Archive for November 2012

Blurbs, furries and procrastination town

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Here I am boarding the train at procrastination station once again. I pretty much procrastinate on everything. The list goes on and on, finishing anything before a deadline during 4 years of high school, 4+ years of college, graduate school, I also avoid cleaning my house, loading the dishwasher, doing laundry. I pretty much will find anything to do besides what I actually should be doing. This blog post is no exception, but I'll get to my blurb story after this great one from my high school days.

The absolute, hands down best procrastination story has to be my twenty-four hours of assigned community service. Now, I didn't do anything that warranted the forced act of kindness. It was thrust upon me as a requirement for graduating from high school. I guess it was supposed to make me feel like I was giving back to my community or to make me a well rounded person. Who knows? I'm not sure its outcome was on par with what my high school was hoping for.

Set to graduate in June of '96, I started receiving death threat letters from the community service counselor somewhere around November of '95. I wasn't alone in this. Leah, my high school bestie, who still holds the title today, was right there with me. We loved the procrastination train. We rode it regularly. We couldn't hide from the community service police forever, so we eventually gave in and agreed to assist with the Holiday Magic festivities at Bookfield Zoo. We roped in her sister, Kri to join us and off we went one Saturday morning.

The three of us, sort of thrilled and a little intrigued, reported to the designated area where we were handed animal costumes. You know what I'm talking about, a big-ass head, mesh eyes, furry shoe covers and mittens. Think Disney World but far less classy in regards to the costumes. 

Now this is not us, but you get my point.
You needed to work in teams of three, two characters and one guide person. Before Kri or I could speak, Leah said, "I'm the guide. I can't wear that. I'm claustrophobic." We pick our battles with Leah. So Kri and I stepped into our B.O. stinktastic costumes and began to navigate the zoo with Leah as our guide.

During this 3 hour stint as the Christmas-scarf-wearing tiger, I unintentionally terrified children, tripped over a giant planter, tormented the snow leopard, took my head off in public and was sweating so profusely I thought I wet my pants. 

Kri didn't fair much better. The warmer her costume got the smellier it became. She hid behind bushes, lifting her head up so she could breathe. She too, tripped over the planter and while posing for pictures with children who weren't running in fear, we smiled inside that stupid head every time someone said, "Say cheese". We're dipshits. No could see us smiling!

In the end, I should have learned something profound. But I didn't. I still procrastinate to no end and right now I'd even consider donning that tiger costume again instead of writing a summary for the back cover of my book.

Now, I originally wrote a 150,000 word book, scaled it back and cut it down even more, but for the life of me I can't condense my book into a less than two hundred word summary.  I suck at it.  I avoided it for months.  The trouble is, this is what sells your book.  People read the back cover or the online description and decide whether they want to buy your book or not.  It needs to grab the reader's attention and if it sucks then, well, your book sucks by association.

This brings me to blurbs.  Blurbs are those little lines on the back cover of a book that say things like, "Sally Smith of Reader World said, 'POS book is amazing.  A must read.'"  A blurb is on pretty much every book you read that is published by a big-time publisher.  Usually some hot shot book reviewer or website reads the book, reviews it, and the publishing company uses it to sell the book.  This is where I run into a problem.  I don't have a big-time publishing agency and I also don't know any hot shot book reviewers.  I don't plan on using a blurb on the back cover of my book for this reason.  What would I say anyway? School social worker from the south suburbs says, "Nikki Young is really funny." or "Read Nikki Young's debut novel.  It's a great story.  I loved it," says her neighbor.  

I'm leaving a blurb off my back cover, because I am having a hard enough time selling myself in general.  I'm pretty sure all my shameless FB posts have caused me to be blocked by at least a third of my friends.  Sorry, guys!  Being an indie author doesn't exactly lend to a fabulous blurb. I don't know if blurbs sell books.  But I am hoping my book is wildly popular and sells a shit ton of copies, that way I can say I kicked ass without a blurb.  The downside is when it tanks, I'll be wallowing and crying about how I should have written a fake blurb.

On a bright note:  Here is the working back cover/summary!
Book title changed to- A Life More Complete (because I was told by BJ that Lou Reed was gonna sue someone's ass if I used my original title.)


"Can you ever really outrun your past?

Krissy Mullins, an overworked, obsessive-compulsive publicist, has been giving it her best shot for the past ten years.  Throwing herself into her work and devoting all her time to her teenage starlet client.  Krissy finds little time for anything else.  But as fate would have it, her world is turned upside down when she falls in love with laid-back California native, Ben Torres. Unfortunately, her only frame of reference on love and marriage was her parents and they were both deeply disturbed.

As Krissy attempts to navigate the precarious world of love, acceptance and compromise, her past comes flooding back like she never expected.  An ex-boyfriend returns from a life she has tried to forget.  He stirs up feelings in Krissy that she thought were gone.  Pulled in opposite directions as her past and present collide, Krissy makes a rash decision that will forever change her life.

Can Krissy find love and happiness amidst her dysfunctional past or will she continue to run?  Only time will tell."

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Book Review: One Pink Line by Dina Silver

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

I'm going to start this review by saying I might be a little biased, but oh well. Dina Silver, the author of One Pink Line is my hero. She managed to publish two books and land a publishing contract all on her own. She didn't sell her soul to the devil (at least I don't think she did). Her efforts did not go unnoticed and her writing speaks for itself. Congratulations to Dina and a big thanks to her, too for answering all my ridiculous self publishing questions. I'm forever grateful. But, now...on to my review of One Pink Line.

One Pink Line follows Sydney and her daughter Grace as they navigate the world of self discovery, acceptance and love. Told through both girls' point of view, Sydney's through flashbacks and Grace's during the present.

Sydney, your typical college senior spends her days preparing for finals, seeking employment after her upcoming graduation and drinking with friends. After a few too many drinks, a roll in the sack with her friend Kevin, she finds herself unexpectedly pregnant only weeks before her graduation. After coming clean to Kevin and finding him uninterested in fatherhood and her in general, she turns to her family and friends, including her ex-boyfriend Ethan for support. Although, things seem to fall into place rather easily for this single mother, she still faces your typical struggles. Money woes, finding love and self doubt about being a young mother follow Sydney throughout the book.

The book transitions to Grace's POV and how she discovers that her father isn't actually her father. Grace, being a self absorbed teenager, can't find anything good in her situation. Although she has two loving parents and a great home life. You follow Grace as she comes to understand her mother's choices and meets her birth father.

One Pink Line is a touching story of self discovery, love and the struggles faced by mothers and daughters alike. Even though the storyline is predictable, it keeps you rooting for Sydney and hoping for the best. If you love a happy endings, which I do, this one doesn't disappoint.

Dina's writing style is very conversational and flows nicely. There were times I laughed out loud and times I cried tears of joy for Sydney and Grace. The characters are real and relatable. As a self published author, Dina created a polished and in my opinion, near flawless novel. I urge you to check out One Pink Line by Dina Silver. It's your typical contemporary chick lit and I loved it!

Keep an eye out for my review of Kat Fight also by Dina Silver!

One Pink Line- Kindle Edition
One Pink Line- Paperback
One Pink Line- Nook Edition

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Smooshed-Faced Stories: Starring Beeker the Pug— Part 2

Monday, November 26, 2012

Part 2: Beeker vs. The Roomba

If you don't know what a Roomba is I'll give you brief summary. A Roomba is that vacuum that cleans your house when you're not home. When it works correctly it's amazing. When it doesn't, that's a whole 'nother story.

I got my Roomba as a Christmas gift from my mom and dad. My mom is always worried that I work too hard, so her solution, albeit minor, was to get me a Roomba. She said, "Look it will vacuum while you're at work. That way when you get home there won't be dog hair tumble weeds rolling around." (Insert her semi-grossed out face). 

Whatever, dog hair tumble weeds or not, the Roomba was pretty bad ass. I watched multiple videos on YouTube as it slid around sucking up all kinds of crap, avoiding the stairs and navigating kitchen chairs. There was even one video of a cat riding on top of it. Hilarious!

I was sold. So when I opened my Roomba on Christmas Eve, I was beyond excited. It was like opening Western Skipper on Christmas morning circa 1983. Even better was that my mom and dad (not really my dad, he just footed the bill.) had bought the high end model. It had a rotating brush that cleaned the baseboards, little laser towers that kept it from going into unwanted rooms. It was awesome!

I was off work on winter break, but I still used it a few times. Here is where Roomba disappointed me. First, it does not recognize my stairs and plummets down them. Stupid Roomba! Insert quote from my mom, "It committed suicide when it saw the amount of dog hair." Oh, she's a funny one. 

Second it gets trapped under my kitchen table. It's going all ape shit, crashing into the table legs and the chairs. It's all very reminiscent of that three point turn scene in Austin Powers. Again, Roomba, why are you so dumb? 

Third time, is definitely not the charm. It eats my freakin' Christmas tree skirt. I shoved it in the closet and thought, maybe I'll have more respect for it when I come home to a well vacuumed house after a long days work.

This is where Roomba heads to the top of my shit list. Literally, my SHIT list.

With a smile on my face and a renewed sense of hope, I start my little vacuum machine and leave for work on my first day back from break. 

Mill around at work, tie some shoes, count to 100, take a bathroom break, read a few stories, what rhymes with duck? (These are kindergarteners, mind yourself!). Ta-dah! Day is done and off to evaluate Roomba's progress.

I walk in, on the phone with my mom, baby on my hip and HOLY SHIT! Again, literally, shit.

My lovely baby, before I had a baby, Beeker, had pooped in the house and as you can de"duce" (pun intended), Roomba, that stupid robot, ran it over!

My high end, fancy baseboard sweeping Roomba ran over Beeker's shit and not only dragged it throughout my house, but also managed to smear it all over the baseboards, too.

Now mind you I am on the phone with my mom who quips, "Oh, stop being so dramatic!" Dramatic? She can't be serious? There is dog shit on every surface of my home. The only upside to this scenario is that I live in a 1500 square foot house. The one I complain is too small at least once a day, but on poop day, it was far too big!

Needless to say, the carpets got shampooed that night, all the baseboards scrubbed down and a valuable lesson was learned by all...animals, especially Beeker are terrified of Roomba. It scared the shit out of him.

Coming soon: Part 3 -Beeker loves diaper bags with guest appearances from Oscar the Cat.

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Smooshed-Faced Stories: Starring Beeker the Pug— Part 1

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Beeker is my seven year old Pug and pretty much a great source of hilarity. Because he is so funny I thought I'd dedicate a blog post (Ok, it's going to be several blog posts) solely to him and all his smoosh-faced glory.

Harmless, right? Think again.

We (I say "we" like my husband gives a shit about the dog) got Beeker seven years ago from a lady who had seven Pugs and a wheelchair bound Dachshund. If you know anything about Pugs, this scenario is ridiculous. The shedding alone was obscene, not to mention the snorting and the smell. Even after witnessing (and smelling) what multiple Pugs can do to your home, I had a hard time leaving with just one. Now see, my old, fat, stinky Pug, Buddy, had just passed away, so I was left heartbroken. But after a glimpse at BJ and his "you've got to be effing kidding me face" I picked only one dog. Beeker! (His name was Luke. Lame.)

We brought him home and let him sleep in our bed, lay on the couch, we fed him from the table. We pretty much let him do whatever he wanted. In hind sight, this was a huge mistake.

Beeker now eats everything. He's obsessed with food, rotten, old, stale, out of a trash can, from the kitchen table, out of my kids hands, it doesn't matter. Here is a running list of things he's eaten:
Half a dozen donuts, the contents of a Christmas stocking, a dozen fully decorated sugar cookies, a bag of Hostess powdered donettes, a box of mint melt-aways, a large cheese pizza, a bag of 30 gumballs with wrappers, all the tomatoes from my garden, a box of Ritz crackers, underpants, dirty diapers, two dozen foil wrapped chocolate coins, the list is ENDLESS!

Now I know what you're thinking, "Why does she leave food all over house?" I don't. Beeker is beyond talented, actually his ability to snag food is unreal. He has Go-Go Gadget paws or something. He just gets on his hind legs and slaps his paw around on the counter, kitchen table or whatever until he finds something. 90% of the time he finds the food on his own. The other 10% he snags from my poor unsuspecting children.

On to my first Beeker story. 

This year, a few weeks before Halloween, my kids and my husband sat down at the kitchen table and carved a pretty rockin' Greg Heffley (Diary of a Wimpy Kid) pumpkin. Now, where we live, there is an extreme amount of squirrels and raccoons. They, like Beeker, eat everything. So instead of putting the pumpkin on display on our front porch, we felt it wise to keep it in the house. This way the little critters wouldn't have a chance to gnaw the shit out of it before Halloween. I'm sure you can see where I am heading with this.

So, BJ put the pumpkin on a buffet in our living room. Set back fairly far, but still able to be seen by our kids. It sat in this same position for a few days without any disturbance.

While I was at work shaping the minds of young children, BJ was conquering the world of lab supplies in his plush home office. (I say plush, because I am sure he was folding fluffy bath towels while negotiating contract pricing.) But back to the story...BJ hears a bonk come from upstairs. He quickly does a mental check: Big kid at school-check. Babysitter and little kid at park-check. Wifey at work-check. That leaves one suspect. Beeker.

As BJ comes up the stairs he hears the tell-tale snuffling of a Pug eating. There is Beeker eating Greg Heffley! Before BJ could stop him he had eaten the entire carved portion of the pumpkin. Now, you'd think Beeker would back off or run, but no. He actually chased BJ into the kitchen and then cried at the counter where BJ set the half-eaten pumpkin.

Thankfully, my kids are used to Beeker's stupidity so the devastation was minimal. So much for being worried about the squirrels.

Here is one last picture of Beeker in all his glory.  Enjoy!

And be on the lookout for Part 2: Beeker vs. the Roomba.

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Book Review: Flat-Out Love by Jessica Park

Saturday, November 24, 2012

I came across Jessica Park's Flat-Out Love purely by accident. Over the summer I try to read as many books as possible before I have to head back to work. While downloading a slew of books from Amazon, Flat-Out Love popped up after I paid under the section that said, "Other customers who purchased Blah, Blah, Blah also bought..." You get my point. 

I downloaded Flat-Out Love, plus a few more books, because in all honesty, they were cheap. I LOVE cheap (so does my husband, even more than me). 

Unfortunately, summer ended too quickly and my reading halted until Thanksgiving break.

This is when I finally sat down and read Flat-Out Love.

I normally don't enjoy the young adult genre as much as I do other genres, but this book was definitely the exception.

Flat-Out Love begins with a young girl named Julie Steagle standing on a Boston street where her newly rented apartment should be. But instead of a three bedroom apartment with roommates, she finds a burrito joint in a single story building.

Set to start at Whitney College in the fall, being homeless couldn't come at a worse time. Feeling slightly defeated and a little snarky, she calls her mom. Luckily, her mother's old college roommate lives in the area and agrees to take Julie in until she can secure a more permanent living arrangement.

Moving into the Watkinses' home changes Julie's life. As she navigates through her first year of college, she finds herself trying to help this dysfunctional, failing family. Matt, an MIT geek with an obsessive nature and an overwhelming school schedule, slowly opens up and allows Julie a glimpse into his family. His absentee, workaholic parents, his brother Finn who is lost somewhere in the world and Celeste, the youngest of the three Watkins children, who seems to be suffering from some type of separation anxiety and proceeds to carry around a life-sized cardboard cut-out of her non-existent brother, Finn.

Julie slowly forms a bond with everyone in the family, including the elusive, Finn via Facebook. But the more she gets to know the family, she realizes they are far more broken than she thought.

Flat-Out Love is a great story of love, loss and families. I am one of those people who enjoys a good love story and this book did not disappoint. It made me laugh. It made me cry. It made me believe in true love. 

Jessica's writing is superb and so is her quick wit and her spot on sense of humor. This is a fine example of a self published book done right.

If you get a chance check out Jessica Park's, Flat-Out Love. It's a sweet, quick read and it will make you smile.

Flat-Out Love- Kindle Edition
Flat-Out Love- Paperback Edition

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Support the indie author

Friday, November 23, 2012

When I started this process I really never gave much thought to what I would do when I finally finished my book. After a few months of work, I began to research literary agents and query letters. But I also had heard some musings about self publishing.

I started by researching literary agents. The online description was relatively simple. Write a book, type a query letter (This is a letter you send to agents describing your book and all its fabulousness), send said letter off to agents, land a wonderful agent, in turn landing you a big-time publishing contract and write for the rest of your life, while the big bucks roll in.

But the more I researched this the more I found that this process wasn't as easy as it sounded. There was never a guarantee that a literary agent would pick you up, let alone ever read your query letter. If you were lucky enough to find an agent to read your letter, you'd probably get more rejection letters than hopeful ones. The economy hit everything hard, including the publishing industry. Scaling back was something every business needed to do to keep thriving. So, agents took on less writers, and publishing companies, big and small signed less authors.

The self publishing world became a wonderful way for indie authors to be heard. With Amazon Direct Publishing, B&N's PubIt, Smashwords and CreateSpace available and fairly simple to use, a shift took place. Indie authors could now get their work to the masses that might have otherwise gone unread in the past. 

Now, I know that everything written by self published authors aren't always the next New York Times Bestseller, but at least they now had an outlet to share their work.

This is why sites like Amazon, Barnes and Noble and Good Reads exist. 

This brings me to reviews, which are a great way to support an indie author. If you liked a book, write a review. If you LOVED a book, write a review, brag about it on Good Reads, post it on Facebook, tell everyone you know. Word of mouth for a self published author is the best free publicity ever! If you didn't like a book, write a review, too. Maybe you didn't like the story line, the characters or maybe the book was too long for your liking. Those are all personal opinions and it might not have appealed to you, so write about it. A negative review might also be warranted if the author did not take the time to use an editor and their book contained multiple grammatical errors, misspelled words and plot holes. Reviews are a great way to tell the author how you feel. My only advise is, tread lightly when it comes to negative reviews. Remember this is someone's labor of love.

Because I have a ton of respect and admiration for self published authors, I have decided to add an area to my blog where I will review books I have read by indie authors. I hope someday, when my book is finally published, someone will do the same for me. 

Please take the time to read my upcoming review of the book, Flat Out Love by Jessica Park.

On a side note...I respect all authors, the ones with big-time publishing contracts, the ones who chose to sign with small agencies and those stand alone indie authors. Every last one of them stomped the pavement, worked late hours and groveled to get their books out to the public. Each path is honorable and requires a ton of hard work. Much love to all of them! 

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Caramel Apple Cake = Epic Fail

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

I love to bake.  Every holiday that comes around gives me an opportunity to bake with reckless abandon.  This Thanksgiving was no different.  After a LONG night of parent teacher conference at work on Tuesday, I woke up Wednesday morning ready to research my latest baking journey or should I say shit show?

I pride myself on my baking ability.  I'm not one to toot my own horn, but I am damn fine baker. 

Cupcakes for my sister in law's baby shower, my youngest's garbage truck cake, Oreo balls for Christmas, all awesome examples of my awesomeness.  I could go on but I'll spare you the expense, since I had my worst baking disaster in history.  (Okay, maybe that's a little dramatic, yet somehow totally necessary.)

After a little research I came across this beautiful cake called a Caramel Apple Cake.  It had an ingredients list at least a mile long, but I fell in love with the picture, so I didn't care.  I made a list, sent BJ to the store; $50 and five hours later the cake was done...but not really.  

The cake part was fine.  I poured the batter into three 8 inch round pans, baked it according to the ridiculous specifications, cooled it for the specified amount of time and removed them from the pans without any of the cake getting stuck.  I nearly high-fived myself.  Success!  But again...not really.  I didn't know it at the time, but it was about to turn ugly.

The directions for the frosting were a little sketchy, but I went with it.  Now, I've made buttercream frosting more times than I can count and I have never come across a recipe that was this complicated.  After spending another two hours on this damn recipe; the frosting was like soup.  I used all my baking knowledge to thicken it.  All my attempts were failures.  Instead of dumping the frosting and starting over, I decided to try and make it work.  "Try" being the operative word here.

As I began to slather on the sludge, I mean, frosting I knew it was not going to work.  It just wasn't thick enough.  Before tossing it into the garbage, I called BJ upstairs and surprisingly, even though he was in the middle of watching TV, he came.

Here's how the conversation went:

Me: I'm throwing it out.  It sucks.

BJ: Before you toss it, cut me a piece.

Me: Okay. (Grab knife, slice into cake and sloppily toss it onto a plate.)

BJ: (Taking a bite)  This is really good.  Too bad it looks like that. (Indicating toward the sludgy mess on the counter.)

Me: Well, I'm throwing it out.

BJ: (Slightly appalled.)  No, don't!  

Me: Where am I going to put it?

BJ: I don't care.  Just put it in a bucket.  I'll eat it.

Just as BJ was saying that I should put the cake in a bucket, a large chunk of it slides off the counter, bounces off the dishwasher handle, and lands with a satisfying "plop" on the ground.

Hilarity ensures.  

Me: I'm throwing it out.

BJ: Go ahead, but cut me another piece before you do.

This is why I love him.  His unconditional support even when I suck!

Here is a picture of what the cake should have looked like:
Yummy, right?

Here is what my cake looked like:

So, Happy Thanksgiving everyone!  And I hope my family is cool with only one dessert this year because I am done!

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Hoarders: The Book Version

Monday, November 19, 2012

When I began writing my novel I wasn't entirely sure what I planned to do with it. It wasn't like I had some big mapped out plan for the future. In reality, I never actually thought I'd finish it. (Yep, I'm that doubtful of my ability to follow through.)

In the end, I obviously finished, but I had no idea what to do with it. For one thing it was 500 PAGES! Holy shit! That's a lot! 

This is when I turned it over to my husband and my good friend, Jason. Jason will read anything. BJ isn't as easy to please. So both of them read the unedited, extremely long, and in my opinion, pretty craptacular version of my book.

Everyone has seen the television show Hoarders or at least some version of it. If not, here it is in condensed form: Grown ass adults stash as much shit in their homes as possible until it nearly bursts. 

This is what happened with my novel. I was so focused on getting my thoughts down that I failed to sensor or edit anything I typed. I was like a machine—dead set on getting every small idea down in my novel. Even if these ideas scarcely related to my writing. 

What happened next was even worse. BJ kindly informed me that I needed to cut it down. It was ridiculously long.  (I knew this, but admitting I had a problem was hard.)  In my mind it came out more like this, "You suck!  Who is going to read your 500 page novel?"  How dare he? Doesn't he know how hard I worked on this? Doesn't he understand the effort? All those nights I spent slaving away at the computer with a bag of York Peppermint Patties!

After I got over it and realized how right he was, I sat down to eliminate all my hard work.  Yet  I couldn't do it.  I couldn't delete a single word.

News Flash:  I had become a hoarder.  Not literally a hoarder, but a word hoarder.  My novel had become like the house of a hoarder.  It was filled with twenty year old news papers, moldy milk cartons, puffy yogurt containers and possibly a dead cat buried somewhere under the rubble.  At least 200 pages of my book were like the things I listed.  Useless.  But I had a connection to them and I couldn't just go all willy nilly deleting at random.  I loved these words.  I gave birth to them.

I came to my senses and slowly began to edit down my nonsensical gibberish.  (You want to know a secret?  I still couldn't just straight up delete them, so I used the track changes on MS Word and saved everything I deleted.  Soon I will break up with all those pointless sentences.  But until then, they will sit quietly in the margins of my book.)

Even after a full edit of at least 30,000 words, my book, in my opinion, is still too long.  This is where my beta readers come in.  Hopefully they will have some insight to all the useless, random thoughts that still linger within my book.  Let's hope I take their criticism better than I took BJ's.

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Carrabba's, where is the effing bread?

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Last night I went to dinner with my two best friends.  We do this at least once a month, sometimes more and we always go to Carrabba's.  The service isn't the best, but we're never in a hurry and they have the best bread.  Ever.  

In a recent turn of events, Kri got off work early, since her life isn't consumed with selling safes anymore.  Leah hauled here (after too many demanding text messages from Kri) and we left for the restaurant far earlier than usual.  Due to our early arrival, we ended up eating with all the blue-hairs and had the best service we have ever had.  

The downside to great service at Carrabba's is that we missed out on the two five loaves of bread we usually inhale.  After too much food, including two desserts we headed back to my house for an impromptu book club meeting and a screening of Magic Mike.

See, Leah is one of my beta readers and I know what you're thinking, "You picked your best friend to read your book?  Obviously she isn't going to be honest."  This is where you are wrong.  Way wrong.

My two best friends are sisters.  I met Leah over twenty years ago when we were running on the Carl Sandburg High School track for our swim team tryout.  This was when she broke my heart and informed me that my parents definitely did not send my cat to "live at a farm" when they got rid of him.  See what I mean?  She'll be honest.  (I was only thirteen and obviously a moron.)  I ended up friends with Kri by proximity.  Since she lived with Leah and was always around there really wasn't any other option than to be friends with her, too.  I love them both equally but for totally different reasons.  Leah is brutally honest (hence why I chose her as one of my beta readers) and brilliantly snarky, in a good way.  Kri is hilarious, adorably clueless and far to nice to ever insult anyone, including me.  This is why I didn't chose her as a beta reader.  The best thing about both of them is that they are crazy smart, but you'd never know it.  They are not the kind of smart people who go around touting their smarts to anyone who will listen.  They are the kind that sit back and watch shit unfold and then step in with a witty remark.

So, as Kri sat on my couch watching Channing Tatum do his anger strip dance in what can only be described as a corset for a man, Leah and I sorta discussed my book.

I say sorta because she isn't done reading yet, but she's close enough to have a discussion about it.  Also, because I am completely terrified of her opinion.   Her opinion of my work means a great deal to me.  I need her honesty, but it's still hard to take.  In the end it wasn't as awful as I envisioned in my head, but in actuality I did stop her and tell her to just email what we hadn't talked about yet.  This way I can read it and cry in private.   Just kidding...maybe.

All in all, I hope she enjoys my book.  And I truly am looking forward to her feedback.  On a happy note:

My top ten favorite Leah and Kri moments:

10.  Staple gunning a real disco ball to a wood beam in their parent's house during one our many "theme parties".  Disco ball = 70's theme.

9.  Eating enough Twizzlers and butter soaked popcorn to give the average person a heart attack.

8.  Watching Kri wedge her Buick Skyhawk into the side of a snowbank.  (I think the village is missing their idiot.)

7.  Leah and I rocking out to the Partridge Family in her blue conversion van, while drinking Slurpees and wearing a rice picker hat.

6.  Passing mono around during the '96-'97 school year.

5.  My wedding where we all got so drunk off tequila shots. (There was a lot of vomit.)

4.  Watching Leah lose it when Kri's "boyfriend" stole her car. (In Leah's defense she had mono and was exhausted.)

3.  Buying all the Sunkist fruit roll ups Dominick's had for sale and eating them in one night.

2.  Anything that occurred at our summer job as lifeguards.

1.  Letting Kri write "bitch" on my arm in permanent marker after a few too many beverages and the next morning scrubbing at it on my way to teach swim lessons to a group of three and four year olds.

*Collecting money for Kri's consumption ticket at a party where we were in fact consuming more beverages.

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Serious rage and The Googlemeister.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

When I started this blog I debated whether to use a blogspot address or a custom one. After much back and forth and many huffs from BJ, I decided to just go with the basic. Well, a few days into this I changed my mind. I do this kind of thing frequently. I'm impulsive. I buy things and return them later. I eat too much and regret it. I say things and then I can't take them back. Blogging is nice because my big mouth has a filter. 

Anyway...I decided to change my option. 

Instead of my blog being called: 

It would now be: 

Turns out some asshat already snagged that up, but the site sits unused. Google, who I love, offered me some other options:— okay, I get it. Hahaha!— okay, now this was getting personal. 

I stopped after reading the "nikki old" and went back to the drawing board.  

I have also been debating about publishing my book under my maiden name, which was Long. I considered this only because I am a teacher and I'm not sure how I feel about my students parents' knowing I wrote a book. I had pretty much scraped that idea because in all honesty, the Internet makes everyone super Googlable anyway. Not a chance in hell they wouldn't figure out it was me. (I didn't write a Fifty Shades of Grey or anything like that. It's just hard when you're a teacher. Parents and students view you as some kind of perfect creature who doesn't do or say anything inappropriate.) 

After considering that someone robbed me of my domain name I went back to the thought of using my maiden name. So I typed and found this too was already taken. WTF! So I typed it into Google and found that the site belonged to a realtor in North Carolina, who was selling a double wide on her main page. Awesome. What was even more shocking was the fact the name Nikki Long also belongs to a porn star from the 90's.  

Obviously, I went back to using my married name. Finally after several hours of setup time, my custom domain was done. Or so I thought. 

 Super excited to use the new, I quickly typed it into the URL bar and this was what I found:

Dear Google, 
You are rapidly rising to the top of my shit list. 
Nikki Young (Not Nikki Long, she's a porn star)

Sad, busted up robot and no custom domain.  

So, turning to BJ I began to rant about my situation.  Only half listening because he was in the middle of watching Fast N' Loud or Pit Bulls and Parolees or some other shit.  In addition to the fact that he can only focus on one thing at a time and the restoration of a shit box car was far more important.  But in his defense, I pretty much came off like a ranting lunatic.  (He's used to this.) He finally turned his attention to me and told me, "I'll look at it this weekend."  He always comes through, but I couldn't wait until this weekend.  Instant gratification.  

Back to Google.  When I typed into the search box, how to fix my error message, I got a series of directions that were so lengthy and obscene I couldn't even fathom how to fix my problem!  It contained information regarding things like, a CNAME and an A-Record and series of letters and numbers so long that it took up two lines!  Beaten but not broken I gave up for the day.  But before going to bed I remembered I know someone who LOVES Google even more than me!

My friend Kristin, who I work with is a Google genius, in fact we call her The Googlemeister!  So I texted her that night and the next day at work she fixed it in under ten minutes.  Kristin, I love you!

So, check out the new location for my blog at!!!

Keep reading for more updates on my book.  I'll be posting my book cover, excerpts from the first few chapters and even more on my process of writing, editing, and publishing in the months to come! 

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Christmas pictures, a day off of work and a random nap.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Today I took a personal day from work.  I only get two a year and I blew my second one on family Christmas pictures (take two).  This was the second time in a month that we had our Christmas pictures taken.  The first time our power went out and a knife wielding psychopath broke into our house.  Actually, that didn't happen.  That was just the reaction my children had to the power going 4:30 in the morning.  So, needless to say, pictures didn't exactly go very well.  Second time around—Big success!  Thanks to the wonderful Gina of Gina Cristine Photography.  (If you live in the Chicago area check her out.  Just Google it.  She's fabulous!)

When I took the day off I had big plans for all the free time I was going to have.  The list went something like this:

1. Do laundry
2. Clean the house
3. Continuing book edit
4. Write blog post
5. Call for oil change
6. Clean the car out
7. Make dinner

Here is what really went down:

1. BJ did the laundry between conference calls in his office/laundry room/garage. (Yes, my husband's office is in our laundry room which is in our garage.)
2. I picked up the random slew of toys that were all over the living room
3. No editing done
4. No blog post written 
5. Forgot to call the car dealer for the oil change
6. Car is still a pigsty
7. Dinner was picked up from Wendy's

So you ask, what did I do all day then?  Well, after we got home from pictures I made the kids lunch and then dragged them both to drop my oldest off at school for afternoon kindergarten.  (Don't even get me started on half day kindergarten.)  Came home dumped the little one into bed for a nap and this is where things got a little fuzzy.  I may or may not have fallen asleep.  Suddenly school was letting out and I had accomplished nothing during my day off.

The editing portion of this process isn't fun.  I'm guessing that's why I randomly fell asleep.  I have been avoiding it for some time now.   The fun part was writing the book, which took me about six months and looking back I was so thrilled to be finished that I didn't really take the time to enjoy it.  I know the next several months will be far from fun, but I have started this and I will see it through to the end. 

I am anxiously awaiting my beta reader input.  Although I am looking forward to hearing their responses to my novel, I am in turn terrified.  I have put myself and my work out there and that is alway a vomit-inducing experience.  This was something I poured my heart and soul into and I hope all the time I spent is worth it in the end.

Many have asked what my novel is about.  What I can say now is that it is Women's Fiction with a little bit of pop culture thrown in.  (Who doesn't love Britney Spears and Pop Rocks?)

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Why I am glad I met my husband in college.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

In a totally non-book related post, I'm really glad I met my husband in college.  

My husband, BJ and I met at Eastern Illinois University in Charleston, Illinois.  I was nineteen years old and he was twenty.  I knew from the moment I met him I was going to marry him. (Although there were a few sketchy times in our relationship when I thought I might kill him when we first started living together.  But he survived.  Luckily he doesn't have a blog because I'm sure he'd have some choice words to say about me.)  Snapped, anyone?

But, on to why I am grateful for this chance meeting back in 1997.  

Last night, BJ and I retired to our bedroom around 9:45. (Yep, we live it up!)  I spent about fifteen minutes flipping through the 500+ channels only to come to rest on MTV.  Teen Mom 2 was ending and I was sucked in by the preview for next week's episode.  I love a good train wreck just as much as the next person.  But what happened next was A-MAZ-ING!  A new show called Catfish was just beginning. 

The premise of the show is this:  A guy named Nev takes people to meet their online significant other in person.  Now these significant others have only at this point talked on the phone/instant messaged/FB'ed each other or whatever.  

Last night's episode did not disappoint.  This cute, little blonde girl with a southern accent and bad spray on tan named Sunny thought she had found the man of her dreams.  He was a model, a cue card holder for the Chelsea Lately show and was about to become an anesthesiologist via online courses.  Too good to be true, right?  Um, yeah.  But even as Nev pointed out the obvious to poor, naive Sunny, she didn't get it.  There was even a point when her and equally naive sister argued over this "dream guy".

Nev called this guy named Jamison and when he answered the phone, BJ turned to me and said, "No joke that's a twelve year old boy on the other end."  We had a good laugh over this.

 BJ and I were glued to the television. At the commercial break, BJ raced out of bed in his underwear to let our dog out.  (Yes, neighbors, BJ let the dog out in his underwear.  Stop looking through our windows.)  He kept calling for updates from the kitchen as Beeker milled around in the yard looking for the perfect place to pee.  He hauled back into the bedroom just in time for Sunny to come face to face with her beautiful model boyfriend who has three dead sisters and lives in LA but is somehow, at that current moment, living in a modular home in Alabama.  And it turns out...

Her online boyfriend is a girl!  Shocker, right?  Not really.  Only Sunny was oblivious.  The poor girl was totally let down.  Yet, somehow she decided it was a good idea to befriend this lying girl.  Obviously Sunny is a far better person than BJ and me.  Not a chance in hell I would befriend a person who deceived me for months and made me look like a fool on television.  This is what we call television now and BJ and I watch like it's a serious, gripping drama.  

I'm sure there are perfectly normal relationships that begin through the internet; I even know a few people it worked out for.  But overall, I imagine a lot blow up the way Sunny's did.  

I'm glad I met BJ in college the old fashioned way.  It's hard to hide who you really are when you don't have the internet to do it for you.  BJ still picked me even though I wore pajamas twenty-four hours a day, drank far too much Country Time lemonade and vodka and lived off Ramen noodles and Little Debbie fudge rounds.  I sound like a catch, don't I? We've been together now for over fifteen years, so we must be doing something right. 


What is the title and when does it come out?

Monday, November 12, 2012

These are the questions that have been asked since I began this journey. I never thought my hobby would garner this much interest, but it has. And the answer to the above questions is...

No, my book is not called patience. I have a working title and as for its release date, all I can say now is mid-summer. As you read on you'll find this process isn't as cut and dry as you think. 

I have chosen to self publish. This was something that took a great deal of thought, a lot of research and many hours of self doubt. But eventually I came to the realization that if I wanted my work to be read, self publishing was my only option. I could go through the process of querying agents, waiting the 6 or so months it takes for someone to get back to me, only to have them say "no". And do it all over again with the same possible response. It's not that I don't believe in my work, I do, wholeheartedly, which is why I chose to go the self publishing route. I'm sure I know what you're thinking, "She took the easy way out." 

Absolutely not! 

I don't do things half-assed, well except four years of high school, but I think that's self explanatory. I decided if I was going to self publish my novel it had to be as close to professional as I could get. So I headed back to one of my favorite things...Google!  

I Google everything! I Google unknown information when I'm in my classroom and a student asks me an arbitrary question like, why do animals eat their babies? I Google song lyrics for my husband because his ability to misunderstand lyrics is unreal! I Google historical facts, so my best friend Leah doesn't chastise me for not knowing what the Dust Bowl is. She teaches history for Pete's sake! 

But back to self publishing.

So, I Googled what steps I need to go through to self publish. Google, I love you, but sometimes you fail me. Basically, my dog, Beeker, who is a genius by the way, could slap a paw down on a keyboard, call it a masterpiece and then self publish it.
Here's what it would look like:
By: Beeker Young-Dog Genius Ph.D. in pooping.*
Anyone can self publish anything! Back to Google I went. This time I searched what a literary agent does. Voila! I found what was looking for. Holy Shit! I had no idea!  Turns out a literary agent does EVERYTHING!

Here are the steps in compact (sorta) form:

1. Have someone read your book.  (It was my husband and a close friend.)
2. Listen to their advice and revise your book.  (I revised mine twice during this step.)
3. Find a critique partner. (This is the person you can run ideas by, call when you can't get your shit together, overall this person will help you write your book.  Thanks to my husband and my friend Jason.)
4. Revise your book after talking to your critique partner. (Done for a third time.)
5. Find a group of beta readers. (Beta readers are people who will read your book and answer a set of questions you have supplied them.  They will be your test group.  Mine are three people I know and two people I don't know.  Thanks to Jill, Julie, Leah, Jen and Joyce.)
6. Revise AGAIN based off your beta readers response to your book. (This is where I am at currently.  I am waiting to hear back from my beta readers, so check back for an update.)
7. Find and secure editors.  A developmental editor and a copy editor. (I Googled freelance editors and found two fabulous professionals.  Not someone who says, I love to read I'll edit your book.  Nope!  These are legit professionals who do this for a living.  A developmental editor edits the content of your book and a copy editor edits the grammar, punctuation and sentence structure.)
8. Send it off to your developmental editor and watch it come back RED! (I panicked the first time it came back.  I sent my editor a sample of my work and although it was covered in red she gave some great tips.)
9. Revise based off the suggestions from the developmental editor.  (You don't have to change everything.  It's still your book.)
10. Send it off to your copy editor and watch it come back RED...again.
11. Revise...again.
12. Send it back to your beta readers and read it yourself for mistakes.
13. Correct any mistakes.  (This is going on forever!)
14. Apply for a copyright.  (This take about two months, but you can't get one until the work is complete.)
15. Find and hire an ebook formatter.  (Just Google it.)
16. Find a book cover designer.  (MIne is a friend who is a graphic designer. Thanks Mick!)
17. Send it off to the formatter.
18. Once it's back from the formatter, send it back to the copy editor for one more read through.  (This will eliminate any last minute mistakes.)
19. Publish it.  (This is a blog post all its own!)

So that is what I have accomplished so far.  Keep following if you're interested in hearing what happens from here!

Title: Skip a Life Completely
Release Date: Mid-Summer---Hopefully!

*Thanks to my former brother in law for the Ph.D. joke.