Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Notes from the road: The BAMF Book Tour October 30. What if you threw a party and nobody came?

A huge part of writing something and then publishing it - whether it is a book, an article, a blog post or a 140 character tweet - is that, once you hit publish it's out there for the whole world to see. There are no takesies backsies. Not really. It is out there, and people can read it, or not. They can pass judgement, whether with words or actions. And when what you write is for sale, and people don't buy it......... well.

When I self-published and then realized that self-publish also means self-promote (at least, it does if you want to sell anything) I ordered some books, lined up a few author events, and hoped for the best. Even though it was last minute. Even though I have no idea what I am doing. Even though I have no first degree literary connections whatsoever. And apparently, self-publishing is like tattooing a scarlet letter on your forehead, shooting yourself in the foot, and coming down with the plague. Simultaneously. If anyone is going to find out about this book, its going to be because I (or one of my fabulous readers - KISSES YOU GUYS) told them about it. I had to get out there and make some noise.

And so today was my first real "Meet the Author" event. The mall was suspiciously empty, and I started to get concerned. But that concern was quickly forgotten because there were signs, and a table with a fancy chair, and a stack of my books, and two pens, I was there.

My mother in law was also there, thank god. She spotted a friend walking through the bookstore and went running after her, and possibly guilted her into buying a book. Whether she bought a copy of her own free will or not is beside the point, I like to believe she will enjoy reading it regardless.

And then my friend Kerry arrived and bought a book.

And then Sam's aunt and uncle stopped in, just to say hi and offer their moral support.

And then Sam's cousin came by and bought a copy as well.

I sat there for two hours, sold three books, and walked out of the mall into a gray drizzle, carrying a box of books in the author's walk of shame that I had been so afraid of. It wasn't so bad. I climbed in the car and headed south to New York City. I am here now with Amber, and tomorrow I have another event, in Brooklyn.
For 5 hours.
In costume.
Because it's Halloween.

You should come too. You don't even have to wear a costume!

The info can all be found on my facebook page:

I'm bringing candy and hoping for the best. And if "the best" is that I eat all the candy, well, I'm okay with that.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Notes from the road: The BAMF Book Tour October 27th The worst they can say is "no".

This weekend, I saw my book get placed in the window of a bookstore.

I walked in there, looked the owner in the eye, and said "Hello. I wrote a book. You have an ad running that says you buy books. I would like you to buy mine."

He was obviously a kind and compassionate soul. He looked at me, standing there nervously, holding out my book.

And he took it.

After flipping through the pages and looking at the cover, he turned and opened the register. "Will you take five dollars?" he asked. 

"Five dollars? Really? That seems like a lot." I hesitated. I had been hoping for two or three bucks. 

"It is more than we usually pay," he agreed, "but what the heck. I'll put it in the window. Let's see what happens. Here, write down your email and contact info for me." he pushed a piece of paper across the desk but my hands were shaking and sweaty and I couldn't actually remember my phone number.

"Can I email you? I can send you all of the information by email, if that is okay." I thought I might throw up, and I really didn't want to make a mess in this nice man's shop.

"Sure," he said agreeably. "That would be great." He handed me a bookmark that he had jotted the email on.

I walked outside and crossed the street on wobbly legs. Leigh was waiting for me, and looked over my shoulder at the store window "OH MY GOD HE'S PUTTING YOUR BOOK IN THE WINDOW."

"Yep." I said weakly. "He sure is. Can you go take a picture?  I don't think I can go back over there right now. I need a cup of coffee. Or something." Mostly I just needed to sit down. I hadn't been expecting it to go quite so smoothly, and I didn't know what to think. Was I excited? Relieved?

No, just nauseous.

But that faded as Leigh dashed across the street to document this stunning turn of events, and then we walked around for a few minutes while I tried to calm myself down. After some browsing and a few indiscreet peeks over at the window where my book sat waiting to be discovered, we climbed back in the car and drove to another bookstore. This time I wrote down my contact info on a note card and stuck it inside the front cover before I got out of the car. I walked purposefully into the bookstore and right up to the counter.

"Hello, may I speak with the person who does your book ordering?"

She fixed me with a look that told me she was the gatekeeper. Or possibly the person who did the book ordering - but she certainly wasn't going to tell me if she was.
"Sorry, there is no one here for you to speak with. If you would like to send an email our address is-" she turned back to her work as she spoke, and I interrupted her.

"May I leave this book with you? I'm from Hawaii, and I just want to leave it for your consideration." I smiled weakly. I was being dismissed, and I was trying to shove my foot in a door that was being politely - but firmly - closed in my face.

"You won't get it back" she warned me.

"That's okay." I tried to be blase about it, but what else could I say? It was better to have the book in her hands than in my suitcase. Right?

"All right." she said. No trace of a smile, and the door was once again closing. She took the book and turned to place it in a stack of other books. I turned away as well, and walked out the door. I didn't look back. I didn't ask her name, or if there was someone I could call and follow up with. I just walked away. 

"You don't have a book in your hands!" Leigh said encouragingly. "That's a good sign!"

"Well, I don't know. But at least I gave it to her, right?"


I am learning a lot on this trip. 
I am learning about rejection - and humility.
I am learning about accomplishment - and pride.
I am learning about myself, and finding strength I forgot I had.
I am learning to ask for help, and accept it.

And I am learning that people can see when someone's heart is in their hands. And the people who matter are the ones who treat it gently, and then hand it back in one piece.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Notes from the road: The BAMF Book Tour October 25th somewhere in Oregon

I am currently on a Bolt Bus traveling I-5 from Portland to Seattle.

The last few days have been wonderful - not in terms of book sales, just the warm fuzzies of seeing old friends and visiting a city I love. And wearing a fleece vest.

I left Seattle feeling pretty defeated. I was out of books - which sounds like a good thing unless you are traveling around trying to sell as many books as possible, in which case it is bad news bears. So there I was, cold and tired, sitting outside of a place called "Sip and Ship" which is apparently a wine bar, coffee shop, and mailing center. God I love the Pacific Northwest.

Anyway, I was sitting on an adirondack chair that was set up on the sidewalk along the storefront, freezing my ass off. A woman walked up leading a small terrier. She started to go inside, and then saw a sign on the door, saying that dogs were no longer allowed inside. She stopped short, not sure what to do. I reached out my hand. "I can sit with your dog - it's no problem!"

"Are you sure?" she asked hesitantly.

"Yep, I'm going to be sitting out here for a while waiting for my ride."

So I sat outside and spent a few minutes patting a very sweet and clearly terrified dog, who was craning her neck looking through the windows for her mama who had left her outside in the cold with a total stranger. When the woman returned, her dog was delighted, doing that full-body tail wag of enthusiasm that always makes me grin like an idiot. "Let me buy you a cup of coffee or a pastry or something to thank you." she said gratefully.

"Oh, no.... you don't need to do that - but thank you."

"No, really - I want to!"

"No, no. I don't need anything."

"Are you sure? I really want to give you something."

"Well. You know, there is something you could could buy my book." I was nervous, but what the hell. This is what a book tour is all about, right?

She looked confused for a moment.

"It's on Amazon, you can buy it there, or on my website..... I mean, you don't have to. But you could take a look and if you think it might interest you......" I started to falter.

"No, I mean, yes - I will definitely buy your book. What's it about?"

I gave her a brief summary - the elevator pitch I am still working on. "It's about foster parenting and adoption. I am a foster mom, I take care of newborns that were exposed to drugs in utero."

Her eyes welled up as she stood there on the sidewalk. She reached for her face. Maybe it was the cold? It was REALLY cold outside. I was confused, and thought maybe I needed to lighten it up but she stopped me. "You do? I am a labor and delivery nurse. We just opened a rehab center for moms."

We stood there together for a few moments, talking about what each of us did, and how important it was. We parted ways with her agreeing to buy my book when she got home. I sat back down and wrapped my arms around myself against the wind. That experience - those few moments on a sidewalk in Ballard, WA, are exactly what this book tour has been like. One person at a time, one book at a time. I don't have stores ordering copies, and I don't have a ton of sales on Amazon, and no bookstore in Boston wants to have me do a reading - but that is okay. Even if I tell just one person a day about my book, I have accomplished something. Almost every day a text or email comes through with someone telling me that they are reading - or have just read - the book. Sometimes they send me notes about misspellings, or a missing word. Two people pointed out that Jeff Bridges - not Jeff Daniels - played Dude in the Big Lebowski. Every message has been welcomed. Keep them coming, because some days are (much) better than others, and even hearing about a typo is better than the deafening silence of indifference.

That is a life lesson, right there. If I have learned nothing else this week, I have learned to communicate when I appreciate something - whether it is your lovely sweater or a delicious meal or a comfortable sofa, sharing appreciation is the best way to go through life.

And so, gentle reader, I want to take this opportunity to say thank you for reading. I appreciate you, more than you know.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Notes from the road: The BAMF Book Tour October 23rd. Somewhere in Seattle.

I am lying in bed to write this.

I woke up in this bed at 4am, completely disoriented.

There was at least one dog on top of me, and at least one woman spooning me - but there were two of each in the bed, and the bed wasn't mine, and I had to pee but it was dark and the door was closed. Someone was snoring. I think it was the dog.

I made the executive decision to go back to sleep and wake up when circumstances had shifted somewhat.

I am able to report that at 5am, there was one less person in bed, but it was still dark and possibly too early for me to interact with others. So I stayed put. Now the need to pee was sort of urgent, but not as urgent as the need to brush my teeth. I pulled the covers up and went back to sleep.

At 6:30am, I was the only woman in bed, but now there was a teenage boy wandering around. Since I have one of those (almost) myownself, I finally felt free to get out of bed to pee - but then I climbed right back in, because I missed the dogs.

Now it's 10am, I still haven't brushed my teeth, and I am panicking because I am supposed to leave for Portland in a few hours, and I only have 5 books. My shipment has been delayed. Or something. That's right, the book tour is on hold waiting for delivery of books. Who can I blame for this shit when I am doing this entire tour myself? I have no idea. Acting as my own editor, publisher, agent and publicist is not easy. My cousin offered to tie my publicist to the roof and drive her to the next stop on the itinerary, however it's cold outside and I didn't bring a hat, so I politely declined. But isn't she sweet? I surround myself with such good people - I wish I was doing my part better.

The first week went pretty smoothly. Started at the Ace for Camp Mighty, was accused of attending some sort of start-up cult tech conference focused on goats and bears, which is funny because I still can't figure out how to work my cellphone so I shouldn't be starting up anything tech-related and I think goats are assholes. I sold some books, gave some books away, and then drove to LA where I gave away some more books, experienced a humbling attempt at speaking to a bookstore about carrying my book, and then flew to Seattle.

And here I am. Spending my nights in bed next to a 4 foot tall spitfire of hotness who rocks a purple mohawk and a sweater vest like no one else and a 6 foot tall retired derby girl who is the most beautiful person inside and out, plus a pug and a yorkie. I am wearing 3 layers of clothing because it is freezing fucking cold, and I spend most of my day emailing bookstores asking if they would be willing to host a reading, in, oh I don't know, a week? Or maybe tomorrow?

Really, whatever you have would be fine.

This is exactly as scary and humiliating as I had worried it might be, but it is also a huge exercise in personal growth.  I am standing there, in front of someone who has the ability to give me a huge opportunity. And each time they say no I put on a big smile and say thank you anyway.

It's going to be fine. I have 2 women and 2 dogs right here that have told me it is going to be fine.
I have friends - so many wonderful friends - who have told me the very same thing. I have been offered their cars and couches and connections to make this tour happen. I am not giving up. Which is ironic, considering:

Saturday, October 19, 2013

"Giving the Baby Back" will, indeed, take more than six words to explain

Yesterday I (briefly) met Piper Kerman. She wrote "Orange is the New Black" and she and her husband spoke at Camp Mighty.

Camp Mighty is a weekend workshop I have attended each fall for the past three years. The event includes speakers, activities, smaller sessions, and a lot of conversation about how to live your best life. Setting goals, appreciating your current situation, learning from past decisions, etc. Your ticket also includes meals and evening cocktails, so I look at it as an all-inclusive weekend away to sit in the hot tub, clear my head and figure out what I'm going to do next. 

The very first year I went to Camp Mighty (which was also the first year it took place) I decided to write a book.

Writing a book is scary. Writing a book is also really fucking hard sometimes. You are going to work on something, for a pretty long time, and then hope that people will buy it - and enjoy reading it. The stress can be palpable, and it is very easy to procrastinate or tell yourself it sucks and start over. Over and over again.

All  of this is to explain  why it took two years for me to actually finish the book. But I did, I finished it. 

The book - my book - is called "Giving the Baby Back" and it is about all of the babies, the ones I have written about here, and the babies that I have never mentioned before, to anyone. My mom learned some new stuff when she read it. It's very personal, and I am really glad it's done, mostly because revisiting some parts of my life - however briefly - was a very difficult process. 

So here I am at Camp, feeling triumphant: I set a goal, I was supported throughout the process by my friends, family and yes - my fellow campers, the book is done, and now I am back in Palm Springs, sitting in the hot tub thinking about what I should do next. And yesterday, I got to listen to Anna Dorfman and Piper Kerman and her husband Larry Smith speak about their lives and their work. I was really interested in hearing what they had to say. Anna talked about loving her job and being content and satisfied with the life she has created. Piper talked about creating community and supporting each other in life - even when that life is being lived in jail. Larry is working on a project called "Six Word Memoir" and asked each of us to come up with our own. As a person who can appreciate brevity but has never accomplished it successfully myownself, I decided to give it a shot. I am a dork who likes writing exercises, pina coladas, and getting caught in the rain. What can I tell you.

So I put up my own submission, via twitter: "Couldn't have baby, raising someone else's" Then I did the usual hash tag stuff that one does on the twitter. #campmighty #sixwordmemoir #givingthebabyback and I got on with my day.

During the afternoon, someone casually mentioned that a website was making snarky comments about Camp. "Whatever," I thought to myself. "I'm on vacation. Some people like to vacation by going to a city, or a jungle, or a beach. I like to lie in a pool in the middle of the desert, occasionally drying off to eat food or listen to someone tell their story. I am having fun, telling people about the book this event encouraged me to write, and getting a lot of sleep, by myself, in a king-sized bed. I give not a single fuck."

And then I got a text that said "you were just quoted in this article" with a link to a piece about Camp Mighty. It was those people, with the snark.

They quoted my tweet, and then said something like "Giving the baby back? That requires more than six words." I closed the site and went back to sleep.

Damn Straight it took more than six words. Sixty Thousand of 'em, actually.

I wrote a book. You will find a few things to laugh at in there, and some stuff that will make you uncomfortable. You might cry. I hope you like it, and if it's not your cup of tea I can totally respect that.

You can buy the book at
You can look at a preview before you buy it on Amazon.
And soon, you will be able to read it in your library or buy it in a bookstore. I'm working on that. Self-publishing is teaching me a lot about humility and rejection. And so is the internet. Because who doesn't need more of that in their lives.

I'm going to eat breakfast and go sit in the hot tub now. Next year you should come too. It's nice here, and I feel happy and content. The internet is a big place, but an event like this makes it feel much smaller.

Snark all you want, I'm having a nice little Saturday.

Monday, October 14, 2013

The Big Three: Being an asshole is so easy. Aim higher.

I think it has been pretty exhaustively demonstrated on this site that I am fully capable of being a total asshole.

It just comes natural.

It is so easy - so scary, crazy easy - to behave as though nothing (and no one) else matters. To speak without thinking. To be misunderstood. To over-react. To be completely oblivious to how your behavior effects others. So I am hitting the breaks.

No, not the brakes. The breaks. I'm actually taking a break from all of the things that I am doing and saying and thinking and feeling that have affected me or may affect someone else. Because it is the right thing to do. And the best way I can think of to do that, is to identify what I am personally doing to be an asshole, so I have come up with "The Big Three", which is my version of the Trifecta, aka The Bermuda Triangle of Assholery.

1. Communicating very important information via text or email.

Two bad things can happen: your words may be misinterpreted, or they may not be received at all (and then the very worst possibility is also out there: that they WILL be received, but not by the intended recipient). I cannot begin to explain the times that texts have caused me personal anguish. That a poorly worded email has left me sitting awake at night. That I have had "senders remorse".
If you need to put something in writing I can dig that - obviously - but preface it with a phone call or some face time. And I am not talking about the i-app Facetime, I mean actual face time. You know, the act of talking directly to another person. Be bold. Be brave. Put down your internet. Talk it out.

2. Over-communicating in general, is kind of my jam.

You have all basked in the warm glow of my oversharing light (in my mind I think it's blue, like a KMart special, but most other people think red, for alarming). I am the person who sends 3 page texts, and exhaustive, emotional emails. I frequently delete and re-record when I am leaving a voice mail. I have no ability whatsoever to "hit the high points" - my note taking in school was basically transcription, and my note-writing as an adult requires a lot more than a small card. Rein it in, sister. I gotta rein it in.

3. Talking ABOUT someone instead of TO someone.

Ooooh. Ouch. Yikes. This is a biggy.
I am so SO familiar with this, and I suspect at least 50% of my asshole maneuvers are an 18 point turn around this gem. See if you can relate: someone says/does something shitty (intentionally or not) and instead of taking a deep breath and saying "umexcusemewhat?" to that person, you instead turn your back and say it to the person standing right next to you. Or better yet, you text it - because we all know how well that is going to work out. Before you know it, texts are flying, people are talking, your words are being reported to the person you didn't have the balls (or energy) to speak with directly, and everything is much worse than before because now, the asshole has the upper hand. You are the big mouth wimp who can't say it to their face. They are suddenly in the rarefied air of the high road which, considering their shitty, shitty behavior, is dizzying and confusing for them - they don't get up there much. It's actually the very last place they should be hanging out, because from up there they can easily lean over, shit All. Over. You. and not even get any on their shoes. They walk away smelling like a rose and you've been dumped on twice. It's like the ultimate form of self-sabotage.

So, there we have it. The vortex of assholedom.

Once you're done swimming around in it, shower off and start fresh. It's a new day, and someone else is bound to piss you off eventually.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

I miss dreaming

I miss dreaming. When (if) I manage to fall asleep these days, sleep is a deep dark place. I don't move. My shoulders are hunched. Even my jaw is clenched into a lock-jaw stillness. I don't relax. Ever.

I certainly don't dream.

In the past few weeks we have tried to get back to our routine. The one from last spring, before our summer of East Coast bliss followed by the early fall tinged with pangs and discomfort and concern followed by a diagnosis.

And now that we are home and Sam is feeling better and I'm not afraid he is leaving me or losing his mind (or both) now that school is rolling along and since the day I decided to tighten the parental controls of the computer in Max's room, we are back to our routine of school, after school, dinner and bedtime..

Pre-parental controls, I was up all night. Hidden in his room with the door closed, (unbeknownst to me) Max was up all night too, both of us waking up late and blurry-eyed. I have to stop right here and say Thank god that boy cannot spell because I don't think he got very far with his searches for "nakid stripers". But I am not tempting the fates. My guess is the pervs aren't always such hot spellers either. In fact, he might have better luck with the MISspelled search words. And so, the parental controls.

Post-parental controls with the auto shut off feature at 9pm, we are all in bed and everyone falls asleep - except me. I lie in bed, and will myself to sleep, but instead of drifting off, I just lie there and worry.

I worry about due dates and deadlines, payments and processing, comings and goings.
I try to remember things that I may or may not have said, things I might have lost, errands I forgot to run.
I hope for a resolution to each concern, so that I might, finally, sleep.

I dream of dreaming.

Right now, everything feels very real. And very real is not very pretty these days. Maybe next week, I keep telling myself. But next week arrives and still, I'm awake.

Maybe it is that so many of my dreams have come true, they are no longer reserved for sleeping hours? And so, what's the point in sleeping at all? More time to feel grateful, I say.

Instead of counting sheep I count my blessings:
Sam, Max, Faith. Sophia, Thomas, Lucy, Kamaile, Kalei, Mano, Dude, Leo, and Evie.
Chapters, each of them, in the book I just finished writing.

If you don't read digital media, you can buy a paperback copy right here  A book tour is being planned, and fun events in Portland, Seattle, Los Angeles, and several New England locations will happen with very little notice, so follow me on facebook  or twitter for updates. xo Thanks for reading.