Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Words Can't Capture . . .

This morning, my older (and often tired, lethargic, naysaying) son somewhat surprisingly came through and joined me during my 6:15 a.m. open water swim.

We had just bought him a brand new kayak in the hopes he would, but still, with a 14-yr-old (especially of the lethargic naysaying variety) you never know. After all, school just ended and there's a whole summer ahead of him, and I came in to wake him at 5:15 a.m.

"Let's go," I said. "You said you were coming."

And he did something miraculous: He got out of bed.

As we loaded the kayak on the car and strapped it on, I still had my doubts. As we arrived at the beach and unloaded and dragged it down to the waterline, I still had my doubts. As he looked at the seaweed and lapping waves that carried the potential jellyfish and other sealife he's heard me talking about for the past several weeks as I, myself, conquered the world of open water swims, and said, "Okay, I'm not touching that," I still had my doubts.

But then, he stepped in, sat down, and started paddling.

He had told me he had done plenty of kayaking at his week-long sleepaway camp over the past two summers, but I had never seen him, so really had no idea.

My mother's nerves tugged at the back of my brain, as off he went beyond the ropes to wait for me and the rest of the swimmers to join him.

And, then, it happened. It became abundantly clear that he was adept with the kayak; that he was even in his element. He steered away from us and cut across the water's surface like a pro.

As I swam along behind him, periodically glancing up to catch a glimpse of him against the serene background of water meeting early-morning sky, in his flame red-orange kayak, a red life jacket and puff of brown hair moving farther and farther away from me, it filled me to see my boy this way: Capable. At peace. Self-assured.

It is an image I won't forget, though words will never capture the way it made me feel.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Dragging slowly toward publication (and, still, all the other excrutiating waiting...)



I mean, don't let the title of this post fool you, it's not the "dragging" and the "slowly" and the "excrutiating," but rather the words "toward publication," that one must focus on, and not all those other silly, whiny words that snuck in there.

Because, yes I am waiting -- with ever more waning hope, to either get a deal, or %$!*& ing close out Swim Back to Me.

And yes, I am I waiting -- on ridiculous pins and needles, for my editor to read Frankie Sky and report back on whether they, FSG, my most-awesome publisher, will want to option it, or whether they will send me and it out into the cruel world of shopping it to other publishers (see excrutiating waiting above).

And yes, I am waiting -- for The Pull of Gravity to become an Advance Review Copy with a pretty cover and all that, which will then be sent out into the wide world of the reviewers and other important bookish-type people, and, then, thereafter will become a real book that you can order on Amazon or pick up in your local bookstore.

But, amidst all that waiting, I am also inching forward toward that last one -- the actuality of my first novel as a real book -- with an email in my inbox this weekend from the head of FSG marketing offering to set an in-person meeting with me (and hopefully my agent) for the week of July 8th, a luxury and a privilege rarely afforded to most debut authors (and, yes, I do know this . . .).

So why do I get this luxury and privilege?

I'm not exactly sure why. One reason is that my editor (a legend in the business, who has worked with the likes of Louis Sachar (HOLES) and Roald Dahl (CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY, etc. etc) is old school and willing to sit down with her authors in person (although this was also something I specifically requested), and this has allowed us to form a real and caring relationship.

Another reason may be that I've done a reasonable amount of legwork on my own already, setting up both a West and East Coast launch of my book at some pretty cool and prestigious places, securing some cool corporate sponsorship (sort of...) and generally working hard to make connections and let them know I am serious about getting my name and this book out there.

The third reason may be that I am one giant pain in the ass. But at least I am a genuinely grateful one.

And the fourth and best reason could be that they, themselves, have high hopes for this book.

Whatever the reason(s), a week or so from now, I'll be headed to FSG to learn more of the details about how they plan to promote The Pull of Gravity. Maybe I'll hear numbers. Maybe I'll actually get a release date.

Whatever happens, I'm excited because it means I am inching ever so slowly, but surely, toward publication.

Monday, June 14, 2010

The "Lure" of Body Parts and Kissing the Baby Goodbye

I've been in a sparkly, brightly-colored nail-polish phase (perhaps one I should title my Regression Period?), which, given my new penchant for open-water swimming, I suddenly realize could have some hazardous results.

Because while most of me is covered while I swim (wetsuit, bathing cap, neoprene booties), my short, shell-shaped nails flash beneath me in the murky water like a perfect set of ten sparkly lures.

I have visions of lifting my hands on each stroke with a series of sand eels and other creatures latched to the tips of my fingers.

In other news, I turned my new baby, my young adult manuscript which bears the working title Frankie Sky, into my agent today, which will receive a cover letter from her and travel on to my editor by tomorrow. Pursuant to my contract with FSG, they have the first option on the book. The few readers who have read the early version of it have given it a pretty hearty thumbs up. I look forward to seeing its journey. At least if it's a successful one. :)

Here's a brief excerpt from Chapter 4 of Frankie Sky.

* * *

I blink my eyes and look over at Simon’s cement frog again. The forget-me-nots are in full bloom. In a few weeks they’ll get this weird rot and turn black and we’ll quickly cut them back to the ground. But it’s okay, because already the bleeding hearts will be open, draping their white and pink teardrops over him. Those will last most of the summer. In fall, Mom will cut those back and encircle the frog in mums, and in winter everything will be dead, so instead, she’ll place a series of brightly-colored glass gazing balls around him. Because, in addition to all things drowning, Mom is excellent with her grief- appropriate gardening.

* * *

Now, off to paint my nails another shiny color. Maybe irridescent purple? :)

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

To Fresh Water or Salt Water . . .?

. . . that is the new question.

Why, you ask? (yes, you did, come on...).

Well, as some of you know, I have embarked on a new activity, doing "open water" swims with a great group of water-loving crazies from my area. It has been an exhilarating, if at times frustrating, challenge.

Though personally satisfying to me to see I can bring myself (not exactly your hardy-Survivor-type soul) to brave the elements -- cold (COLD!) water, mating horseshoe crabs one must trip over to get to the deep water, and the recent appearance of jellyfish, not to mention all the "things" I cannot see beneath the brackish water (though my fisherman-friend tells me there are any number of biting, 10-pound+ things that are likely swimming along with me just waiting for me to unwittingly happen into what he lovingly (?) refers to as a feeding frenzy) and, yes, those pesky swans -- I have, to date, been the slowest, most-pantingly-breathless member of the group. Still, I've done it. And most people wouldn't, even if those that do are way more kick-ass than I am.

So, here's the problem.

As most of you also know, much of my writing ideas -- plot, character development, those gems of ideas that come to me through what those of us who write often call our mystical, magical, and deeply-desired Muse -- often come to me under water.

And my Muse is pool-water powered. She simply has not acclimated to the harbor.

It's not my Muse's fault.

Because, try as I might, while I'm open-water swimming, there's so much panting and breathing and pushing and kicking and timing and lurking-creature avoiding going on, not to mention the constant spotting of the other swimmers so I don't unwittingly drift off toward Connecticut nor lose sight of the nearly-elusive (but-fuck-you-I-made-it!) yellow buoy, there's no way my poor Muse can come. She's sitting on a blanket in the corner of the beach with a Mai Tai and a story idea just waiting for me to come the fuck in.

Meanwhile, my agent gave me "notes" on my new manuscript and I need to rise to the occasion. And since my option period is running, I pretty much need to do that now. Not to mention the open-water group is doing "causeway" swims this week, which are at least a quarter mile further than the damned nearly-elusive yellow buoy.

So for today, at least, I'm headed toward the chlorine at the Y in search of my pool-loving muse. Let's hope she's waiting for me there.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Conquer and Fail, But More Conquer than Fail...

So, this weekend I squeezed on my wetsuit (until now, I have only ever worn this in my own backyard pool - don't ask...), neoprene booties and a beanie cap, and, yes, special gloves, got up at 6:00 am and trekked off to join up with a group of water-loving strangers to do my first-ever "open-water" swim despite talk of mating horseshoe crabs, and water temperatures that hovered easily below sixty.

I didn't chicken out which was huge; and I swam over a mile in much harder conditions than I am used to in my, and the local "Y," pool.

The fact that I did it made me feel good. Although, I was admittedly frustrated with my performance as well. I did not, on Day One, make it as far as the rest of the group, all the way out to the buoy. I had trouble breathing -- getting the pace of my breath -- in the cold with all the tight straps around my neck. I had to keep stopping to catch my breath and, at one point, I ended up separated from the group and my anxiety got the best of me. I turned back probably an eighth of a mile short of that buoy. All the way back, I asked, "Is this a metaphor? Will I stop short in my life of where I want to go?"

I came back half proud, and half defeated.

Day Two I showed up, knowing this is half the battle. My hope was slightly restored. Out I went with the group; quickly I fell behind. Still, this time, I made it all the way out to the buoy, still struggling with both my speed and my breath. Still disappointed, but happier.
On the way back, a large swan started following me, a little too closely for comfort. I know, I know: Cool! pretty!, you're thinking. But those things are viscious, I tell you.

At first I thought maybe the swan was a good omen, but the faster I tried to swim, the faster he/she followed, leaving me only more exhausted and breathless. I decided I could do without the symbolism, and was relieved when he/she finally turned away. I'll swim on my own, thank you.