When a head-pounding summer cold leads to creativity.

After two weeks of fun travel (first a road trip to eastern Washington and Idaho, then a 5-day adventure in Austin), we’ve come home to more hot, dry weather, and lots of Kleenex, cough drops, and stuffy noses. Our front room is Barbie Central right now, and my butt has started to mold into the chair with my laptop glued to my lap. I just want to breathe again! Yesterday, out of sheer boredom, Holly discovered iMovie on my phone, so she’s been hard at work piecing together silly videos with sound effects, and then–just this morning–she made a book trailer for Iris.

Now, I know book trailers are controversial in the indie pub biz, as people either go all-out and pay for amazing introductions to their books, or they make semi-crappy ones that aren’t really worth the time and effort. Making a book trailer for Iris was definitely not something I’d considered sinking time or money into, so I’m putting this out there strictly for fun, and because I admire creativity (especially in my own child!) Holly did an amusing job of finding Barbies to represent the various family members in our book, and she tried to bring to life some of her favorite scenes (like Peanut Butter chasing Skelly over the top of the fully-loaded Thanksgiving dinner table, and Iris with her camera), and–as always–I was amazed at how quickly a young mind adapts to and absorbs technology; I’ve had iMovie on my phone for a couple of years, and I had no idea I could make movie or book trailers (not that there’s a lot of call for that in my daily life!)

Anyhow, here’s to (hopefully) our last day of being sickos confined to the house, and to the fruits of a boredom-creativity-technology combination. Cheers!


The beauty of multi-tasking.

Well, our goal of having a full draft of book 2 done by July 17th kind of got blown out of the water. We’ve worked on the draft a number of times, and even took it with us on our road trip last week to Eastern Washington and Idaho. While the man in our lives spent his days in a conference in Spokane, we swam in the hotel pool, wandered around town taking pictures, and sat on the balcony at our hotel (the magic balcony that was somehow always in shade, no matter the hour) and worked on our book.

I was curious to see how chipping away at multiple writing projects at the same time would affect my overall productivity, and I can’t say for sure that it’s been better or worse, but I have had fun jumping between three different things this summer. In addition to the second book in our “American Dream” series, I’ve been re-working something that I wrote years ago because I loved the setting and the characters so much. I have it laid out as a series, and I find that I’m either totally immersed in it (and listening to my tropical stations on Pandora for inspiration, given that the setting is a fictional Florida Key), or I’m overwhelmed at the prospect of completely re-writing it, and I’m scratching my head over just what the genre actually is. Romance? Not totally. Adventure? Maybe. A mash-up of “The Golden Girls” and contemporary chick-lit? That’s a possibility. Just to mix things up, I even pulled my absolute, very favorite manuscript out and am finally (hopefully) working on the final edit for that. So a day this summer where I don’t write or edit something is certainly not because I’m lacking projects to work on!

This last piece I’m editing is something that I hold near and dear to my heart, and I’m excited to be back in it again. I wrote it in 2009, and the protagonist is a 15-year old boy. At the time, I was trying to figure out the appeal of Twitter, so I got on there and searched for a few things that were of interest to me. My very first search was for #thecure, and out of the results, I picked someone’s tweet that said, “Hahaha, I love The Cure.” I responded, he responded, and we had a humorous exchange. In one of those “small world” moments, we discovered that we’d both lived in the same town in Florida, and that we were now both living on the west coast. Had our families both stayed in Florida, chances are pretty good that he might have ended up in my husband’s biology class at some point. Needless to say, I followed this funny kid on Twitter, and have never been disappointed by his cynical and entertaining outlook on life, nor by his wicked-eclectic taste in music.

In fact, I was so amused by him that I took some of his Tweets totally out of context and built a story around them. I made a main character, gave him a life, a love interest, and what I hoped was a voice that someone else would love as much as I did, and I wrote a whole manuscript. When I was done, I emailed him and told him what I’d done (worried that he’d be like, “Okay….creepy old lady…stalking my Tweets much?”) but he was both flattered and intrigued, and even read my early draft and offered feedback. He’s maintained all these years–as I’ve threatened to finally be ready to do something with the manuscript–that he’s fine with my using his words, and even keeping his Twitter name as my main character’s didn’t bother him. So I’m doing it. This summer the “kid” who inspired my work turns 21, and I’m getting this thing edited for the last time, changing the things that need to be updated, and self-publishing it under a pen name. But why a pen name when it’s my favorite protagonist and a work that I love? Because it’s something totally separate from what Holly and I have been working on together, and it’s also really different than the Florida Key story. I want it to stand alone, and so it will. I’ve got my book cover, lined up the formatter, and am wrapping it up this month, so there it is–in writing: new goal for the summer is to get this book done and out there, and then to re-focus on book 2 so that Holly and I have a nearly complete draft before school starts!

Hello? Is anyone out there?

As it turns out, the most fun part of writing (other than the act itself) is being a part of the writing community. I’m sure the niches and pockets of the larger community are nearly infinite, but we’ve wedged ourselves quite nicely into a little corner of the internet where lovely, book-minded, word-loving writers and artists dwell. It’s been amazing so far. And it would have been anyway, but I’ve found that with the heat wave we’re having here in the Pacific Northwest, it’s been my lifeline to humanity. Because I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS) when Holly was an infant, I have a ridiculously hard time with the heat. In fact, we left Florida because for a good portion of the year, even living a totally air-conditioned life wasn’t enough to slice through the pain, numbness, tingling, and the OH MY GOD I FEEL LIKE TOTAL CRAP AND WANT TO VOMIT sensation. Yes, move back to the Northwest, my neurologist said. It’ll be mild–perfect for you, he said. And truly, for most of the year it is. But in this beautiful season of wild, green gardens; of sunlight flinging rainbows through sprinklers; of driving with the top down and baking in the sun; in this season I’ve become a bit of a prisoner. Loosed for summer from the bonds of a full-time job (as most teachers are, come mid-June), this heat has instead shackled me to my curtains-drawn, air-conditioned house. And I can’t lie: as lucky as I feel to be able to stay inside and manage the pain, it does get a little lonely. So this wonderful community of people has acted as a bridge to life outside of my house this summer. I’ve had so much fun talking on the phone with Shayla of Curiouser Editing, exchanging emails and Google docs with Shelly of Keystrokes & Closed Doors, collaborating with Natasha Snow on cover design, and joining the Women in Portland Publishing group. I also stumbled onto a site where people who love to read offer to review books if you send them a copy and it aligns with their interests, so I’ve had the pleasure of getting to know some people that way, too. Because of this cool network of humans who support writers, in the near future we’ll also be featured on The Howling Turtle, and on an excellent blog called She’s Novel. When you decide to indie publish, everyone warns you that your chances of becoming a huge success are small. They tell you to manage your expectations, to prepare for a slow slog towards visibility (if you even get there at all). I’m okay with all of that, because we know that the bigger picture here for me is doing something fun and positive with my daughter as she enters those oh-so-prickly pre-teen years, but there’s still a part of you that feels like you’re shouting into the abyss when you only sell a few books a week. Writing (even with a partner) can be a pretty isolated affair. And all of this is really just to say that I’ve had a wonderful summer so far getting to know and collaborate with lots of interesting people. Their dialogue and the back-and-forth chatter about all things writing-related has given my days purpose (beyond sitting around in my pj’s, trying to meet word count goals), and has broadened my horizons to include new friends from around the country and around the world. Being able to reach out into cyberspace from my dark, cool cave and chat with people about something I’m passionate about has meant more to me than they even know.