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If You’re Gone

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I’d been doing really well there with my posts for a while. But suddenly I’m busy again . . . A good thing for a writer.

I’ll be attending DFW Writers Conference in July, which has spurred me to try and finish the draft of Changers before then. If I write a minimum of 300 words per day, I’ll be done on July 19. Just enough time to eke in one small edit. BUT. If I can finish it even a little bit earlier, my writing group might have time to give me feedback so I can do a much bigger tidying up. Here’s hoping.

Meanwhile, I also have this screenplay I’m co-writing. That needs to get done sooner rather than later as well.

I do hope to be able to continue “Hamlette,” too. I’ve received a lot of enthusiastic feedback for it.

This afternoon, having hit a snag in Changers, I went for a walk:

1. “Sleep ‘Til the War is Over” by Rob Thomas
2. “Kyrie” by Mr. Mister
3. “Pompeii” by Bastille
4. “I Will Wait” by Mumford & Sons
5. “Feel Again” by OneRepublic
6. “It’s All Been Done” by Barenaked Ladies
7. “California 37″ by Train
8. “When We Dance” by Sting
9. “Just Say Yes” by Snow Patrol

Wow. Heavy, and yet I loved this playlist. It might be overstating things to say there’s a sense of destiny in it, and yearning. Good, strong emotions, which I needed because I’m writing an emotional scene. It doesn’t seem like 300 words per day would be much to ask, but when you’re stuck, it’s like trying to drive through deep mud. Luckily, I have 4WD.

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Earth Day

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I wrote a few days ago about the drought. I really am concerned about the direction we’re headed—climate change is real, and we need more than just a day each year to talk about it.

In the Bible (regardless of whether you believe it), God used a rainbow as a promise never to flood the world again. Yesterday the Internet was in awe over a quadruple rainbow. Is that a reminder? At this point, God, we’d love some rain.

But really, here’s the thing to keep in mind: He promised He wouldn’t destroy the world like that again. He never said He’d stop us from doing it ourselves.

We’re all about our freedoms. We don’t want limits placed on us and what we can do. But if we don’t start limiting ourselves, we’re going to die. It’s as simple as that.

Tri-Valley Writers Conference II: Afternoon Sessions

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So after a morning “bootcamp” of self-publishing, we had lunch, which was served buffet style outside. The weather was beautiful, and my friends and I were lucky enough to snag an outdoor table so we could infuse some fresh air and sunshine into an otherwise indoor day.

Then there was the keynote by Shelley Adina. She talked about why it’s a good time to be a writer—namely, writers have a lot more power now, what with the option to self-publish. Still, it’s difficult to take someone like that seriously when, based on her personal story, she did get that book deal with a traditional publisher. In fact, it feels like she hardly had to work at it; her creative writing thesis landed at Harlequin. So she can talk about being in the trenches, but . . .

Sorry, I don’t mean to be disparaging. But I do get so tired of being told stories of luck and “being discovered.” The odds of that are so slim. Yet no one wants to say, “Hey, and the odds of you making it as a writer are slim to none.” They’re trying so hard to keep our hopes up when what I crave is a dose of reality. I hate to think I’m wasting my time.

But whatever.

The conference had two morning sessions and two afternoon sessions. For my first afternoon “class,” I opted for David Corbett’s “Plot, Character and Pacing.” My friend Michael Mohr (he’s on the sidebar) had spoken highly of Corbett, and after having heard from that last lit agent that the pacing in Peter was slow, I thought it might be worth a look. But as it turned out, 45 minutes wasn’t enough time to talk about all those things.

Still, Michael was right in that Corbett is a dynamic speaker, and his was easily the most interesting lecture of the day. He’s of the mind that character drives plot, and since I also write that way, I’m always glad to hear someone else say so, too. There’s nothing I dislike more than plot point, plot point, plot point. One can always tell in a book or movie when the writer was going with formula versus character development.

Corbett spoke of there being two basic kinds of stories:

1. A Man Goes on a Journey
2. A Stranger Comes to Town

In plot 1, the man in question opts to change his life in some way. In plot 2, the man’s life is changed by outside forces. Still, in that case he can’t just be reacting—he needs to act as well in order to remain interesting.

Knowing a character’s backstory is key, but not in the “character bio” sense. Yes, okay, he’s this tall and has blue eyes and went to such-and-such school. You could fill all that in and still not know much about him. So here’s the question to answer about your character: What are the most important moments in his (or her) life?

For Peter, it’s always when he meets someone. Meeting Gordon, meeting Jules, meeting Charles—all these moments change his life. The moment James kisses him, too, is key. The moment his brother dies.

A character’s backstory—those moments—inform his behavior. His nature is shaped by those moments, after all.

“Justify, don’t judge, your characters,” Corbett said. And it’s true. You can’t keep your character at arm’s length. You have to be with him and fully understand him, why he does what he does. Even if it’s never made explicit in your story, you have to know. So that you can make a character that behaves consistently and has a fundamental reason for that behavior.

And remember, your character doesn’t have to be likable (so long as you give him a reason for doing unlikable things), but he does need to be compelling.

At this point we were out of time, so I guess the pacing was more about the session than writing.

I went on to Stephanie Chandler’s marketing session. I’d seen Chandler at SFWC, but this time I was pleasantly surprised that she was not solely focused on non-fiction and had broad tips that were useful even for fiction authors. Of course, most of what she said I’d heard and already knew: have a Web site and update it frequently (at least 2–3 times per week according to Chandler); know your audience so you know who to market to, and where, and how; use social media extensively.

Book blog reviewers are of course the best way to get the word out, so if you can, find some bloggers and ask (always ask first!) if they’d be willing to read and review your book. But one can also pitch to Internet radio and podcasters and/or offer to speak at conferences. Or start one’s own podcast! (That’s something I’ve long wanted to do, if only I knew what to talk about.)

Chandler mentioned blogging your book, too, which is kind of what I’m doing with Hamlette, and I will admit I get big upticks in my viewership on days when I post more of that.

The conference ended with a small sales table for books that one could get signed by the speaker-authors. My friends and I mingled a bit then hit the hotel restaurant for dinner.

Tri-Valley Writers plans to do another conference in 2017. I’ll be interested to see if they broaden their offerings. This ran smoothly for a first try, but felt very small and limited. I’d like to have more session options if I’m going to spend a whole day—and a fair amount of money.

Tri-Valley Writers Conference I: Self-Publishing

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I spent all day Saturday at the first ever Tri-Valley Writers Conference. It was small—no agents, just a handful of speakers and ample opportunity to meet and chat with other writers. We got breakfast and lunch out of it, too.

Registration opened at 7:30, and I got there at 7:30, which was earlier than strictly necessary. I had author friends attending as well, but I was the first of us to arrive, something I generally hate. The breakfast was the usual hotel buffet of bagels, muffins, and some fresh fruit. Since I don’t drink coffee and am allergic to orange juice, I was stuck with water. (My caffeine of choice is soda, something I eventually went to buy from the hotel “store,” which was just a cooler and a rack of candy bars.)

Being the first of people I actually knew, it did provide the opportunity to sit and meet people I didn’t know. That’s probably good for me, but really, I find it painful. Still, I did meet a lot of great, interesting people. Most of them were members of the Tri-Valley Writers Club, or some other branch of the California Writers Club. I am not. I’ll consider joining, though it’s not yet clear to me what the benefits would be. I already have a great critique group.

Anyway, after some opening remarks, we broke out into sessions. The offerings were limited; there were, at most, three sessions going at any given time, and sometimes only two. Also, for some reason the first session was 90 minutes long while every other session was only 45 minutes.

For my first session, I opted for a self-publishing “bootcamp.” Smashwords’ Jim Azevedo was the speaker, and he was very personable, but did not really tell me anything I didn’t already know. I’ve self-published a couple things, and it’s looking more and more like Peter might go the same way, but since it’s been a while since I last published something, I wanted to see if anything had changed. The answer is: maybe a little. Nothing major. I mean, we all know that ebooks are gaining market traction, but it was nice for Azevedo to provide the data. In 2014, ebooks accounted for slightly more than one third of books sales (in $). Now, how many of those ebooks were self-published books . . . I don’t know. I’m sure a big chunk of them were the e-versions of Stephen King’s latest whatever and so on. But since self-publishers generally go digital, it’s nice to know readers are embracing ebooks.

Azevedo made the case for using Smashwords as distributor because it streamlines the process: You format and upload your Word document and Smashwords can convert it into various file types for iBooks and kobo and a number of other outlets. Your book can be available in a matter of minutes. Smashwords does not do Amazon books, though, because Amazon requires them to manually upload each book individually, so if you want to have your self-published book on Amazon (and you should; it’s still the biggest retailer), you’re better off doing that one yourself. Azevedo of course warned against going with Amazon’s KDP Select program, which means your book can only be available on Amazon. It’s the biggest, sure, but why put your book in only one store?

Still, Smashwords can’t help you if you want a print version. Azevedo said most of their authors use CreateSpace (Amazon again) for that.

I spent the second session in Azevedo’s continuing self-publishing talk, which was called “New Things to Expect from ebook Publishing.” I was hoping for new information, but what I got was Ten Trends:

1. Bookselling is moving online. We all know this; brick and mortar stores are disappearing as more and more people shop online for their books because online retailers are often cheaper.

2. The rise of ebooks. As mentioned before, more people are reading books on devices. They like the changeable font size, they like the convenience of traveling with many books under one lightweight device, they like the ability to sample before buying.

3. The democratization of publishing (aka the rise of indie authors). More and more authors are self-publishing, which means there’s more out there to choose from.

4. Indie ebook authors are gaining a competitive advantage. They can put books out faster, distribute globally, revise easily, have control of their work, and never go out of print. They have lower expenses for their publishing, so they can sell their books for less, which means more readers are willing to try their books. And they earn more per book sold than traditionally published authors.

5. Meanwhile, traditionally published authors are suffering from higher prices. Consumers have gotten used to paying $2.99 or $3.99 for a book, so they balk when faced with a $24.99 hardcover.

6. Print is dying for most self-published fiction authors. But note the qualifier: fiction. Non-fiction still sells in print, as do souvenir and specialty books.

7. Ebooks are going global. Apple’s iBooks distributes to 51 countries, and almost half of Smashwords’ iBook sales are international sales.

8. Even the big NY publishers are entering the self-publishing market. They’ve realized the trend is not going away. On one hand, it’s nice to have the validation. On the other, these publishers have made some questionable alliances (says Azevedo, though he did not elaborate, so it’s something I’ll have to research), and it really is another way for publishers to take money from the authors.

9. The self-publishing stigma is disappearing. It was once a last resort, but more authors actively choose to self-publish. Authors are now asking, “What can a publisher do for me that I can’t do for myself?” (I’ll admit, it was the question I had to ask when offered a contract from a small publisher for Peter, and the answer was they weren’t offering me anything I couldn’t do on my own.)

10. Indie authors are taking market share from traditional publishers. They are landing on bestseller lists right alongside big publishers’ books.

Azevedo mentioned that Smashwords does an annual survey and has learned that $2.99–$3.99 is the sweet spot for offering full-length fiction to readers. Non-fiction can charge $5.99–$9.99. And readers prefer buying full-length books to short stories or novellas. So Azevedo advises against breaking your novel into a serial.

But keep producing. It takes about five books before authors generally really start to see traction. It takes that many books to find and build a regular readership.

At this point it was lunchtime. I’ll post about the afternoon sessions in another post.

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Downhill

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There are ups, and there are downs. March was a decent month, and April started out promising as well (despite pneumonia), but now I’ve hit a two-week slump filled with nothing but rejections. It’s looking like I may end up self-publishing Peter as per the original plan. It’s so frustrating, though, having been told by two editors at major publishers that my book sounds like something they’d like to see. “Get an agent to send it to me,” they say. And then the agents all say the book is “well written” and “intriguing” but won’t take it on.

Tomorrow I’ll be at the Tri-Valley Writers Conference. Maybe being around other writers will innervate me, spur me on. But right now it’s difficult to imagine. I keep chipping away at Changers in the meantime. Though days like today, filled with ever more rejection, make me wonder why I bother.

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WIP: Changers

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So I’m about halfway done with Changers. I had been posting it to a blog for a while but then was advised by a literary agent not to post the whole book else no one would publish it later (since it had already been “published” online). But sharing a little now and then won’t hurt its chances, and anyway, as this is only the first draft, it’s all subject to change.

Ha! Change. Changers. Get it?

It’s a YA story set in a world where most—but not all—people grow into the ability to morph into a particular animal. These Changers live in Clans, but prior to morphing, children are raised by foster Unaltered families. They don’t even know which Clan they’ll eventually belong to, assuming they morph. Best friends Cee and Marcus are close to the age where transformations are common, which is to say they’re adolescents on the brink of adulthood. Cee has a crush on Marcus, but Marcus is gay. Cee can accept that, but struggles with the idea that once they morph and join their Clans (and the chances of them being of the same Clan are slim to none), she and Marcus might never see each other again. In this little snippet, they’re walking home.

They reached the road, vacant now as the purple sky bent toward black and the first stars winked on. The smell of grass and earth became stronger as the ground yielded its heat, and in the quiet even the hum of crickets was loud. A light fired briefly directly in front of Cee’s face and she stopped walking with a gasp. “A firefly!”

Marcus stopped, too, and together they watched as first a few, then dozens, then seemingly hundreds of the incandescent bugs appeared in the night air around them. “It’s early for them,” Marcus said, his voice low, as if to avoid frightening the fireflies away. “Usually they don’t come until late May.”

“Don’t tell them that,” said Cee. She looked over at Marcus and yelped.

“What?” he asked.

Cee laughed and brought a fingertip to Marcus’s cheek. “This one likes you.” The wayward insect refused to move.

“Quit poking me.” Marcus drew away and brought tentative fingertips to the side of his face. This time the firefly climbed aboard his index finger. He brought it carefully around for a closer inspection.

“You look cross-eyed,” said Cee as Marcus held the finger near the tip of his nose.

“It’s getting too dark to see.” Marcus waggled his finger. The firefly didn’t budge.

“Someone you know?” Cee asked.

Marcus appeared momentarily startled. “I don’t think I know any Insecta.” He frowned at the bug on his finger. “Do I?”

Suddenly, Cee found the fireflies a little less delightful. She scanned the illuminated air. “It’s weird to think they could be here and we’d never know the difference.”

The firefly abandoned Marcus’s finger, and he and Cee set off for home, walking faster this time. In fact, they were in such a hurry that it wasn’t until Cee was inside and Marcus had gone on that she realized she was still wearing his blazer.

And if she slept with it folded under her pillow that night, the smell of him infecting her dreams, who was to know?

Really, I’m looking for ways to keep myself motivated. It’s difficult to go a long time without any feedback. I need to hear some encouraging words.

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Name Game

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Yesterday I received this email:

We are a Network Service Company which is the domain name registration center in Shanghai, China.
We received an application from Huayu Ltd on April 13, 2015. They want to register ” pepperwords ” as their Internet Keyword and ” pepperwords .cn “、” pepperwords .com.cn ” 、” pepperwords .net.cn “、” pepperwords .org.cn ” domain names etc.., they are in China domain names. But after checking it, we find ” pepperwords ” conflicts with your company. In order to deal with this matter better, so we send you email and confirm whether this company is your distributor or business partner in China or not?

I responded that I’m an author, and I use Pepperwords.com as my domain for readers worldwide. I mean, I don’t know if anyone in China is reading my work, though I do get hits from there now and then.

So today I get another email from a second person:

Dear Sirs,

Our company based in chinese office, our company has submitted the ” pepperwords ” as CN(.cn/.com.cn/.net.cn/.org.cn) domain name and Internet Keyword, we are waiting for Mr. Jim’s approval. We think this name is very important for our products in Chinese market. Even though Mr. Jim advises us to change another name, we will persist in this name.

Best regards

Jiang zhihai

(To be clear, the first email came from someone named Jim, so I’m deducing that is the “Mr. Jim” mentioned in the second email.)

So I guess I have competition in China for my site name? I mean, it sounds like they’ll be using the .cn extension anyway . . . It’s a bit baffling. But I really don’t want to be confused with some Chinese company, either.

I guess if these are the biggest problems I have, I’m doing all right.

About a Drought

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I live in California, and we’re in an extreme drought. We’ve cut watering the lawn, but that’s really the biggest impact so far. And that kind of worries me.

It occurred to me the other day that people only change their habits when they’re forced to. You can’t ask nicely, you can’t cajole, you can’t argue logic—people don’t care. They’re going to do what they do. Even as they nod and agree and understand, they’re going to fall back into their habits.

The best example I can think of is technology. Let’s take the iPhone. So many people have them, you’d think the market was saturated and Apple wouldn’t be able to sell them any more. But they do continue to sell. And not just because a percentage of yo-yos out there feel the need to have the latest thing, though that’s certainly part of it. But there are just as many people who are happy with what they have. It works, why bother learning a whole new whatever? These people would sit on their iPhones and never upgrade. They’d have the same computers, the same televisions, whatever. So long as it all kept working.

And that’s the key. At some point the old iPhone can’t hold the latest OS. And everything requires the latest OS, so . . . A new phone becomes a necessity. Those people who would never change they way they do things are forced to do just that. They reluctantly and groaningly learn a new OS, a new remote control, whatever it is they’ve had to upgrade to.

How does this apply to the drought? Well, people aren’t going to stop filling their swimming pools and watering their lawns until they have to. They’re not going to shorten their showers or run fewer loads of laundry. Until they have no other choice.

When the water stops working, though, that’s when it’s too late. We have to force the change NOW.

In some countries, water is rationed by each house having a tank that shuts off after a certain amount is consumed each day. Doesn’t matter if you’re rich or poor; the amount of water is determined by the number of people in the home. So much water per person per day. You use it and then: click. You’re done for the day.

Go ahead and argue that people would find ways to circumvent this system. It’s probably true. Rich people would find a way to go buy more water, and poor people might start claiming additional family members to get a larger allotment. Besides, this system would probably be expensive to implement. But what’s worse? An expensive system designed to ration water, or no water at all?

I’m not even saying this is the solution; it’s just an idea. My point is, until we force people to do something, they won’t bother. They’ll carry on living like they always have until the “option” to change is no longer an option but a requirement.

Hamlette 15

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Arriving late to the story? Full index of “chapters” here.

I flew down the stairs, half sliding across the marble entry, when I heard the car. I had the front door open before Bea had even set a foot out of the Acenta. She had shorts and a t-shirt on, but I could see the strap of her bathing suit protruding from the crew neck. Liam, too, was wearing a shirt and his swim trunks. Just regular trunks, unfortunately. If anything, they were a little loose.

Tim emerged from around the side of the house; he’s uncanny that way. “Give Tim your keys,” I called to Liam. “He’ll take the car around out of the drive.”

The exchange made, Bea and Liam came inside. Bea had been over plenty of times, though I usually prefer to hide out at her place. Liam, however, had only visited on a couple of occasions, namely parties that I’d insisted the Polleys be invited to. Dad had never minded, but Mom had always made a face; the Polleys, after all, were nobodies. Mom hated wasting her excess of personality on nobodies.

We were heading toward the back of the house to the stairs that lead down to the indoor pool when Eoin stuck his head out of Dad’s office. “Hey. Whatcha doing?”

“We’re going to swim,” I said without stopping.

“Are these your school friends?”

I sighed and swung around. “This is Bea and Liam. They live down the road. My school friends are already down at the pool, so . . .” I spread my hands. “Rude to keep them waiting.”

To his credit, Liam extended a hand and shook with Eoin.

“I’ll send Marta down with some refreshments,” Eoin said. “Are your friends staying for dinner?”

“Rosalind and Gwendolyn are,” I said. God, didn’t he know that already? “Bea and Liam might, too, I don’t know.”

“The more the merrier,” said Eoin. And he smiled in a way that made his eyes squint up. It totally was not a genuine smile. Beside me, Bea actually cringed.

“Okay, well, I’m sure you’ve got a ton of whatever it is you do,” I said, swinging back around for the stairs.

“What does he do?” Bea half whispered as we made our way down.

“I don’t even know,” I admitted. “He and Dad weren’t super close. Eoin always just sort of hung around. Like ugly wallpaper.”

“He gives me a bad vibe,” said Liam, which coming from Liam is a lot. I mean, Liam is the most laid-back person I know, very live-and-let-live. For someone like Liam, “bad vibes” is on par with Hitler.

As we got closer to the pool, I could hear Rosalind’s voice ricocheting around the space. Our indoor pool is closed on three sides by natural rock; the fourth wall is thick glass with one door leading out to the outdoor entertainment space. And yes, there is an outdoor pool as well, for the two days a year it’s warm enough in England to swim outside. (Actually, the outdoor pool is heated, so we get all of a week out of it when we’re feeling brave and there’s no rain.)

“. . . Get to go to The Globe,” Rosalind was saying. “Everyone who is anyone will be there. Even the Queen!”

Gwendolyn’s response was so soft I couldn’t make out the words. But I stopped on the stairs, just shy of the last turn that would make us visible to anyone at the pool. Bea and Liam halted behind me.

“Of course she will!” exclaimed Rosalind. “It’s, like, a national day of mourning or something. He was a national treasure!”

Another murmur from Gwendolyn.

Unable to stand it any longer, I moved forward, allowing my sandals to slap on the stairs. When I rounded the stairs, I saw Rosalind sitting on a chaise while Gwendolyn was on the pool steps, idly swirling her ankles.

“Finally!” said Rosalind. Then, spotting Bea, “Who’s this?” And as Liam appeared, “Ooh, who’s this?”

They’d taught us at school the proper way to introduce people at a party, like, whose name goes first or whatever, but I could never remember. Except that men are introduced to women. And go last. I think. Or maybe it has to do with rank, I don’t know. But none of us had any rank, so I said, “Rosalind, Gwendolyn, this is Bea and Liam.” And Rosalind rolled her eyes in a way that made me figure I’d done it wrong but whatever.

Rosalind got up from the chaise, and as she passed me whispered, “You should have said Gwendolyn’s name first. Her grandmother was a marchioness,” before advancing on her prey.

Okay, so I guess one of us had rank. Kind of. I glanced over at Gwendolyn, but if she felt slighted, she didn’t show it. She was as expressionless as ever. The only time I could tell how Gwendolyn felt about anything was when she furrowed her brow. Then I knew she was either worried or confused. Or both. Being confused worried Gwendolyn a lot.

She spent a lot of her life worrying.

As Rosalind began chatting up Liam, I realized the flaw in my brilliant plan. It would be rude of me to go talk to Bea privately and leave Gwendolyn alone. I looked to Bea and she shrugged. I love that I can talk to Bea without words sometimes.

I kicked off my sandals and pulled my coverup over my head. Bea similarly stripped down to her bathing suit, a somber black one-piece with a bow at the front neckline and another along the low-cut back. Together, Bea and I looked “classic,” while Rosalind’s hot pink bikini was glaring. Or so I thought. It was trimmed in rhinestones, for God’s sake.

After dropping my stuff onto a chaise, I went over to the edge of the pool not far from Gwendolyn and sat down to dip my feet in. “Sorry,” I said. “I know this isn’t all that exciting or anything.”

Gwendolyn blinked up at me. “No,” she said. “I mean, yes. I mean, it’s fine. This is fine. It’s nice.”

Good God, no wonder she almost never talked.

I was momentarily distracted by Liam taking off his shirt and diving into the deep end. Rosalind shrieked—after being sure to stand where she’d be splashed, of course.

“You’d probably rather be home with your family for the holiday, though,” I said. Bea came and sat a little ways down from me, also dangling her feet in the pool.

Gwendolyn shrugged. “Not really. I have four sisters. It gets loud and crowded . . .”

“Four?” No wonder she didn’t talk. She probably couldn’t get a word in anyway.

“Are you the oldest?” Bea asked.

“Second to youngest,” said Gwendolyn.

“But they’re not all at our school,” I said. Were they? Admittedly, I didn’t pay much attention. It occurred to me then I kind of sucked as a person. At, you know, not being interested in anything but myself.

“I got a scholarship. And my younger sister did, too. She’ll be starting in the fall.”

“Oh.” I hadn’t thought about people going to the school on scholarship. I’d just assumed they were all rich.

“You must be pretty smart then,” said Bea, covering for me. God bless her.

Another shrug. “I—”

But then Rosalind was shrieking again as Liam tried to pull her into the pool. Something hard and bitter rose in my throat, but I swallowed and forced it back down. Focus, I reminded myself. You’ve got more important problems.

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Open-Hearted

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The press release about our would-be movie went out yesterday in the Total Licensing Report, and the production company now has us featured on their site. I’m excited, of course, but also trying not to get ahead of myself. There’s still quite some distance between this and production.

Having pneumonia put a cramp in my usual walks and exercise, but I’m slowly getting back into it. I’m still having to curb it a bit, and that’s frustrating because I was at a really good point and now I have to build back up again. But the past couple mornings I’ve seen this little hummingbird that’s such a dark shade of green he’s almost black . . . It reminds me of Kenneth Patchen’s “little green blackbird.” And this morning I saw the hummingbird on a branch beside a bright yellow goldfinch, and for whatever reason that just made my day.

Today’s walk:

1. “I Can Only Think of You” by Pure Prairie League
2. “Holiday in Spain” by Counting Crows
3. “Home” by American Authors
4. “Downfall” by Matchbox Twenty
5. “Fireflies” by Owl City
6. “Real World ’09” by Rob Thomas
7. “Breathe In, Breathe Out, Move On” by Jimmy Buffett
8. “Gimme Another Chance” by Pure Prairie League

I like how my iPod bookended with Pure Prairie League.

And I like the pairing of “Holiday in Spain,” which is about getting away, and “Home.”

I’m not much of a crier, but Buffett’s song about Hurricane Katrina and the devastation it wreaked on my home city gets me every time.

Still, there’s something open and optimistic about today. As I walked, I felt like all things were possible. Like maybe obstacles only exist within us; we make them ourselves. For the Universe there are no obstacles, and if we leave ourselves open to all possibilities, then wonderful things can happen. Bad things, too, maybe, but I feel like it’s worth the risk to live an open-hearted life.

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