Good tidings to you

There are good weekends and then there are gooooooooooood weekends.

Last week, my sister (I’ll call her Lucinda, which is a nice enough name, or Lucy for short) announced out of the blue that my boys were invited to spend the night on Friday. Lucy said the invitation was because my niece (Xena sounds right) was going off on an adventure, but my nephew, Casimir (sure, why not) was not, and she wanted Casimir to get to do something special too.

I had their bag’s packed before breakfast.

Merry Christmas from the Death Star

Merry Christmas from the Death Star (image courtesy of Flickr)

Suddenly Lamont and I found ourselves curfew-less on the night of the Star Wars premiere. It was just too bad that the shows were sold out. Or so I thought. While discussing my little bit of unexpected good fortune at work, a co-worker mentioned that I should, at least, look into a theater a little further from home than I usually go to. Tickets offered there were slightly more expensive than closer theaters, but you are able to select your seat in advance. I logged in. And lo, what to my wondering eyes did appear, but two unclaimed seats for the much-hyped premiere.

I called Lamont. Lamont is not really a Star Wars fan (I guess, no one is perfect), but knowing that we wouldn’t be forced to sit in the front row and knowing how much I wanted to go he chose not to fight an unwinnable fight agreed to go with me (he’s a good man). Click. Click. The tickets were mine ours.

For those of you who did not stumble upon your own golden tickets, rest assured, I am not offering any spoilers. The Star Wars portion of my story ends here.

Books are like an author’s children. I’ve been promoting the second for awhile now, but every so often I feel compelled to do something special for the first. I’d experienced an unexpected gift, so I decided to pay it forward. I offered my first novel, An Uncertain Faith, for free Saturday and Sunday – no strings attached. It was my way of playing Secret Santa.

I expected 25-50 downloads. And that, I thought, was a generous estimate. I hadn’t had time to advertise and with many of my blogging friends going offline for the rest of the year, who was left to help me promote it? Therefore, I practically spit out my coffee Saturday morning when I saw I’d already reached 30 downloads before 9 am.

I picked the boys up from Lucy’s. We discussed exactly why sneaking out of bed and dumping cups of water on the floor for no apparent reason at all wasn’t just a rule for our house (please Lucy, invite them back. They’ll be good. They promise!). I drank more coffee. I went to the gym and to the grocery store. I spent an hour hunting down the elusive graham cracker beast (is it considered cookie, cracker, or baking supply?) along with other Christmas dinner related supplies. It was a regular day. I checked my report again. And then it wasn’t. At some point, I’d shot well past 50 downloads and well past 100 too. My brain, heart, and lungs stopped functioning (luckily not all at once).

I was, if only for a fleeting moment, ranked #1.

Best Seller

Okay, so if you want to be picky, I was number one for free e-book downloads in the category of women’s literature that also happens feature mystery and female sleuths, but I also cracked the top 100 for free e-books overall and even made it to #1 in a similar category in the UK. But that’s beside the point. As of this weekend, I am (or at least I was) an internationally bestselling author (sort of).

I can only assume that my Robotic Overlords have chosen to reward my declaration of fealty with higher placement in the search algorithm (all hail). Either that or I just experienced the writer’s version of a Christmas miracle. In either event, I can only now wish good tidings to you and all of your friends as I try to think of a way to pay this particular gift forward in 2016.

Cheers!

It probably looks more glamorous on TV

We have reached that point in the year in which my daily commute is conducted entirely in the dark. The days are getting shorter. It is one of the only aspects of Fall I dislike. To make matters worse, dense cloud cover blocked out what little light remained in the sky as I pulled out onto the highway. A misty rain ensured that traffic would be particularly brutal.

Luckily my destination was nearby. Unluckily that meant it was that much closer to show time. My knuckles were still white from clutching the steering wheel like a life raft. I began to regret eating a large lunch.

Get it together, Allie. I told myself. You will be among friends.

I entered the shop thirty minutes ahead of schedule, which was a good thing as the barista had lost my order. Fortunately we came up with a quick plan B. Please let that be the worst that happens tonight. I could feel my limbs begin to shake as my adrenaline levels began to climb. Where is Lamont?

I pulled out my phone and hit the icon for the find my friend app. There he was, on his way, but still several minutes away. I have to find something to do to stay busy or I’ll go crazy. I returned to my car and popped open the truck. I retrieved two heavy boxes – my sole reason for being at this shop on a dark and dreary night.

The boxes felt heavier than I remembered from when I loaded them just that morning. Balancing on one foot while bracing the boxes on my other leg I pulled open the shop doors and placed the boxes on a nearby table. I waited. Lamont’s dot on the map moved maybe a fraction of an inch. Agony. I waited some more.

I watched as the barista placed my order in the adjacent conference room. Another minute passed as I stared at my phone’s display. I felt my stomach lurch. You have to do something. Now.

I grabbed my boxes and walked toward the conference room. A pair of double doors blocked my way. I’ve gotten this far by myself. I lifted my leg to repeat the balancing act that had gotten me to this point.

Crash. The boxes tumbled down, their contents spilling out across the floor. Other casual patrons stopped their conversations and came to offer their help. As they picked up several copies of identical books, I realized I could no longer hide who I was or why I was there.

Yes. I am an author. My latest book launches today. Can I interest you in a copy?

Book signing

A fair signing on a foul night

I’m fixing a hole

Image courtesy of Wikipedia

Someone, please find me an iron torch and an epic hero. (Image courtesy of Wikipedia)

Getting your novel ready for its grand debut is like battling a hydra. You make one correction, only to then discover the need for three more. I had grown somewhat obsessed over the last few weeks, a condition that has only gotten worse the closer I got to my launch date (which is next week by the way). I’ve been waking up in the middle of the night worried that there might be some aspect of the reading experience I could still improve.

The boys were taking their bath. Knowing they were occupied for the moment, I decided to sneak away to process yet another last-minute update. They’ll barely notice I am gone. After Lamont caught me in the act, I felt the need to explain what I was up to, and why. He wisely refrained from rolling his eyes. We’ve probably only had this same conversation a half a dozen times over the last month (I have the slight tendency to worry something to death). I was turning to go back to the boys when I saw it – a stream of water coming from the kitchen ceiling. Yes, it was raining out, but my kitchen is on the first floor. Considering we hadn’t recently installed an indoor water feature, there could be only one source.

LT. The boy is currently obsessed with volcanos and waterfalls. He likes the look of thing cascading downward. Sand. A glass of milk. An entire roll of toilet paper. He’s not picky. I must have left a cup within his reach once again (whatever happened to those good old days before he was mobile). I flew up the stairs, stopping at the bathroom door. Sure enough, you could almost make out waves and tidal patterns in the amount of water that covered the tile floor. (I’m a tad surprised NOAA wasn’t already there). I had only been gone a couple of minutes. Five tops! It takes the boy twenty minutes to eat half of a peanut butter sandwich, but he can cause trouble with amazing efficiency.

Ahhhh, children – such bringers of joy and destroyers of all things expensive to replace.

I looked to his brother, who immediately volunteered, “It was LT” as he scurried down the hall. Kiddo is a survivor. He takes after his father.

LT, on the other hand, happily continued to splash, as unconcerned about the pulsing vein in my forehead as he was about the stream flowing downstairs. Scooping our little future delinquent volcanologist out of the water, Lamont and I sent him to bed without a story (the worst punishment this writer could think of at the time – I have since come up with several other things that I would have liked to have done), before we set out to clean up the mess. Several soaked towels later, it occurred to us that we would also have to address the moisture in the space between floors. (Finding mold would make this a horror story)

So in the words of Paul McCartney and John Lennon

“I’m fixing a hole where the rain gets in
And stops my mind from wandering
Where it will go”

Bacon Apple Pie

My bacon apple pie: Warning – bacon has now been linked to cancer. Consider your day ruined.

As October closes, allow me to summarize. My coffee pot caught on fire, a mouse moved into my house, and there is now a gaping hole in my kitchen ceiling. Even so, I still love this time of year. The leaves are changing and autumn brews are back on the shelves along with other seasonal treats. Best of all, by writing this, I am now thinking of pie, Halloween, and Thanksgiving (but not Christmas – stay in December where you belong). I am finally not thinking about what else I could do to the book. It is time to stop worrying about the what ifs and get back to recognizing the what wills.

The water will dry, the mouse will take the bait, and I will enjoy some coffee. All the rest can wait.

It’s the final countdown

If you are reading this, it means that the world has escaped yet another doomsday prediction. Hurrah for us!

This also means I owe you a post, but, unfortunately, my draft folder is woefully slim this week. Perhaps I can interest you in a sampling of some of my favorites from the vault:

You had a week to prepare. What could you possibly be doing other than crafting new amusing anecdotal stories for our reading pleasure?

Funny you should ask.

5 star review

That’s right. I have been querying reviewers and am happy to report that advanced copies of The Fair & Foul received 5-star reviews from Readers’ Favorite.

So that’s great for you, but when can us regular readers get our hands on it?

Patience.

You know full well that we as a society have evolved beyond patience. We demand an update.

I would love to give you firm dates, but I am finalizing formatting.

You’ve been saying that for months now.

Formatting is nothing to take lightly. I put an excerpt up. Isn’t that enough?

Which you only announced on Facebook. What are you, some kind of cruel tease? We want dates, woman. Dates!

Enter Amazon: Hmm Allie, I really think you need to give yourself a deadline.

I’d love to, but I want to make sure it is perfect.

Have you ever heard the phrase, sometimes you have to shoot the engineer and go to market anyway?

Just what are you implying…

Kindle Accountability

Failure to comply will result in probation from pre-order program for one year.

What is that?!? Did you just issue an ultimatum?

Amazon drops mic and exits without looking back.

Chirp. Chirp.

You were saying?

Right…

Available for pre-order now

Available for pre-order now

The final proof is in the mail for the paperback version (I swear!) Once I have proven to myself that typos are minimized, the cover is wrapped correctly and no extra pages have been added (which could be as early as next week), I will be announcing the official launch date for my book. One thing is certain – it will be released before November 4th. It’s the final countdown!


I’ll happily accept any help offered as part of this book launch. Please let me know what you might need from me (in addition to the firm official launch date). Tell your friends. Reblog all you want. If you do, please also feel free to shamelessly plug your own links to your sites, services, books, or artisanally crafted hand goods in the comments below.

Almost according to plan

popcorn spill

Image courtesy of Flickr

Lured by the promise of unlimited popcorn and free movies, I once took a job at one of those giant megaplex movie theaters. I was only in my teens, but so were most employees, and after only a few months on the job I was promoted to Team Leader. My first assignment? Prepare the concession stand for a regular business day.

I was nervous the day I arrive. I had never led a team before, at least not through a corporate mandate, and I certainly had never “opened” a concession stand. I didn’t even know who would be there to help me as Team Leaders were expected to keep the newer hires on point but weren’t responsible for assigning shifts.

Movie theaters feel quite a bit different before patrons arrive. For one, the lights are on at full brightness illuminating all the popcorn kernels, candy wrappers, or greasy fingerprints the cleaning crew missed from the night before. It is also quiet. Almost too quiet.

Another employee entered the lobby, making me jump. It was Sean. Sean had recently been promoted to Supervisor, a rank made obvious by the maroon polyester vest he wore and was technically my superior in this organization (the rest of us wore black). Although I had never worked with Sean, I was relieved as I took his presence to mean that at least one of us had some additional experience.

“So, what do we need to do first?” I asked.

“I was hoping you knew.”

You might have heard crickets chirping had the theater’s speakers, not at that moment, begun to blast a selection of top 40 pop tunes which would repeat on a loop for the rest of the day. We stood there equally dumbfounded for a couple more minutes, but no one else showed with a checklist of opening duties. Training wasn’t the theater’s strong suit.

“Umm, I guess I’ll sweep?” I suggested.

As we finished cleaning the floors and wiping down surfaces, a manager zipped by (they do exist!) “You need to get the butter ready,” he announced before disappearing once again.

Butter package

It definitely does not look like this at the theater and yes, you can believe it is not butter. (Image from Wikipedia)

Lamont loves coating our popcorn in butter on the rare occasions that we get to enjoy going out to a movie, but I’ve seen how it is prepared. Sean and I pulled out several jugs of congealed yellow paste resembling ear wax (really gross stuff), placing them over the dispenser as we continued getting the rest of the concessions ready. Ten minutes later, the butter paste remained firmly in the jar. Examining our handiwork, we realized that we hadn’t turned the warming tray on. “Almost got it,” we joked at our mistake.

The rest of the morning was filled with several other “almost” disasters, to the point of being comical. “Almost” became our inside joke and we were cracking up over our near incompetence by the time the first patron came through the door. Our manager might have wondered what was so funny, had he bothered to check on us more than a passing second, but the important thing was the patrons never knew that their soda had been two seconds from being pure syrup, or that at one point the counter resembled a mountainside avalanche as napkins launched themselves out of their spring-loaded containers.

In the right context, “almost got it” still makes me smile. Had the morning gone as planned, I doubt I would remember it today. It would have been just another day, boring and indistinguishable from the next. Instead, the day’s imperfections made it one of my favorite teenage memories.

With that being said, I have reached the decision to launch my second book, The Fair & Foul under the imprint of Axil Hammer Publishing this Fall. Are there still tweaks I could make to the story between now and then, an adjustment to the font, or layout of the cover? Perhaps, but, there will always be things I could improve. If it had to be perfect, you’d never remember it because it would never be published. While it may prove not to be perfect, I am proud of the story as it stands and look forward to sharing it with you.