The Distance Between

Do you ever envision an accident happening and then when it does, wonder if your vision made it come true, or if it was just inevitable and you were really only predicting or fearing a commonplace occurrence in the grand scheme of life?

Yesterday I was at my computer, like most mornings, having my cup of coffee while writing, and I thought, Boy, it’d really suck if I spilled this coffee all over my computer. I should back up all my work. Then lo and behold — commence spill, queue scream laced with profanity, then fill the air with the rich smell of bastardized coffee and self pity… Yep. After six years together, I killed Precious. Say hello to Precious 2.0.

Good news is I have a piece of flash fiction (about 500 words) over at Spelk today if you have time to read. Thank you to Gary Duncan for publishing The Distance Between Neighbors. I’m honored to be there!

Have a great week, and be sure to back up your work and maintain a healthy distance between coffee and computer!

The Holiday Hangover

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I’ve been a slacker for several weeks now. Of course, I blame the holidays, but I’ve narrowed down a list of 5 things in particular that kept me from a proper writing schedule:

  1. Christmas lights. These sap-ridden hellions will turn you into a human lint roller, cripple your hands and drive you mad. My job is to take down the tree lights, and every year it’s like wrestling an electrical green cobra. I always make sure the kids are in school so they remain blissfully unaware of my raging hatred for them. This year I was choking the tree to get the lights off when it fell on top of me, in what would be the most comical non-filmed Hollywood blockbuster moment. I suppose I deserved it, but now I reek like a cabby pine freshener with bits of candy cane and glitter stuck to me.
  1. Trump. This might seem like a stretch, but I’m exhausted by all the holiday political talk. If he really wants to make America great again, he’d deport himself to a remote island and stop making America — a nation built on the strength of immigrants — look like ass clowns to the rest of the world. I mean, he made an awesome Halloween costume and even made SNL comical again, but when will this man’s ego run out of steam? He’s like Veruca Salt in Willie Wonka demanding an Oompa Loompa. It’s time for him to go down the garbage chute with all the other entitled children.
  1. Travel. The effort it takes to see both sides of our families is a path riddled with delays and shin damage from no legroom and the seat reclining in front of me. I tried editing only to be distracted by my tray-table lap dance, which sounds sexy but really just involves staring at a man’s thinning hair follicles shimmy in frustration. Reclining fully is called first class, dude. You gotta pay for iiiiiitttt……
  1. No sleep. For the last two weeks I’ve either woken up hung-over, due to family obligations to party like it was 1999 when I was a 20-something rock star, or not knowing where I was, due to sleeping in a twin bed built for a 10-year-old.
  1. Star Wars: The Force Awakens. That’s right. We nerds have been busy seeing this movie enough times to pass as clones. My daughter, in particular, took advantage of my glowing approval that there’s finally an ass-kicking hero who isn’t a boy or a man. But I’m starting to have my limits. We saw it opening night in a crappy theater, then she proceeded to see it the next day, in a theater with stadium seats, in a theater with reclining seats, in 3-D, in 3-D and reclining seats, in IMAX, in IMAX where apparently food and beverages are served, etc. I love Rey. She loves Rey. We all agree, Star Wars is great again without Daddy Lucas crashing the party, but I’m broke and I need to get back to my own story before I start dreaming about Harrison Ford, or more likely, Chewy. …Oh, Chewy, you’re the ultimate snuggie.

Hope everyone is recovering nicely and off to a good start! Thanks for making 2015 a rewarding year in blogging.

 

 

Coffee Mug Lies

It’s official — I’m a tree killer. I’ve bought enough reams of paper at my local Staples to call attention to myself. Here’s a picture of the recently deceased, right next to my THE BOSS mug, given to me to claim my matriarchal post.

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This mug has gotten me nowhere. I thought it would change my life. It hasn’t. Now I demand one that reads — STOP ASKING ME WHAT’S FOR DINNER.

 

So at Staples the other day the salesclerk asks me, “Back for another ream of paper?”

Why he recognizes me, I don’t know. It’s not like I’m walking into Staples with my BOSS mug. But he does and he calls me out on my tree killing and my need to edit on paper or I’ll miss everything. I don’t tell him my toner was low and I just printed out 237 worthless pages of my manuscript before noticing I couldn’t read the middle section of each page, turning my novel into a Mad Lib; and that my 7-year-old painted suns and rainbows on the rest of the sheets.

“What are you? Writing a novel?” he asks.

Ugh, anything but that. I’ve written whole posts on how I prefer outlandish lies over admitting writerly pursuits. (Even Grammarly is not accepting my word “writerly”. It’s giving it the red, middle finger.) Just a month ago I told someone I was a pole dancer in my spare time. It didn’t go well. Apparently it wasn’t a suitable, made up profession for a wedding conversation. My husband dove in before I could elaborate, “She won’t admit it, but she’s a writer,” he said, slipping it in while maintaining his own appropriate “nice weather” conversation. Then he set me up for a whole bunch of crappy questions he knows I hate answering.

“No,” I lied still.”I just have a lot of crap to print out.”

“Wow. But I just sold you a ream yesterday.”

I really wanted to ask him where the duct tape was, or if they have a mug making station so I could update my philosophy to DON’T QUESTION THE QUEEN. But he starts telling me to buy a case of paper and then use the mail-in rebate to save $20. He’s about to send me off on a rant about how I hate mail-in rebates, surveys and loyalty cards – i.e. busywork, which is my true profession. So I drop the brick of paper at his cashier station.

“Your loyalty card?”

“I don’t have one.”

“If you sign up today you can save .35 cents. . .”

“For .35 cents I’m not loyal. In fact, I’d be cheating all over town for a better deal and more convenience.”

He’s not sure if I’m messing with him. I know the look well. Smartasses receive it ten times a day. But I’m totally messing with him and he gives me a half-smile.

“You’re messing with me.”

“Indeed, I am.”

“You’re writing a book or something, aren’t you?”

“No,” I say, pretty impressed with his gumption, but I can’t be out-gumped. “I’m just a boss. And I got a mug at home to prove it. Bosses have a lot of rules to print out.”

He shakes his head and laughs. “You need any stocking stuffers? Chargers? Plug-ins?“

“Absolutely not. I plan to have a wireless Christmas. No wires. Nothing electronic. No recording my daily steps, breathing, heart rate, manuscript rejections, the miles I run, the times I complain, the number of singalongs to Santa Baby in my best floozy voice.”

This happens every holiday season. I am always one step away from prepper in a cabin. Nobody better get me Ted Koppel’s book Lights Out for Christmas or there’ll be a peanut butter shortage.

“Receipt with you, or in the bag?”

“Neither,” I say, grabbing my single ream of paper. I’m half way out the door when I realize I forgot to get a new toner cartridge, which is like $70. I should have just bought a new printer.

So then I spend the next half an hour filling out my loyalty form, selling my pride, which was around a $10 savings (not bad), when I notice my cell phone is almost dead.

“Throw in a car charger, too,” I add while Santa Baby starts playing in the background.

 

 

How Hot Is It? Let Me Tell You . . .

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Since I read a lot of posts complaining about the cold winter last year, while secretly chortling away with Mr. Burns-like laughter, it’s only fair I reveal the darker side of Southwestern living….the summer.

Let me tell you how hot it is. It’s so hot . . .

–For three days in a row now it’s been 115 degrees. And for three days in a row I dreamed of ice fishing in the nude. There has to be a connection.

–I put my running clothes on this morning, took one step outside and lost 10 pounds. Granted it was water weight, but tomorrow I plan on taking two steps, and by the end of the week there’s a good chance 60% of my body will have disappeared and I will emerge as Golem.

–Heat advisories now just recommend an Alaskan vacation.

–Pool parties are Jacuzzi parties with dead mice in the skimmers, after their botched attempts to drink…something…anything.

–It feels like you’re watching the second season of True Detective. Once outside you become confused and disoriented; you forget the names of people around you and can’t keep track of your life’s narrative, unable to recall why you live here in the first place . . . Oh yeah, because last winter was like the first season of True Detective when it made perfect sense.

–Everyone I come across is zombie-like and can’t be bothered with pace. I was in a 40-minute wait line at the post office. In NY, where winter storms invite fistfights over the last can of beans, a brawl would have broken out. But all of us in line knew our cars had turned into an Easy Bake oven and no one wanted to leave the cool 68 degrees safety zone with perfectly good Wifi and Kenny G playing. When the postal employee yelled, “Next,” people just waved her off and grunted.

–Birds spontaneously fall out of the sky.

–I’ve acquired third degree burns from the plastic and metal parts of my car. I wasn’t foolish enough to get a leather interior. In Phoenix, that’s like a hot dog telling a 7-11 clerk it wants a ride on that cool spinny thing. No, no. But when you get cloth, you forget about the other stuff, like the ignition, seat belts, and steering wheel. You know, necessary contact stuff in order to avoid collisions. And good Lord, never leave chapstick in between the console. All I need is a wick to make a candelabrum for Frankenstein.

–I heard someone humming “It’s getting hot in here, so take off all your clothes” in the checkout line, and I hummed along with him until the cashier joined in. The bagger thought he was being punked.

–When you grocery shop, people just eat the pint of ice cream in the parking lot. No sense in wasting a perfectly good milkshake.

–When my older kids come home from the school, I have 20 minutes to lecture them about grades, food pyramids, sex ed, and skincare without sass-back or eye rolls before their heat comas wear off and their faux teenage outrage returns.

–Everywhere you go, water stations for humans and dogs are set up in businesses like first aid booths at a Knife Throwing convention. Want to classy it up and double your cost in services? Throw in some cucumbers – double your profits. (Note: Writers can’t afford these establishments. But we know it’s just hipster water anyway.)

Finally, the other day I was in a ladies room when I was propositioned for a bottle of water by a slumped over Midwesterner on vacation. I obliged and told her, “Next time splurge on airfare in February. I know it only costs $50 to fly into Phoenix right now. But there’s a reason. Cah-peesh? Fly home, my little snow bird. Fly home. This is no place for you until mid-October.”

“But I thought y’all said it was a dry heat?”

“That’s just what we say to relatives back East so we can feel superior year-round.”

She is probably overlooking Lake Michigan now, blogging about how hot it is here.

To that I say, “We’ll see who’s laughing in winter. We. Will. See.”

Stay cool!

Who Let the Scorpions Out?

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I was a scrappy kid growing up — the youngest of three, the only girl, always ready to out-crazy, out-punch and out-run my two older brothers. At five, I had mastered the side karate kick with precision and speed. To this day I still use it when they come at me, claiming to be playful. They’re older and fatter now so it’s a lot easier, and I’ve kept up with my yoga, keeping my kicks high and mighty. That’s the first rule of sibling rivalry: Never let down your guard.

Likewise, this is the first rule of the desert. Behind our childhood home there were acres of mountain wilderness, which we explored and roamed daily. We came across more snakes and scorpions and desert creatures than we could count, saving our finds for dinner conversation and nothing more.

Quick rules: coral snakes — red and yellow kills a fellow, red and black is a friend to Jack; rattlesnakes – freeze, then make a large arc around them; tarantulas are slow and gentle; don’t pick up rocks unless you’re prepare for the quick scurry of scorpions and centipedes; ignore coyotes, bobcats, and javelinas, but if they come at you in a pack, grab a large stick and scream like a banshee. [Ironically, the most terrifying incident was running into a swarm of migrating bees. Let’s just say it wasn’t my finest hour of cool. Luckily I heard them before they saw me and I made the fastest getaway of my life.]

But more and more, the desert was getting crowded with development. Frank Lloyd Wright imitation houses were all the rage. Homes with more angles than a geometry final exam started popping up. Isosceles triangles and rhombuses filled our desert space until my folks declared it was time to pack up and move further into the mountains. It was a big move at the time and like most kids, we resisted. I had already built the finest palo verde tree house with a “No Brothers Allowed” sign hammered into its green trunk and I didn’t feel it was an easy transplant. But kids have no say in their parents affairs. It was the early 80’s after all.

So, my mom, dad, brothers and I climbed into our wood-paneled station wagon, the kind with the rear-facing back seat, and headed further north to view a spot of land, ready to embark on a new chapter of desert dwelling. My father had always dreamed of building a house. As we drove, shedding civilization, burrowing further into the land, and my brothers had less drivers they could provoke into road rage by giving them the bird, we began to realize, Dad was really going for it. This was no joke. We drove off blacktop and headed to a vast amount of land littered with cacti and brush, with a white flag of surrender plunged in the middle of a lone valley.

“Here it is!” he declared with triumph, like he was homesteading, but with all the expenses of being a landowner.

“It’s nice,” we all said, staring at the range of mountains, a wash at the foothills, and a large expanse of desert where we would build a corral and stables. No neighbors. No civilization. Just lots and lots of thorny space.

“Ah, you hear that?” Dad said.

We shook our heads.

“Silence. It’s the sound of silence.”

Then my brother hit me and I screamed, just to show him there was no such thing when you have children, followed by a round of, “Will you stop touching me!”

My mother had brought a blanket and food because nothing spells picnic quite like thick cacti, creosote, brittlebush and anthills the size of mini Everest. She paced, scanning a good spot, coming up empty, while Dad carried on.

“And the kitchen will be here. Your bedroom will be here. And way, way on the other side will be your brothers.”

I perked up at that. Way, way? Other side? Yes! 

This lasted all of twenty minutes. Then came the photos. There’s a picture of me in my dolphin, two-toned shorts, holding a wildflower, grinning in a sea of desert. Mom gave up on setting out a blanket and we ate our sun-soaked sandwiches on the flattest rocks we could find, swatting away gnats and stomping off the ants.

Hearing the promise of horses, my brothers became excited about the move. Also, being male teenagers, they were already less suited for society. It was obvious they would either become convicts or cowboys. Unfortunately for me, they chose the latter, using me as a runaway calf, roping my feet until I mastered resentment and how to take a face plant. (Note: You want to stay loose, so you can roll away fast.)

There was a lot of Dad pointing and smiling, mapping out his dream, while my brothers and I collected scorpions and centipedes in the cups Mom brought. Soon we had an entire army of bugs. We built a rink for them to maul each other in, while Mom, still holding the blanket, nodded alongside Dad, disguising her reservations about the whole move.

After a couple hours, we packed up, ready to return home and plan the timeframe of what would follow. I diligently let my scorpions and centipedes go and climbed back into the station wagon with my brothers, who were again in the rear-facing back. We weren’t even a mile away when the shrieks of horror had my dad pulling the car over.

“What? What? What?” he yelled.

“The cups of scorpions and centipedes got knocked over!”

All the car doors flew open and everyone screeched, running away from the station wagon, including Mom and Dad. Two lone empty cups were turned over in the back and all the bugs scurried in between the cracks of the plastic seats, burrowing into the crevices, clenching their lobster-like claws and moving their tiny legs.

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“How many were in there?” my father demanded.

“I dunno,” my brother said. “Twenty?”

Then they fought over who spilled the cups.

“Why were you bringing them back?” my mother yelled. “You were supposed to let them go!”

Then a round of finger pointing ensued.

Here we were: five people, ten feet away from a station wagon with all the doors open, in the middle of the desert, yelling, pointing, freaking out. Too bad a satellite image couldn’t have captured it.

After a half an hour of standing there, we decided we would all sit in front, as far away from the scene of the crime as possible. We drove back into civilization with five people in the driver and front passenger seats laughing and kicking like a pack of wild coyotes. I kid you not. And suddenly, us moving away from civilization made sense. We may have tethered our dreams to my father’s, and it didn’t take long before civilization found us again, but my father was right about the desert. You can hear your own voice — and that’s where all dreams start.

Are Writers Superstitious?

I never thought of myself as superstitious. Pre-writing, I was a fairly rational person, and would have walked right under a ladder with a broken mirror just to prove otherwise.

Post-writing, however, the slope got slippery and now I’m one step away from not changing my underwear, leaping down sidewalks to avoid cracks and hanging a dream catcher on my rearview mirror to ward off bad juju. It all started with the Yankees, but it’s such an irrational story, I’m afraid I can’t go into it. It would be bad luck.

See what I’ve become?

Take these lovebirds that reside in a saguaro in our yard. For months I’ve been tossing them carbohydrates, acting like Tony Soprano with those ducks in his pool, relying on their appearance. Lovebirds are a wonderful omen. I was happy. Tony was happy. And I thought the lovebirds were happy. Good luck was flowing in abundance. Every morning I’d be out there in my robe, ready to dive into a pool of cactus needles just to see my bird family, throwing half eaten bagels at them. They’re wicked smart though. It didn’t take ‘em long to notice Arizonians can’t make a decent bagel. So I switched to stale bread and Ritz crackers. I was one step away from buying Bird Fancy Feast at a pet store, then one day — nothing. No goodbye. No ‘Keep your doughy bagels, we’re movin’ to Jersey’ sign. It was like the kiss of death.

Then BADA BING! They came back a few days ago, right around Easter:

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It’s all about the family, Carmela.

This can only mean one thing . . .   My manuscript will finally land an agent. A leap, you say? I hardly think so. I have my lucky Yankees cap on and I won’t take it off until 100 rejections. And when that day comes, I will immediately burn the hat, go bald and start rooting for the Red Sox. (Okay, fairly bald and by rooting for the Red Sox I actually mean rooting around looking for that one missing sock, which used to be white but was washed too many times with solid colors and is now vaguely red.)

Writers aren’t the sanest group of people, so even if writing doesn’t make you superstitious, submissions will. Too many hours alone, pounding away in a bubble without the least bit of reassurance, besides your paid-off family invested in your sanity. It’s in their interest to keep you well enough to go grocery shopping, cook a meal or two and shower from time to time. But there’s no tap on the window for a thumbs up, or cake in the employee lounge with a Great Job scrolled in silver icing. So bring on the four-leaf clovers and horseshoes.

If I was allowed to dress myself without fear of retribution, I’d be wearing my lucky boots, my lucky cap, listening to Johnny Cash with fingers crossed, legs crossed, crossed-eyed. It’d be a hard way to get around. People would be directing me to the bathroom, calling for a chiropractor, then hailing me as the next great yoga master.

But what really sealed the deal was my fortune cookie yesterday:

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Do you know what this means? Obviously storms means “losing my dignity” and sail means “things are gonna happen”. Oh yeah. Big, big things. I know this is a sign and in no way did 20 people this week at the same restaurant get this fortune. No siree!

So is it just Tony Soprano and me with our birdbrains? Or does superstition come with the territory?

My Narrative Accents

Ever since I was little, I’ve been a huge mimic. At one point, I considered running away with SNL, but then my mom called me for dinner and it involved mashed potatoes. So it’s no surprise I’m still easily influenced by accents and dialect in literature. I treat children’s books like Broadway plays, much to the delight of my youngest — the sole beneficiary of my suppressed desire. I do witches, animals, and insect voices like a sleep deprived Nathan Lane.

Her favorite are the Angelina Ballerina books, a story that involves a British dancing mouse, a character who if seen in the real world would be stuck in a trap, meeting its brutal demise with a RIP Black Death sign around its neck. But personification is 90% of all children’s books.

I begin reading to her with a nice, proper British accent – smooth and decent, as dignified as the Queen’s – until it becomes a downward spiral, ending with a drunk Tracey Ullman. My daughter doesn’t mind or notice however, which makes her the perfect audience, but my older two have discovered my rusty ways. From the other room, I hear them shout,“That’s NOT how she sounds!”
 

She looks how I sound.
She looks how I sound.

 
I just finished the enjoyable, albeit sad, Me Before You by Jojo Moyes, a novel that takes place somewhere in England by a castle, when it occurred to me I had read the entire book with a perfect, narrative, British accent. I thought I’d give it a go aloud and the same thing happened! I started good, but then drifted into the deranged way Americans imitate the Queen, choking on her teeth. “I’d like-a-cuppa-tea, Gov-nah.”

It took me three days to read Me Before You, and for three days I said bloody hell 50 times, even though I think the main character, Louisa, only said it once. My kids thought I was nuts. I’m not sure how bloody hell rates on the swear scale. It’s hard to judge non-native slang and cursing. It feels equivalent to damn, which isn’t too bad. But I could be completely wrong and get slapped the next time I visit London.

Me: Bloody hell! Who put the eggs in the pantry next to the flour!?

Kid #1: Why is Mom going all Ozzy Osbourne on us? It’s weird.

Kid #2: Yah. It’s like she’s cursing at Angelina Ballerina.

Me: Posh! Listen, muppets, you’ll do as I say if you know what’s good for you!”

When I read Lonesome Dove I walked around with a swagger and took up chewing tobacco. “Y’all need to git them eggs in the refrigerator or I’ll tan your hides.” Okay, I didn’t really chew tobacco, but I ate plenty of jerky and beans.

During my True Grit days, I channeled the main character Mattie Ross so often, I came up with folksy sayings. “Giddy up and get ‘er done!” I’d yell at the kids, dragging their feet while they got ready for school in the morning. I even had mugs and posters made with the saying. But since the mugs were from a British company that typically printed Keep Calm and Carry On (the very nemesis of Giddy Up and Get ‘Er Done), they were tiny tea cups and Giddy Up and Get ‘Er Done just ain’t meant for dainty, y’all. It’ll bloody that stiff upper lip with one sip!

You can keep your calm and carry on, I’ll take my giddy up and get ‘er done . . .
 

Actual poster that now resides in the garage, and is loathed and ignored by all.
True Grit Inspired: Actual poster that now resides in the garage, and is loathed and ignored by all.

 
The same thing happened with Markus Zusak when I read his book, The Underdogs. I had an Australian accent that quickly turned into Crocodile Dundee and I began calling everyone my mate, which is really weird for a girl that grew up in the Southwestern desert. I started calling coyotes dingos and yelling at people that they were eating their babies. I was about as popular as a rattlesnake in a lucky dip!

I also read Nelson DeMille books with a New York accent and all the southern writers — Fannie Flagg, Rebecca Wells, Margaret Mitchell and Harper Lee – with a southern twang. I suppose I’m under the influence of literature. Some might say drunk with it. But it’s the closest and cheapest way to live globally and exercise my dramatic flare, especially since I’ll never be on SNL, which is a real pig’s arse!

New Year’s Pleas

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There are only two seasons in the Valley of the Sun–hot and Bruno Mars hot–thus I have come to rely on marketing cues for seasonal changes. Fall arrives when the barrage of pumpkin-flavored products hit the shelves, so you can eat, bake, lick, and snort yourself into a Thanksgiving Day coma a month before and after the holiday.

Likewise, when I begin to hear “Well, the weather outside is frightening…” and it’s 75 and sunny, I know winter is approaching north of where I stand and Christmas season will be upon us. The local sign holder on the corner will be forced to wear a Santa costume, stumbling around in the blazing heat like broke Winthrop in Trading Places, waving an ad that reads: Yee-Haw! Hot Tubs for Sale at Blizzard Prices! And The Salvation Army will be ringing their bells outside of a Walgreens as I stop to purchase my $5.99 sunglasses that will inevitable end up in some bathroom stall, right atop of the toilet paper dispenser in my attempt to correct the underhand rotation. Over the top, people!

So 2014 was the year my 6-year-old decided to question the man in red as he appeared in three different locations with various beard lengths, weight gain, sobriety and distinct aromas of beef and cheese. Santa helpers, I always reply. I admit, during Christmas I sit on a throne of lies, trying to keep track of the web I have woven so that she may enjoy a few more years of blissful make-believe. I am the catcher in the rye, positioning these damn elves on the shelves in clever little hiding spots trying not to make eye contact because you’ll swear their eyes are shifting. Total creepers, they are.

But Christmas is over and now that the remote control helicopters have all crashed and burned and the newly minted Barbie has been stripped of her Vegas clothes and lays naked in her plastic penthouse sipping cocktails next to a headless Ken, I’m able to pry open my laptop and reflect on events, and list some necessary changes for the New Year.

  1. Do more of this: write, write, write.
  2. Less of this: bitch, bitch, bitch.
  3. Yell more of this: You can do this!
  4. Yell less of this: Pull your freakin’ car over you lunatic and learn how to drive!
  5. Tell my son more of this: I know your disgruntled disposition is due to fluctuating hormones typical in adolescent, teenage boys and I understand.
  6. Tell my son less of this: Somewhere there is a kid in China that would love your first world problems.
  7. Laugh at this: New Yorker cartoons.
  8. Laugh less at this: Look! There goes the Steamin’ Weenie food van! AAAAhh-haaa-haaa!
  9. Cook more of this: green stuff.
  10. Cook less of this: brown stuff.

Happy New Year’s, and may all your resolutions be obtainable with an app!

Querying is a Battlefield: Song Choices for Writers in the Trenches

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Music is a great source of inspiration, especially if you’re a writer beginning or restarting the querying process. I’ve been querying my first manuscript for agent representation for almost a year now and I thought I’d share my playlist of songs for the 6 stages of the journey.

Stage 1: This is Going to Be the Best Day of My Life – As writers, we know our odds. We must remain positive and persistent. We want to frame our first rejection like a store’s first dollar bill, preferably before Wal-Mart moves in next door and crushes all hopes and dreams. But as the radio plays This is Going to Be the Best Day of My Life every-damn-day while the rejections take on tidal wave proportions, you begin to prefer, We’re Not Going to Take It and I Don’t Give a Damn About My Bad Reputation or Turn Down for What?!

Struggling with staying positive? Try,

  1. Try, Colbie Caillat
  2. Counting Stars, OneRepublic
  3. Happy, Pharrell Williams
  4. Let it Go, Idina Menzel (although side effects include insanity, nausea and illusions of grandeur)
  5. All About that Bass, Meghan Trainor (This allows you to not feel guilty about that pint of ice cream.)

Stage 2: The Waiting is the Hardest Part –Time in publishing is an interpretive art dance. Don’t try to understand it. Don’t apply logic or reason to it. It’s all part of the space/time continuum, whereupon for every day your manuscript is out on submission you will age 1 year, much like in Interstellar, where Matthew McConaughey returns to earth after what he thinks is 2 hours only to find it’s been 23 years and his daughter is Betty White.

Between each submission and response, your entire garden will have germinated, gone through its tenth round of growth and death; your cat will be on its ninth life and tenth litter; new crooks in congress will have been elected, rejected and then reelected; more apocalyptic series will have been created and given spin-offs; Biggest Loser contestants will have lost and gain a total of 5,000 pounds; old terrorists are now allies and old allies are the new enemies; a new disease will be launched, hyped in the media until mass hysteria, then quietly defeated when the news moves on; Mission Impossible will have geriatrics kicking other geriatric ass; and Taken 14 will have Liam Neeson trying to rescue his great, great granddaughter.

Struggling with impatience? Try,

  1. Dust in the Wind, Kansas
  2. Time After Time, Cyndi Lauper
  3. Time, Pink Floyd
  4. When I’m 64, Beatles
  5. It Was a Very Good Year, Frank Sinatra

Stage 3: I hear the secrets that you keep, when you’re talking in your sleep — Stable, reliable, well-adjusted you will become neurotic and insecure. You’ll sit amongst a group of friends talking about movies and books, current events, the polar vortex and the merits of Kim Kardashian’s latest ass-splash and ALL you can think about is: Where is my manuscript in the slushpile hell pit? Has it been read? Will they like it? Oh, whom am I kidding? I’m a worthless hack. Please, God, oh God, don’t let my friends ask about the status of my manuscript! I just know they’re secretly plotting an intervention. Wait. Just. A. Second…. Why the hell is no one asking about my manuscript? Don’t they think I can make it? Oh, my God, they don’t! They’re trying to spare me! They think I’ll never get published and that I’m a grown woman with a Rolodex of imaginary friends! And it’s true – I’m starting to see dead people!

Struggling with sanity? Try,

  1. Insane in the Membrane, Cypress Hill
  2. Crazy, Gnarls Barkley
  3. Basket Case, Green Day
  4. Loser, Beck
  5. Sedated, The Ramones

Stage 4: Every breath you take, every move you make, every bond you break, every step you take, I’ll be watching you — Stable, reliable, well-adjusted you will become a stalker. You’ll begin your mornings trolling websites for Querytracker updates and new interviews with the agent of the month. You’ll read their twitter feed, know their favorite cup of tea (Chai seaweed? Really? Must be a New York thing), their favorite Girl Scout cookies (Thin Mints? Me too!), know they loves cats and coffee and are addicted to The Walking Dead and The Golden Girls. You’ll also find out they receive 500 queries a week and never sleep, so you can’t even feel angry that you haven’t heard from them in 2+ months.

Struggling with unrequited love? Try,

  1. The Heart Wants What it Wants, Selena Gomez
  2. Love Hurts, Nazareth
  3. All By Myself, Eric Carmen
  4. Big Salty Tears, Sublime
  5. I Hate Myself For Loving You, by Joan Jett

Stage 5: Walk out the door, turn around now cuz you’re not welcome anymore — Then the “Dear Author” rejections roll in.

Dear Author:

Whoever you are and whatever your book is about — Thanks, but no thanks. However, this is a subjective industry and tastes vary and I’m totally sure another agent will think differently about MOBY DICK.

Sincerely,
Agent Nuffsaid

Struggling with rejection? Try,

  1. Turn Down For What, DJ Snake & Lil Jon
  2. Gives You Hell, All-American Rejects
  3. I Will Survive, Gloria Gaynor
  4. Creep, Radiohead
  5. Send in the Clowns, Judy Collins

Stage 6: Take This Job and Shove It – You will swear you’re quitting. But you know you can’t. You begin another manuscript instead.

Struggling with addiction/recovery? Try,

  1. Chandelier, Sia
  2. Sober, Pink
  3. Comfortably Numb, Pink Floyd
  4. Ball and Chain, Social Distortion
  5. Not Afraid, Eminem

Then repeat this cycle for the manuscripts that inevitably follow, blog sporadically to relieve the frustration, and remember, in the name of all things Kelly Clarkson: “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger!”

Happy Holidays!

Never Admit to Being an Aspiring Writer

440364-Royalty-Free-RF-Clip-Art-Illustration-Of-A-Cartoon-Tired-Woman-With-Bad-Hair-Holding-Coffee For years now I’ve skirted the question of my desired profession, usually answering a question with a question: What don’t I do? Changing the subject: I think there’s too much money in politics! Or a good old-fashion diversion: Look! Flying squirrel!

Admitting to being an aspiring writer evokes two reactions: high expectations, which are the worst, or low expectations — aka, pity, which is a tad more comfortable, like a pair of nubby slippers you just can’t pitch, even though the flies have begun to circle.

High expectations reaction:

Q: Are you published yet?
A: Querying trenches.

Q: What’s querying?
A: A process that requires every writer to lose faith in their writing and drink lots of wine until they can’t remember the failure of yesterday. Repeat for many months or even years.

Interruption: You know, I always wanted to write a book. I think I could.
*Nodding*
A: Hold on. Deja vu….. Okay, it passed.

Q: What’s your process?
A: Have you ever seen sausage being made?

Q: Does it have vampires in it?
A: No, but if a movie version came out, Robert Pattinson would totally play the male lead and I would insist he audition to me in private.

Q: Wow, you’ll be famous, right?
A: Yeah, you know you really should write that book of yours. Only then will you know the lavish world that awaits you with this easy, breezy pursuit.

Low expectations reaction:

Q: Really? Writing? You’re serious?
A: Yeah.

Q: Really?
A: Yeah.

*Pity head shake* Translation: Get a real job already.

Q: You know what you’re up against?
A: Oh, you mean that there’s a greater chance of rockets shooting out of my arse? Then yes.

But if I don’t say writer, I get stuck with the stay-at-home-mom label, which is like a bat signal for the PTA. The next thing you know, you’ll be thrown into a mosh pit of bake sales, class moms, holiday festivities, garden clubs, crappy jewelry exchanges, sex toy parties, fundraisers, etc. One day it’s, “Sure, I’ll help out.” And the next, you’re roadside, staking the ground with 125 road signs to “Pass the School Budget!” with cookie dough stuck in your hair and play doh under your nails. No thank you. I’m a grizzled mother of three, my oldest is entering high school, and my helicopter crash-landed years ago. Go find a fresher, younger face with her blades still sputtering. You can’t miss her. Her oldest will be five and she’ll look like she walked off the set of Zombieland, still insisting on her I-haven’t-given-up-my-style high heel shoes.

So I did something very strange recently. I was in a cab near a college campus and when the driver asked if I was a student, I nodded yes. Anything to avoid my aspirations. Now, I’m sure he was suspicious of this extremely senior student old enough to be on her 10th college degree, but maybe he was just happy I didn’t puke in the backseat after the words: college and student. However, I’m a fairly bad liar. I should have said plumber or drag queen or something that wouldn’t have follow-up questions, like, “Really? What’s your major?”

“Creative writing.” Oh crap. Did I just say that? I just turned the steering wheel 360 degrees! I should never be a taxi driver.

“Really! Are you gonna write a book one day?”

Double crap. “Yeah. I might give it a go. Why the hell not.”

I see his face grinning in the rearview mirror. “You know,” he says. “I really want to write a book one day.”

“No kidding?” I say. “You should totally do that.”

So next time, I’m going to muster up the courage to say stripper. I doubt this will ignite further conversation. If it does, I’m in deep waters. But at least I’ll walk away with a good story…or an extremely embarrassing YouTube video. In the meantime, I’ve started my second novel. It’s like childbirth, I forgot the agony of the first and I’m already half pregnant.