Well, That Went Tits Up

Whenever something goes unexpectedly wrong, I can hear my grandmother whispering that in my head.

I used to have a professional flat iron. It was a great little tool, especially when trying to tame the mop I’ve got on my head. When it died, that’s exactly what I heard.

Well, looks like that went tits up.

Since I wasn’t in a position to replace it I got a cheap flat iron. But of course it didn’t work as well. I was so pissed, I grumbled around for a week.

What was I supposed to do, go back to my natural hair? I didn’t really have a choice so it was back to a floppy ball of fluff for me. I hate the fluff but on the bright side, it only takes me 38 seconds to get ready in the morning. Plus, no one can tell when my hair is messed up. This has come in handy on more occasions than you’d think.

One time, we had a stove go tits up on us. Ugh, that was the worst. It wouldn’t have been too bad if it had simply died but it didn’t. It went out in literal flames because my husband accidentally set it on fire.

ON FIRE. IN THE KITCHEN.

That was four years ago and my kids have NOT stopped reminding us about it.

Soon after the fire, the floor tiles started coming up. Then the heat register wouldn’t stay on the wall because the plaster had crumbled away. I began to find small piles of sawdust under the hinges of the cupboards from where they wore against the counter top. That traitorous kitchen was going tits up on us and we still needed to use it!

Damn kitchen.

What could we do? There was no one to complain to but each other. There was nothing to do but sit and be angry. Only, I don’t enjoy being angry. Neither does my husband. So instead, we poured all of our frustration and anger into planning, designing and contracting. Eventually, we were able to remodel.

Now we have a fabulous new kitchen. It’s so rad that I don’t even feel old when I use the word ‘rad’ to describe it because if you sat in this kitchen you would say the same thing.

CAM10268

Can you see the dirty dishes in the sink? No you can’t. Because that sink is SUPER FRICKEN’ RAD.

That brings me to the latest news.

Last Friday my publisher, Booktrope, went tits up. Due to insufficient income, they are closing down. Their business model was not sustainable. That sucks but a business only works if it makes money and nothing in this world is going to stop that from being true.

When I started out trying to find a publisher, I didn’t know Booktrope existed. Back then, I was still working as a bench scientist, I knew very little about the creative writing world. Of course I had zero luck pitching to agents because I was terrible at it. I had no idea what was important and what was stupid. Most agents kindly gave me the boot. Some were not so nice. One agent rolled her eyes at me and said, “Well, that was cute.”

It was not cute.

After that painful lesson, I figured I needed to know more about what I was doing. I decided to walk myself through self-publishing and learn more of what this business is about. Editing, proofing, layout, cover – all of these things took me months of research but I did it. And when I finally hit ‘publish’ I thought I was done. (That part was cute.)

The next day, a friend of mine put me in contact with Katherine Sears, one of the Booktrope founders. Apparently, they were friends and he suggested she read my book, which she did. Then she asked if we could meet.

“I’m really glad your book was good. I hate telling friends that their book suggestions suck.”

At that point, those were the nicest words I’d heard from any publisher ever and the day after I self-published, I agreed to republish through Booktrope. They would set me up with a graphic designer, an editor, and a book manager-services for which I would have gladly paid if I’d had the funds earlier, but I didn’t. I weighed my options. It made financial sense to sign with Booktrope.

I quickly learned that my original manuscript, while good, still needed a lot of work. I got to experience firsthand what it takes to make a quality book. Long story short: it takes a lot.

By the second book, I was learning what to expect. My editor, would tear it apart and it would be good. Then I would put it back together and it would still be good. The graphic designers would pull out their layering runes and work their magic. Then layout would wield its mystical formatting spells and conjure up something that looked like it belonged in a book store. All the while Stephanie, my book manager, would run around taking care of everything else – from scheduling book readings to making sure we had ISBNs or ASINs or ASSASSINs, I don’t know. She did things I would never have been able to do on my own and write a book.

With the demise of Booktrope, I no longer have that support structure. I don’t actually know what I have because the ashes are still smoldering and everyone is trying to figure out who owns what. There are a lot of scared, heartbroken, confused people feeling lots of angry feels. I guess these are all normal reactions.

But I don’t seem to have any angry feels left. I think I used them all up on the flat iron. And the damn stove. And the kitchen remodel. And all the hours I’ve racked up trying to keep going when everything looked about as crappy as it could be.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that although Booktrope is going away, I am still here. I may not know exactly where here is but I know I’m not a newbie anymore. I have friends in the publishing business. I’ve got a few solid years of experience and confidence in what I’m producing now. I am a different person than when I started with Booktrope. An older person, for sure. Better? maybe. But definitely wiser in many ways.

To be honest, I feel like I’ve graduated. From what? I don’t know, but it was substantial. And apparently this is my graduation speech so I would like to thank some people for being here and teaching me how to do stuff.

So thank you, Stephanie Konat, for being such a tireless advocate.

And thank you, Magdalen Powers, for every sentence struck out in red.

Renee Garcia and Melody Paris, thank you both for the wonderful book covers.

Katherine Sears, Jessie James Freeman and Ken Shear, thank you for the opportunity.

To Karen Alcaide, Jennifer Gilbert, Ken Shear, Mike Munz, Camela Thompson, Ina Zajak, AC Fuller, Shari Ryan, Rachel Thompson, Arleen Williams, Emily Clanton, Shay West, Terry Persun, Larry Weiner, Bill Kenower, Greg Michaels, Kit Bakke, Nicole Persun, Adam Bodendieck, and Will North, thank you all.

Some of you may not even realize you had an impact on my writing career but you have, and I thank you kindly for it. I would not be where I am today without you.

Cheers.

 

You thought I was lying about the dishes, didn't you?

I wasn’t lying about the dishes. STILL RAD.

Plan for the Future

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For the past couple of weeks my 7 year old daughter has been outlining what she wants to do with her life. As it turns out, she doesn’t want to be a veterinarian, or a doctor or a singer or even an astronaut.

She wants to own a bar on the beach.

Not any bar, mind you. She doesn’t want to serve alcohol. She just likes making fancy drinks. Paper umbrellas play a huge part in this plan.

I just want to live on the beach and shake things all day.

-My kid, apparently.

When she first told me her plans I laughed, and not just because the older woman standing next to us at the crosswalk, eavesdropping in on our conversation, was visibly scandalized.

My daughter loves the beach. Ever since she was tiny. We’d go to a beach and within seconds she’d flop herself down in the sand and start doing yoga. And if you’ve never seen it, watching a kid that young strike downward dog in the middle of a tide pool is as hilarious as it is adorable. So I understood the beach part. But I think I underestimated her love of mixing drinks.

Case in point: The other evening while my husband and I were sitting on the side patio reading, she offered to get me a drink. “Thank you!” I said. “I’ll have a beer.” And even though beer has alcohol in it and is against her business model, her eyes lit up like it was Christmas. 10 minutes later, she brought me this:

beer, paper umbrella, straw

The fanciest red ale in the northwest.

 You know, I think she’s pretty good! I’m looking forward to all those paper umbrellas in my retirement years.

A Letter to The Guy Building a Fort in The Swamp Behind My House

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Dear Swamp Fort Guy,

Not a lot of people know you. I think this is mainly because you hang out in the swamp behind my house. And I’m going to be honest here, I have no idea what you’re doing. But I’ve been watching you do it for the past three years and I’ve come to the only conclusion that makes sense:

You are making the world’s most awesome swamp fort.

swamp fort guy

And I’m kind of jealous.

At first, I’m embarrassed to say, I didn’t really see your vision. Many of the neighbors were confused as well. I heard several whispered inquests of “Does that guy not know Himalayan blackberry is a super noxious weed?” and “Is he supposed to be doing that?”

But you didn’t let that stop you, Swamp Fort Guy. You showed up every day, sometimes twice a day and cleared grass. You cut dead branches and you moved stones until you made a weird little city of dead swamp wood and rocks. And it’s really cool.

Degoba in summertime swamp fort

In the wintertime, this part looks like Degoba.

 

In the fall, when the swamp fills back up, the ducks enjoy the heck out of it and so do I.

I walk through that park at least twice a day and I look forward to seeing what you’ve done, every time. You have made that section of our swamp into something interesting and inviting and very, very confusing for people that don’t live in the neighborhood. (I like that part especially.)

So thank you, Swamp Fort Guy. You brighten my day and I look forward to seeing what you do next. But most, importantly, Thank you for making a kick-ass swamp fort.