Barring acts of God or radioactive slime beast hellbent on scaling the largest tower in my city while simultaneously leaving a swart of destruction in its wake, by this time next week, my book children will officially outnumber my human children.
I am going to level with you – it hasn’t been easy.
When my first bookborn arrived, I didn’t have a clue what to expect. I did whatever any new bookparent would. First I converted a small underused space on the internet into a cozy little site where my bookbaby and my author platform might grow side by side. I overbought supplies (many of which I hadn’t the first clue how to effectively use) so I might be ready for any occasion. I sent out cards alerting the friends and family. I hung up bright shiny pictures of its cover positioned in various poses and dreamed about all the things I thought it might one day be.
I nested. I sanitized my words. I reached out to other new bookmoms and bookdads for sympathy, tips or other advice.
But I was overwhelmed and no matter how much attention I bestowed, my bookbaby still always demanded more.
I consulted the experts who all agreed that the best thing I could do, for us both, was to give my bookbaby a sibling.
I made a choice.
So after a lengthy labor of love, culminating on one cold rainy night, my second bookbaby made its grand first appearance. After the launch, I wanted nothing more than to get some rest and enjoy the benefit of my expanded catalog. Only things didn’t work between the two quite as smoothly as I imagined.
For one, the newest edition was a completely different genre, meaning, as I learned in short order, I wouldn’t be able to utilize most any marketing hand-me-downs. Nor did either book’s temperament allow me to bundle them together. Well… shoot.
I consulted the experts once again on what to do. The answer was the same.
Write more books (preferably this time in the same genre).
A pair of Thanksgiving trees now stands at attention in the center of my dining room table. They were a project my boys worked on one day with their Nana. They consist a foam trunk with a scattering of bare branches. Red, yellow, and orange leaves, attached by glue, proudly proclaim all the things my children are grateful for this year.
Kiddo’s lists all the things you might expect from a sweet and sensitive nine-year-old. On it, there is mom and dad, his brother’s name, his grandparents, and his cousins.
Then there is LT’s tree and all the previously unsung heroes of my youngest’s truth.
As much as I wanted to laugh at what he chose to be grateful for this year, I can see the kid’s point for each and every one of his selections. And so this year I am attempting to follow his lead and give thanks to my own semi-ridiculous, but no less true, list of things that have made life that much better.
1. Her Royal Highness’s ‘Royal’ Sensibilities
It is a generally recommended that one does not do one’s business where one eats. I believe my dog, Her Royal Highness has this stitched on a pillow somewhere as she would prefer to drag us out in the snow and rain to do her business down the block than within the perimeter of our yard. This, of course, has necessitated many a walk resulting in many of my favorite posts, as well as the occasional swear words.
2. Mexican Restaurants
Specifically the Mexican restaurant close to my day job. While technically a sit-down establishment, the food arrives within minutes of me sitting down no matter how full the dining area is which gives me the ability to eat with time to spare for writing, editing, brainstorming, and other creative ponderings.
3. Bulletproof coffee
I love breakfast. Its one of the few meals I can be trusted to cook in its entirety (most of the time), but I love sleep too, and as a mom with a day job as well as novels to write and designs to create, I sometimes have to choose between the two. When forced, I choose sleep. Who knew that by adding a bit of butter to my morning brew, the drink would tide me over until lunch while giving me a few extra minutes of zzzzs?
4. Turn by turn navigation enabled by GPS
I have gifts – a natural directional instinct is not one of them. If left to my own devices, I can get lost pretty much anywhere. I’ve even managed to get myself lost on a battleship which is no small feat considering you are pretty much restricted to a defined parameter and a handful of decks. If it wasn’t for that lovely voice saying re-calculating when running a quick errand, I might have found myself several states over by now.
Raleigh, NC isn’t exactly known for its moderate summers, so when our air conditioner broke down not once, but twice this summer, we decided a change of scenery was in order. We spent the weekend in the mountains hiking and hunting for waterfalls. While her Royal Highness wasn’t a fan of the thunderstorm that kept us up all night (nor was I), we all agreed that the steak dinner cooked over campfire flames was one of the best meals this family has ever eaten together.
7. The neighbor’s trampoline
This one was on LT’s list as well and is a story in and of itself. The neighbors down the street had a trampoline and a son who’d recently graduated from high school.
One evening, they asked my husband if he would like to take it off their hands. A week of backbreaking work later in which we’d removed clay and pebble-filled soil over a 14-foot diameter, the corner of our newly leveled backyard became our kid’s (even Her Royal Highness) new favorite hang-out.
It may be old, and it may not be the prettiest, but bouncing and laughing under a blue sky while shaded by more than a few towering trees beats video games most days of the week.
Those not in the US who generate content should also care because, without net neutrality, US audiences will be further segmented as people opt not to pay for (or are otherwise unable to afford) access to sites the ISP wishes to restrict, disincentivize, or otherwise categorize as premium or exclusive content. This means marketing, which is already tough enough for a small business owner (like an indie author), is going to be even more difficult to navigate and connecting with an audience, an even bigger challenge.
So I am grateful for the net neutrality I’ve enjoyed thus far and would prefer to keep it.
And on that happy note, I will leave you, as Thanksgiving has taught me over the years that you can rarely feast to excess without experiencing at least a little indigestion.
Whether you celebrate Thanksgiving or not, I continue to be grateful for all of you year round and wish you and yours all the best.
The Watch & Wand Update:
My advance proof arrived last week and it is every bit as wonderful to hold in my hands as I imagined. Going on sale December 5th, 2017, you can read an excerpt here or pre-order for kindle here.
At the time this posts, I will, hopefully, be well on my way to a tryptophan-induced turkey coma or at least surrounded by the smells of food cooking, children playing, and the near-deafening noise of my family squeezed together under a single roof attempting to engage in conversation over the sound of the football game on tv.
And sure, some of this vision is idealized thinking. In reality, the children’s play has likely descended into high pitched chaos by now. Cans of cranberry sauce may have fallen to the floor adding to the kitchen’s new color scheme and grandpa might say something, well… grandpa-y.
But even this less than perfect vision is still reason for me to be grateful.
And so I might roll my eyes as I pass the gravy but will raise my glass when it comes time to give thanks and drink deeply. For my more realistic vision of the day, as flawed is it may be, is still filled with food, family, and a roof over our heads.
I hope that you might consider participating in #GivingTuesday if you are in a position to do so, and wish you all, whether you observe the holiday or not, a Happy Thanksgiving.
And for those of you who prefer a little extra reading to football, here is a repost of another of my less than ideal Thanksgiving stories.
I considered myself fortunate. We were traveling for Thanksgiving, meaning I wasn’t going to have to cook (a good thing for all involved – just ask my hubby sometime about my poultry cooking skills). I didn’t have to clean. All I was expected to do was to enjoy time with my family. Silly me. I forgot that I was traveling with a toddler.
I had barely closed my eyes on Thanksgiving eve when I heard my toddler’s cry in the adjacent room which he was sharing with his brother. I immediately sprang out of bed to see what was the matter worried that might wake up the rest of the household. I was ready to once again hear, “Where Monkey Man?” This time however it wasn’t merely a request to locate his favorite toy, he was sick, and not just with the sniffles.
I rushed him to the bath while the hubby took care of the linens. Eventually, we were forced to turn the lights on while I rummaged through his bag looking for his spare set of pajamas. It turned out I needn’t worry about waking his brother. My eldest didn’t even bother turning over. (Man, I wish I could still sleep like that!)
Cleaned up, my toddler clung to me like a life raft. The hubby passed by carrying our travel toddler cot. (You could smell it from a distance.) Even if we had a spare set of sheets, kiddo wasn’t going to be able to sleep on it again anytime soon. I had resigned myself to a night on the couch or rocking chair when the hubby came by again. This time with a pillow in hand. He volunteered to stay on the couch so that our son and I might sleep more comfortably on a bed.
In hindsight, I think in the end he may have gotten the better end of the deal.
It was still a loooooonnnnng a night. At home, my toddler’s bed is near the ground and has guard rails. My in-law’s guest bed, on the other hand, is very tall and all sides are completely exposed. Each time my kiddo shifted, I worried he might slip over the side and plummet to the ground. I was afraid that the cries we had already heard that night would be whispers in comparison. I tried to pull him back closer to me, but that only served to wake him up enough to remind him that his tummy was still upset.
Several trips back to the bathroom later (progressively less necessary), I realized that what I was doing wasn’t working. Unless I wanted to be completely worthless the following day, I was going to have to find a way for both of us to sleep. I realized I was going to have to give him more freedom of movement. I placed a few pillows near the bed’s edge, just in case, but then I let him go. Soon I heard soft, contented snores and I allowed myself to also fall into a light sleep.
I awoke hours later to the touch of small fingers on my forehead. (Oh no! Dawn is still hours away – please, please try to go back to sleep!) My little boy whispered, “Where mommy go?”
I answered, “Mommy’s here. Are you okay?” (yep, the couch was definitely the better option)
“I better.” Then no more words. Instead, he snuggled next to me, and the soft snores resumed in short order. Even though I knew right then that it was only a matter of time before I came down with whatever illness my toddler turned outbreak monkey possessed (4 days to be exact), I couldn’t help but smile. I’ll take what I can get.
My toddler used to only want to be with me. Then one day he stopped, and now prefers the company of his dad. All too soon, I know this stage will also be over and he’ll only want to be around his friends. I’ll eventually have to let him find his own way in life, but it is good to know that he’ll still look for mommy now and then.
I was honored to present the following on The North Raleigh Rotary Club’s family day.
In high school, one of my English teachers gave us a creative writing assignment. We were to pick any literary classic and re-write it as a modern retelling. I thought there had been enough adaptations of stories like Romeo and Juliet. I wanted to do something different. Edgy. I picked Dante’s Inferno.
Dante’s Inferno is one of the works that make up the Divine Comedy. In it, the author is given his own personal guided tour of hell encountering various tortured souls along the way. (You know – comedy). However at its heart, it is satire, as those souls are in fact thinly veiled references to various famous people of Dante’s time.
For my retelling, I wanted to be true to the original source material, but at the same time, I didn’t exactly want to send anyone to hell. My teenaged mind got to thinking. Where would be a suitable alternative setting?
At the time of my English project, I had only participated in a handful of family reunions, although we called them something else then. They consisted of a meal with way too many people crammed into a house with too few bathrooms. You were expected to make small talk and to nod politely as someone fussed over how much taller you’d grown. (An observation, that in my case, stopped ringing true quite some time ago.) To make matters worse, there were no friends at these events. Only family.
I thought the setting was perfect.
I got to work, placing stereotypical relatives in various scenes. The end result was completely fictitious, but I thought it was hilarious. After completing the assignment, I decided to show it to my mom and stepdad and waited to hear their laughter.
None came. Instead of being amused, my stepdad almost looked hurt. As he handed me back my pages, he said, “you never put me in your writing.”
I remember thinking, did he not pick up that my characters were in a hell? He should be happy to have been left out of this story.
It took me awhile to realize that he was hurt, not because I had left him out of hell, but because I had left him out of a story about family.
I am grateful to have this opportunity to correct my slight. Not everyone is.
I was in college on September 11th. I’d met Lamont, but most of my family was hours away, including a cousin, living in Brooklyn, who no one could reach. Several hours later, I learned that my cousin had gone into town after hearing about the first crash, never expecting there to be a second crash or that the towers might come down.
My cousin was okay, but as I listened to reporters say how the world would be forever changed, all I could think of was those other people who had gotten on a plane that day or had gone into work thinking September 11th was going to be no different from September 10th and my heart went out to those they left behind. Just as it does to all those affected by any tragedy, even those that play out on a less international stage.
Tragedy teaches us that every day is precious.
The world hasn’t gotten any less scary, but it doesn’t have to stay that way.
Fred Rodgers, the host of one of my mom’s favorite children’s shows, once said that as a boy, when he would see scary things in the news, his mother would say, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.”
She was right. For every tragedy, there are stories of regular people who ran into danger instead of away from it in order to save others.
These everyday heroes create hope that good will ultimately prevail. Their stories can rally a community and make it stronger. We just have to remember to look for the right story.
After I told my family that I wanted to try writing professionally, I was given a copy of a book entitled, How to Write a Damn Good Novel. One of the best pieces of advice it offers is that before you started writing a single word, you need to identify one thing that you wholeheartedly believe and develop your story around that premise.
Well, I believe that every day has value. Even the bad ones.
My book was published. Now I didn’t just want to be an author. I wanted to be a successful one too. I once was asked to define success during a job interview. At the time, I gave the cheeky answer, to never eat Ramen Noodles again. However, I now define success as being happy with myself and with what I have.
When I started blogging, I made the conscious decision that I was going to maintain a positive site with the hope that I would attract other positive-minded people and we could grow successful together. But writing for a blog is different from writing a novel. You can’t go a year or two between publications. You are expected to regularly generate content.
I looked for inspiration. I saw my children.
Their world consists of home, school, daycare, and the occasional visit to Nana’s or a cousin’s. Some might consider their world small. And yet, to them, it is something wonderful and worth exploration. I started writing down the lessons about life my children taught me.
I became more aware of the moments. By putting my observations down in writing, I began to recall the lessons my parents, grandparents, and even Lamont had taught me, wittingly or otherwise, and as I did so, I began to develop a deeper appreciation of them. Not just for how they have supported me, but as individuals as well.
This is not to say that since starting my writing journey every day has become rainbows and lollipops. They haven’t. That’s life. Later today, traffic is going to be awful. Inevitably one kid will refuse to eat anything at all on their plate because their food either touched or wasn’t cut to their standards.
I will have plenty to complain about, but more to be grateful for.
From the backseat, Kiddo asked, “how many more minutes?” We’d been on the road for the last three hours, so the bigger surprise was the fact that he hadn’t already asked the same question a million times already.
“We still have a ways to go,” I answered, not exactly excited to reveal that we still had another two hours of windshield time ahead of us.
“But how many minutes until the TV can come back on?”
The in-car entertainment system had only been powered off for a second or so, but the boys were clearly missing the distraction. “Eh, a couple of minutes honey. Maybe three. However long it takes for Dad to fill the car up with gas.
“How many seconds is three minutes?” Kiddo asked.
“One hundred eighty.”
Kiddo paused to take in this information. “Ten, twenty, thirty” I heard him begin.
The boy is feeling clever this morning.
“One hundred sixty, one hundred seventy, one hundred eighty. There. One hundred and eighty seconds. Now can we turn the TV back on?”
Sigh. I was going to have to explain to him that time wasn’t moving any faster for the rest of us just because he had figured out a faster way to count to one eighty. Welcome to Relativity 101 Kiddo. Just then the pump clicked, signaling our tank was full. Before long, we were back on the highway with the sounds of Mickey Mouse’s Clubhouse playing over the speaker system. Now I am thinking I am the one in need of a lesson in the manipulation of space-time, because it feels very much like I’ve been here before.
And yet, I feel as if I have gone so very far.
My thanks to everyone who helped make last week’s launch so very special either by checking out my book links, sharing my posts, or simply offering your words of encouragement. I am hopeful that the experience I’ve gained will help me complete my next project that much faster, but I also know not to expect the process to be any easier. I very much appreciate your support.
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