Bright Lights, Big Cacti

Arizona through the Eyes of a Native

Month: October, 2013

Why I Love the Boss

As I occasionally mention here, I’m a novelist. I have a small but loyal publisher and a small but loyal following of readers. I’m not the kind of novelist who gets a lot of attention these days — primarily because my genre of choice tends to be something called “literary fiction.” Most people, when they hear those words, immediately put my books in the “only read when suffering from insomnia” category. They are wrong of course, but they won’t know it until one of my books has kept them up all night.

The main reason I’m mentioning my avocation today is to point out that very few writers ever achieve the status of self-supporting novelist. That’s not to say it’s not a worthy goal — it’s just unlikely. It’s a little like winning the lottery, though the pool of players is considerably smaller.  For an indie author, the burden of finding editors and artists can be ridiculously time-consuming and expensive, which is why so many of them opt not to pay for those services. Instead, they do their best to edit their own work and rely heavily on their (usually limited) artistic skills to create the cover art. When their book reaches Amazon, it looks and reads exactly like what it is: amateurish. And then they are surprised when their book doesn’t immediately become a best seller.

The best that most of us can hope for is to win the support of a publisher — a group of people who will make it their goal to see our words in print. The greatest benefit of having a publisher is knowing that someone else is worrying about the details of prettying up your manuscript — including editing and layout. The support they provide allows you to move on and start writing your next novel.

The biggest myth about publishers of any size is that they have a team of publicists devoted to selling your book. THEY DON’T. Simply put, no publisher has the budget to assign a publicist to all of their authors. Ninety percent of the burden of building an audience always falls on the author — unless you happen to be Stephen King. And even Stephen King wasn’t always STEPHEN KING.

So, thank you, Jo Lowe. You made my dream come true. As the founder of Inknbeans Press, you accepted my novels and have continued to be one of my most vocal cheerleaders over the last several years. Thanks to you (and my readers), I continue to write. Who knows? Maybe I’ll write a lottery winner one day soon.

In a perfect world…

Dan

Ten years ago, we had never met, despite living in the same neighborhood and shopping at the same stores.

Nine years ago, I felt like the luckiest girl in the world. I was living with my soulmate and happier than I had ever been in my life.

Eight years ago, we married.

Seven years ago, we adopted Dewey Allen.

Six years ago, we lost Higgins. He left a hole the size of his body in our lives.

Five years ago, you let me quit work to pursue my dream of writing.

Four years ago, I found a publisher.

Three years ago, we went to Italy.

Two years ago, we were almost finished renovating the house.

Last year, we adopted Truman Jack. Our family — two humans and two dogs — was complete.

Today, you are fifty. Every year with you, the rope of love that ties us together gets thicker with memories, both good and bad. You are the best person I know and the only man for me. Happy birthday.

Garrison Keillor Made Me Miss Grandpa John

An Ole and Lena joke:

Ole was on his deathbed when he caught a whiff of rhubarb pie. Wanting nothing more than one more bite of his favorite dessert, he pulled himself out of bed and made his way down the stairs to the kitchen, where his wife Lena had left it cooling on the windowsill. Despite his weakness, he got a plate and a knife and carefully moved the pie to the counter to cut himself a piece.

Just as he was preparing to slide the knife into the pastry, Lena appeared and slapped his hand, scolding, “That’s for the funeral!”

My Grandpa John used to tell me Ole jokes all the time. I’m not sure now if he picked them up from listening to Garrison Keillor or if they were simply imprinted on his brain at birth (he being a Minnesota Swede), but he knew a ton of them. He also recited poetry at the drop of a hat. Sitting in the audience at Garrison Keillor’s show last night, I was transported back to a time when I lived with my grandfather and listened to his never-ending monologues. I remember being annoyed back then — I wish I hadn’t been.

Keillor appeared on the stage in a rumpled suit with red sneakers and proceeded to talk non-stop for 90 minutes or so with no apparent goal in mind. He told stories about his youth, lamented that his life had not been tragic enough for him to become a serious poet, joked about the heat of the desert and what it does to the mind, and gave some sound advice. My favorite bit was that we — all of us — should be cheerful. He pointed out that cheerfulness is not connected to happiness. Cheerfulness is a choice that we make each day, whether we are happy or not. I think I’m cheerful most of the time…but I’m going to strive to be more consistent.

One more Ole joke:

Lena decided that she and Ole needed a bit of culture so she bought tickets to the ballet. That evening, after watching the performance for about thirty minutes, Ole leant over to Lena and whispered in her ear,
“I don’t see why they dance on their toes. Why don’t they just get taller dancers?”

What I imagine Ole and Lena look like…

A Few Things I Wish I’d Known Sooner

In the last few months, my life has changed significantly and for the better. It turns out that engraving agrees with me: the act of creating something from raw material has a Zen-like effect on my mind. Though I write fewer words per day than I have in the past, I am still writing. Without the engraving business, I would have needed to return to the 9-to-5 world come 2014 — and my writing would have come to a full stop.

All things considered, my life is pretty great. As Dan says, I now spend my days doing two things I love: writing and engraving. Most people never find one job that brings them personal satisfaction. In fact, my father is the only person I’ve ever known who woke up each day and thought, “I get to go to work today!” Now I feel the same way.

Anyhow, I woke up feeling philosophical today and I thought I’d share a few of the truths that have led me to this point:

  1. Faith in a higher power doesn’t make you weaker or stronger — it gives you hope.
  2. A college degree is no guarantee of a monetarily successful life; however, money isn’t the only thing worth living for.
  3. Never join your life to another’s until you are content to be alone. If you do, you will end up hurting yourself and them.
  4. The right person to spend your life with will appear when you are content with yourself.
  5. Being “famous” isn’t nearly as satisfying as being happy.
  6. It’s okay if the “five-year plan” is simply to be happy.

A moment of reflection…

Vacuum Tricks

Dan and I recently purchased a new vacuum for our house. To be perfectly honest, this is probably the first vacuum I have ever purchased from a store. All previous vacuums have been hand-me-downs because — as mentioned many times before — I am not a great housekeeper. If it’s a choice between a weekend getaway or a new appliance, I’m generally choosing to travel. However, our old vacuum, which didn’t work all that well to begin with, recently threw a belt and no free replacements seemed forthcoming.

For the last few years, I have been coveting a Dyson vacuum, mostly because of their stylishly cool commercials. There’s just something about a man with an accent talking about vacuums that suddenly makes them sound sexy. (I can’t guarantee it, but I’m thinking if Dan used an English accent when asking me to cook for him he’d actually get a lot more home-cooked meals.) In any case, I talked Dan into buying a Dyson multi-surface vacuum. Let me tell you something: that thing sucks. No really…I mean it sucks dirt in from inches around it! My floors have never been so clean! And it’s easy to maneuver, transitions smoothly from carpet to tile, and generally make me happy when I use it. I highly recommend it.

Now, here’s the real reason I’m telling you about my vacuum:

I’ve had uprights forever. I don’t like canister vacuums because I find them bulky and annoying. In all those years, I have dutifully wrapped and unwrapped the cord around the two prongs they always provide for the cord storage on upright vacuums. It was an annoying but necessary task. The other day, I was showing off my brand-spanking-new vacuum to Fuzzy. She wanted to see it work, so I began unwrapping the cord. Looking at me like I was an idiot, she reached over and flipped the top prong upside down, thereby releasing the entire length of cord in half a second. “Didn’t you know that?” she asked with a half-smile.

No. No, I did not. I am a housekeeping moron. But at least I’ll know it for the second half of my life.

My first new vacuum.