Sunday, September 28, 2008

No, we are not all the same

Just for fun, let's do a brief comparison of my life vs. another author's, okay? Below is a snapshot of fellow author Patricia Wood, who's so delighted by the bathtub in her room on the cruise ship she'll be living on for the next three weeks that she actually sent me a photo...with her in it. Keep in mind, Pat lives on a boat in Hawaii and only has a shower, so she has an odd fascination with bathtubs.

She's forever sending me photos: snapshots from a month-long trip to Norway, sunset photos from the boat she lives on in Hawaii, elbow-to-elbow photos of her and other authors nominated for the Orange Prize, drinking and having fun in London. All that aside, though, along with the bathtub photograph she sent yesterday, here's a brief back-and-forth of our emails to each other while we both happened to be online. You tell me. Do our lives seem even remotely similar?

HER: We were in Cabo yesterday. Docked in Puerto Vallarta today. Took a bus ride up the side of a mountain and just missed a rock slide. Stopped at a tequilla factory (glug/glug) and our nutso tour guide was so out-of-this-world funny I swear I'm putting him in my next book. What's new there?

ME: Plumber showed up 5 hours late yesterday, then charged me $318 more than the original $149 quoted (glug/glug); I have a cold/flu/fever; hubby came home from Zurich but leaves for San Francisco tomorrow; my kids built a 3-story tree fort in the backyard without permission (see photo of work in progress + end result) while I was writing.

Am still trying to determine how they got the leather seats from their big brother's van up onto the top floor (see the seats in 1st photo on the ground?!!) and how much it's going to cost me to pay off the neighbors so they'll speak to us again.

HER: Wow! I love tree forts. Your kids are sure creative, huh?

ME: I'm not finished... Last night a bear ripped apart our neighbor's compost bins, then got into a bag of garbage the boys left hanging from the tree fort. I also just learned it's illegal to kill skunks so I'm trying to figure out how to politely entice the one we have living under our shed to move on and find itself better digs.

HER: OMG, what a coincidence! Our maid keeps leaving towel-shaped animals on our bed each night (along with chocolates) and last night I swear it looked like a skunk!

ME: Eat a bag of dirt, Pat.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

In defense of the sloth

Someone's been brainwashing my nine-year old. Either that or they're slipping him a concoction that's changing his sweet natured self into a seasoned mouth piece.

Let's cut to yesterday. My husband's been traveling a lot on business again (last week he was in Zurich) which means I'm in single-parent mode. Anyhow, I forgot to sign a form for my son's teacher, and when he got home he was so upset he started in on all the other things I've not been doing well. No need going over his list, right? Let's just say it made no sense and here's where our discussion ended up...

"And what about last Saturday?" he said, citing yet another example. "God, Mom, you slept in until 9:30?! Are you related to Sid the Sloth? (for those unfamiliar, he was referring to a character in Ice Age.) Other mom's in the neighborhood don't sleep in that late!"

Instead of saying, "No, they don't, but they also aren't awake writing their butts off until 1:45 a.m., either," I just smiled all zen-like and said, "Actually, I like sloths" which only incensed him more. There was pause where he glared at me, followed by, "Well you aren't doing a very good job these days so maybe you should think about that."

Which was when I lowered myself to his level and said, "Look, it's not like I applied for the job fully qualified, okay?"

"I don't think they would've hired you if you had," he shot back.

Pleasant little household anecdote, hmmm? I've noticed, however, this same pattern repeating itself every fall when my kids go back to school and my writing rises to the top of my priority list. It's a big adjustment (for all of us.)

P.S. I really do love sloths. I've had this adorable stuffed sloth on my desk for five years now and he always makes me smile.
Hoo-rah to all the sloths out there!

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Write it, take aim, shoot and move on

Being an author can be a humbling career choice. Most writers (including me) head into it with high hopes, big dreams, and endless enthusiasm. They're looking for a big book deal. They dream of seeing their first ever novel front and center in every book store. And they're determined to earn all of the accolades that come with their definition of 'success' as an author.

Sound overly optimistic to you? Not really, because if you don't approach it with that kind of exuberance, you might give up sooner than you think, especially when you realize just how many uncontrollables there are in this business.

I recently spoke with an author who'd published her first and only novel in 1998. It was good, really good, yet she hasn't written anything since. When I asked why, she said, "It's too competitive for me. You either make a whack of money, like the top 20 authors out there do, or you don't make enough to live on so you can keep writing. I had big plans for my novel and then... it just seemed to fizzle away after it came out. I know now that my expectations were set too high, but after that, I didn't have it in me to write another one. It's just too hard. All of it. Know what I mean?"

I did, yet it still made me sad, and I caught myself wanting to coach her and urge her on, tell her to keep writing. I didn't, though, because I could tell it wouldn't make any difference.

Years ago, I had a discussion with another author, this one a NYT bestseller of many novels. Here's what she said: "I've met many talented writers who'll never make it in this business. Some could write circles around me. Others had huge egos that required regular feeding. Many lacked likability. Most, however, had no business sense and failed to understand this: You are only as good as your last book, which does have a shelf life, so aim high, write it to the best of your ability, shoot it out there, and move on to the next one."

Good advice, huh?

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Website refreshed... Check!

I've been busy cleaning up a long list of overdue issues so I can focus 110% on my writing over the next 8 weeks. One was to "refresh" my website, originally made up of 18 pages (including the first chapter of every book -- ugh! Whose idea was that?!) However, it's now been slimmed down to a mere six. Not a major revision, though my bio page has been updated and we've posted some new pictures. You can take a look here at

Next up, overdue tax forms for foreign publishers... such fun!

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Is any friendship worth this?

I'm not a gym person. If I'm going to work out, I'll do it at home, thanks, which is one reason why I can relate to this guy. Six months ago, I began using my treadmill and elliptical machines on a daily basis, and after averaging a combined 18 hrs/month on both, my treadmill started giving me major trouble.

The repairman and I are now on a first name basis (he's installed three new motors, an electrical board, a new belt) and now he has to replace the entire machine because apparently ours is a "commercial" Precor unit that requires the kind of wiring homes aren't typically equipped with vs. gyms (hence the burned out motors and other horrors.)

That said, take a look at this video clip. It's a commercial for a bank, but it's hilarious and has elements I relate to. My friendship with my treadmill hasn't been easy, either!