To Do List

  • Grocery shopping for our house/dog sitter. I'm thinking pizza rolls, cookies, frozen pizzas, ice cream, chips, and pop. Healthy, right? Hey, he's eighteen. I don't think he's concerned with calorie counting.
  • Laundry. I'll probably need all of tonight, tomorrow and Sunday to get caught up. If there is such a thing.
  • I should probably wash the bedding, clean the bathrooms, and give the floors a once over. Doesn't that sound like fun?
  • Pack my clothes.
  • Pack the boys' clothes.
  • Charge the electronics. Five hours or more on the train will require a significant amount of battery life.
  • And just in case the batteries die, I'd better stuff books, paper and pens into one of the carry-ons.
  • Make sure Ken has the train tickets and hotel info.
  • Find tripod.
I'm sure there's a few more things I'll think to add to that list between now and Monday. It's a good start, though!

Getting Ready for Vacation

We leave Monday. Bright and early Monday morning, to be exact, because we're boarding the Amtrak at 7:00 a.m. I've never been on the Amtrak. Neither have my boys.

In fact, this vacation is all about firsts for my boys.

It'll be the first time they've taken a train.
It'll be the first time they've visited Chicago.
It'll be the first time they've sampled Chicago-style pizza.
It'll be the first time they've swam in a roof-top pool.
It'll be the first time they've walked along Navy Pier, visited the exhibits at the Field Museum and the Museum of Science and Industry, and walked through Shedd's Aquarium.

Since I plan on taking a gazillion pictures of all these firsts, the boys wardrobe had to be freshened up a bit. Okay, a lot. Growing boys are hard on their clothes! The shirts and shorts I bought at the beginning of the summer are looking a tad bit rough. There are stains. There are holes. There are more stains.

I think they roll around in the grass. And smear their lunch and dinner on every clothed body part. Who needs napkins, right?

Because the boys are so hard on their clothes, the stuff we just bought is off limits until next week.

Okay, I admit. There's one more reason I'm keeping their dirty little hands far away from their new stuff. Family portraits. I couldn't manage them in Caseville like I had hoped, so I'm planning on taking the tripod along with us and getting some frame-worthy shots in the city parks. We'll need unstained clothes for that little adventure, too.

And sunshine.

I think I'm going to cross my fingers now.

Meeting Sigler

A couple of years ago I started listening to a podcasted novel called Nocturnal. I have to admit, I was just as entertained by the author as I was the story he was narrating. Scott Sigler made me laugh.

He was also doing something I found quite daring. He was defying the publishing gurus and gatekeepers by giving away his work for free. Even more intriguing, he was succeeding in a big way. His fans - or junkies as they're called- responded to his call for action and managed to score him the #2 position on Amazon for his print novel, Infected. This gained him some attention and soon enough he had signed with Crown Publishing.

He's now a New York Time's best-selling novelist. One who continues to make his work available to the masses through free podcasts.

I must admit, I'm in awe of this guy. He has skills.

So when one of my hubby's high school friends contacted us about attending a book signing down in Royal Oak, I was interested. I was also worried I would miss it because I had to work that morning and make time afterward for an open house. Add on the time if would take me to get from here to there, and I knew my chances of making it to Barnes & Noble were slim.

Luckily, this friend of ours had connections. She had gone to college with Scott and assured us it would be okay to just meet up with them at the bar.

I'm glad I took her up on the offer. Even happier that the hubby allowed her twist his arm and he ended up joining us for the evening. If he had opted to stay home, I'm certain things would not have played out the same way.

After getting my booked signed, the hubby and I sat down with our dear friend and chatted. Eventually, Scott and some of his childhood and college friends joined us.

Ancestor: A Novel

Now, before I tell you how I likely managed to make a complete fool out of myself, I must admit there were a couple of things working against me here. First, I'd had a late lunch, which means I wasn't hungry. Second, we were at a sit-down bar. And it was muggy hot. This unfortunate combination would have consequences.

With any luck, though, Scott and his old friends didn't find my martini-induced idiocy to be too painful an experience. Because, my friends, it is a bad idea to sit down with people you don't know very well and drink way too much, especially when said people make you feel like you've known them forever.

My eyes look focused in this picture, which I think this is a good sign. The first impression might not have been as unkind as the last. I remember at one point during the night I could not remember the name Deidre, had a hard time spitting out the word "self-promotion", and likely laughed a little too loud.

The biggest surprise of the night - other than the fact that for the first time EVER I was actually sick from overindulgence - was that once Scott found out I was a writer, he was determined to talk to me about the writing. Not just any writing, though. He wanted to talk about my writing.

To start with, he asked me to give him my elevator pitch. This was a colossal fail. Instead of dismissing me as a hopeless hack, though, he gave me some solid advice. Get my pitch together and practice it on my boys. If I can get some kind of positive feedback from them, then I'm ready for the agent or editor at the next Con.

He also called me out for being modest. Instead of declaring myself the best thing "evah", I must have said something more along the lines of "I'm okay". Seconds after those words - or something like them - passed my lips, our conversation looked something like this....

After a little bit coaching, we moved on to the next topic.

Rejections. He wanted to know how many I had. When I said two, he told me he couldn't take me seriously as a writer until I had at least 100 rejections. Now, some people may have been offended by this, but I get it. Collecting rejections shows determination and belief in the product you're trying to sell. Lucky for me, I already have two! Although, I wonder now if I'm supposed to count the simple form rejections that don't provide any individual or thoughtful feedback because I normally don't. If that's the case, I need to go through my e-mail because I might have 7 or 8 rejections total on this latest novel.

Either way, I've got a long way to go.

Now whether the offer was sincere or not, I appreciate the fact that, if I begin to flounder at 50, he offered to give me another pep talk. I would call him a sweetie for the offer, but I think that might ruin his rep as the Evil Overlord.

What I will say instead is that the man is passionate about writing and doesn't humor any excuses.

It's an attitude I need to adopt and make my own. No more excuses. No more wimping out. If I really want this, I need to go after it with everything I've got and know that I'm strong enough to handle any rejection that comes my way.

Thank you, Scott, for challenging me.

According to "I Write Like.."

I write like
Stephen King

I Write Like by Mémoires, Mac journal software. Analyze your writing!

If only the agents I've been querying would agree! Of course, they'd totally have to let go of the whole "horror writer" thing and settle for a paranormal romance writer/fantasy writer instead. But still. Stephen King. I could get used to his level of success.

Now, because I figure you have nothing better to do, go get your writing analyzed!

A Meme. Because I'm Waiting on Pictures From Saturday.

Okay, so I have a story to tell you, but I really want the visual aids. Although, I may change my mind after I actually have a chance to look at the pictures. We'll see.

So, in the interest of giving my readers something to read, here's a meme. As an English major, I'm thinking I should have better answers, but whatever.

1) What author do you own the most books by?
Anne McCaffery, Johanna Linsdsey, Dean Koontz, Melanie Rawn, Terry Goodkind, Nora Roberts, and Jacqueline Carey.

2) What book do you own the most copies of?
The dictionary.

3) Did it bother you that both those questions ended with prepositions?
Only a little.

4) What fictional character are you secretly in love with?
Collan from Rawn's Exiles or James Mallory from Lindsey's Mallory family series.

5) What book have you read the most times in your life (excluding picture books read to children; i.e., Goodnight Moon does not count)?
Oh, my. I tend to re-read a lot of books. Let's see...I guess I'd have to say Rawn's Dragon Prince and Dragon Scroll books. Or the Coldfire Trilogy by C. S. Friedman.

6) What was your favorite book when you were ten years old?
Harriet the Spy.

7) What is the worst book you’ve read in the past year?
My Lit Theory textbook. It was painful.

9) If you could force everyone you tagged to read one book, what would it be?

10) Who deserves to win the next Nobel Prize for Literature?
No idea.

11) What book would you most like to see made into a movie?
That's a difficult question. Few movies live up to the books they were based on or inspired by.

12) What book would you least like to see made into a movie?
See question 11.

13) Describe your weirdest dream involving a writer, book, or literary character.
I sometimes dream my own characters. Is that weird?

14) What is the most lowbrow book you’ve read as an adult?
I don't like this question.

15) What is the most difficult book you’ve ever read?
Moby Dick. For some reason, I am unable to get past page 3.

16) What is the most obscure Shakespeare play you’ve seen?
I’ve never seen a Shakespeare play.

17) Do you prefer the French or the Russians?
Well, I've read War & Peace and I have Anna Karenina on my list. Although, let me be honest, it's been so long since I've read War & Peace I'm not even sure it counts any more. However, I can't think of a single classic French author I've read or have on my TBR shelf, so it looks like the Russians win.

18) Roth or Updike?
Updike, I suppose.

19) David Sedaris or Dave Eggers?

20) Shakespeare, Milton, or Chaucer?
I know the right answer is probably Shakespeare, but after watching a Knight's Tale, I can't help but to think I'm missing out on Chaucer.

21) Austen or Eliot?
Austen. Although, I must admit that's only because I've watched the movies, not because I've read the books. Those are on the list of someday reads.

22) What is the biggest or most embarrassing gap in your reading?
Considering I'm an English major who's more into genre than Literature, I guess I'd have to say the classics are an embarrassing gap.

23) What is your favorite novel?
I have several favorites.

24) Play?
Phantom of the Opera.

25) Poem?
Fuck by Kim Addonizio.

26) Essay?
I enjoy reading essays on writing.

27) Short story?
A good fairytale or fable - original or re-envisioned.

28) Work of nonfiction?
Hm. I have several nonfiction books on my shelves that I use for research. Right now...I'm digging into Ancient Egyptian mythology and more practical tidbits on daily living.

29) Who is your favorite writer?
Me. And a few others.

30) Who is the most overrated writer alive today?
Hey, just because I don't like their work, it doesn't mean they're overrated.

31) What is your desert island book?
Whichever one I have on me when the plane crashes or the boat washes up on shore...

32) And … what are you reading right now?
Cat Magic by Whitley Strieber.

The Holiday Weekend

Believe it or not, it's taken me three days to get this post up! It took that long to upload the photos.

Just a few random pictures there of us chillin' under the camper awning. We were on a really small site this time, but it actually worked out perfectly. The awning brushed against the leaves of the cedar and maple trees bordering out little lot. This setup didn't seem ideal at first, but then we realized between the awnings and the trees, we were in perpetual shade. Considering how hot the weekend turned out to be, this was a blessing.

This was a blessing of sorts, too. What goes better with 100 degree weather than spiked fruit?

Of course, the kids couldn't eat any of the fruit or drink the vodka/fruit punch mix, so we treated them to hand-dipped ice cream. Once. Because you would not believe me if I told you those three cones you see? Twelve dollars.

We could have bought two half-gallon pails for that!

Of course, being on the shore of one of the Great Lakes, we had other ways to cool off. Our beach, while beautifully groomed, had an unattractive ribbon of sludge along the shoreline. So we decided to try one of the beaches just up the road from our campground.

It just so happens this beach was across the road from where my side of the family (brother and sister-in-law, and their four kids; my dad and his new wife; my cousin, her husband, and their two kids) were staying. I grabbed my two oldest nephews and took them to the beach with us. About a half-hour later everyone else joined us, too.

Of course, this beach had a serious drawback, too. While the sludge hadn't made it this far up the shoreline, this beach could boast of some seriously sharp rocks! After my initial attempt to wade out to the distant sand bar, I returned to the hot sands and put on my el-cheapo Crocs. They protected my feet and allowed me to navigate without too much trouble. Unfortunately, the boys couldn't do the same. The picture above is my attempt to save their little soles from further punishment. Because I'm a wimp, I had to drop one on the sand bar and settle for giving them each a piggyback ride back up to the beach.

In addition to eating junk food, drinking, and playing at the beach, we also had our annual community potluck with our fellow campers (Ken's family and family-in-laws). The food was awesome. What else can I say?

Before leaving to head back home there was one thing we still hadn't done. The go-karts. After packing up most of the camper stuff, we grabbed the kids and went uptown to let them have a few spins around the track.

As you can see, we had a great time! I hope your weekend was just as enjoyable!