The Big Swim

Waiting for Godot…err Diana

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Waiting….patiently…

It’s Sunday. Time for this week’s book update. Since my latest novel, a sequel to How to Sex Your Snake , takes place in Key West, and I’ve been immersed in research, I thought it would be fun to include some memories from my time on the island. Last week, we looked back at one of my favorite watering holes, the Bull and Whistle bar, which features 3 distinctive bars and with some iffy nudity. This  week, we’re outside, looking at some actual water. But first, the update. 

How to Square Your Grouper – A June Nash Misventure, Book 2

Premise: Following an embarrassing blunder, June heads down to Key West to hide out and accidentally becomes a drug runner.

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Captain Eddy rallies the troops

Genre – Adventure
New words this week –1239 (plus a few pages of handwritten notes)
Total word Count – 13,543 
Release date: Summer 2017

Goals last week: continuing my research, tightening up my outline

What I did: Mainly research. I spend the week reading up on the Coast Guard and some other things that will spoil the book if I mention them. The more I read, the less I feel like I know. I’m currently looking for someone who was actually in the Coast Guard. So, if that was you, drop me a note in the comments. Outlining – I realized I had two different outlines for the book. So, I’ve been combining both into a notebook. That’s my preferred method. I can take paper and pencil more places that I can take my computer. 

Goals for next week: finish up my outline sometime during the week. I’d like to start the actual writing around the 20th. (I’ve got a few pages here and there but it’s mostly in outline form) I’m still living in a delusional state thinking I will be able to hand the book to my editor around tax day. We’ll see. 

This weeks trip down memory lane:

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I spy with my little eye…

See the boats on the right? Diana Nyad is somewhere in the middle, about to finish her world record Cuba to Key West Swim. Mark and I happened to be biking down the southern side of the island, probably headed to Caroline’s for a cuban sandwich, when we noticed the news crews and the swarm of people on the beach. Mark checked the internet and Diana was still a few hours away, so we did our lunch thing, wandered Duval a bit and then headed back to Smathers. By this point, it was close enough that we decided to lock up the bikes and find a good spot. We lucked into a roped off section and ended up against the barrier. When Diana came ashore, we’d have a ringside seat as she emerged from the Atlantic Ocean. 

And then, of course, life happened. Later, Ms. Nyad said that as she was approaching Key West, she wasn’t sure where she was supposed to land so she just picked a spot. Which wasn’t anywhere close to where everyone was standing. Chaos ensued and people raced to be first to her new landing spot. Mark and I were separated and I quickly gave up. There was no way I was going to get close up to the action. I texted my husband, took my sandals off and headed for the sidewalk and our bikes. And got stuck in another crowd. I pulled out my phone to text Mark again and realized, almost too late, that Diana was on a stretcher being wheeled to an ambulance by EMTs. I hit video on my cell phone and held it up just as they went past. If you’re interested, you can read more about her historic record here. 

 

That’s it for this week. Next Sunday, we’ll reminisce about men dressed in tiny shorts pushing a bed up the street. Believe it or not, it has absolutely nothing yet absolutely everything to do with the time the tiny island of Key West succeeded from the United States.

Until then, keep your head above water, don’t drink too much rum, and Write on,

Melissa

 

 

 

Key West Quickie

The Rum is for Research

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The rooftop patio is clothing optional. And no, you really don’t want to partake. 

Last week, I was reading a blog post from one of my favorite tv writers, Ken Levine, and he talked about a director friend who wanted to make his next movie in Hawaii. Didn’t care what the movie was. He just wanted a few months in paradise. I totally get that. Why immerse yourself in something that doesn’t tickle your fancy?

 

That’s why I decided to set my next book, a sequel to How to Sex Your Snake, in one of my favorite places on Earth. The spot where I hung my hat from ’12 – ’14.

You can’t go home again…

Screw that. Sure you can.

For two years, the tiny island of Key West was home and I spent my days pedaling from sandy shore to quaint cafe to rowdy bar. Mornings strolling the stretch of surf on Smathers Beach, afternoons parked at a corner table in Sippin Cafe hammering out How to Sex Your Snake, evenings meeting up with my husband and/or friends for half priced happy hour munchies and booze.

What better place for June’s next MisAdventure?

While I know the island fairly well, there are always things I will need to double check for accuracy. Rather than spend all my time surfing the internet, I thought it would be a lot more fun to get my research the old fashioned way.  In person.

Two weeks ago, I was down, taking some preliminary notes and photographing spots where all sorts of delightfully horrible things would happen to poor June. As I continue to work my outline, more questions will spring up and I will probably head back down in about six weeks seeking answers. And a bit of rum. And maybe a morning of drag queen bingo.

As I continue to research and write the new book, I’ll post updates each Sunday, just like I did for How to Sex Your Snake. This time, though, since my setting is Key West, I’ll include favorite memories from my time on the island. Think rum, rebellion, ribs, sexy men pushing beds down the street, and eager tourists getting their drink on and letting their hair down. Fill out that little form in the upper right corner to follow along.

 

 

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They make an excellent Club Sandwhich

 

Onto this weeks update:

How to Square Your Grouper – A June Nash Misventure, Book 2

Premise: Following an embarrassing blunder, June heads down to Key West to hide out and accidentally becomes a drug runner.

Genre – Adventure
New this week – 0
Total Count – 12, 304
Release date: Summer 2017

 

 

Goals for the week: Continue my research and outline. Right now it’s all about the planning. The tighter my outline, the faster I’ll write the actual book.

This weeks trip down memory lane: See that photo at the top? That’s the Bull and Whistle Bar. It’s a three story establishment and a hopping spot for drunken sing alongs on the first floor, aka The Bull. Get there early. Most nights you’ll find a singer/s covering hits from the good old days along with original offerings. The bartenders are friendly, the featured performers get the crowds roaring along and you’re bound to make a friend or two. When your voice gives up, climb the stairs to the second floor , aka The Whistle, for a game of pool and a quiet drink while you watch the madness of Duval Street from a safe spot on the balcony. And when you’ve gotten your second wind, head to the stairs one more time and climb all the way up to the Garden of Eden, a clothing optional rooftop oasis. And while that may sound titillating, beware. For every beautifully firm co-ed grooving topless on the dance floor there are two pasty old naked guys sitting on towels at the bar. Unless that’s your thing. Then by all means, indulge.

And what about me? Did I ever find myself grooving in the garden? Sort of. We got a lot of company while we lived in Key West and visitors always wanted the full experience. And while my dancing never involved nakiditity I was known to sneak a peak or two at those  who did.

That’s it for this week’s update.

Keep your clothes handy and Write On,

Melissa

 

 

Prepping for Print

 

Good news for everyone who keeps asking!

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5.25 x 8 sample

The manuscript for How to Sex Your Snake (my new book) passed inspection from the herpetologist (reptile expert) and heads next to the actor doing the audio version. She’s got the perfect, I’m really not happy to be here voice for this project so if you prefer audio books, you won’t be disappointed. (e-book, paperback, and large print will be available too)

I’ve told you that the book is done, right? It’s been a crazy couple of months with our move from the snowy northern woods of Wisconsin to the glorious treasure coast of Florida. Sadly, many of those weeks were internet free. A nice idea when you’re overwhelmed but an impossible way to survive reality.

Today, my editor is visiting and we’ll be looking at book size and fonts for the print version. (Amazon on demand) I spent enough time as a literary agent to know that unless you’re already famous, it’s better to cut out the middle man and go indie.

e-book coverWhen can I buy it? 

Well…we’re still waiting on formatting and the cover for the paperback. Once those things get a bit more settled, I’ll be able to announce a release date. If you’re not already on the mailing list, you can sign up here.

For now, enjoy the approaching holidays and Write On,

Melissa

 

Wake up first!

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Drink me. Wake up. Become smart. Ish.

When I woke up early this morning I thought I’d get caught up on things. This summer has been crazy and I feel like we’ve been in constant motion. I grabbed another pillow to prop up my head and opened my wordpress app to write a new post. And promptly found a spelling error in a previous entry. Of course, I updated the corrected word and somehow, I published a paragraph I’d been using as a placeholder for one of my Seattle posts!

So, if you’re wondering what’s up with the last announcement you got, that’s it.

See the tea box above? This past weekend we were down in Chicago and our host gifted me this beautiful box of tea that she got in Shanghai. I’m anxious to try some but I can’t find a loose leaf holder in my junk drawer. I’ll run into town later to get one. For now lipton will have to do.

Just tell me what’s on sale.

Since we’re currently living in Middle of nowhere Wisconsin we were pretty excited about a trip to the mall. Ever seen tourists in the city gawking at all the tall buildings? That was us. OMG a pretzel stand. OMG $$$ clothes kids will outgrow before they can wear them. OMG everything I never knew that I needed on sale now. We came, we saw, we purchased. We even played with some Polynesian dancers at a beach shop’s grand opening.

After two days of drinking, a lot, golf lessons, oh my back is now killing me, and chatting till wee hours in the morning, I’m ready to dive back into the real world. Packing for our move back to Florida, racking off the miles prepping for our next half marathon, and finishing the edits on How to Sex Your Snake.

As your summer winds down, how are you prepping for fall?

Wake up and Write on,

Melissa

How to Sex Your Snake Book Cover Reveal

Plugging along

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Oddest looking dogs ever. Wait. Those are baby cows.

It’s been just shy of two months since James died. I was scrolling Facebook a couple of weeks ago and stumbled upon an unattributed quote that sums up my sadness.

     “I believe the hardest part of healing after you’ve lost someone you love is to recover the “you” that went away with them”

There’s still that daily need to text him about things. He would have loved the pickup full of cows. I suppose in time the hollowness will fill back in. In the meantime, all I can do is get up off the couch and get on with it.

And on that note, the new book cover book…

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My soon to be released book

In less than 48 hours, June’s life will go from low-key to ludicrous thanks to a pool of blood, a missing body, slithering creepy crawlies and the imminent incarceration of her famous twin-brother.

Read the 1st chapter now and get 2 and 3 when you join the book release mailing list.

So is it done? 

No. But I’m finally back to my 40 hour work.  A late summer release is still looking good.

If you feel so inclined, check out the first chapters, sign up for the book announcement list and then drop down to the comments and let me know your thoughts on the cover.

Be safe and happy and Write on,

Melissa

 

 

 

Saying Goodbye to a Friend

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Rum Induced Red Eye

 

The Yellow Brick Road

A few Saturdays ago, I got a birthday card from one of my favorite people, James. On the front, Dorothy, the Scarecrow, Tinman, and the Cowardly Lion are gazing up at something wonderful. Probably Oz. Inside, James made a joke about pickings being slim at the Winn Dixie at one am. To me, though, the card was perfect.

Key West, where James lived and were I spent two wonderful years, was my Oz. I’d left the bleak brown desert of Arizona, crossed the country via the Yellow Brick Road (A.K.A. the Interstate Highway System) and arrived on Duval Street where the colors were brighter, the rum smoother and the smells smellier. By the time I left the island, twenty-five months later, I was a women who’d found all that her heart desired. Two amazing friendships and the best orange rum cake in the universe. (I already had true love)

When I opened James’s card that Saturday, it was late. I sent a quick message telling him that the card had arrived on my actual birthday, I loved it, and that somewhere over the rainbow there was lots of rum. He didn’t reply. I didn’t think anything of it. Sometimes we went days between replies.

The next morning, I woke up to an email from a mutual friend. James was no longer with us.

I had to sit up, read the message twice and then wake my husband. Did this really mean what I thought it meant? Sadly, it did. Sometime between mailing my card and my birthday, James had taken his own life. I can’t say I was completely surprised. There was a lot of sadness in his soul.

I can say that I was pissed.

And then sobbing uncontrollably.

And then pissed again.

When someone dies, it’s easy for the survivors to only remember the good stuff. James wasn’t perfect. He could be argumentative and exhausting and difficult. But he was also funny. And cheeky. And sarcastic. And above all else, fiercely loyal to those he called his friends. And that circle was wide and eclectic. In the days that followed his death, those friends began sharing their James stories. And so many of them began the same way. I saw him and I knew I had to be his friend. It was that way for me too. He had an intoxicating energy that you just had to be a part of.

Rolling a piano down the street and stopping to play for traffic. Strolling to the bar with two great danes and a parrot on his shoulder. Wearing a top hat to the grocery store, just because. Teaching a friend to embrace Madonna: take control, don’t be second best, express yourself. 

All hail Matti Makkonen, inventor of the text message

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oh that Lucy

For the last few weeks, my days have been filled with so many I need to text that to James moments.

There’s an I Love Lucy special being advertised on tv. Does he know? Is he going to watch? Oh my God, some toy company made wide eyed Joan Crawford and Betty Davis, Whatever happened to Baby Jane dolls. Has he seen the ad? The dolls eyes are amazingly creepy. That actor from that tv show has a bio out. Has he read it? The writing is the absolute worst. He needs to grab it from the library so that he can leave one of his scathing catty reviews. It’ll be so hysterical!

I pull out my phone. Poise my thumb over the keypad and then suddenly remember.

Did I text him that much during the four years that I knew him? Probably not. But knowing that he’s no longer there makes each lost moment feel devastatingly important. Something that only he would understand. And appreciate. And love.

Put it in Print

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scoping out a house that was inspiration for a setting in our book

James was a writer. That’s how we met. I joined a little critique group and there he was. He wrote essays. Sometimes they were gut wrenching; the loss of his beloved Great Dane left me in tears for days. Sometimes snort inducing; his annoyed take on the idiocy of organized meditation made me want to sign up for a class. Just for a laugh. We’d talked a lot about what he’d include in a second volume. It would have been good.

I’m crushed that he and I will never write the book we plotted out about a girl who steps off a cruise ship in Key West and meets a bartender who inspires her to rethink her life. We joked that it was our story.

 

Lady Sings the Blues

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Martini Me

James had a thing for Diana Ross. Her attitude. Her amazing voice. Her voluminous hair. Her attitude. I know I’m not the only one out there with a mix CD of her songs compiled by him for my specific needs.

And though he loved her best, it really wasn’t just Diana that did it for him.

The man simply loved music. It defined each moment in life. It set the mood. It lifted the spirit. It gave one the strength to go on. For a time anyway.

Not long ago, one of his dear friends, DJ Donna Flaggs of WHCP radio out of Maryland dedicated an entire show of smokey blues to James. If you’re not already a member of soundcloud, you can still listen with a free 30 day trial. He’d have thought the fuss was silly but I know he would have secretly loved the selections.

I’ll miss you the most, Scarecrow

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It’s only been a month. The urge to text James my every waking thought will probably go away soon. I’m going to finish the book I’m currently writing and then revisit the outline we wrote for our book. Maybe I’ll contact his sister about pursuing the story on my own. Maybe not. Right now, it’s still too soon. I’m thankful for the new friends I’ve found through James. They’ve made the loss bearable. I’ll be back in OZ, a.k.a. Key West in the fall and I hope to connect with many of them. We’ll talk about James and drink rum and probably sing some Diana Ross. And maybe I’ll text him about it.

 

Sing along and Write on,

Melissa

Key West State of Mind

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It’s raining. It’s 39 degrees. And I’d be miserable but I just got the first 19 chs of How to Sex Your Snake back from my editor. A quick look through tells me that I don’t have much to fix and I see lots of checkmarks. (for stuff she loves) Now I just need to get those last 3 chs perfected and forwarded. Fingers crossed that I will be able to send the complete manuscript off to my format and error checkers first week of May and that the book goes live sometime before June 1.

I’m still waiting on the cover from the artist but I’m told that I’m next in the queue.

135 days till my plane lands in Key West. It’ll just be for four nights but I plan on making the most of it and not sleeping till I’m off the island. The beach, Duval Street, the chickens, the little Jazz Room, and 7am happy hour at Schooner Wharf.  That’s my idea of perfection. What’s yours? Where do you head when you need a vacation?

Stay dry and Write On,

Melissa

p.s. I had a blog when I lived in Key West. It’s called, Twist of Key Lime. I think pretty much everything I wrote about is still there. I plan on adding as much to it as I can while I’m on the island.

p.p.s. cynthia kester – could you please drop me on a note at my work email – melissabanczak@gmail.com

Time to Re-pink

20160318_184705I can’t believe it’s April 13th. Last time I looked, it was March 29 and we were headed out to Tucson, 1868 miles, to prep the house for sale.

We finished on the 10th and after 3 days on the road are about ten hours out from home. I have tomorrow to get my hair re-pinked before hitting the road, once again for our half marathon down at Disneyworld.

Anyone ever run a Warrior Dash? It’s an obstacle course slash run. My daughter talked me into one last Saturday and that expression on my face pretty much tells it all. I have a horrible fear of heights and every obstacle seemed to involve a wall to be scaled. Or mud to be swum through. Or fire that needed leaping over. I’m waiting on pictures so I’ll write more about that later. Right now, I’m starving and I need to jam all my stuff into my suitcase and hit the road in search of food. Hopefully, I don’t have to climb anything to get it.

Any of you race or dash? Commiserate with me in the comments below and Write On,

Melissa

Fury Road

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A war boy or two and no one will try and pass me

Offspring #2 and I are headed out tomorrow on a cross-country trek. The not so distant future includes, paint fumes, pruning shears and jazz. By April 10th our house in Arizona will be ready for the retail market and I will have finally caught a friend’s jazz group in person. (he was just invited on a European tour so he must be good)

While we’re roughing it in an empty house, I plan on finishing the outline for book two in the June Nash Series.

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A lost pup we reunited with her family. 1/2 timber wolf, 1/2 husky. 100 love muffin.

You might remember our little contest from 2 weeks ago, that we extend one more week – Would I finish writing my book before Offspring #2 finished studying to take some certification test that has something to do with computers. By the end of the night last Friday, The Offspring and I weren’t sure who was winning. (I’d been a bit sidelined by a minor bug) So, while I hadn’t finish my book by deadline, it appeared that I was further along than The Offspring. I declared myself the winner and did the dance of victory complete with the song of joy until the dog ran and hid in the master bathroom shower.

A quick update:

How to Sex Your Snake – chs 1-20 are done. All that’s left is a wrap up and set up to book two. I ending up cutting two chs in front of the current ch 20. Too dull. The book should now come in at 23 chs. No idea on page count yet. I’ll update that once the editor has had her fun and the formatting is done.

I was hoping I could leave the computer at home this trip, but looks like I’ll have to drag it along. I’ll be finishing the ending on the road.

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Ohana. We shall be together again soon.

We still haven’t decided what to wear for the Star Wars Dark half Marathon mid April. I might wear my boring running skirt. I do plan on packing an extra phone battery in my running pouch. I have a feeling there will be great picture opportunities in the crowd.

Got to go buy snacks. I’ll post more from the road. Write On,

Melissa

p.s. while we were sick-ish couch potatoes, I hit Netflix hard. I’m done with all the good episodes of Fraser, burned through the new season of House of Cards the first week it was out, and started DareDevil. I realized that when I’m done with that one, I’ll be fresh out of stuff to watch. Any suggestions?

And the winner is…

20160317_215329So, my youngest offspring and I are both trying to finish things. He’s working through some videos prepping for an IT certification test and I’m trying to get my latest project, the novel, How to Sex Your Snake finished and off to my editor. We decide to engage in a little friendly competition to see who would finish first. The deadline was today. (at midnight) And the winner is…”

Nobody. Yet. We had something unexpected take us out of town yesterday so we pushed the deadline to tomorrow. I’m not sure where he stands at the moment, he’s being secretive. Me? Well, let’s take a look:

How to Sex Your Snake has 25 chapters. (I’m one of those anal outliners)

Chs 1-18 are locked.

19 is probably done. I need to read it one more time but I’m saving that for later.

Ch 20 is done.

Ch 21 needs one line to smooth out a transition.

ch 22 needs a new ending. I made changes in the story (and rewrote my outline for the ending) and now a new last paragraph is in order.

ch 23-25 need complete rewrites. Everything I had is gone now, thanks to the new ending. Well, ch 25 has the same ending but the chapter has always been in an outline form. I expect each to come in at about 1500-2000 words. (for a total of 15-20 new pages)

As you can see in the photo above, I drank wine so I’m done for the night. Even a small glass just kills me. I have a practice 10k in the morning (and a race on Sunday) then it’s back to the computer until I finish or give up trying. I’ll drop a quick note tomorrow.

Until then, have a nice night and Write On,

Melissa

ps.

Did you lift a pint for St. Paddy’s day? I completely forgot about it.