Whoosh!

I love deadlines. Especially the whooshing sound they make as they pass by. — Douglas Adams

Coming out of the apartment building one morning last week, my sons and I discovered a medium-sized Huggies box that had been placed upside-down in the center of the sidewalk. On the bottom of the box, someone had written a message in big black letters.

“Do not move this box,” it read.  “Poop beneath.”

I ushered the boys past the box and into the car so I could take them to school, but I couldn’t stop wondering about the person who had left that well-labeled box on my sidewalk. I kept thinking about the effort that must have gone into locating the box, finding a marker, scribbling the message, and then carefully placing the box just so.

It seemed to me that it would have taken less effort to just clean up the poop.

“Maybe it was a practical joke,” my cousin suggested when I told her about it. “Do you think there might have been a hidden camera nearby? Did you pick up the box and look at the poop?”

“Of course I didn’t look at the poop!”

“I would have, just to see what kind of poop it was.”

Oh, well thank you for that.  What kind of poop? My mind hadn’t even begun to dive down into that particular rabbit hole, but it sure went there after that conversation.

Was it perhaps toddler poop? That would explain the Huggies box. Maybe a toddler was in the process of potty-training and just didn’t quite grasp the whole concept of dropping trou and making a deposit in the proper receptacle. The embarrassed mommy could have dashed inside for the box and a marker, planning on returning to clean up the pile after cleaning up the child.

I thought back to the days when I was the parent of toddlers during the potty-training stage, and quickly dismissed the idea. When my kids were toddlers, I was never organized enough to know where to find a box, a marker, and my child all at the same time. Besides, I was so used to cleaning up piles and puddles of baby-mess that I probably would have just grabbed a handful of wipes and scooped up the offending pile.

Well, either that or I might have used the toe of my shoe to nudge it into the nearby flowerbed with the excuse that I was fertilizing the plants.

I hate to admit it, but that probably would have been my chosen path of action in that situation.

So maybe my current box o’ poop came from an animal? There is a herd of feral cats in the woods that surround the building; maybe one of them was just too lazy to do the usual feline dig-poop-bury routine and just decided to leave a gift on the sidewalk. That didn’t seem like too much of a stretch when I thought about the “gifts” my cat used to leave on the steps — dead birds, headless mice, partially-eaten moles, etc. All things considered, poop might have been the preferable present.

But no, a feral cat wouldn’t have left the carefully-worded sign on the Huggies box.

A dog, then. A dog with a conscientious owner. See, here’s the crazy thing about my no-pets building: everyone has a pet. They’ve all gotten their doctors to sign off on a form that says depressed people need pets to help them get through their days. Apparently, we are an incredibly depressed building.`

As the only person without a pet, I can only marvel at the realization that this makes me the only person in the building who is not officially depressed enough to own a cat. Technically, this means that everyone else in my building is more depressed than I am.

Good lord, that’s a depressing thought.

I have so much to do, and so little time to do it, and yet I spent nearly a half-day wondering about the box o’ poop on the sidewalk downstairs. I could have been editing those final chapters of Their Love Rekindled or working on the opening chapters of my new Love & Destiny series; I could have been washing the dishes or unpacking those last few boxes that have been sitting in the middle of my living room since I moved here just over a month a go. I could have even worked on writing a few blog posts ahead of time and getting them scheduled to go live at convenient times.

But no, I had to sit here pondering the origin of poop on the sidewalk downstairs. I’m not sure, but I think that automatically grants me a PhD in Procrastination.

And to make things worse, I decided that I needed to look up the perfect quotes about procrastination to finish off this blog post. That took up a good forty-five minutes that could have been used changing the sheets and scrubbing the bathroom. But if I hadn’t done that, I would never have found this little gem from Nora Roberts:

My top three pieces of writing advice? Stop whining and write. Stop fucking around and write. Stop making excuses and write. — Nora Roberts

Yes, ma’am.

And so the mystery of the box o’ poop shall never be solved because I am getting back to work. When the mighty Nora Roberts tells me to stop fucking around and write, what else am I to do?

Nora

Counting Down the Days

I thought it would get easier.

I always believed that all I had to do was write that first book.  Get the first one done, and the next one would be easier.  Less fear each time, less details to worry about, more fun once I knew what to expect. Sort of like losing my virginity, only without any cheesy Michael Bolton ballads playing in the background.

That’s not how it’s working out for me.  His Heart Aflame has been a bit of a bear to write.  I feel like a kid throwing homework excuses at the teacher, but here’s why I’ve struggled with my second book:

  • I’ve learned so much from self-publishing my first book. I can see things that I did wrong with Her House Divided, and I don’t want to make those same mistakes this time.
  • Along those same lines, I realize that my first book was pretty simple. I want this one to be more complex, with a couple of subplots and more well-defined characters.  Threw in a couple of burning buildings and an extremely energetic sex scene on the beach, just to spice things up a tad.  I’m scared I’m not up to challenge.
  • My first book was drawn from my own experiences, created out of a bunch of “what ifs” as I recovered from a broken neck. It was a work of fiction, but it was also a huge part of my healing process.   My second book is drawn completely from my imagination.  Made from scratch, you could say.
  • I designed my own cover the first time around, and it sucked. The amazing and incredibly talented Jessica Richardson took pity on me and provided a much better cover.  I hired her this time (and will for every book I write in the future as well), which meant I had to take the time to select a cover, work with her, and stress about whether I could afford her or not.  This time around, the e-book and paperback will have the same cover, thanks to Jessica.
  • For a long time, I just didn’t like my heroine, Maggie. I wanted her to be sort of clumsy and hapless and unlucky, but I felt like I wasn’t getting to “know” her well enough to write about her.  Then my sister suggested the name “Maeve” for Maggie’s alter-ego in the subplot, and everything fell into place.
  • I wrote my first romance novel as a married woman. Sure, I knew my marriage was going through a rough patch; I just didn’t realize it was ending.  I’ve written this second romance novel as a middle-aged divorcee who has lost her faith in Happily Ever After.  I keep wanting to re-write the ending to send Sean and Maggie off in separate ways with a handshake and an agreement to behave like adults.
  • I didn’t tell anyone I was going to self-publish my first book. I just sort of threw it at the world and ran the other direction.  If I failed, I failed.  I’ve got to be honest – I never really thought anyone outside of my friends and family would buy it.  Now, people are waiting for the sequel.  Asking about it.  Looking forward to it.  Good Lord, I’m an author now, not just an unemployed hairdresser tapping away at the keyboard.   That’s scary as hell.
  • I’m at a different place in my life from a religious standpoint. This one is a biggie.  God has always been so important to me, but I have really felt His hand guiding me in recent months.  I find myself questioning whether or not I’m okay including sex scenes in my books, or if I need to take a shot at writing something more “squeaky clean.”  Maybe it’s time to write something more spiritual.  I’m so confused.

Despite the excuses difficulties, I have finally finished His Heart Aflame.  Three days after I reached this point with my first book, my husband and I decided to get a divorce.  After that, I couldn’t stand to look at the book again, and I rushed into self-publishing without any further edits.  And it showed.

I won’t make that mistake this time.  My second book is going out later this week to two trusted friends – trusted friends who are both smart and brutally honest.   My final round of edits will take place after I get their feedback, so I’m hoping to release His Heart Aflame some time between Thanksgiving and New Year’s.  I wish I could narrow down the exact date, but I just don’t want to promise anything that I may not deliver.

In the meantime, I plan on sharing the first chapter here in my blog, just to build some excitement.    I’ve temporarily dropped my price on Her House Divided to get it out into more hands.  And now, just because I can, I’m also going to do a little cover reveal.

His Heart Aflame 1
Well? Hot enough for ya?