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's...something...in 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.

"SPAGHETTI!" I yelled. "THERE'S A SPAGHETTI NOODLE IN HER NOSE!"

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

DAY FOUR

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.




Tuesday, April 30, 2019

I'm Going to Live Forever



It's been a whirlwind month around here. My book comes out in a month (although, psst, if you're in Australia it's available for you on May 1 which, if you're there, is today—click here), and I've been a little busy. I remember when I first signed my contract and opened my day planner to pencil in my pub date which, at that point, was seventeen months away. I remember thinking, why so far away? We could publish this tomorrow.

Shh, listen. Do you hear that? It's the faraway sound of publishing people scoffing at my inexperience.

I had no idea how much there was to do in the meantime. Seventeen months is nothing. Developmental edits, copyedits, proofreads. Cover concepts, rounds and rounds of designs and redesigns. Reaching out to other authors for advance reads and blurbs, having galleys printed and sent away for trade reviews. A million (like, actually) other conversations and meetings and decisions that I wasn't privy to (thank goodness). 

And now, here we (almost) are. My author copies—softcover, hardback, audio—came in last week, and I'm trying to calm my nerves and plan a launch party. But also, life is just humming along like it always does. Sully and I have been playing a lot of Candyland. I tweaked my back today, picking Scarlett up.  Our furnace quit yesterday. Barclay and I hang out and talk about stuff that's not business or publishing-related. It's a very calm, ordinary time, with undertones of TERROR AND FEAR AND EARTHQUAKE LEVEL TREMORS IN MY HEAD AND HEART. 

It doesn't help that this is how my brain is: I think to myself, This might be okay. People might like my book and say nice things about it. 

And then I'm like, Maybe they'll say very nice things.

And then I'm like, MAYBE JIMMY FALLON WILL CHOOSE IT FOR HIS BOOK CLUB IF THAT'S STILL A THING JIMMY FALLON IS DOING THESE DAYS.

And then I'm like, But not everyone likes even a good book. Even a very good book has people saying bad things about it. And if people say bad things about a very good book, man alive, what will they say about my book?

And then I'm like, I'M GOING TO DIE BECAUSE PEOPLE ARE GOING TO SAY AWFUL THINGS ABOUT MY BOOK AND IT'S GOING TO FEEL LIKE THEY ARE SAYING THOSE THINGS ABOUT ME AND THEN MAYBE THEY WILL JUST START MAKING FUN OF MY PICTURE IN THE BACK OF THE BOOK ALL OVER THE INTERNET. 

It's this drastic shift from a true thing to a possible thing to a ridiculous thing.

Yesterday, as Sully and I were leaving Canadian Tire, a car drove past and Sully said, "Phew. I'm glad that car didn't run me over. I'M GOING TO LIVE FOREVER!" 

And it was one of those moments where I was like, yes, this is my child. And I need to remember not to go from, That car didn't run me over to I'm going to live forever in one second flat. And if any of you want to hold me accountable to that in the coming months, I'd appreciate it.

Thursday, April 04, 2019

First Spider on the Ceiling Day

You'd think the spiders would move in when it got cold outside. Maybe they do, maybe they're just really sneaky about it, but I don't really see them around in the winter. I don't see them until First Spider on the Ceiling Day.

It's exactly what it sounds like: it's the day, every year, usually sometime in March or April, after the temperatures have crawled above zero and held for about a week, that I see the first spring spider in my house. It is always, always on the ceiling of either my kitchen or my living room.

(But of course, First Spider on the Ceiling of Either My Kitchen or My Living Room Day is kind of a mouthful.)

Guess what yesterday was?

I always spend the days immediately after First Spider on the Ceiling Day with my head tipped back, anxiously scanning the room for the Second Spider on the Ceiling. There's never only a First Spider.

(Otherwise the day would be called, just, Spider on the Ceiling Day.)

This is kind of an appropriate week for the First Spider. It fits.

A few days ago, I was home alone with Sully and Scarlett. I was in the bathroom giving Scarlett a shower, Sully was playing LEGO in his bedroom, and I heard the back door open. It's a loud door; our house shifts in the winter so the door hangs a little crooked and you have to throw your hip into it to get it open. It scrapes on the floor. You can't quietly open that door.

I heard rustling and footsteps and thought, huh, Barclay's home a little earlier than I thought he'd be.

I wrapped Scarlett in her towel and carried her into her bedroom. I called to Sully, "Is Dad home?"

"Yep."

I nodded to myself, talking quietly to Scarlett about what we were going to do that day as I dried her off and picked out her pants and shirt.

Barclay wasn't there when I came into the kitchen a few minutes later. "Barclay?" The living room was empty too. I peeked around the corner. The back door was wide open. "Barclay?" Down the stairs. Out the door. "Barclay? Where are you?"

That was when I noticed the car wasn't parked outside. Which meant that either Barclay wasn't home yet, or that he'd come home, opened the back door, and left again—which, why?

Another thought crossed my mind then: maybe Barclay hadn't opened the back door at all.

"Sully!"

Sully came out of his room, still holding the LEGO car he'd been building. "Yeah?"

"Did you open the door?"

He shook his head. "Dad did."

"Did you see Dad?"

"No. I was in my room." He held up his car. "I just heared him open the door."

So there I was, standing in the kitchen, staring at the wide open back door and thinking, Someone opened the door. Someone has been here. Or, worse, Someone is still here. In the basement.

Reading this back to myself, I think of every scary movie I've ever seen, where a woman is just standing there, waiting, while her soon-to-be murderer advances toward her and the audience thinks at her, Run. Why don't you run away? I think some people think that the filmmaker does it to build tension, but I think they actually do it because it's realistic.

I was frozen, staring at the open door directly at the top of the basement steps. Straining to listen.

Scarlett chose that moment to start crying. Wailing. She was sick, poor kid, and she wanted her blanket. She wanted her blanket more than anything else in the world, and the more I stood there not getting her blanket, the harder she cried. But the blanket was in her bedroom and, honestly, I wasn't going further into the house to get a blanket. I picked her up and tried to comfort her, grabbing my phone off the table. I called Barclay. He didn't answer. I called him again. He picked up on the fourth ring.

"WHERE ARE YOU?" I hissed.

"Is something wrong?"

"I THINK SOMEONE'S IN THE HOUSE BARCLAY THE BACK DOOR IS WIDE OPEN AND SOMEONE CAME IN AND I THOUGHT IT WAS YOU—"

"Wait, what?"

"COME HOME."

Scarlett was crying into my shoulder and Sullivan was staring at me with dinner plate eyes and I was suddenly thinking that I should maybe, you know, get out of the house. But my feet stayed planted in the kitchen floor like I was a big old tree.

Then Sully said, matter-of-factly, "Mom, no one's in the house."

"What?"

"I opened the back door."

"You said Dad opened the back door."

"No," he was shaking his head, still clutching the LEGO car with both hands. "I heared Dad open the car door. Outside. So I opened the back door to let him into the house. But then he didn't come into the house so I went back to my bedroom."

So that was what had happened, and everything was fine, and Barclay arrived a few minutes later to no emergency at all and I felt dumb for overreacting and freaking everybody out and also dumb for not getting the kids out of the house when I legitimately thought someone was in the basement and ever since, even though I know there was no one in the basement, no one in the house at all, I can't help but jump a little when I'm home alone and hear a creak.

And now I'm checking the ceiling for spiders.

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

People at the Library

I'm at the George Bothwell library in south Regina, surrounded by high school students. An angsty guy is sitting directly behind me listening to rap music sans headphones (yikes, these lyrics are decidedly inappropriate for the afternoon library crowd) and staring at the back of my head. I know, because I can feel it, and because I peeked a few minutes ago and saw that he was. Still as a statue. What's the science behind being able to feel a look?

A kid came up to me a bit ago and asked what grade I'm in. I said, "No grade; I don't get to go to school anymore. You?"

She grinned. "No grade either! Kindergarten!"

We chatted about kindergarten and about being nervous to go to school for the first time and stuff like that and then, while I was telling her that my son will go to kindergarten in the fall, she stood abruptly and walked away, as though she'd gotten really bored with me really fast. Maybe I should've been offended, but I just felt jealous of her ability to suddenly and unapologetically exit a conversation that didn't, you know, "spark joy" or whatever.

I'm at the back, by the big windows. There are comfortable chairs with wooden TV trays in front of them; it's too comfortable a situation to be productive, but today I've decided to think in circles instead of move forward (both are important). I'm people-watching, too, which is also important—you have to watch people if you want to know how to write about them.

So far:

A tiny woman in a luxurious velvet dress with a large bow on the back of it, and a shiny gold purse. She is hunched over a table, highlighting things in a migonstrous textbook and has a little girl with her who is content to sit at the table beside her and read book after book. They have matching hair, mother and daughter, shiny and black and shoulder-length.

A teenaged girl with a toque and scarf, seemingly walking the perimeter of the library without stopping to look at anything in particular, who scowls at me every time she goes past. She has short, fluffy, curly hair and thick, fuzzy eyebrows that sit low over her eyes.

An older lady and a boy, probably in his teens. She's a guidance counselor, I think. She's asking him about his "plans" and he's talking so low that I can't hear what he's saying. Maybe they're an unexpected bank robber duo. Maybe they're planning a heist.

A troubled-looking man who looks like he probably always looks troubled even when he isn't. He's sitting at a table staring at the magazines like they're what's troubling him, but a minute ago it was the carpet, and before that it was something out the window. Trouble everywhere.

Three girls at one of the big tables. They look like they're straight out of a movie; very fashionable and put together—and the product placement! A Manchu Wok bag, Booster Juice cups, Coke and Pepsi bottles, an Orange Julius... Everything's labels are fully visible and facing me, like I'm the camera.

I always wish, when I write posts like this, that someone across the room was writing a similar one, and that we could compare notes, and that I could read what they wrote about me.

Probably:

A blonde woman by the big windows in a comfy chair. Too comfortable-looking to be productive. Watching everyone; thinks she's being inconspicuous but really isn't. Probably cuts her own hair.