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I’m the alpha now.

I was with a (female) friend the other night, and we lamented how angry and short we’d been with people all week. She’d yelled at some kids at the park. I flipped off no fewer than five people in one morning. We were tired and frustrated, and our fuse had been blown by all the world’s nonsense.

On top of ALL THAT, I’ve been stretched so thin lately that I can no longer see myself. I wrote a list of all the current “hats” I wear, and I didn’t even get to “daughter,” “wife,” or “friend” before I ran out of room. I’m having a hard time differentiating between what I “need” to do, what I “ought” to do, and what I “want” to do. Working four different jobs, I serve four different bosses and four different clienteles. It’s easy to slip on my own writing and promotion, because it’s not like I send myself urgent emails yelling, “I DON’T CARE HOW MUCH YOU HAVE ON YOUR PLATE, I NEED THIS DONE TODAY.”

Maybe I need to send myself mean emails.

When I’m feeling particularly frustrated, I always think about those “day in the life” writers’ profiles in upscale magazines, where the (dude) writer wakes up, drinks his coffee while reading the newspaper, and then retreats to his cosy writing nook until lunch is ready. (He doesn’t have to make his own lunch, obvs.)

I always think, initially, “Fuck that guy,” but now I’m starting to think, “Why can’t I be more like him?” Maybe he’s got it all figured out.

He, guaranteed, doesn’t fret about sending emails requesting reviews or promo help. He doesn’t set aside his writing because he has to do something for the kids’ school or bake some cookies. He is his own priority.

From this moment on, I only bake cookies because I want to.

From now on, I drink my coffee, retreat to my writing space, and turn off the rest of the world.

From here on out, I don’t equivocate in my correspondence with people, and I don’t put off writing emails because of nerves. I say what I mean, as succinctly as I can, because I’m a writer and a grown woman, and I’ve earned my place, damn it.

The rest of the world isn’t going to stand aside and let you or me through the gates because we’re polite and follow the rules. The past few weeks have proven that. We’re women, and we are not believed. We’re women, and we get nothing handed to us. We’re women, and no matter how agreeable we try to be, we’re only going to get pushed aside. We will have our motivations questioned and our tones challenged, no matter what we do.

So, we might as well take a page from that dude writer in the New Yorker piece and start putting our own wants and needs first.

Things that should and should not be pumpkin

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Basically, a good rule of thumb is, if you have to ask, it should not be pumpkin.

Yes, pumpkin:

Pumpkin pie. The classic.

Pumpkin spice latte. The bougie classic.

Pumpkin spiced doughnuts. I’m not mad at that.

Pumpkin bread. That’s just delicious.

Pumpkin spiced candles. Sure. Smells are zero calories. I get it.

Should not be pumpkin:

Oreos. I do not understand the need to mess with perfection. OREOS ARE ALREADY DELICIOUS. GET YOUR ARTIFICIAL FLAVORINGS OUT OF MY DOUBLE STUFF.

Lindor Truffles. I’m on board with many of their experimental flavors, but their pumpkin spice offering is sad.

Deodorant. If he only likes you because your pits smell like pie, he’s not worth it.

Pop. No. Pass. Let me drink my Diet Coke and die in peace.

Twinkies. See OREOS.

All other pumpkin flavored foods that are not naturally supposed to be pumpkin. Wake me when egg nog season begins.

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No, you’re the bubble.

I had the news on the other night, and Brian Williams asked one of the panelists a question about something related to the Mueller investigation.

Before she had a chance to answer, I knew what she was going to say. I’d heard this argument laid out before, many times, on other news shows and podcasts. I often have MSNBC on in the afternoons when I’m making dinner. And, oh yeah, I’ve been known to eat breakfast with Morning Joe.

(He and Mika are my OTP.)

Just like how I used to know the names of every actor on every TV show and in every movie, I now know all the major players littering the current political landscape. I’m on top of the breaking news. I sense when something big is about to drop. While trying to stay informed, I’ve also inadvertently allowed current affairs to become my new “entertainment” obsession.

That’s a shameful thing I just admitted, but it’s true.

The news cycle has become what we talk about around the proverbial water cooler. There are too many TV shows to keep track of these days, what with streaming and cable and the DVR. No one is watching the same stuff at the same time. If I go to a party and bring up Better Call Saul, people will give me the dead-eyed stare. But if I bring up Michael Avenatti? Oh, now we’ve got a stew going.

Because we’re all watching the news. (Or most of us are, anyway. And even if we’re not, we know enough to get by.)

But we’re not all watching the same show, are we?

It’s like back when everyone was watching Seinfeld, and we could all quote the show and name the characters and guest stars. But then there’d be, like, that one guy you knew who bragged about never watching the show and claiming that McKenna, a show that apparently aired opposite Seinfeld during ’94-’95 and starred Jennifer Love Hewitt, was WAAAY better than Seinfeld. He knew the truth, and we sheeple watching Seinfeld were delusional.

And now we’re kind of in the same boat. I know my show’s major storylines and players. But the guy at the gym who only watches FOX knows what he knows and believes what he believes. I’m right, he’s wrong. He’s right, I’m wrong.

But we’re not dealing with fictional characters. We’re watching reality play out through different filters. So, this shouldn’t come down to opinion. There should be a cache of basic facts we all can agree on. And yet.

I’m sitting here writing this all smug that I’m following the OTS (the One True Storyline). The journalists I follow hunt for the truth. The partisans I watch and listen to don’t blindly praise whatever the Democrats are doing. They search, question, think. They do not trust every word that comes from an administration that started lying to us from the jump (crowd size, anyone?), nor to they gobble up every word from Chuck Schumer. (Now Kamala Harris, on the other hand…)

But. What about the people who’ve been conditioned for decades to believe the media, the Democrats, and Hollywood have been selling them a hill of beans, the people who trust that only the “Fair and Balanced” network is giving them the real story, the people who see conspiracies around every corner because how is it even possible that the people on the left might be telling the truth? They firmly believe that they’re getting the real scoop from the people they trust and listen to.

All I’m saying is, I liked it better when we were just fighting over whether or not Seinfeld was good.

2 good things

It’s Monday! Happy Monday! Monday is when we need some positivity, heading into yet another week of 2018 that will surely be frustrating and flabbergasting.

I wanted to share with you two things that are currently bringing joy to my life. Sure, family and friends are great, but can they hold a candle to…

…frozen grapes dusted with sugar-free Jell-O?

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I don’t think they can.

I heard about these at a Weight Watchers meeting, and, yes, I realize by eating these, I’m pumping my body full of who knows what. Guess what? I’m fine with it.

I’m also loving my Stila Shimmer & Glow Liquid Eye Shadow. It’s so easy to apply that I’m sporting glittery eyes every day…just because I can.

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What are you loving this week?

Trope-a-dope

Untitled design (3)Most romance novels are are centered around popular tropes. This was news to me when I started working on the North Pole series. It makes sense, really. If you’re someone who loves reading about cowboys falling in love, there’s a whole category of books just waiting for you.

Someone once sent me a list of popular tropes, and I even bought a book that’s just a list of tropes, for instance:

Feisty old ladies

Frost fairs (What the…?)

Friends with benefits 

And those are just from the Fs.

When I decided to start pitching a series for August, Entangled Publishing’s Gen-X imprint, I first consulted my list of tropes.

Then I started combining them to see what developed:

What if two people are FORCED TOGETHER in a HAUNTED HOUSE and one of them is BILLIONAIRE?

(This was not one of my actual ideas, but go forth and write, if it inspires you.)

I came up with three ideas and fleshed each of them out in pretty detailed synopses. (I love writing synopses. I could do it all day. It’s like putting together a puzzle. Reader, this is what I do FOR FUN.)

All three were rejected.

They liked two of my ideas–with reservations–but ix-nayed the third all together.

I went (happily) back to the synopsis drawing board. I reworked the two maybes. But then I got a little stuck (and probably tired and cranky) about the third.

I still liked it; WHY DIDN’T THEY?

Probably (and I say this not having reread this synopsis in about a year) because it was garbage.

So, I, in a MOOD, decided to peruse the trope list and pick out the most unsavory, unsexy, un-EVERYTHING trope I could find and come up with an idea.

I’D SHOW THEM!

What would I show them? I don’t know. I also wanted to challenge myself–like I said, synopses are my jigsaw puzzles.

So, I kept two of my original tropes–bachelorette auction and one-night stand–and added a third–accidental pregnancy.

Ew.

As a romance reader, my least favorite trope of all is “pregnant for you,” where the couple’s love is SO POTENT that the woman gets knocked up, like, *snap.* For me, this comes a few personal places: 1) I dealt with infertility for years, so the whole magic sperm thing still stings a bit, and 2) There’s just not a lot sexy about being pregnant or having a baby. You say, “Our love is so powerful we can create beautiful, magical life!” I say, “Welcome to a life of dirty diapers, sleepless nights, and picking Legos out of your feet.”

But as I started working on the outline for KNOCKED-UP CINDERELLA, I started to see how I could make this work for me. It’s not about a woman getting pregnant “for a man.” It’s about two people getting drunk, dancing close, and whoopsie-daisy. It’s about two independent professional adults having to slow down and figure out how to let not one, but TWO new people into their busy lives. It’s about a pair of individuals who’d only had to think about themselves since college, suddenly having to consider someone else’s feeling and opinions.

It’s also about swanky galas and ball gowns.

I think therein lies the real truth: Any trope can be saved by the prospect of a fancy dress.

 

A girl and her notebook

IMG_1003It’s school supply time, and I bought a notebook.

A sparkly pink notebook from Target.

There is truly nothing like an empty notebook–all those pages, waiting to be filled. It’s college-ruled hope. It’s a world of possibility, neatly bound by strong, black tape.

WHAT, PRAY TELL, WOULD I USE IT FOR?

On the first page, I wrote “Book Ideas.” I jotted down five. Like, literally five five-word descriptions.

On the second page, “Blog Post Ideas.” That page is currently empty.

Instead of writing this notebook off as a bust (as I normally would’ve done), two-and-a-half weeks ago I flipped to the back page, wrote down my weight and measurements and started keeping track of however I felt that day–fitness, food, or mindset-wise.

I started tracking how many steps I logged each day. During the first week, I realized I’d gotten lax about hitting my 10k daily goal, so I made that my focus.

The second week, I hit a few emotionally blue days. Instead of running for the chips and/or cookies and/or hurling my notebook into the garbage, I wrote through those days. I told my notebook how I felt and why I was feeling that way. Instead of eating my feelings I wrote them down.

Through my little journaling exercise, I’ve realized I tend to go off plan on the weekends (who doesn’t?), I eat when I’m stressed and procrastinating (i.e. about 87% of my life), and I love to sabotage myself withe salty foods the day before weigh-in. But I keep writing, learning, and readjusting.

How many pound have I lost during this little experiment so far? +.8

Yeah. I’ve gained weight.

But I’ve also been able to look back at my notebook to figure out why I’ve gained weight. I’m realistic about what I’ve done. I don’t yell, “Khaaaan!” at the universe without holding myself accountable for my own actions (or inaction, sometimes).

Weight loss, like publishing, can feel like watching paint dry. Nothing ever happens on your time table. It’s a lot of trial and error. A lot of hard choices you can only hope will pan out. In both, there’s some luck involved–but you can’t rely on that.

You do everything in your power, write the best book you can produce, workshop the hell out of a query, edit that book into a shiny diamond, market it to the masses by following all the rules.

And…you get rejection after rejection, or your editor tells you this wasn’t what she wanted, or your book gets horrible reviews and/or flops, sales-wise.

At that point, you can chuck it all in the garbage and give up, or you can take an honest look at what you’ve done and reassess. Maybe you could’ve used a critique partner, maybe your first five pages aren’t so great, maybe you, introverted one, actually need to suck it up and network–a prospect that sends me diving right for the chips, honestly.

Instead of saying “I can’t,” blaming the universe, and giving up, you can be proactive, put in the work, and figure out how you can do better next time.

It’s why God created sparkly notebooks from Target.

Rebranding

anyboybutyou500I suppose I’m going through a rebranding phase right now, which is, when I stop to think about it, not so new for me.

In college, when I decided I no longer wanted to study opera, I rebranded myself as a Latin teacher.

When I fell into writing about American Idol, I rebranded as a TV blogger.

After I had my son, I rebranded as a stay-at-home mom (who wrote for fun…and a little money).

Throughout my life, I’ve been overweight, at a healthy weight (for me), then back to a little more overweight (thank you, current political climate), and now I’m working toward my goal again.

I’ve rebranded from someone who hated exercise to someone who NEEDS it (and enjoys it).

I morphed from a picky eater into someone who will cook and eat anything–except coconuts. Unless they’re the Trader Joe’s coconut strips.

I’ve gone from disorganized slob to marginally less slob-like and a little more organized.

I was a dog owner, but, sadly, now I’m not.

I swung from not caring about politics to (some might say) caring too much.

This is where I’ve always gotten stuck with the whole branding thing. I’m a bit of a magpie, taste-wise, and I’m constantly changing and evolving as both a person and a writer.

But aren’t we all? Isn’t that what life is? #deepthoughts

When I sat down to think about my new writing adventure–shifting from writing for young adults to a more mature audience–I wondered what this meant for my “brand,” how this move might affect my readers.

I focused on what hasn’t changed. The answer is: Not a lot.

If you liked THE SOUND OF US, you’ll like ANY BOY BUT YOU. If you liked ABBY, you’ll dig KNOCKED-UP CINDERELLA.

My books still focus on light romantic situations with (I hope) a comedic voice. My characters are still nerdy nerds who probably make too many pop culture references.

There’s just, like, maybe a tad more boning in the new book.

But not so much that’s it’s jarring.

I’m saving the really raunchy stuff for the next novel.