Sunday, December 23, 2007

Happy Holidays

Wishing everyone a safe and joyous holiday!

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Fun at the Denver Zoo

On a frosty night before the start of winter when snow has already covered the frozen ground and temperatures hover right below freezing we decided to partake in a traditional old past time of the holidays and visit the zoo. What?!? Yes, on a cold evening in December in Denver Colorado we warmed our spirits at the Denver Zoo. From now until January 6th the Denver Zoo is lit up with colorful luminaries and singing out safari holiday tunes. Below are some snap shots of evening’s lighted fun. If you would like to read more about the Denver Zoo Lights visit http://www.denverzoo.org/zoolights/index.asp.

Denver Zoo Lights
Denver Zoo Lights
Lighted Lion
Lighted Lion
Lighted Zebras
Lighted Zebras
Lighted Elephant
Lighted Elephant
Unlighted Elephant
Elephant

Lighted Monkey
Lighted Monkey
Lighted Kitty (BIG Kitty)
Lighted Tiger
Unlighted Weird Animal (Malayan Tapir)

Lighted Fishies
Lighted Fishies
Unlighted Camel
Camel
Lighted Giraffe
Lighted Giraffe
Unlighted Giraffe
Giraffe
Lighted Seahorse
Lighted Seahorse
Unlighted Hippo (honest, he's there)
Hippo
Lighted Whale
Lighted Whale
Blurry Zoo Lights!
Blurry Lights

Friday, December 7, 2007

Grab Your Crayons

The werewolf band howls out rockin’ tunes, the witches get their groove on, and the vampire shows off her beauty. When, where, what, and why, you ask? When is right now, where is on my web page, icatsnitram.com, what is free downloadable Willow May coloring sheets, and why, well, why not? After all, who does not like to color?

Downloading instructions for the Willow May coloring sheets are on the web page. Enjoy and have fun!

Friday, November 16, 2007

Misc. Stuff

Is it me, or do the days in November and December travel at warp speed? I can’t believe it is already mid-November. Am I at all ready for the holidays? Nooooo waaaaay, noooooo hooooow. I am in my complete denial stage at the moment even though the approaching season is hard to deny when my Starbucks has exploded in holiday décor. Sigh.

My partner in macabre and I have been toying around with and working on a little side-project. At the Willow May Goes to the Midnight Carnival book launching party, Pam printed out a bunch of coloring sheets of characters from the book, and they were a huge hit. Everyone said we should do a coloring book, but then we decided to take that one step further and create an activity book with mazes, word searches, jumbles, and matching, fill-in the blanks, connect the dots, how to draw, paper rat dolls, carnival crafts and recipes, and of course, coloring pages. Like I said, just a small little side-project, but I am sure our publisher AUATT Publishing will be all over it once they see our spectacular proposal.

I am also trying to squeeze in some writing. I have a glimmer of an idea for Willow May’s next adventure. She seems to be excited about the concept, but we are still in negotiations on her side-kick(s) and supporting cast. Then I have a couple of other vague story ideas floating around in my head that I am trying to get a better grasp of to at least jot down a few notes. For me, the longest distance in the world is from my mind to the keyboard; I swear I must have a lot of road construction and detours going on inside there.

TrixiOn top of all of this, my little writing buddy is under the weather. She has an aural hematoma in her ear flap which was caused by an ear infection. We have been having to give her eardrops twice a day which does not go over well at all, not even remotely. Then we were also having to give her antibiotics but they started to make her sick and she wasn’t able to keep her food down. She lost over ½ pound which was 10% of her body weight so now we are having to try to fatten her back up for some other procedures we found out she is needing. She is on my lap sleeping as I write this and not that my universe wasn’t completely centered around her before, but basically for the next few weeks my life will be totally dictated by the whims of a little 4.5 pound calico.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Feel Good Post

Had a few “feel good” moments over the last two weeks that I thought I would share. I went up to the mountains the other weekend to play golf with my Dad. When I walked into the Pro Shop, I am greeted with a very enthusiastic “Icats” by the golf pro followed by how much his kids enjoyed Willow May Goes to the Midnight Carnival. His son read it to his little sister twice. Then his son took out a piece of paper and started to draw the kraken and told his Dad he thought the mummy was cool too. Then a gal at my husband’s work told him that Willow May is now her son’s favorite book and he can almost read it through all by himself. This is followed by a wonderful and complimentary email from a grandmother who bought a copy for her granddaughter, and is now buying 5 more!!

I guess kid tested and grandmother approved!! Feels great!

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Writer's Web Page Finally Up

After a long period of "coming soon", the writer's web page is finally up:

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

More from the Mysterious Willow May Book Party

I want to send a huge thank you to all of those who took time from their busy schedules, some even traveling from far distances, to come celebrate with us the release of our first children's picture book, Willow May Goes to the Midnight Carnival. Your friendship, support and encouragement is more than any writer and illustrator could wish for, and if you will allow me to use an adverb here, you are a fantastically incredible group of people.

Here are a few more photos from the Saturday Book Party, Victor Grimsby's Carnival of Curious Delights, and speaking of delights, there are photos of the cakes in yesterday's post...the cakes were stunning. The first time I literally did not want to cut into a cake because they looked too amazing, and I LOVE cake, so that is saying quite a bit.

Again, thanks to all who came, and where I know we have really just begun the journey with Willow May, I can't help but be anxious for the next story to come.

FlowersBeautiful flowers bestowed upon the writer and illustrator.


Willow May Reader"My, what a wonderful book."


Willow May Reader"Oh no, the skeleton lost his footing!"


Willow May Reader"I can't wait to see how this is going to end."


Willow May Party Goer"What a marvelous book, darlings."


Party Goer"I loved the illustrations, could I commission the artist for work of my own?"


Painting"Mom, you have got to get one of these!"


Painting"I must have one of your cat designs, they are my favorite."


Party Goer"Really should have stopped him after just one glass of apple cider."


Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Willow May Book Party

At the end of the block where balloons swayed from a tree,
there was a house full of music, food, books and glee.

At the Willow May book party there was cake,

Willow May Cakeand more cake,

Victor Grimsby Cakethere were pumpkin, black cat, and polka-dotted bat cookies,

Cookies
circus peanuts too,

Circus Peanuts
there were ravens lurking everywhere,

Raven
Raven












there were tarot cards for fortunes to tell,

Willow May Tarot
or look into Madame Pamela's crystal ball,

Crystal Ballthere were books to be signed,

Willow May Books
and there were werewolves.

Werewolves?!?

Oh yes, there were werewolves!

Werewolf

There were many more surprises at the mysterious Willow May book party, come back tomorrow and see more of the fun.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Willow May Party Poster

Is my sister awesome or what? Okay she is awesomely genius. Here is a poster she did for the big Willow May Goes to the Midnight Carnival Book Launching Party this Saturday. We are going to put them up on lamp posts outside and then on the main entrance to guide the way to the fantastic festivities. Too cool!Willow May Party Poster

Monday, October 15, 2007

Willow May is Here!

Willow May Goes to the Midnight CarnivalActually, she arrived last weekend, and I honestly don’t know what happen to this last week. One moment it was October 6th, I blinked my eyes and now it is October 15th. Any hoo, my sister and I had a small little ceremony with Willow May on the 6th. I thought the books turned out beautiful, even though, it hasn’t completely set in yet that we have a book published. It has been crazy these last days as the sis and I are getting ready for the big book launching party this Saturday. To say we are excited is an understatement, but there is so much to do. I feel like for every “to-do” I cross off the list, there are three more added on.

Right now I am working on fortunes for Tarot Cards, or should I say the Tarot of Willow May. We thought it would be a cute party game to have a set of Willow May Tarot cards with fun and silly fortunes. My sister is working on designing the card set with characters from the book and then I am working on the fortunes that go with each card. It is an idea that has taken on a life of its own.

I better get back to those fortunes, but meanwhile, here are a few snaps shot of Willow May Goes to the Midnight Carnival, and I hope to have some fantastic party photos to post next week from the party.Willow May Goes to the Midnight CarnivalWillow May Goes to the Midnight Carnival

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Book Party Invite

Here is a draft of our Willow May Goes to the Midnight Carnival book party invitation our publishing company, All Us All the Time Publishing, will be sending out for the big book bash. The invitation was designed by the fabulous designer, the oozer of artistic talent, Pamela McCarville, who also designed and illustrated the book. The outside is the book cover, then on the inside flap is an illustration from the title page with the You're Invited message. On the other side is a take off from the book's back blurb description.

Book Invite

Book Invite
It is going to be quite a shindig, professionally catered, live music, and costumes. Well, that last part might just be my sister and I, that is if we can find a feathered coat and purple velvet wing-backed leotard in time...

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

New Blog - Stealing Shadows

The illustrious illustrator of Willow May Goes to the Midnight Carnival, Pamela McCarville, recently set up her own blog, Stealing Shadows. Visit her blog to enjoy whimsical illustrations, awe-inspiring sketches, and be amused by her random nonsense.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Neil Gaiman’s M Is for Magic

Finished reading Neil Gaiman’s M Is for Magic, a book of short stories where there is something for everyone. A bit of a different perspective on the quest for the Holy Grail in Chivalry and the usual perspective of the jack-in-the-box, but told wonderfully in Don’t Ask Jack. The compilation also included his story, The Price, which as a huge cat and animal lover, the ending of this story would not have had a particularly good outcome for the family if I had written it.

Then it had those stories that you just shake your head and sigh...I wish I would have thought of that. For me, those were October in the Chair, where all the months convene to tell a story. Then The Case of the Four and Twenty Blackbirds, where little Jack Horner is hired by Humpty Dumpty’s sister to investigate his fall...was it an accident? I suspect fowl play. The book ended with The Witch’s Headstone, which is the one I am kicking myself the most on. The story is about a live boy being raised in a cemetery by ghosts. How luscious is that!?! Was amused with the ghosts trying to teach the boy to make himself transparent and walk through walls. Needless to say, they were not having much success.

However, I will warn you, The Witch’s Headstone is a total tease, just like Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back and that teeny tiny pirate movie, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest. Basically it is one or two chapters of a future release, just enough to get you hooked...which it did. I am just dying now for the book to come out (I know two post in a row with that corny pun, couldn’t help myself, I apologize and will try to keep that down to a minimum in future entries).

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Willow May Goes to the Midnight Carnival Book Update

The last two weeks have been consumed with clowns, werewolves, zombies, skeletons, and vampires. No we haven’t been working on my sister’s invitation list for the McCarville Macabre 10th Annual All Hallows Eve Ball, even though we need to start on those as folks are just dying to attend this year’s festivities, especially with the Willow May Goes to the Midnight Carnival coming out. Which by the way, those are the clowns, werewolves, zombies, skeletons and vampires we have been consumed with the past couple of weeks.

We have been finalizing and proofing the book design and set-up making sure all the text properly showed and no clowns or werewolves were trying to escape off the pages. Of course no surprise, but my sister did an outstanding job with the over all book design, and I am loving the title page design. I had given her a little seed of an idea for it and she took that seed and created an entire forest of exquisite enchantment. And to think, that is just the title page, hold on to your seats for the rest of the book! We shipped off Willow May this past Monday and the reply back was the book is absolutely stunning and the color palette was gorgeous.

Until I am holding a finished book in my hands it will not seem real to me and even then, I may need to be pinched...but not hard (that last part is directed directly towards my sister).

Monday, August 27, 2007

Final Sketch Completed - Whoohoo!!

All the preliminary sketches for Willow May Goes to the Midnight Carnival are done...YEA!!!!! The majority of them have been done for a couple of weeks but Pam was spending a little extra time creating the perfect send off for the Willow May ending. She sent it to me Saturday morning. Can she become any more of a genius? Well, I guess she can. Oh, I so want to tell you about it, but I can’t, it will spoil the surprise ending of the book. All I can say is it is fantastic and I never would have went there. What I had envisioned for the last page was the typical same old scene that you have seen 100 times before, but what she did was fresh and new and lively...in her dark and eerie macabre way. It is killing me not to be able to share more, but I can’t...it really is killing me.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

The Universe...Sunday Melt Down

As I have said before, my sister and I have the utmost respect and admiration for the Universe. We understand she is not going to sugar coat our world and hand us our dreams on a silver platter, instead she will test us, put up obstacles, and we will past those tests and conquer all obstacles in our way if we truly believe in our dreams. Okay, I get it, and believe Pam and I have maneuvered our way through several barriers and endured many brutal trials of faith.

This all stems from a series of emails back and forth with my sister, in which one I will quote from her “I want to curl up in a little ball and die.” The illustrations are all painted and scanned including the book cover. Now it is just setting up the book, which I thought an aggressive schedule, but my sister thought she could have completed in 3 days, I was thinking closer to 5, but again the ugly 2.5 rule has raised its ugly head. But this time by circumstances beyond our control, Pam’s external hard drive won’t accept any more of the Willow May’s files. She had 3 drives, and I may have the names wrong, but I believe they are Zeppelin, Alchemist, and Potions.

The problem child was Potions and Pam ended up losing several hours of work, which was crushing on top of the fact neither of us are the best at handle system problems and/or failures. I don’t mean technical wise, I mean emotional wise as in screaming at the computer screen “why are you doing this to me, what have I done to you, why do you hate me so much...” Luckily she had another external hard drive she was able to hook up (did not catch the name), but what an incredibly frustrating and exhausting weekend. I tried to console her as much as possible, but you know how on TV or in books there is that one character who always says the perfect thing to make everyone feel better in these types of situations...yeah, that would not be me.

I think we have once again averted the crisis, but please, how much more do we need to prove the Universe that we really, really, really, really, want to have this book published. We are not asking for her to throw us a break, just to please stop throwing us all these curve balls.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Web Domain Blues

Pam and I are going to set up an author and illustrator web page to help promote Willow May Goes the Midnight Carnival.... and future books. First thing we needed was our domain names, and from my knowledge of SEO, I chose icatsnitram.com for mine, but of course pamelamccarville.com would not do for the illustrious illustrator, please, how plain and boring is that. Thus the quest began for the perfect website name. After a couple of angst full days, she asked if she could have the weekend to mill it over. On Tuesday, she begrudgingly, as she felt rushed in her decision-making, gave me the chosen name, shadowpainting.com. Excellent, I could now purchase the domain names and get started on setting up the web pages. Not so fast as shadowpainting.com was already taken (shockingly, icatsnitram.com was available). Back to the drawing board, I looked up several alternative name such as sketchingshadows.com, which she reluctantly said she would go with, but I could tell was not overly thrilled with it, and if it is one thing that I have learned, it is to constantly over thrill your illustrator. Then out of the blue a name came to me (actually thought it would make a good book title), but I offered it up for her site. Coming soon, author’s website icatsnitram.com and illustrator Pamela McCarville’s site, stealingshadows.com.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Word Popularity

Came across this link from one of the writing list that I belong to that I thought was cool. This all sparked from a conversation of over using that word “that”. Turns out that “that” ranks 7th in 86,800 frequently used words in the English language. Needless to say that there went a few minutes of my life typing in words to see where they ranked and to see if that I could come up with that one word that fell out of the 86,800. Not sure if that is a writer thing, or if that is just a me thing. What was that word I came up with that is not one of the 86,800 most frequently used words you ask? And you probably really did not ask that, but here that word is anyway: Coulrophobia, the fear of clowns. Came up in an email exchange that I had with my sister the other day, don’t ask.

For hours of word entertainment here is that link to that site:
http://www.wordcount.org/main.php

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Promote that Book!

One great thing about my sister, well there are several great things about my sister that it boggles the mind to decide which sheer genius aspect to reflect upon at any given moment; however, at this moment I am going to reflect upon her amazing design and creative talent when it comes to promotional materials. That’s right we are all about the Willow May Goes to the Midnight Carnival bling! We will have bookmarks, buttons, magnets and posters, perhaps even t-shirts and Willow May calendars. Okay, maybe I am getting a bit a head of myself here, but I have been keeping an eye out for promotional opportunities.

I jot the ideas down in emails and send them to myself to put in my Willow May promo file or if it is from an article in the paper or magazine I cut it out and drop it into a file. I also picked up a couple of books on marketing your book, 1001 Ways to Market Your Book by John Kremer and The Frugal Book Promoter, How to Do What Your Publisher Won’t by Caroline Howard-Johnson. They both list valuable promotional tips you may not have thought of and provide a wealth resource information. Caroline Howard-Johnson also has a great newsletter, Sharing with Writers, that comes out weekly with lots of promotion ideas and inspiration too. You can sign–up through her website, http://carolynhoward-johnson.com/. Another helpful book for online marketing is Plug Your Book, Online Book Marketing for Authors by Steve Weber. In addition, I stumbled across a Yahoo Group that also provides an overwhelming wealth of information. The group is mainly for those who are starting up their own small publishing companies, but I have found they give a lot of promotional and marketing advice, book signing tips, as well as providing a ton of resources. The group is http://finance.groups.yahoo.com/group/Self-Publishing/. You might want to sign-up on digest mode as they are a very active list. Let’s see, oh yes, one more for those of you who are not the sister to the illustrious illustrator and designer, Pamela McCarville, the book Book Design and Production: A Guide for Authors and Publishers by Pete Masterson. This should be required reading for all involved in the book publishing process whether directly involved or not with the actual production and designing process.

Friday, August 10, 2007

The Pout


There is no end to the amount of joy and love our four-legged children bring into our lives. But sometimes I believe caring for them is harder than the two-legged variety. At least they can tell you what they want. Like today with the calico. I have fed her, given her treats, played sparkle toy, brushed her, strolled through the garden, and yet I have still failed to please her.

We are now in our famous pout position after trying to climb up the curtains, rearrange and shred documents on the desk all while vocalizing her displeasure.

What is not revolving around her today...that needs to be?!?!?

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Time Management

Willow May Goes to the Midnight Carnival is running a tad bit behind schedule and needless to say tension, anxiety, and stress levels have elevated slightly, okay extremely. I don’t think my sister and I look alike, but complete strangers guess we are sisters, and we have even been mistaken as twins a few times. I think it is because we act alike. We have the same mannerisms, same sense of unusual dry humor, and for the most part, the same tastes, opinions, and outlooks. It is a blessing and a curse. A blessing because our ideas feed upon one another leading to this fantastic metamorphosis of creation on a colossal scale greater than we could have ever imagined. A curse because our ideas feed upon one another leading to this fantastic metamorphosis of creation on a colossal scale greater than we could have ever imagined OR allowed time for.

This is the case with the Willow May illustrations. Like on the one-eye clown illustrations. She would send me a sketch and I would go “you know what you could add to this...” then she would go “oh, that is a great idea, and then what I could do with that...” I would continue “oh, that is genius AND you could then carry that over to page 27”. This goes on for several more minutes until we have surpassed that of Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel. We don’t want to tone down this process, as we want our readers to experience the full effect of The Pam & Icats. It is a heavy burden we have to bear...and learn to better time manage.

Monday, August 6, 2007

What Month Is It?

My sister sent me an email that the stores already have their Halloween candy out. Now don’t get me wrong, my sister and I LOVE Halloween (as well as Halloween candy), but please isn’t it only the first of August? The stock boy told Pam that eventually all seasonal candy will come out the first of the year. A one-time deal, then all over with.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Editing and Illying

Working through a few more painful tweaks on the text and Pam continues to sketch and paint her fingers to the bones on the illustrations for Willow May Goes to the Midnight Carnival. We have but one preliminary sketch left (whoo hoo!!!!), and I am tickled purple with what has been done so far. My sister’s artwork has always been amazing to me, but I swear, she has raised it 5 notches with Willow May. The clown illustrations took my breath away, the attention to detail and the acrobatic positions of them with the intricate work on the costumes...my mind is officially blown away.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Freaky Friday

I am watching Dr. Who and reading the paper with the calico on the lap, when she darts off into the other room. Next commercial I peak in and see her sitting there by the staircase but I am not seeing anything. I go to the kitchen to get me a drink of water and head back to the couch to witness her chasing this gargantuan spider! I grab her and the spider escapes behind a guitar amp up next to our over-sized stuffed chair, as it was a speedy little devil too.

Needless to say, I missed the last half of Dr. Who and spent the rest of the evening crouched on my couch staring at the chair. I know it is still there, growing even bigger, watching me, mocking me, lurking around in the middle of the night staring at me in my sleep planning my demise.

I know a story exist here somewhere, and if it didn’t give me the heebie jeebies, I would look for it to start writing, but it does, so I won’t.

Spider
Desperately trying to find my happy place.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Vampire Wings

Trixi KittyAs I have said before, I try not to analyze how my mind works, but as I am making my afternoon latte the vampire illustration pops into my head. My sister had sent me the sketch and color key a week ago, and let me stop right here to say, I need to write several more stories with vampires because my sister rocks when illying the fanged-one. However, I remember her telling me several weeks earlier how she was going to do the wings to tie into a couple of previous illys in the book. I thought her idea was brilliant, yet, she did not do that on the sketch. Until now, I had forgotten about her original idea. The question was, had she forgotten too, or did she just change her mind. I liked what she had did for the wings, but I thought the other idea was cute too. Bigger question, how do I tactfully bring this up, especially after the whole slope incident?

I swear not an hour later she calls me from her sister-in-law’s (she had a little high school reunion venting building up inside that she needed to release). In a lot of our discussions it would not have been hard to work the illy question in...”oh, speaking of the undead.” However, I could tell this was not going to be one of those conversations so I just had to come out and ask. Turns out she had forgotten too. We are usually pretty good about writing down our ideas, but sometimes it is just hard to keep up when the Jetsam and Flotsam starts flowing. I have asked the calico if she would take minutes at our business meetings, but she does not feel that falls under the CFO’s duties (Chief Feline Officer).

Any hoo, back on track with our vampire wings for Willow May.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Illustration Withdrawals

My sister headed to Wisconsin today with her husband for his high school reunion. She packed up all her sketchpads and watercolors to continue to work on Willow May’s illustrations while staying at his sister’s house. She won’t though have the computer access to send me sketches or color keys until she gets back next week. The anticipation for the last few sketches may kill me and if it doesn’t, I am sure the HUGE sister email withdrawal I am going through right now will. Only three more preliminary sketches to go (whoo hoo!!); however, I am at my night job, filming a popular Denver psychedelic blues band, Jakobz Laddr, when during one of their jams, I think to myself, did I tell Pam on sketch 30 the path was downhill, because it should be uphill. Originally the path sloped down but in the latest revision we are traveling up the path. I knew she going to work on that sketch driving up, but no way to stop what I was doing to give her a quick call. Excuse me every body, could we stop the music, sorry to interrupt but I need to make an emergency phone call concerning hill slopes. I promise I won’t be long, talk amongst yourselves.

On top of that she was already in a stellar mood getting to traveling 16 hours in a car to go to her husband’s high school reunion. Of course up until this point, we have not had what I would call a misfire on any of the sketches. Yes, we have had tweaks on them, but never having to redo the majority of the sketch. And not because of creative differences or visions, just because that darn path is now going up versus down. I know this would have also been frustrating had this happened on the 3rd sketch vs. the 30th, but since we are in crunch time, the frustration seems exponential. Hopefully after a week’s time and the 16-hour road trip back home, she will have forgiven me...but I doubt it.

P.S. Lucked out and she did the illustration to where the slope was a mute point...she is so good.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Neil Gaiman’s Coraline

Pam forwarded an email to me listing two recent books from Neil Gaiman. Pam hooked me on him last December with Neverwhere, and then I read the Anansi Boys. In the few books of his I have read, his openings seem so effortless, casually leading you in and then before you know it, he has you locked in his world. I love how he does that. The new books were InterWorld and M is for Magic. I went online to see if the library had them available. No such luck on InterWorld, but they did have M is for Magic. I am 8th on the waiting list. As long as I was online I perused some of his other titles. They had Coraline available, and my sister had suggested that book to me a while back as a great guideline for darkness level in children’s books. I checked it out along with a couple of his children’s picture books, The Day I Swapped my Dad for Two Gold Fish and The Wolves in the Walls (cool titles!), and then Smoke and Mirrors, Short Fictions and Illusions. Side note: I LOVE the Douglas County’s Library system. I go online, check out my books, they let me know by email when they are ready to pick up, I drive to the library, walk right inside the door to a shelf, grab my books, go through their super easy electronic checkout, and I am on my way to Starbucks...pretty sweet deal.

Okay back to Coraline, which was fantastically fiendish. Like his other books I have read, he lured me in and next thing I know, I can’t put the book down until the end. Since I have started writing again, I have discovered how good writing inspires writing. A story has been milling around in my head for the past month. Similar to his book with a little girl who finds a locked door in her apartment leading to another dimension, the one that keeps coming to me has two sisters who find a hidden door in a cemetery leading to another dimension. The premise is quite vague (i.e., really hasn’t been formed yet), but more details and a few random scenes have started to materialize to me, I decided I better start jotting them down before they become another fatal victim to the bright and shiny object syndrome that plagues my mind. Not sure how the dots will connect together or if they even will connect. I have two other writings that are nearer completion I would rather be working on, but they do not seem to be cooperating at the moment.

Any hoo, I highly recommend Coraline, in fact it is now a must to add to my own personal library.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Ringmaster

It wasn’t without a fight, and he gave a mighty battle, but the Ringmaster is now named.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Wedding Bells, Glitter, Feathers, Sage, and Rattles

FeatherMy sister was invited to a wedding being held in the wilderness of Wyoming. Conveniently her husband was going to be out of town that weekend and inconveniently, I could not think of an excuse not to go. We were to arrive in the afternoon, commune with nature until dinner, then when the sun set the nuptials would begin followed by dancing under the stars.

Living in Colorado my sister and I both respect and admire nature, we just don’t really “do” nature. However, being the good sports we are, we pulled on the hiking boots, founds us some pretty stylin’ hats, packed up blankets, toiletries, journals, books, pencils, art supplies and enough food for a week for our afternoon and evening stay in the outback. We loaded the car and started off...to Starbucks, then hit the great wide-open road to be one with nature.

As we are traveling I took out the 5 page wedding invitation to find the directions to our destination. I was envisioning a mother earth type atmosphere, but as I am reading through the pages I can tell the atmosphere is going to be more of a western flare with mother earth rituals thrown in. Like nature, I don’t really “do” western. I asked my sister if she left that part out on purpose afraid I would change my mind and not go with her, but she quickly confessed she had been in denial about this whole event and never read through the invitation. I totally understood and sympathized, but the part about needing to bring your own chair might have been good to know.

After miles of winding around on a very narrow rutted dirt road and thinking we were lost numerous times, we arrived at the camp site. We parked towards the edge as to not be blocked in, you know, in case one may need to leave early. My sister had made several wedding favors for the bride and we had to drop the last of those off with her. Of course, she was thrilled with them and told us to go enjoy our afternoon amongst the beautiful scenery. We went back to our car and loaded up with our 5 days worth of supplies for our 3-hour stint in nature. There was a perch up above the campground we chose for its strategic location of people watching despite the fact we both almost had a coronary hiking up to it each with our 50lb load.

Since neither of us was in our element (the comfortable confounds of our home), we could not concentrate on the art and writing. Instead we read through some children’s books I had checked out from the library including, The Headless Horseman Rides Tonight: More Poems to Trouble Your Sleep by Jack Prelutsky. Yes, there we were on the side of the mountain on the eve of a spiritual communion reading poetry, and what signifies the blessing of love more than poems? All be, these poems were about mummies, specters, banshees, poltergeist, zombies, and a headless horseman, but I thought their readings added a special touch to the afternoon of being one nature. My sister and I were both impressed with Prelutsky’s book, no sugar coating of the undead as it should be.

We discussed the cover design for Willow May and Pam sketched out an idea. It will have the circus tent in the background with the birds flying with the banners in front. The billowing flag will carry to the back cover (getting goose bumps just thinking about it). We could have gone on for hours going over Willow May illustrations and imagery, but we were interrupted for dinner and the nuptials.

Under the stars, I was saged, glittered, feathered, and rattled. I am not sure it warded off my evil spirits, but I think it did daze and confuse them for a little bit. Folks walked the spiral, gave many readings while guitarist played and sang. It was a unique ceremony, but the couple seemed very happy and pleased with the festivities and that is all that counts.

My sister and I did not stay to dance under the stars; the half-day of nature and standing during the nuptials had worn us out (really should have brought those chairs).

Before I left her home on Sunday morning she showed me a picture of the convertible hearse for Willow May. We had an epiphany on that the other day...a rather clever epiphany.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Editing and Illying

Working through another set of Willow May revisions. Still in talks with the one-eyed clowns and joining them this time is the vampire. Even though a smaller group this time around, it doesn’t get any easier. Oh, but I wanted to let you know that the Ringmaster who has been refusing to give me his name...is still refusing.

On a happier note, or at least for me. The illustrations are coming along fantastically! One character in particular my sister totally nailed. He is a reoccurring key figure and he is absolutely perfect in every scene!!

Oh, I am in my happy place now....

Monday, June 18, 2007

That Darn Text

We were up visiting the parents this weekend at their cabin in the mountains. After dinner Pam showed me the finished illustration for the carousel in Willow May Goes to the Midnight Carnival. Part of the struggle with the book layout was there were two illustrations that I wanted to be sure got their own spread, the carousel and werewolf band. She had shown me the sketch and color key to the carousel earlier, which she added a couple of nuances that are for lack of a better word, awesome! I could go into an Eddie Izzard routine here, but I will refrain for those of you are not familiar with his comic genius. Any hoo, she showed me the carousel spread and I actually got a little giddy in its presence. She asked me about adding a background element that I thought sounded good but I asked her if that would still allow enough real estate for the text. “Oh,” she said, “that’s right, we are going to have to add text to these, aren’t we?”

If us writers only knew how vexing we really are to our illustrators...

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

What’s in a Name

One of the main characters in Willow May Goes to the Midnight Carnival, the Ringmaster, is sophisticated, intelligent, cultured, a classy dresser, yet, has a mysterious and foreboding air about him. In fact, he is so mysterious...he refuses to give me his name. Does not matter how politely I have asked him, he will not give it up.

I am getting ready to send off another draft to the editor and am still having to use a placeholder for him, Corbin Barnabas. Nope, that is not his name, way too Dark Shadows for me. I am started to get concerned. My sister tells me not to stress about it. She says the name will come to me when I least expect it. One day I will be standing in line at Starbucks and blurt out, “Yappernettle Squashernot!!” In this particular example, it is somewhat of a relief that has not happened, as the Ringmaster would not approve of the name Yappernettle Squashernot, and the Starbuck baristas would probably not appreciate me spontaneously shouting that out while in line.

My sister thinks it will mystically appear to me some night in a dream, but so far no late night visitors. I have been reading the obituaries as well as surfing the net and finding sites such as:

http://www.babynames.com/Names/spooky.php
http://www.seventhsanctum.com/index-char.php
http://www.behindthename.com/

But alas, still no name.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Big Crash of May 2007...a Rant Post

Typical Sunday morning, got up, fed the calico, made my latte, and read the paper. Next I made my way to my computer to catch up on emails. Found an interesting link on book promotion to forward to my sister, but my iMac kept freezing up. At first I thought it was just my email application or maybe even that particular email, but then everything started acting weird. After trying the normal restart, which seemed to make the situation worse, I did a hardware test. Expecting it to test normal, my heart fell to my feet when Disk Storage Error popped up. Oh go ahead, everybody else has asked it and I know you want to...had I backed up? Yeah right. Yes, I had backed up my writing files, yes all my web work had been backed up, but the 200,000 pictures of the calico in iPhoto, iTunes, applications, and email...that would be a big NO. Meant to, talked about it, even had it down at the bottom of my to-do list, but we also know where good intentions lead, and that is where I have been residing this past week.

I have Apple Care for my iMac, but to get them to look at it you have to sign-in to their genius bar. You can do this online which is great, that is if you have a working computer to get online. I tried calling, but after 20 minutes and 20 options and still no human contact, I gave up. I remained calm and called my sister to ask her if she would sign-up online for me on her mac, and if you believe I was even remotely calm at that point, I have some swampland, name-brand software and enhancement pharmaceuticals I will sell to you at bargain prices. Pam secured me an appointment, I packed up the beast, and flew off to the Apple Store via Starbucks, because I find when you are totally freaking out, there is nothing like a little caffeine to put more of an edge on.

When I arrived at the Apple Store I was next in queue. I am sure it was only a 5 to 10 minute wait, but it seemed like an eternity. The genius fired up the iMac as I stopped breathing, clinging on to a glimmer of hope that from my house to the store it had magically repaired itself. We would all sing and dance in celebration, and after several embraces, I would depart back to my home, back to the la la land of no reality that I prefer to live in, if people would just let me. But they do not, as my inner world is interrupted and shatter by the words “...your hard drive is failing.” This was followed by the dreaded back-up question. However, he did give me a false sense of hope in that the drive did connect. My options were to pay them $50 to backup my data or I could buy one of their external hard drives and backup the data myself at the store. I knew that their drives would be twice as much as I could probably get one someplace else, but I did need one (it was at the bottom of things-I-should-purchase list). I told myself that this was the punishment for not being diligent in backing up my data, and a small price to pay get my data retrieved. I purchased an external drive and thought I was on the road to salvation.

Here is where things went horribly awry. The details are fuzzy, as I have already started to repress and block out parts of this hideous ordeal. For some reason, the genius rebooted my machine when connecting the external hard drive. I am not sure why because I have since connected it without rebooting and it pops up in my finder window, no problem. As you guessed, when rebooting the machine with the new external, it does not reboot. But not to worry, the genius informs me I have 14 days to return the external hard drive if I want...gee thanks. He tells me to keep trying to reboot it. The drive would show up, but accompanied with the spinning beach ball of death. He told me force quit and keep trying. At this time he also gives me a name and number for a data recovery place I can take my iMac to try to retrieve the data, but no promises or any idea on cost. Then his shift is over, and I am (with much relief I think) handed over to another genius.

This genius sees that the drive is showing up which he says is a good thing. I explain to him it was always showing up but with the spinning beach ball of death and I was told to keep rebooting. He tells me to let the ball spin, it was connecting but taking longer since the drive is near failure. Sure enough, after several painstaking minutes it does mount. I then begin to transfer over my data to the external, and even though I knew I would take a lot of flack from my illustrator sister, yes the first thing I saved over were the 200,000 pictures of the calico and iTunes. Then I saved over my documents. Next I tried email, but got a database error, I tried again, but no luck. I decided I would give up on the database for the time being and start moving over the applications; however, it was closing time at the store and they pretty much wanted me out. Since I had gone ahead and purchased the external, the genius said he would continue the backup for me. I told him what I had already saved over, and what they needed to try to save was the applications and email. He wrote this information down and I was rushed out the door. Before I left I did ask for a time frame of which I was told it could take an hour, it could take 5 days. I tried to get a hold of them on the phone the next day, but again, 20 minutes and 20 options, I gave up. Side note: I did ask how to get in direct contact with a human, and I was told it was option 11, I don’t know if this is the same for all Apple Stores, but I thought I would pass that on.

I went back in on Tuesday for a status. I was told they were working on it, but they were having trouble getting the data, and up to me to have them keep trying or give up. I told them to keep trying. Then it was not an hour after I got home I received a call from them that they retrieved all they could but the drive was in complete failure now; however, I should be tickled pink because he was able to retrieve all my iPhotos, iTunes, and Documents. Uh, I had already saved those files to the external, it was the email and applications they were suppose to be trying to retrieve. Oh, he wasn’t able to get those, but he did create a duplicate file of everything I had already saved. Well, isn’t that helpful. I could tell I was not giving him the “oh-my-hero” attitude he was expecting. I asked when I could get my iMac back; he said it would be ready the next day.

Don’t get me wrong. It was my bad for not backing up and my bad for using my email as a filing system. Besides losing my address book and contacts, I also lost resource material, writing ideas, promotional ideas and important links I saved in emails versus to my document files. I am sick to my stomach on that, hard lesson learned (which most of mine are) and take complete responsibility; I should have been better about backing up my system, no excuses. If this had been the only thing to fail for me on my iMac, this post would have a completely different tone, but you see, it is not the first time. I bought my iMac in October 2004, then in January 2005, the midplane assembly and video card had to be replaced, in July 2006 the logic board went out, and then here in May 2007, the hard drive. Each repair equated to at least 3 days in the shop, and then 1 to 2 weeks recovery. I know that sounds excessive, but when your computer is your lively hood, and you are out-of-pocket for 3 days; yes it can take a week or two to recover, especially this time since I have to reinstall all my applications. It will probably take two months or more just to realize what all I have lost.

As I said above, I do have Apple Care and have not had to pay for any of these repairs, but that is not the point. The point is at the amount it costs for a 20” iMac; you should not have that many fatal hardware issues. This is my first Mac and I will never go back to a PC, but I will also never buy first generation products from Apple again either. I am guessing I just got a lemon, which has to be rare because if everyone had these issues with their Apple Computers or iPods, Apple would no longer be in business.

When I went to pick up my computer, I ran through my iMac’s repair list and asked what was going to go wrong next. The genius joked about what a lucky person I was to be plagued with such problems, I did not laugh. Instead I replied it wasn’t a matter of if, but when, so since my Apple Care is up in a few months what can I expect to break down the day after it expires. He said the LCD screen...oh joy. Nothing like living on borrowed time.

Thank you for your time...rant over.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Editing and Illying

Received the first Willow May draft of the text back from the editor and have been busy working with the one-eyed clowns, zombies, and moon these last few weeks. I also need to have a discussion with one of the skeletons and see if perhaps the Ringmaster would be kind enough to give me his name. Meanwhile Pam is busy sketching away. One of the clown revisions required a change to the illy, but then Pam came up with the cutest idea that I know everyone is going to get a kick out of. She excels at enhancing the experience by adding these little eye-catching nuances, subtle but yet so impacting. I don’t know if illustrators realize the goddess-like power they possess when making stories come alive. In total awe right now.

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

The Stump

Sometimes it is almost frightening how my sister and I are on the same wavelength when it comes to the illustrations for our story. She sent me a Willow May sketch of page 4 where we first introduce dolly Jane, who of course is headless. Pam had nothing there, just the top of her dress collar. In my mind I was seeing the doll with a stump, and those stitches like you would see on Frankenstein. I emailed her back on the stump idea, but did not mention the stitches because I was not sure she would go with that. She immediately emailed me back she too had originally thought a stump, but did not think I would like that. She then redrew dolly Jane with not only the stump, but the stitches I was envisioning too!! I can’t tell you how great it is being on the same page as your illustrator when it comes to headless dolls. Excellent!

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Edward Gorey Amphigories

Trixi KittyTattered Cover Book Store was having a special event. I cannot for the life of me remember what the name of the event was, just that I got a 15% discount on one item and a long stem rose with my purchase. I find it best to never question or analyze why my mind works like it does, but strolling through the store it decided I needed to expand my Edward Gorey collection, and really, who can argue with that. I made my way over to the humorous book section and to my surprise I was quite lacking in my Gorey collection as there were several books I did not have including his Amphigorey collections, Amphigorey, Amphigorey Too, and Amphigorey Also. Again, not questioning my reasoning, I chose Amphigorey Too. That night I curled up on the couch with my calico and started reading, The Beastly Baby by Ogdred Weary, The Pious Infant by Mrs. Regera Dowdy, The Evil Garden by Eduard Blutig, The Eleventh Episode by Raddory Gewe, and then my personal favorite, The Inanimate Tragedy by Edward Gorey himself. In reading his stories of pure genius, part of my mind questions if I am even worthy of my keyboard, while the other cries to write. I have now added Amphigorey and Amphigorey Also to my library. While reading The Unstrung Harp in Amphigorey, a couple of characters appeared to me and may have a story to tell. One like Willow May immediately gave me his name, while the other like the ringmaster is being difficult about his. I jotted down a few notes, but they will have to go on the back burner for now, must stay concentrated on Willow May editing and then see if the demonic snowmen are ready for me yet.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Ringmasters, Carousels and Werewolves

Finally had to let go and send the first draft of Willow May to the editor. I think I was driving my sister crazy with the pre-editor revisions. I am still wrestling with one of the character’s names, the Ringmaster. Up until now the name has been “need-a-name”, but I am not liking the sound of that and it was not flowing well with the passages. The name I have in this draft, Art McNapal, is sooooo not his name, but may fit well in another tale, so it will go in my name file, but needs to come out of this story.

Meanwhile, Pam did a rough layout of the story to begin the illustration process. I had a different vision of the first page, but she showed me the errors of my way, and I am quite happy now with the introduction of Willow May. There were two illustrations that I wanted to have their own spreads, the carousel and the werewolf band with the dancing witches. That required a bit of finessing, especially with the carousel, but we figured out how to do it. Pam is starting on the sketches for the first few pages. I think I mentioned before about working on having more patience...but I can’t wait to see them!!

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Book Decision Made

My timing has never been the best and this was no exception. I finished the initial draft for Willow May at the end of August right in time for the retail season rush, which meant the web work took over again. Pam was also tied up at that time with illustrating and designing a cookbook for Gail Riley the owner of the award winning Highland Haven Inn. The book project plus holiday designing consumed her for the rest of the year. By the by, the cookbook, Colorado Cravings, turned out gorgeous and has been a huge success.

In January I completed another story draft from an idea based on a love one’s phobia of snowmen. The story had been milling around in the back my head for a few years. It came out in first person like Poe’s Tell-Tale Heart, and I am not one for first person, but that is how it came out. I went ahead and sent it to my sister to give her another story option for our first book. She claimed to struggle with the decision between the chilling snowmen and Willow May. She could draw from her past experience of snowmen illustrating from her holiday line (even did a rough sketch of one sneaking through a bedroom window, she captured the frozen horror of it perfectly), but it was Willow May’s creatures of the Midnight Carnival that were whispering in her ear to bring them to life. We made the final decision over lattes, as important decisions should be made. The birth of Willow May Goes to the Midnight Carnival began.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Writer’s Block Break Through – Kind of

It had been almost a year since my corporate exit, and still no complete story. My sister and her husband had planned a long weekend road trip coming up in a few weeks. Besides always packing her art supplies, Pam also packs plenty of reading material when traveling. My goal was to have a story completed in time to send with her on her trip.

Trixi KittyEvery time I mentioned writing a book, the immediate response was I needed to write one about my little calico. I couldn’t really argue because she is Miss Personality Plus and my world pretty much, okay completely, revolves around her. A small stray that found and trained me well. I tried writing a story about our garden strolls and then one about her and one of Pam’s beagles, but both seemed forced and contrived. Then I had a series of short stories started, but I needed at least three more to give it substance. I started writing one, then deleted it, then started it again, then deleted it, and then just stared at blank screen typing and deleting random letters. After the several starts and deletes, I decided to turn to Willow May. The little girl who was the catalyst to this whole adventure from the beginning.

Willow May had teased me off and on during the months after I quit my job. She started out more as a poem about a little girl going to a carnival. The first few lines came quickly until we got to the carousel. I just could not get past the carousel. I would try to skip ahead, but no matter how I tried, I ended up back at the carousel. Willow May and I would play for a while, and then I would close her back up for another couple of months. I was wanting to write her in a Tim Burton fashion frosted with Gris Grimly and a sprinkle of Dr. Seuss on top all placed in a deep dark Poe crust. I don’t know why I would have writer’s block?

I had only a few weeks before my sister left on her vacation to persuade Willow May to let me get beyond the carousel. She was a stubborn little girl and I cannot say I ever had that break through moment where my fingers could barely keep up on the keyboard with the over flowing of passages. But she did let me finish, yes, I had a finished story! Did it have gaps? Oh my gosh did it ever have gaps, but unlike my other writings, these gaps weren’t like the first half, middle, or last half of the story. I had passages that I had alternatives lines out to the side, passages that were totally misbehaving and I knew needed discipline, and a main character who refused to give me his name, BUT the storyline was complete. I emailed it to my sister on the eve of her trip, I think the email was as long as the story.

That weekend seemed like an eternity waiting for her response, and then when she got back, she made no mention of it. I took no reply to mean she hated it and was trying to figure out how to tell me without hurting my feelings. She finally emailed me, then called, she said she enjoyed the story, and one particular character highly amused her. I will admit, I was hoping for a little more, you know, “OMG! I love it! I laughed, I cried, I laughed again, I reached a higher spiritual plane and I am an overall better person now for reading it.” Okay, that probably was a lot to ask and should be happy with the enjoying of it and being highly amused by one of the characters. Anyway, one major step...actually having a completed story.

Saturday, April 7, 2007

A Writer’s Block cont...

I had been doing a lot of web work that involved writing web copy so I would tell myself I was really writing, just not stories. I convinced myself other tasks were more important, more tangible, and more directly related to earning a living. It is a mindset I feel both my sister and I struggle to over come. With my sister, I think it is the concept that one cannot enjoy their job, and since she enjoys illustrating our story, it can’t be a real job. Getting to redraw a tractor or set up a brochure, that is a real job, but creating and painting dragons and gargoyles for a living, please that’s fun, so it can’t be a real job.

For me I think it is the radical shift of change from number to words. Analytical problem solving with numbers is a breeze compared with writing a story. Building a model to take net revenue down to a factory widget level to forecast needed resources based on productivity metrics and system enhancements, then determining cost reduction and avoidance benefits as well as DMOQ impacts, piece of cake. Putting a string of words together to make coherent sense in addition to being entertaining, not a piece of cake. Perhaps it is because with numbers there is usually a right and wrong answer, but with words it is more subjective. I know there are rules of grammar, proper sentence structure and the avoidance of my greatest vocabulary adversary...adverbs.

I confess, I had no earthly idea until I read Stephen King’s Memoirs on Writing, how quite hideously vulgar these monstrous modifiers really were in writing. After finally finishing Mr. King’s book on his harsh view of these loathly despicable words, I slowly started to really notice when writing emails, posts, and manuscripts, I certainly quite especially liked using these dreadfully submissively nemesis of words. Truthfully, I don’t really particularly remember adverbs having such a very bad rap when I was going through school, but I am sure they probably did. I should actually research to see when exactly adverbs became such a rather large nuisance to the literary language. When did humans stop shouting and start shouting angrily? When did we stop whispering and start whispering quietly? When did we quit slamming the door and start slamming the door loudly? When did I totally go off in a tangent and start sarcastically babbling on about adverbs? I will stop instantly.

Thursday, April 5, 2007

A Writer’s Life...A Writer’s Block

The first few weeks after I gave noticed the goddesses were courting my writing muse and me every night. In fact, on that infamous plane trip back home, a character came to me. She openly gave me her name, Willow May, and shared a little about herself, but not her story. However, I did have a story that had been lingering around in the back of my mind. It had been there for some time, ever since my sister and I caught Bedazzled one late night on TV. Not the recent version, but the original with Peter Cook and Dudley Moore. That movie sparked an idea for a story. It did not have to do with selling your soul to the devil, but more with death and how to bargain your way out of it. However, what I thought was just one story, ended up being a series of short ones, and did not follow my initial plot line at all.

Then when it was official and my day job became my writing job, do you know what happened? Those goddesses with their dark and fickle sense of humor left. Can you believe that? Not only did they leave, but also they took my writing muse with them. I have the up-most respect and admiration for the Universe and the messages she conveys. It is that sometimes, okay, most of the time, I just don’t get them. What is she trying to tell me?!?

Staring at a blank screen with the appearance of doing nothing was excruciating for me. I came from a corporate background where you had at least 2 conference calls going at once while responding to emails, working on 5 spreadsheets, and answering the questions of 10 different people on 10 different subjects who have wandered into your office within 10 minutes. I needed to be writing, writing, writing, like the wind, fingers unable to keep up, 80,000 words in an hour, an epic series of novels in a week, writing, writing, writing. I tried several free writing exercises, but the concept was difficult to grasp. To write non-stop for 30 minutes for no reason and it doesn’t have to make sense because it never has to be used...what?!? I mean please, I was a productivity manager for goodness sake, every second has to count for manufacturing that widget, or in my case now, that story. Hum, perhaps having a little more patience may be something I need to work on too.

Monday, April 2, 2007

Guide to a Writer’s Life from a Really Bad Business Trip

My sister, the illustrious illustrator, Pamela McCarville, and I are having our first book published by All Us All the Time Publishing. The book is a children’s fantasy picture book: Willow May Goes to the Midnight Carnival. Think of books like Creature Carnival, Cinderella Skeleton, or the movie Nightmare Before Christmas. Since our first book is a children’s fantasy, you probably guess my background. That’s right, it was in corporate finance, productivity analysis, and resource business planning and modeling. What? You did not guess that?

My sister and I grew up with the belief a job required hard work and dedication. We did not have to like our jobs because they only gave the financial means to do those things we enjoy. The fallacy with this theory was that my normal workday was from 7 to 7 and that did not include the commute time. Then once groceries were bought, laundry washed, and bills paid, the little time I had left for things I enjoyed, I found I enjoyed sleeping. That job I didn’t have to like to afford me the means to a happy life had become my life.

My oh-so-fun financial career started as a Club Accountant. Then I was offered a job at a start-up company. After a few years the business was then taken over by a major corporation. Work and job titles kept piling on, forecasting, budgeting, EOM results reporting, resource planning, productivity analyzing, and business plan developing. Even my managers struggled with the job description.

The above soaked up many years of my life from sun up to sun down. What also took several years was for that major corporation to take over our division, but once we finally merged into the “mother ship”, my comfortably numb existence turned into a cloak of smoldering darkness drowning me ever so deeper into a bottomless abyss filled with the angst-ridden torment only found in the sorrow cried out by a void encapsulated in an non-existent soul. Okay, perhaps that was a little bit over melodramatic, but I think you catch my drift. Anyway, I could see the writing on the wall the organization I worked in was not long for the world. As irony would have it, I was offered a project manager’s position in another department to “save” me from the ultimate pink slip. Instead of being relieved about the safeguarding of my employment and eager about a new position, from the moment I was offered the new job, I developed a permanent pit in my stomach.

They flew me out to company headquarters to meet the new team and learn more about the position. The day immediately started out on the wrong foot when, due to circumstances beyond my control, I missed my early morning Starbucks. Things continued to take a downward spiral when I also missed my mid-morning and then my early afternoon Starbucks. As I am trying to keep my cranium from imploding due to caffeine withdrawals, I met with my direct boss to learn more about my new responsibilities.

The job would be collecting and consolidating data into a spreadsheet, then reporting the results to the leadership team. I could tell from our conversation, my new boss considered this spreadsheet right up there with world peace...the pit in the stomach grew and the cranium started playing bongos on my temples. Then I met with my boss’s boss, and confessed that I was not grasping the significance of previous mentioned spreadsheet. I was informed that he had never really looked at it, and that once I moved over to the group, he would try to find something more important for me to work on. After that I met with my boss’s boss’s boss, and expressed a bit of concern towards the differing opinions of infamous spreadsheet within the department. She told me she was unaware of said spreadsheet, but part of the opportunity for me with this position was building it into something meaningful just like I had done with all my past jobs. Well, how refreshing...pit in stomach swallowed up the lungs and the cranium had split open oozing slightly.

I remember that night in the hotel lying awake in bed staring at the popcorn ceiling. I felt hollow and old, a shell in a monochrome existence. I realized it was always going to be like this, creating something meaningful out of nothing that in the long run proved not to be meaningful at all. It would be one more missed sunrise and sunset until I retired, and would anything be left of me by then?

The next morning I managed to get to a Starbucks, but a caffeine-depraved cranium is hard to appease. Somehow I made it through the morning meetings outlining the significance or lack thereof of aforementioned spreadsheet. Then it was to the airport, seek out the terminal’s Starbucks, board the plane and make a very distant memory of this trip. At least that was the plan. The plane pushed off from the gate, started to taxi down the tarmac, and then slowed to a stop. After several minutes the pilot announced due to storms over the mid-west we had been grounded forever. All right, he might not have said forever but that is how I interpreted his message at the time. Parents paced up and down the aisle with screaming children and a low rumble of complaining voices rose over the seats as humid hot air blew out from the vents...the pit in stomach had turned nauseous and the cranium once again started to swell.

It was at that moment I broke one of my most sacred cardinal rules. I muttered to myself those words I know should never ever be spoken or even thought...how could this trip get any worse? That is when they began showing the movie Dirty Dancing Havana Nights on all the monitors. As the stomach turned and the cranium throbbed against the temples, I reached into my messenger bag and pulled out a book. How perfect I thought as I read the blurb on the front cover...It was a dark and stormy night.

My sister had given me this book as a gift some time back, but I never had the time to read it. I don’t know why I even chose to take that particular book. I hate to fly so I always pack more than enough reading material to preoccupy myself from the visions of hurdling down to earth in a huge fire ball at 1000 mph or to keep myself from peering out the window and catch glimpse of the vial demonic creatures that manifest themselves on the wings of aircrafts once you have reached an altitude of over 30,000 feet on a cloud covered night. The majority of the material would be work related, but I would also throw in a recreational read in case I would find the time. It had appeared I had found the time.

The book, Snoopy’s Guide to the Writing Life, turned out to be one of the best gifts my sister has ever given me (and she has given me some pretty sweet stuff). I don’t remember when we finally got airborne because I had entered into my own fantasy world of living life as a writer. And the closer I got to home the greater the desire to make that fantasy a reality.

It wasn’t as far-fetched as it sounded. I know this is going to sound sooooooo cliché, but yes, as a child I use to write quite a bit, poems, plays, and short stories. Then in high school I took independent studies in creative writing, and had one of my stories selected for a regional school publication. My first two years of college, before I got into the core curriculum of my accounting degree, I took writing classes. But the main reason I thought I could do this was because of blood. Yes, you read that correctly, blood. You see I would have the most fantastic illustrator on earth all because of birth.

A fortune bestowed upon me that I am in no way deserving was that my sister, who is also my best friend, is an incredibly gifted artist. It seemed like kismet or cosmic destiny because at that very moment, both our jobs totally sucked. Hum, perhaps kismet and cosmic destiny is not the best way to describe that situation, but something like that.

My sister was working for a print shop as their graphic artist, but the business had recently gone under new ownership and if I may repeat the description of when my company was taken over “...a cloak of smoldering darkness drowning her ever so deeper into a bottomless abyss filled with the angst-ridden torment only found in the sorrow cried out by a void encapsulated in an non-existent soul.” The business was changing direction and her position was slowly becoming a glorified color copier operator, which was a disgrace and monumental waste of talent.

We had in the past light-heartedly talked about being a writer/illustrator team, but nothing serious. I think we were both just waiting for the perfect moment, that magical day when Ms. Opportunity would knock on our door with our life-dream package under her one arm and handing us a clip board with the other...just sign on the dotted line and we would start the life we had always dreamed of living. Well, we were coming to the realization the most opportune time, does not exist. Perhaps that is why the phrase is “chasing your dreams” versus “sit around and do nothing until your dreams finally find you and come knocking on the door”.

I won’t bore you with the gut-wrenching, stressed-filled, anxiety-ridden weeks that followed that plane trip home, but in the end we decided to chase that dream and follow that sage beagle’s advice for a writer’s (and illustrator’s) life. And really, can you go wrong with taking a bit of guidance from Snoopy?