Autumn skies redux

Four years ago I posted about loving this season, so much so that my first website was called November Sky. And then I began publishing Autumn Sky Poetry, and Autumn Sky Poetry DAILY. This year I’m taking a break from publishing and trying to focus on writing and photography. Here are a few of this year’s autumn photos and a poem I wrote in 2005:


Strange Violet Behind Trees

—after Wolf Kahn

The house hides in dusk’s spangled purples.
It’s hard to see such colors, capricious
tones barely there once night has almost
sucked the light from the forest.
And silhouetted trees rear up
as I walk, interrupt the horizon,
their dry leaves muttering imprecations
in the magenta gleam of twilight.

You have gone and I must be careful:
the path has faded to mere shadow
and I can no longer understand
the exuberance of a leaf twisting
in the breeze. How does autumn tangle
everything so elegantly, as when crimson
replaces the decorous sheen of green?
Such willful ambiguity. I walk steadily.
The soft retreat of chlorophyll asks useless
questions. The mother tree sleeps
and misses the violet whoop of fall,
the overlapping dive of it all.

By now night has stolen
twilight’s indescribable glow.
Our house has quietly slid
into an atmospheric blur.
There is nothing more to see.
My darling, the violet has disappeared
and I’m not yet home but I can still feel
the brittle slump of frost behind the trees.


—first published on


Q & A about #editing on Tuesday!


I’m heading to Wegmans this coming Tuesday, March 10 for a fun Q&A session about editing and writing, courtesy of the Lehigh Valley WriMos. Come join us at 5000 Wegmans Dr, Bethlehem, PA 18017, from 6-8pm. Should be interesting. Ask me anything! ‪#‎editing‬ ‪#‎writing‬

We’ll be talking about submissions, editing, and writing.

1. How many different flavors of editor am I?

2. What are my biggest pet peeves when I receive a submission?

3. Is plot important?

4. Why publish poetry when no one reads it anymore?

5. Why do I hate prologues?

6. Why is knowing your audience important?

7. How do you know if a small publisher is legit?

8. Why shouldn’t you design your own book cover?

9. How much money do authors really make?

10. What is head hopping?

11. Are social media and self promotion important?

5 ways to jumpstart inspiration


A lot of people ask me where I get my ideas from for writing. For many years when I was younger, I had trouble with inspiration. Ideas were like birds I could see only in the distance, in a sky I could never reach. Bits of them floated to the ground once in a while—useless, discarded feathers. It wasn’t until I spent more time writing, every day, that the ideas started flocking into my head. I developed some habits that called them to me, like scattering mental birdseed around to draw them in. Here are some of them:

1. Exercise/meditation/hiking: spend some time alone in your head. If you’re like me, sitting around doing nothing may drive you crazy, so I have found that if I do something physical while I’m wandering the pathways of my mind, ideas float into my consciousness with almost no effort.

2. Listen to music: let your favorite melodies calm your brain so that you can relax enough to stop doubting yourself. Doubt kills creativity.

3. Stop and look around: give yourself thirty seconds on the way to your car, or the grocery store, or even just walking down the hallway, to stop and observe one thing with great attention. I tend to watch birds, look for stars, examine snowflakes or flowers in a way that helps my mind create mental pictures. When writing, a good sense of imaginary places is essential. Looking at things develops the ability to envision spaces in your head.

4. Be nice to yourself: stop stopping. Just start writing something, even if you think it sucks. It probably does, but you can always fix it later. Writing is like running: you need to warm up sometimes. And telling yourself that it sucks just reinforces your ability to doubt yourself. Stop that.

5. Skip the depressing things: don’t read the horrible news story, avoid the annoying friend on Facebook, stop watching war movies right before you go to sleep. Sometimes the bad stuff lingers in your psyche and you’re not even aware of it. This is probably my greatest difficulty, but I have been trying to get better at allowing myself to not feel the bad stuff. Don’t let others steal your joy and replace it with misery.


How writing a novel is like running a marathon. Over and over.


It’s fun, and then it’s not, and then the endorphins kick in…

“So you want to be a writer?” How many times have you read those words as a prelude to an essay about being an author? Once? Twice? I bet they all said some variation of this little gem of wisdom: if you’re writing because you want to be rich and famous, forget about it. You need to appreciate the writing itself. Writing is ART (said in a lofty tone).

I think I may have said those words to a few people. I am sorry. The truth is, you DO need to enjoy the writing itself, but the truth also is, I want my books to SELL. I want to make money writing and I want to have a lot of readers. I want to write a bestseller.

Unfortunately, the people who sell the most books and make the most money are composed of less than 1% of the total number of writers in the world. I am not one of them. So, the first statement is still true. If you don’t love the writing itself, you may as well stop and get a job doing IT or something else practical.

Also, writing is difficult. Every time I begin a novel, I’m very excited and I love my characters and my plot, but by the time I hit 10,000 words I want everyone in the novel to die via meteor strike. Why? Because writing a novel is like running a month-long marathon: it’s hard work. It’s a love-hate relationship. I love hating writing. I hate loving writing. I love writing about what I hate. I love writing about what I love. Writers are a little bit crazy.

Another problem I’ve encountered as a writer: your first novel will probably suck. Mine does. It’s embarrassing. The best thing I ever did was write another novel because I got a little better at it. And then I wrote another one. And another one. And another. I didn’t really like the prose in my novels until I’d written ten or so of them. Another way to fix the suckage problem is to let your novel sit around for a year or so (DON’T stop writing in the interim). When you pick it up again, you will think it’s terrible. Revise. When you’ve repeated this process a bunch of times and you finally pick up one of your novels and you don’t hate it, give yourself a lollipop.

Last, remember that writing a novel and selling a novel are TWO TOTALLY DIFFERENT THINGS. If your goal is simply to be published, awesome! You have options. If your goal is to become a working writer: ack. I’m sorry. I’m one of those and it’s kind of, well, totally insane. I mean, why didn’t I decide to become a graffiti artist instead? That would be SO MUCH easier. Why? Because it would be a hobby, not a career, not something I’m trying to use to buy stuff like food and clothes. Here’s a little article that sums it up nicely:

If you still want to be a writer, here are some things I’ve learned along the way. I’ll start with the cool stuff:

– Getting a cover from the publisher is great. This is seriously awesome if your artist is good.
– Getting paid. This is always awesome.
– Getting fan mail or email from a reader or a good review. AWESOME.

Now on to the practicalities:

1. There are a few genres that are selling right now. They are:

erotic romance
young adult
new adult

That’s it. Not sci-fi or fantasy or mystery (unless you’re Dan Brown) or anything else. I try to sneak my favorite categories into romance novels (sci-fi or mystery or suspense). PW agrees with me:

2. Even if you sell a book or two, that doesn’t guarantee that you will keep selling. One of the best writers I’ve ever read sold a bunch of books and then her publisher dropped her because of poor sales and they have the last novel of one of her series in jail and it’s never going to see the light of day (deep breath). Why? Because. No other explanation.

3. To be a successful writer, you not only have to write (run that marathon, over and over), you also have to be lucky. Authors don’t know what’s going to sell next. Even if you write in one of the popular genres right now, you have no guarantee that it will sell. Why? Because. Even the publishers don’t know. Some big publishers throw gobs of money at a new author to promo the work and the book sinks. Some throw no money at a book and it sells like hotcakes. None of us know why.

Look at J.K. Rowling ( she sold a book under a pseudonym and it only sold 1500 copies (that’s considered good sales, by the way). When people found out that she was the author behind “The Cuckoo’s Calling,” it sold way more. She was very lucky to sell as well as she did when she was J.K. Rowling, and then she wrote a book under a pen name and sold hardly any copies, proving how very lucky she was as J.K. Rowling. Same writer, same quality of prose: totally different outcome (at least until readers found out about the deception).

4. It’s easier than ever to get published right now because of the rise of digital readers. That means the market is saturated. This means it’s harder than ever to get published by a large NY publisher. Options if you still want to get published? Small publishers, self-publishing. Remember that getting published is SEPARATE from actually selling a book or sustaining a career. Know why you want to write and plan your life accordingly.

5. If you still want to get published, here are some things to try:
-Get an agent (
-Submit to small publishers who don’t require an agent (mostly erotic romance publishers)
-Self-publishing (Amazon KDP)
-Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award (ABNA)

6. Read up on the business:
-Scalzi’s blog:
-Absolute Write Forums: (check for scam publishers and iffy contracts)
Dear Author news posts:
How to submit queries to agents:

7. If you have no support system (i.e. a girlfriend/boyfriend/mother/dog etc.) to take care of you as you suffer the inevitable rejections x1000 you will go crazy. The only other option is to be very VERY certain you want to be a writer. Like, obsessed and neurotic and totally single-minded about it. Having a support system AND being totally obsessed is the best way to be a writer.

8. You must write fast. The reality of the market today is that publishers and readers want their books NOW and then they want the next book TOMORROW. They also want them CHEAP (I am a reader and I am totally guilty of this). It used to be that authors would publish a book every year, or maybe every two years. Some really lucky authors can still do this, but most of us know that we need to produce a lot more than that in order to make any money.

I know people who have signed contracts to write a book every month. I even know people who write a novel every two weeks. I can write a book in one month, but I have no idea how the people who write one every week or so manage that feat of super-human brilliance. Maybe drugs? Electroshock?

The reason authors need to produce more, faster and cheaper, is that the market is saturated. The market is saturated because of digital readers and the rise of self-publishing. This tightens competition, especially because the NY publishers are no longer completely in charge. I know someone out there understands the basic market economy of this better than I do, but the results are still the same: write fast.

9. Craft mechanics – what the publishers I’ve worked with look for:

– No head-hopping. This used to be okay, but most publishers strictly forbid it now.
– Avoid ellipses, colons, semi-colons, etc. No, I am not joking. Some publishers are okay with creative punctuation, some are not. You can use them, but it’s best if you know how to say the same thing without them, because you may be asked to revise them out of your prose.
– No first person POV. This was popular a decade ago—not so much right now.
– Dialogue tags should be few and boring. “He said,” “she said,” is the best way to go. Anything creative gets flagged by editors. Even better is to skip them entirely and let your character’s actions stand in for the dialogue tag. ““Are you sure?” Emily scratched her forehead, puzzled.”
– Avoid passive voice when possible. (Passive voice was avoided by all. LOL, I couldn’t resist.)
– Avoid filter words (He felt his whole body seize up with fear. VS Terror rushed through him.)
– Use past tense; it’s easiest for readers to absorb. When was the last time you read a book in present tense?
– Don’t repeat the same words over and over and over. Use your word processor to find your bad habits.
– Keep your chapters around 5000 words or less. In the era of twitter, readers get fatigued much easier. Also, ain’t nobody got time for that (reading). It’s easier to put a book down and pick it back up again if your chapters are tight.
– Do NOT kill off your main character in a sequel. Many publishers have contracts which explicitly forbid this. I know what you’re thinking: so-and-so did this and she is very much still arguing in interviews that it was the right thing to do, but honestly, have you seen the fan-rage all over the internet about it? Have you seen the scathing reviews of her third novel? Personally, I would not want to face that. I would like to keep writing more books.
– Know in which genre you are writing, for what audience. Do not end a romance tragically (that is technically a horror novel). Romance novels must have a happily ever after ending. Horror novels usually contain gore. A female romance reader (30-60ish) will probably not enjoy a romance novel where the hero dies at the end. On the other hand, if she’s reading a memoir, a dead hero would be okay, as long as the narrative shows how the main character survived the death. In suspense and mystery: kill off everyone you want except for your main character. In fact, I’m having a hard time trying to think of a genre where it’s okay to kill your main character… maybe literary fiction? Hmm.

10. Social media: do have a website, Facebook account, Twitter handle, etc. The flip side is DO NOT EVER ENGAGE TROLLS. Do not respond to reviews (good or bad, but especially bad). Do not argue with readers. NO NO NO. And DO NOT EVER buy a good review on your own book, post a good review on your own book, or take pics of your junk and post it on the interwebz. Just… no.

Also, do not let your relatives post nasty commentary on other writer’s sites/reviews/etc. If your significant other starts ranting about your competitor’s ugly face on his/her book reviews or websites or twitter, you’re going to regret not stopping that disaster before it turns into the SHITSTORM that ATE YOUR CAREER.

11. Contracts: read them carefully. Do NOT EVER sign away your copyright.

12. Do not plagiarize. Ever. Never ever. The internet peeps will ALWAYS FIND OUT and you will go down in flames while we all snicker at you for not being able to write your own stuff. Also, it’s just not cool.

13. Do promo (advertising, word-of-mouth, etc.). Don’t spend too much money on it. Post your book info to your website, twitter, etc. Buy some small ads ($5-$50). I’ve done everything from free promo to buying ads that cost $400. After several years, my data suggests that luck is more important than throwing money at the promo problem. Writing in a popular genre is also helpful. I sold more of my first book, for which I did no promo, than any of my other books. Why? Because it happened to be in a category in the romance genre that people like to buy.

Also, realize that doing promo SUCKS BIG TIME if you are an introvert (like so many writers are). I hate doing promo. I love being alone and daydreaming. Promo is the OPPOSITE of that. I really don’t want to talk about how awesome my book is. I want a reader to buy it and love it and then post a review online about how awesome my book is so I don’t have to talk about how awesome it is. I’d rather be home alone. Daydreaming. Or writing my next book.

14. Money stuff – here are some rough guidelines:

Do not expect an advance. From small publishers, it’s rare. From big NY publishers, advances are becoming increasingly smaller and are sometimes nonexistent these days as they begin to change their contracts to reflect the digital market. Royalties in the small ebook publishing market can be anywhere from 30-55% of the net price of a digital or print-on-demand book (gross minus the % taken by distributors). Some print royalties are still only 6% of the net (the traditional figure before all this e-reader craziness hit the market). If you get an advance, remember that you will not receive royalties until the sales make up the difference for your publisher (depending on your contract).

Expect to get paid on time, every three months, from your publisher. Expect royalties from third-party distributors to arrive six months after your book is published. If this doesn’t happen, jump ship (if your contract allows it).

15. You must pay taxes on your royalties. You are self-employed.

16. Run away from publishers that expect you to pay THEM for editing and cover art or if they expect you to do those things yourself (In the commercial fiction world of novel-writing. In the poetry world, well, all bets are off).

17. You will receive no real-time data about book sales. Unless you self-publish (and even then it’s an iffy thing), you will have no idea how many books you are selling. The only way to tell is via book rankings on third-party sites and since they tend to change their algorithms every few months (yes, Amazon plays god with the market), you can’t really rely on those figures either. The only time you know what you’ve actually sold is when you get your royalty statement.

Some big publishers are changing this for their authors, but most of the time it’s like using a ouija board to figure out what you’re selling:

(This makes promotion nearly impossible, which makes me cry. Sometimes I slam doors. Depends on the day.)

18. If you publish a book, especially in a popular genre, people will download it off the internet and give it away for free. Yes, this is illegal in most of the world. No, there’s not much you can do about it. What are your options?

– You can send a DMCA takedown notice ( Most sites ignore those.
– You can ask Google to take down the page that has the pirated link to your book. This is of limited value since most people who pirate books don’t need Google to find the files. (
– You can use a service like Muso ( to send DMCAs for you. This is not free.

19. Word count: I tend to keep most of my novels around the 50-60,000 word length. I also write novellas which can be anywhere from 18,000 to 30,000. Why? Because most of my publishers set the price for novels based on length. Most readers will not buy a book that is over $5-6 dollars. The moment you go over 60,000 words, the price goes up and no one will buy the novel (unless you’re Justin Bieber), OR the publisher sets the price of their novels to cap at $6. Writing more words means you’ve done far more work than you need to for the amount of money you will get back in royalties.

Expect your readers to complain about how short your novel is, especially if it’s shorter than 60,000 words. Most of the time it’s because they liked it and they’re sad it’s over, but sometimes they’re pissed because they believe they’ve been ripped off. I empathize with the readers because I am a reader, too.

20. If you’re writing romance, use a female pen name. If you’re writing suspense, sci-fi, or mystery, use a male pen name. I know male romance writers and female suspense writers, and they use different pen names for different genres. The market says that only dudes are good at sci-fi and only women are good at romance. It’s sexist and stupid, but it’s reality (with a few exceptions).

21. Why listen to me? I’ve been a working writer in different capacities for many years. I’ve done technical writing (for big and small companies), proofreading, editing (textbooks, poetry, etc.). In the past three and a half years, I’ve written and sold twenty-two novels under various pen names in various genres. Oh, and I’ve also written four poetry chapbooks. I am not a best-seller (in the Elizabeth Gilbert meaning of the word), but I’ve sold okay. I am not famous. I am not rich. I am what people used to call a mid-(okay low)-list writer. I also don’t know everything, not by a long shot. I still feel like a beginner writer (and compared to some authors, I am very much still a beginner).

Despite all the crapola that goes along with writing, I can’t seem to give it up. If you can’t either, GOOD LUCK and welcome to the club!

Autumn skies and nostalgia

As some of you know, I first appeared on the internet years ago with a website called November Sky.

November Sky website updated

That was the first incarnation of my voice on the web. Several years later, I followed that by publishing Autumn Sky Poetry.  I posted a lot of leaf pictures on that site:

What’s up with the sky theme you may ask? Truth is, autumn has always been my favorite season. The cold kills pollen, bugs, and various molds so I can breathe again. When I was a child, we had no allergy medications so I grew up looking forward to the leaves changing and a brisk wind heralding winter.

Autumn Sky Poetry 15, the Art Issue—now live!

What’s not to like about this season? This year, I managed to get outside more than usual, thanks to my homemade depression/anxiety treatment (yeah, having my kid go away to college has been stressful). I’ve been hiking. A LOT. Why? Because this is what I get to see when I go out into the woods:

IMG_2757  IMG_2735

IMG_2744  IMG_2746

Of course, daytime is not the only reason I love autumn. Here’s the best way I could think of to describe dusk when the cold seeps into our lives once again. I wrote this in 2005:

Strange Violet Behind Trees

—after Wolf Kahn

The house hides in dusk’s spangled purples.
It’s hard to see such colors, capricious
tones barely there once night has almost
sucked the light from the forest.
And silhouetted trees rear up
as I walk, interrupt the horizon,
their dry leaves muttering imprecations
in the magenta gleam of twilight.

You have gone and I must be careful:
the path has faded to mere shadow
and I can no longer understand
the exuberance of a leaf twisting
in the breeze. How does autumn tangle
everything so elegantly, as when crimson
replaces the decorous sheen of green?
Such willful ambiguity. I walk steadily.
The soft retreat of chlorophyll asks useless
questions. The mother tree sleeps
and misses the violet whoop of fall,
the overlapping dive of it all.

By now night has stolen
twilight’s indescribable glow.
Our house has quietly slid
into an atmospheric blur.
There is nothing more to see.
My darling, the violet has disappeared
and I’m not yet home but I can still feel
the brittle slump of frost behind the trees.


Education does not necessarily equal learning…

…nor does it always confer a love of reading. I’ve ruminated on this particular subject for many years, probably because my 5-6th grade teacher was so very BAD at her job. I went to an elementary school so small it had double classrooms—in other words, fifth and sixth grade was smooshed together and the total number of students equaled maybe twenty per classroom.

Anyway, I remember feeling very betrayed when I got to fifth grade, because my 3-4th grade teacher was so very GOOD at her job. I had no idea until that moment that adults could totally suck at their jobs. It was a harsh awakening. I was a straight-A student and when I hit fifth grade, I had every expectation that this would continue. It did, but not because of my teacher, and not because I worked harder than before. It was mostly because I was genetically gifted with the ability to absorb information.

My teacher, for the first time in my life, actively disliked me. As an adult, it gradually dawned on me that she probably disliked me because I was so very bright and wasn’t afraid to show it. At that age, I had no filter. I said whatever the hell I thought (I must admit, I have backslid into that mode of behavior recently, with intention). I’m sure I must have been belligerent or just disdainful towards her (it seems to run in the family).

The lesson I learned from those years, though, was this: school can totally suck.

I mean, I knew it before… I was bullied. But the learning always made up for the misery. I loved cracking open new textbooks. I loved reading. Until fifth grade, I thought that would continue for always. It didn’t. Instead, I learned that learning on my own was way more fun than learning in school. Books became my solace, and have continued to transport me throughout my life.


Recently, my son has run up against this same wall. He’s trying to figure out why his high school and earlier schools did not really prepare him for having to write a paper in college. For some reason, the education system seems to think that PowerPoint presentations and projects with colored pencils are the way to teach writing. Sure, he had to write a little—the standard five paragraph paper complete with outline, but there was not very much practice with writing the way I remember it from my days in high school. He’s wondering why he feels like a widget in an education factory.

Perhaps I’m remembering wrong. Perhaps no school can ever teach the basics and we’re all just fooling ourselves. I know that most states and our federal government seem to fall short of creating a consistent curriculum for every school. I know that some great teachers manage to teach well, but mostly DESPITE the standard curriculum. They have to teach around all the required testing. Mediocre teachers drone on and on at the head of the classroom while the students die of boredom in their seats.

My gut tells me the heart of the problem lies in two things: we treat our teachers badly (poor pay, district politicking, standardized tests, etc.), and we assume that every child can be a star. The truth is, some kids are better at building things with their hands. Some are great at math, but suck at reading. Some are fantastic writers, but struggle with word problems. People have different talents and intelligence levels. When did we start assuming that everyone would be good at the same things? I find that confounding.

We need to stop assuming that access to public education means everyone will be brilliant at everything. Broad access to education was meant to create a literate society. It has done this, for the most part, barring poverty-stricken districts (my grandparents had an 8th grade level education—their parents were mostly illiterate). We also need to remember that the US is composed of wildly disparate individuals and cultures. We are not Japan or Finland or China. We are not a homogenous society. This creates challenges that no one else in the world faces. We’ve done okay. We can do better, I’m sure. However, the biggest issue for me personally is this: education does not necessarily equal learning.

I have spent my entire life fighting against the drudgery of school in order to convince my children that learning itself is cool, even if school sucks. This has been an uphill battle. Why? Because they spend most of their lives in a classroom, just as adults spend theirs working. It’s hard to separate learning from school when the majority of your time is spent there. Perhaps this is yet another lesson everyone must figure out on their own. I’m not certain. What I find most confusing, however, is this: I grew up in a depressed area, going to poor schools. Why are my kids so much more disillusioned with education than I was, when they had the opportunity to go to “good” schools with lots of district money?

I think it’s because when I was growing up, great teachers didn’t have as much oversight, and so they were able to do a much better job at teaching. The flip side is that the bad teachers I had also had much less oversight, and created much more damage. Our society has decided that it’s better to limit the good teachers and force the bad ones into the same track, thereby averaging everything out.

Which is the better way? I have no idea, so I think I’m going to go read a book now. I bet I learn something.

Music and Noveling: the (not so) hidden secrets of writerly rituals


Many writers, when asked, claim that they listen to music while writing.

“It puts me in the right frame of mind,” one will say. “I use it to keep myself motivated,” another insists.

Some people start off their novels with some easy listening: a few delicious love songs, maybe the latest pop ear-candy tune. Others begin with death metal… they’re writing a horror and really, you can’t drop into that kind of narrative riding the waves of elevator musak, right?

I am not one of those writers.

I can’t listen to music at all while writing. It distracts me. I can’t handle the gobs of words heading for my auditory sensors—not and type coherent sentences. However, that doesn’t mean music has no influence on me at all. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Music is an incredibly useful tool when it comes to writing: it’s inspiration, motivation, relaxation, and illumination all rolled together into one nifty package. During the writing of Disintegrate, just before I put fingers to keyboard, I played a song that best expressed the atmosphere of the chapter I was working on. As a result, I have a fantabulous mix of music for the entire book.

Curious? Here is the list—there’s a song for every chapter:


Chapter One: Sit Down, Stand Up (Snakes & Ladders) by Radiohead
Chapter Two: The Time Is Now by Moloko
Chapter Three: Caught a Long Wind by Feist
Chapter Four: Little by Little by Radiohead
Chapter Five: Driven to Tears by Sting
Chapter Six: Runaway Train by Brandon Boyd
Chapter Seven: Trap Doors by Broken Bells
Chapter Eight: Don’t Blow It by Cliff Martinez
Chapter Nine: Sad by Maroon 5
Chapter Ten: Love Come by Sarah McLachlan
Chapter Eleven: Breathe Again by Sara Bareilles
Chapter Twelve: I Need to Know by Kris Allen
Chapter Thirteen: Somebody That I Used to Know by Gotye
Chapter Fourteen: Trespassing by Adam Lambert
Chapter Fifteen: Closing In by Imogen Heap
Chapter Sixteen: The End of the Game by Sting
Epilogue: Lights by Ellie Goulding

Five reasons our new car is so awesome

or — First World Problems and Their Ridiculous Solutions:

Scion FR-S

1. It is pretty — I know you’re not supposed to judge a book by its cover, or a woman by how she looks, but come on. It’s a car, not a book or a person. It’s a gorgeous blue. It’s got curves. It’s fun to look at from the inside and the outside. Did I mention the red stitching on the steering wheel?

2. It has a manual transmission — I learned how to drive a stick eighteen years ago on a Chevy Cavalier.

It was traumatic. At one point I remember being so frustrated over stalling the car over and over that I left it running, door open, in the middle of the road and walked home (the husband rescued the car, don’t worry). I used to have to put on the parking break when I stopped at a light on a hill because I sucked so bad at getting it into first gear. However, there’s a happy ending: I learned how to drive manual and now I can truly enjoy driving this car.

3. It’s zippy — My usual driving car, a Pacifica, is really nice, but it’s also really heavy.

It’s supposed to be. We use it to haul crap around (groceries, teens, bicycles, trees, etc.). It’s also very comfy. One thing it isn’t? Fast. It takes a bit to get from 0 to 55 mph. That’s fine. It’s good enough for merging onto the interstate. The new car, however, is much faster and it’s balanced so beautifully it’s a joy to drive. Even though the engine isn’t as large as you’d think, it’s such a little car that it can go from 0 to whatever pretty darn fast. \o/

4. I was able to freak out my 18 year old son — Let’s be honest here… usually it’s the teen who freaks out the parent. I spent the last year teaching him how to drive. There were many moments of me reaching for the imaginary break pedal on the passenger’s side of the car. I think I may have put finger indentations into the plastic door handle from gripping it too hard, completely terrified.

This car is my way of saying to him: thank you for the stress. Here is what it feels like. *insert evil laugh here*

5. It makes us happy — Right after college, the husband and I test drove a Mitsubishi Eclipse.

Yes, this was during the recession of 1991, you remember that one, right? When all us college graduates nearly starved to death because we couldn’t get a job? Our expectations regarding how much money we would be able to make were a little, um, shall we say, exaggerated. We ended up keeping the Datsun. For years.

Anyway, we watched almost everyone we know get the vehicle they always wanted (Camaro, Mustang, BMW, giant pickup, motorcycle, etc.) while we waited because we had to save for the kids’ college fund and pay insane medical bills and repair annoying things (like toilets and washing machines).

To those frustrating years I say: screw all that. You’ll have to pry this car away from my dead body.

Paranoia: my bff



Every week, on average, one of the writers on my various social networking feeds howls in horror. Why? Because they’ve lost all their work. Their hard drive failed because:

  1. computers suck like that
  2. they spilled coffee on their laptop
  3. the cat peed on their computer
  4. their toddler dumped their netbook into the toilet/tub/kitchen sink
  5. their laptop was stolen
  6. they dropped their device and it shattered

I’m totally serious.

What lesson can we learn from this? Yes. You guessed it: paranoia is your friend (in simpler terms: back your shit up).

A long time ago I used to worry about my house catching fire (long before the era of smart phones and freaking cloud computing). Everything I wrote was on scraps of paper and inside notebooks. Most of it was/is drivel and not worth saving (give me a break, I was ten years old), but I still worried about what I would do if everything spontaneously erupted in a ginormous fireball of horribleness and smoke.

What do you get when you add a childhood fear of fire to my weekly feed of lost-my-writing laments?

A writer who backs up all of her stuff obsessively.

I have five different backups.


Okay, okay, maybe seven.

I backup to an extra hard drive connected to my computer. I back up weekly to a separate extra hard drive. I back up daily to an internet back up service. I copy stuff to a flash drive when the mood strikes (which is about every two days). I backup my laptop work to my desktop and vice versa. I use a cloud service to sync my work from my laptop to my desktop to my phone and there’s a backup built into that. Last, I have a tendency to email myself stuff.

I have never lost my work.

I know I’m just asking for it, putting that out there in plain text, but it’s true. My hard drive failed a little while ago. I knew it was failing, so before I took it in to get it replaced, I made yet ANOTHER back up of my entire hard disk to an extra drive we had lying around (my husband is a geek, so yeah, we have random computer equipment all over the place).

All I can say is THANK THE UNIVERSE I did that. Because the new hard disk did NOT work properly without a lot of flinging of obscenities into the air and wiping of the drive and other crap I still don’t understand.

Dear everyone I know: back your stuff up. I always feel so bad for you when I read your cries on the internet. It makes me cry, too.

How to break everything electronic


For the first time in my life, I managed to make enough money writing to buy myself a new computer (mostly because I didn’t have to buy food with the money). I didn’t need a new computer. I have a perfectly awesome desktop computer which has served me well (an iMac): namely, it enabled my writing, which enabled my ability to buy its smaller and sleeker sibling-a MacBook Air.

The laptop is incredible. I love it. It’s going to help me write more stuff, more often, more places, which is cool.

What’s not cool is the hideous technology fail in which I unwittingly embroiled my husband and I this weekend. See, I’ve been using computers since 1987. This means that not only do I have a million email accounts, I also have two Apple IDs. This has been driving me crazy for years. This weekend we tried to merge them (an impossibility, but moving all my shit to one iCloud/Apple ID was possible). It all went pretty smoothly, until our calendars refused to share.

My husband, who is an extremely awesome dude, spent several hours on the phone with Apple’s customer support. Now, you must understand, my husband DESIGNS software/hardware for a living. Usually, he makes electronic devices beg for mercy when they give us trouble, but this problem refused to go belly up. After hours on the phone and countless insane attempts at stabbing in the dark, we left the Apple folks stymied. They think it is a bug in iCloud and have passed on all our data to their engineers who will debug the issue.

Let me reiterate: I broke Apple’s iCloud.

They will be calling us back after they reprogram the world.

Anyway, through all this, I have to admit, Apple’s support was top-notch. They didn’t assume we had no idea how to turn on our stuff. They didn’t assume we broke our stuff by pouring coffee on it. They ASKED MY HUSBAND for advice about password storage. So, you know, that was kind of funny.

I still love my new laptop. Or netbook. Or ultra-whatever-the-heck you want to call it. I’m sitting on my dining room sofa composing this post and it’s cool, so, it’s doing its job brilliantly. My neck thanks me.