Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Letting Go

Yesterday afternoon I went through the Amazon.com KDP previewer for self-publishing one final time.  One.  Final.  Time.  The formatting is correct.  I will not review it again.  I will not edit my book again, and I will prevent myself from reading it again (because re-reading always leads to more edits.)  My book is now exactly as it will be presented to my readers (assuming there is more than one reader...or even one reader) on Friday.  I will not change one single word.

Am I freaking out?

No, not at all!  Not even a little bit.  I'm not lying awake at night, shuddering in fear of typos, wondering why oh why I couldn't be born a machine that never, ever makes mistakes.  And is fluent in French. 

I'll be honest here.  Writing does not come easily to me.  I'm a very technical person.  Black and white.  My favorite subject in school was math.  I work in banking.  I like rules.  I get so excited when I see someone pulled over by the police that I nearly explode.

Take that, Rule Breaker!  BOOM!

Writing is a world of color.  Writing is all about the way something smells, and how it looks in the mid-morning light.  It's complex and multifaceted.  It's this story that unfolds in your head, and these characters whom you love despite their many, many flaws.  Characters who speak to you, and through you, and would never see the light of day without you. 

Maybe it's because I struggle with it, or because it forces me step back and view things differently, but I love writing.  I LOVE it.  When I don't have time to write, it's reflected in my mood.  If I had a checklist for Reasons of Grumpiness, which let's face it, would probably be quite helpful, the very top of the list would be "Have you written anything recently" followed by "How close is the nearest piece of chocolate?"

I can accept that I'll never be the best writer in the world.  Or the country.  I'm not even the best writer in my family.  And my handwriting is absolutely horrendous.  But it's time.  I'm doing it.  I'm going to relinquish my precious control over this thing that I've worked on for a very long time, and I'm going to put it out there for all to see.  Hopefully without any typos. 

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Misery Loves...Hewitt Photography

Full disclosure, Vita and Bryan Hewitt are good friends of mine. Great friends!  Super amazing telepathic friends!  They are family.  They're also incredible photographers.  Behold:

My book cover!!!

Isn't that amazing?  The word count for my book is upwards of 115,000.  115,000 words can't describe how I felt when I saw my cover for the first time.  Awed.  Honored.  So happy I could die!  I look at this image and I actually feel like a writer.  I have a book! 

What makes it even more extraordinary, is that when I drew them a picture of what I had in mind, it looked like a camel lying on the ground with a bird flying above it.  No joke.

 This was my drawing:

Are you embarrassed for me?  I'm embarrassed for me.

They took that drawing (if you could even call it that) and miraculously made it into art.  I mean, just look at it! 

It's like magic!

Vita and Bryan also shoot portraits (in the photography sense, not the blood on the wall sense) as well as weddings and just about any other event you can come up with.  And incredible book covers, obviously.  If you're located in the San Francisco Bay Area and need a picture of something, anything, hire them!  You will not be disappointed. 

In case you don't believe me, you can see the evidence first hand on their website.  You can also follow their blog

Before I wrap this up so I can go drool over my cover some more, I have a special shout out for Gabe the corpse for being...well, a corpse, and his wife Hilary for cooking up the blood.  If it wasn't for the two of you, and for Vita and Bryan, I would just have a camel and a bird.  Thank you so, so much!

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Misery Hates…Discrimination under the guise of piety

In honor of Valentine's Day, here's an issue that's close to my heart.  Coincidentally it's also my first Misery Hates... post. 

Religion and intolerance are strange bedfellows.  On one hand, religion is supposed to promote virtues: love, loyalty, and plenty of shalt nots; while on the other, it's used as an excuse for the mentality of it’s-different-kill-it-with-sticks

There have been quite a few of these stories on the news recently, but as this was on the local news, I feel the need to say a few words.  A bakery in Oregon turned away a customer because they wanted a wedding cake for eek! two brides.  I’m not going to give the bakery any sort of advertisement here, so if you’re interested in boycotting them (or you’re the exact type of person I’m writing this entry about and want to send them fan mail) you can google it yourself.  

The proprietor claimed that same-sex weddings are against his religion, which is fine.  However, he felt within his right, in a public business, to not only discriminate against these women but to force the fiancĂ©e to tears by calling the couple “abominations unto the Lord.” 

Now, gay marriage is not legal in Oregon, unfortunately.  However, domestic partnerships are.  So if the owner of this business were to say, “I’m sorry ladies, but I’m not able to do a wedding cake for two brides, but I can do a domestic partnership cake.”  Then there wouldn’t really be a problem.  After all, a domestic partnership cake would have all the same rights as a marriage (except that if your partner were to die, you wouldn’t be allowed to eat what was left of their portion of the cake like you would with a traditional wedding cake.)  The problem is that on the basis of his moral high ground, the owner turned away a customer with legal tender from his public business. 

Let’s consider this for a moment.  Whether you believe that homosexuality is borne of nature or nurture, the fact remains: they’re here, they’re queer, get used to it.  You can hate it as much as you want, but the closet is open.  Waa. 

Here are some examples.  We’ll see if you can spot the differences.

I own a business (I don’t actually own a business.)  A customer comes in with legal tender and wants to buy a product I sell.  But the flying spaghetti monster I believe in tells me that tattoos are an abomination.  Tattoos are a choice.  Am I allowed to turn this customer away from my public business because of my religious beliefs regarding their skin art?  NO.

How about this: A different customer comes in, and they happen to have natural red hair (for argument’s sake, let’s pretend there’s no such thing as hair dye and therefore I would have no reason to question whether the carpet matches the drapes.)  Well, the good old flying spaghetti monster thinks gingers are an abomination.  So, am I allowed to turn away this customer based on their natural hair color?  NO.


And yet, the proprietor of this bakery feels not only that he’s well within his rights as a business owner, but should be applauded for discriminating against a couple (or as he calls it: standing up for what he believes in.) 

There is a happy ending to this story.  Duff Goldman, from the Food Network show “Ace of Cakes,” offered to bake their cake for them free of charge, and even mail it to Oregon.  Isn’t that sweet?  Sorry, I had to. 

This is Duff:

Misery loves Duff.  If you’ve seen what he can do with cake, you probably love him too.  The couple had already ordered their cake through Pastrygirl in Portland, but Duff is sending them a second bride’s cake.  Let them eat cake!

To wrap it up, I have to admit that I love sweets.  My name is Nicole, and I’m an addict.  If you put sugar on the top of just about anything, I would eat it.  I don’t even like apple pie, but if you presented me with one, I would consume it in a manner which left you fleeing for your life as I licked the defenseless morsels from my lips. 

Now that I’ve given my two cents about the situation, I’d like to firmly state that two cents is more than I’d be willing to pay if the bible baker of Gresham, Oregon had the last cake for sale in the country. 

And to the happy couple: Congratulations!  I hope this man’s intolerance hasn’t made your special day any less sweet.  Sorry about the puns.     

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Much Ado About Advertising

I’ll start by saying that I loathe the word blog.  I hate it with a purple passion.  It sounds like a word you would use when describing (if you felt compelled to describe) something you did in the bathroom preceding the emptying of an entire can of air freshener straight into the ozone.  TMI, I know, but that’s how I feel.  If you’re here, you’re obviously interested in my opinion for some unfathomable reason, so there you have it.  I shall hereby officially commence my web journal…wournal?

This is me:

That always seems to happen with photographs...perhaps I should see a doctor?


At any rate, I’m antisocial, misanthropic, and generally cranky.  I can be quite disagreeable, but we all have our bad days.  Like any good natured person, I enjoy kittens and puppies and the vibrant yellow color of a parking ticket on someone else’s windshield.  Schadenfreude is a state of being.

I grew up here: 


If it looks a bit like the cactus is flipping off the sun, that's because it is.  Fuck the sun.

Now I live here… 
for quite obvious reasons.


I do not enjoy talking about myself.  I’d much rather sit in a dark little cave with my mean little dog and live in my own little world until I get hungry and need to go out and buy cookies.  Whilst wearing a disguise.  But there’s this thing called marketing and guess what, boys and girls?  Apparently a-marketing-I’ll-go if I want my book to be successful.  

What’s that, you ask?  A book?  I’ve segued right into the thick of it, haven’t I?  Yes, I have a book.  A long time ago (longer than I’d care to admit, as I’ve been working on it since) I was at the library.  This is not a rare occurrence by any means, but during this particular visit, I couldn’t for the life of me find something I was in the mood for.  So I set about writing it. 

As I’m sure many writers will tell you, stories have a tendency to grow a mind of their own.  Apart from the edits, and revisions, and months (let’s be honest; years) of working on it, the story basically wrote itself.  It should be available on Amazon.com on March 1st.  Here’s the official blurb:

Vincent Sullivan is down on his luck.  When a chance encounter generates a job prospect he’s too desperate to decline, Vincent is well on his way to a career in crime.  But after the job goes wrong and he’s gravely injured in the process, things couldn’t get much worse.  Except that he may have just killed a man. 
With the entrance of a mysterious stranger, life is finally starting to look up.  Unless his luck is about to run out for good.

Blurb isn’t a particularly attractive word either, but it’s better than blog, so it can stay.  Anyway, Chance Assassin: A Story of Love, Luck, and Murder, is basically a gay hitman love story.  It’s that simple.  I believe in happy endings (not to spoil anything for you) because despite my otherwise sunny disposition, deep down inside, I can be quite sentimental. 

Look!  A dog in a unicorn costume!
That’s Ms. Moxie.  You’ll likely hear way too much about her. 

Now that the business aspect is out of the way, we can get into the fun stuff.  What I consider fun, at any rate.  Raving and ranting.  I shall call these segments Misery Loves… and Misery Hates… respectively.  To be my ever perky self, I’ll start with loves…

One of the downsides to writing, even if it brings you the kind of peace it brings me, is that you start looking at books differently.  You see those little typos that snuck right past the editor (assuming there even was one) and despite your best efforts; you start critiquing.  Descriptions you may not have used, a sentence that could be worded just a little better, even names of characters that don’t sit right. 

Or else you read something like We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson, and fall so in love with every single word that you set down your pen and paper and hang your head in shame of ever presuming you could be a writer yourself.  I LOVED this book from the first word. 

I’ll admit that the cover art is what made me pick it up, but Shirley Jackson’s storytelling is what stopped me from putting it down.  I read it straight through in one afternoon, staring at the words and feeling more akin to Merricat Blackwood than I’d ever felt with any of my previous literary heroes.  The games she played, the seething hatred she had for the townspeople, and her protectiveness of her older sister Constance, all struck close to home. 

As much as I loved this book, it made me sad.  Not necessarily jealous, as I believe an author’s experience is truly part of the creation process, and the book couldn’t have possibly been written by anyone else; but I felt inadequate.  Then I read more about her… 

You can find the preface written by Shirley Jackson in Just an Ordinary Day, in which she describes being 16 years old and deciding “one evening that since there were no books in the world fit to read” she would write one.  I didn’t feel quite as strongly about my lack of reading material as she had, but needless to say it struck a chord with me. 

When she presented the story she had written to her family, they were hardly impressed, and with what I imagine was absolute humiliation, Shirley Jackson vowed never to write again.  I’m so very thankful that she ended up breaking that vow, so someone like me can sit here and feel inspired by her life and her work.  Putting my book out there certainly isn’t easy, but hey, I enjoyed writing it, and I enjoyed reading it.  I’ll be over the moon if someone else likes it (please buy my book!) but if not, that’s okay too.  I wrote it for myself.  And if it’s good enough for Shirley Jackson, then it’s good enough for me.