Still, Again, and Always

I was always destined to be a cat person.  My mom is a cat person.  My grandmother was a cat person.  My dad has always claimed not to be a cat person, but was have definitely turned him into at least half of one.

I could say I don’t remember a time before having cats in the house, but that isn’t strictly true.  I have a very clear recollection of being a shy little five-year-old, taking a trip to the North Shore Animal League to adopt my lovely boy Solomon, who instantly adopted me back as his Person.

Long before I became a cliché thirty-something utterly lacking in the ability to form romantic attachments, I was whispering my little secrets into flicking, fuzzy ears over the sound of soft purring, confident in the knowledge that my adolescent heartaches would be safe and secure and somehow completely understood.

Cats governed pretty much everything I did as a child.  My sister and I didn’t play house: we played pretend pet grooming shop.  When we didn’t want to do our chores, “I can’t; the cat is sitting on me” became our automatic (if unsuccessful) excuse.

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When asked what I wanted to be when I grew up, I invariably said a veterinarian…at least until about 7th grade when I realized how much math and science was actually involved.

If I stomped upstairs and slammed my bedroom door in anger, which happened more often than I care to remember during my terrible teenage years, Solomon would paw at the latch until I let him inside to sit next to me.

He would stare at me with his big golden eyes (maybe judging me slightly for being overly dramatic – but hey, he wasn’t wrong), and stay on my lap or curled up between my shoulder blades as I read a book until he was sure everything was all right again.

He was sweet and cuddly, curious and occasionally a little too adventurous, as he was wont to bolt from the front door or bust out of our screened-in deck to eat grass on the lawn and scare the living daylights out of me.

Once when I was still in grade school, he went MIA for several days – sort of a big deal for a cat who had been declawed – and all I remember about his return was that it was the happiest day of my young life.

I still have stress-dreams about losing him.  Even though we sold our house some time ago, I still occasionally get anxious that someone didn’t lock the screen room door.

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We collected several other cats when I was growing up, whom I loved dearly as well, but I was always Solomon’s and he was always mine.

Leaving him to go to college when I was 16 was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done.  I knew he was getting older; that I couldn’t check that the doors were locked from my dorm room in Massachusetts; that I would miss having to squirm into the corner of my bed because he had decided to sprawl across as much of the mattress as he could manage.

I felt a little like I was betraying his steadfast friendship, and that I had somehow wasted our time together by being too young to understand how rare and precious it is to find anyone or anything so capable of unconditional love.

I was nervous, of course, about leaving home for the first time.  I was terrified about failing to succeed in my new environment, especially since I was veering sharply away from the traditional educational path by going to college earlier than my peers.  And I was still reeling from my parents’ unexpected divorce the year prior, which had redefined my world in ways I am still working to understand.

So naturally I projected my anxiety a little bit into the one thing that had always been constant in my life: the unflinching, immutable love of a cat who thought I was the best thing since sliced tuna and always would be.

He died at the ripe old age of about 19, after a long and slow decline that I was too selfish to end mercifully.  I couldn’t let him go – I couldn’t acknowledge the end of all the things I had turned the poor dear thing into.  We had spent three-quarters of my life together, and I couldn’t really understand what it would mean not to have him around for the rest of it.

At the time, I was in the midst of a soul-crushing, demeaning, and nightmarish job that had left me isolated and purposeless. I was living in the middle of nowhere and so far from home, with no friends within a three-hour drive, and no outlet for the despair that was building to the bursting point inside of me.

His passing, though peaceful at the end, was one of several catalysts for eighteen months of profound depression that saw me (thankfully) lose my job, get into therapy, and start a significant reconstruction of who I was and who I wanted to be.

Four years later, I adopted Oliver.

I saw his picture on a pet-finding website sometime before Christmas, and knew instantly that I had to make him part of the new life I was building for myself.  Three months later, I had moved to an apartment that allowed cats and brought him home.

He has been nothing but joy to me ever since.

Yes, he scratched my furniture, and woke me up early on the weekends for his breakfast. There were occasions when he would pounce on my feet as I turned a corner, and I may have a faint scar or two from his habit of affectionately wrestling my arm into submission with all 18 pounds of his fur and muscle.

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Of course he shed like crazy but never let me brush him – woe unto me if I tried to snip a bit of tangled fur from his back end – and if I accidentally approached him in a certain manner, intentionally or not, he would meowl and swat at me, afraid I was trying to hurt him.

Former street cats can be like that sometimes, of course.  They have hidden traumas and bad memories that they can’t share.

Oliver was adopted from a small rescue operation (i.e. the basement of a very nice woman with eight cats too many). While he had very good manners and clean habits, which means he must have been raised in a home at some point, the nicks in his ears and the bottom of one eyelid told plenty about what must have been a troubled youth.

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The worst relic of his transient period was feline immunodeficiency virus, or FIV.  Similar to the human version, it can be acquired through fluids or passed on at birth.  There’s no way to tell.

A positive screening usually makes a cat unadoptable.  Their compromised immune systems make them susceptible to gum disease, respiratory infections, and digestive problems – not to mention any other stray bacteria or viruses that happen to wander in.

And the relative ease with which they can pass the virus on to other cats through biting or scratching means they can’t live in a household with unaffected feline companions.

That part wasn’t a problem for me, since my lease stipulates I’m only allowed to have one cat on the premises. Let’s be honest: it’s the only reason I don’t already have two or three.

I was pretty sure that with no other cats, an indoor-only lifestyle, and my familiarity with caring for members of his species, Oliver had a relatively low risk of living a shortened life due to preventable illness.

I may have been right. He made a full recovery from a serious sinus infection during our first year together.  He got regular checkups, vaccines, and lots of exercise.  He ate quality food and gourmet treats, and received personalized drinking service from the bathroom tap every time he pleased.

He had full access to open windows when the weather was nice, and a warm bed next to the radiator when it wasn’t.  Occasionally, he even had the pleasure of a catch-your-own rodent buffet.

Most of the time, I forgot about the FIV all together.  It didn’t seem to matter much to him.  He was just a happy, silly, energetic boy with kittenish behaviors and a penchant for hogging the couch.

I would have spoiled him rotten no matter what was in his bloodstream, and I’m happy to say that’s exactly what I did.  All we can do is give them the best life possible during the time we share, and I am fully confident that I provided a very good home for him.

But not every illness is preventable, and the inevitable caught up with us sooner rather than later.

Kidney trouble is common in all breeds of cats, and renal failure is one of the top causes of mortality.  In FIV cats, the problem often comes in the form of lymphoma.  Most cats last less than a month after diagnosis.  While chemotherapy exists, it is a very expensive and not altogether practical way to gain little more than a few weeks, often with questionable quality of life.

I decided not to go the route that involved biopsies and lab work and half-hour drives to the specialty hospital in Woburn.  Even going a mile up the road to his usual vet was a trauma, and I saw no point in making his last days so stressful when it wouldn’t much improve the outcome or his experience of it.

Instead, we treated him as if he had a bilateral kidney infection, which was also a very real possibility, if a remote one.  A course of antibiotics is neither invasive nor prohibitively costly, and doing something always feels better than sitting back and just waiting.

In the end, it didn’t solve the problem.  But he did have another three weeks of enjoying his favorite things: stalking birds through the window, watching TV with me in the evenings, looking intently at the ceiling even though nothing is there, and following me around to supervise as I went through my morning routine.

He was always a very attentive, human-focused cat. Every time I looked in his direction, he would acknowledge me with a little “prrrrup,” staring straight into my eyes.

When I spoke to him, his tail would start tapping.  When I smiled and blinked at him, or told him I loved him, I thought it would thump its way through the floor.

If I was about to get up from the couch to get a snack or do a chore, he would jump off my lap and wait by the sofa until I came back and he resume his favorite cuddling position again.

If I collapsed into bed after a long day and a longer commute, sad and exhausted, he would do everything he could to get me up again by walking on my sternum, looking plaintive, or calling to me from the living room.

And the funny thing is, I would get up.  Almost immediately.

Unlike during the fallow period following Solomon, where I would sleep for hours after work just to make the day end quicker, I would pull myself together and dry my eyes because I couldn’t bear the thought of disappointing Oliver.

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People who are prone to loneliness or depression need that sort of wholehearted, pure belief that they have a place in the world and a role to fulfill, even if that role is to be a human can opener and living hot water bottle.

Well-treated cats (and dogs, too) don’t doubt that you can do what they need you to do.  They don’t doubt that you will.

Their trust is both humbling and uplifting; a pillar and a pedestal; a lifeline to tether drifting souls to the sense that something, anything matters – and that they have a clear and necessary purpose within it.

Cats are unwavering in their conviction that you will rise to this challenge.  The reward for meeting the terms of this simple contract is an unbreakable, unconditional love that can help carry you through darn near any of the petty frustrations and helpless heartbreaks that comprise human existence.

Say what you want about spinsters collecting cats after giving up on finding love with another person or a place in the world, but I don’t think that’s what happens most of the time.

Cats keep your heart warm.  They help you hold the door open to the future instead of shutting down and locking yourself away.  They compel you practice patience and understanding; to maintain your capacity for love.

They show you the epitome of what that can be: selfless, immutable, and blind to all the little faults of fashion or manner or politics or jealousies that can so often split two people apart.

The love of a pet is a direct connection to the best we can be.  A glimpse into the fundamental definition of joy. That’s something I aspire to achieve with other people, not something intended to replace a life of human friendships or relationships.

To love a cat is a privilege.  To be loved in return is an honor. Even through the pain of missing him fiercely and the grief of never seeing him again, I count myself so, so lucky to have been his Person for as long as I could.

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It’s too quiet in my apartment today, and I feel aimless in a way I haven’t felt for years.  He didn’t come to say good morning.  He didn’t ask for his breakfast.  He isn’t stretched out on the floor, tail tapping, watching me write.  He will never do those things again, which hurts more than I can express.

I feel confident that I did the right thing last night.  I knew as soon as I saw him that something bad had happened: his spark was gone, his body was failing him, and he was in pain.  He wouldn’t make eye contact.  He was too weary to move.

I won’t go through the details of saying goodbye to him.  Every pet owner knows exactly how heart wrenching that is.

The vet was very kind, my dad was there to drive me since I couldn’t see through my tears, and it was all over so quickly.  I feel as if the real Oliver had been gone hours before he stopped breathing, and I like to think that what I saw in his final moments was a sense of relief.

Taking a pet into your life is signing a contract with sadness, even if the terms of the agreement are more than fair.

It may be brutally bitter when the lease on happiness is up, but that isn’t going to stop me from adopting another cat some day, and another after that, and after that.

Our feline companions come and go throughout our lives, leaving gaping holes when they’ve gone.  But we have a choice of what to do when that abyss opens up underneath our feet.

We can let that grief defeat us, and shy away from future attachments due to fear of what happens when they end.

Or we can take hold of that lifeline, that thread of joy, light, and laughter they each bring with them, and let it stitch up our broken hearts and bind us together.

Still, again, and always I choose to keep myself open to that love. I will try to seek out joy.  I will aspire to stay worthy of a cat’s trust and affection and freely-given tummy rubs, because I can think of no better way to be.

I will never stop missing Solomon.  I will never stop missing Oliver.  I will never stop missing the other cats who have stayed a while in my life, each bringing something irreplaceable to how I experience the world.

I don’t know what the future holds, or where my life will lead.  But I can tell you this for certain: still, again, and always, there will be cats to walk those roads with me.

***

If you are considering adopting a pet, hopefully a rescue, please don’t discount the ones who appear to have special needs.  They will give you just as much of their love as any other, if not more so for being so often overlooked. 

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Life After NaNoWriMo: Taking the First Look

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Check out my feature in this month’s issue of Shelf Unbound Magazine, and take a look at all the winners of this year’s best indie book contest! And don’t forget to post a book review of Dark the Night Descending for a chance to win an awesome prize!

Can you believe it’s only been two weeks since the end of November? With Christmas carols ringing in our ears since Halloween, a pile of holiday party invitations slowly creeping over the edges of your inbox, and a bank account dwindling alarmingly as the gifts get stacked underneath the holiday emblem of your choice, it’s not much of a surprise that writing isn’t top priority during this hectic month.

I know it hasn’t been for me. Insomnia has still been hammering at my ability to do anything more than drag myself to the couch and sit there with a stupid look on my face as I try to think about all the things I’d rather be doing. While I’ve seen a specialist and I’m in the process of coordinating all the tests and things I need to solve the problem, nothing much is getting done in the meantime.

This past weekend, however, I forced myself to dig my neglected USB drive out of the bottom of my purse, plug it in, and open up the manuscript of Book 4 for the first time since November 30. I like to give myself a break after the month ends in order to clear my head and reward myself a little, and that means that I have to deal with the ambivalence of coming back to the rough, rough draft I left behind.

It’s always equally thrilling and dreadful to look through unedited words I wrote in a hurry. I like to do a quick read-through just to see how I got to wherever I left off without fiddling with anything. Sometimes I see things I really like, or that I forgot I’d written. Sometimes I see new avenues in older words that I can jot down for later. But it takes a great deal of self-control not to stop every two sentences and fix something, or expand something, or cut out great swathes of horrible purple prose that I had crammed in there just to meet my word count for the day.

Why not start editing at this point? Because for me, editing can’t happen until the whole first draft is finished and settled and has a chance to gel in my brain for a lot longer than a fortnight. It’s like waiting for a cake to cool. You might not want to have the patience, but if you try to put the icing on too soon, you’ll just be left with a gooey, half-melted mess that isn’t very appetizing to look at (although the metaphor goes no further, as half-melted cake still tastes delicious).

The first look at the manuscript is about breaking the ice again, and diving back into something that I wasn’t too certain about when November kicked off. It’s about reassuring myself that not everything I wrote is crap – that there are little gems here and there that made that whole month of hard work worthwhile. It brings me back into the story so I can pick up where I left off, and helps me remember that my inner editor can stay locked in her jail cell for a while longer until I get the rest of the words down on that page. After that? She’s got free reign, and rightfully so.

Is taking that first look hard for you, too? Do you give yourself a rest after the deadline, or have you been working this whole time?

Blurb and Ingram are bringing self-published books to real stores

If you’re a self-publishing author, chances are the title of this piece made you sit up and take notice.  You and I both know that the biggest disadvantage indie authors face is a near-total lack of access to the hallowed temples of retail known as “brick-and-mortal bookstores.”  Amazon and iTunes are all very well and good, but if you’re anything like me, you don’t quite feel like you’ve really made it unless you can sneak into your local Barnes and Noble and giggle at seeing your own name peering back at you from the shelf.

Blurb, one of the older and more technologically robust self-publishing services out there, wants to help you solve that gaping hole in your lonely little heart.  They’ve partnered up with Ingram, the master catalogue from which booksellers buy their stock, to list self-published titles created through the Blurb platform.  This significantly smooths out the ordering process for book shops, and authors will even be able to offer discounts to entice purchasing agents to snag a few copies.  Blurb does a significant amount of its business in overseas markets, which means that authors will have a chance to lure in international readers in addition to growing a local following.

Blurb CEO Eileen Gittins is naturally pretty excited about the new service, which coincides with an expansion of its trade book publishing options and an ebook update to one of its design suites. “The elements are now all in place for independent authors to design, market and sell their digital and print books – at a healthy margin – via global distribution to booksellers both online and at retail,” Gittins said in a press release. “It’s a happy day for both Blurb authors and Blurb employees too; delivering this extensive a range of offerings is a big deal for everyone.”

But let’s put aside the feel-good factor for a moment and take a look at some of the cold, hard figures behind all of this.  First of all, we need to consider the market for books.  Where are people buying most of their content?  If you guessed “Amazon,” then you’re right.  The decline and fall of the brick-and-mortar empire isn’t just a go-to topic for bored news site editors with nothing else to say.  It’s a real thing that’s happening.

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Data from Fonerbooks.com

Putting aside the ignoble death of Borders, it’s pretty clear to see that Amazon is doing quite well in the book trade.  Even if independent book store sales match the $4.5 billion that B&N is selling, it’s still safe to say that Amazon has at least as wide a reach as physical locations (and likely much, much more).  If your customers are already on Amazon and they’re passing your book by, you might not be broadening your chances of exposure as much as you think by getting your book on the shelf.

Secondly, you’re going to pay more by printing through Blurb – at least in some circumstances.  The Last Death of Tev Chrisini is a long book, and therefore an expensive one, but let’s use it as an example.  To buy 30 copies of The Last Death from Createspace, its current publisher, I will pay $190 (plus shipping) using my author discount.  For the same number of copies from Blurb, the base manufacturing price is $288.  If I’m just going to take my books and go sell them at a lemonade stand in front of my house, then it’s obvious which publisher offers the better deal.

But if we get a little more mathematical (bear with me), then Blurb doesn’t sound so bad after all.  If I want to list my Blurb book on Ingram, I need to pay that base manufacturing price of $288 (or whatever your book turns out to be).  I also need to add a discount that is steep enough to entice Ingram book buyers to invest in me.  Let’s say that’s 50 percent.  If we use the numbers below…

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…then I’m making a lot more off a Blurb book than I do from Createspace royalties, and the retailer is making about twice as much as I am (assuming they end up selling the book for the suggested $15.00 price).  That sounds good, especially if you’re a book store that isn’t too sure about this whole new-fangled independent publishing malarkey.

So is it worth it?  Assuming my math is right, then maybe so.  If you’re looking for a publishing outlet, you could probably do worse than Blurb (especially if your book caters to international readers, which seems to be a fairly big focus of the announcement).

It may be more meaningful as an abstract: self-publishing if finally breaking through into traditional distribution channels, and the difference between big press publishing and independent authors is even narrower now than it was before.  That’s good news for everyone, including book stores that are struggling to keep their heads above water.  Will more indie publishing platforms follow Blurb’s lead to court Ingram’s vast purchasing reach?  I certainly hope that this is only the beginning.

The pre-publication checklist for indie authors

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Some people say that the hardest part of writing a book is making yourself sit down at the keyboard.  Some say it’s maintaining the commitment to finish your first draft.  Some say the hardest thing is working on that second draft, and then the third, and then the fourth and the fifth as you whittle down your ideas to razor sharpness, honing your message and perfecting those characters that you’ve come to deeply love.

They’re right.

Writing a book, fiction or non-fiction, is pretty torturous.  In a good way, of course.  Right?  Yeah.  But once you’ve gotten all that over with, and saved that final copy of a book you’re proud to put your name on, the really hard part begins.  If you’ve decided to self-publish your work, you’ve made a difficult decision, and one that will require a lot of technical work and some serious know-how if you’re going to pull it off.

To help make things a little bit easier for the novices among you, here is a list of tips for some of the basic tasks you’ll have to complete, including a couple of things you might not have thought about yet.

Picking your self-publishing services

So have you heard of this newfangled company named after some river that’s taking over the digital publishing world?  I think they call themselves Danube or Nile or something.  Amazon?  Oh, yeah.  That’s it.  Turns out they’re a pretty great option for publishing e-books, due to the massive popularity of the Kindle platform, but they’re not the only choice.

Smashwords will distribute your e-book to multiple sales outlets, including the iTunes store, Barnes and Noble, and Kobo Books, without any additional effort from you.  They’re a great option for people who want to branch out as far as possible, and they offer authors some interesting tools to get the word out.

So many formats, so little time.

So many formats, so little time.

When it comes to paperbacks or hardcovers, though, your options expand significantly.  CreateSpace is linked to Amazon and automatically creates an Amazon page listing for you, which is convenient.  Their paperback products are usually high quality and their shipping is quick.  But Lulu lets you do hardbacks, which is also pretty attractive.

Debating the merits of all the different print-on-demand companies out there would take several more blog posts, but here’s the big takeaway: do not engage with companies that try to get you to pay them for Amazon listings, all-in-one design and editing packages with exorbitant hidden fees, or nebulous “marketing packages,” or companies that hand you contracts you don’t understand, make promises about sales numbers, charge more than $10 for an ISBN, or show up on Writer Beware.

Formatting your template

I’m going to focus on CreateSpace for a minute, not because they’re paying me (hah), but because I’m most familiar with their services.  All print publishers will need you to format your work before you can upload it into their magic printing machines, and that takes a bit of finagling.

CreateSpace (and other companies) offers free pre-formatted templates that I love.  They’re special Word documents that have all the headers and margins and front matter plugged in already, and you just have to fill in the blanks.  I actually write my whole book in a template I’ve customized for my press imprint, which saves time down the road when I have to….

Remove hidden markup

This is the worst.  When I wrote my first book, The Last Death of Tev Chrisini, I did it in Google Docs.  Boy, was that a mistake.  I had to go through each and every paragraph, line by line, and change all the “tabs” to actual paragraph breaks, remove all the four-space blocks I used to start new lines, learn how to use page breaks and section breaks and figure out what orphans and widows were and how to kill them.  It was not fun.

It's simple enough to check your work.

It’s simple enough to check your work.

Creating your document within the template in the first place, using a current version of Microsoft Word, can help eliminate some of the time-consuming corrections that hidden markup can require.

Doing battle with the cover creator

I have never cursed and screamed at a computer more than when I’m trying to format the cover of a book.  If you have acquired your cover art from a professional designer, chances are she has formatted the work to meet the dimensions of your book already.  I am jealous.  Because for those of us who do the work ourselves, figuring out exactly what the creator gods want is a frustrating, fuming process.

Do you have any idea how many yearling goats I had to sacrifice to make this happen?

Do you have any idea how many yearling goats I had to sacrifice to make this happen?

Getting the front cover to line up with where the spine starts; getting the back cover centered; making sure the edges aren’t arbitrarily cut off in different places each time you upload an image…I wish I had some concrete tips for you, but the cover creator’s secrets are only accessible to men and women wiser than I.  My best advice: leave a lot of extra time to get this right, and don’t order proofs until you’re absolutely certain that you’re happy with the digital copy.

Choosing your marketing categories

Marketing is far too vast a topic to fully address in such a small space, and to be honest, I’ve never really been very good at it.  I am good, however, at telling you how to optimize your book within Amazon’s categories in order to achieve the most exposure and the most highly targeted audience you can.  Browse through this post explaining how to categorize your book and pick your BISAC categories for some little known secrets that will maximize your chances of getting noticed.

Inspecting the proof copy

Holding your first printed proof in your hands is one of life’s greatest moments.  Your book is real!  You did it!  Yay!  While you might be tempted to log into your account and hit “publish” right away, and then order 100 copies to distribute to your family and friends, I would advise that you do a double-take first.

Does the cover look right?  Is the binding high quality?  Are the pages smooth and uniform?  Did your font come out the way you wanted it to?  How many typos did you miss?  How many formatting errors did you accidently make?

When I get a proof copy, I sit down and read the entire thing aloud.  Seriously.  I read it slowly and carefully (to my less-than-enthused cat) so I can scrutinize every word, fix every missing punctuation mark, and absolutely ensure that each page is perfect.  It takes time, and it might crease your binding, but you need to make sure that everything is totally perfect before you release the beast into the wild.  Trust me, you won’t regret it.

I know I asked for a story before bedtime, but do we have to read all 464 pages?

I know I asked for a story before bedtime, but do we have to read all 464 pages right now?

Letting go

Now you’re ready.  Now you can hit “approve” and let your words soar.  Right?  You’re ready, aren’t you?  I mean, what’s the worst that can happen?  What if people hate it?  What if you get bad reviews?  Or worse, what if no one buys it?  What if your sales dashboards stay glued to “empty” once your friends have grudgingly forked over their money?

Well…that might happen.  It’s certainly happened to me.  All you can do is reassure yourself that giving up is not an option.  Keep surfing those blogs.  Keep asking for reviews.  Keep selling.  Keep writing.  And keep your head up.  Overnight successes are rarely what they seem, and everyone has started out where you are today.  Be confident in the finished product you’ve worked so hard to create, and remember: the best (and worst) thing about the self-publishing journey is that it’s only over when you call it quits.

Gasp!

Horror!  One of you thinks I’m mean and lazy!  Okay, probably a lot more of you think that, but only one of you was brave enough to say it to my face.  Or to my poll…that I created with that answer as an option.

Well, I wasn’t trying to be mean, and it wasn’t pure laziness.  I need to stop making excuses for periodically not having my head on straight, because I’m beginning to think that’s just my default state.  I am naturally bewildered and confused, and my short bursts of lucidity and productivity are the exceptions, not the norm.

However, fall is upon us here in New England, and it’s even more difficult to stay cooped up inside during the beautiful, sunny, golden afternoons than it is in the summer, when the heat can be a deterrent.

I love autumn with a passion, even though I can’t stand anything pumpkin flavored.  I know, I know.  I keep trying to enjoy it, but I just can’t.  Give me some apple cider and a whiff of Thanksgiving, though, and I’m as happy as can be.

On one of these lovely days last week, I went to the zoo.  Why?  Because I felt like it, and it’s a slightly healthier expression of my independent adulthood than having ice cream for breakfast.  Besides, I finally got to see (and take a few quick photos of) the snow leopard, so that was more than worth the price of admission.

Isn’t she lovely?

I was very pleased.  I’m also pleased to be slowly yet continually chipping away at SZK, although I think for NaNoWriMo this year, I really just want to clear my head and write a story that isn’t predestined: one I can just take and run with, like I did with TLDTC.  It’s such a different process, and I really enjoy letting a story go free much, much more than trying to squeeze everything into a plot that’s been half-written already.  I may have mentioned that I was thinking of turning The Earthstepper’s Bargain into a full-length work, so that’s a possibility, or it may be something completely new and different.  Who knows.

So things are still percolating in my little brain, even if they’ve been staying tucked in there for the time being.  I’m also in the middle of helping another project come to life – a poetry volume written by a friend of mine – so stay tuned for an announcement about that in a couple of weeks.  Busy, busy.

I TOLD YOU I WAS BUSY.  NOM NOM NOM.

Friday Fun

Hey, everyone.  I’ve been a little zonked out this week, taking care of some appointments and getting back into the swing of things after my trip, so my apologizes for the lack of hard-hitting, take-your-breath-away blog entries in the past few days.

However, I did promise that the show would go on, and I just figured out how easy it is to make these little poll things, so I thought I’d give it a shot.

This is a question I’ve been thinking about a lot lately, and I know other people have, too.  Without naming any names, we’ve all been aware of the meteoric rise of several franchises that are…shall we say less than pure genius.

They’re crap, in other words.  50 Shades, Twilight, etc.  We know they’re poorly written, of negligible literary and cultural value – and raking in the dough like nobody’s business.

So here’s my question: do you want in?  If you could ONLY have one choice or the other, would you rather write an absolutely amazing, life-changing work of literary genius that makes grown Pulitzer judges cry, but have absolutely no one read it, or churn out a trilogy of tripe and teenage tragedy, but retire at 35?

Vote below, and leave a comment if you feel the burning need to expand further on your answer.