Monday, October 13, 2014

Mind the Blatant Self Promotion

I'm on the verge of realizing a life long dream, so pardon the plug - but, here it is:

My first book, False Start, available one week from today, is listed on Barnes and Noble and Smashwords. Just like Jane Austen and F. Scott. How surreal is that?

So, go on now - order one for yourself, your BFF, your mom, your aunt, your nieces, your sisters, every single member of your book club and school district's parent-teacher association, your landscaper, your manicurist, your dog walker, your running buddy, and anyone else you can think of who would appreciate a light-hearted romance.

Oh, and did I mention it would make a great holiday gift? Because it would. There. I'm done.

Sorry if I'm going a little overboard, but I've been crazy about books since I learned to read and seeing my name on the cover of one is, like, wow. It leaves me speechless. But, lucky for you, I can still type.

When I was a kid, one of my favorite things was to go to the bookstore with my mom. Forever busy with work, making dinner, ironing my dad's shirts or sewing outfits for me and my sibs, I cherished any one-on-one time I could get with her.

Our favorite haunt was a placed called Breadloaf Book Shop. While my mom mulled over the latest mysteries, I gravitated to the kids' section and managed to plow through nearly everything the owner had in stock. Then, when I was in sixth grade, I read a book that helped crystalize what I wanted to be when I grew up.

That book was Harriet the Spy. Not that I wanted to be a spy, but Harriet's story had me so enthralled that being a writer suddenly became my dream.

That I ignored said dream when I grew up was another matter entirely. Plot of a future book, as a matter of fact.

But, who am I kidding? Tooting my own horn has never been my strong suit. Stop your snickering. I know that if I want a shot at the New York Times bestseller list (and, I mean, come on - who doesn't?), then I'm going to have to get good at it and fast.

I've got the whole social media thing down. Sort of. I'm on Facebook and Twitter, so if you haven't already, please like and/or follow me. Trust me, I'm not above begging. I mean self-promoting which is really not that far removed from nagging. Just ask my boys. 

Oh! That reminds me - I still have to order their copies...

Sunday, August 3, 2014

The Plate Spinner Weekly Prep Checklist

It's Sunday. What you do today determines exactly where you and your family's week will fall on the crazy scale.

No pressure.

After ensuring your family's religious obligations are met, all you have to do is: orchestrate three meals a day for the next seven days, make sure everyone's drawers and closets are stuffed to the brim with clean and folded clothes, and last but not least, brief everyone living under your roof on any mandatory appointments or deadlines.

Afraid something might fall through the cracks? No worries. I've got your back. Just follow my handy-dandy Plate Spinner Weekly Prep Checklist:

  1. First and foremost, get thee to an early church service. Not because you want to get it over with, but aside from a long walk on a cool, bug-free morning, there's really no better way to start your day. There, I'm done preaching.
  2. If you couldn't squeeze in laundry yesterday, order the biggest kid in your house to transport the overstuffed hamper to the laundry room. Instruct the rest of the humans in your domicile to collect stray articles of dirty clothing, rake stray socks out from under beds and couches, check cars for smelly discarded athletic wear, and deposit them in the laundry room.
  3. Host a "sorting party." What better way to teach your offspring the value of washing whites with whites and colors with colors, and to scan labels for phrases like "Dry Clean Only" and "Air Dry Flat." Be sure to keep evidence of past laundry blunders on hand as visual aids. My favorite is the white designer blouse I got for a song at an upscale department store sale. After getting mixed in with a load of dirty blue jeans, it ended up a blotchy blue and two sizes too small. Award points for placing like fabrics together.
  4. Take stock of your pantry, freezer and refrigerator. 
  5. Check current grocery store ads for sales on items you need to make enough favorite recipes for the week. Identify the gaps in your food inventory against what you plan on making and, voila' - you have your grocery list. Points awarded for each meal that doesn't require contacting a takeout restaurant. 
  6. Before having your kids transfer contents of the washing machine into the dryer, remind them to remove any and all articles of clothing destined for air-drying (see step 3).
  7. Head to the store. If possible, bring at least one child along to retrieve things that you might not realize your had forgotten until you're in the check out lane. Tip: On your way back home, call ahead to let the rest know you're coming so they can assist with unloading and unpacking. 
  8. Host a "folding party." With the first dryer load done, get your kids to fold the clothes and deposit them in their intended repositories. Mark points off for any stacks of folded clothes or pair socks left on beds. 
  9. Prep your kitchen for cooking lessons. Preheat the oven and plug in the crockpot. Match your kids', uh, students' skill level with their station. For example, I don't let my boys man the vegetable shopping station until they've earned their "Totin' Chip" in Boy Scouts (because, really, who wants to interrupt their busy day with a trip to the emergency room?). Once you and your crew have a weeks' worth of dinners baked, stewed, roasted and/or grilled, refrigerate or freeze as required. 
  10. Finally, synchronize your calendar with your spouse's and your kids'. In the event of a conflict, make arrangements for a workaround. Possible options include: rescheduling the appointment or determining if you or your spouse could take a personal day or work from home. Points for squeezing trips to the mechanic, doctor and dentist all in the same day. Extra points for finding a doctor or dentist with in-house mechanics on staff who can change the oil in your car while you lounge in the waiting room reading year-old Time magazines.
Now, if you're anything like me, you'll head to bed wishing your day had really gone this smoothly. Points for dreaming...

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Living Between a Dream and a Cube Space

Remember a few weeks back when I was eagerly awaiting THE CALL? 

If you're wondering what the heck I'm talking about, re-read this post. Quick. Do it now.

All caught up? OK, good.

Well, THE CALL never came. But hold your pity, because the EMAIL did (she announces, grinning through clenched teeth so as not to arouse the neighbors at this early hour with yet another loud "woohoo!"). 

The email was from the head of a publishing company. She liked my synopsis. She loved my voice. She asked if I'd be interested in working with her. 

I had to read it a few times before it kicked in. My husband, sitting across the room from me, asked if everything was all right. I looked up at him and said in an uncharacteristically small voice, "A publisher wants to sign me."

His face lit up. "I knew it must have been something good because I've never seen you smile like that before."

Having known me for over thirty years, that's saying quite a lot.

What followed next could best be described as an out-of-body experience. For the next week or so, I felt like I was floating, observing myself from the outside looking in. I had waited so long for this to happen. Now that it had, I was stunned. 

I only told a handful of people at first - my sisters, my Mom. I gauged their reactions trying to determine if it was really real. They were happy for me, of course, but they're family. They're supposed to be happy for me, right?

That I was preoccupied shuffling my college boys back and forth didn't help matters. 

Then I got the contract. For a three-book deal. With deadlines. That's when it felt really real.

I sent off my polished manuscript. Re-titled False Start, it should be available sometime this fall. ("Can you freakin' believe it?" she still squeals to no one in particular.) 

Funny thing, though. A book deal does not a day job replace. While I had always visualized a Nicholas Sparks type of scenario - the one in which he was at his day job when his agent called to inform him of a one million dollar advance - I'm not quite there yet. Not even close.

As my husband is fond of reminding me, "This is a marathon, not a sprint."

Point taken. 

So I fired up my little laptop, the one that weighs less than a feather, so I can take it with me on the train to and from said day job. Book number two in the series, aptly titled Assignment: Romance, is not going to write itself, is it?

And, I'm OK with that because I'm doing what I love. Really, really love. 

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Getting Hitched

The object of my affection had put it off for as long as he could, stalling the way men do when on the verge of making a big commitment. But when our oldest announced that he was moving to the east coast for grad school, my man knew he couldn't put it off any longer.

He had to put a hitch on our SUV.

For better or worse, his decision was bound to come with the inevitable consequences - family and friends coming out of the woodwork, asking if we could haul things for them from point A to point B, not to mention the wear and tear on our brand new vehicle.

When the day finally came to install the hitch, my husband was so nervous, you would've thought he was going in for a vasectomy. On his way out the door, he muttered something to the affect of "better not mess up the circuits."

Such a worrier...

When he brought our vehicle home, it was happily hitched and, much to his relief, unscathed.

The next big nail-biting moment came when we went to pick up the trailer. Since we reserved it for five days, the plan was to drive to our second son's campus three hours in the opposite direction, transporting a couple of dorm-sized refrigerators we had accumulated, and move said son's belongings from his sublet to a storage unit prior to him moving into his new residence hall. A dry run, if you will, for the big move out east.

As we drove along the expressway with the trailer clunking behind us, my husband familiarized himself with weaving in and out of truck traffic with a caboose dangling off of our back bumper. Each jolt prompted him to pull off at the next exit or rest stop just to make sure the hitch was still secure and to retest all of the signaling lights. 

These pit stops, coupled with the fact that we couldn't go over sixty miles an hour, dragged our three-hour trip out to nearly five hours. 

Once we were home, the adventure continued. After executing a far-from-perfect 54-point turn to try and back the trailer into our driveway, a sympathetic neighbor who backed his boat into his own driveway so frequently he could do it blind-folded, appeared.

My husband relinquished his seat behind the wheel and our angel of a neighbor managed to tucked the trailer, still hitched to our vehicle, securely in our driveway in less than 30 seconds. If I was still in my child-bearing years, I would've offered to name my next son after him. Instead, I made a mental note to send him a batch of cookies. And a new car. With a hitch on the back.

By the next evening, we successfully transferred our oldest's belongings from our family room turned garage sale staging area into the trailer. After driving all night and much of the next day, we arrived at our destination, unloaded and, with minutes to spare, deposited the trailer at a nearby designated drop off point. 

Watching as a couple of mechanics pulled it out of view, we breathed a collective sigh of relief.

To celebrate, we dined on succulent lobster and steaming baked potatoes at a nearby seafood dive. All that was missing was champagne and wedding cake. 

After bidding adieu to our boy, my husband and I headed off into the sunset with the "Just Unhitched" receipt from the drop off point dangling haplessly from the glove compartment. 

Already missing my son, I started to cry. Reaching over, my spouse, now a seasoned hauler, held my hand and gave it a squeeze. At the next light, he leaned over, kissed my cheek and reminded me, "We get to do this all over again in two years after he graduates." 

Be still my beating heart...