Monday, October 10, 2016

On The Run From Matthew (A Road Trip Recap)

Today I had originally planned to post about my October goals because, you know, I haven't yet done that this month. But then Hurricane Matthew happened, so I decided to post about my experience with that instead.

(This will probably end up being a long post. Sorry in advance!)

Last Monday, I flew back to Florida from Maine after a impromptu visit home. I hadn't wanted to go back to Florida on Monday, but a certain airline was being a pain in the you-know-what about it. I won't name names, but here's a hint:

So, fine, whatever. I flew back to Florida last Monday and jumped immediately into hurricane prep because there was this not-insignificant hurricane working its way toward us. I very diligently went out to stock up on bottled water, batteries, candles, matches, food that neither had to be refrigerated or heated—that sort of thing. You know the drill. Batteries and bread were the biggest challenge and required me to visit multiple stores to find them because mostly, the shelves looked like this:

It took entirely too many visits to entirely too many stores, but I finally amassed myself a nice, little collection of hurricane supplies. Which was good because on Wednesday, we went from a hurricane watch to a hurricane warning. So The Man and I very diligently prepared the yard as best we could—bringing in or securing anything that could be picked up by a strong gust of wind and thrown through someone's windows. Evacuations were called for in parts of our county, so I very diligently packed emergency get-up-and-go bags for The Man and me, as well as my pets. As Wednesday progressed, the forecast grew more and more scary, so I spent the vast majority of Wednesday night looking for a place we could go, should it become necessary. I was really pushing to leave at this point because I honestly didn't want my animals to have to go through that experience. (The Gator Girl can't even deal with a normal thunderstorm. I can't even imagine how I would get her through a hurricane of any size.)

But The Man thought we could stay. As we were just thisside of the mandatory evacuation zone, we planned on staying and riding out the storm. Much to my mother's delight.

Then came Thursday morning. Approximately T-minus twelve hours until things were scheduled to get scary.

I was up early (mostly because I couldn't sleep because I so badly wanted to leave), needing and wanting to hit just a couple more store to get just a couple more things, and making plans to further protect ourselves from this ever-growing storm. Our home has a few large, exposed windows, and we lacked a way to protect them. No hurricane shutters, no plywood. Nothing. So I made The Man help me strip the bed and use our mattress and box spring as protection:

Yes, those are unpacked book boxes holding the mattress in place.
Yes, I was semi-prepared to sacrifice them in the name of
protecting the house.

Definitely not great protection, but I thought it would be better than nothing.

The only rooms in our house with no windows are a walk-in closet and the laundry room, and I intended to set them up as shelters in which to spent the night, as that was slated to be the worst part of the storm. The Man and the dog of his choice would be in one, while Fat Cat, the remaining dog and I would be in the other. Again, not terrific protection, but better than nothing.

Then we watched the latest forecast.

Not only was a strong category four hurricane making its way up Florida's east coast, but it was predicted to make landfall in our county. On our county. The Man and I looked at the map, listened to the weatherman's not-at-all terrifying predictions of life-threatening catastrophic damage, looked at our proximity to the ocean, then at our our complete inability to protect our windows, our pets, and ourselves, and said,

So the question became where would we go? County shelters were out, because they were reserved for people in the mandatory evacuation zones, which left hotels. But here's the thing...when you're traveling with three animals, your options are limited. When one of those animals is a 100-pound German Shepherd, your options narrow even more.

I contacted the few big dog-friendly hotel chains in areas without a hurricane warning, and farther and farther out I had to expand my search because there were no rooms available at any of them—with or without dogs.

But finally, I found one.

In Mobile, Alabama.

An eight-hour drive away.

That's eight hours in good weather. When a good chunk of the county's population isn't re-enacting the above Monty Python scene.

But I wasn't in a position to be picky. Plus, the reservationist kindly took pity on me and waived the hotel's two-pets-per-room policy so we could have all three animals in one room, instead of having to reserve two separate rooms. I booked the room, we packed up the babies, and got the hell out of Dodge. Much to my mother's delight.

Gator Girl, falling asleep in the car
while nursing on her security fish.
She's so weird.

Eleven hours later, we finally arrived at our destination. I went inside to check in, and discovered that the room I reserved was on the third floor, as far away from the elevators and the exits as it could get. Which is fine, if one is traveling on one's own, but when one is traveling with a thirteen-year old, 100-pound German shepherd with severe mobility issues, it becomes a problem.

Big has a degenerative disease that is slowly paralyzing his back legs. He cannot walk long distances. He can walk short distances if you hold up his back end with a sling (which we made from one of those reusable canvas shopping bags), but he still can't go far and looks like a drunken sailor when he tries. It's hard to get him in and out of the car. It's a two-person job. We're looking to acquire a wheelchair for him, but  we haven't acquired it yet.

But again, the hotel staff took pity on us and bent their pets-can-only-use-this-one-entrance rule and told us we could use the side door that led straight to the elevator.

Didn't matter.

We got Big out of the car and into the hotel, but we hadn't even gotten close to the elevator before Big went down and wouldn't get up again. I don't blame him. It had been a long day, and I know he got stiff spending all that time in the car. I was stiff, and I don't have a problem with my legs or spine. 

So we stood there for a while, waiting for him to rest up, and wondering how we were ever going to get him to the elevator, then down the hall to the room. And then back and forth every time he would need to go out.

Fortunately, a fellow hotel guest came to our rescue and suggested the use of a luggage cart. I don't know her name, but I will be eternally grateful to her for the suggestion and the chicken tenders she swiped from the hotel dinner buffet to bribe Big onto the luggage cart. She even fetched a luggage cart for us. The Man and I lifted Big onto the cart, then wheeled him down the hall to the elevators, rode to the third floor, then wheeled him all the way to the other freaking end of the hall to our room, then lifted him off.

It's not a great picture, but this is Big on his chariot,
the homemade sling wrapped around his back.

Then we had to go back and get the other two animals.

It was an exhausting day.

(Now, please allow me to indulge in a bit of a braggy moment here: my babies, though total spazzes at home, are remarkably well-behaved in hotels. Even the damn cat, who is the most annoying creature on the face of the earth (myself, included...), is well-behaved in hotels. Some days, I would like to live in a hotel just for that reason.)

Every six hours during our stay, we would load Big onto his parade float and wheel him through the hotel to take him outside. (Part of his condition is that he doesn't know when he needs to go, or even when he is going, so we have to take him out frequently to avoid messy accidents in the house. Or hotel rooms.) As you can imagine, we garnered a lot of stares from employees, other guests, pizza delivery guys—even people driving by the hotel all stopped to stare at us as we rolled Big to and from the room. Is he all right? they would ask. Here are a couple of my responses:

  • Yes, he's fine. He's just super lazy.
  • Yes, he's fine. He just prefers to travel in style.
  • Yes, he's fine. He's just working on his audition for the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade.

Meanwhile, the Gator Girl slept. It's amazing how tired she gets when there's any sort of change to her routine. (I should really change her routine more often.)

For two days, we did this. (I'm pretty sure the hotel was selling tickets to watch us by the end of our stay. We were quite the attraction.)

And the hurricane decided it didn't want to make landfall on the Space Coast after all.

Stupid hurricane. (Except, no, thank you for not making landfall on the Space Coast, Matthew. I would be writing a very different blog post, if you had.)

Saturday, we started back. The hotel staff was very sad that their live-in entertainment was departing, and told us to come back soon. No offense, kind accommodating hotel staff, or the people of Mobile, but I kind of hope that I never have to make that trip again.

The return trip took ten hours, and was nerve-wracking because we didn't know what we would be coming back to. (This is what I get for never getting to know my neighbors. I have no one to call to say, "Hey, is my house still standing, or is there just a sink hole where it used to be?") Knowing that the storm didn't actually make landfall, and knowing that the few other people I do know in the area didn't sustain major damage and already had their power back, I was cautiously optimistic.

I am pleased to report that I was right to be.

The power was out (it's obviously back on now, though), and our trees and gardens took a very hard hit. (But it wasn't like they looked so great to begin with. I am in charge of keeping them alive, after all. Probably nobody even noticed the damage.) Part of our neighbor's fence came down into our yard, and a part of our fence is leaning badly. (The Man keeps telling me I need to fix it. And I'm like, "With what? Duct tape?" because I literally have no skill with any other tools.) There was a small lake in the sun room, and a little bit of water in the living room. The roof sustained no damage at all (Thank you, arborist who trimmed the trees back just a couple of weeks earlier!) except for a couple of spots under the eaves that The Man has already managed to repair (See, he should be the one dealing with the fence.), but the satellite dish is currently in the garage, waiting for the handy-dandy satellite repair man to come and reattach it. (Friday, between noon and midnight, I think is our appointment time. Looks like my Netflix account will be getting a real workout this week...)

So, all and all, we were very lucky. Just, incredibly lucky. I can't even stress how lucky we were. Are.

Now I just have to hope that no video of The Man and I rolling our dog around on a luggage cart shows up on YouTube. (Haven't found one yet, but I keep checking...)

That's going to do it for me today. If you were in an area affected by Matthew, I hope you and your family are okay!

See you on Wednesday, when I just might get around to talking about those pesky October goals...

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Are You Ready For This? (An IWSG Post)

It's the first Wednesday of the month, which means it's time for another installment of the Insecure Writers Support Group.

If you're not already familiar with the IWSG, please click on the above link for all the deets, as well as a complete list of participants.

This month's co-hosts are: Beverly Stowe McClure, Megan Morgan, Viola Fury, Madeline Mora-Summonte, Angela Wooldridge, and Susan Gourley.

This month's question asks, "How do you know your story is ready?"

My answer:

Seriously, I have no idea. 

I know I got one book to the point where I thought it was ready (enough) for human consumption, but I honestly don't remember how I did it, or what it felt like, or even if I was right to feel that way in the first place.

So, I am at a loss. I'm looking forward to seeing how other people answer this question because I am struggling mightily with it.

How do you know your story's ready?

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Timeless Cover Reveal & Giveaway

Today, we're pleased to welcome author Crystal Collier back to My Pet Blog, as part of the cover reveal for her upcoming release, Timeless. Check it out below, and make sure to enter the giveaway for a chance to win an ARC of this very cool novel...

TIMELESS (#3 Maiden of Time) by Crystal Collier #CoverReveal

Book Title: TIMELESS (Maiden of Time #3)
Author: Crystal Collier
Genre: YA Paranormal Historical
Release Date: November 1, 2016


In 1771, Alexia had everything: the man of her dreams, reconciliation with her father, even a child on the way. But she was never meant to stay. It broke her heart, but Alexia heeded destiny and traveled five hundred years back to stop the Soulless from becoming.

In the thirteenth century, the Holy Roman Church has ordered the Knights Templar to exterminate the Passionate, her bloodline. As Alexia fights this new threat, along with an unfathomable evil and her own heart, the Soulless genesis nears. But none of her hard-won battles may matter if she dies in childbirth before completing her mission.

Can Alexia escape her own clock?

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Crystal Collier is an eclectic author who pens clean fantasy/sci-fi, historical, and romance stories with the occasional touch of humor, horror, or inspiration. She practices her brother-induced ninja skills while teaching children or madly typing about fantastic and impossible creatures. She has lived from coast to coast and now calls Florida home with her creative husband, four littles, and “friend” (a.k.a. the zombie locked in her closet). Secretly, she dreams of world domination and a bottomless supply of cheese. You can find her on her Blog, FacebookGoodreads, or follow her on Twitter.

Want the first chapter free? Sign up HERE.

Monday, September 12, 2016

September Goals

Well, it's coming up on the midway point of the month, so I thought I should maybe post the goals I set for myself at the beginning of the month. I like to post them in a public forum, such as this blog, because I think it help keeps me motivated...because I really hate having to write the follow-up post and admitting I didn't accomplish something.

I took August off to visit with family, so there were no goals set then, meaning there are no goals to review today. In fact, I just checked, and the last time I even posted goals was way back in May. (Turns out, I actually went three-for-four that month, so kudos to me.) Perhaps I can get back on track during this last chunk of the year...

Stranger things have happened.

Anyway, here's what I'm trying to accomplish this month:

1. Complete latest set of revisions for Second Nature.

I finally finished the read-through in the wee hours of Saturday morning, and have since started applying the proposed changes to the manuscript. There are many, many notes. I literally filled three 100-paged notebooks with proposed changes, thoughts, ideas, and even some solutions. As many notes, however, say something along the lines of "This needs to be fixed somehow. I don't know how, but, you know, fix it, okay?" I'm not 100% convinced that I can accomplish this goal in the nineteen days left in September, but I sure will work my ass off to try.

2. Read a book I didn't write.

I am currently eight books behind in my Goodreads reading challenge. Back in June, I was only a little bit behind. Now it is much worse. Which is what happens when one focuses 24/7 on editing, and nothing else. The reading goal may be a lost cause this year. Still, I'd like to make it only seven books behind this month, if I can.

3. Walk, run, or bike 75 miles.

That's an average of 2.5 miles a day. I am just under par at the moment, so it's definitely do-able, if I remember to stop revising every now and then and take a walk around the living room or something. However this month plays out, though, I am in excellent shape to surpass my yearly mileage goal, so that's something at least.

And that's the end of my list. What are your goals for the month?

Thanks for stopping by...Hope to see y'all again soon.

Friday, September 9, 2016

Saleswoman of the Year

Before I get into today's post, I just wanted to thank everyone for the encouraging comments on Wednesday's IWSG post. I know I didn't respond personally to each one, but they were much appreciated, and they must have worked their magic because I am feeling much less hopeless about the situation. Thanks, all!

Now on to today's post...

This is a true story.

So, there's a sandwich shop in the area called Jersey Mike's (it's a chain, so there may be one or more near you, too. Unless you live in the Mount Washington Valley. Then the nearest location would be, like, 100 miles away, and at that point, seriously, just make your own sandwich.), and they make and sell these delicious sub sandwiches. These sandwiches are so good that this shop quickly became The Man's favorite sandwich shop.

Well, one day, I was on their website, looking at the menu, and what should be on the top of the page? A big banner proclaiming that in April 2015, this chain was named the Official Sub Sandwich Shop of the New York Yankees Evil Empire.

Now, if you know me, you know that I am a die-hard Red Sox fan (First place in the AL East, baby! WOOT!) so anything—anything at all—related to the Evil Empire automatically becomes repellent to me. (It's totally rational.)

Take, for example, Jacoby Ellsbury. Oh, I had such a thing for that boy. (The Man was so pleased.) Seriously, you should see all the pictures I took of his ass him when I attended a Portland Sea Dogs game in which he had a rehab start. My brother attended the same game...partly because he enjoys baseball, and partly to make sure I didn't get arrested for stalking. (He's a good brother.)

But the moment I learned that Ellsbury had signed with the Evil Empire, he became dead to me. (Much like Adam Vinatieri and Wes Welker when they made their respective traitorous moves. Again, completely rational.)

Because the Evil Empire = Evil. That's just science. (Note: possibly not science.)

So, when I learned that The Man's new favorite sandwich shop was affiliated with the Evil Empire, my immediate reaction was, "Well, we can never go back there."

But The Man is nothing if not persistent (I do now live in Florida, after all), and the sandwiches are pretty damn good, so one day, I relented, and we returned to the Evil Empire's Sandwich Shop. We ordered our subs, and I went over to the cashier to pay.

"Do you have one of our rewards cards?" she asked.

"No," I said.

"Are you interested in getting one?" she asked next.

"I'm good, thanks," I said.

"Are you sure?" she asked. "With each purchase, you can earn points toward free sandwiches."

"Thank you, but I'm really okay," I said. "You don't know what it takes for me to even come through the door."

This, naturally, garnered some odd looks from the staff. The Man, however, having already heard what was about to be said, just rolled his eyes in a oh-here-we-go kind of way.

"See, your restaurant here is the official sandwich shop of the New York Yankees," I said, "and as a die-hard Red Sox fan, you can understand how I would be conflicted about coming here."

She nodded and thought about this for a moment, then said, "Well, if you get one of our cards, every time you earn a free sandwich, it'll be like you're stealing from the Yankees."

So I got a card.

Well played, Jersey Mike's cashier. Well played.


That'll do it for me today. Enjoy your weekend, and be sure to tune in Monday when I actually get around to posting my goals for September. (Unless I forget, which I probably will, because the Pats are playing Sunday night.)

Thanks for stopping by!

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Sisyphus And Me (An IWSG Post)

It's the first Wednesday of the month, which means it's time for another installment of the Insecure Writers Support Group.

I am assuming that anyone checking out this post today is already well-versed with the IWSG, but in the event that it's new to you, and you'd like to know more, please click on the above link for more information, as well as a complete list of participants.

This month's co-hosts are C. Lee Mackenzie, Rachel Pattinson, Elizabeth Seckman, Stephanie Faris, Lori L MacLaughlin, and Elsie Amata.

This month's question asks, "How do you find time to write in your busy day?"

But I'm taking a pass on the question this month because I am decidedly un-busy. I'm fortunate enough to have no job outside of writing. My only children are two (admittedly) high-maintenance dogs and one attention-hungry cat, but it's not like I have four kids who need to be at four different events in four different corners of town every afternoon. My family and friends are 2000 miles away. I eat, sleep, and breathe writing. And as an insomniac, most of the time, I don't even sleep. I'm not busy.

So, instead, I shall talk about the myth of Sisyphus.

Have you ever heard the Greek myth of Sisyphus? You probably have, but in case you haven't...

The super, incredibly pared-down version of the story is that this guy, Sisyphus, managed to irritate the ever-living daylights out of Zeus and was condemned to spend all of eternity rolling a stone to the top of a hill. Every time Sisyphus would get that stone to the top of that hill, the damn thing would roll back down, forcing him to start all over again. Over and over again. For all of eternity.


You're writers, so I'm sure you already can tell where I'm going with this, but...

I am Sisyphus, and my current WIP is the stone.

The hill is editing.

Every time I think I've figured the story out, ironed out the wrinkles, put commas in remotely correct places (or at least near them...), or whatever else, it's only a matter of time until I find out otherwise. I find more things with which I am unhappy.

The stone rolls back down the hill, and I have to start all over again.

This latest edit has been particularly brutal. I've taken to calling it the Slash-And-Burn Edit because I'm slashing huge chunks of story (in theory to be replaced by better-written chunks of story), and talking myself out of burning the rest.

Seriously, it's like I have forgotten how to properly construct a sentence. I don't know—maybe I've never known how to do that, but I at least thought I did. (And delusions are half the battle, right?)

I don't think that anymore.

I don't know what it is about this story. I don't know why I thought it was okay in May when I sent it to the beta readers, only to end up hating so much of it now. But I do. I really, really do. And I don't know how the one beta who actually made it through the story found anything good to say about it. (But, bless him, he did.)

(UPDATE: Just heard from Beta #2. She also had good things to say about it. She doesn't seem to think it's a molten mess of terrible wordsmithing. What is happening here?)

I don't know how to change that. There's many a day these days when I worry that I'm not smart enough to write this novel I set out to write. That the idea was too ambitious for me to actually pull off. And the only way I know how to change that is to actually pull it off.

So the bottom line is, I have to figure out how to fix this story. I hate that it's taking this long, and that I'm so far behind the goals I set at the start of the year. I'm frustrated that I haven't been able to get it right, that I'm still pushing this stupid rock up this stupid hill.

But if it takes twenty more rewrites to get it right, then I'll do twenty more rewrites.

I really hope it doesn't take twenty more rewrites, though. I desperately want to get to the top of that hill once and for all.

I hear the view is pretty great...

Better get movin'.

Ever find yourself trapped in a vicious editing loop? How did you break free? 

Thanks for listening to me moan and groan today, y'all. I'll try to be cheerier the next time!

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

What I Did On My Summer Vacation

 Hello, all!

As you may remember, for about three and a half weeks at the end of July into the middle of August, I was on vacation. One of those weeks, I was able to go home to New England (Yay!). The rest of the time, my sisters and niece came to visit me in Florida.

The vacation's over now, and I've gone back to work (Yay.). I meant to do this post at the actual end of my vacation, but I'm still me, so I ended up posting it a little late. (What are you going to do, right?)

Anyway, today I thought I might share with you some of the many, many pics that were taken over the course of those three and a half weeks. There were more that I wanted to share, but for some reason, Blogger's being a real pain in the you-know-what about them. But maybe that's just Blogger's way of telling me I'm sharing too many photos. Whatever, Blogger.

At any rate, below are the photos I was able to upload properly.

Please enjoy my photo essay...

Frenchman's Hole in Bethel, Maine.
Oh, how I have missed the woods.

Another shot of Frenchman's Hole...
and my godson, leaping into it

Mount Washington Valley, New Hampshire
Oh, how I have missed the mountains.

Mount Washington Valley, New Hampshire

Yes, I made time to see if my book was still in the library.
And people have actually checked it out. Possibly on purpose.

Let my niece play with swords.
Because I'm the cool aunt.

Went to the beach and realized
just how tan I've gotten this summer.
Had a blast at the Crayola Experience in Orlando

The Pick-Your-Own-Pack wall at the Crayola Experience
An entire wall of crayons and markers for one to choose from.
I now own a giant tin of specially-selected crayons.
I regret nothing.

Saw the Meerkats (and much more) at
Disney's Animal Kingdom

The noble steed my vertigo and I rode on
Prince Charming's Regal Carrousel
in the Magic Kingdom

And, of course, we went to the beach.
It is Florida, after all.

What did you do on your summer vacation?

And I know I was just off for, like, forever, but I'm off again until Monday. (So much for that consistent blogging goal of mine...)

Have a great weekend, all!