring and writes the computer programs for all our GPS units. I think he’s a PhD or something.”
“Okay. Who else?”
Before Burt could even swallow the hunk of egg he’d shoved in his mouth, the door burst open and a tiny, forty-something blonde came bustling into the room. Her hair frizzed around her face like an electrified halo, and she wore strappy heels covered in big, floppy flowers. I felt the instant comfort that comes from meeting another woman with an appreciation for cute footwear.
“Oh my God, are you the new Harold?” the woman gasped as she grabbed my arm. “We’ve been waiting for you to get here! I told Burt there was no way they could find anyone to replace Harold on short notice, especially since he was such a good heavy equipment operator even if he was a chain smoker, but he made the best jalapeno jelly and always had clean fingernails and it was really such a shame he died so suddenly, though the doctor said he didn’t suffer at all, but still, his wife Mary was just so upset and their dog Muffin hasn’t had a proper bowel movement since the funeral and – oh where are my manners, I’m Ernie, like the man’s name, Ernie? It’s short for Ernestine, but everyone just calls me Ernie—”
She took a breath and I stood quickly, extending my hand. “JJ,” I said as she pumped my hand with a wild grin. “Nice to meet you, Ernie.”
“Aren’t you just the cutest little thing? All that long, red hair and that gorgeous complexion and such a lovely figure with those—”
“What is it you do here?” I interrupted as I felt my cheeks turn bright pink.
“Oh, well, I run Albright Alley, the little thrift store out front that sells all the odds and ends people bring to the dump that aren’t really trash but they don’t want them anymore, so sometimes people just drop things off at the store and other times we poke around through the pits and find things and clean them up and put them out on the shelves, so I just putter around the store and keep things running and—”
“Her shop made a quarter-million in revenue for the Department of Solid Waste last year,” Burt interjected, picking up a squishy-looking sandwich and leaving dirt dents in the bread. “She does a little more than putter.”
Ernie blushed prettily. “Well, I do what I can—”
“It’s nice to meet you, Ernie,” I said, really meaning it.
She beamed. “I’m just glad to have someone else to enjoy the male scenery, if you know what I mean – not that I’m doing anything inappropriate. I’m in a committed relationship, of course, and obviously he’s very secure and doesn’t mind if I admire attractive young men, and certainly I’ve been trained in sexual harassment protocol and I never grab anyone or send obscene email except that one time by accident with the picture of the naked cartoon bear, but I don’t think that counts because the bear was wearing a shirt and even if he didn’t have pants—”
“You’re talking about Pete?” I interrupted. “I mean, that’s the male scenery you’re admiring, right?”
She lowered her lashes and gave me a coy smile. “Have you met Collin?”
Just then the radio on Burt’s belt crackled to life.
“Bloody hell, Burt,” shouted a voice heavy with rage and a British accent. “Who is this sodding JJ Shultz and why is she trying to ruin my life?”

Monday, January 23, 2012

Shampoo shopping shouldn't be this fun

If you've been reading this blog awhile, you already know I love finding humor at the grocery store or on the aisles of Home Depot. You'll find a complete collection of such posts if you search the tag "garage porn."

Friday afternoon, I was on a quest for some new shampoo and moisturizer. The mission took me down the health and beauty aisles at several stores, revealing the following giggle-worthy gems:

In case you're wondering, this tastes nothing like Kool-Aid.
I honestly don't know where to start with this one. Big Head for Men? Really? Power Play? Firm Finish Gel? I want to believe the manufacturers intended each of these innuendos. Or is it funnier if they didn't?
There's actually no innuendo here – just a lot of disturbing details. Like the helpful drawing and descriptive product name. Or the fact that this product is being sold at the Dollar Store. Or the non-specific instruction at the top about not using if torn. If what's torn?
The only thing better than instantaneous growth is the accompanying tingling.

Seen anything amusing during your recent shopping adventures? Please share!

Friday, January 20, 2012

Places you shouldn't wedge your rack

My house has been for sale a few months now, so I've learned the realtors' showing schedule coincides with days it looks as though a herd of wildebeests has been mating in the living room.

Thursday morning, I was putting the finishing touches on tidying for a 10 a.m. showing. I wonder whether anyone even notices if I've scrubbed the shower or wiped down the kitchen counters, I mused. I wonder what sort of things people comment on as they walk through the house.


That's the sound of me having an idea. A really good idea.

What if I pretended to vacate the premises as usual, but actually hid under the bed in the guest room? I could listen to the entire showing, and hear what people say about my house. That sort of feedback could be valuable, right?

Plus I'm nosy. There's always that.

I scuttled into the guest room to make sure my plan would work. I got down on the floor and stuck my head under the bed, testing to be certain my skull wasn't too big to fit.

All clear.

I'm a pretty small person, so I figured the rest of me would slide neatly beneath the bed without a hitch.

But I forgot about the one part of me that isn't so small.

My housemate walked in just in time to find me wedged halfway under the bed and stuck – totally, completely stuck – on my boobs.

"What are you doing?" he asked.

"Thinking about hiding under the bed," I replied with as much nonchalance as I could muster with my rack caught in a vice grip.

"How's that working out for you?"

"Not so well."

I struggled a little, then began to panic. What if I couldn't free myself? Would my housemate be able to help? Would I be stuck there until the fire department arrived or the realtors showed up with their house-hunting clients? I could imagine the conversation:

And here we have the spacious kitchen with cherry cabinets and lovely granite counters, and over here we have a romance author who's oblivious to the dimensions of her own body.

I squirmed again, more frantic this time.

"Need a hand?" My housemate asked.

"My boobs are stuck," I admitted.

"That's not something I hear every day."

"Pity," I yelped as I finally freed myself and crawled out from under the bed.

Thoroughly discouraged, I finished the last tidbits of tidying before I slunk to my car and left in disgrace.

I should probably be embarrassed about the whole thing, but mostly I'm just annoyed. I really did want to eavesdrop. Who would have guessed my boobs would be a barrier to my own nosiness?

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Craving the stuff that's made with love

Remember when you were a kid and a holiday approached and you desperately, urgently wanted to buy cool gifts for people?

"Just make a gift," your parents insisted. "It'll mean more."

Admit it. You thought they were full of crap.

The older I've gotten, the more I've realized my parents were right. Homemade gifts do mean a lot, particularly the ones that show the giver has been paying attention.

When Making Waves debuted last summer, my gentleman friend made me something special:
Admittedly, not all women would be thrilled at receiving a gift emblazoned with the word "bitches."

I am not most women.

In case you're new to this blog, you should know that every book I've ever written has a working title. Making Waves will always be Piratebitch in my mind. My March release, Believe it or Not, will never be anything but Psychicbitch to me. My new active fiction release with Coliloquy may be marketed as Getting Dumped, but I don't think my editor and I have ever called it anything but Dumpbitch.

If you can't tell from the photo, the bitches plaque is adorned with little metal knobs. Each knob represents a book that's either scheduled for publication or brewing in the back of my brain. In fact, he handpicked each knob to match the book's theme. The day that book is released, my gentleman friend commemorates the occasion by draping a new silk scarf on the designated knob.

You may notice I'm so touched by the whole thing that I didn't even make a knob joke or speculate whether he intends to use the scarves to tie me to the headboard.

Seriously, isn't that the sweetest, most creative gift ever? I wore my new Dumpbitch scarf to work yesterday and kept touching it and smiling.

Of course, my gentleman friend has a bit of competition in the creative gift-making category. I recently had a message from reader Toni Sinns asking about my favorite colors and whether I'd mind if she crocheted something for me. Naturally, I insisted she didn't have to do any such thing, but if she wanted to, I'd be delighted by anything with blues, greens, or purples.

Here's what showed up earlier this week:
Yes, it's my very own, customized, monogrammed, crocheted beer koozie. How many of you have your own customized, monogrammed, crocheted beer koozies?


Well, I guess if you want one, you can check out Toni's online store. I have it on good authority she can crochet more of these, or whatever else your little heart might desire.

What's the coolest homemade gift you've ever given or received? Please share!

And stop coveting my beer. And my koozie. And my scarves. And my bitches. And...

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Celebrating launch day for GETTING DUMPED by giving away a free Kindle!

You may have caught some of the media buzz yesterday, but in case you missed it, Coliloquy officially launched their new line of "active fiction" titles for Kindle.

My book, Getting Dumped, is one of the four launch books for what is essentially a grownup version of choose-your-own-adventure novels.

Can I pause here to squeal with joy?

There's been a lot of chatter about how this is the first interactive app ever released by Amazon, and how this is changing the face of publishing. You can read some snippets at Publishers Weekly or on techy sites like WebPro News.

I've heard from a handful of people who wish they could read the book, but don't have a Kindle. Others have shared that they loved the book and wish they could give it as a gift to a Kindle-less loved one.

Want to remedy that?

Coliloquy is giving away a free Kindle to one lucky reader of this blog. Not just a free Kindle, but a free Kindle loaded with the four launch titles.

How cool is that?!

There are several ways you can enter to win. Want more than one entry? Do more than one thing!
  1. Tweet your heart out! If you're a Twitter user, compose a tweet stating why you want Getting Dumped. Be sure to include @coliloquy and/or @tawnafenske so you get credit.
  2. About Face! Are you a Facebook fan? Put up a post explaining why you want a free Kindle, a copy of Getting Dumped, and maybe a pony.
  3. Blog it, baby. Got a blog of your own? Write about us! Share what you think is cool about Coliloquy, why you want to read Getting Dumped, or how you share my not-so-secret fantasy of ditching the day job to crush garbage with heavy equipment.
  4. Review me! Are you one of the folks who's already read Getting Dumped but want to win for a friend? Review the book on Amazon! Bonus points for positive reviews! (Kidding. Not really).
  5. Share the love! Visit my fabulous agent's blog and leave a comment letting her know I sent you and that you desperately, urgently want to win the Kindle.
  6. Capture the moment. Snap a funny photo with some Getting Dumped significance. Like maybe a picture of you beside a piece of heavy equipment. Or a picture of you with a great handbag. Or a picture of you holding the great handbag while driving a bulldozer over the top of a guy who just got busted for selling counterfeit handbags. Use your imagination and make us laugh! You can send pics to tawnafenske at yahoo dot com.
Your name will be entered in the drawing one time for each of those tasks. Do one, or do them all! It's a regular DO IT fest! (snicker)

Whatever you do, leave a comment on this blog alerting us exactly which entry tasks you've performed. We'll love you forever if you include links, user names, Twitter handles, or any info that makes it easy for us to see what you're saying.

The contest will be open through 5 p.m. PST on Tuesday, January 24. I'll choose a winner and post the pics the next day.

Questions? Points of clarification? Leave 'em in the comments!

About Getting Dumped, now available on Kindle:
Getting Dumped is an "Active Fiction" title, a new type of e-book from Coliloquy. In this Active Fiction series, your input influences future books from this author. Specifically, in Getting Dumped, your choices influence what happens to JJ Shultz. Losing a cushy marketing job only to end up driving heavy equipment at the landfill would be a tough blow for most women, but JJ Schultz isn't most women. JJ gamely swaps office politics for a chance to crush garbage. The drama kicks into high gear when JJ and her sister, Lori, uncover a counterfeit handbag ring. JJ soon finds herself unraveling a sinister plot in the company of a tie-tugging accountant, a straight-to-video action hero/secretary, a suspicious but sneaky-hot engineer, and a host of other characters with questionable hygiene and morals. The author still isn't sure who JJ should end up with, so she's eager to see who her readers prefer. She sees the aggregate statistics on who gets picked the most, so the more you read, the more you influence what she writes. Please note: Getting Dumped contains content that may be inappropriate for children.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Fun with thumb rings and drunk people

Some of my favorite people watching occurs in that window of time after I’ve walked into a bar but before I’ve had anything to drink. There’s something fascinating about being the only sober person in a room filled with tipsily cheerful strangers all steadfastly convinced I’m their very best friend.

Sunday afternoon, I meandered into a small bar at the base of a ski hill. Not only was I the only sober person, but also the only one dressed in street clothes. I’m not a skier, but was compelled by my day job to write about the resort’s new umbrella bar.

Before I’d even ordered a drink, the woman beside me leaned over and grabbed my hand.

“You’re wearing a thumb ring!” she shouted.

I actually wear three thumb rings, but decided it was easiest to agree with her.

“I wear a thumb ring, too,” she declared, then pointed at the bleary-eyed gentleman sitting beside her. “He always wants to know about the significance of a thumb ring. He thinks it’s a symbol or a code or something. I always tell him it doesn’t mean anything. Am I right?”

She slugged me in the shoulder, making me grateful I hadn’t yet gotten my drink.

“Actually,” I told her, “Mine does have some significance. I started wearing a thumb ring when I was maybe 10 and my kid brother bought me a ring at a garage sale. My thumb was the only finger it fit on, so I got used to having a ring there. It’s partly a sentimental thing, and partly that I’ve been doing it for so long I feel naked without one.”

Her eyes flickered a little at the word naked, but beyond that, I could tell I’d lost her.

Across the table, her gentleman friend frowned. “So you’re not going to tell us the real story?”

I felt bad for disappointing him. Like maybe I should have made up a secret thumb ring society, or explained the usefulness of the jewelry in giving hand jobs.

Finally, I leaned forward and lowered my voice to a conspiratorial whisper. “I could tell you, but I’d have to kill you.”

He nodded gravely, and the woman nodded along with him. “I figured.”

I’m still thinking I should have come up with a better story. Got one? Please share, it might come in handy someday! I’d also love to hear about your significant jewelry or favorite conversations with drunk people.

Monday, January 16, 2012

The importance of sucking for awhile

I was making breakfast Saturday morning when one of the housemates stumbled blearily into the kitchen. I’ve learned to get out of the way fast and not make conversation until he’s downed at least six gallons of coffee.

“Morning,” I said at last.

“Morning,” he mumbled. “Got big plans today?”

“Writing. I’m working on a new book, so that’s going to occupy a lot of my time for awhile.”

“Mmmph,” he said into his coffee. “How many pages do you think you’ll write?”

I shrugged and stuffed a piece of bread into the toaster. “I’m aiming for 25, but we’ll see.”

“That’s all? Huh.”

I stared at him. “What do you mean that’s all?”

“I dunno. I just would have figured someone who writes as much as you would be faster than that.”

Two things kept me from beating him over the head with the toaster.

The first is that non-writers just don’t understand that creating a brand new book from scratch involves more than repeatedly typing the phrase, “he plunged his pork sword into the dewy cleft of her love wallet.” You’ve got characters to name, backstories to develop, emotional baggage to unpack, and clever dialogue to finesse.

Sometimes, my editor even expects me to come up with a plot.

All that to say, it takes a bit longer to write 25 pages than it does to read them.

But probably the biggest reason I didn’t brain my housemate with the toaster is that I was totally lying. There’s no way in hell I was going to write 25 pages over the weekend, and I knew it. Maybe later, maybe once I hit my stride in this middle of the book.

But now – when I’m in the ugly, early stages of a new story – I’m lucky to crank out four or five pages a day. And those four or five pages will be some of the most abysmal, unfunny, uncreative examples of fiction you might ever lay eyes on.

People often ask me to name the best part of being a published author. I usually make a smartass joke about my private jet or the sleepovers with George Clooney. Want to know the truth?

The best part about being published and about having written for as long as I have is that I know sucking is part of the process. I can spend a weekend slowly oozing out horrible drivel, and while I may be disgusted with the drivel, I understand it’s necessary to do that before I reach the point where I stop sucking and start writing decent prose.

It takes a crazy amount of patience to hang in there and keep going when you’re writing at the pace of a slug crawling through tar, and every other word you place on the page feels like the wrong one. I’ve seen plenty of writers get discouraged and give up before they ever know that glorious moment when it stops feeling like you’re polishing a turd and begins to feel like you might have a decent novel on your hands.

The trick to writing isn’t hammering out a lot of brilliant prose at a speedy pace. The trick is knowing that if you keep going, you eventually do stop sucking.

I didn’t say any of this to my housemate, of course. By then, he’d fallen asleep leaning against the refrigerator, and the dog was lapping up the puddle of coffee at his feet.

Have you learned the importance of sucking in writing or any other aspect of your life? Please share!

I’ve got some sucking to do. Wait, what?