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That was me circa 2009–back when I lived on Wall Street. It’s funny because I swore I saw her last week in New York. The ghost of who I’d been.
And I laughed at her. Because she was so pretentious. Caught up in owning the best of things. Eating at the best restaurants. Buying the nicest Burberry bags. At living the best life. Somehow that always translated into material possessions.
Walking around the city last week, I saw so many people who were like her. And I realized how I used to be. Who I am no longer. It was an eye-piercing moment.
I apologized to Ant for all the times I was obnoxious. He laughed. Then I asked him, “How did you put up with me?”
He paused and thought about it. “Because I knew that wasn’t the core of who you were.”
Which is probably the nicest compliment he could ever give me. We’ve know each other decades and grown up, apart, and back together through the years. We’ve become the people we needed each other to be.
I’m very lucky to still have him in my life. Because that is a rarity. Someone who sticks with you as you evolve away from the person they love and into someone they tolerate to get glimpses of the one they love.
I’ve been using Skype since 2004. At first, just for voice calls. Then video calls.
Back in 2008 and 2009, the video calls were pretty crisp. No major glitches. Really revolutionary.
In 2011 and 2012, the technology seems to have de-evolved. I can’t get a call to last more than 45 minutes (if that). Because the video blurs, pixilates and freezes. The voice goes robotic and fades out. Glitches abound. A few hours on Skype requires 3-6 actual hang ups and redials because of all the glitches.
And Skype is very aware of the issue. So aware, they created a check box questions for dropped calls. But they haven’t fixed the problem.
I really wouldn’t mind paying a membership fee of $50-100 annually, if they could ensure quality of the calls. But right now they stink. Really and truly stink.
I’ve never seen a service go downhill so far and so fast. Very disappointing.
Anyone use any other form of video conferencing? How’s it working for you?
Today, I’m traveling back to CT, so I thought it was the perfect day to refer you to one of my favorite blogs by one of my favorite bloggers: August McLauglin. If you don’t follow her, you might want to click that follow button ASAP.
She blogs about everything from healthy eating to thriller novels. Multi-faceted and multi-talented is just the beginning with her.
August McLaughlin wrote a blog entitled Cinderella Strong that I hope you’ll take a look it. It was beautiful and poignant and empowering. Yup she can do all those in a single blog post. And she included a heart-stirring music video at the end. That’s her singing and acting in the video too. Talk about amazing talent!
Yesterday at 12:50 pm, I found out I made the semifinals of the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award Contest. The top 50. Of the original 5000. Wow.
E and I did a happy dance. I was still in shock. I’m slow to process things. It takes me a few hours to really realize what happened.
I called my parents to share the good news. They were super stoked. Me too.
I’m now the only entry left in fantasy. Wow. I had several amazing fantasy writers with me yesterday in the quarterfinals.
So now the entire manuscript gets read by Penguin editors. They pick the top 3 in late May. And then Amazon voting commences to pick the winner.
I want to say a huge thanks to my blog friends and my personal friends and my family who took the time to read my excerpt and leave a review. It meant so much to me to read your reviews and feel your support. You guys are the best! 1 million thank yous.
I came in Monday night for MWA’s Edgars Week. Crashed with Cousin G and E. Had a wonderful time with them!
Today, I’m moving to Ant’s for two nights. This afternoon I’m running some errands in the city. This evening, I’ll be at the Launch Party for the latest MWA anthology, Vengeance, edited by Lee Child. The party will be at the Mysterious Book Store in Tribeca. Then I’ll be grabbing dinner at my fav Chinese restaurant with Ant. Good times.
Wednesday, I’ll be at the Edgars Symposium and the MWA Agent Cocktail Party. I’ll blog about it soon!
Thursday, I might hit a museum and then head back to CT on the train.
On Friday, Grandma H, Mom and I went to the cemetery where Grandma H’s parents and sisters are buried. Grandma H and I visit most weeks and try to tend to the graves in the spring.
This time we went to refresh the fake flowers on my great grandmother’s grave. It was a crisp spring day heading into early evening. The sun was still out but not as strong as it had been all day.
The breeze whipped Grandma H’s blouse around, so we didn’t stay too long. As we turned to go, we looked up in a pine tree. At the tippity-top sat a crow. Watching over us.
“Oh my goodness, look at the bird! It must be a sign,” Grandma H said.
The crow cawed back at her.
“Maybe it’s one of them letting us know they know we are here,” Mom said.
The crow cawed back at her.
I nodded. “Did Great Aunt M like birds?”
“Yes she did,” Mom said.
The crow cawed back at her.
“Maybe it’s her,” I said.
The bird stayed on top of the tree watching us until we opened our car doors. Then it suddenly took flight, swooping over our car and off into the sky.
As we pulled out of the cemetery, Mom said, “You know it was your Great Aunt J’s birthday today.”
You may not believe in signs, but on that particular afternoon, I did.
Today’s post was inspired by 4amWriter’s brilliant post on The Power of A Critique.
She got me thinking about my critiquing process, which has evolved out of my self-editing techniques with a heaping of tact.
Before I critique someone’s writing, I always ask what type of critique they want. A general big picture for flow, or nitty-gritty editing of sentence structure and word choices. Then I ask if there are any specific concerns the writer has like the voice/character development/tension/pacing etc. I want to make sure we are on the same page in terms of what they are looking for in a critique partner.
When I get pages from my critique partner, I print them out.
I take my red pen and try to read through all the pages in a couple sittings.
As I read, I make notes on anything that stops me or jars me as a reader. ANYTHING. Sometimes, I’m not sure what wasn’t working but I make a note that something wasn’t adding to my reading experience. I also note what worked in the story (strong opening sentences, great character development, strong voice, great imagery, etc)
On this first read, I try to employ the principles from Margie Lawson’s Deep Editing packet. She provides an actual checklist of everything you should be evaluating as you read.
Then I put the pages aside. In the back of my head, I’m thinking about everything–pacing, character development, flow, etc. But I don’t write anything down. For a day.
Then I come back to the pages the next day and add more notes and try to better articulate my concerns and possible changes to address those issues.
I do this until I have all the pages done.
Then I wait a day.
I open up the Word document and I begin typing in my comments in track changes.
I avoid words like “should.” I try to employ weaker language like “might.”
I do my best to state my concern and then suggest a couple possible fixes. Sometimes I don’t know how to solve my concern. Then I just state the concern and mention I’m not sure how best to address it.
I also make sure I’ve highlighted what is working well.
It can take me 6 hours to type in all my comments because I am re-reading the manuscript as I type in the comments.
The next day, I come back to my comments. I pretend they are about my own manuscript. Then I re-read only the comments. And I try to find anything that could possibly hurt the writer’s feelings and re-word it.
Lastly, I try to write a couple paragraph cover letter to summarize the major points of my feedback. I always use the sandwich method–positive comments, areas of improvement, positive comments.
How do you critique other people’s writing? Do you have a benchmark? A tried and true methodology? Do you give them your initial responses?
Last week, I spend a few days and nights with Grandma H. She reminds me a lot of the desert. You think things are pretty boring, but then something jumps out at you.
Grandma H is reading her book on Jackie O at the kitchen table. She’s eating a hodgepodge of leftovers and drinking 7 Up out of the can.
I’m sitting at the other end of the table on my MacBook Pro working on my manuscript.
For some weird reason when I get a drink of water I feel the need to remind her about liquids being dangerous to my computer. So I say, “I’m putting my glass of water on the other side of the table because my laptop cannot get wet. Ever.”
She nods, “Smart idea.”
Not 5 seconds later she reaches for her 7 Up and knocks the entire can over. I leap up, set the can to rights, pull my cord away from the spillage, move my papers from the mess. We both grab paper towels. Luckily, the table runner and newspaper caught most of the liquid.
It’s my Auntie’s table runner. I look at Grandma H and say, “Oh, you’re in trouble.”
She takes the runner out on the front porch to dry out.
When she comes back in she goes, “And you just said to be careful too.”
“I guess you weren’t really listening.”
Later on, I hand wash the table runner in detergent and we let it dry outside. By the next day we can put it back on the table. Crisis adverted.
We are in the car. Grandma H handed me the key. I try to give them back to her, but she’s pinned my arm behind hers so everytime she reaches for them she pushes my arm further back.
She gets frustrated, “I can’t reach the keys.”
I say, “Well, stop pushing my arm back and let me hand them to you.”
She bursts out laughing when she realizes she had my arm pinned back.
I come home from lunch with a friend and Grandma H sees the leftovers in my hand. “Oh good, I hoped you’d bring food back.”
“Why? I still have my tuna melt from yesterday,” I say.
“No, you don’t. I ate it. By accident,” she says.
“How do you eat a tuna melt by accident?” I ask.
“I was finishing the leftovers. I was half way through eating it when I realized what it was.”
I burst out laughing. Tuna is the most pungent food. “How did you not taste it?”
“Well, you put a lot of cheese on it.”
Grandma has a tv schedule that starts at 7pm: Jeopardy, Wheel of Fortune, Mary Tyler Moore, Dick Van Dyke, All in The Family, the news. Grandma goes to bed at 10ish. But I don’t go to bed until 12/1 ish.
Grandma tells me, “I can’t fall asleep until you’re upstairs.”
“But I need to work,” I say.
“You work too much,” she says.
Mind you I cut my computer time to 1/3 when I was with her. LOL
All time favorite moment:
We are in the kitchen and Grandma H announces, “I’m going to take my bath, I’ll be five minutes.”
It takes at least 5 minutes to run the bath. I laugh. “I don’t need to get in the shower for an hour.”
“I’ll be two minutes,” she says.
I wrote this as part of a Flashwords Contest for Crimebake 2010. It was my first and only attempt at Flash fiction. I didn’t win, place, or show in the contest. But I had a blast writing this!
We had to write a compelling crime story in 150 words or less, using at least ten of twenty title words from Charlaine Harris’s books: Bedroom, Bone, Club, Corpse, Counselor, Dark, Dead, Family, Fool, Grave, Heels, Ice, Landlord, Living, Pick, Scene, Secret, Surprise, Trollop, Worse.
By Kourtney Heintz
My wife hated dead things. Corpses and graves brought on panic attacks. I spent twenty years living with her fear, navigating our family around it. Every Halloween, things got worse.
This year, she decided to face her fear.
It was no surprise that I ended up sitting beside her in a cemetery after dark. Her teeth chattered, but she refused to leave.
I stood up. “Don’t be foolish. You’re freezing.”
A secret swam in her moss green eyes. “I was six when I found my first dead body.”
Her voice turned to ice. “It was my mother.”
I dropped back down on the cold ground.
“Daddy bashed her head in with an iron skillet.”
She’d said she was an orphan. “Where’s he?”
She smiled. “I caught up with him one Halloween.”
Dear God. She couldn’t.
She shivered. “I never realized how hard it was to get rid of bones.”