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The Universal Jacket

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Twenty years ago, my dad and I went to Universal Studios in Orlando for spring break. Yes, you read that right—my idea of a good time was to hang out with my dad. If you knew my dad, you’d know why. He is supremely cool.

We had a great time. The Back to the Future ride was our favorite. And Universal was doing a special Mardi Gras parade with floats that night. But my prize—my chief souvenir—was my Universal Studios jacket.

It was a navy blue waterproof nylon shell lined in gray sweatshirt material. It had a hood (also lined) with drawstrings so you could pull it tight against wind. The pockets zipped so your stuff stayed safe and dry. It was, quite simply, the best jacket ever.

I lived in Austin at the time, and it’s not like I needed a heavy coat. This jacket, though, was perfect for the couple months out of the year when it was cooler out. And it was really perfect for the rain. Over the course of five or six years, I wore the thing out (wearing it even when I was working for 20th Century Fox, much to my producer’s irritation), only reluctantly getting rid of it after I could no longer ignore the holes in it.

Since then, I’ve searched for similar jackets, but I could never find one I liked as much. Most weren’t as sturdy, or the hoods weren’t lined, and few I found had zipping pockets. I have in the interim amassed an impressive collection of hoodies and jackets, but none to truly replace the Universal jacket.

And then, a few days ago we took a family trip down to Universal Studios Hollywood.

I had little to no hope they still made this jacket. It had been twenty years! But there, on a rack in the Jurassic Park gift shop, like the Holy Grail . . . The jacket! THE jacket!

My precioussss . . .

It is mine again, the greatest jacket of all time.

2015 Summary

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We’re staring down the barrel of the end of the year, and while there’s still plenty of time for things to happen, I’m feeling a tad retrospective. So here’s a summary of my year (so far).

After more than a year of sending out queries, I found a publisher for The Fall and Rise of Peter Stoller. That was exciting! The e-book is out in January with print to follow in late spring.

The romantic comedy I co-wrote was optioned . . . and then the option lapsed, so now it’s on the market again.

The short film Adverse Possession, based on my 15-minute play “Warm Bodies,” premiered at the San Diego Fall Film Festival.

I published another Sherlock Holmes story.

I recorded my first ever podcast interview (I was the guest). It should be available early next year, I believe. (Look for She Wrote a Book, launching December 7. I believe I’m episode 7 as well. Links to come.)

I also had a flash fiction piece selected for a podcast which will air in February (that one is called No Extra Words).

I traveled to London to see Hamlet at the Barbican. Also got to see Buckingham Palace. Turns out they have amazing pastries.

I went to the DFW Writers Conference and got to meet—and really converse with—Kevin J. Anderson. He lived in Livermore! ::fangirling!::

Lots and lots of rejection. I’m feeling pretty beat down by that at the moment, but there are still a few agents and publishers interested in Changers, so I’m trying to focus on that rather than the rejections.

And I have vacation starting tomorrow, and my birthday to look forward to, and another little trip to Carmel just prior to Christmas. So there’s still plenty of time and room for good things to happen. At the same time, I fear getting my hopes up too high.

What you, dear readers, can look forward to is the Giftmas Blog Tour coming up on this and other sites. Keep your eyes peeled because there will be giveaways! Including an ARC of Peter and a copy of The K-Pro. Stay tuned!

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Fortune Hunter

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Last weekend one of my best friends visited and discovered, for better or worse, that I love fortune-telling machines.

See, my friend loves arcade games, and we went to the Museé Mécanique. But I’m not much for video games. Instead, I love the fortune tellers. I don’t know why, except maybe it satisfies my need to get something in return for my money.

My collection of fortunes from last weekend.

My collection of fortunes from last weekend.

If you click on the pic, you’ll be able to read them. (The one on the far left there is actually from our visit to Winchester Mystery House.)

When I was younger, we’d go to the State Fair and there were chickens who would tell your fortune. By which I mean, you’d put in your money and press a button, then the chicken would be prompted to press another button, and out came your fortune. The chicken was rewarded for its work with a handful of feed.

So yeah, I can’t pass up one of these machines. Even ones without chickens, though I think the chicken ones are the best. I’ve never seen them outside the Texas State Fair. Probably requires too much upkeep, what with live animals and all.

What is it about having our fortunes told? I think it’s a desire for confirmation that we’re headed in the right direction, or that all our efforts will pay off in the end. I don’t believe them, of course. Even when I visit, say, a Tarot reader I often have doubts. (Though I do trust a live person over a machine with pre-printed cards, or even a chicken.) Some would say that those doubts are exactly why the fortunes never entirely come true. But as much as I enjoy them . . . I don’t know. I can’t completely invest. I trust my own hunches more (and they’ve proven correct more often than not). Fortunes are fun, and I do believe in an element of karma, but I think we largely make our own destinies.

Pub Notes

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In the flurry of the 30-day challenge, other things have been lost in the shuffle. So I’m here to give a brief update on current projects.

The Fall and Rise of Peter Stoller is set to publish on 15 January 2016. I have reviewers waiting to read it, and it should be up for pre-order soon.

I’m also working on revisions to Changers. There has been some interest from a couple small presses as well as a couple agents. Actually, one agent came back to me last week with some great feedback. She couldn’t take the manuscript as it was but is willing to take another look if I make some changes. So that’s what I’m doing now.

My short story “Aptera” has also been shortlisted for an anthology.

Projects lined up for the near future include a new Sherlock Holmes story, and I’m working on outlines for the Peter sequel and second Changers book.

So there is your update. I’ll be away all next week for the holiday, but keep an eye out in December as I’ll be participating in Rhonda Parrish’s Giftmas Blog Tour!

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30-Day Writing Challenge: Day 30

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30. One thing you’re excited for

Only one? I have a lot to look forward to, including a trip to Universal and Disneyland next week. But I guess I’m particularly excited for my book The Fall and Rise of Peter Stoller to come out in January. Pre-orders should be up any day now. Yeep! It’s not like I don’t already have books out there, but this one is special to me. It’s different. And I’m so excited and nervous to send it out into the world.

I hope you’ve enjoyed these 30 days of writing prompts. And I hope you’ll come back to visit so that you’ll know when Peter is delivered and what happens with Changers. If you want to stay ahead of the pack on these things, sign up on the right for my newsletter. It only comes out once every couple months unless there’s big news, and I promise not to share or spam your email addresses.

30-Day Writing Challenge: Day 29

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29. The night of your 21st birthday (if not yet 21, the last birthday you had)

I don’t remember what I did for my 21st birthday. Probably studied for finals. I would have been a junior at UT Austin, and my birthday always fell during finals, right before the holiday break. It’s equally possible my friends and I all went out somewhere . . . Maybe that was the year we went to the restaurant with the girl on the swing [Old San Francisco Steakhouse]? I honestly can’t remember. Twenty-one wasn’t a big deal for me. I’m not a big drinker or partier, so suddenly being able to drink legally held no particular excitement. Also, two of my friends were still too young to drink, so . . . ::shrug::


30-Day Writing Challenge: Day 28

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28. The word/phrase you use constantly

I’m somewhat aware I use “actually” and “sure” a lot verbally. In particular, I respond with “sure” when someone thanks me or asks if I can/will/want to do something. When I’m writing, I have to go back and weed out “just” from my prose. People who know me can probably speak more to things I say or write a lot. I’d be curious as to their answers.

30-Day Writing Challenge: Day 27

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27. What you wore today

Jeans of a medium-to-dark hue. White socks with purple stripes. A dark blue thermal shirt and an indigo hoodie.

30-Day Writing Challenge: Day 26

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26. Things you’d say to an ex

. . .

I’d probably tell Charles I’m sorry. I tried to tell him at the time, but he was too hurt to listen. If you’re out there, Charles, please know you took the postcard the wrong way and never gave me the chance to explain. I’m not sorry we broke up, but I’m sorry for how it happened—accidentally but for the best all the same.

30-Day Writing Challenge: Day 25

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25. Four weird traits you have

Physical traits? Or just traits in general?

  1. I have a weird birthmark on the back of my neck at the base of my skull. I don’t know what it looks like, though I suppose I could have someone take a picture of it for me. Not sure I want to know, though.
  2. I talk in my sleep. In French.
  3. I’m both an insomniac and a light sleeper which means even if I can manage to fall asleep something is almost certainly going to wake me up before long.
  4. I’m allergic to oranges and all types of berries.