Oh, it’s a coming…

Aaahhhh….let’s all geek out together! The edits for my fourth novel are finished. This one is very different from my Rory’s Choice series. Oh, it’s still young adult, and as fast paced as my other novels, but this sixteen-year-old has bigger problems than boys—someone else’s soul has taken over her body. Now, I know what you’re thinking. How could that happen?  Well…when souls are stuffed into a voodoo prison, for an eternal punishment, sometimes taking another body is the only way out.

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Bad juju

I know I’ve talked about a few of my quirks, but hey, I have no shame, so here’s another one since it decided to smack into my windshield this past week. I’m superstitious, and not just kind-a-sort-of, I’m the person you see in restaurants throwing salt over their shoulder, trying to keep the bad luck at bay. I think my borderline manic thinking on this was only intensified by the many years I spent acting. Actors are a superstitious bunch. Even if you see us laughing good naturedly about you saying, “Good luck,” before a performance, in our heads we’re wishing we could stab you in the heart for cursing us before we go on.

Okay, I think before I digress too far here, let me tell you what happened this week.

My husband and I are driving home, when out of nowhere, a pigeon face-plants into our windshield. I looked at my husband wide-eyed. “Oh my word, I hope that doesn’t mean the same omen as last time.”

He looked at me like he had no idea what I was talking about.

“Don’t you remember seventeen years ago? We hit a bird traveling down to see your parents for Father’s Day? Three days later, on the way back, you fell asleep at the wheel and rolled the car.” To this day, it was the worst accident I had ever experienced though we both walked away with only minor cuts.

Thrilled about the reminder, my husband said, “Gee, honey, I’m so glad you haven’t forgotten about that.”

Insert sarcasm if you haven’t already. Rude, right?

Anyway, I’m happy to report, since more than three days have passed, the bird ended up meaning nothing more than a poor suicidal creature that chose our vehicle as a means to its end. If only it could have known how freaked out its death was going to make me, then it could have done the polite thing and picked some other car to fly into. Crazy bird!

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The power of positivity

My daughter turned thirteen in April, making her an official teenager—oh, sweet love! We still get along fairly well in the mom/daughter dynamic of life; I just wish she’d try harder to be more positive. The easy giggles she used to have are being replaced by what I consider to be a cankering pessimism.

I get it: life is hard, kids are mean, and things don’t always go your way, but focusing on the negative isn’t going to make your life better. Allowing pain, sorrow, anger, to consume your thoughts creates an exhausting vortex inside that feeds on your self-worth. The only way to combat the negative is by activity seeking to see the positive around you. Yes, even in your darkest moment, you can find something positive to be grateful for. It takes practice, especially if you’ve been feeding the negative monster for a long time, but it’s worth the effort. Where negative feelings drain us, positive ones energize. Who couldn’t use an extra shot of energy to face life every day?

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We’re in the home stretch for edits with my latest novel. We are still at least six months out from its release, but I can’t contain myself. Stuffed Souls is turning into one killer good time. Who says revenge can’t be fun?

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Fine. Keep it!

When we purchased our home almost one year ago, one of the things I wanted most was a cement porch right off the back of the house. Maybe I should have asked the builder to do it, but I hate paying exorbitant labor fees. After a year of saving, we were financially prepared to put in the yard, and, of course, that cement porch, all by ourselves.

For three months we worked through a crazy wet spring, grading the ground around our home, putting in a sprinkler system, and then a massive made-from-scratch rose trellis, before we could finally put up forms for the cement porch. I scheduled the cement truck and my husband, his brother, and my father-in-law all took time away from work to install it. As the day came closer for the pour, the weatherman said there was a slight chance of a sprinkle in the morning. Everyone had already taken off work so I figured a slight sprinkle wasn’t enough to call off the plan for that day. Oh no, the weatherman got it so wrong, forget sprinkle, almost three inches of snow fell. My husband and his family pitched tarps over the whole pour. For twelve hours they fought through freezing wind and every other element Mother Nature could muster to save my cement porch. There were a few flaws in the finish, but after what we’d been through, I couldn’t be anything but grateful.

We decided the best way to deal with the flaws would be to coat the cement with one of those epoxy finishes. This weekend we spent hours preparing the cement, then hours more applying layer after layer of colored epoxy paint to the porch. It looked perfect…for about five minutes. My kids opened the back door to see the finished job and the cat bolted out. His kitty paws left a trail right through the finish. To say my husband was angry is an understatement, but all I could do was laugh. Oh, after all that work I was crying on the inside, but a thought struck me. Like the movie Jumanji, our cement was like the police car that kept getting beat up by the things coming out of the game, until it was swallowed whole by a monster vine and dragged away.  And what did the police officer say when that finally happened? Exactly what I said as walked into the house laughing. “Fine. Keep it!”

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wearing an editor’s hat

As I experience more and more the art of being an editor, I’ve learned the most important thing I can do is listen. For those of you who are thinking that should be obvious, I’m not talking about listening to respond. In fact, it’s usually best if I don’t respond at all. It’s not my job to make another author’s novel similar to mine, but to remain true to the vision inside their head. That’s the hardest part sometimes; it can be difficult to convey the nuance behind a story when it’s so close to us. However, when I listen, really listen, without trying to pass judgement on what I hear, I find my ability to grasp the inner workings of my author easier to understand. I find this also works with people in general. Everyone desires to be understood, but if we only use our ears to help us form the next verbal response, we might miss key components that could make our relationships better.

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disaster averted

It’s impossible to predict accidents. They happen so quickly, and often times, nothing can stop them once the chain of events leading up to an accident triggers. It’s even worse if the cause of the accident can be traced back to you. Now imagine your mistake almost causes major bodily damage to your own child, that’s epic mother-of-the-year guilt there.

Every year, we gather as a family to brand calves on my in-law’s farm. I don’t mind the calves, they’re little enough I don’t feel too threatened by their presence. On the other hand, their mothers are huge, and when they feel like it, they can move much faster than you would think an animal that size should.

This year, after we finished with the calves, we brought the mothers into the shoots for their yearly check-up. This is when I like to check-out of the corral and do things outside the fence to help.

This year I was put on what we call post duty. Once the men have two to three cows moving down the narrow corridor leading to the shoot, I push two large posts through the gaps in the fence behind them so they can’t back out and escape. This wasn’t my first time doing this job, but as always, I got a pep-talk reminder to stay behind the posts as I pushed them in. If a cow backs up before I have it completely across the two fences, their momentum will turn the post into a sideways catapult, smacking the fence with some amazing force.

Things are going smoothly, when the second to last batch of cows are directed in. These girls seem to be in a hurry to get in the shoot; all three of them race forward. I thought, whoo-hoo, thanks for making that easy, and grabbed the first post to shove it into place. The last cow suddenly backed up about as fast as she ran through. Before I had the post rammed through the fence on the other side, she struck it with such force the wood ripped from my hands. The catapult moment had begun.

At about the same time, I notice my oldest son standing next the fence preparing to do his job, spray the backside of the animals with liquid insect repellent. In the seconds I had to register that the arc of the trajectory was definitely going to hit him, I swear time stood still. I should have shouted out a warning, but my insides had hurled into my throat, cutting off my ability to speak or breathe.

No, no, no, my panicked mind screamed when my son, for some reason, turned way just enough the post only grazed him in the hip before smacking into the fence. I use the word graze loosely here, the force sent him flying forward, but at least he wasn’t smashed into the fence along with the post. How had we averted such a disaster? My father-in-law, who knows his cows so well, somehow saw the impending danger, and told my son to “come here” at about the same time my job spiraled out of control. I’ll forever be grateful for my son’s quick response to his grandfather’s call. It saved him from more than just a slightly bruised backside.

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