Thank you to everyone who entered the THOUGHT I KNEW YOU Book Club giveaway!! The winner has been chosen, and congratulations to Katie and her book club! I can't wait to Skype or call into your meeting!
We had a fantastic turnout - over 600 entries and to celebrate, we've lowered the kindle price of THOUGHT I KNEW YOU to $1.99 for the weekend (click here to download)!
Want to enter another giveaway? My publisher is turning a year old, and they're giving away hundreds of dollars in Amazon gift cards, books, and prizes! Check it out!
Saturday, February 2, 2013
One of my New Year’s Resolutions was to blog more frequently. I guess, technically, a resolution can’t be a failure until you start it, right? Okay, so here goes.
This is my first “writing” post. Mostly, I’ve blogged about my weird kids, or observations of family life, but I’ve strategically avoided writing about…well, writing. I don’t know why – can something be unknown and strategic? Not sure, but there it is.
I thought I’d give my five blog readers (waves at Mom, Aunt Mary Jo, Becky and Molly, maybe Megan) a little insight into my writing life. Sometimes my friends and family will ask questions, but always seem a little unsure of what to do with the answer. Did they know that? Are they supposed to understand what that means? Generally, I change the subject back to mom things with a collective sigh of relief – messy houses and screaming kids are solid ground. But my writerly life is usually met with a that’s cool, I guess?
I don’t write every day. I work every day – I commute an hour to a job that I mostly like, but don’t feel passionate about. In that way, writing has ruined my life. The rest of you are just along for the ride. At night, after I get home, and the kids are in bed, instead of folding laundry or cleaning the kitchen like I should be doing, I email bloggers, check my twitter and my facebook, check my Amazon rank, reply to fan mail (that’s a joke. Unless one of you e-mails me)…oh, and try to be a decent wife by paying a little attention to my husband.
Before you all start thinking I’m martyring myself, here’s my secret: It’s so much fun. I love it way more than I thought I would. Or, at least its more fun than folding five loads of kids clothes (oh, cute, you thought I was exaggerating). But this means my kids are mismatched, permission slips are always lost, my dishes are overflowing and my husband is over-houseworked (I’m trying to make up for this by giving him props everywhere. Oh wait, he doesn’t read my blog either. Just...tell him I said so, k?)
On the weekends, while the kids nap (luck, luck, luck, and sheer will play a huge part in having a four-year-old who still takes a nap), I write. This means that if I’m lucky, I write a chapter a week. There are about thirty to forty chapters in my new book. Talk about slow goings. I thought dieting was thankless.
But a few weeks ago, something totally awesome happened. Unexpectedly, I finished the first draft of my second book. Why unexpectedly? Oh, I don’t know, I guess somewhere in the back of my mind, I never know if I’ll abandon something or finish it until I write The End. I spent two weeks smoothing out the issues I knew about, but at sixty-five thousand words, I knew there were more problems. It simply wasn’t long enough to be good, in my mind (*SIGH* disclaimer: there are very good books at that length. I could tell that mine was not one of them). It needed….something. But what? (Side note: the average novel is about eighty-thousand words, roughly.) Enter, beta readers.
A beta reader is an early draft reader. Everyone has different definitions or uses for these readers but to me, they must be the following:
- Tough but fair
- A big reader – I’m talking reads a few books a month
- A decent communicator
- Not afraid to tell me the truth
- Not extraordinarily busy
Beta reading sounds like fun. It’s not. If you’re a beta reader, you’re reading a novel with problems. You’re helping the author identify these problems. You can’t kick up your feet and unwind after a long day, pour a glass of wine, get lost in your kindle. No, you have to pay attention, take notes, answer questions on characterization, consistency, plot holes. It’s work! I appreciate every little note I get back from them, because I know that at least once when they were writing up those notes, they didn’t want to be doing it.
I found six beta readers. I’m still waiting for four of them (patiently, no rush, really…. This isn’t an implied prod. I promise). The notes from the first two overwhelm me. I open them, open my manuscript, stare, stare, stare, close everything, check Twitter, check Facebook.
When I get all my beta reads back, I’ll incorporate as much as I agree with (which will not be everything I should, I can assure you that) and begin my own personal line editing. Getting rid of words like just and about, then, that, had, and eliminating clichés. Hopefully, hopefully, by sometime in March, I’ll be ready to submit my new manuscript to my publisher. If I’m lucky, they’ll like it. Then they’ll edit the heck out of it (tell me that I have to get rid of all the things my beta readers told me to get rid of and I ignored), I’ll repeat all my editing steps from above but with more crying, and I’ll publish it in late 2013. If I’m incredibly lucky! We’ll see.
So, uh, what’s your second book about again? Is it a sequel?
No, I think Claire’s journey is told. My second book is a tiny bit darker, but still involves a troubled marriage. Only this time, the couple accidentally kill a man. Instead of calling the police, they bury the body. The novel is about what that secret does to them, as individuals and as a couple.
Do you want to write for a living?
This is the one question I get asked the most by my family and friends whenever the topic of conversation goes to my new weird life. And the answer is of course. I would love, love, love, to write for a living. But let me break it down for you, in broad strokes. This year has truly been an eye-opener for me. I sell anywhere between one and five books a day, depending on the day. (As a side note, for a debut nobody, those are great sales!) Hopefully, that number increases? But to make “a living”, let’s just say half my current salary (here’s where I really hope my husband doesn’t read my blog), I’d have to sell close to seventy copies a day. Seventy. That’s not even close to New York Times Bestseller list stuff. I should just buy a lottery ticket – same odds.
So there it is. My writing status, how writing (barely) fits into my life, what I give up to do it and why, and what I’ll never get out of it. Good thing I love it. Somehow, unexpectedly, I’ve become passionate about it. At almost thirty-five, with a house, two young kids, and a hectic life, I’ve learned that feeling passionately about something outside of those things is important. It keeps me happy, sane, grounded, reasonable.
Well, mostly reasonable. I’m still sort of a writer, you know?
Monday, December 3, 2012
It’s that time of year – the lights, the carols, the shopping, the drinking….
I have an image of Christmas in my head. Norman Rockwell painted it and Bing Crosy gave it a soundtrack. It’s been boiled down to a single hazy, childhood memory – a composite of all my young Christmases and it smells like pine, tastes like ham, and sounds like off-key singing.
This weekend was my favorite weekend of the entire year – the one where we get the tree. We hike through the snow, holding hands and singing. No one cries. No one poops. No one yells. We pick out the perfect tree that is effortlessly sawed down, and easily transported home, where it practically uprights itself. Cut to carols and hot cocoa and hanging ornaments and kissing under mistletoe.
The reality is a bit louder. L, 4, hides in between the trees giving everyone a ten minute heart attack. A, 2, squats and poops so that we must now fast forward the tree hunt because we’re in a race against diaper rash. Both kids cry and I yell. Just get that one, I don’t even care anymore, I’m sure it’s fine. Mr. Beaker grumbles: the saw is too dull, the tree is really heavy this year for some reason, why are we here on the coldest day of the year? We’ve somehow managed to hike about a quarter of a mile from the drop-off point and the hayride looks like a small speck in the distance. I stomp off because…well, because this is supposed to be fun and it’s not and of course that means it’s Mr. B’s fault.
We haul the behemoth home and it doesn’t fit in the house. It’s Christmas Vacation come to life. When I said I wanted picture perfect Christmas, I wasn’t thinking of Clark Griswold. Literally, we can’t stand it up – we’re off by feet, not inches. It also doesn’t fit in the tree stand. Mr. B. has reached a breaking point and both the kids are crying. Christmas is ruined forever!
I am fed up: this was not the image in my head. This is not how it’s supposed to be.
And right there, that’s the crux of it. I’ve just given Christmas a “D” – failed to meet expectations. In my fuming drive to Home Depot (to purchase a chainsaw and an extra large tree stand), I have some kind of cheesy ephiphany. Like my own self-contained ABC Family holiday special. The problem isn’t the reality. Reality is what it is, I have very little control over it. The problem is the expectation.
I find the tree stand and a fantastic tool called a Sawzall (hey, it saws all! Well, that seems kind of fun, actually), which we needed anyway. Suddenly, things don’t seem that bad.
By the time I get home, I’m the Grinch whose heart grew three sizes that day. My family is sitting on the couch, watching Mickey’s Christmas Carol, and as I peek through the doorway, they are laughing. They’ve been PJ’d and their teeth are brushed and they’re snuggled under a snowflake blanket. The lights are off, and the tree is laying in the middle of the living room, taking up all available space but in my absence, they’ve all somehow become the Hallmark card I’ve been trying to force them into all day.
I think that sometimes, the easiest way to be happy is to let go of your anticipation. To quit forcing everyone to conform to the script in your head. To enjoy the imperfect moments for what they are: real.
|Scale: Husband is over six feet tall. What were we thinking?|
Friday, October 12, 2012
It is Bullying Prevention Month and yesterday was the anniversary of the death of Matthew Shepard. I’m not even sure if “anniversary” is the right word. I remember when this happened. I was two years out of high school and practically a kid myself. I remember thinking “how horrible” and “those poor parents”. But I went on with my day, I felt sad for them but I didn’t actually feel sad. My reaction to these types of horrors has changed dramatically and most notably, in the last five years. As they say, having a baby changes everything.
I read some of the articles published today on Matthew Shepard and found myself a bit teary eyed. Think Progress had an semi-uplifting take on all that has changed in the last 14 years (http://thinkprogress.org/lgbt/issue/) and how things are improving. In 1998, 53% of the United States believed that gay marriage was wrong, and now it’s down to 42%. So, that’s better, right? Right? Forty-two… still seems like a big number to me, that’s all. Sigh.
I can’t help but think of the world my kids will live in. Thanks to the tireless efforts of a lot of people, like the Laramie project, the death of Matthew Shepard will not be in vain. With enough time and awareness, we can chip away at bigotry and hate. But is it enough? My fear, as a mother, is that it’s not.
I look at L, my oldest, with her weird little idiosyncrasies that I alternately love and loathe and think: Could she be a bullying target? And of course, the answer is yes. Truthfully, I’m not sure you can forcast hate; it’s an unpredictable tide. That’s the terrifying part. That’s the part that will keep me up at night, and that’s the part of me that wants to chain my children in their rooms until they’re well into their twenties.
I can’t protect them from the haters. I can’t make a whole class of kids not turn on my my kid because maybe she’s different (don’t believe me?). Reading these articles today and feeling powerless, it finally dawned on me that while I couldn’t control everyone else, I could make damn sure that my kid wasn’t one of the bullies. I can, to the best of my ability, make sure that my kids are part of the 58% that believe there’s nothing wrong with love irrespective of gender, race, sexual orientation. Maybe, then, they’ll pass those lessons onto their kids and the 42% from above becomes 32%. I can, and do, teach them kindness and tolerance and to appreciate the differences in all human beings. It was such a lightbulb moment – to go from feeling this overwhelming helplessness to realizing that I was thinking about it all wrong. It's not worth worrying, right now, about how others might treat them in the future. I have no control over that. It is worth thinking about how they will treat others - in some small measure, I can shape that.
Changing the mentality of a society isn’t done overnight. It’s hard not to be disouraged by what feels sometimes like stagnation. But it’s an empowering position – being a parent. I have the opportunity to directly influence the opinions of two little girls, who will become two grown women, and in a small way hopefully contribute to the good in society. I just need to let them out of their rooms first.
The world is moved along, not only by the mighty shoves of its heroes, but also by the aggregate of tiny pushes of each honest worker. – Helen Keller
Wednesday, September 5, 2012
I belong to an online writing community (www.authonomy.com) and in my “spare time” I peruse the forums. There’s plenty of discussions – some are silly, some are political, and sometimes there’s even some about writing. The other day someone started a thread called “The three things a writer needs.” There were a lot of opinions – craft, voice, point of view, an original idea, a fresh take on an old idea. It was a fun thread to read. Then someone posted “Courage”. I had an epiphany.
In two weeks, I’ll release my first book (Hopefully not my last, but topic for another post). I’m psyched. I’m excited. I’m positively terrified. You might be wondering – what’s so terrifying? Fear of failure? Fear of success? The reviews? No, it’s more basic than that. In two weeks, most people I know will be reading something I wrote. Sure, it’s been edited. They probably won’t find many (any?) typos. But the characterizations, the plot, the relationships, the interactions are borne from my mind for all my friends and family to question, judge, assign meaning to. Yeah, you need courage to do this. To bring your insides out, and put them on paper forever. It’s the naked in class dream, realized.
Here’s the thing: I didn’t write anything shocking. I have one semi-glazed over sex scene that gives me hives when I think about it. But I think about truly brave authors: Wally Lamb, Augusten Burroughs, even Gillian Flynn, who write with a boiled down raw emotion that is painful to read, and would be unimaginable to write. I think of She’s Come Undone or I Know This Much is True, and you can’t read either of these books without feeling like your heart has been ripped out. There are parts of both Running with Scissors and A Wolf at the Table that I read with one hand over my eyes. They are burned into my memory. There’s an audacity there I just do not have (yet). Even Jennifer Weiner, who is widely regarded as a chick-lit writer, has written scenes that I’ve had to pause to finish another time, possibly another day.
Sunday, August 19, 2012
My new writerly life has me reading a lot of unpublished stuff. Works in progress of my author friends, some unpublished manuscripts, that kind of thing. And it’s a lot of fun, for sure. But in the past few months, I found myself drifting away from the one thing that spurred me to write in the first place: Reading. Real books. I missed it. So I made it a point this summer to get back to it. I think I did okay. Here’s what I read and what I thought. Just in case you give a hoot. J
Gone Girl, by Gillian Flynn.
Plot: A man’s wife goes missing on the day of their five year anniversary. Between Nick’s (the husband) search for Amy (his wife) told in alternating chapters with Amy’s past diary entries, you get an inside look into their marriage, which is not as happy as everyone thinks.
I loved this book. I loved everything about it, even the ending which is getting not so great reviews. There is a thread of evil woven so intricately throughout the plot that by the time you realize it, you are very attached to the people you thought Nick and Amy were. This left me unsettled and a little creeped out for days. It’s true that the end is a tad over the top. I didn’t care at all. It’s up there with one of my favorites, for sure.
A Wolf at the Table, by Augusten Burroughs
Plot: Another Burroughs memoir. This one is different, it predates Running with Scissors, and largely centers around his intensely abusive father. The part that stuck with me the most: Burroughs has a “memory” of helping his father bury a body, but has no idea if it really happened or if it was a dream. At one point in the story, he finally asks his father and the resulting conversation is positively creepy. He is obviously haunted by this vision his entire life.
This is my least favorite Burroughs book. That’s saying a lot because I generally love everything he writes, pretty sure I’ve read it all. This has none of his usual wit and humor (well, very little) that is so shocking that you laugh out loud. It’s very dark. And it’s incredibly sad. But in true Burroughs fashion, it’s ridiculously honest. I probably won’t read it again, but kudos for Burroughs for penning what was clearly a horribly difficult book to write.
The Upright Piano Player, by David Abbott
Plot: Henry Cage once had everything and lost it all, due in part to his own thoughtless actions, reflects on his life. Determined to become a better man, no matter how late in life, he reconnects with his ailing ex-wife and pursues a relationship with his son and grandson. Two distinct tragedies derail his attempts.
This was a very slow, literary read. Which is okay, but it took me a while to get through it. And the beginning is misleading—it opens with the tragic death of Henry Cage’s grandson, for which he blames himself. But this incident happens five years after the conclusion of the book and isn’t really rooted in anything except to reinforce the books continuing theme, which questions whether the life you lead is a result of your actions and attitude, or is instead entirely random. The problem is, the book doesn’t really pick a side, so at the end, I sort of felt a bit cheated. I enjoyed the literary quality of the narrative, Abbott is a wonderful writer. His descriptions are beautiful and the whole book evoked a very lonely, isolated mood. This is the kind of book I will keep around and read to improve my writing. Lit fic fans might enjoy it, but if you like a plottier book to keep you turning the pages, you might want to skip it.
Monsoon Season, by Katie O’Rourke
Plot: Riley is running away from an abusive relationship, back to her parent’s house, halfway across the country. The crux of the book is the relationships. Riley and her boyfriend, Ben’s, Riley and her parent’s, even some flashbacks from Riley’s mother’s point-of-view regarding her father.
I enjoy multiple point of view stories, so I liked the bouncing around. The main plot centers around Riley and Ben’s relationship, it’s evolution and destruction. I found myself wishing for a different ending. I’m never one to advocate staying in an abusive relationship, of course, but the author painted Ben with such humanity, I almost rooted for him. I wanted him to seek help, better himself. I almost wished she had asked the taboo questions: Are abusers ruined people? Can they recover? But this wasn’t the book O’Rourke wrote. In the end, Riley fell out of love, did not succumb to the trap that so many women do, and overall, that’s a good thing. I enjoyed the characterizations of this story the most, parts of the narrative are practically poetic, and would definitely read more from this author.
As I Close My Eyes, by Sarah DiCello
Plot: Danielle Grayson has visions of a previous life after a boating accident, and starts to recognize all the people in her past life as those in her present life.
DiCello paints a very strong main character, Danielle reminded me of me at that age. Her setting descriptions were so pretty and vivid, I felt like I was there. The plot in this book was very cool, and the juxtaposition of present day against the Victorian era sections made for an interesting read. I liked the ending, but it didn’t resolve itself, there’s clearly a sequel coming. It’s a light easy read, which was nice because I read it after Wolf. The love story developed a little quickly for me, but overall, it didn’t matter. It was still a perfect beach read.
The Indie Section
Fat-Bottomed Girls, by Clair Gibson
Plot: Two forty-something roommates win a lottery – not enough to change their lives but with their winnings, they decide to take a trip around the world and follow a Queen tribute band.
I thought this book was great fun. It’s not deep. It won’t make you reflect on your life. It’s pure chick lit. It’ll make you call your best girlfriend and make the date you’ve been meaning to make for a while. There’s a pretty good steamy scene in the middle, too, for all of you missing your 50 Shades. ;)
Counterpointe, by Ann Warner
Plot: A ballerina and a scientist fall in love and marry. They face a crisis of faith in each other when the ballerina suffers a career ending injury. Each runs away, one to the jungles of Peru, the other mere miles from where she started. Can they find their way back to each other?
I enjoyed the read--Warner has a way with words and her writing is very pretty, simple, and clear. At it’s heart, it’s a romance but not in the bodice ripper way. Rob and Clare have a sparking chemistry, if not a bit understated. The descriptions of the Peruvian jungle and the life there were fascinating and made me wonder if Warner had actually been there. Warner has three other novels on Amazon, and I plan on reading more from this author!
Next up: Sister, by Rosamund Lupton
Friday, July 27, 2012
Parenting is one long lesson in picking your battles.
Don’t hit. Don’t yell at your sister. Say Thank You. Say Please. Wash Your Hands. Pens are for Paper. These are the basics. As a mom, I spend so much of my time drilling in the basics, with the occasional crazy-I-can’t-believe-you-don’t-already-know this lesson (for example: please do not cut off your sister’s toes with safety scissors. Even if they are wrinkled from the tub and Mommy made a joke one time that you still remember a year later. Just…don’t).
Which is why, frequently, as often as possible, I let go of the small stuff. The stuff that’s not quite right, but whatever. They’ll figure it out, eventually. I mean, no one ever got to be a senior in high school before they said “Wait a minute. The tag’s supposed to go on the inside?”
Which is how, the day before we left for vacation I ended up in the supermarket with a four-year-old who was clearly wearing lingerie. Sheer, sexy sleeves. Marabou feathers. Crushed velvet. Glitter accents. I mean, it was a hot little number. Let me explain…
Mr. Beaker and I parent by relay. We slap hands on the highway (him going to work, me coming home) and hopefully, most of the time, our kids aren’t left home alone. That’s the goal. I’m sure there are millions of families just like ours with two working parents, bleary-eyed and exhausted and a both bit tired of doing the shift alone.
This just meant that the day before vacation was a blur. I had to pack our whole trip in one day, with the kids at home, while Mr. B worked. Four and two make that tough, they’re a needy bunch. So, at seven o’clock when I realized that I still needed stamps and new crayons and I looked out the window and it was positively teeming, I said: Everyone! We are going to the grocery store in our jammies! Simply in an effort to get them to the store and back without a meltdown. And shockingly enough, everyone said YAY!
L ran upstairs to get changed and returned wearing a discarded Halloween costume I completely forgot she ever had : a
sexy teddy witch’s costume.
L ran upstairs to get changed and returned wearing a discarded Halloween costume I completely forgot she ever had : a
Except…if she took off the pointy hat, she looked a little bit like a teeny, tiny prostitute. I picked a battle that day.
FINE. But you MUST wear the hat. It’s not an option. Okay?
Nevermind why. It’s the hat or nothing. Up to you.
Can I wear my princess shoes [read: high heels. OMG, are you kidding?]
NO. WITHOUT A DOUBT, NO.
So we went. Me and A. and L., a four-year-old Pretty Woman. But we were all in the car. Happy. Singing, I think. And I was feeling pretty good. I packed for vacation. There were only minutes, not hours, of tears that day. And I was having a moment of joy over finally, for once, having my shit together. Of being that mom.
And then Lily said:
“Uh-oh, Mommy. I forgot to put my undies back on!”