Plugging Back In

Coming back to work after an extended vacation is always a process. Scratch that. Coming back to¬†life after an extended vacation is always a process. And each time you might think you’ve thought things through ahead of time, but in my experience, each time there’s always a bunch of things you didn’t account for. So today, I’m getting back up to speed in practically every arena:

  • Emails are always the biggest troublemaker. I took some time while I was away to check in now and then, but all that really does is put out any immediate fires and cull out the easy emails that can just be deleted. What remains are emails that need me to actually take some actions. No fun.
  • Weight/Health is another area where I need to get back in line. I stepped on the scale this morning and discovered I’m still not over my goal weight of 195, but only because I’m literally 195 right now. While I was away I didn’t exercise, ate way too much sugar, and didn’t watch my calories in the slightest. Honestly, I’m surprised I only gained 7 pounds. But I’d really like to get down to 175, believe it or not, and now that I actually don’t have any trips scheduled in the next while, I’m hoping I have the time I need to just get back into my routines and stick there for a while.
  • House work. We still have a bunch of stuff around the house that needs doing. The biggest thing is the batch of furniture we got a month and a half ago. Denisa and I need to finish putting up pictures and deciding what goes where, and then we need to sell the pieces we’re no longer using. It’s a good problem to have, but it’s still a problem. Especially since the place we’ve been sticking all the stuff we don’t know what to do with is the guest bedroom. And we have guests coming in a few weeks. (Uh oh.)
  • Lawn work. That lawn keeps growing. It’s been mowed recently (thank you friends!), but it needs to be mowed again. (More on that in the hopefully near future.) I know Denisa is really stressing about the garden, too.
  • Writing is there as well. I managed to get some done while I was away, but not nearly enough as I should have. That ends today. Back to the grindstone.

Beyond that, there are the tons of little chores that just need doing. Cleaning and shopping and letters and who knows what else. As always, I know that we can get on top of all of them, but it’s going to take concerted effort. I’ll make way too many lists, but one way or the other, we’ll get there.

Starting by finishing this post. More to come tomorrow as I go back to my regular blogging routine, as well.

MEMORY THIEF in Chinese

memorythief_FacbeookIt’s a new week, and I’m still in Utah, but Saturday the news broke, and I wanted to share it with you lovely people. At the end of May I got an email out of the blue with the bestest of news: a Chinese publishing company (Beijing White Horse Time) has bought the Simplified Chinese rights to THE MEMORY THIEF. The news about the film deal caught their eye and brought extra attention to the novel.

It’s kind of strange blogging about something that I’ve known about for so long. It would be so much more fun to share the news right after I found out. But it seems like everything in publishing operates on a delayed schedule, so I get great news and then have to sit on it for a long time until the ink is dry.

What does this deal mean? Ideally, authors sell as few rights to their work as possible with each deal. Publishers would love to get World Rights: the right to publish the book in any language and country in the world. Authors try to just sell North American Rights, which is what I did with MEMORY THIEF. That frees me up to sell the book in as many markets as I can. (Germany, France, Indonesia, China, etc. Basically each country is a different market.)

Some markets pay a lot, some pay a little. In this case, I almost got as much for the Chinese rights as I did for the North American Rights, so it was a fantastic surprise. Better yet, it’s another advance, meaning it’s money I get right away. And the most fantastic thing about it is that I didn’t have to do anything else other than sign a contract. No revisions. No drafts. No nothing.

The Chinese publisher will take care of translation, getting a cover, and all that jazz. I just get to sit back and look forward to seeing my writing in a new language at some point in the future.

It’s my first international sale, and that feels like a great threshold to cross. Maybe the interest from China will catch other countries’ eyes. Who knows? But for today, I’m just happy things continue to move forward so nicely.

Huzzah!

The Best Things are Often Outside Your Comfort Zone

I’m a person who loves his comfort zone. One of my favorite vacations of the year is the one I take around Christmas, because I go nowhere. I stay at home and play games and watch movies and eat food. It’s lovely. But as anyone who’s been following my life lately can tell you, I do many more trips and vacations than that, and most of them end up requiring a whole lot of planning and travel. Each time one of those vacations comes up, I inevitably wonder what in the world I was thinking that made me think it was a good idea.

Because I like my comfort zone. I’d happy stay at home each day. It’s comfortable. It’s familiar. It’s easy.

But often the best things in life are none of those. The things I remember for years after are the things that brought me out of that zone. That forced me to do things I’ve never done before. My mission to Germany. My semester abroad in Israel. Family vacations to Dublin, Paris, London, Germany, and Slovakia. Situations where I was frantically scrambling around, trying to piece things together and then hoping for the best as we headed off to the airport.

Of course. one could say those experiences are the most memorable because they involved the most pain. They were hard, but as time goes by, I forget the hard parts of them and only remember the good parts. And that’s true, no doubt. But it’s also true that the times that I have struggled the most have also been the ones that have had the biggest impact on who I am as a person.

This is strange. I’m trying to just talk about “hard” vacations, and I somehow keep being drawn to make a connection between hard times and hard vacations. Clearly there’s a difference between the two. Going through turmoil in life is much different than bringing it upon yourself because you want to go to Europe for a few weeks. But I’m reminded of rollercoasters. They’re terrifying, really. You strap yourself into a machine that’s going to whirl and loop and race you all over the place. It’ll jostle and rumble and shake you. Why do we love them? It’s chaos, and far from comfortable.

But I think we like them because it’s a way of having those tough times without having to have too many of the baggage that goes along with them. It’s controlled terror. Constrained.

And maybe that’s why I love these vacations, as much as I dread them and panic as I wonder if I have everything under control before we leave. (How will I get from the airport to the hotel when we arrive? What will we do? Where will we eat? How do we get tickets?) The lead up to the vacation is the same as getting in line and waiting for the ride to begin, listening to the clack clack clack as the coaster approaches the top. And then the big day arrives, and it’s whirls and loops and races all the way to the finish.

Chicago starts tomorrow. Then comes Utah, Yellowstone, family reunions, and more. It’ll be a fun ride, and I don’t know how much I’ll be able to post to my blog for the next while. Apologies in advance.

Wish me luck.

Movie Review: Beauty and the Beast

To celebrate the end of school, we had a movie night. Trying to pick a movie that will actually interest all my children (and be appropriate for all of them) isn’t exactly an easy choice. We typically end up watching things that aren’t really great for MC, but keep Tomas’s interest. This time, I decided to go with something that would be good for MC, but which Tomas might not love: the new live action Beauty and the Beast. (I was pleasantly surprised when Tomas expressed enthusiasm to see it, and watched (and enjoyed) it willingly. Yay!)

When I was in high school, animated Disney movies were sort of like Pixar movies were a few years ago. Between The Little Mermaid, The Lion King, Aladdin, and Beauty and the Beast, Disney seemed to be unable to go wrong. (Until Pocahontas came out and reminded us that yes, they could.) But for a stretch there, it was all awesome. I was (and continue to be) a big Disney fan. Bought the soundtracks. Saw the movies multiple times. The whole deal. Beauty and the Beast is a show I even saw on Broadway.

Still, I was skeptical about how it would turn out. The buzz I heard was all positive, but you never know with one of these productions.

In the end, I really loved the movie. Well acted, well sung, well directed, with special effects that somehow managed to pull it all off. (I bought the non-3D version, but that Be Our Guest number almost made me wish I’d gone for 3D.) Really, the only quibble I had was personal: they excluded two of my favorite numbers from the Broadway musical version (“Home” and “If I Can’t Love Her”). Normally I wouldn’t hold that against a movie, except they made the decision to include the orchestral version of Home for a snippet of the movie. To me, that’s like letting someone smell something delicious, and then letting them know they can’t eat any of it. Why bring it up at all if you’re just going to ignore it? I got all excited, and then . . . nothing. (As for “If I Can’t Love Her.” they went and included a Josh Groban version on the soundtrack. Come on! Put it in the movie!)

(For reference, here are the two songs I wish they’d included)

But really, how good does the movie have to be where my only complaints are about relatively obscure things they didn’t include that I have a personal attachment to? The movie was a delight from start to finish, and it did exactly what it set out to do: adapt the animated version almost note for note. It really made me admire the original all that much more. It’s got an engaging story and characters that are actually well rounded. The live action expands on some of that, but it didn’t need to do much. Casting Emma Watson in the lead role pretty much set the movie up for success right away. And you know the singing is pretty impressive when I waited through the credits to double check if any of the actors were dubbed. (They weren’t!)

I ended up giving it a 9/10.

The End to Another School Year

And thus we come to the end of another school year, and the start of the couple of months where I think working is the hardest. It’s so much easier for me to head into work every day when I know my family’s in the same predicament. Sure, I get up earlier than they do, but at least I leave the house knowing the bus is coming soonish. Misery loves company, right? (Despite the fact that I enjoy going to work, I actively dislike getting up in the morning. Just keeping it real here, folks.)

It’s hard to believe another school year is in the books. Tomas is done with seventh grade. DC is done with third. MC has her first year of preschool behind her. It was a big year for all of the kids, for a variety of reasons. For Tomas, I saw him really come into his own in terms of taking responsibility for his schooling. He’d been able to coast through school up until this point, but this year things stepped up a notch, and it too some adjustment to get the hang of that. He came through that experience strong, and he finished the year with great grades.

DC has really upped her reading game since September. She dove right into the library’s summer reading program as soon as school let out, and she’s been devouring books. That makes me very happy for so many different reasons.

MC is just at the point where school is a fun thing to do. But that first exposure to it is important. We’re so lucky to have great teachers in the area for all ages.

Of course, I also realize that things aren’t all smooth sailing for Denisa now. She’s got three kids at home that she has to wrangle each day, which makes her job considerably harder. They’re signed up for swimming lessons, tennis lessons, and they’re planning outings around town and to the library, of course. So she gets to sleep in longer than I do, but her days are likely just as hectic.

And we’ve got trips scheduled, of course. The big one this year is an expedition to Chicago, then to Utah, with a side trip to Yellowstone and Wyoming because why not. There are three family reunions sprinkled in there. We’ll no doubt be plenty busy, and we’re hoping to go camping some when we come back.

Ever have so much fun scheduled you kind of wish you hadn’t scheduled any of it?

I’m at that point now. If I can iron out all the plans, then maybe I’ll start to feel more on top of things. Wish me luck . . .

And congrats to my awesome kids, for being awesome.

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