Wednesday, August 07, 2019

An Email from Valencia

I got an email the other day from Valencia Valentine*. A friend of hers had sent her a copy of Valencia and Valentine and she was writing to ask if we'd ever met (there were a few other things in the book, apart from the name, that were eerily close to her reality and she was understandably a little freaked out).

It was weird, seeing that name in my inbox. Even weirder to write an email that began, "Dear Valencia..."

I asked her if she'd ever seen the movie Stranger Than Fiction, because the whole thing reminded me of the scene where Will Farrell's character calls Emma Thompson's character on the phone and is like, "You're writing my life! If you kill me in the book you're going to actually kill me!" (Valencia had, in fact, seen Stranger Than Fiction and agreed that it felt the same.) The funny thing about that is that Stranger Than Fiction was one of the movies I drew a little inspiration from for Valencia and Valentine. So. I don't know. It's all happening.

I don't know if there's anything I like quite so much as when something comes full circle.

The Real Valencia lives in the States and I assured her that we've never met, that I got the name from a baby naming website and chose it because I liked how it sounded with 'Valentine.' (Also, for all that it matters, I'd originally named the main character Violet.) As for the other coincidences...I don't know. Magic? Or logic. There are a lot of people in this world, so I suppose it stands to reason that at least a few of them would be named Valencia Valentine and that, of those, one might have some peculiar similarities to my fictitious protagonist.

Magic or logic. As with everything.

*She's married now, and her married last name is something else. BUT STILL.

Friday, June 21, 2019


It's such a strange feeling when you wake up to a sound that has woven itself seamlessly into a dream. There's a split second, where you're hanging out right between sleep and wakefulness, where the sound makes sense in your dream and in real life, but you can't figure out where it belongs, even if it's a normal sound that you hear all the time.

Am I rambling? Yes! Yes I am. I'm actually a nervous wreck right now and I didn't get a lot of sleep last night so I am definitely rambling.

A story:

At 4:22 last night, I woke up to the sound of a fist on a door. In my dream, the fist was a drumstick and the door was a drum. It made sense both ways, but when I woke up the sound stopped immediately and I looked at the clock and decided that this sound was only in the dream, not in real life. But, just to make sure, I woke Barclay. "Is someone knocking on our door?"

He sat up. "I thought I heard something but then I thought I was just dreaming it."

"Well we probably weren't both dreaming it."

We listened. Nothing. Maybe we were both dreaming it. Maybe we were both dreaming about drums. Maybe it was someone knocking on the neighbor's door.

Barclay fell back asleep immediately. I didn't. Having someone break into my house in the middle of the night is one of my greatest fears, and I'm constantly asking Barclay to check out a noise, or telling him I'm certain this time that I heard the back gate clang or the sound of someone jiggling the doorknob.

Twenty minutes passed, and I finally started to relax. It was all in my head again.

But just as I started to nod off—


I jumped out of bed and ran into the kitchen, almost without thinking. I peered around the corner at the back door. The handle was moving—someone was trying to get in. I crept to the window and peeked out—by streetlights, I could just see the top of a head, wrapped in a bandana, as someone gave up on the back door and headed around to the front of our house. I stood there frozen, listening to the sound of footsteps on the front porch, the opening of the screen door, someone fumbling with that doorknob. Barclay came out of the bedroom to see what was going on.

"Call 911," I hissed. "Someone's trying to get in."

He was skeptical, and rightfully so. I have cried wolf a million times. But it didn't take long for him to come around, because soon the front door started heaving at us as the stranger began to kick it. Barclay and I stared at each other, wide-eyed.

Then there was an angry scream:


His intentions were, I'd say, fairly clear.

There's a scene a lot like this in the book I'm writing right now, so there was a moment where I considered that this might a dream, inspired by my book. I actually also have dreams like this all the time, which is maybe where that scene in the book came from. It's like a nightmare cycle. Brains are wonderful, aren't they?

But whether this whole thing was happening in my head or in real life, it felt like a nightmare. The sun was just starting to rise, so the living room was dark but not pitch black, and it had that shadowy, surreal quality to it. There were LEGO blocks everywhere, so even though I was trying to step quietly, I kept giving myself away to whoever was out there.

The guy left the front door right as Barclay called 911 and we waited to see if he'd move on to another house. It was quiet for a few minutes. I went back into my bedroom to grab my phone—I don't know why. Barclay had a phone. He was on his phone. What good was having two phones? Whatever.

But I entered my room just in time to see a hand reach up through the partially opened window and try to wrench it away from the house. (If I don't have nightmares about that image for the rest of the week I'll be pretty darn surprised.) The guy must have heard me gasp because he yelled again:


I ran back into the kitchen. It's pretty amazing how fast your lungs can take air in and put it back out, isn't it?  I might have been hyperventilating. "He's trying to get into our bedroom," I whispered to Barclay. But then the guy was at the back door again, trying to kick it in. I pointed at the phone. "Where are they? Are they coming?"

Barclay nodded. He was describing the guy to the 911 operator. He was so calm, like it was three in the afternoon and the person at our door was a Jehovah's Witness.

At this point, I should mention that our kids were not with us. It was my birthday yesterday, so their grandparents invited them for a sleepover (bless them). I kept thinking about that every time I thought the door was going to break, every time he tromped around our house trying to find another way in. How great was it that our kids weren't here for this? It wasn't just the thought of them being terrified with us, but the thought of trying to keep them safe if whoever was out there got in, you know? I was so, so thankful.

Anyway, this went on for about half an hour, and finally—finally—I looked out the window and saw a policewoman walking across the lawn instead of the guy. A few minutes later, I saw two officers helping the guy into the back of their car. Then the woman came to our door and told us that we were okay and could go back to bed and that was basically it. The guy was drunk and thought he was somewhere else. The end.

(Anti-climactic, right? I'm okay with that.)

Friday, May 31, 2019

I Tried!

I wrote the first draft of Valencia and Valentine in three months, back in 2015. There's a blog post I wrote that summer that I went back to this week. In it, I wrote about how the whole book thing got started and what I was going to do with it next. I finished with these words:

...I have very low expectations, and am naturally very pessimistic about the whole thing. But I just want to try. Because sometimes trying is the fun part, and having tried is such a great feeling. Much better than having wished but not tried. I said to Sarah, or Mystery Friend, or both of them, that my goal was, ultimately, to write a book I liked. If someone else liked it, even cooler. And if it got published, that's just beyond anything I'd expect or hope for.

So, already, I'm 'there'. I'm where I wanted to be in the first place and I've still got some energy to expend. I figure now I'll just go as far as I can from here, and then when I feel like I've given it all the time and energy it deserves, I'll step back and see what I've got and hold my hands out in front of me and say, "That's that!"

And then I'll go do something else, or maybe this again! Isn't life nice?

A question authors like to ask each other is, "When will you feel like you have succeeded?" But we all know the answer is a carrot on a string, always moving farther away, making you look like an idiot for chasing it. The answer changes from "When I'm agented" to "When I get published" to "When I become a bestseller" to "When Reece Witherspoon turns this thing into a movie." It's easy, once you enter the Publishing Machine, to get caught up in the cogs. The lists, the politics of which books get promoted and put on the shelves, the reviews, the sales numbers.

But back when I wrote this book, I only wanted to try. I didn't have an idea of what success looked like because my goal wasn't to succeed. It was just to try. I acknowledged the daydreams that hung around in my periphery, but my only real aim was taking the shot in the first place.

Tomorrow is the official publication day for Valencia and Valentine. Lots is happening. I'm frazzled and nervous and excited and, really, kind of a mess, but mostly, I'm just happy that I tried. Now to step back and see what I've got.

That's that.

Tuesday, May 07, 2019

This is Kind of a Gross Blog Post

Two nights ago, while we were eating supper, Scarlett became irate. Just out of the blue. Irate gave way to angry, and angry bloomed into furious. She started pushing on her nose and rubbing her eyes and yelling at me.

"Maaaam! MAAAAM! DOZE!"

"Hmm?" I said, puzzled as to what could've caused the outburst. "Your...nose?" 

"YEAH!" she yelled, eyes bulging, trying to impart to me some very specific information without words. She strained her neck toward me. "DOZE!"

I looked at Barclay. He shrugged. "Maybe she wants you to blow her nose?"

I shrugged back and went to get a Kleenex. No harm trying.

Scarlett continued to yell. "DOZE! DOOOOZZZZZE!!"

I held the Kleenex in front of her impossibly tiny nostrils. "Okay, love, calm down. Blow."

She did. And from one of those ridiculously little nose holes emerged something like the head of a worm. Small. Yellow. I jumped back. 

Barclay frowned. "What?"

"There' there," I said. Suddenly, I was thinking about that Neil Gaiman book wherein the weird creature from another world turns into a worm and hitches a ride into our world in the heel of a little boy. (I have told you already; it's been a strange and dream-like week. I would almost not have been surprised if a weird creature turned itself into a worm and hitched a ride into our world through Scarlett's nose.)

Scarlett liked my reaction a lot. Scarlett loves making people react. "DOZE!" she shrieked, more happily this time. She blew again. Five more millimeters of worm.


Sullivan, who had to this point been watching the whole thing with nervous curiosity, burst out laughing. I gagged, and Scarlett and Sully both thought that was funny too. These kids absolutely love it when they can make me gag.

Barclay was calm. Barclay is always calm. He didn't understand why I was gagging. "Just pull it out," he said calmly. Like always.

I tried, but I couldn't get hold of it. Scarlett, poor Scarlett, Scarlett with a whole spaghetti noodle dangling down the back of her throat, gagged then, and up came...well, other spaghetti noodles.

Now Barclay was gagging.

So much gagging in our kitchen that night!

Sully, though, Sully was not gagging. Sully thought the whole thing was amazing. But his favorite part was when I finally caught hold of the end of that seven-inch spaghetti noodle, helped forward by the gagging, and pullllllllllled it outta there.

So, is this a thing I have to worry about now? That food is just going to wander into Scarlett's nose while she's eating it? That I'm going to have to retrieve stuff from up there on the regular? That she's going to stick things up there just to make Sully laugh?

I don't have anything more to say about this. 

Saturday, May 04, 2019


Hello and good morning from day four of being an author with a book Out There. It is, of course, not OUT THERE out there—pub date is still a month away—but enough people have it in their possession and are currently reading it that it feels as good as published.

The state of my head these past few days is very difficult to describe. I'd say it's somewhere between About to Cry and About to Barf, but in a good way, for the most part. Sometimes exceptionally good. Sometimes very bad. It's a whole trip. My shoulders are all bunched up by my ears and and I've been doing stupid things, like putting muffins into a heated oven and then...just...not taking them out again (oops).

I barely slept at all on Tuesday night. I stared at the ceiling until about 1 AM. Scarlett was up thinking it was morning around 2 AM and I had to convince her, through that wonderful adult-toddler language barrier with an additional middle-of-the-night sleep fog filter, that it wasn't. She eventually conceded and I went back to bed to stare at the ceiling for another long time. When I did sleep, I had nightmares about waking up to people basically voting me off the planet for writing drivel.

In reality, I only woke up to a headache. No reviews at all—obviously, I guess, because the book had only been up for a few hours. I thought, Well, I guess I should post something about this on Instagram, and I did. Then I trudged off to have a shower like a condemned prisoner, thinking all the same thoughts I had the night I went to the hospital to deliver Sully. There is no turning back now. This is going to hurt. This feels very surreal. 

I should give some context here: First Reads is kind of an internet visibility rocket ship. It places your book, along with only seven others, in front of every single Amazon Prime member in all of the US, the UK, and Australia. I can't remember the exact number she quoted to me when my editor told me we'd been selected for this thing, but it was a really, really high number. I was excited for, like, a day, and then I was just terrified. After all, if you invite thousands of people to your house party, it's a guarantee that at least some of them are going to be stupid and belligerent and break things and the whole thing's just going to get absolutely out of hand. And if you set your delicate newborn—firstborn!—baby book in front of thousands of people...right? Absolutely out of hand. Zero control. I was imagining my metaphorical book's house party, complete with flying opinions, hurled insults, misunderstandings, assumptions, hate mail...!

Also, though, I had (have) stage fright. I, personally, would never purposely choose to stand in front of an audience of thousands of people and read something that is not my diary but which kind of feels like my diary, and allow them to then dissect and analyze my performance back to me—and on Wednesday morning, I realized that I had chosen exactly that. TERRIFYING.

But when I picked up my phone again it was flooded with so many encouraging messages and excitement from friends and family and fellow Lake Union authors (who have also quickly become friends) and all of the lovely, wonderful people I've met through my blogging years (also actual friends) and all of a sudden my brain was like, OH. Oh right, okay, these people are all here too. For me!

It helped a lot.

That night, Barclay took me on a date so I'd stop obsessively looking at the Internet. Being an author in 2019 is strange because they supply you with all these analytical tools. You can see, for example, your book sales in real time. You can see your author rank, your book's rank in the Kindle store, your reviews. You can even see what sentences and passages your readers are highlighting in their Kindles as they read...!!

So. There's that. Here's something I've always known but now know double: I have zero self-control.

But now, like I said, day four. I've made it to day four.

A few reviews have begun to trickle in and—wonder of wonders—they're really, really nice. Actually, my favorite part of this whole experience so far was Wednesday afternoon when I sat down in the quiet of my living room during nap time to take a peek at the first couple of reviews, even though I'd been warned extensively not to (I had to!). I'm well aware that negative reviews will be here any moment, because that's the nature of the beast. I've been preparing for those ones by standing in front of the bathroom mirror every morning and telling myself I suck and don't have any brains.

(Just kidding. I don't do that.)

Right now I'm just planning ahead for the rest of this pre-sale rush and onto publication day and the weeks after that. I'm trying to figure out a way to stay busy enough outside of my house that I don't just sit here and refresh my analytics pages but, also, I do need to sit down at my computer and get stuff done there. THERE IS SO MUCH TO DO. I'M KIND OF A MESS!

Also, I'm going to leave these here for posterity, because this is kind of a once in a lifetime thing.