Hair Magic

This is what I look like when I'm embarrassed to be taking a picture of myself in public.

This is what I look like when I’m embarrassed to be taking a picture of myself in public.

As I write this (sitting at my kitchen table on Sunday evening while Wes fries chicken for dinner {in bacon grease. It’s ok. Go ahead and judge us a little}) I am officially less than a week away from leaving for New York. As of this time in exactly one week, I will be settling down in my hotel room in Manhattan, getting ready to get a good night’s sleep before my all-day seminar at FBI headquarters early Monday morning.

Huzzah!

I’m in a good place logistically. My pitch is written (and approved by the multitude of people I’ve practiced it on), my agent research is complete, my travel arrangements are done, and my hair looks fabulous.

Wait, what? I didn’t mention I got my hair done yesterday? You bet your sweet bippy I did. You didn’t think I’d go a-pitching with unremarkable hair, did you? In the immortal words of Jack Donaghy (from 30 Rock), your hair is your head suit. I refuse to go to Manhattan with a lame head suit.

Thankfully, my hair stylist is a wizard and he worked some serious magic for me yesterday. Bright, fun color and a flattering cut. BOOM. Author-ific, baby.

Now all I have left to do is throw my daughter a birthday party, get a mani/pedi, and pack. It’ll be Sunday again before I know it!

Poppin’ Tags

Ok, ok, let me preface this post by acknowledging the obvious: You’re all sick to death of hearing about the conference. And about writing. And about my books.

“Oh my gosh, Erika,” I can just hear all of you thinking, “give it UP already and move on with your life! Get a different hobby! YOU’RE SO BORING NOW!”

Believe me, I understand. I get it. The conference (“Again with the conference!” you all say) is two weeks away and I’ve been so completely subsumed by research and prep I’ve become a one-track thought-station that shuttles solely between writing and kids. Since I don’t blog about my kids, that leaves writing so…Sorry about that.

Peggy Olson doesn't care that you're tired because your kids got you up at 5 AM. She wants pitches on her desk and doesn't care what you have to do to get them there.

Peggy Olson doesn’t care that you’re tired because your kids got you up at 5 AM. She wants pitches on her desk and doesn’t care what you have to do to get them there.

In case all my blathering about the same topic hasn’t made you want to swear off the Internet altogether, I thought I’d share my new approach to writing my pitch for the conference. I started off just writing a simple A-to-B pitch, this happens, and then this happens. It got the point across, but it was kind of boring and flavorless. It in no way hinted at the sarcasm that (I hope) will make my books fun to read.

Frustrated by the certainty that this pitch would wow no one, I decided to crib from Mad Men and start writing pitches like my boss ordered me to produce fifty pitches by the morning. (Except in Mad Men, the copywriters are expected to produce copious tags, not pitches. Hence, the title.) In this scenario, my boss is like an evil red pigeon, perched on my shoulder, who’s threatened to poop on me if I don’t get to work. It’s surprisingly effective.

The whole churning out pitches thing is working well. I still feel like I’m circling my really good idea, but I’m closer now than I was. I’ll just keep chiseling away until I hear the distinctive sound that means I’ve struck gold at long last.

How much you want to bet that happens right before I step on the plane to New York in a couple weeks?

Seattle Shipyard Adventure Recap

Ever since I moved from southern California to Seattle as a wee lass of 14, I’ve always been fascinated by the Seattle Shipyards and Port. There’s just something captivating about them for me. These massive ships, bound from exotic locations, laden with mysterious cargo in massive containers. It’s all just a feast for the imagination, isn’t it?

Brand-new propeller. This thing was the size of my kitchen table, and so shiny!

Brand-new propeller. This thing was the size of my kitchen table, and so shiny!

Earlier today, I had the incredible opportunity to meet with the head of the Seattle Shipyard, Jon Hie. I was ecstatic to find out that not only is he knowledgeable, affable, and generous with his time, he’s worked in shipyards around the world and was able to answer all my questions. He even answered questions I never knew I had!

Shipping containers are surprisingly big in person. He had a funny story about the supposed "unduplicatable" nature of customs forms that made me laugh a lot.

Shipping containers are surprisingly big in person. He had a funny story about the supposed “unduplicatable” nature of customs forms that made me laugh a lot.

He took me on a tour of the shipyard that comprised everything from the dry docks (which I got to explore all the way up to the top!) to the container yard (where we discussed how one might smuggle something onboard a cargo ship), to the construction area where they were building a brand-new firefighting ship (brand new boats look beautiful, by the way), through the metal and wood shops, and then onto an actual tug boat where I got to visit the engine room and learn everything I needed to know to sound like one of those really smart thriller writers who actually knows what she’s talking about.

These future propeller shafts were MASSIVE. Solid metal all the way through, and weighing more than a full-grown elephant apiece.

These future propeller shafts were MASSIVE. Solid metal all the way through, and weighing more than a full-grown elephant apiece.

It is nothing short of amazing what they do there. The ingenuity of the dry docks alone was enough to impress me, let alone watching someone hand-paint the name onto a boat while someone else used an acetylene torch to weld something. All those skilled people, I had to restrain myself from asking too many questions!

The chains they use to restrain cargo ships. Each link weighs between 50-70 lbs. I tried to lift the clip that clips onto these and I couldn't even manage it. Unreal!

The chains they use to restrain cargo ships. Each link weighs between 50-70 lbs. I tried to lift the clip that clips onto these and I couldn’t even manage it. Unreal!

My favorite part, though, was discussing possibilities with Jon. We came up with ten different ways to explode a ship and make it look like an accident, and let me tell you, that is an awful lot of fun. (Note: This was an imaginative exercise. No one is planning any kind of violence whatsoever, NSA, so stop worrying.)

This is one of the engines in a tug boat. According to Jon, the engines in a massive cargo ship stretch 1-2 stories high and are 50 feet wide. CAN YOU EVEN CONCEIVE OF AN ENGINE THAT BIG?!?!?!

This is one of the engines in a tug boat. According to Jon, the engines in a massive cargo ship stretch 1-2 stories high and are 50 feet wide. CAN YOU EVEN CONCEIVE OF AN ENGINE THAT BIG?!?!?!

And of course, I got to wear a fetching orange hardhat and safety glasses the whole tour, but I was so busy looking at everything around me (and trying not to either trip and/or fall to my death) that I never got a picture of myself. So here’s a picture of a crane who watched me rather judgmentally while I parked my car.

This heron is tired of putting up with my crap, apparently.

This heron is tired of putting up with my crap, apparently.

I can cross this item off my bucket list, but don’t worry, I’ve got lots more. I have the feeling the longer I write thrillers, the longer and more unique that list will get. Now, if I could just get the CIA to give me a tour of their headquarters we’d really be talking…

THREE. WEEKS.

downloadNot since the long, sleepless days of my last pregnancy have I felt such overwhelming terror at the prospect of three short little weeks. Back then, I was terrified by the prospect of just three short weeks separating me and the reality of having two kids.

Now? I’m thinking three weeks is not nearly enough time for me to finish everything I need to do to prepare for the International Thriller Writers conference in New York City.

Ever since I booked my tickets a couple months ago, I’ve been in a happy state of denial. Mostly so I can get to sleep at night. When I’m too excited about something, I tend to have a terrible time trying to get to sleep. My brain happily whirls through everything I need to do, and all the things that could happen, and before I know it, I’ve whiled away two hours of nighttime silence I could have enjoyed unconscious.

I told myself New York is so far away, there’s no sense getting all worked up about it. I focused on finishing book #3 (Never Say Bai) and beginning revisions on book #2 (Take the Bai Road).

Now, though? New York is next frigging month and I need to get my butt in gear.

The trouble was, I was intimidated. I’ve been dreaming about the day I’ll get to travel to New York to pitch something I feel confident about for years. This is it. My big chance to either sink or swim in the gigantic, competitive world of New York publishing. I’ve worked my fingers practically to the bone whipping my work into shape and I feel ready.

The trouble is, getting ready. Just because my work is ready doesn’t mean I am.

For those not in the know, pitching at a conference, especially a big one like this, takes a lot of preparation. At least, if you want to do it right (and who wouldn’t?). You need to write your pitch. Then you need to delete your whole pitch and rewrite it because you decide all of a sudden that it sucks. You need a logline, an elevator pitch, and some snazzy business cards.

Once you have those in place, you need to do your homework. I’m attending PitchFest, which means I’ll be speed-dating with 40-50 agents and editors, not all of whom are looking for the kind of fiction I write. This means, I need to figure out who will and won’t be inclined to ask for more from me and research them. Figure out which authors they work with, what kind of fiction they tend to like, and common points of interest so that when I meet them we can have a pleasant conversation as opposed to a desperate scramble for a business card.

I feel like I need to clarify here that I will not be stalking these people. I’ll just be studying their websites and author lists with interest.

This is a lot of work, and until this week I was too scared to get started. There comes a point, though, where you simply have no choice but to kick your own ass. So that’s what I did.

Ready. Set. Go.

Good: 3 Bad: 1

I have good news and bad news and good news. I’ve decided to present them in convenient bullet-point form, because 1) I am lazy and 2) It’s convenient. Just because I’m lazy doesn’t mean I can’t be considerate.

  • Good news: My days of having a bad knee may be coming to an end! I saw an incredible physical therapist on Friday who figured out that the reason my knee keeps shredding meniscus and hurting all the time is because there’s something wrong with my….FEET! Turns out my problem is simple biomechanics (my feet prolapse, which tweaks my lower leg, which tweaks my knee, which shreds my meniscus). It’s a simple fix: Custom orthotics and physical therapy. Bam. I may just have my life back. I can’t even begin to tell you what a heady, hopeful feeling that is.
  • Bad news: Bai Tide did not make the cut for the PNWA Literary Contest. Yes, I’m disappointed, however…
  • Good news: …I’ve made peace with rejection! My first rejection broke my heart, but in the years since I’ve been doing this whole writer gig I’ve learned that rejection is just a part of life. Like changing dirty diapers when you have a baby or performance reviews when you have a day job. I was definitely sad to not make the cut, but rather than discourage me, I was able to shrug it off by reasoning that my book just wasn’t to the judges’ taste. And that’s okay. Not every will like my stuff, and that’s okay.
  • Bonus good news: I heard back from the Seattle shipyard that they’re going to let me come take a tour! I set a large portion of one of my books in a shipyard and on a cargo ship, and it’ll be completely invaluable to be able to get real-life experience. It’ll make those scenes come to life and also make me look like I know what I’m talking about. Bonus!

It was a challenging week, but not without good news. Any week you can outnumber the bad points with the good is a good week, by my reckoning.