"The notion that such persons are gay of heart and carefree is curiously untrue. They lead, as a matter of fact, an existence of jumpiness and apprehension. They sit on the edge of the chair of Literature. In the house of Life they have the feeling that they have never taken off their overcoats."
- James Thurber, My Life and Hard Times

Saturday, June 20, 2009

The view from the Big Comfy Chair.

I once told a co-worker that my perfect job would be to sit in a big, comfy chair and give people my opinion all day, to which he replied, "Apart from the big, comfy chair, what would be the difference?" It's true, although I don't see it as giving my opinion, I just view it as sharing the information I have tucked into my gray matter.

And I have a lot of info in my gray matter. I can't help but remember stupid bits of flotsam and jetsam that are only useful on a game show. It's possible, if I don't open my mouth and share some of this trivia, my brain cells might overload and shut all my circuits down, so I open my mouth often to let some of the data escape.

We wouldn't want my brain to implode, would we?

One area where I do not venture with advice is romance. Honestly, I don't know how people get together, why they stay together, and especially, why they "part amicably." If you're not throwing the good china at your soon-to-be ex-partner, why are you breaking up?

I just saw a commercial for one of those dating services (okay, I'll be brave – it was eHarmony), where one of the men looks into the camera and says, "The questionnaire really takes the work out of finding someone."

Work? You mean, the work involved in talking to people, making friends with them, finding out if you have anything in common, falling in love? Listen, Buddy, I got a shocker for you: if you think dating is work, you are in no shape for marriage.

I have a great marriage; we have complimentary personalities, we treat our partnership as a team, and we treat each other with respect. That being said, we still work at not running over each other in the driveway because he won't put his socks in the hamper and I find excuses for not wanting to go to the Dodgers game.

It's a good thing I write a humor column and not an advice column. Otherwise, I'd be telling people things like this:

Dear Miss Taken,

My girlfriend just dumped me for the second time. I'm miserable. The first time she broke up with me, I was sad and weepy and sat around, strumming my guitar and singing EMO songs. This time, I'm just mad and want to hit people with my guitar. Is this normal?

Sad, Mad & Feeling Had

* * * * * *

Dear SMFH,

No, it's not normal. Why were you expecting normal from a relationship? There's nothing normal about them. They rip out your heart, rub salt in the wound and feed it back to you with sour milk. You want normal? Join a monastery. Oh, and leave that girl alone. Being dumped twice should have taught you something, or you're also the biggest moron on the planet.

Miss Taken

As you can see, my advice to the lovelorn could result in the end of marriage, the annihilation of the planet, and would really mess up my comfy chair.

How about you? Do you like to give advice, or take it?

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Why I love Dean Martin

I was doing my Blog Book Tour homework today, doing some Googley searches on blogs I might be able to guest on, when I found something WONDERFUL.


A Dean Martin blog - with an entry that talks about me! I'm absolutely thrilled. They even posted a (very nice) review of my book.

I'm as tickled as Sally Field on Oscar night!

Friday, June 12, 2009

Ho-ome-ward bound.

In addition to my novel, Freezer Burn, being released in August and my launch party for said book in July, I've got other things to do this summer, one of which is to return to my hometown for a familial visit.

I often tease that my husband makes me visit my family every other year, but I'm not teasing by that much. I left Decatur, Illinois (the Soybean Capital of the World) because there were not enough opportunities for a young, smart chick to become anything other than a young wife who lived in a trailer park with her kids and husband, who worked at one of the local factories, third shift because that's what paid the most... I think you get the gist of my opinion.

Although, Decatur does have Millikin University, a really nice, if small, private college with a wonderful school of music and school of art.

And let's leave the discussion of my family for another time, or possibly dimension. I love my brother and sis-in-law; they and their brood make our visits fun. My mom passed away years ago, but we had a rather thorny relationship, and my dad and I aren't much better. Dad is now frail as a newborn spider and I will spend most of this trip sucking it up, biting my tongue and being the Good Daughter. (Insert sound of cat hacking up a hairball here.)

I was reading the online Decatur newspaper recently and found a couple of disturbing news items. One is that lightning struck the North Fork Church and annihilated it. This is the church next to the cemetary where my mom and my uncle are buried. It's the property where we used to have the heritage festival. It wasn't a church that I had any true connection with, but I'm still sad, thinking it's damaged beyond all repair.

The second disagreeable news item is that they've closed the Nelson Park Golf Course.

This course lies beside Route 36, which was the main road to get from my house on Cantrell Street into the main guts of the city. I used to watch the golfers on Sunday morning as we drove to Riverside Baptist Church. They golfed in almost all weather; I remember seeing them out there after the first snowfall, following the track of their ball in the white dust.

I thought they were insane, which colored my view of all golfers for all time.

Rumor has it that some developer wants to build homes on the golf course. Not only do I not understand this (Decatur doesn't seem to be growing in population), but I'm doubly upset because as a kid, once there was enough snow on the ground, the golf course made a bitchin' place to sled.

I guess, sooner or later, you really can't go home again. Progress happens, as well as catastrophe. As long as I see a chicken car, everything will be okay.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Speaking of editors.

Not a big post today, ladies and gents. I saw this today in the Los Angeles Times (yes, the actual paper-in-hand edition) and wanted to share it with you all (sorry it's a little teensy, but I can't figure out how to make my blog space bigger):

Pearls Before Swine

Because that's the kind of gal I am. I'm here for you.

P.S. I so want to meet Stephan Pastis... if only to ask him how he pronounces his name.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Bend me, shape me, any way you want me

Printer's Row Lit Fest is happening this weekend in Chicago. I had never heard of this until I began my journey with Freezer Burn. My book is, theoretically, available for sale; I sold 17 copies at the LA Times Festival of Books, and I could be selling it in Chicago this weekend.

Except that I can't go, which truly sucks because I love Chicago.

Fortunately, I have a wonderful publisher, Karen Syed, who is taking copies of Freezer Burn with her, along with some promo materials and clear labels with my signature to affix for those who want an autograph.

So why can't I just hop on a plane and travel 2000 miles? Because today is my son's spring choir concert. The end of the year concert is a big deal at Valencia High School. Any senior (in one of the choirs) who wants to sing a solo is given the opportunity. Yes, it means there are a few clunkers, and YES, the show is about a million hours long, but it's lovely and fun and poignant and a Don't Miss.

On Monday, I will escort the VHS Just Jazz vocal group to my former employer, Raytheon, to sing at a Diversity Luncheon, then I'll scramble about to get the choir's end-of-the-year banquet set up. It's been a tough year for the choir; the Guvernator slashed and burned through school budgets, wounding the arts severely, and the economy kept most parents from writing as many donation checks as in years past. The banquet this year is a potluck, and we're happy to get that.

So there's the beginning of my dilemma. Next year, my son is a senior in high school. I will be the president of the VHS Choir Booster Club. And I will have a book to sell.

See this picture?

That's me on the left. To the right, you'll notice every woman's unholy trinity – family, home, career. For the next year, I'll be waking up to these questions every morning:

1. What events in my son's life am I willing to sacrifice in order to increase my book sales?
2. What promotional and sales opportunities am I willing to sacrifice in order to be there for my son?
3. Where does my relationship with my husband fit into all this?
4. Where can I find a good housecleaner?

If I could, this is how I'd resolve my problem:

Before it turns into this:

Thoughts, anyone?

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Get up and say something!

Quick blog today, kids. I just wanted to turn everybody on to Barry Eisler's latest forum topic, How to Give a Great Talk.

For those of you who don't know Barry (that'd be, maybe, ten people in the whole world?), he wrote six thrillers about a Japanese-American assassin, John Rain, one of which has been recently made into a movie, Rain Fall. His latest book, Fault Line, is a departure from the series, and is getting good reviews. It's on my list of books to read (I'll get to it, Barry, I swear).

I met Barry at the 2007 Southern California Writer's Conference in San Diego. His talk on Friday night was informative, confident, and fun. The fact that he was also good-looking led many of the women at the conference to refer to him as Barry McDreamy for the weekend.

Okay, that could have just been me and my friend, Pam. But the rest of them were thinking it. I know this because I was about ten minutes late to his workshop the next day and opened the door to a packed house – packed with women. Good thing Pam saved me a seat.

Barry gives a great talk, and in his forum, he explains how he does it. This is important information to authors today. The shy author is at a disadvantage in our competitive world, especially when there are 200,000 books published every year. Go walk into a bookstore, any bookstore, and take a look around. How many books do you see? How is anyone going to find yours?

We need to learn to step away from the computer, go out to events and shake hands, introduce ourselves and our books, and speak to groups. Even if you don't think public speaking is your "thing", if you think you have nothing to say, blah-blah-blah, you still need to do it, in order to let more people know who you are. Why?


Let Barry tell you all about it.

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