All’s Fair in Love and Book Reviews.

I read an article by an author who said never – never – read reviews of your book online.

Okay, but did he mean like never ever? Or just kind of never? Because never seems sort of impossible, right? (For a slightly neurotic, first-time author like me it proved to be, anyway.)

And I looked. That’s right. I read them all.

Here’s the funny thing about reviews of your book – a good review makes you smile and puts a spring in your step. For about a day.

A bad review is like that popcorn kernel that gets stuck between your tooth and gum that you can’t seem to dislodge no matter how hard you try…because the popcorn kernel is in your soul. Giving you something to poke at late at night when you’re trying to sleep.

So even though there are substantially more good reviews out there, the few bad ones are the ones that got under my skin. Which is probably why that author said DO NOT READ THEM! A-ha. If only I had the ability to listen to sage advice when it is presented to me.

Oh well. Some of the good ones make it all worth while.

Lisa over at LostInLit called it “Hilarious, Witty and Quite Charming.” And Lisa (I know – I’m winning with ‘Lisas”!) over at LisaLovesLiterature gave it 5 stars! And Becky on Goodreads said I “hit it out of the park!” Megan over at ReadingBooksLikeaBoss added me to her “Book Recommendations” tab! And then I found this young woman who goes by The Lone Reader who did a very funny and enthusiastic video blog about it. If I can make anyone rattle on that fast about my book, I certainly should be able to overlook a few naysayers.

So if *you* have read my book – and liked it – please leave me a review 🙂  (And I’ll try to keep myself from reading it). If you read it and didn’t like it – my name is spelled N-i-c-h-o-l-a-s-S-p-a-r-k-s. Be sure to get that part right.

 

I’m the ‘Windows Vista’ of People.

Ok, Mac people – bear with me – this analogy will be short.

The year was 2007. We were all happily acclimated to our Windows XP operating system when, bam! Microsoft dropped Windows Vista on us and we collectively went, “Thanks for nothing, a-holes!”

Because Windows Vista was that shitty little upgrade nobody asked for.

It was buggy and slow and didn’t seem to make anything better. But Microsoft, in its infinite wisdom, said, “Tough shit. You’ll use it and you’ll like it.” (But it only lasted a couple years before Microsoft got tired of our bitching and came out with Windows 7 – but I’m not here to give you a primer on Microsoft operating systems.)

So, what’s my point?

Well, a couple of years ago I started this blog so that I could write silly posts about stupid things that I found amusing and thought maybe other people would find amusing, too. Then, almost two years ago, my mom, my rock, my BFF, died, suddenly, for no good reason because her heart (despite being healthy and barely 67 years old) went, “That’s it – I quit.” And just stopped.

And then this blog took a wicked hairpin turn and became a place where I wrote mostly about grief. (No, that isn’t the Windows Vista upgrade I’m talking about. Stay with me.) For those of you that have been following along, these last two years have been the roller coaster of a lifetime. And I would come here and talk about terrible, heartbreaking things (but marinate them in sarcasm, hoping to get a laugh here or there). But, regardless, I sort of took you along with me as I figured out my own post-apocalyptic world.

So, here’s my point.

When you lose a close parent or someone important, the general consensus is “You really won’t start feeling like yourself for a year.” Truly. Many people who had lost a parent said the same thing. A year.

Well, the first year came and went. And true, the grief ebbed and I was gradually less of a shit-show. But I kept waiting to feel like myself again. Now I’m approaching two years. And it hit me: There is no going back to the old me because she doesn’t exist anymore.

Cue the Windows Vista metaphor. I’ve been upgraded! Those bastards! I’ve been force-fed the system upgrade I never asked for and that certainly doesn’t seem like an improvement to the prior version. This version isn’t as happy, is slightly less compassionate, has a much narrower bandwidth for bullshit, and crashes regularly around birthdays and holidays. The only possible upside is that this version is proven to be wicked resilient and excels at letting shit go (because they apparently narrowed the “Bullshit Meter” but expanded the “Fuck It Meter“).

So, since I had shared the rest of this Mr.-Toad’s-Wild-Ride-esque journey with you, I figured I would share this revelation as well. If you’ve lost your person, don’t keep waiting to feel like yourself again, because you’ll be waiting a really long time. Just start looking for positives in the system upgrade (that you didn’t want or need) and hopefully you’ll find an improvement or two that will make the You 2.0 version worthwhile.

And to those that know me who preferred the Windows XP version? We apologize for the inconvenience, but that version is no longer supported.

 

Defacing Public Property.

img_20161028_171652Okay. It was actually a book signing. But it was my *first* book signing so it seemed a little strange that people wanted me to write in a perfectly good book.

Last Friday I was fortunate enough to take part in the author reception at the Fall Discovery Show held by the Northern California Independent Booksellers Association. So…lots of authors and lots of booksellers. Or something like that. It was a blast.

My favorite comment of the night was a young woman that hurried over to my table to tell me that she had read the description of my book and that she “had to find me” because my book was something she “needed in her life.” I know, right? Super cool. And I’m pretty sure she didn’t confuse me with someone else, so I’ve got that going for me.

Funniest comment of the night: someone said “So?? What do you like better? When you were an attorney or now, being a writer?”

To which I replied (likely with little grace, thanks to the two glasses of wine): “Oh, I’m still a lawyer.”

They replied (with what seemed genuine astonishment) “Really?”

Yeah. Really. “I’m pretty sure a lot of authors have to keep their day jobs,” I said. “Unless you have a dream about pale, sparkly, teenage vampires!”

Okay. I didn’t say the part about sparkly vampires – but I thought it. But, for all those authors, working the day job and moonlighting as a writer? I gotta say, seeing my actual book in actual print…made all that moonlight worth it.

Sneak Peek at the November Ballot!

Hey guys – I mocked up the ballot I propose we use for the November presidential election. I feel like it really captures overwhelming public sentiment as we move toward this all-important decision.

2016 Ballot

To quote a friend, “Sweet Meteor of Death 2016.”

So, This Happened.

Galley Cover

Just like that. I have a title. And a cover. And a description that is a bit of a Frankenstein’s monster in that it’s partially my original story pitch and partly what “they” came up with (whoever “they” are that tinker with these things at the publishing houses).

So, sure, it felt pretty real when I got the deal. And it felt a little more real when I signed the contracts. And then it felt realer still when I got that first advance check.

But, I must say, this sort of hit a new level of “oh my god – this is really happening!” Which is a pretty good level.

And, about the time the actual book cover showed up on my publisher’s website (Forge is part of Macmillan), it showed up for PRE-ORDER on Amazon and Barnes & Noble and even popped up on Goodreads!

Oh – and I now have my official release date: January 10, 2017.

So, I’m gonna ride this high until I get my copies of the galley (Advance Reading Copies) and am actually holding a copy of my book in my hands and then I’ll write a post about how that’s the realest real yet! I know. You can hardly wait.

Look at it this way…I’ll probably be a lot cooler on my next go-round. But this time? I’m gonna enjoy every, little, teeny, tiny step. Because it took about 15 years to get here 😉

As Yet Untitled.

Insert-Title-Here

For those of you that don’t know – I’m going to give you the five-cent description of my novel. It is, at its heart, a romantic comedy about Kate Shaw, a 30-something starting over as a new lawyer (don’t get carried away drawing author parallels – besides, I’m 40-something). The twist is that, in this slight alternate reality – marriage doesn’t exist. All relationships are based on 7-year contracts which can renew or expire (or, more likely, wind up breached). So, much like there are men in our world who only date married women, this world has similar men who only date women already under contract. These men are called…wait for it…contract killers. Get it? (And yes, I realize women can be contract killers, too.) But, beyond this, it’s about Kate and her funny love life and her even funnier lawyer life.

Okay. Long story short, The Contract Killers was the name of Book 1 of the trilogy. The concern has been raised that this title sounds too thiller-y and might mislead the potential audience. So we need to <gasp> RE-TITLE the book. (Cue the Death Star music.)

While I loved my original title, I definitely see the need to change it. But how? I’ve spit-balled about 30 suggestions at my agent and editor but nothing is hitting home. So, while my manuscript is already in copy-editing and art is working up the cover design – I HAVE NO TITLE. Which is giving me anxiety.

So now – I’m putting it out to you. Because you are brilliant and creative, and had the perfect title all along that you didn’t even know you had. And because you want to be sure I include your name in my acknowledgments.

 

 

As Good As It Gets.

I love the movie, “As Good As It Gets.” I’m using the word “love” here, about a movie. And if you love the movie, too, you’ll get that joke. Anyway, it’s a perfect movie about imperfect people without a single wasted line. Including this one:

As Good As It Gets

Remember? He’s trying to get in to see his shrink without an appointment and he turns to the waiting room full of the damaged, anxious and depressed and poses the question, “what if this is as good as it gets?” And there is a collective gasp in the room in response.

So. What if this is as good as it gets?

My mom’s birthday came and went. The anniversary of her death was December 15. The holidays are over. It’s a new year and my catastrophic loss is now 13 months in the rear-view. And I’m haunted by Jack Nicholson’s question.

What if this is as good as it gets?

I mean, it’s not as though I’m sad all the time. But definitely more than I thought I would be 13 months later. And I still think, no less than five times a day, of something I wish I could tell her or show her or ask her. And I still miss her every damn day. And now I’ve racked up a considerable number of days.

I’m sure it will continue to improve with time. But, after 13 months, I can tell you, it moves like molasses. Maybe because you’re trying to watch grass grow because you’re so anxious for it to be green again.

So, I’ll continue to focus on the good – while trying not to dwell on how much better it would be if she were here.

And I know that if this is as good as it gets – I’ve still got it pretty damn good.

We Now Return You to Your Regularly Scheduled Breakdown.

Well, mini breakdown.

So, here’s the thing. In the beginning, everyone expects you to be a mess.

Then, a few months later, everyone understands when you’re a mess.

But nine months in – people seem a little caught off guard when you’re a mess.

So, by nine months, you’ve got this internalization thing going where you save most of your tears for bedtime and you’ve mastered having quiet, undetectable mini meltdowns.

And it’s all well and good except that with all this internalization comes detachment. You wind up feeling removed, distant, isolated (and a fan of synonyms, apparently). You feel less and care less because you’re watching everything from a distance.

I have a problem with this because I typically care about freaking everything. What people think. How people feel.

But now? Meh.

But I’m sure it’s just a phase and I’ll get back to my normal, overly-excitable, impassioned self. Eventually.

But for now – I’m Pluto. Downgraded, distant and disenfranchised.

pluto-new-horizons-july-2015

Anyone else think it’s interesting that Pluto has a big ol’ heart on it? Makes you feel kinda bad for downgrading it to a dwarf planet, huh? Because Planet Dwarfism is no laughing matter. Icy Dwarf Planets need love too.