OK, no we didn’t. We talked about it because Regan Black’s cats keep hiding stuff under there. But we didn’t really have a second bucket… or motivation. If the cats are dumb enough to put their toys under the fridge, they don’t really need them.
For all of you currently scratching your heads, it’s Writer’s Weekend. That wonderful weekend when I get together with my best friends and we talk writing, and eat and drink, and get caught up on everything, and eat and drink, and cackle and spew coffee on the laptops, and eat and drink, and you get the idea.
These women don’t freak out when they find out I’ve never done a tequila shot. The give me a silent look of “what rock did you crawl out from under,” grab a lime and another shot glass and that’s that.
I’m fairly sure this is what sorority sisters do when they get together. Maybe not. We talk A. Lot. about writing. We talk about our characters as if they’re real people, we lust after Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, and a bunch of other hot men, and we all eat things we shouldn’t. For me, that’s pretty much every food on the planet, including the two donuts I had for breakfast.
Leave me alone. If you can’t have Iron Man for breakfast, donuts are a close second.
This morning I got up and Regan looked at me and said, “When are you giving up the fight and walking on the beach. You know you’ll feel better.” Which is just one of the many reasons I love these women. They get me.
Normally, I don’t fight the call of the beach. But it’s Memorial. Day. Weekend. And the beach is 30 minutes away. So going to the beach is a production. Unless it’s 8:15 am. Then it’s really easy to park in the parking meter area, walk the beach for an hour and leave before you have a sunburn and when everyone on the beach is still happy.
Anyway, she was right. I walked on the beach and now it’s all good. When I win the lottery, you’ll find me living on the South Carolina coast. With three other writers and a large company of imaginary friends, er, characters.
And I get to stay for another whole day. That’s one more potential walk on the beach before I have to go back to reality.
My devoted readers will remember that the weekend Girl Scout Cookies were delivered, my household went wheat-free. If you’re new and you stumbled here hoping there was some uber-secret Get Girl Scout Cookies now that girls aren’t selling them site, sorry to disappoint, but stick around.
It’s now been a little over two months without wheat, or mostly without wheat (there have been a couple of celebration meals that included pizza) and I feel…terrible. Everybody loses weight when they give up wheat. I was losing, on average, .25 pounds a week, and that was with me working out. I was losing strength, losing energy, my stomach was a mess.
Luckily, when I started down this little path through the amber waves of grain, I also scheduled a doctor’s appointment because according to everything I’ve read (yes, on the Internet), I have no hormones, and probably no thyroid. OK, I may have them, but they’re totally out of whack.
The happy day of my doctor’s appointment finally came around two weeks ago. We talked forever (more than the usual 20 seconds at a regular doctor’s office), and he and I agreed that I was probably allergic to something I was eating instead of wheat. My concern was that it was more than one thing, and I wasn’t really interested in taking the time to figure out what it was, when for the low, low price of $200 and five vials of blood, I could find out what I was allergic to.
I got the answers on Friday, ironically, while sitting in the waiting room of the doctor’s office so his vampire assistant could take yet another vial of blood. So I open the email and find out that I am allergic to literally everything I have been eating since going wheat-free. Basically, I was trying to commit suicide with parsley and pineapple. Not together. That would be gross.
I’m allergic to goat’s milk. I’m allergic to casein, which is found in all cow’s milk products. I’m allergic to almonds, pistachios and cashews. Melon. Yeast. Vanilla. Mustard?!!? Really? Brussel sprouts, so Totally Awesome Step-Mother can now stop telling me I should eat them because she has a great recipe. To be fair, she does have a great recipe, but I won’t be partaking anymore. Also, I now have proof that I am allergic to several types of fish and shellfish. And peanuts. Cranberries. Bananas. It’s a really impressive list.
In my typical fashion, I think I took the news fairly well. I calmly left the doctor’s office and drove to the nearest Cook Out where I ordered a CHEESEburger. On. A. BUN. With MUSTARD. French Fries. Onion Rings (which the last time I checked, involved wheat). And a Mint Chocolate Chip milkshake. If I could have found a way to add beer to the mix and really load up on yeast, I would have.
Yes, I got serious about this on Saturday. I didn’t have dairy all weekend. Yesterday, I had to make a cake for a Boy Scout Court of Honor. Since I wasn’t eating it, I used wheat. No, I was not about to waste $8/pound special flour on Boy Scouts.
Here’s where things got interesting. While making the cake, I had about two tablespoons of cake batter (containing wheat and milk), and probably the same amount of frosting. Both homemade by me. And totally worth it. Until about twenty minutes later when I started itching like fury and my allergies flared and my stomach decided I was the dumbest person on Earth.
Seriously?!!? I’d been off milk for 2.5 days! I’m still itchy today. Which might have something to do with the fact that my Boy Scout popcorn “contains milk ingredients.” Crap. That was just not something I thought to check. Stupid cow.
Oddly, while I cannot eat any cow byproduct, I have no allergies to the cow itself. Hello Filet Mignon. Goodbye parsley. And yes, I really am allergic to parsley, which is maybe the dumbest thing I’ve ever had to admit.
Hi. My name is Kim, and I’m allergic to parsley.
Special thanks to WordPress and their update for delaying this post.
I can’t even begin to tell you how wonderful it was to spend Christmas back home in the Bay Area with my family. Interspersed with wrapping all the presents I had shipped directly there (yes, I’m aware Amazon wraps, and had I thought about it, I would have had them do it), supervising my son baking gingerbread, and running errands with my dad, we also did tourist stuff.
We were supposed to go up to San Francisco while we were here and ride the trolleys, because although the kids have ridden the trolleys up and down the hills and smelled the wooden brakes burning, they were not old enough to have that momentary fear of what-if-this-time-the-breaks-are-too-thin-and-we-careen-to-our-deaths. Yes, I really do have those thoughts.
We made it into the city one day for a Girls Day of Culture, seeing the San Francisco Ballet’s version of The Nutcracker. If you ever get a chance to enjoy the ballet there, do it. Especially if your Not Wicked Step-Mother has taken the time and money to purchase box seats, and a bottle of champagne. The only thing missing from our Pretty Woman moment was Richard Gere. Who could have been there somewhere, but I wouldn’t have noticed because when not watching the dancing, I was checking out the French Horn section.
So, anyway, we were supposed to go back up to the city with everyone, but that morning, we woke up to huge rainstorms. Which was actually fantastic because that meant we could lounge around the house and wrap 1,453,267 gifts (which are all now residing in an extra suitcase in the belly of the beast we’re waiting to board).
While we missed out on trolleys and Pier 39, and the really tacky touristy stuff of San Francisco, our first day in town was beautiful, exactly what winter in CA should look like, and we wandered around the Monterrey Bay Aquarium. This is a great aquarium. Among otters, sea turtles and a fantastic jelly fish exhibit, you’ll also find a sea horse exhibit (way cooler than you think), and penguins. Yes, penguins.
I don’t really know why the penguins are there since I haven’t seen the penguin feeding show in about 10 years. I just show up and watch them play. The funny thing about the penguins is, that they’re all tagged. To which you immediately think, where do they expect the birds to go? It’s not like they’re going to wander into the coral reef exhibit and not be noticed. But if you look closely at the tags, you learn they’re nametags. Of all the penguin names, the only one I can remember is Bee. Bee the penguin. She was hanging out with Penguin I Can’t Remember the Name Of, and they were having a lot of fun.
Then, there was the ultimate in touristy, walking on Carmel Beach at sunset. In addition to not remembering the trolleys, the kids also don’t remember that I dipped them in the Pacific at an early age. We ended up chasing Scout Son around the beach, trying to get him wet since he was avoiding the water’s edge.
Whatever. We had a wonderful time in CA, partying with family and playing with dogs. We can’t wait to come back, hopefully for good. In the meantime, I’ll be writing on the plane. As soon as they’re sure my laptop isn’t a threat to our ability to fly.
Really, we’re still thinking that’s a possibility during take off?
40 days and 14 hours. That’s how long we have until Christmas. Yes, I’m a little surprised that I was able to Google days til Christmas and come up with a Christmas Countdown clock. I shouldn’t be, but it seems like there are better programming choices than that.
Anyway, Christmas. 40.5 days of shopping left. I know. There are a ton of you who haven’t given this any thought yet. Clearly none of you are flying home for the holidays. But we are, and that means I have to do a ton more planning for the holiday than I’d like.
There are the folks I don’t normally see but this year I’ll have to find a nice gift for. Hard to do when you see each other every other year. These are the people in my life who would, on this coast, get homemade Irish Cream truffles, sea salt scrubs, knit scarves or some other Pinterest-inspired gift. But since I have to get it across the country without breakage, I have to either buy supplies/bottles and ship them to California and spend a day in the kitchen there, or I have to make it here and pack it very carefully. And hope TSA doesn’t decide they want softer hands and spiced pecans.
Of course, next week I’ll be writing that great holiday favorite: the family Christmas letter.
Being a freelance writer gives me a leg up on most in that department because I have InDesign so I can put together something nice and spend an extra 100 hours making sure everything lines up perfectly. Because I know you’re all going to pull out rulers and check to see if the spacing is equal on all columns.
My letter comes and goes depending on the news. The year my mom died and I was getting divorced I didn’t do the letter. Merry Christmas! May Death and Destruction Stay with Me, Not with You! Somehow, I couldn’t find a lot of happy to share that year.
This year, even with the loss of a job, I feel like there’s good news. Snarky Daughter and Scout Son each get a column in the newsletter, so I only have to find about 300 words of happy, and with two books coming out this month, I think I can wing it.
But that’s next week. This week, I’m cruising Pinterest for cool homemade gift ideas, making a shopping list for pies for Thanksgiving. And putting up the Christmas tree. Tonight. No ornaments or lights, just the tree. I want to see what the kittens will do to it. I fully expect to find Rex sleeping at the top tomorrow morning. I’ll keep you posted.
Feel free to start the pool on how many times the cats knock it over.
What’s that? Why am I putting up a tree when I won’t be here?
That’s a really good question. The answer involves pitiful faces on sweet children who want to decorate for the season.
Whatever. I have gifts to work on.
I tried. I really did. I took a great plot and tried to write the book. The problem? I hate the plot.
Not a little dislike. I hate the plot.
I hate it so much that over the past six weeks, I’ve stripped wallpaper, redecorated my daughter’s bedroom, sewed things, looked for work, looked for clients, planted a garden, weeded it twice, cleaned the carpets, taken a group of girls to the zoo, and today I’m about to go out and spray poison ivy. On a side note, it’s only taken me this long to realize that the stuff that will kill the poison ivy will also probably kill the weeds… The denial has to be pretty strong when you don’t want to obliterate weeds with a simple spray.
There’s a point where you have to face your demons. Today, in honor of Writing Wednesday, I am killing the book. I have to. It all started with a princess. Well, turns out, I really don’t want to write about her. While the idea was great — is great — on index cards, every time I sit down to write this story, a voice in my head (the hero) says, “No. Seriously?!!? We’ve talked about this. She’s not for me.”
Now, usually that’s what they both say on paper and we all watch in fascination as the story proves the couple wrong and they live happily ever after. But this time, I think he’s right. She’s not for him. Or she’s not for me. There aren’t very many things I’m not willing to write about, but it appears princesses are currently on the list.
I’ve tried re-plotting it twice now and I can’t break the cycle because I’m too close to the story. Usually I can walk away for a few days and strip wallpaper and have inspiration strike, but on this one, I’m pushing too hard. I know it, the characters know it, my critique partner must know it, so I’m accepting it.
The book is part of a trilogy, but lucky for me, they don’t have to be in a particular order. In fact, at one point I thought this book would be the last, not the middle in the series. So this week, I get to find out why Joe is in the coffee shop (actually, I already know that one), and figure out why he’d fall for the girl who walks through his door.
No, that’s not a spoiler. It’s part of the Heiress at the Door series. I suppose she could climb through his window…or maybe the princess will do that in book three. If she’s still a princess.
Welcome to the joys of writing. In college I painted my room to avoid a paper. As you can see, not much has changed. I’m headed out to obliterate the poison ivy and mull over my new idea. What do you do to avoid the unavoidable?
Summer vacation. Remember that one?
Snarky Daughter started it before Memorial Day. Scout Son’s last day in seventh grade is Friday.
I’d forgotten how awesome summer vacation was. Until my contract ended in March. I’ve now been on summer vacation for going on three months. I’d like to tell you all it sucks. I mean money is tighter than tight, and while I dream of the beach, I can’t afford it, no matter how I run the numbers. Although I’m running to the store later for a lottery ticket, just in case I can win my way out of my financial crisis.
But, even with that hanging over my head, it’s still a great time of year to be off the clock. I walk every morning and listen to the birds. OK, I listen to some crazy woman from Prevention’s Walk Off Weight program telling me to walk faster, but that’s only in one ear. The other ear listens to the hawk overhead and prays he hasn’t figured out I have chickens in the yard. So far, so good.
I get to garden for a while each day instead of cramming it all into Saturday. And I get to play with my kids. Tomorrow I’m headed to the zoo with Girl Scouts. When Scout Son gets out, I can’t wait to play volleyball and badminton with him. I’m caught up on Boy Scout merit badges and rank advancements and both kids’ sashes are up to date. Shocking, I know.
But I’ve pretty much decided that everyone needs at least a month of summer vacation each year because of all the stuff you can cross of your To Do list. I’ve painted, cleaned, sorted, cleaned, stripped wallpaper, cleaned… you get the idea. Closets that I’ve been meaning to get to for years are straightened out. I’ve picked up knitting Snarky Daughter’s blanket since she dropped it two rows in two years ago.
In case you missed it, I’m also a lot happier since I’ve been on vacation. I’m more rested and exercising more, which always puts me in a better mental place. And that’s the real reason we all need summer vacation. To go play in the kiddie pool, relax and remember why fun is important and how much fun family is.
Enjoy your evening. I’m headed into the living room to battle my kids in a Super Monkey Ball race.
What is it about the end of the school year that makes everything crazy? Between proctoring exams, finals, and end of year parties and events, that should not really affect me at all (after all, I graduated middle and high school back in the dark ages), work almost stops.
In the case of this blog, it did stop. But Snarky Daughter finished up school on Wednesday, and Scout Son is done next Friday, so oddly, peace will soon invade my life again. And I can’t wait.
You’d think without a day job that I’d have plenty of time to do, well everything. And to a certain extent, that’s been true. I just haven’t focused all my attention on writing. I’ve stripped wallpaper, painted SD’s new room, and as of this weekend, finished moving her in. Phew.
I’ve cleaned closets, looked for work, started learning HTML and am working my way through a wordpress.org class. I’m back to learning Italian.
And I’ve successfully gained 6 pounds. I’m so proud. Now, to be fair, I gained most, if not all, of those pounds while I was on medication after I smashed my hand. And I’m back on some of it since I slipped and threw my back out again. Woo-hoo!
But the pounds have to Go. Away. Now.
That sounds so easy. I mean, I’ve lost weight before. Today I weigh what I weighed the day before I had SD. And a pound less that what I weighed the day I brought SS home from the hospital. What can I say. He craved Cheetos and Twix bars for nine months. It was not pretty.
But when I lost baby weight, I wasn’t injured. And the fact is, I have a life-long injury, so my days of playing racquetball and lifting 15,000 pounds on weight machines a couple of times a week in order to stay fit are gone. No running. No high-impact anything. Zumba? My chiropractor and physical therapist both burst out laughing and started planning early retirements.
But I can walk. And according to the Prevention Walk of Weight program, I can lose weight walking. Of course, that program doesn’t say anything about cake. And I like cake. As a source of frosting, which I’m pretty sure is one of the food groups.
Here’s what I know from the few years that I was working out and learned that muscle feels different than fat. I feel better when I work out. I’m happier. In theory I eat less, although I haven’t seen that in the past few weeks. But I can dream. I can walk. And if I can do both of those, I can probably cross a few more things off my To Do list. Like organize my new office space. Or write a book.
Today I remembered what I loved about some of my characters. I’m in the editing stage on Billionaire Bachelor’s Revenge, which means I’ve stepped away from the book for a while. That’s key, because in those last weeks of writing, I’ve lived with those characters in my head for so long I can’t wait for them to get a happily ever after and leave me alone.
By the time I finished The Heiress and Her Fake Fiancé, I never wanted to see Blakely, NC again. Crazy grandmas and over-stepping fathers could take a cruise up the coast for all I cared. The good news is once I’ve been away from a book for a while, I begin to care again. And sure enough, with a few weeks away from the story, I remembered that I love Meg’s determination to right her father’s wrongs, and Evan’s fierce need for revenge is fun to fuel. Hey, it’s not directed at me!
In addition to editing, I’m also writing the third book in the Heiress at the Door series. Like Billionaire Bachelor’s Revenge, this one also takes place in the Bay Area. Now, I fully admit to being homesick, but at this point I’m ready to move for my next book. Luckily, that one’s back in Blakely. And I’ve been away long enough that I’m ready to go back. I’m even looking forward to crazy grandma again, because that woman will mess with anyone’s love life and apparently there are a lot of clueless, lovelorn people in Blakely.
Editing takes three or four passes, so I’m sure by the end of all of that, I’ll be back to being thankful Meg and Evan live 3,000 miles away from me. But right now it’s a lot of fun to watch them work through their issues. And they have a lot of issues! You’ll get a chance to meet them this summer.
As some of you know, I had a small…um, large, run-in with a hammer ten days ago. Turns out, you need your hands to write. Since that’s been basically out of the picture, I turned to promotion planning and trying to figure out how to build readership. Most writers became writers to tell our stories, but every one of us wants people to read them. OK, we’d like it if you read them, but we really we want you to buy them.
With that in mind, I pulled up a chair at the virtual coffee table, poured a cup of coffee smuggler Slick Micky’s strongest brew(from Regan’s Tracking Shadows), grabbed a slice of my character, Jessica’s pound cake, and sat down with paranormal romance and urban fantasy author Regan Black to interview media specialist Terry Kate, and find out more about her company Paco Media and the cool things she’s doing for writers today.
Kimberly Hope: Thanks for sitting with us today, Terry. For those new to publishing, what is NetGalley and what are the pros/cons of using it?
Terry Kate: Netgalley is a service that offers authors and publishers a way to get in contact on a larger scale with reviewers, bloggers, librarians, and book sellers. The decisions on how the titles are treated, the format they go out in, whether they have Digital Rights Management, and other options are offered and then the account holder sets their terms. With a membership of 56,000 Netgalley is the place to be in order to build your brand and name recognition.
The downside is that you are giving away a lot of copies of your book. True they are electronic, but it still stings. Emotionally, the downside is that not all reviews are going to be positive. On a large scale that can be a knock, but it is also part of the game and you joined the team the minute you put that first book out to be purchased.
Regan Black: Can you tell us a bit about Paco Media Group, your mission and what you provide to authors?
Terry: PMG is a reflection of all the crazy, mad, and sometimes downright loony things that I have done. I wanted to learn to format for a pub that hired me, so now we can offer services in that area. I found out that writers needed help with this or that and I learned how along the way. HTML, SEO, branding, newsletters, social media, cover design, writing, editing, public speaking… there are more that have slipped my mind, but that starts the list. I get asked often why all of our services are not listed on the Paco Media Group site and the only answer I have is – What DON’T we do?
Every bit of it is to help authors. I get it. I am a reader first, so I want you off and working on the next book too. Every thing we do is important and beneficial, but most of all it’s time consuming and there is a learning curve. So we make it possible for creators to be creative.
Since we are so varied I usually open with a consultation so we can match services to your needs and budget. Custom PR and Marketing.
Kimberly: That sounds fantastic, but can authors who haven’t been noticed yet afford the services?
Terry: We have options for every budget, I do not want anyone to be discouraged. There are always ways to get noticed, some free, some paid, but they often require time. Your book may not have hit its stride yet, but balance that with the desire to write, spend family time, and just live. Then decide what is right for you and take away pressure from your day to day. Writing should be fun and that does not need to be sucked dry by the marketing and promo.
Regan: What is included in your NetGalley program?
Terry: The Basic Package with Netgalley is a two month posting of one title. Then the organization of a press pack. These materials will lead Netgalley members to you. Not only for reviews because we want to offer as wide spread promotion as possible. If the interested blogger can’t find a place in their schedule to review your book maybe instead they will offer an interview. They might be willing to take a press release from you and post that information for their readers.
This can be overwhelming. Dealing with so many blogs, so many requests. So we created a program I am calling the Library. PMG will help you organize materials from posts you have already written, materials that we have found online, and direct you to fast and effective means of advertising yourself and your book with out coming off as a used car salesman. We are your support and allow you to maximize every particle of exposure Netgalley offers.
Kimberly: Where can authors go to get more information or to sign up for the program?
Terry: Details are at Pacomediagroup.com and we have a special going on the cost of the promotion until Sunday so hurry to book your spot!
Kimberly: Terry, thanks for stopping by and giving us some ideas of how we can get into great promo tools like Netgalley!
Snarky Daughter: I just finished reading Bet Me. Can we make Chicken Marsala?
Me: Yes, please. But it’s heavy on the mushrooms. You don’t eat mushrooms.
SD: I’ll pick them out.
Me: They’re the best part.
SD: More for you.
Me: OK, but I’ll have to find some marsala wine and that’s not going to be easy.
Two weeks later, I’d finally had the idea to go to the Total Wine store. Duh. They had four choices. You want sweet marsala. I froze what we didn’t use so I could use it later. No idea what that does to the alcohol content, but it can’t hurt the taste.
We got the recipe from Jenny Crusie’s website. This recipe is as fun to read as it is to make, and watching Snarky Daughter pound chicken with a frying pan (as directed) was priceless. In the words of Flynn in Tangled, “Frying Pans. Who knew? Right?”
So, we’ve got a recipe with no measurements on it. Which really fits the book it comes from, because in Bet Me, it’s all about getting the taste right. But that was really part of the fun of making this meal with SD. She pounded chicken, I sliced shallots and made jokes about wine for the chicken and wine for the cook.
And we all loved it. I always assumed Chicken Marsala must be a pain to make, but it’s easier and faster than my macaroni and cheese recipe. The only thing we did to speed up the process slightly is mix about a tablespoon of flour with a shot of cold water (this is how you avoid lumpy gravy) and added it to the sauce to thicken it a bit. Yes, I could have cooked it down more, but it smelled fantastic and I’m an instant gratification kind of girl.
With two cups of wine in the freezer, Chicken Marsala just ceased to be a special occasion sort of meal.