Sunday, December 6, 2015

Seriously, what is that smell?

So yesterday morning, while my brain wrestled with a plot-and-character problem in Revision One of the Mess In Progress, I invoked one of our favorite post-baby purchases: the Shark dust buster. We call it the Remora--'cause, yanno, it's a little shark. 

The Remora has proven invaluable when it comes to sucking up all the little schmutz (spelling?) in the corners that Wallaby invariably finds and sticks in his mouth. So much so that we just bought a second one (hello, Black Friday sale) for the downstairs. Anyway, there I was while Wallaby sat in his high chair eating his Cheerios, dust busting away with the Remora.

And I smelled something. Again.

It wasn't a good something.

"Ugh," said I to my son. "Did you do that?" 

But like it or not, Arizona and I are both pretty familiar with Diaper Funk, and it wasn't that. It was more like a litter box gone over--except that I had just cleaned the litter box, having smelled Litter Box Funk earlier. Which I was still smelling. Okay, so I missed a chunk. Except I didn't *see* anything hiding out on me. So where was the invisible culprit?

I hunted high and low. I Remora'd cracks and crevices, inside the baseboard, around the litter box … all clean. By the time breakfast was cleaned up, I was walking around, talking to the smell.

"Think you can avoid me forever? Ha! You'll see. I will find you, and I will END you!"

The baby, wisely, decided it was time for a nap.

Some time later, I sat back down at my revisions, determined to make headway on something, darn it, when Arizona came up from his downstairs office for a snack. He came over to me, kissed me, and griped good-naturedly about a client as he made himself a bowl of cereal. Then he headed back downstairs. 

As an afterthought, he stuck his head back around the corner of the stairwell. "Oh, and in the interest of full disclosure?"

Me: "Yes?"

"I may have sucked up a cat turd in the Remora this morning. So you might not want to let the baby play with it until we've cleaned it out."

(Or, yanno, get my face down really close to the exhaust port as I try to suck up whatever stinks. Sigh.)

The moral of the story, and one which I am preparing to bring to my revisions this week? 

Sometimes the thing you're doing to fix the stench is actually the source.

Have a good one, ReaderFriends!

Monday, November 30, 2015

The Great Nano Hangover

On Saturday, I had a strange, out of body experience as I watched myself weep into my husband's chest, wailing, "It's no use! If I don't want to f*ck him, why should she?!"

And I thought, WTF??

The "he" in question is the hero of my current mess-in-progress, the "she" is my heroine, and my very unsexy meltdown came on the heels of my having "won" Nano for the first time, then looking back on my nearly completed first draft, and going, "Oh, shit." 

Because all those notes I plugged in so I could keep writing the stuff I could see, the ones that said "insert tab A into slot B here" to mark where a sex scene should go, or "deepen conflict here, once you figure out what the hell it really is" … Yeah. Now I have to deal with them.

Arizona, to his credit, held me, made "there-there" noises, reminded me that I at some point hate every manuscript, and assured me that I would find lots of reasons to want to f*ck my hero during revisions. 

That, ladies, is the mark of a truly great WriterHusband.

For those of you unfamiliar with the concept of Nanowrimo (National Novel Writing Month), each November a sort of collective hysteria grips a large subset of the writing community, and a ridiculous number of authors, both published and aspiring, log into the relevant website and pledge to write 50,000 words in 30 days. That's 1667 words a day, which doesn't seem like all that much.

Until, of course, life intervenes. Which it always does.

You see, I usually start off the month all swaggering and like "I totally got this" and I launch in and put up some huge numbers in the first week or so, writing like a crazy woman regardless of what else is going on in my universe. Then I make the mistake of looking back on what I've written, and think "Oh, hell, no" and I start revising what I've written, because, damn. Or I get sick. Or someone else gets sick. Or I get a big editing job. Or, or ...

So I've never before made the 50k mark. Until this year.

This year, I was in the perfect place of Nano--I had already written and thrown out two openings for the current story, and finally knew who, what, where and when. I had a detailed outline that I actually had faith I could stick to. I was excited to write each and every scene. And I was going to write and not look back. Cross my heart and hope to … well, you know.

And I did. The first week, I got up at 6 each morning and wrote until 8, when Arizona gets to work and we do the Baby Handoff. I wrote during nap times. I wrote in the evening after Wallaby corked off for the night (he doesn't stay asleep, but darn, he's good about bedtime). 

The second week, my mom came and stayed so I could get in some solid hours of work. The story flowed. My brain churned. I found myself waking up at 5:30 instead of 6, so why not get up and write? Because did I mention I was also keeping up with my usual freelancing gig (science editing), too? And of course trying to Mom and Wife. Let's go to the playground! Let's make oatmeal cookies! If there aren't enough hours in the day, sleep can take a hit. 

The third week, on pace to not just hit 50k, but stretch it to 60k or even 70k for the month, I backed up my morning to 4 or 4:30 and started early on my strictly rationed Diet Coke. Plot twists! New scenes! I gobbled the story and spewed words. 

Week four was more of the same. I passed 50k and won Nano, then kept going! With four days left to write, I was closing in on 60k for the month, and more than 80k in the manuscript … And I realized it was time to start wrapping things up. Yay! Awesome! Party time! 

Except that then I looked back over all those frantic words. And I thought about how how many holes I left in there, and how much work it's going to be to make them as good as I know they can be. And, because I was running on zero sleep, raw emotions and ten months of "hey, let's nurse every two hours" ….

I. Cracked.

Scratch that. I freaking broke.

It started with a sticky nut on my treadmill (long story, maybe I'll tell it next week), escalated to my hero's unf*ckability, and took a detour to "I'm soooo tired and I can't keep doing this." Which wasn't really a detour at all, but the core issue. 

Too much pressure. Not enough sleep. 

But that, folks, is what Nano is about. It's also only one month out of the year, and it's over. In fact, this year I called it a couple of days early.

Yesterday, Arizona got up with Wallaby like he usually does, except instead of writing, I rolled over and slept for three more glorious hours. And the only time I opened my computer was to troll Facebook and order a second Shark dust buster (another long story, tangentially related to the treadmill thing).

And today, 6 a.m. saw me back at the computer, working on revision notes. The goal for next month: Make my hero absolutely irresistible. 

To those of you out there who participated in Nano this year, you're all winners in my book. And you're all (we're all) f*cking nuts. And, as of midnight tonight, officially done and probably very hung over. So be good to yourselves. Cut yourselves some slack. Maybe even take a week before you look back over the crap you spewed over the course of the month. 

I'll try to do the same.

Monday, November 23, 2015

GIVEAWAY: Animal rescue, sexy contractors and book recommendations ahoy!

Every now and then, I put on my extrovert costume, pack a couple of cool jackets and a pair of cowboy boots, and head off to a writers' convention for a few days--bonus points if it's being held somewhere fun. Mostly, though, I go to meet people--book lovers, booksellers, other authors … all the folk who keep fueling the machine that gets great stories into readers' hands. 

And sometimes, I have to go a couple of states away or even partway across the country to meet a neighbor. Like the time, whilst headed to Reno, I stumbled upon a good friend from a local writers' meeting holding down a chair in the Denver airport (shout out, Donna L). Or the Romantic Times book signing in Columbus Ohio, when a reader came up to my table and introduced herself as a fan, and we got to talking. It turned out that she was a Navy wife and mom of three who lived just a couple of towns away from me, and in addition to being an avid reader, was interested in writing romance.

In that moment, when I said, "We've got a great writers' group in the area. You should totally come check it out," I might not have guessed that she was brimming with the raw writing talent--or wicked sense of humor--that she turned out to have, or that five or so years down the road, she would be in her second year as president of that writers' group, my go-to for celebratory (or sympathetic) girls' nights out, and on the brink of having her second book come out!

If you love a fun, sexy and thoroughly modern contemporary romance, check out BOYFRIEND FOR HIRE (and the first in the series, BACHELORETTE FOR HIRE, only $0.99 on Kindle!).

And then there was the time I was at a local writers' convention and someone said, "Have you met Laura Moore? You really should. You guys have a lot in common." A background in riding and showing horses? Check. A career in academia? Check. Romance writer? Check, check, and check! 

Not to mention that Laura made an impression on Arizona. I think he liked that she, as he often does, will sometimes sit back quietly and let a conversation play out, not putting in a word until she has something to say … but that something will be worth the wait. She's clever, insightful, and incredibly generous with her time and heart, and it shows in her contemporary romances, the latest of which has a thoroughly drool-worthy cover, don't you think?

Fans of Virginia Kantra and Robin Carr should check out ONCE TOUCHED, which has a heroine fighting to save her animal sanctuary and a hero photojournalist who saw too much in the war. Seriously. Do it!

If you're a Facebook fan, check out their release party today 4-11 p.m. (I'll be dropping in at some point, and they'll be giving away a copy of one of my books.) Here's the link.

To encourage you to support these lovely ladies and their fabulous stories, I'm giving away two books today: one copy each of Gail and Laura's previous releases. (You don't get the new ones--you've gotta help an author out and go buy them this week, to encourage zee publishers to keep signing them up for more books!) Just leave a comment here (or if you have trouble commenting here, mention that in a Facebook comment and I'll include you in the drawing). Winners to be announced tomorrow (Tuesday)!!

Monday, November 16, 2015

Kitten v. bucket of paint … Doc Jess loses

So it started out innocently enough, as these things tend to do. Arizona and I have been trying to come up with a plan to improve the baby proofing in the bathroom, where we lack a vanity cabinet and have only open shelves for storage, but don't want to invest much money. 

We decided to start by replacing the mirror over the sink with a medicine cabinet that we could retrofit with one of those magnetic baby locks (which are a PITA to install, but withstand lots of tugging). Then, while at Home Depot (ah, how many well-intentioned sentences start thusly when you own a home), we added a few things to the pile--some new shelves for downstairs, and … well, I can't quite remember what else, but suddenly we had spent four times the cost of the (inexpensive, fortunately) medicine cabinet.

Then, of course, when we get home and pull down the old mirror, we discover that there aren't any actual studs in the space where we want to hang the cabinet. Arizona, not being a fan of anchoring anything in drywall, decides we're going to screw a piece of wood to the studs and mount the cabinet to that. Okay, sounds like a plan, and we've got appropriate scrap wood on hand. Bonus, we've also got the leftover bathroom paint the prior homeowners had left for us. 

Er, somewhere.

So down I go into the storage niche, where, with Wallaby's "help" I dug out the paint in question. Which was, when I think about it, probably pushing fifteen years old. It was also nearly empty, and what paint was in there had long ago fossilized. Hrm.

In a blinding flash of I don't want to go back out/I don't want to color match and buy new paint, I decided to use up the wall paint we had left over from having painted most of the rooms upstairs, including the opposite bathroom wall.

First, though, the wall needed some spackle, the new board needed some putty, and the whole thing needed to be washed down. All done either while simultaneously entertaining a kiddo who has entered the 'walk three steps and face plant' stage with a vengeance, or during nap time. 

Did I also mention it was date night for the three of us?

So it was that last night, with Wallaby tucked in bed and Arizona snoring a song of steak-and-potatoes repletion, that I locked myself in the bathroom and painted the darn wall. Which included hunkering down, getting behind the toilet, behind the pedestal sink, and cutting in and around all sorts of annoying corners. And did I mention the need to remove the kitten from underfoot, in the sink, batting at the paint brush …? Which led to her rapid ejection from the project, much to her annoyance. All while CBS played on my computer on the floor, giving me 60 Minutes instead of Madame Secretary because of the football game. 

Eventually, though, I finished. I cleaned up. I turned on the blower, opened the door, and stuck my foot in the gap, in the move that is second nature to 99.9% of cat owners out there.

This time, though, I failed. A medium-size black-and-white blur somehow evaded my foot and my ungainly riposte, and sailed through the two-inch gap between the sink pedestal and the painstakingly painted wall. 

Or, rather, sailed halfway through. Because there she stuck, glued to the tacky light blue paint, looking at me as if to say … well, I'm not sure what she was looking like, because I was trying to decide whether to laugh my ass off or start swearing. I may have done both.

Some time later, when I finally emerged from the bathroom and rejoined my snoozing spouse in the living room, said spouse roused and sleepily mumbled, "Everything good?"

"Yep," said I. "I painted the bathroom and washed the cat."

"Awesome," he mumbled, and rolled over. Then: "Wait. What?"

Monday, November 9, 2015

The Grossest Thing I Ever Ate

When coming up with a new character's backstory--the stuff that I need to know about a person that might never appear on the page, but that I need to know in order to live inside their head while I'm writing--I ask myself all sorts of questions. Like: Where did they go to school? Were they a jock? An outcast? An introvert with a few close friends? What was their first kiss like? Their most recent one? What pets have they had? What pets do they wish they could have? What is their weirdest guilty pleasure?

As of this week, I have a new one: What is the grossest thing they ever ate, and what were the circumstances?

Me? Both of my grossest moments involve mold. One a moldy hot dog that I ate half of (at the cafeteria serving the backstretch of Suffolk Downs race track, whilst waiting for the track vet to look at a horse I wanted to buy), and one a Lean Pocket with a green-and-purple interior that I again half ate before realizing it wasn't the one I had brought that day, but rather one I had forgotten in the barn fridge a month earlier.

Gack. But then again, from such things is penicillin made.

As you might guess, this question arises from life with a terrifyingly mobile nine month old, during Autumn in New England. We're doing better about playing with leaves rather than eating them, but all bets are off when it comes to the sandbox at the playground. (Sand. Nom!) And then there are the unexpected moments of abject parental gross-out.

To set the scene the other day:

Me: *spins ring things on floor, much to the delight of Wallaby and his kitten, Bunker The Terrible* Whee! Look at them go! That one went in your bedroom.

Wallaby: Squee! *waddle-crawl-walks after it*

Me: *takes two minutes to putter in kitchen whilst listening to normal, non-dramatic noises from his room*

Wallaby: Squee! *comes back out of his room*

Me: *sees blood running down his chin and on his collar* Aaaahhhh! *notes that baby isn't crying* ????? *investigates situation, cleans off kid, finds no obvious wounds, but something nasty on the hallway floor …*

Arizona: *comes upstairs* Hey you two. What's up?

Me: You know that tick that Lucy wouldn't let us pull off her the other day? 

Arizona: It disappeared, right? We figured the tick stuff had killed it and it dropped off.

Me: Found it!


Monday, November 2, 2015

I wish I'd thought of that ...

Just a short one today, ReaderFriends, as my mom is staying for a few days to do grandma stuff with Wallaby and let me get in some good chunks of writing time. Yay! But I just had to say …

The other day, our usual biking spot hosted a road race, which made parking tough but didn't really affect our riding, as the gnarly stuff that we ride is the stuff most joggers avoid. When we returned to the car, however, we discovered that we had acquired a postcard under one windshield wiper. 

I was annoyed, but didn't want to litter our 'take out what you bring in' park, so stuck it in the car door. Later, I glanced at it and had to admit it was kind of cool. You see, it was inviting me to a 5k race Halloween night that spanned the 'lose an hour' portion of the headache that is daylight savings.

I'm no runner, but even I was tempted, just for the sheer weirdness of being able to say I finished a race before I began it.

So, yeah. Wish I thought of that. Have a great week, all!


Monday, October 26, 2015

Executive Decision and Sad Cat

Hola, ReaderFriends!

With a busy week staring me down, a book that needs writing, and an hour of nap time in which to write, I'm going to work on the book rather than blogging this week. Thanks for stopping by, and I'll see you next week. 

To make it up to you, here's one of my favorite videos: The Sad Cat Diary. You've probably seen it, but it's totes worth a re-watch :)