It’s a good thing I don’t believe in omens.
All week long, I have come face-to-face with events that could easily be interpreted as bad omens. Events that really seemed like the universe was trying to say, “Are you sure you want to go ahead with this? Really, really sure? C’mon, now, just think about it.”
It started on Sunday, which was the deadline for this year’s Launching a Star contest. I’ve entered two years in a row; I bombed the first year, but placed third in my category the next year. So, I asked myself, why not enter one more time? Third time’s the charm, right? I went against the very good advice I got from some very smart people, and I drafted the first chapter of a second novel even though my first is far, far behind schedule.
Sunday morning, I woke up bright and early, fired up the old computer, and sent in my entry.
Well, that was the plan. Unfortunately, my computer had other plans. My computer has decided that it will no longer allow me to attach anything to an email. Big documents, small documents, PDF files, pictures, nothing. Nothing whatsoever. Not in Yahoo, not in Gmail, not in Windows Live. Not from the computer memory, not from a flash drive, not in a box or with a fox, Sam I am.
I should explain here that my computer skills are all but nonexistent. I have never taken a computer class in my life. Everything I know, I have either taught myself or learned from my husband.
I should also explain that my husband is one of the smartest people I have ever met. He likes to fool people with the flannel shirts and “aw, shucks” attitude, but he is an almost frighteningly intelligent individual. He is also, unfortunately, one of the most impatient teachers ever. Every one of our computer “lessons” ends with him angry, me crying, and both of us resigned to no sex for a while.
So, going to the Big Guy at this point was probably not the best choice I have ever made. I asked to borrow his laptop for ten minutes so I could plug in my flash drive and send in my contest entry.
He spent a big chunk of the rest of the day trying to fix my computer.
I did not ask him to do that. Remember, I just asked if I could use his laptop.
While he fussed and messed around with my computer, I quietly asked my son if I could use his Netbook, which was assigned to him by his school. “But Mom,” he said, “I had to promise not to let anyone else use it. You wouldn’t want me to break the rules, would you?”
Now he worries about rules? After fifteen years of being rather laissez-faire on the concept of rules, now the boy gives a damn?
By this point, the Big Guy was ready to really amp up his efforts. He chewed me out for having so many emails in my account, for not having updated virus protection, for not knowing a password for the Windows Live mail program that has never worked, for having a virus in my computer. . . I’m not sure, but I think I remember him blaming me for his bad gas, too. I’ll take the blame on that one, though. I made cabbage for supper that night.
Maybe, I thought, the universe is telling me not to enter the Launching a Star contest this year. I should finish my manuscript for Her House Divided before starting another novel. But then the Big Guy finally let me use his laptop at the last possible moment, and my entry was soon on its merry way.
And then I got the email a few days later from the contest director that my category didn’t receive enough entries. Would I like to withdraw, she wondered, or would I like to have my entry moved to a different category?
I moved it from Series Contemporary to Single Title against my better judgment.
In the meantime, I am also taking part in Harlequin’s So You Think You Can Write contest with Her House Divided. This week has been the online conference for the event, and I have spent hours listening to podcasts and participating in live Twitter chats about everything from revising to networking. It has been fascinating and oh-so-inspiring. A little intimidating too, but that’s a subject for another day.
I decided to enter the First Page Challenge on Wednesday. This involved submitting the first 250 words of my novel by 6:00 p.m. In an email attachment.
No problem. I loaded my first page onto my trusty flash drive, hopped into our gas-guzzling Expedition, and burned through a ridiculous amount of gas to drive the paltry seven miles to our local library to use one of their computers. I was the model of efficiency as I typed up my cover letter, easily attached my document, and hit send.
Only to get the message that I was sending it to an invalid address.
Oh, Universe? Are you trying to tell me something?
I learned that if you cry at one of the computers at Bloomingdale Public Library, you get two helpful librarians looking over your shoulder.
They were very sweet and knowledgeable, and they agreed that the situation was indeed very odd. I sent a Tweet to the contest organizers that I was having trouble with their email address, and the librarians gave me an extra thirty minutes of computer time to sit and wait for an answer.
As I contemplated giving up writing entirely and trying to find a way to make a living by stringing beads, a very kind library patron approached me. “I’m pretty good with computers,” she told me. “Would it be all right with you if I tried to help?”
Tap, tap, click and vroom and my submission for the First Page Challenge was sent. Gone. Done.
Here’s where it gets odd.
Her House Divided centers around two young people who meet and fall in love because of the efforts of a sweet but manipulative old lady. I started writing it shortly after my accident, as part of my healing process. But in the two long years that have gone by since then, I have changed and grown in ways I couldn’t have predicted. I am not the same person I was when I started the project, and I have struggled lately over whether I should keep pushing on with it, or if the time has come to abandon it and move on.
The old lady’s name is Bea, named after one of my all-time favorite clients. The real-life Bea was a tough-as-nails, brittle old bird who knew about my dreams of being a writer. She scolded me at every visit and demanded to know when I was going to give up doing hair so I could sit down and write my book. She believed in me more than I believed in me.
Fast-forward a few years to the Computer Goddess who rescued me at the library on Wednesday. When she had finished, I asked her for her name.
Okay, Universe, I get it. It’s not the right time to start a second novel. I should have listened to you; I shouldn’t have wasted my time sending something new to Launching a Star this year when so many obstacles kept presenting themselves. I’m going to finish Her House Divided.
It’s a good thing I believe in omens.