Saturday, December 18, 2010

Holiday Break


Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for visiting my blog.  In the coming week, I have a high school dinner concert, two elementary program dress rehearsals, two elementary programs, an elementary band concert, a junior high band and choir concert, and a sing-along to attend and/or lead.  I rather doubt that I will be able to squeeze any blogging in between cramming 120 first graders into bug costumes.

Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and a Happy New Year to you all.  I hope your time with your family is blessed.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Crossed Genre Review

I reviewed Issue 24 of Crossed Genres for The Portal.  The authors in the issue include Sabrina Vourvoulias, Daniel Jose Older, Sandra McDonald, Barbara Ann Wright, Angela Ambroz, Fadzlishah Johanabas, Audrey Fine, Kelly Jennings, Teresa Jusino, Lavanya Karthik, and Paul Lamb.

Here's the direct link to the review.  I hope you find it helpful.

Review of Crossed Genres, Issue 24, The Portal

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Why I Had a Dead Cow in My Shed for Two Years

When I was a first year teacher, I was incredibly eager to please.  I still have a a tendency towards it, but at that point in time I took it to extremes.

The band room at the private school I worked in used to be a morgue when it was a hospital.  There were only two teachers in the basement, myself and the art teacher, Barb.  It was a miserable place to be.  The doors didn't work properly, it flooded twice with rain or freshwater while I was there, and I was only there one year.  I had the better end of the flooding deal.  Barb's room had flooded more than once with sewage, and my understanding is that it's flooded with sewage since I left, too.

One day, Barb and I were chatting.  We talked a lot since we were so isolated.  I had talked to her before about the type of art my grandmother does, which is painting western scenes on bones.  I mentioned in an offhand manner, "Wouldn't it be cool to get a whole skeleton, have a different kid paint each bone, and then wire it together?"

"Yeah!  That's a great idea!"

I thought for a second.  "You know, I think my dad mentioned that he had a cow die a couple of months ago.  I'll see if the bones are all still there."

I called my dad.  "Well, I peeked over there the other day.  It's been picked pretty clean, but all of the bones are there."

"Great!  I'll tell Barb," I said, picturing the sun bleached, slightly scattered bones that I usually find out at the farm.  Barb was thrilled, and I said I would nab the bones the next time I would be out.

I drove out to the farm in our little station wagon.  A pickup would have been better for transporting a body, but I figured I could get the bones in a garbage bag or two.  When we went to go collect the bones, I realized that Dad's and my definition of "picked clean" varied rather drastically.  I felt rather like Brendan Fraser when he popped open the Mummy's sarcophagus.  The head was still swollen and juicy.  The meat was pretty well gone from the rest of the carcass, but all of the tendons and ligaments were still there.

"I, uh, have to take this back in the station wagon," I said. "I was planning on using garbage bags."  We grabbed the biggest ones we could find, but the backbone was too long to fit.

"Oh, I'll just do this," he replied, and cracked it half over his knee.

Resisting the urge to blow chunks, we packaged everything up and threw it in the back of the station wagon.  The carcass didn't smell out on the open prairie, but in the confines of my Saturn, it was...pungent.  The day was warm.  We went to church, and then to lunch at the Shamrock in Wibaux.  Thank God you don't have to lock your car in a small town, because I had every window down to keep the stench from building up.  Dad couldn't resist bragging to the undertaker about my makeshift hearse.

We get it back to my home in Billings, and my husband and I back up to the shed, feeling a little like Ted Bundy unloading a victim.

"When is she coming to get this again?" he asked, a little grossed out by the sloshing sound coming from the bag with the juicy head.

"She said she'd pick it up soon."

So, a month or two pass and Barb never came to get it.  I reminded Barb, and she said she'd grab it, and I think she promptly forgot.  I was afraid to be a nag and ask her again, and it had grown ripe.  We didn't have a pickup to haul it out.  Though we could borrow one, I had no idea where we could dump the body.

Finally, Aaron put his foot down.  I worked at a different school by then, and thankfully Barb was still at the same one.  I called Barb again.  "My God, you still have that thing!  I'm so sorry!  We'll swing by this weekend and haul it out for you."

We loaded the remains into the back of her pickup, and I was just sure the neighbors would call the police.  One of the bags broke open while we were unloading.  Thousands of dead beetles poured out with a rustling hiss and showered my shoes.

We do stupid things because of anxiety.  I was secretly afraid that if I didn't follow through with my word that Barb would look down upon me, and I had always been taught to honor one's elders.  I liked Barb, and didn't want to nag her as it seemed disrespectful.  Dad went out of his way to help me get the carcass, and I was afraid his extra efforts would be for nothing if I just threw the carcass away.  Both fears were stupid, but they were compelling enough for me to force my husband to trip over a juicy cow's head for two years whenever he mowed the lawn.

Tonight, I finally resolved a major anxiety, and I look back at all of the years that it grasped my heart in an ice-cold fist.  I can't believe how stupid I've been.  Almost all of my anxiety is about what other people think. It is a hungry monster, and it grows if you feed it more fear.

Do yourself a favor.  Starve the little bastard.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Discord's Apple

I just finished a book, Discord's Apple, by Carrie Vaughn.  Without writing any big spoilers, let me say that she made some religious assertions in the story with which I could never agree, but one part of the plot made me ache with longing.  King Arthur returned.  (Though he is not the main focus of the story.)

It took me quite a while to figure out why I longed so much for the return of a mythical King.  It's not like I knew the guy, though the character was written well enough to make me feel as though I did.  After some soul-searching, I found that I've been falling into our collective despair, praying that God would send someone, anyone, to deliver us from troubled times.  Why not Arthur?  He's cool and has a sword forged from pure awesome.

As I think on it longer, no matter how seductive the concept of an invincible crusader for righteousness may be, it's really a fool's errand.  The world doesn't change when a hero slays its dragons.  It changes when those who've had enough stand up and make it change.  Personally, I'd rather slay the dragon.  It may try to rip one's head from one's shoulders and vivisect one's liver, but it won't play games with a person's life, toy around with nukes, or profit from the deaths of millions.  With a dragon, the battle is over as soon as it's dead.  Real change requires years of shouting upon thousands of deaf ears before even a few minds are changed.

Is that why we write speculative fiction?  To better a world of our own creation the only way we know how?  Are we taking the easy way out?  If only a certain someone, and I'm not talking about Arthur, would return and allow us to escape our responsibilities to the world.

I want to effect change, but I doubt my ability to do so.  I pray that someday I can be effective.  Somehow.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Defining Urban Fantasy

I noticed that there have been several conversations on Twitter lately that have been trying to define urban fantasy.  I just attended a session that tried to do just that at the World Fantasy Con in Columbus, OH.  The panel was comprised of authors Holly Black, Michele Lang, Cinda Chima, and Stephanie Robertson.

To sum things up, urban fantasy:

  • holds hands with paranormal romance and contemporary fantasy.
  • is often influenced by the mystery genre.
  • takes place in the modern world or in the future.
  • is comprised of weird stuff in the real world.  (This is the most broad and my favorite.)
  • can have an open or closed world.
Much was said regarding open or closed worlds in urban fantasy, mainly because the very heart of the genre involves blending the real with the imaginary.  The authors defined an open world as one in which the general population is aware of the supernatural/magical elements of their world.  A good example in my mind would be Kim Harrison's Dead Witch Walking.  She supplies an alternate history of our world in which the we all become aware of most magical and supernatural phenomena, and that also makes everyone afraid of tomatoes.  Poor bastards.

Closed worlds are worlds in which the general populace is unaware of such elements, often chalking fantastical events off to overactive imaginations, intoxication, or symptoms requiring a good dose of Haldol.  The average citizen in the Harry Potter series is closed to the idea of magic, leaving millions of Muggles hopelessly ignorant that they were this close to being Voldemort's bitches.

The type of world an author chooses to use greatly affects the nuances of effective world building.  One of the panelists remarked that books with open worlds that have no explanation for how everyone knows about werewolves, witches, and vampires makes for a less believable plot.  "Yes, Virginia, there is a Dracula."  I appreciate the irony of trying to make the unbelievable believable, but there has to be a sort of logic in one's world to set up the willing suspension of disbelief in one's audience.

Some other genres that came up during that panel, and several other panels, that seem related to me included steam punk, cyber punk, weird western, rural fantasy (AWESOME), and mash-ups.  I'm having trouble placing my book in an appropriate genre.  The definition of a book is critical.  It guides consumers towards what books they may like to try.  Placing a book in the wrong genre feels like a bait-and-switch to readers, and understandably pisses them off.

I feel my book is closest to urban fantasy in its structure and style, but it doesn't take place in a city, and it has a few aspects of weird westerns.  I want to fight for that urban fantasy label, if I can ever land an agent, because urban fantasy is booming right now.

What do you think?  Do you have anything to add to the discussion?

Say Hello to The Portal's Newest Reviewer!

I wasn't able to post about it the other day, but I am one of the newest reviewers at the Portal.  For this month, I'm working on reviewing the current issue of Crossed Genres, and so far, I'm enjoying the hell out of it.  I'll be posting my review on the 21st of November.

Stop by and visit the site!

The Portal

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Sunday, November 7, 2010

The Art of Leaving Things Out

On the last day of the World Fantasy Conference, I attended a panel regarding the art of leaving things to the reader's imaginations.  Some of the comments got me to thinking, and I knew this was an important topic for me, as I usually try to hit my audience over the head with whatever point I am trying to make.  Repeatedly.  With a big-ass hammer.

When I was a kindergartener, I suffered from chronic nightmares.  While my sister dreamed of watchdog rocks that blew her on the butt and scrambled her like a TV screen, I don't remember much of what I dreamed.  I only remember that it terrified me and occasionally gave me glimpses of Armageddon.

I loved to poke around in my dad's library in the office, which sounded grand, but it really consisted of a shit-ton worth of books on bowed bookshelves.  Most were pretty heavy-duty, consisting of dad's college texts from his chemistry degree, his chemistry set, and Step-Grandpa Art's artificial kidney.  There were range management journals and a bunch of very old National Geographic issues, which soon came to include the most awesome issue ever:  the one with the holographic Australopithecine skull on the front.  Totally legit.  But I digress.

Also contained therein were my grandfather's college texts, mostly from his med school days at the University of Tulane.  He went to med school in the 30's, before the advent of gigantic CSI units, and doctors were often expected to serve as forensic pathologists and crime scene investigators.  One of his texts was simply titled Homicide Investigation.  It covered how to remove a bullet from a body without damaging the grooves left by the gun's barrel, how to handle advanced decomposition, etc.  If you've ever seen the Brad Pitt movie Seven, the old black and white pictures in the serial killer's journal were cut from this book.  Despite the grisly content, I was drawn to it like a moth to a flame.

At some point, my older brother was angry about something and threatened to run away, and so my dad whipped out that book to show him what happens to runaways.  There were horrible photos; there was a kid who had multiple axe wounds to the face, a little girl who had fallen down a well and had her face eaten off by a turtle, and a guy's neck that had nearly been severed, among many other things.  In a weak moment, Dad let me thumb through the book, and keep it for further examination.

My nightmares stopped.

It made no sense for a long time.  Thinking back on it, I was almost as sheltered as the Amish, but was a deeply anxious kid.  Nebulous thoughts of bad things that could happen floated around in my little head, but never fully materialized, making them even more terrifying in their intangibility.  Looking through that book cemented in my mind the worse thing that could axe murder...a reptile eating your face...and it was a comfort.  The unknown was known and could be faced.  I slept soundly.  Do I advocate showing photos of mutilation to your kids?  Absolutely not.  I'm lucky it didn't make things worse.

One comment made by the panel at the WFC was that, by leaving key details out of a narrative, the dark shadow in the corner can be far scarier because it leaves details to the individual reader's imagination.  What pushes my scary button could be vastly different to what pushes another's, and when left to fill in the blank, we all imagine something that scares us individually.  My scary button, even as a kid, was not pressed by reading about mutilation, though, as an adult, injuries to kids bother me on a very fundamental level now that I have one of my own.

It's a lesson I need to keep in mind as I revise my novel's draft.

Monday, November 1, 2010

I Freakin' Love Hyperbole and a Half

Sadly, it sounds as though Allie has moved from Montana.

Gladly, she still runs her blog.  This post brought me joy as I waited for my delayed flight back from the WFC.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

On My Way to the World Fantasy Conference!

I'm sitting in the Denver International Airport, and I'm so excited to be on my way to the WFC that I can barely contain myself.  I was going to edit during my layover, but I can't muster enough concentration...

Hey!  Look!  There's a bird!

Seriously, there's a tweety bird hanging out by my departure gate.

I'll be spotty for the next few days on Twitter and on the blog.  The conference schedule is packed and I'm staying with a cousin instead of at the hotel.  I'll be spending a lot of time driving and soaking up info, and sadly, my phone freezes whenever I tweet.

If you're coming to conference, I can't wait to meet you!

Monday, October 11, 2010

Gettin' Ready for the World Fantasy Convention, 2010

After having entertained some wonderful friends from out of town, I'm shifting my focus to preparing for the World Fantasy Convention in Columbus, OH.

I'm a convention virgin.

I don't know how to dress.  I don't know how to pitch.  I don't know if I should pitch.  Will there be anyone who'll help me out with my manuscript?  No idea.  The schedule looks like Greek to me.  Will I be able to kick Social Anxiety in the balls and cut loose?  Not a clue.  Do I have to wear a, "Hi, my name is..." badge?  

All I know is that I'm packing my boots.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Good News? Bad News?

The other day, I found out from a friend at church that we both knew an author that has successfully published 12 book.  He's a great guy, and writing never came up as a conversation at church, so I had no clue.  Though I felt monumentally stupid for not knowing, she suggested that I ask him for help.

I totally blew the phone call.  It sounded something like, "Hi, I'm the accompanist from church and I wrote a novel and I have no clue what I'm doing and you rock socanyoureadmystuffformeplease!"  Once he recovered from the verbal assault, he asked me to email him the first chapter.

I received an email last night.  He wants to meet for coffee and discuss the chapter.  On the upside, the first chapter needs the most polishing before I submit it.  On the downside, I have no idea whether "discussing" will involved kudos or dope slaps.

My husband's right.  (Don't tell him I said that.)  It doesn't hurt me either way.  If he didn't like it, I'm certain he'll have constructive criticism because he's that kind of guy.  If he liked it, yay!

By the way, I'm in Phase 1.

Friday, September 24, 2010

The First Major Freakout Has Passed

Shortly after posting about my need for a developmental editor, I discovered what developmental editing would cost.  After I changed my underwear and removed the proverbial brick, I glided into a spiral of despair that went something like this:

1.  I don't have $4,000.
2.  I won't have it in the foreseeable future.
3.  My book won't get edited on the completely arbitrary deadlines I've set for myself.
4.  I suck.
5.  If I suck, my book sucks.
6.  Sucky books are hard to market, unless one has committed the crime of the century, has a huge fan base for reasons unrelated to writing, or knows the power of the carefully applied horizontal mambo.
7.  Sucky books are useless to edit.
8.  Therefore, I'm useless.

I spent a few days moping and absorbing the fact that all of my carefully laid plans were completely thrown off course.  I prayed a lot, asking if it was something I was supposed to do, even if it leads to things not even related to publishing, which is what I really, really want.  I was reminded that wanting something that badly is not a guarantee of success, thanks to this post from Nathan Bransford.  His blog entry made me feel pretty shitty, though it was no fault of his.  It just sucked the wind out of my sails rather abruptly, mostly because I honestly thought I was following his Ten Commandments. 

I don't like making mistakes.  I hate feeling foolish even more, which is why I was so upset.  I feel like I'm back on track, and actually made some very good edits last night.  With any luck, I'll learn how to switch from the, "SUCK!" setting to the, "AWESOME!" one.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Finding a Developmental Editor

As I near the end of my second draft, I'm starting to explore my options for hiring a developmental editor.  I feel this is necessary for several reasons:

1.  I'm a complete novice.  I write well, but I know my writing lacks the polish required for a professional-level manuscript.

2.  I want my novel to have the best possible shot at being published before I start shopping it around.

3.  Did I mention I'm a novice?

The options right now are overwhelming.  I need someone who enjoys urban (rural) fantasy, is compassionate, has had past clients succeed in becoming published, has experience in the industry, and has a wry sense of humor.  Any takers?  Anyone?

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Saturday, September 4, 2010

The Wonders of No TV

My husband and I got rid of our TV service several months ago, and I can't say I miss it all that much.  Instead, we stream Netflix to our TV and love it. for hundreds of special interest and shopping channels, or download only what I want to watch with no commercials...let me think about that for a minute.

It's had a few unexpected side effects, however.

On the bright side, I find that not being bombarded with ads that I have to sit through has decreased my desire to buy shit I don't need.  I'm an incredibly careful consumer, provided I'm properly medicated, and can usually talk myself out of anything.  Even as skeptical as I can be, ads can instill an inane or over longing in my subconscious, depending on the level of dissatisfaction in a particular area of my life.  

If it's home organization stuff, I can just picture perfectly organized closets and drawers that would impress my husband so much that he would be inspired to put something away in the same place more than once.

Kitchen gadgets?  Blech.  No desire there.  Ever.  Even as cool as it would be to press mini-burgers, mini-burgers would lead to mini-buns, and mini-buns just might lead to making other pointless, tiny foods.  Tiny hor d'ouerves could lead to attempting to entertain every once and a while, which would require crawling out from behind the computer screen.  Oh, the horror!

Cool laundry stuff?  Tempting.  I bought some steamy balls, not the kind I'm offered within the bounds of marriage, but the kind that you fill with water and pop in with your clothes.  They pound and steam your clothes in the dryer.  Love them for instant ironing in the morning.  Not so much for actually drying clothes, like the manufacturer claims.  Last I checked, more water means more drying time.  The manufacturer also failed to mention the fact that it makes the dryer sound like mortar shells bursting in your basement.

I noticed the other day that there was a dark side to not being exposed to TV ads.  I was at our weekly folk band practice and my toddler was having trouble sleeping.  The room we usually pitch his pack 'n play in was taken, and we didn't think to put it in my friend's downstairs.  So, rather than move the play pen, I took my poor, hysterical little guy downstairs and snuggled him while watching CNN.  

Then, the inevitable commercial finally came.  Despite fierce resistance, the part of my brain that battles the desire to pointlessly consume had atrophied in the commercial-free prior months.  Commercial DSL service for $199.99 a month?  The hell, you say!  Sign me up, bitch!  I'll start a business to have that shit, despite my innate ability to lose money at business ventures!

Elliot had the good grace not to point and laugh.  He was busy charming my best friend's sister-in-law.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Holy Crap! The Beach Boys!

I think I've probably pasted this across the Net, but MY HUSBAND'S BAND JUST SOUND CHECKED IN FRONT OF THE BEACH BOYS! 


Friday, August 27, 2010

A Public Safety Message

As you know, my friends, medical marijuana has been approved in Montana. I'd like to bring your attention to a little-known effect of marijuana. When ingested by juvenile bunnies, it impairs their judgment, making this look like a good idea. For our safety and that of the bunnies, I beg you, I implore you, DON'T USE MARIJUANA!

The point still stands, even though the video was shot in Texas. And also despite the fact that bunnies lack the opposable thumbs to hang onto a joint.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Dad Life (Father's Day Opening 2010)

Sample from The Rider of Nealra

When a tragic accident forces musician Ellie Johnson to operate her family’s 7,000 acre farm and ranch in Eastern Montana, she soon finds the place plagued with unseen predators that can crush cow bones to dust and drain all fluids from chickens without any punctures.  Hopelessly accident prone, Ellie’s innate ability to be a smartass does nothing to find impossibly strong hooligan with very sharp, pointy ends.  With Stinky the mustang and the mouth-breather Sven as her only allies, she sets out to the Badlands to find the source of eerie blue lights that appear to the west, but instead tumbles into another world riddled with famine, disease, and the Necragii, the Death Priests of the Urtun.  

In the segment below, we find our heroine exhausted by weeks of calving and predation on her animals.  She finally decides to ask for help.  

After getting back to the house, I collapsed into the chair by the phone as dawn broke over the sky.  With a groan, I decided to call another neighbor with a couple of sons, knowing he’d be up milking cows by then.  I think the youngest might be a little sweet on me, and I was going to need to press any advantage I could whilst talking about dragon things with glowing blue eyes.
“Hello?”  Ole’s thick Polish accent was always apparent the moment you heard his voice.
“Ole?  This is Ellie, and...”
“Ellie!” he interrupted.  “Howzit going up der on da hill, der?”  Seems like the Polish folks around here end every sentence with, “der,” with was supposed to sound somewhat like the English word, “there.”
“Oh, better’n I deserve, Ole.  Say, you...”
“You remember watcha did last da last time you wuz here, der?” he said with a snicker.
“Yup.  Ran through the barn naked.” I sighed with a mental head slap.  I had stripped naked and run through his barn while Dad was buying mineral from him.  Whenever Ole tells that story, he always neglects to mention that I was five years old at the time, which could explain why his son is sweet on me.
“Oh,” he said, abashed.  “Well, den.  Wat can I do for ya?” 
Ooh, a sentence that didn’t end in, “der.”  “Ole, I’ve been having problems with some predators around the place...”
“Oh!  I know exactly watcha mean, der!  Der’s been some a-creepin’ around here, too!  Don’t know what it is, dough.  It’s always gone by da time I look out da window.  Whatever it is, it be out der spookin’ da cows at tree-tirty in da mornin’.  Da cows haven’t been milkin’ dat well lately, der.”
“Herman’s been seeing some things, too.  I was just wondering if you could call up here from time to time and make sure I’m still around.  I’m afraid I’ll get jumped by something while I’m out checking cows.”
“Oh, I can do better dan dat!”  He partially covered the receiver, but I could still hear him holler, “Hey, der, Lena!  Go get Sven!”  He removed his hand and said, “I’ll send Sven up now if you want, der, Ellie.”
“Oh, no, no, no!”  I said with a distinct note of panic.  “Not necessary, Ole.  Just send him up if you suspect a problem.  I’m just a little nervous being out there alone.”  Sven’s simple face hovered in my brain, saying, So, wat do ya say aboot comin’ over ta my place, der.
I had single-handedly delayed Ole’s dream of grandchildren. Considering Sven’s bad case of radio face (think about that one for a while), Ole’s dream was going to be delayed quite some time.  “Oh, ok den.  Just give us a call if ya need anytin’.”
“Thanks a bunch, Ole.”
“No problem.  Bye, der.”
I called Herman next.  “Hey, Herman.  You know anything new?”
“I, uh, no.”  He sounded nervous.  
“Did any of the neighbors see anything else?”
“Nope.  Not a thing.”  He swallowed.
“That’s weird.  I just talked with Ole, and he said he’s been hearing things in his dairy yard.”
“What kind of things?”
“He’s not sure.  He can’t get a good look.”
Pregnant pause.
“I got a look at one.”

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

He Who Laughs Last, Thinks Slowest

I often find myself agog at my own stupidity.  The following is one of those moments in which I have to laugh or I'd blush from mortification, though I usually do both anyway.

Finally! There’s light at the end of the tunnel! Due to numerous concerts and music festivals, I hadn’t really slept or been home regularly since the middle of March. I was absolutely exhausted, but thrilled that I was going to finish the year with an exemplary recorder program.

I had prepared for Murphy’s Law to the best of my abilities, but still had a busy day ahead. Have you ever herded 45 fourth graders onto risers without anyone falling off, puking, breaking their instruments, or bleeding? I’m convinced it can’t be done. To complicate things even more, Aaron and I needed to drive different cars to work because he had to be there at the butt-crack of dawn. I elected to sleep a little longer and drive my ‘87 Mercury Grand Marquis, a car, at least until that day, I loved probably a little more than was entirely healthy.

When I was ready to leave for school, I was really proud of myself. I had remembered to dress in my favorite spring pastels. I had gotten the program to the secretary to print a few days beforehand. I had sent notes home every week with how many practice minutes had not been turned in. I was pretty organized, considering how crazy things get by the end of May. Emboldened by my copious preparation, I practically skipped to the door, running perfectly on time as long as I immediately got into the car and drove off without stopping to do so much as fart. I stepped outside, locked the front door, turned around, and eyed my gleaming land yacht with dismay. A flat. Shit! Somehow, my husband walked right past it and didn’t see my car leaning more steeply than the streets of San Francisco.

I think, Ok, I’ve changed more flat tires than Mario Andretti. Farm Girl, you can handle this!  I unlock the door, intercept the escape artist (Dinah, the cat), and run inside to put on my winter coveralls. Hot, yes, but essential to protect the spring pastels, even if they left me smelling like a stockyard. I run back outside and immediately begin monkeying with the hubcap, which is steel and has an intricate locking system to prevent it from being stolen. As I worked, I remembered with longing the farm vehicles that hadn’t had hubcaps in twenty years. Reminiscing aside, ten minutes and several swearwords later I was jacking up the front end and removing lug nuts, now with a full understanding of why Andretti has a pit crew. 

The second I got the last lug nut off, I jerked the flat free of the axle and rolled it toward the trunk. Not a good idea, I soon found out, when some exposed steel sliced into my hand. I’m cussing, rolling, and bleeding, not necessarily in equal quantities. I check the time. I’m already going to be about 20 minutes late. SHIT ON A STICK! I whip out the spare, which turns out to be almost as bad as the flat. I slice my hand again and roll it over to get it mounted, grunting and grousing all the way. I put the tire on and really had to wrestle the lug nuts on, which I thought was weird, but I didn’t think about it because I was so FUCKING LATE! I took it off the jack, and viola, the spare goes almost completely flat as soon as the jack is all the way down.

Now I’m royally pissed. So pissed, in fact, that I couldn’t really relish the intrinsic comedic value of the situation. I called the school and told the secretary an abbreviated, G-rated version of my story. She sends my husband home to get me and I get to school about 40 minutes late. Thankfully, my principal thought it was hysterical. 

Ha. Ha, ha, ha. 

Despite the events of the morning, the recorder program goes off without a hitch. Go figure.

Two weeks later, my darling husband, the man who has burned two engines to death because he’s completely incapable of checking the oil, noticed that the tire I had changed wasn’t turning. Thank you, God! He can be taught! We couldn’t drive it anyway because of the state of the two flat tires, so we had it towed to the garage to fix the problem and install new radials. I’m relieved. I don’t use the old girl very often, but when I need her, I need her badly.

My relief came a little too soon. My brother stopped by later that day because his youngest had a doctor’s appointment in town. The phone rang and my husband answered it in another room while Devon and I visited. A few minutes later, he walked back into the living room, hanging up the phone and snickering. He said, “Shall I tell you this in private or embarrass you in front of your brother?”

I, thinking he had gotten a call from my gynecologist, said, “What?”

“That was the garage. Jack said you put the tire on backwards. He said he’s never seen it happen before and really didn’t think it could be done. Congratulations, honey.”

My brother thinks this is hysterical. Devon wasted no time calling my entire family to tell them all about what the flaky baby of the family did this time. 

I’m twenty-nine years old. I’ve worked in law, agriculture, medicine, education, and now I'm wrapping up my second novel. I’ve got degrees in anthropology and music education, and a Master's of Fine Arts. I sing or play in three different bands and choirs; in fact, I’m one of the founding members of Billing’s first professional-level choir. Hell, I even taught myself the concertina accordion with no help whatsoever, and I can play about 200 beats-a-minute on the damn thing. 

“What’s your point?” you may ask? When my family reminisces, what do you think they bring up? The backward tire. The time I shaved the shower curtain. The time I told a dirty joke IN CHURCH to elderly Mrs. Lynn, possibly contributing to her death a few weeks later. Yup. Scooter, the flake.

The Time Has Come, the Walrus Said....

I've been at this for years.  I've written some good stuff.  I've written a lot of crap, including a painfully awful first novel.  I've read countless agent blogs and how-to sites for writers.  I'm terrified, but I'm ready to take the next step, to go to second base, so to speak.

I'm lined up for my first writer's conference in October, at which I'm sure I will look like a complete idiot.  After the conference, I'm going to take what I learn to finish editing my novel and start querying agents.  I'm absolutely petrified, but the time has come for me to stop hiding behind my computer screen in the dark.

I'm afraid my ego is too big and my common sense too small, but I hope that good things will come of it.  I know publication may never happen, but it has a zero chance of happening if I don't try.