Thursday, November 29, 2012

I've been Googling something besides myself

I'd been editing my manuscript for five hours straight when I decided to take a break to surf porn read mentally enriching news stories. I stumbled upon an article about a police investigation in which a suspect's Google search history was used to build a case against her.

It got me thinking. Not just about what police might conclude if they searched my browser history, but how long my jail term might be and the number of conjugal visits I'd be permitted per day.

It also sent me scrolling through my browser history to see exactly what I'd been Googling as I worked to finalize details in my latest romantic comedy. In no particular order, here are my top ten keyword searches performed Monday morning:
  • Dumb sex studies
  • Porcupine trivia
  • Fixing a bent rim on a mountain bike
  • Bizarre sexual practices
  • crudités versus canapés
  • How bicycle handlebar position affects female orgasm
  • Facts about badgers
  • Jiu Jitsu takedowns
  • Bankruptcy recovery 
  • Plumbing expressions that sound dirty
I think I'm going to suggest to my editor that in lieu of writing a blurb for this book, we simply print that list on the back cover. Surely that's enough to pique reader interest, right?

So what have you been Googling lately? Please share!

Oh, and since you're dying to know about dirty plumbing terms and handlebar position impacting orgasm, here you go:

Plumbing expressions that don't mean what you think

How a bicycle handlebar affects the female orgasm

You're welcome.

Monday, November 26, 2012

When the end isn't the end

Last week, I had the giddy pleasure of typing "the end" on my current manuscript.

Well, that's not exactly what I typed.

This particular ending was a long time coming, and I'm too exhausted now to point out that I just wrote "coming."

I haven't addressed this on the blog yet, but those of you paying close attention may have noticed the third book in my romantic comedy contract hasn't hit shelves yet. Though my publisher had initially slated the release for August 2012 and I completed the manuscript in plenty of time, they suggested it wasn't the right third book for my career. I was given the option to release it anyway, or to start from scratch with a brand new book and a different release date.

My gut and my brain had differing opinions about the best course of action, and they wrestled long and hard in a pit of cherry Jello while wearing sequined g-strings and nipple tassels.

Which is how I ended up writing a new manuscript from scratch, and how I ended up sitting at my desk last week staring at those words through a blur of happy/sad tears.

Once upon a time, I thought a book deal might magically transform me into the sort of writer who'd reach the final line of a manuscript, type "the end," and immediately hand a spotless draft over to my gleeful editor. This fantasy may have also involved several male strippers and a wine dispenser mounted beside my desk, but let's not dwell.

The biggest lesson I've learned since I first accepted this three-book deal in February 2010 is that my fantasy couldn't have been more off-base if I'd thrown in a gang of monkeys clanging celebratory cymbals.

Which, come to think of it, would be pretty cool.

But that isn't reality, and I know now that typing "the end" is only the beginning. I still have an absurd amount of editing to do before I'd even consider letting anyone outside a mental institution have a look at this manuscript. After that, I'll hand it off to my three critique partners who will lovingly tear it to shreds. Once I've implemented their changes, the manuscript will go to my three longtime beta readers, who will point out all the ways my heroine is unsympathetic, my hero is a sniveling weasel, and the fact that my unclear pronoun usage makes it sound like the heroine is licking her own neck. After their changes are made, the manuscript goes to my agent for another round of feedback and polishing before she submits it to my editor.

And after all that, I know it's entirely possible my editor will say, "'s not the right book for your career now."

I don't know what's going to happen, but I do know I can't let myself dwell on that.

I can choose to panic over the flogging my draft will take in the coming weeks, and the fact that it might be all for naught. Or I can choose to take this one step at a time, slow and steady, and to allow myself to celebrate milestones like typing "the end" without rolling my eyes and muttering, "far from it."

For the writers among you, how far is "the end" from "THE END?" For non-writers, what are some of the biggest lessons you've learned along the way in your chosen career path. Please share!

I have to see a man about a monkey.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Making people better and happier (no porn required!)

One of my favorite moments each day takes place between 6:30 a.m. when I wake up, and around 7:30 when my gentleman friend is roused awake by his blaring alarm and my icy hands.

No, this isn't one of those battery-powered moments (though I do treasure those). That special hour is when I crawl out of bed to throw on my wool socks and yoga pants and as many sweater layers as I can possibly don, and head out for a morning walk with my dog.

We vary our route each morning. Sometimes we walk to the park where I let her off-leash to scurry in the grass and bark until I throw sticks for her to chase. Other times we head north toward the irrigation canal, which is a lovely, flowing creek in the summer months, and a barren pit of ice and dirt this time of year.

My city isn't a huge one, but it's surprising how many people we encounter at that hour in our little corner of suburbia. Most mornings I pass two or three strangers out walking dogs, enjoying a brisk jog, or returning from a night of burgling neighborhood homes. Usually we nod hello, perhaps issue a perfunctory, "good morning" as we pass. I don't think I'd recognize any of them in a police lineup if it did turn out they burgled neighborhood homes.

The mornings are chilly this time of year, so I bought myself a new hat two weeks ago. The hat is wool, and features a large animal face complete with eyeballs, ears, a protruding nose, and an odd tuft of hair on top. I love my hat very much, and felt toasty-warm the first morning I put it on.

My dog and I set out like any other morning en route to the park. Partway there, we crossed paths with a woman wearing Lycra pants and high-tech running shoes. As we passed on the sidewalk, she laughed.

"Morning," she said, and continued on with her jog.

I didn't think much of it until we arrived at the park. I let Bindi off-leash and started my usual stroll around the wood-chip path circling the soccer field. Halfway around, we encountered a shaggy young man with a skateboard and holey jeans on the brink of sliding off his non-existent hips to reveal his shamrock boxers.

He looked at me, grinned, looked at my dog, then looked at me again. "That's a really great dog," he said.

"She is," I agreed, watching her trot obediently to my side in case Mr. Saggy Pants decided to beat me with his skateboard. She barked once, then scurried into the bushes in pursuit of an imaginary squirrel.

We continued on our way, not encountering anyone else until I stooped to re-leash my dog at the edge of the park. A young mother hauling a stroller and a panting golden retriever halted at the edge of the grass and pointed at me.

"Look, Austin," she said in a sing-song voice. "See the hat?"

I'm not sure whether Austin was the dog or the toddler, but I smiled and waved and said a quiet "ah-ha" to myself as I continued on my way.

The hat. That's the reason everyone was so smiley and friendly. I thought about it all the way home, delighting in the fact that something so small and ridiculous could prompt such a cheerful response from strangers.

There's a quote I've seen floating around the interwebs from time to time:
"Let no one ever come to you without leaving better and happier."
It's credited to Mother Teresa, so I won't even joke about ex-rated ways to leave someone better and happier, or the fact that she said come. 

I love the idea of this even more than I love my new hat. What a simple thing it is most of the time to bring a tiny spark of happiness, good cheer, or humor into a stranger's day. How much lovelier would the world be if we all made an effort to do this at least a few times a week?

When I returned home from the walk, my gentleman friend was still asleep. As my good deed for the day, I refrained from putting my cold hands on his warm and dozing body. I suppose I could have come up with other ways to spread happiness, but we both had to go to work.

How do you make an effort to leave others better and happier than before you crossed paths? Can you think of a time someone else has done that for you? Please share.

And feel free to laugh at my new hat. I encourage it.

Monday, November 12, 2012

And for that, I'm grateful

At the start of November, pals across various social media channels like Facebook and Twitter began posting things for which they're grateful. I assume there's some connection to Thanksgiving, though it's possible everyone I know was infected by a rare virus that causes spontaneous gratitude, self-reflection, and anal leakage.

Not wanting to be left out, I've decided to share a few things that make me very grateful.

I'm grateful for my fellow-writers. I don't care if you're published or unpublished, if you're a longtime personal pal, or someone I've never met outside the online world. What I love most about the entire community of writers is the fabulous support among the tribe. Very few writers achieve success and say, "see ya later, suckers." There's always someone ahead of you on the career ladder who's still reaching back to offer a helping hand, a word of advice, or a glass of wine. Or even encouraging tidbits, like this post I spotted last week on Facebook at the precise moment I needed someone to remind me, "you are not the only writer who spends 95% of her time feeling like she has her head up her butt:"

I'm grateful for love and romance. Without these things, my career as a romantic comedy novelist would be going very differently. So would my personal life, which took several crazy turns in the last few years with my unexpected divorce and equally unexpected new relationship with my gentleman friend (celebrating 20 months together this Thanksgiving, thankyouverymuch). My gratitude for this relationship overwhelms me whenever we spend time together cooking dinner or walking the dog or working to make sure our new home reflects the best of both of us. Incidentally, this is what you get when a singer with a masters degree in theater and a fondness for whimsy creates a dining room with a romance author with an English Lit degree and a shared love of plants and animals:

I'm grateful for family. I'm thankful beyond words to have loving, caring, charming, funny, intelligent parents who've supported me every step of the way throughout my 38 years on the planet. And for my kid brother, who remains one of my best friends in the world, despite the fact that he occasionally defeats me when we play "name that butt rock tune in three notes or less." And my grandparents, two of whom are still alive and kicking (my grandmother kicking much more solidly since last week's total hip replacement, which I'm grateful went very well despite a drug reaction that caused her to be briefly possessed by Satan).

Obviously, these are just a handful of the many, many things filling me with gratitude right now. What are YOU thankful for right now? Please share!

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Four years ago...

Tuesday night, I picked up my phone and texted a single word to a friend:
She laughed. I know this because she was sitting two feet from me when she got the message.

It's an inside joke that started four years earlier on election night when she sent me a jubilant message about the outcome of a particular campaign. This was only the second text message I'd received in my life, and my effort to type f**k yeah did not go as planned.

In case you're wondering, my first text exchange was with the same friend who sent a note to ask if our boss had arrived at work yet. I replied moss. It was supposed to say nope.

My texting skills have changed a bit since then, as has the rest of my life. I thought about this Tuesday as my gentleman friend and I sat on the sofa drinking pumpkin ale and laughing with my texting friend and her husband.

Four years ago, those two weren't married.

Four years ago, I was across town at another friend's home watching election coverage and drinking some wine my then-husband and I had just brought back from Spain.

Four years ago on another side of town, my gentleman friend and his then-wife opened a bottle of champagne to toast new beginnings. Three months later, they separated.

Four years ago, my agent and I were 10 months into our working relationship with no clue we'd endure 15 more soul-crushing months to land a book deal. And we'd wait 15 long months beyond that for the first book to hit shelves.
Bindi & me at Oregon's Painted Hills. Incidentally, my
gentleman friend snapped this on one of our first big
outings together.

Four years ago, my dog Bindi – my trustiest, most faithful friend through my divorce and beyond – wasn't born yet. Back then, the two dogs who'd shared my life for a decade were still alive and well.

Four years ago, I had no idea that divorce, disappointment, and death waited on my horizon.

But I also didn't know I'd experience the exhilarating joys of falling in love again – with writing, with pets, and with the guy who now shares my home and my six-pack of pumpkin ale.

As I watched the election coverage last night, I couldn't help but wonder what's in store for me in the next four years. What's waiting in my future that I can't begin to imagine right now?

I can't know for sure, but I can know this – I'm ready for it. Bring it on.

And pass me the pumpkin ale.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Stephen King says I can't snuggle my pets today

I arrived home late last night after four days in Portland working a convention for the day job. Events like that are particularly draining for introverts like me, and today I want nothing more than to unpack my suitcase and crawl into bed with a good book and a few pets.

Or all six pets, if I can arrange it:

A rare moment captured by my gentleman friend – all five cats plus the dog gathered on the bed for movie night. For the record, we don't sleep like this.
Alas, there will be no snuggling with my pets or my gentleman friend or even random strangers today. I probably won't even have time to unpack my suitcase, which means I'll spend the next week sniffing the armpits of dirty shirts and convincing myself I can get away with wearing them one more time.

I'm in the home stretch on my current manuscript, and I need every moment of writing time I can possibly get. Even if I don't feel like it. Even if I'm exhausted. Even if I have a strong sense that my sleep-deprived brain is producing scenes that read as though they were typed by a dyslexic third-grader with a sugar-buzz and six missing fingers.

Which is why I really appreciate this graphic someone posted on Facebook a few days ago:

Thank you, Mr. King, for the reminder that writers keep writing no matter what. Even on days they'd sooner pierce their own genitals with a rusty fork.

And on that note, I'm off to write a love story.

How do you keep going when it's the last thing you want to do? Please share!