Mobile blogging and other crazy tech things.

I’m writing this on my iPad, using the Belkin keyboard that turns it into a netbook of sorts, driving back to Delaware after a fun afternoon with my stepdaughter. Correction: my husband is driving. I’m just in the passenger seat.

But it’s so crazy to me, the woman who didn’t even own her first cell phone until 2001, that I could be doing something like this.

The iPad/keyboard combo alone trips me out sometimes. I take it to meetings instead of lugging my heavy, work-issued laptop around the building. I take it to conferences for live tweeting. I’ve used it as a mobile hotspot. I’ve used it to watch movies on plane rides. I’ve shot and edited video on it. And yes, I’ve also been known to play a little Candy Crush on it as well.

I got my first smartphone in 2009, balking at first at the high price tag – not only of the phone itself but the monthly service. Up until then, I’d been paying $39 a month. (Goodness, I miss those days!) Keep in mind that I stayed on (free) dial up until 2005, because I couldn’t fathom paying for high-speed Internet.

But now, in 2014, I am all teched out. I’ve got my iPhone and unlimited texting plan. I’ve got the aforementioned iPad of Wonder. I have a 3D television (how did THAT happen?). I have a combo package that gives me fast Wi-Fi, a broadband phone, and a DVR.

Can we just talk about the DVR for a second? As soon as Comcast started offering them, I got one. I mean, fast-forwarding through commercials? No more recording shows on VHS? And with this X1 platform, buggy as it is, I can now recored four shows at once. Who needs this? you ask. I do. Sunday night TV is intense. FOUR SHOWS AT ONCE.

Welcome to the future.

Someday, when we all have Feed-style brain implants connecting us to everyone and everything, I’ll look back on the tech of 2014 and think of how positively quaint this all is.

But for now, as we cruise down I-95, in the car that lets me talk on the phone through its dashboard, I will continue to be amazed.

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Words with friends.

Tomorrow I have an early-morning writing date with my friend Carolee, who I met when I was teaching a creative writing class at the Brandywine Y some 11 (or is it 12?) years ago. We meet up at Panera semi-regularly, do a quick catch-up on our lives, and then dive right in, laptop to laptop.

It’s great because writing is such a solitary activity by nature. And writing dates are like gym dates in that they keep you accountable. Plus, if I’m going to schlepp all of my gear to Panera I’m less likely to pack it in after just 45 minutes. So I’ll often hit my daily writing goal and keep on going. One time this summer I put in something like seven or eight hours in Panera – long enough to eat two meals and drink several cups of coffee.

All good things, right? (Well, maybe not the several cups of coffee part. I switched back to decaf about six weeks ago.)

It’s shaping up to be a busy weekend, but I’m glad that I can carve out a couple of hours to spend with Carolee. Even if we will spend most of that time typing, not talking.

The new book, part 2: FAQ.

You First coverI’ve been getting a LOT of questions about You First, my new novel that publishes January 6, 2015. So, I thought I’d take this opportunity to answer some of them.

I thought you said YOU were writing a new book. Who is this Cari Simmons person?

Excellent question! Cari Simmons is the beautiful genius behind the Picture Perfect series. She provided a short synopsis for each title. Then authors were selected to take these ideas and turn them into full-fledged novels. The synopsis for You First was literally 716 words. I took that, made it my own, and turned it into a 42,000-word novel.

Wait a minute – your name is Lara (rhymes with mascara), not Lola. So who’s Lola Douglas?

Ahh, you must be new around here. Lola Douglas is the pseudonym I used for True Confessions of a Hollywood Starlet and More Confessions of a Hollywood Starlet. My editor, the lovely and talented Kristen Pettit, thought it would be fun to bring Lola out for another spin, so “she” got to write You First.

True Confessions of a Hollywood Starlet movieWasn’t True Confessions of a Hollywood Starlet a Lifetime movie?

Yep. It was based on the book. It still airs from time to time. It’s deliciously cheesy and one of the coolest things that happened to me during my short writing career.

Speaking of short: Didn’t you, like, “retire” back in 2010?

I did.

Why?

There are a lot of reasons. I wrote about most of them here.

So what happened to bring you out of “retirement”?

Kristen happened. See, she got out of the children’s book business before I did. Then, in 2013, she decided to get back into it. She sent me a Facebook message saying that we should talk. When we did, she pitched me the project. It had “me” written all over it – set in Delaware! With a protagonist who’s into theater and likes to bake!

Even so, at first I was like, “Um, I don’t do this any more.” But then I thought, “This is a pretty incredible opportunity. I’d be a fool to pass it up.”

We talked, and I started to get excited about the idea of diving back into fiction. So I figured I’d give it a shot.

Are you writing anything else?

Why, yes, I am! I’m working on a wickedly fun YA novel for Kristen. It’s tentatively slated to come out summer 2016.

What’s it about?

I’m not at liberty to say. (Don’t you know it’s bad luck to talk about a WIP before you’ve finished a draft?)

Whatever. Is it another Lola book?

No, this one will be published under my married name, Lara Deloza. It will be the first Lara Deloza novel ever!

Anything else I need to know?

Um…not that I can think of. But let me know if you have any more questions, okay?

The new book, part 1: Overview.

I’d totally planned to write a big ol’ blog post about my new book, You First, which comes out on January 6, 2015. Except, it’s 9:20 p.m. as I sit down to write this and I’ve been go-go-going all day long. What I’m saying is, I am out of steam.

So for now, here’s the cover and the flap copy. The backstory will come tomorrow (I promise!).

You First coverBFF 4 eva?

Gigi Stewart and her best friend, Finley, are always together. And everything they do, they document on the Wall, their collage in Gigi’s room that holds layers and layers of memories—from movie tickets to magazine ads to embarrassing baby photos—and they never stop adding to it.

But when Gigi suggests they start planning their annual joint birthday blowout, Finn just doesn’t seem that into it. She’s more interested in extra soccer practice and hanging with the girls from the varsity team than choosing a party theme or going to cooking class or sleepovers with Gigi.

Though she tells herself it’s no big deal, Gigi can’t help but be hurt. And she’s even more hurt when she discovers that Finn’s been lying about what she’s been doing and who she’s been hanging out with instead of her.

Gigi thought she and Finn would be friends forever—but what happens when “forever” comes to an end?

The dogs in my life.

Yesterday, I wrote about the whole cat people vs. dog people thing. Today, I thought I’d introduce you to the canines who hold my heart in their fuzzy little paws.

Jake & Daphne

JakeIn November 2003, I moved back home for the first time since I was 17. I wanted to save up for a house, and my parents decided to help me out by giving me a place to live and work. That Christmas, the three of us drove to a rural patch of Maryland to pick out two schnoodle pups. When we got there, we were taken to a barn. The seller opened a door and let in a bunch of puppies and told us to pick out the ones we wanted. Looking back, we’re pretty sure the outfit was a small step up from a puppy mill. But at the time, all we could see was their cute, fuzzy faces.

Daphne was hands-down the prettiest puppy I ever saw in my whole life. I couldn’t stop staring at her on the ride home. And Jake?

Well, he peed on my shoe.

They are funny dogs. Jake always looks a little depressed. I call him Eeyore. He loves playing with bouncy balls. In fact, one time when we got tired of playing ball with him, he ran up the stairs with one in his mouth, spit it out at the top landing, and then chased after it. And then did it again. And again.

DaphneDaphne sometimes acts like more of a cat – like she can’t be bothered with you. She’s moody and at times neurotic. For a while, they had to give her Prozac daily, to keep her from gnawing at her paw, OCD-style. (I forgot to mention that Jake has massive panic attacks whenever there’s a thunderstorm and/or fireworks. It’s bad enough that my mom used to have to give him Valium to keep him from having a complete meltdown. The holistic stuff, like the squeeze machine shirts, just didn’t work.)

Jake was totally a mama’s boy, and Daphne is definitely daddy’s little girl. I love them both like crazy. I helped raise them from tiny fluff balls into grown up doggies. I was the one who removed Daphne’s first tick. The one who took Jake’s temperature when he had his first cold. When I eventually bought my house and moved out, I would come back to my mom’s almost every night just to see the dogs.

Chester

Chester was a new edition to the family. My mom brought him back from Florida, after a month-long visit with her neighbor and close friend Charlotte, who has a summer house down there. She saw him at some sort of craft bazaar – a pet adoption thing – and fell in love with him. He’d been badly abused before he got rescued, and he needed a lot of attention.

ChesterAfter my mom passed, my stepfather Mark found it difficult to care for all three dogs on his own. He commutes to his job and is out of the house a lot of the day. So, he hired a dog walker to come each afternoon. Even with the extra help, Chester struggled. He still wasn’t fully housebroken. Mark realized Chester needed more attention than he had to give and tried to find him a new home. There were no takers.

This summer, Mark went to visit his family in Connecticut and asked me to watch the three dogs. I of course said yes. Chester was mostly housebroken by that time, which helped. He was kind of obsessed with me, though; whenever he and Jake and Daph would come stay with me, Chester would sit in my lap and constantly try to lick my face. He’d kick Jake away from me. He wanted me all to himself.

When Wendy came over for our Friday night scrapbooking date, she met Chessie for the first time. And, like my mother, she felt instantly in love. Later she texted me, “If Mark’s still looking for a home for Chester, tell him I’ll take him.”

So, the following week, Chester found a new forever home with the Kinnas. They love him and Wendy spoils him rotten…which is exactly what he needed. They recently added another rescued wire-haired dachshund to the clan: Toby. All dogs are happy and thriving at Case de Kinna.

Scout

ScoutMy baby. The World’s Cutest Dog. The first month of his life, I wanted to wring his tiny neck. He bit me. A lot. I would have to hold him in one hand every time I took out the trash, because if I didn’t, he’d escape through the front door and I’d have to chase him across the neighborhood. He was crazy hyper and I was certain he was untrainable. Whenever I went to leave the house, he’d have a complete canine meltdown. I remember going to see the vet and saying, “You’re going to have to give him something to calm him down. He’s crazy. It’s like we’re not on the same team!”

The vet talked me down. He gave me some tricks to try for Scout’s separation anxiety. He told me Scout would grow out of this phase. I didn’t believe him.

He was right.

Now, at nine, Scout can still be hyper. Strangers always ask, “How old is your puppy?” and I’ll say, “Nine,” and they assume I mean months, not years. And he still hates it whenever we leave the house. About a year or so ago, he started biting us on the ass whenever we walked out the door. He’s definitely a pack dog. If it were up to him, Joe and I would be total shut-ins.

These are not the only dogs I’ve ever had or loved, but they’re the ones who populate my now. And they are why I am and always will be a bone-a fido dog person.

Four Barking

Cat people vs. dog people.

This is a picture of me and my fur-child Scout, circa fall 2011.

This is a picture of me and my fur-child Scout, circa fall 2011.

According to a semi-recent study by Carroll University, cat people are smarter and more sensitive than dog people.

To that, I say: bullshit.

Maybe this is because I myself am a devout dog person. I have always preferred them to animals of the feline persuasion. Cats are smelly. They are rude. And they’re just too aloof for my liking.

Dogs are way better. They are loving and loyal. They are super cuddly. They get crazy excited to see you when you come home from work (or even come in from taking out the trash). When you’re sad, they can sense it, and give you extra love. I’ve had more than one dog lick tears off my face.

The Carroll University study also says that dog people tend to be more extroverted and prefer to follow the rules. Okay. I am kind of a rule-follower. But insensitive? Extroverted? No. Not at all.

If you clicked the link above, you know this study came out in June, which yes, was almost six months ago. So why am I writing about it now?

Because I spend a lot of time thinking about the differences between dog people and cat people. A lot of time.

There are several cat people in my life, including my stepdaughter Sadie. (She is kind of obsessed with them.) And, to be honest, my husband Joe is one, too. If you ask him, he’ll tell you he’s an equal-opportunity animal lover. It’s true that in his life, he’s had both types of pets. But when you take him to a pet store, all he wants to do is play with the kitties. He can spend hours shining lasers into their cages, making them go crazy as they chase the red light.

We do not have a pet cat, nor will we ever. Not because I’m a mean cat-phobe, but because I am horribly allergic. Like, if I spend too much time in a cat-filled house, one of my eyes (usually the left) will turn into a cherry tomato. If I’m heading to a house of cats, I will often take Benadryl preemptively. It’s really that bad.

Joe and Scout - Halloween 2013

Joe and Scout, Halloween 2013. Joe walked around and asked people, “Have you met my sous chef? He eats more than he makes!” Like, all night. To everyone we encountered. (It was pretty cute, though.)

What we do have is a dog. Our fur-child, Scout, a nine-year-old Schnoodle. He is my heart, this 11 lb. ball of love. I got him when he was just eight weeks old and small enough to fit in the palm of my hand. He’s so adorable and funny and smart that even people who don’t typically like small dogs fall in love with his fuzzy little face.

Scout adores Joe. He was only about a year and a half when Joe and I started dating, so really, Joe’s helped raise him from a pup. My cat-loving husband is so enamored with our pooch that he once told me, “I didn’t know I could love any animal as much as I do Scout.” (Reason #42 why I married him.)

My canine proclivities are likely genetic; I come from a long line of dog people. The one exception is my father, who is more of a cat person. But everyone else is all about the dogs. At a recent family get-together, my cousins Zach and Josh riffed for like 13 minutes on how cat people are the worst. (I got secret video, but I think they’d kill me if I uploaded it.)

For Sadie’s sake, I am trying to grow more tolerant of cats. And even I have to admit that kittens can be pretty cute.

You know, if you don’t inhale too deeply.

First Draft-itis and how my NaBloPoMo goal is helping.

Today is November 15, which means that I’m officially halfway to my NaBloPoMo goal. It hasn’t been as difficult as I thought it would be, though there have been some days that I’ve been like, “What in the world could I possibly write about today?” I mean, technically there are TONS of things that I could write about, but I’m actually not that interesting a person. (Evidence: this post.)

But honestly, I didn’t challenge myself to write 30 days of killer content. I challenged myself to write 30 days of blog posts, period. I wanted to get myself back in the habit of actually DOING the blog thing, instead of just thinking about doing it.

keep-calm-and-write-the-draftIn some ways, it’s been like writing a first draft: I have to shut off my inner critic and just write. Sure, I proofread, and sure, I’ve corrected some typos after the fact (doing things like that is in my type-A DNA). But honestly, if I’m writing 30 posts in 30 days I don’t have time to labor over every single one. I kind of have to go with my gut and just get it out onto the page (or screen, as the case may be).

I’m sort of struggling with First Draft-itis on my current WIP. There are lots of things about this project that are just sticky. For one thing, it has multiple, first-person narrators. In the back of my head, there’s a niggling voice asking me WHY? WHY DID YOU PICK FIRST PERSON, YOU NIMROD? (The niggling voice isn’t very nice, if you couldn’t tell.)

But I do not have time to entertain those kinds of niggling voices. I’m on a deadline, and because I have a full-time day job that keeps me more than busy, I have to work toward that deadline with daily word goals. Realistic ones that I still can’t meet 100% of the time. I can’t allow myself to reread more than what I wrote during my previous session, even if I am having difficulty keeping my facts/timelines straight. Then I’ll just spend all of my writing hours tweaking/shaping instead of making progress.

I’m like Abraham in The Walking Dead: I can’t go back, I can only move forward.

Even as I press forward, though, I feel like I’m getting lost in the words. HOW AM I GOING TO WRITE MYSELF OUT OF THIS? WHAT CAN POSSIBLY HAPPEN TO CONNECT POINT A TO POINT B? I have a road map to this novel – and exhaustive chapter-by-chapter break down – and yet I’m still scratching my head most nights.

When this happens, I make myself think of E.L. Doctorow and the whole writing-is-like-driving-at-night-in-the-fog metaphor: “You can only see as far as your headlights but you can make the whole trip that way.”

I’m trying to focus on that, because with each 400-word goal, each 600-word goal, each 1,000-word goal, I’m inching along to my destination. And the best part is that even the days I think I’m writing utter crap, I’m actually not. When I read it the next day, I’m often surprised that the 489 words I struggled to pull out of my brain are actually quite good.

It’s good to be writing my way out of the fog, whether it’s in Scrivener or Word Press or old-school paper. Now I just need to get better at shutting off my inner critic. And this, ultimately, is where NaBloPoMo is helping. Because again: I don’t have the time for the navel gazing. I wouldn’t want to waste it on that even if I did.