Wednesday, September 25, 2013

A Video: On My Haiti Experience and Brokenness

I had a different post ready to go today on writing a bannable book and decided (for the umpteenth time) not to publish it, despite this being Banned Books Week. Go me.

Instead I've decided, after much debate, to post the video of a presentation I gave over the weekend on my experience in Haiti last year. If you've followed my blog for a while, you know I went to Haiti last year with Mission Haiti Medical and a medical team comprised of (about) thirty people from all over Indiana, and that I kind of fell apart afterwards and hesitated to really discuss this trip with many.

But I was asked recently to talk about my experience at my church. They gave me a great amount of support last year, so, yeah. I couldn't put it off any longer. It was time to give back, if you want to call this presentation that. There were several remarkable presentations that day, but I went last, which, thank goodness because I turned into a blubbering mess all of the four times I spoke. I got so much support from so many of you, too, but I had come to the conclusion that posting this video would make me feel too vulnerable. The Internet is just so...huge. But then I received a card in the mail from a lady who was overwhelmed by my talk, moved to such a degree she took the time to send me a letter. And that was that. I was reminded of my own call to action despite vulnerability. If you watch this through to the end, you'll see what I mean. Sometimes things are really hard, but you do them anyway.

It's kind of long, though. You don't have to watch it. But it's here. Because I got a card in the mail.

Thank you to Joe and Bill and the amazing crew who made this video and to the missions team who invited me to speak.

Also? Thank you.

Friday, September 13, 2013

When Publishing Sucks You Dry, Have a Cupcake

Here's the thing about traditional publishing.

There is no way to predict when or if it will happen for you.

I know, right? Sucks. Because you can work and work--sometimes years--and never see any results from all your hard labor.

All right, so, you have some options.

1. You can quit. Easy peasy. Maybe this isn't for you. Eh, whatever. You can find another passion. I mean, seriously. You like to write; it's a part of your identity. But it's not who you are. You're a writer, but you are not your writing.* No need to get all emo and shit just because this crazy stupid, super-reliant on all-the-stars-aligning-just-right BS isn't happening for you. You must write to publish, but you don't have to publish to be a writer. Let's be honest: you've read so much crap, you know publishing doesn't necessarily mean you're a good writer, yeah? It stands to reason that not publishing doesn't mean you're a bad writer either. So, go. Do something else. Come back to this when the wanting far outweighs the pain of trying to get it.

2. You can self publish. A lot harder than quitting. No way to predict if you'll actually be any good at it either. Or make any money. But odds are if you self publish you'll make more money than leaving your manuscript sitting inside the desert wasteland that is your laptop. Might only be pennies. And you may end up spending all your pennies on marketing and booze to ease the sting of not becoming the next H.M. Ward, but whatever. Dude, you're totally published. Also, maybe you will become the next H.M. Ward.

3. You can keep writing. And keep querying. Keep submitting. Slowly go insane. Become an alcoholic. Destroy all your relationships. Shave your head, sell off all your possessions and join a nudist doomsday cult. Good luck with that.

4. You can keep writing. And keep querying. Keep submitting. And bake cupcakes. Lots and lots of cupcakes. And by cupcakes, I also mean garden. Or maybe build model trains. Or knit. Or have babies. Or mow geometric patterns into your lawn.

Basically? Keep living your life. Do things you can control, things that will be fruitful and multiply and ooze results.

This summer I started a garden for the first time. It was glorious.

I made loads of cupcakes and ate them all.

I experimented with pictures. Of feet.

I got a new tattoo. Sorry. Won't be showing you that one. Love you guys, but. Yeah. It's kind of privaty.

Also, I had a baby.

Just kidding. That's my friend's new baby. Crazy cute, huh?

Anyway, what I'm trying to say is that you can't let yourself get too caught up in the misery of not making it...yet. That yet can take a freakishly long time. So in the meantime, if you're not going to quit, and you're not going to self publish, do something that makes you feel good about yourself, something that makes you feel like you're the most accomplished accomplisher OF ALL TIME. There is so much out of your control with this publishing dream, but there are so many other dreams and projects and really cool things you can control. Life is cool, man. There is so much else besides writing that can make you feel totally okay with yourself while you're trying to make the writing thing take off. I mean, okay, all my broccoli and my cauliflower went to crap, but I have a ton of tomatoes and onions. And so. many. cupcakes. And feet.

No babies though. Nope. No babies.


*Elizabeth of Liz Writes Books wrote a brilliant post on this concept: "Writing is not Breathing." Check it out. Please. It's time we stop treating writing like it's the end-all and be-all of who we are. That's an unhealthy attitude that creates the cynical, emotionally-drained writer on the cusp of a nervous breakdown contemplating the most dramatic, stranger-than-fiction ways to end it all. Do not be that kind of writer. You are more creative than that. 

Thursday, June 13, 2013


It's Bookanista Thursday. YAHOO!

(In case you didn't know... GWUCER= Giveaway, Winners, Update, Cover [Eggs] Reveal)

UPDATE: So, I'm nearly finished with this new book I'm writing. It's pretty much consumed every spare moment and all my thoughts since forever. All my conversations now go like this:

Friend: I couldn't believe my husband did that. I wanted to kill him. Gawd.
Me: Yeah, but you've got to admit it's kind of funny. Sort of reminds me of this thing Henry did when he saw Lacy in that bar, you know, when her hand was in--
Friend: Henry? As in your fictional character?
Me: ....

I'm pretty sure I'm having a love affair with this thing. It's an obsession that made me think I wouldn't post again until after I was done with Henry* and Lacy.* But then I got the opportunity to be a part of this really awesome cover reveal for Stasia Ward Kehoe's upcoming YA, THE SOUND OF LETTING GO. And oh my gawd. LOOK.


Lord, but that's gorgeous. There's something just a little risqué about it, something so sensual about a woman's neck and naked collar bone. And then there's that dandelion, so full of promise and wishes that could, maybe, possibly come true, and on the tippy-tips of her fingers it's being extended to--her lover? Or you? As in, "Blow." But with that bubble filter the dandelion almost looks like it could also be a flower with one last petal. He loves me, he loves me not. All's I can say is if this cover is at all indicative of what's within those pages? Gangnam style YES.

The Sound of Letting Go

by Stasia Ward Kehoe 

For sixteen years, Daisy has been good. A good daughter, helping out with her autistic younger brother uncomplainingly. A good friend, even when her best friend makes her feel like a third wheel. When her parents announce they’re sending her brother to an institution—without consulting her—Daisy’s furious, and decides the best way to be a good sister is to start being bad. She quits jazz band and orchestra, slacks in school, and falls for bad-boy Dave.

But one person won’t let Daisy forget who she used to be: Irish exchange student and brilliant musician Cal. Does she want the bad boy or the prodigy? Should she side with her parents or protect her brother? How do you know when to hold on and when—and how—to let go?

Okay, so I read Stasia's last book, AUDITION, and loved every inch of it. Truly spectacular. TRULY. YES. (My Review of AUDITION, P.S.) So basically I will read anything Stasia publishes, no question. But even if I didn't know Stasia had written this, I'd definitely want to pick this one up. Really looking forward to it. Check it out on Goodreads!

GIVEAWAY: Guess what, chicos! Stasia is holding a super giveaway. You can win:

  • A Signed Hardcover of AUDITION by Stasia
  • Swag package from authors Gretchen McNeil, Carrie Harris, Elana Johnson, & Jessi Kirby

Awesome, right? But you only have a week to enter, so hurry!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Also, be sure to check out what the other Bookanistas are highlighting today:

Lenore Appelhans  wonders at ALL YOU NEVER WANTED by Adele Griffin

Shari Arnold loves SOMETHING LIKE NORMAL by Trish Doller

Tracy Banghart embraces IMPOSTOR by Susanne Winnacker

Shelli Johannes-Wells  delights in Cory Doctorow’s LITTLE BROTHER and HOMELAND

Nikki Katz gets the shivers for 3:59 by Gretchen McNeil

Stasia Ward Kehoe, Carolina Valdez Miller & Debra Driza  sing out for the cover of THE SOUND OF LETTING GO

Jessica Love raves about ROAD TO TATER HILL by Edith M. Hemingway

Katy Upperman celebrates THE SEA OF TRANQUILITY by Katja Millay – with giveaway!


WINNERS of the Bookanistas Big Relaunch Giveaway:

Winner of the Signed Bookanista Books:
Kim Aleman

Winner of package number two of Bookanista favorite reads:
Chandler Baker

Congratulations Kim and Chandler! Both winners have been contacted. Huge thank you to all who entered and promoted. Keep an eye out for more giveaways!


*Names have been changed to protect the innocent

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Bookanistas rec: 17 & GONE by Nova Ren Suma

I always feel a little giddy when I actually manage to get a blog post written up. Even more so when it's over something so delicious and enticing as Nova Ren Suma's 17 & GONE--and this the first real review I've written in nearly a year, and for our newly relaunched Bookanistas site at that. Giddy does not begin to cover it. More like delirious and flailing and strangely hyperbolic.

Seriously, though. 17 & GONE has blown my mind. Stick around and see why.

17 & Gone

From Goodreads: Seventeen-year-old Lauren is having visions of girls who have gone missing. And all these girls have just one thing in common—they are 17 and gone without a trace. As Lauren struggles to shake these waking nightmares, impossible questions demand urgent answers: Why are the girls speaking to Lauren? How can she help them? And… is she next? As Lauren searches for clues, everything begins to unravel, and when a brush with death lands her in the hospital, a shocking truth emerges, changing everything.
With complexity and richness, Nova Ren Suma serves up a beautiful, visual, fresh interpretation of what it means to be lost.

My Review

So. This book was not about what I thought it was about. I mean, YES, there are seventeen-year-old girls and they've gone missing and they're talking to seventeen-year-old Lauren. But this isn't a paranormal, per se. Well, it could be. But it's so much more than that with it's tangled web of genres and directional possibilities. This is, in fact, my very favorite kind of book. And 17 & GONE is officially one of my favorite books ever.

Let me backtrack a minute. Think about all those paranormal/supernatural books you've read (or at least heard about). Now imagine, if you will, what would happen if the freaky things that happened in those books happened in real life. You'd probably be freaking out, and you may never fully recover from those experiences, right? Say word got out that you claimed to be dating a vegetarian vampire. Maybe you'd be dragged off in a straightjacket, yeah? At the very least people might cross the street when they saw you coming, because you, my dear, would be considered certifiable. And on top of that, you might start wondering if maybe you weren't, in fact, losing your mind.

Well, that's the realistic sort of path 17 & GONE takes us on while treading on the edges of a very magical one. 17 & GONE is part psychological, part magic, and in every way a mystery you simply must unravel, no matter how unnerving it is. And it is at times ridiculously unnerving. Nova Ren Suma immerses you so completely into Lauren's character that you begin to forget she's not real--and that you're not her. You get turned upside down, seeing and feeling the world as she's seeing and feeling it, so that when she's certain she's inside the magic, you're certain of it, and when she questions her own sanity, you begin to question it.  When she's curious, no matter how scary the situation might be to an outsider, you feel curiosity more than fear. When she's terrified, no matter how normal a situation might seem to an outsider, you feel the prickle of goosebumps and the intense need to turn the page to find a way out. And when she's with her boyfriend...ah well, you doubt, you wish, you push away, you want

And while you're feeling so much through Lauren, you're just as invested in all of Lauren's lost girls as she is, and you begin to want desperately for them to be found. All of these girls with their distinct personalities and stories worm under your skin and make you feel so much, and draw you to the pleas of other lost girls. And when the danger turns on Lauren and it becomes clear she may also disappear, you find yourself completely incapable of setting down the book until you know exactly what's to become of her.

17 & GONE takes you on a remarkable journey through magic and psychosis and fearful possibility; through desperate longings and the twists and turns our brains will take to find fulfillment of those longings. A work of consummate skill, 17 & GONE is a beautiful, chilling story filled with evocative imagery and thought-provoking, often rhythmic prose. Its arrestive voice and masterful use of dialogue captures the complexity of human interaction and need and leaves no doubt you're entirely inside the mind of a seventeen-year-old girl who's experiencing something truly extraordinary and terrifying. Altogether, 17 & GONE redefines what it means to be lost and will leave you questioning what it means to be found.

If you can't tell, I'm recommending you read this. So, yeah.

PSA Truth in Advertising Reviewer's Credo et cetera: No one sent me this book for review. Nor was I paid. I just totally dig it and think you might too.

Check out what the other Bookanistas are recommending this week:

Carolina Valdez Miller celebrates 17 & GONE by Nova Ren Suma [YOU ARE HERE, so, don't click this one]

Carrie Harris awakens you to INSOMNIA by Jenn Johansson…with giveaway

Christine Fonseca praises THE PLEDGE by Kimberly Derting

Corrine Jackson is wild for WHEN IT HAPPENS by  Susane Colasanti

 Elana Johson invites you to her ABANDON release par-tay!

Katy Upperman is bewitched by NANTUCKET BLUE by Leila Howland

Lenore Appelhans  swoons for STAR CURSED by Jessica Spotswood…with an annotated snippet

Stasia Ward Kehoe is wild for THE PERKS OF BEING A WALLFLOWER by Stephen Chbosky

Tracey Neithercott  highlights WHERE THE STARS STILL SHINE by Trish Doller

Tracy E. Banghart  raves over JUMP WHEN READY by David Pandolfe

And don't forget to enter our HUGE Bookanistas Relaunch Giveaway before it ends!

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Thursday, May 30, 2013

Out of the Dark and Into A Celebratory Giveaway

You thought I'd never post again, didn't you? Well, as I'm finishing up a new book (Eeeeeep!!) and doing other important somethings...yeah. But there's some pretty cool stuff happening right now with the Bookanistas. I know, I KNOW--it's been ages since I posted a real review, and who are the Bookanistas again?? Bear with me, I'm starting up the reviews again, but also the Bookanistas are all fresh and new and Relaunched! ZOOOOOM!

Check us out. We're all fancy.
Okay, a refresher:
Way back in 2010, reader-bloggers Lisa & Laura Roecker and Elana Johnson, and some bookish friends including Kirsten Hubbard, Shannon Messenger and Scott Tracy, formed a group called The Bookanistas--and for some reason they invited me to join (like the week before we launched--while I was on vacation finishing up Ally Condie's MATCHED--so of course I said YES and after a long day at the beach I cranked out a review-post in the middle of the night before the big day). Anyway, the notion was to share their love of books, celebrate the good in YA and MG literature and to encourage reading. Between 2010 and 2013, some amazing things happened. Two Bookanistas became NYT best-sellers: Beth Revis (ACROSS THE UNIVERSE) and Veronica Roth (DIVERGENT). Many others published novels, had babies, moved into new homes, changed jobs, got married...the Bookanista roster changed. Life. You get it. Through it all, that founding passion for reading and sharing favorite books never lagged.

Today, we are relaunching our site with a BIG BOOKANISTA GIVEAWAY of signed copies of Bookanista publications, favorite books, and some fun swag. SEE BELOW. But first:

Across our membership, we are sharing tips for reading and summer fun. Surf along to our bookish blogs:
Carolina Valdez Miller (*YOU ARE HERE!)Carrie Harris,  Christine FonsecaCorrine JacksonDebra DrizaElana JohsonJessica LoveKaty UppermanKimberly SabatiniNikki KatzRebecca BehrensShannon Messenger , Stasia Ward KehoeTracey Neithercott , Tracy Banghart , S.R. Johannes

Now, for the giveaway? Here are the prizes:


Signed copies of these Bookanista-authored books…

LET THE SKY FALL by Shannon Messenger
BY BLOOD by Tracy Banghart
TOUCHING THE SURFACE by Kimberly Sabatini (plus a swag surprise)
BAD TASTE IN BOYS by Carrie Harris
AUDITION by Stasia Ward Kehoe
THE GIRL GUIDE by Christine Fonseca (plus sweet swag)
MILA 2.0 by Debra Driza
LEVEL 2 by Lenore Appelhans



Bookanista-beloved reads including: WILL GRAYSON, WILL GRAYSON (signed!) by John Green & David Levithan, DITCHED by Robin Mellom, JELLICO ROAD by Melina Marchetta, TAKEN by Erin Bowman, CLOCKWORK ANGEL by Cassandra Clare, MONSTROUS BEAUTY by Elizabeth Fama & SPARROW ROAD by Sheila O’Connor

Oh my gawd. I know, right? Hurry & enter (way below). Then grab our button and tweet this thing:

The #Bookanistas are celebrating their relaunch w/ a major giveaway of signed books & swag. Check it out!

Okay, now I want to tell you about the books I'm dying to read this summer. There are loads, actually. I'm currently reading Nova Ren Suma's 17 & Gone, which is fantastic so far, but here's my TBR list (for starters), in no particular order:

(All descriptions taken from Goodreads)
A heart-stopping story of love, death, technology, and art set amid the tropics of a futuristic Brazil.
The lush city of Palmares Três shimmers with tech and tradition, with screaming gossip casters and practiced politicians. In the midst of this vibrant metropolis, June Costa creates art that’s sure to make her legendary. But her dreams of fame become something more when she meets Enki, the bold new Summer King. The whole city falls in love with him (including June’s best friend, Gil). But June sees more to Enki than amber eyes and a lethal samba. She sees a fellow artist.

Together, June and Enki will stage explosive, dramatic projects that Palmares Três will never forget. They will add fuel to a growing rebellion against the government’s strict limits on new tech. And June will fall deeply, unfortunately in love with Enki. Because like all Summer Kings before him, Enki is destined to die.
Holy smokes, I'm excited for this one. I had the opportunity to meet the author last weekend, and after hearing her talk about her book, I'm totally stoked.


Ryan Dean West is a fourteen-year-old junior at a boarding school for rich kids. He’s living in Opportunity Hall, the dorm for troublemakers, and rooming with the biggest bully on the rugby team. And he’s madly in love with his best friend Annie, who thinks of him as a little boy.

With the help of his sense of humor, rugby buddies, and his penchant for doodling comics, Ryan Dean manages to survive life’s complications and even find some happiness along the way. But when the unthinkable happens, he has to figure out how to hold on to what’s important, even when it feels like everything has fallen apart.
I love everything Andrew Smith, so it's a given I'll be reading this, and soon. It sounds amazemazemazing.

Sex & Violence

Sex has always come without consequences for seventeen-year-old Evan Carter. He has a strategy--knows the profile of The Girl Who Would Say Yes. In each new town, each new school, he can count on plenty of action before he and his father move again. Getting down is never a problem. Until he hooks up with the wrong girl and finds himself in the wrong place at very much the wrong time.


After an assault that leaves Evan bleeding and broken, his father takes him to the family cabin in rural Pearl Lake, Minnesota, so Evan's body can heal. But what about his mind?


Nothing seems natural to Evan anymore. Nothing seems safe. The fear--and the guilt--are inescapable. He can't sort out how he feels about anyone, least of all himself. Evan's really never known another person well, and Pearl Lake is the kind of place where people know everything about each other--where there might be other reasons to talk to a girl. It's annoying as hell. It might also be Evan's best shot to untangle sex and violence.

This one came highly recommended to me by Matthew MacNish whose opinion I take most seriously. So, yes. I will be reading this ASAP. Also, it gave me shivers just to read the summary. CAN'T. WAIT.

*And a special mention, even though it's not technically YA:

The Lives of Tao

When out-of-shape IT technician Roen woke up and started hearing voices in his head, he naturally assumed he was losing it.

He wasn’t.

He now has a passenger in his brain – an ancient alien life-form called Tao, whose race crash-landed on Earth before the first fish crawled out of the oceans. Now split into two opposing factions – the peace-loving, but under-represented Prophus, and the savage, powerful Genjix – the aliens have been in a state of civil war for centuries. Both sides are searching for a way off-planet, and the Genjix will sacrifice the entire human race, if that’s what it takes.

Meanwhile, Roen is having to train to be the ultimate secret agent. Like that’s going to end up well…
I heard Wesley read a snippet from this book last weekend, and I fell in love. So funny and memorable and such a great voice. Dying to read it, folks.

Alright lovelies, that's the start of my TBR list for your perusing pleasure. Coming up next on my blog? A review and a rundown of what I've been up to. More sizzling details anyway.

Now enter our giveaway:
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Thursday, February 28, 2013

Falling In Love Again

It's posting day for the Bookanistas today.

Been a while since I last did a book review. Wow. AGES.

Ok, so can I just be honest? I'm afraid to tell you, because maybe you'll think this means I'm defunct or something, not a real writer. Try not to judge me, okay?

Alright, so, a while back I was kind of in a slump when it comes to books. It's just...I think maybe...I fell out of love with reading. Maybe that's normal, inevitable even when you're struggling to keep working in a heartbreaking industry, struggling just to believe that YOU ARE A WRITER DAMMIT. It's like books themselves sort of become heartbreaking. So I stopped picking them up.

When I was trying to work out what was wrong with me, I wrote this to a friend of mine: "Why, [Friend], I think I've left publishing's Never Neverland."

It's like I couldn't read a book without seeing all its flaws and questioning why, why, why can't I fall into you and forget you're just a book? Reading was making me so anxious. Like stupid restless. So I delved into movies instead--so. many. films--because stories themselves are an addiction I can't ever quit, but books just...hurt.

Then I read Mary E. Pearson's The Adoration of Jenna Fox. And I remembered. Oh my god, I remembered. And I forgot I was reading a book. I don't know why. I mean, why this book? It's not that there haven't been other amazing concepts or beautiful samples and swirls of writing to make me think there would be others I'd want to read. But there was something about this book's premise that caught my eye. The way Jenna wakes up and has to rediscover the world and existence and what it all means, the exploration of human nature and love and hate, the ethical implications of this new thing in the world. It was like something I'd want to write. Something I would want to tackle. Just the summary gave me hope, this book that focused on so many things that matter to me--things I write about. Like, maybe there's a place for me yet. I don't know, I don't write like her, but I made a connection for some reason. It made sense in my head anyway, rumbling thoughts coalescing through longings too deep and loud to be ignored.

So I read it, and my heart swelled and I thought to myself YES. And something cracked open inside me. Now I'm making friends with books again. I'm reading. So. many. books. And, oddly enough, I feel certain that I AM A WRITER DAMMIT, more than ever. Because, see, I didn't just fall in love with reading books again. I fell back in love with writing them.

EPIPHANY. It wasn't other people's books that made me turn away. It was my own. I let my treasured books become a source of pain instead of comfort. So by default, I could not bear to love any others.

So now, as I've learned to love all things written again, I want to highlight some recent book deals that have me really excited. Yes, they are book deals of friends, but it makes them no less amazing or worthwhile. Please join me in congratulating:

Christa Desir, author of FAULT LINE (Simon Pulse), on her sale of her young adult BLEED LIKE ME, in which two troubled teens are swept into an intense relationship that ultimately becomes dangerous to them both, to Liesa Abrams at Simon Pulse, by Sarah LaPolla at Curtis Brown. (Publisher's Marketplace) You can read more about the story behind the sale HERE

 Sara B. Larson on the sale of her young adult DEFY, a debut adventure romance pitched as in the vein of Kristin Cashore and Leigh Bardugo, in which the fiercest member of a prince's elite guard is actually a girl disguised as a boy and, as this daughter of war is embroiled in a deadly game of thrones while keeping her secret, realizes she has far deeper feelings for the prince, to Lisa Sandell at Scholastic Press, for publication in Spring 2014, by Josh Adams at Adams Literary. (Publisher's Marketplace) You can read more about the story behind the sale HERE.

Jaqueline Koyanagi on the debut sale of her science fiction SURGERY IN THE SKY, about an engineer who falls in love with a starship captain when she stows away on her ship, to Paula Guran at Prime Books, for publication in Fall 2013, by Rachel Kory at Scovil Galen Ghosh Literary Agency. (Publisher's Marketplace) For her thoughts on this sale/book, go HERE.

Kristin Rae on the debut sale of her young adult IF ONLY YOU WERE ITALIAN to Caroline Abbey at Bloomsbury, for publication in Spring 2014, by Marietta Zacker at Nancy Gallt Literary Agency. For more on this sale go HERE.

So excited to read these and so thrilled for these writers!! *APPLAUSE* If you haven't done so yet, stop by to wish these guys well, okay?

I've tried so hard to focus on my writing and the most important things in my life. 

But it feels kind of good to think about books and this world again. It's invigorating to celebrate with these guys. So cheers, one and all. Today, I salute you.


Be sure to check out the other Bookanista reviews posting today! Not many for now, but we're planning something kind of big. So...

Katy Upperman recommends Veronica Rossi's THROUGH THE EVER NIGHT

Jessica Love marvels over Rainbow Rowell's ELEANOR & PARK

Monday, February 18, 2013

Slice of My Life: Sometimes I Change the Ending

I was working on a different post last week, something light and full of fluff. Heavily featured reality television and a wheel of cheese. And then I went out with my family for Valentine's Day--Thai place, delicious little hole in the wall that was packed and takes reservations. It had been a busy day, as is usual for a weekday in our house. We felt rushed to squeeze in dinner, so by the time we got to the restaurant, we were hungry, tired and a little grumpy, already thinking about what we had to take care of as soon as we got home—so we were distracted, too. But when we walked in I perked up at the sight of the gigantic bouquet of roses at the head table in the restaurant. You know the table—the one at the very front facing the rest of the place, the only one with the white cloth amongst red-clad ones. It's a special table, and there was an older gentleman sitting there, late sixties maybe. He seemed nervous, tapping his water glass, moving it across the table centimeter by centimeter and then shifting it back. He checked his watch constantly, eyeing the door as if it didn't matter but we all knew it did.

As we sat down in the table just a few feet in front of him, Hubs said something like, “looks like someone's about to get some beautiful flowers,” and I smiled and felt kind of relaxed for the first time that day. Beautiful flowers, indeed. Happiness. But after a few minutes, the man at the head table was still by himself. He hadn't ordered any food, just slowly sipped from his water glass, tapping the stem, eyes on his watch, door, palms of his hands. We got our drinks, ordered our food, exchanged a bit of banter, and then I found myself growing restless. A bit anxious, really. The man was still alone.

One glance around the restaurant and I noticed all the eyes surreptitiously glancing his way. A few leaned across tables to whisper to their partners, and my heart sank. The man could see us seeing him and his giant flowers, of course he could. We all watched the door, watched him, and he saw it all, wringing his hands. I started wanting so much for someone to walk in and spot the man and wave. Maybe she would clutch her scarf, tilt her head a bit and smile so big, but biting her lip a little—she'd be so embarrassed, see. Maybe her dog had taken forever to pee, and then she decided to change her shoes one last time and swapped them out several times before settling on the sweet little beige heels with the ribbon ties at the ankles, and then maybe she had to change her coat to match, but she couldn't find that beige coat with the pointed lapels and brown ribbon ties instead of buttons, and when she finally found it buried deep in her closet she couldn't find her keys. Maybe it took her a half hour to realize she left them outside when she took the dog out. So by the time she would walk into the restaurant, she'd be a little out of breath, but so relieved to see him there, waiting for her, and her eyes would widen at the sight of the massive bouquet, and he would stand and hold his hand to his chest, so relieved she came and she's well and not in an accident because she never called. Why didn't she call?

There was an obnoxious woman sitting in the table on the other side of us. She was very loud, and her voice was grating—the kind of voice that gets louder just so everyone can hear her because she's oh-so-funny and charming. And oh my god I wanted to strike her when she stood in a showy flurry and grabbed the water jug at the server's table next to the kitchen, making such a big deal of having waited for a drink. Not only did she pour water for everyone at her own table, she went around pouring water for every table as if she were cute instead of ridiculous and then she approached the man with the flowers. The man, who at this point was doing his best to just disappear. He got all flustered and waved the woman away with an embarrassed “no, please,” and she insisted so loud, “Are you sure? It's no bother. I can give you water, letmegiveyouwater.” “Please, no.” Just go was written all over his face, and my heart sank all the more. Leave him alone, you stupid woman. I hurt for him. I wanted so much for someone to walk in, and all he had was this loud woman, so, so present and attention-calling and just go away.

After our dinner was served, the man reached into the jacket he'd never taken off and pulled his keys out. He backed his chair up slowly, glancing at the door. After a few very slow seconds, he unfolded himself, an accordion stretching, broken without music. And then he shuffled out, his head hanging, eyes on his feet, past our table, past the loud woman's table, past every table to the door. And then he was gone.

The loud woman called a server over and asked her, so loud, “Did that man leave those flowers for you? Or are they there for something else? Are they yours?” The server got all flustered and mumbled an answer no one heard and made a hasty exit towards the kitchen.

Hubs and I exchanged embarrassed smiles, maybe worried glances. "Do you think the flowers were his?" I whispered. "I don't know," he said. We both looked at the beautiful, massive bouquet left behind. “The Pad Thai is so good,” I said after a while. “You said that already,” my daughter mumbled, kind of distracted. It's true, I'd said that. But everyone agreed the Pad Thai was really good, because it was and it was Valentine's Day and the man with the flowers was gone and what did that have to do with anything?

Except all night I thought about that man. And the next day and the next. Was it a blind date? Or someone he'd known in another life and now they were both divorced, or widowed, and finally moving on, though a little scared. Was it a daughter he'd never met before? Or a reunion with a best friend or former lover he hadn't talked to in years? Or a secret liaison, one he'd changed his mind on a thousand times.

Today I decided that the person who never showed had been in the hospital with an acute attack of the Noro Virus, and she called him as soon as she got home. They have a new date scheduled for this Saturday. He will bring her flowers again and she will wear her beige heels with the ribbon ties at the ankles. When people look at him, he will know they see his happiness and nothing more, and everything will be beautiful.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Where I've Been and Why Sometimes I Must Quit the Internet

I was thinking I'd have launched my fresh, new blog by now, like before I posted on The Kindness Project blog again. ... Well. ...  I posted on The Kindness Blog again. (HERE, actually. On Death Eaters and kindness and stuff.)

So. I should relaunch, probably. Hm.


Yay? ... YAY! Welcome to my new blog! Carolina Valdez Miller 2.0. Hooray Hooray! HOORAY!

I know. Lame. This celebration reeks. I need a party planner.

But it is pretty, isn't it? Sleek and untainted by a ridiculous coffee cup that has no place on my blog since I generally drink Coke Zero and WTF do drinks have anything to do with anything? I owe Liz Davis a huge thank you for my blog redesign (check out her fabulous new blog while you're at it). I wanted something streamlined with no curly weirdness or dangly things, and one day out of the blue she says, hey take a look, yeah? And I looked and liked and I said DUDE FOR ME? Yeah, for me. I have my own favicon now!! She's awesome like that and now I will hug my new blog until it whimpers. THANK YOU, LIZ IT IS SO PRETTY I JARED LETO LOVE IT.

Okay, so, where have I been, right? Well. I've been...around.

Blogging used to feel more important. Like it used to feel as if it were a necessary part of the on-my-way-to-publication plan. For one thing there's that whole business of establishing a possible-reader base pre-publication which at one time was like THE THING TO DO. And then there was that whole matter of finding others in the same position trying to slog their way through the crazy of publishing in the best way they could. Flailing and treading water feels a little more productive when there are others right beside you. And too, it made this sometimes very lonely business feel a little less lonely.

But. Deep down I'm just a writer. You know? Blogging is a lot of work when you do it right--like with interaction and stuff. And that's hard to do and keep up your writing and your personal life, at least for any length of time without burning out. Throw in the push to actually publish and blogging tends to lose its appeal considerably--sort of like an ice pack that suddenly starts frostbiting the crap out of your sore knee (which I've done, by the way. For real).

Publishing is a tough business. And in some ways a hell of a lot harder to get into when you're also exposed to others who are either failing miserably or succeeding wildly. The failures make you freak like a mother hen living next door to another hen whose chicks just got eaten by a rabid fox. And the successes...well, while they inspire you and make you so glad for others and so excited to be a part of something so're also reminded intensely of where you want so much to be and currently are not. The dream unfolds right before your eyes and you see, down to the minutest detail, all the things you want, right there, just out of reach, with all the statistics of possibility also right there screaming YEAH NOT LIKELY, HOMEY. And it becomes not so difficult to get distracted and discouraged and petrified. And then maybe you find ambition broiling into anxiety and insecurity with others either whizzing past you to your intended destination or falling to the ground, choking on their dreams. And suddenly you find yourself in a race you never meant to enter.

The thing is, when you're writing you feel good. Right? You see your words and sometimes you cry because holy crap did I really just write that? Me? My words? Oh my god. But sometimes? Sometimes you get online and get bombarded with so, so much and then you read your own words again and suddenly they don't look the same anymore and then you deflate and flail, kind of limply. It's not always like this, but sometimes, yes. So it goes like this: In your bubble, isolated from ALL THE NOISE you're a freaking rock star. Outside of the bubble you become just a peon in the screaming crowd who can't get freaking tickets to the show.

And to make it as a published writer--to not give up just because it feels like you suck--you have to find a way to silence the noise that drowns the voices in your head whispering how awesome you are. You must be CONFIDENT. You must be PATIENT. And you must BELIEVE it's a reachable dream. Which means you must FOCUS. Focus most on the things that matter most. So I did that, and if I have to I will do it again. Because, man have I been productive and more at peace than ever before, watching movies and going out and coloring and baking and just...normal stuff.

Loved Ones. Writing. Everything else. In that order.

But you know what? In all that time I've spent away, I've been building up a whole lot of things to say. Seriously, you have no idea. I'm exploding. So, consider me BACK. If you stick with me, maybe we can strike up a conversation, like once or week or, you know, something more than never.

I miss this. I miss you.