Three Years Ago Today

Al-Can Highway, October 2010, Photo Courtesy of L.O'Kane
Three years ago today. A car accident on a remote stretch of Northern British Columbia's Alaska-Canada Highway. Four lives that were inexplicably spared.

It is staggering to realize all the things that have changed since this moment. 


OCTOBER 23, 2010

The hard left swerve of the first fishtail.

The paralyzed feeling of helplessness as I bolt awake to see our truck sliding into the lane of oncoming traffic.

Ice. Obsidian patches of water. Ribbons of snow swirling across the spruce-lined highway like dim grey snakes or threads of tape ripped from the underbelly of a cassette.

Beautiful. Looks like dancing.

Michael. My Michael, my dirty, adventurous mountain man. The love of my life.

Tensed at the wheel, blue eyes wide in panic.

He attempts to correct us, flinging the wheel hard to the left, then hard to the right. His knuckles are clenched--white as paper--and stretched too thin around our sun-faded steering wheel.

A ship’s captain in the throes of a thunderstorm.

Relax. Don’t panic. This has happened once before. Everything will be fine.

Fleeting thoughts of a harmless skid back home in Anchorage, that afternoon we drove from the Hillside two winters ago. Watching with a mixture of dread and fascination as our Toyota Tacoma did a ballerina’s pirouette and came to rest at the corner of Lake Otis Parkway and Northern Lights Boulevard. Didn’t leave a scratch.

Flawlessly executed. A judge’s Perfect Ten.

This time will be just like that.

Some sort of talking. Michael’s frustration and fear, my words of encouragement. Trying not to panic.

Don’t freak out. It will just make him freak out more.

A decision.

Angling toward the ditch. Wide and soft-looking, with blades of prairie grass folded to the ground by the winter’s first snowfall.

Launching off the asphalt, realizing the road is a few feet higher than the shoulder. Watching the ground rise to meet us and clutching the “oh-shit” bar without even realizing it. Socked feet—the same pair I’ve been wearing since we crossed into British Columbia two days ago—braced against the floor’s rubber mats.

This. Is. Happening.

Just noise now. Shattering glass, the screeching of metal upon metal. Plastic and steel and tires tearing into the earth, ripping through the ground like a heaving, angry claw.

The smell of dirt, the chill of ice. Lights and darks, and the realization that we’re flipping now. Over and over and over. Tiny and insignificant, like lottery balls in a wheel.

My head is suddenly hanging out the window. Resting sideways on the door frame like that time I drank too much Bushmill's the night we got engaged.

But this time I’m mad.

Furious. Mind-bendingly, unflinchingly, unfiltered in my rage.

STOP!

STOP FLIPPING!!

THIS ISN’T FAIR… YOU CAN’T DO THIS… LET ME GET MY HEAD INSIDE THE WINDOW FIRST…

GODDAMNIT, LET ME GET MY HEAD INSIDE THE WINDOW!!!

There’s dirt everywhere. In my mouth, in my eyes. It tastes raw and silty, dark and fertile. It’s good soil.

In the midst of the chaos, I feel something hard against my chest—Michael’s arm?—and I hear a voice yelling. Screaming, actually, and I understand with a start that it’s my voice I’m hearing.

Weird.

Didn’t even realize I was speaking.

One. Two. Three. I lose count of the truck flips after four, realizing with detached amusement that my obsessive-compulsive tendencies aren’t even filtered by car wrecks.

And then suddenly, there’s silence.

Distant, detached, uncompromising silence.

Mother Nature doesn’t really give a shit about you.

We’ve stopped. The truck is right-side-up, and our twisted front bumper is angled downward into a drainage ditch. We’re teeter-tottering in mid-air like kids on a seesaw.

Thank God for this drainage ditch.

I pause for only an instant and then swirl sideways to take stock of the truck’s passengers.

There’s Michael. Eyes wide. High cheekbones drained of color and face skewed with shock. He’s okay.

Check.

Looking backward into the truck’s extended cab, I lock eyes with Bridger. Our floppy-eared, vulnerable pound dog Bridger. Black bandit’s mask and that beautiful tan face. His eyes are wide, but he’s sitting up, and those lanky sled dog legs are fully intact. He’s okay.

Check.

“Where’s Naia?”

The question tumbles from my mouth as I lock eyes with Michael again. It’s the first words I’ve spoken.

Naia. Our radiant, vivacious, black German Shepherd mix. Our heart and our soul, and the glue that keeps us all sane and balanced. The most fearless member of our blossoming young family.

She’s gone.

Michael and I move quickly, nodding in silent understanding as we turn from each other. Our hands and arms move on autopilot, unbuckling seatbelts and flinging open car doors we later won’t remember opening.

I’m outside before I know it, leaping with socked feet into the waiting drainage ditch. Bands of ice shatter beneath my toes, and I shudder as my legs sink into a freezing, muddy creek. Sulfur, vaporous and rotten, surges into my nostrils.

Shit. Now my feet are all wet.

I feel like I’ve stood in the creek for days but realize it has probably only been an instant. Clambering up the embankment on my hands and knees, I scuff my palms and tear the knees of my favorite pair of jeans. Those way-too-expensive Seven for All Mankind jeans I bought last year at Nordstrom because Michael said they made my butt look cute.

Up the hill, our belongings—suitcases, clothes, gasoline cans and blankets—are scattered through the prairie grass like leaves in the wind.

And then there’s Naia.

Tossed amongst the luggage like a crumpled rag doll, she’s awake, and her golden eyes are trained on us. Her silly, oversized bat ears stand erect like satellite dishes.

Michael has almost reached her—with Bridger bounding like a terrified jackrabbit behind him—so I make a beeline for the highway, waving my arms as a minivan pulls to a stop on the road’s shoulder. My vision seems to be flickering as an older truck slides in behind the minivan, and then Naia is suddenly howling.

She’s running with her tail down—short, compact and panicked, her legs beautiful in their musculature.  Her stance is the same one we saw two days ago at that rest area in the Yukon Territory, the one where she chased pebbles and bounded through the black spruce forest with the speed and grace of a panther.  Clipped and measured in her movements.

Like a police dog. Like a big girl.

She isn’t even three yet.

She’s bolting into incoming traffic now, and I’m yelling something about not panicking, but Michael already has her, and he’s leading her back across the asphalt. He’s holding her by that beautiful, “girly, but not too girly” collar he picked out last year for her birthday.

His injured hands are spilling blood all over it.

There’s a family—a wholesome Canadian family—and now they’re rushing us inside the minivan. Two wide-eyed daughters stare from the backseat as the mother spreads a bedspread over the middle seat for us.

It’s cute. Pink and cartoonish. Fluffy and decorated with maybe the Powerpuff girls, but I hear myself saying, “I can’t… I don’t want to get blood on your blanket…”

I’m inside now, and Bridger is cowered on my lap. Naia is crumpled in knots on the floor, and Michael is staggering back from the truck. He’s clutching my wallet and the new Canon camera I bought last year so I could “take a picture every single day of 2009.” The base is swinging crazily from its straps, winding in figure-eights like the loose seat of a swing set. The lens cap is missing.

What a funny thing to save.

The van door closes, and now we’re pulling away from the accident, swirling back toward Fort Nelson, where we stayed at that chain hotel and ate Dominos pizza last night. Looked at our map of Canada and studied that battered copy of our Milepost magazine. Tried to figure out our itinerary for this crazy move from Alaska to Colorado.

I watch our truck fade in the distance, its nose face-down in the drainage ditch and its back wheels suspended in mid-air like a child’s Tonka truck. Our camper shell has been ripped off, and our things—all our things, each one lovingly packed in preparation for this trip—are scattered in tangles like the wake of a tornado.

That’s our LIFE out there.

I catch a stray word and repeat it—“Totaled?”—feeling the wheels inside my head laboring to process the notion.

But that’s not possible. That’s our truck. We’re driving to Colorado in that truck.

Michael’s hands are on mine, and I realize I’m covered in blood, too. Dark blood, thick and viscous, spills from wounds on my hands and face.

“You’re bleeding. I’m… so… sorry.” He pauses on each word for emphasis, running his hands up and down my sides to check for injuries. “I’m so, so sorry. Are you okay?”

I don’t know. Am I?

Dragging my fingers through my hair, I pull free tiny bits of glass—beautiful, raw diamonds that shine like stars. My right hand is beginning to swell, and my left jaw is aching, but I think I’m remarkably healthy.

“I’m fine. How about you?”

I touch his arms, his face, that sandy beard he insisted on growing special for the trip. His beanie is smudged with streaks of dirt and blood, but I can still see those two campfire ash stripes he accidentally wiped across its brim during our weekend trip to Seward last spring.

“I’m fine.”

Turning to Bridger, I repeat my inspection, cradling his bony shoulders against my chest and feeling my heart break as I watch his back legs tremble.

Naia is crying, howling out in pain whenever she twists herself on the floor of the minivan. We can’t find any wounds—not even the one I thought I saw on her hamstrings just before she ran into oncoming traffic.

Internal injuries.

The thought strikes me with the weight of a wrecking ball, and I do my best to convince myself I’m mistaken. “She’s probably just sore,” I say, patting Michael’s knee after I palpate her spine and the bones of her back legs. “Everything seems to be intact, and she’s letting me touch her everywhere. That’s a good sign.”

But what the hell do I know? I’m not a vet tech.

As we drive, we thank the Canadian couple more times than is reasonably necessary, asking them their names over and over only to feel their answers drifting away moments after they form.

Duane is the dad; I try my hardest and finally commit him to memory, feeling my mind battling the word like an out-of-control kite in the midst of a hurricane. Duane. Duane is beefy and good-natured, with a gap between his front teeth and meaty, flushed sausage fingers. Duane. Remember the name Duane.

Duane and Duane’s wife—who I will later only remember as an ash-blonde blur—were on their way to Fort St. John this morning. They’ve been living in Fort Nelson for the past five years, and Fort St. John is the next town over; it’s a three and a half to four hour drive, and one of Duane’s daughters will be getting her braces tightened there Monday.

“We’ve been driving behind you the whole way south from Fort Nelson, about 40 kilometers,” Duane says. Same speed. Following at a safe distance. These straight roads will get you, he says. Your tires get away from you on that ice, and there’s nothing you can do about it.

“Forty kilometers is a long way to backtrack,” Michael says.

“I feel terrible we’ve ruined your day,” I say, watching the windows fog up from the heater and wondering why Duane hasn’t fixed that hairline crack spreading like a spider web across his front windshield.

“You’re all alive,” Duane’s wife says—or was that Duane? “If you weren’t, that would have ruined our day.”

“It would have ruined ours, too,” I say, and I smile because I’m being clever.

Get it? Because we would have been dead.

####

“I’m sorry ma’am, you can’t bring your mutts in here,” the nurse says when we arrive at the Fort Nelson hospital, staggering out of Duane’s minivan as his wife calls the police and says help is on the way.

“We don’t have anywhere else to go,” I answer, clutching Bridger’s collar and tracking wet, socked footprints across the linoleum. Michael sways in behind me, holding Naia to his chest with wide eyes and bloodied hands.

I bet we look like those people you always hear about. The crazies.

A room suddenly opens for us in an unused portion of the hospital, and we spend the better part of the morning sitting on the floor in stunned silence, giving a police report to an officer named Katie and force-feeding Naia and Bridger dry crackers and lukewarm water.

It will cost $500 per person to be seen by a doctor, so we forego medical exams for now. And Fort Nelson doesn’t have a veterinarian—what the fuck kind of town doesn’t have a veterinarian?—so Michael and I skip deliberation and make the only decision we feel is reasonable.

Give us a rental car, because we need to get Naia to a Fort St. John vet hospital right now.

####

Fast-forward four hours, and Michael and I are in the middle of nowhere on that same God-forsaken two-lane highway in the middle of a snowstorm. I am sitting in the back seat of our rental Kia Sorrento, and Naia is crumpled in a little black heap at my side. She shifts to get comfortable amongst the avalanche of belongings we’ve stacked to the ceiling around her, and this tiny movement sends a stab of pain coursing through her already weak body.

“How’s she doing?” Michael asks from the driver’s seat.

I don’t know how he’s doing this; driving through this snowstorm in the middle of this fog, dodging stray elk and flicking on and off his high-beams during those heart-stopping moments when visibility drops below twenty feet.

It’s pitch-black out here. Black as an abyss, a wormhole stretching across the frozen void of space. The steady stream of snow tapping our windshield reminds me of that Windows screen saver that makes you feel like you’re flying through the solar system.

Only now I’m afraid we’re going to spin into another accident, and this time, I don’t know if I’ll be able to keep myself together afterward.

It’s a statistical improbability, a mathematical unlikelihood. I probably have a better chance of being attacked by a shark and then being trampled by an elephant. But there’s always that one little anomaly, that one weird guy in Texas who’s been struck by lightning more than 60 times.

Some times these things just happen.

Why not twice in one day?

Naia’s golden eyes are rolling in her skull, and her breathing is raspy. I’m trying to get her to drink water, and I’m doing every trick I can think of to distract her from her panting.

“Got your tongue. Hahaha, look at me, I’m gonna get your tongue if you don’t put it back in your mouth… I’m gonna get your eye googies next." I know she has this gross little habit of always wanting to eat them after I’ve wiped her eyes clean. "Don’t you want to pause for a second to eat your eye googies?”

I watch Naia struggle, and I suddenly feel my chest closing. Those golden eyes are so beautiful, and her ridiculous bat ears are perfect.

She’s going to die. Naia is going to die right here sitting on my lap, and there’s nothing I can do to help her.

A swell of anger spills itself into tears, and I clench my eyes shut, fighting the pain and clutching Naia so tightly that I imagine my arms have the power keep her together.

The power to keep her here.

This isn’t fair. This isn’t the way things are supposed to happen.

We’re supposed to move into a new house together. We’re supposed to have babies, and Naia is supposed to be their nanny. She’s supposed to snuffle their ears and sleep beside them every night.

We can’t say goodbye to her yet. We can’t leave her here in this god-forsaken place, broken and extinguished like a snuffed candle. She isn’t even three yet.

This isn’t how this is supposed to happen.

Oil refineries tantalize us for hours, gleaming red and warm in the distance. They camouflage themselves as the town of Fort St. John only to mock us when we approach. Their wicked flame smoke stacks glow like beacons, and we feel like we’re traveling through time as we steer past them into the abyss.

####

We have been on the road for more than five and a half hours by the time we finally reach North Peace Veterinary Clinic--a square metal box illuminated by street lights and outfitted with a squeeze cage in the front for handling large livestock procedures.

My socks are gone now, so I carry Naia barefoot through the snow as Dr. North waves and pulls her glass door open for us. She’s small and athletic, coffee-haired and tan-faced, with kind eyes and rock climber hands, and she can’t believe we’ve come to her vet hospital before seeing a doctor ourselves.

Her office is warm, and the air smells like antiseptic and metal as Michael and I struggle to place Naia on an exam table. She cries out in pain, and her insides heave. A trickle of blood begins dripping in dark rivulets down the base of her tail.

I take one look and suddenly think I’m going to vomit.

Her insides. Her insides have turned into mush, and there’s nothing I can do to help her.

A wave of heat rips through me, and I collapse in an exam chair, tearing off my favorite chocolate vest and that pink American Eagle hoodie I put on this morning because I knew Michael would think I looked pretty.

It’s ripped. I ripped the sleeve of my pretty pink hoodie, and Naia’s going to die here.

The flecked tile floor feels cold against my back as I slump to the ground, and Dr. North brings me a water-filled mug. It’s old and white, stained with coffee and chipped at the handle, but the water tastes good, so I share with Naia.

“It’s good if she wants to drink, right?”

“Maybe, but we don’t want her to drink too much in case we need to sedate her.” Dr. North attempts a smile, explains that she’s going to take her now and do x-rays. We should make ourselves comfortable in her waiting room.

####

Bridger and I pass the time by walking laps through the fluorescent-lit reception area while Michael sits slumped in a corner, eyes watery and hands shaking, dried blood caked around his knuckles.

I decide to make up a new game.

1…. 2… 3… 4…

20… 21… Twenty-two steps to make it from one end of the room to the other. Gotta beat that pace next time.

1… 2… 3… 4…

Six steps to get all the way around the corner.

1… 2… 3… 4…

18… 19… Only twenty steps to get all the way back. Let’s try it again a little faster.

Eukanuba, Science Diet... Dry treats, chewy treats, cute little cans of cat food…

Bridger loves keeping pace with me. This whole thing is his idea, actually. He’s named Bridger Pacey Boop Chickos thanks to his propensity for walking laps around our bedroom at 4:00am, his black and clear toenails click-click-clicking against the lacquered wooden floors when he needs to go to the bathroom.

“He’s a morning person,” we would laugh, grumbling as we unfurled ourselves from our nest of blankets. “The rest of us are night owls, but Bridger Pacey Boop Chickos is a morning person.”

Dr. North returns to the reception area, peering at us with a tentative smile. Her words are blurs, and the x-rays she presents only serve to accentuate how beautiful Naia is, even when she’s just bones on a screen.

“See that?” Dr. North asks. “That’s her bladder. I was afraid it may have ruptured when she started bleeding earlier, but it turns out her kidneys are just badly bruised.” She points to the bones, the wispy, smoke-colored bones all lined up like Lego blocks on the flimsy plastic sheet, and she smiles again. She explains that everything looks great, and that Naia probably only has a hairline fracture on her pelvis.

“A hairline fracture,” she repeats, “so she’ll probably be a good candidate for arthritis when she gets older.”

I’m stuck on the word, and a surge of tears suddenly pours down my cheeks as I lean into Michael for support. Dried brown blood coats my fingernails, and I pat Bridger on the head as I repeat it: “Arthritis? Naia is going to get arthritis? Michael, did you hear that? Naia is going to get arthritis because Naia is going to get old. Michael, Naia is going to get old.”

Air whooshes from my lungs, and a swell of pure joy fills my ribcage, warm, golden and inviting as a sunrise.

Memories spring to life and dance like a film roll before me—wrestling matches, hikes in the sunshine, fire lit nights—and then suddenly I’m seeing pictures of things to come. Dancing in the kitchen, Christmas trees, blanket-wrapped babies and a little black, bat-eared nanny. Dog bones, snowflakes, soccer games in the park… Bridger, Naia, Michael and me fighting for space on our always-too-small queen-sized bed.

The four of us. Our blossoming, young, four-member family.

We all get a second chance.

The Real Answer: Here's What Happens Next

Photo Courtesy of latteda
Thanks so much to everyone who took the time to comment on my last post, "The Real Question: What Happens Next??" On the heels of my book deal announcement, I have been inundated with so many emotions--shock, elation, excitement, crippling fear, anxiety, etc. It was great to hear so many kind words from those of you who actually know what you are doing!

In the spirit of paying it forward, I figured I would share some excerpts and nuggets of wisdom to anyone else who may be struggling with the idea of life after a sale. My original question was:

"What is the biggest piece of advice you wish someone had told you when your manuscript first found a home?"

Here are your answers!
  1. "The biggest piece of advice I'd give is to savor each milestone as it comes - there's only one first sale, one first call with your editor, one first edit letter, and so on." -Mike (Turbo)
  2. "I'm with Mike about savoring every milestone. That is so important! I would tell myself that not a lot will change after the ink has dried: I still have my insecurities, crutch words, and a cat and a dog who couldn't care less that I have a book coming out. Through all of this, it's important to know that having a book deal won't solve everything, you know? :)" -Kathryn Rose
  3. "I remember when my first NF article was accepted and the thrill of receiving my first cheque. (I made a copy of it and pasted it into my scrapbook!) I think it's good to note what Kathryn has said... that your everyday will still be what it is. So it becomes important to claim the time you'll need to meet new commitments and deadlines. i.e., sit down with your family and explain/discuss plans for a scheduled writing time. Be flexible, but determined to fit it in every day." -Carol Garvin
  4. "The one piece of advice I wish I'd had was to keep working on new stuff while you wait for your editorial letter... For most people it takes months for that letter to come (no matter what your editor tells you!), and I wish I'd known to go ahead and just commit to my WIP, instead of thinking "Oh, I'm going to have to put it down any day to start edits, so I may as well not really dive in." On a more positive note, "celebrate everything good" is a great piece of advice. Do something fun to mark each milestone and help cement it in your memory. =)" -Tara Dairman
  5. "It's really easy to get caught up in the busyness of this exciting time, so make sure you take time to pause and savor each little bit as it unfolds. And then, when you're done enjoying, market the heck out yourself. :)" -Bethany Crandell
  6. "The "enjoy the moment" advice is excellent. I'd even recommend making a "feel good" folder... Put in it any gushing emails you get from agent & editor, plus your first terrific reviews, any reader emails, etc. Then whenever you hit a low on the publishing rollercoaster (and we all have low times!), go read those emails. Similarly, I'd say: if you don't already have some bulletproof healthy methods to handle stress (whether that's exercise, yoga, chilling out to music, whatever) - find it now. You will need it, especially later on when you've got to face the infamous second novel. (If your 1st does well, you'll worry that you can't repeat the success. If your 1st doesn't sell well, that's a whole other realm of stress. Either way, it can be startlingly hard to focus your mind where it needs to be: on your work-in-progress.) On the practical side, if your deadline for your 2nd novel allows it, I highly recommend setting aside 3 months around your book's release (the month prior, the month of, and the month after) in which you don't expect to get any new fiction writing done. That way you can guest blog and tweet and promote and obsess over your Amazon ranking to your heart's content, without any stress/guilt about not making progress on your next book. Once those 3 months are up, then it's nose to the grindstone...but until then, go a little crazy if you can. Your first book only comes out once. :)" -Courtney Schafer
  7. "I've always thought that I'd do a pre-order bloghop contest or something about 3 months before the book comes out, and then one of course the couple weeks surrounding the release date. I've toyed with writing an e-book novelette with the same characters that are in the book to give away for free as a carrot for the pre-sales... Ah, so many fun ideas :)" -Alexia Chamberlynn
Thanks again to everyone for your words of wisdom, and I hope your advice helps other writers, too. We are so fortunate to be surrounded by so much help and encouragement!

Guess Who Has a Book Deal?????

My brand-new publishing contract!!!
Nearly two and a half years ago, I crossed paths with Hannah Bowman for the very first time. She wasn't agenting at Liza Dawson Associates yet, and I wasn't writing (well) yet, but our cyber-meeting set in motion of chain of events that has completely altered my life.

We were like ships at the night at first--always one step ahead or behind the other--but our timing finally meshed in June of 2012. She read (and wanted!) my YA near-future thriller ESSENCE, and I couldn't sign that literary contract fast enough. 

Since then, Hannah has been steadfast in her dedication to my writing career. She has challenged and inspired and pushed me to become a better writer, and she has also approached finding a home for ESSENCE with the tenacity and determination of a tidal wave.

She was relentless in her quest to find the perfect fit, and I am the humbled recipient of all her hard work:

Photo Courtesy of Angry Robot Books
ESSENCE has just been acquired by the amazing Amanda Rutter of Strange Chemistry Books in a TWO-BOOK DEAL that will see a summer '14 debut and a summer '15 sequel! (!!!!!!!)

Wow. Just wow. I am literally at a loss for words right now. 

I have so much respect for Amanda and Strange Chemistry, and I'm stunned to even be given shelf space beside her other authors. Check out Strange Chemistry's mission:

From the people behind the award-winning SF & fantasy imprint, Angry Robot, we are a fresh, modern imprint bringing quality Young Adult fiction to the marketplace.

So what makes us different? It’s all in the name – Strange Chemistry. Books that feel timeless, bringing you a mix of old and new. Traditional with a twist. Identifiable stories and genres that have been blended together to create something utterly special. Books for readers who are jaded of the same-old, same-old, and ready for something that will challenge them to enter new worlds.

Um, wow. Have I mentioned I'm speechless?

The next two years of my writing life suddenly have a lot more structure, and I am still so stunned by this development that I don't even think I have wrapped my head around this. The publishing business has done such a great job of teaching me to stay "cautiously optimistic" and "not get my hopes up" that I honestly think my, "You can start freaking out now!" button must be broken.

So... What now? I think I will wander off in a daze and wait for this to (finally) sink in, and I would also like to take a moment to say THANK YOU to every single person who has been with me on this journey. I absolutely couldn't have done this without the love, support and dedication of my friends, family, and of course, the amazing group of fellow writers I have hooked up with over the past few years.

I often say I would have NEVER sat down to write a book had I known how hard this was going to be--but I'm so glad I DIDN'T know, because now I'm invested in the process. And now--finally!--I have reached that pesky light at the end of the tunnel.

(I still can't believe I get to say that!!)

Awards, Awards, Awards!

Happy Monday, everyone! I recently received two beautiful blog awards that I'd like to pass along to hopefully brighten your week.


The first is the Beautiful Blogger Award, gifted to me by the always clever and creative Jenny Phresh, whose blog is a true work of art. I'm serious. This is her profile pic:

Photo Courtesy of The Party Pony
How can this woman NOT be a creative genius??

When I received this award, I knew EXACTLY who I would gift it to right away: Lori Parker of GirlParker.com, who just gave her blog a beautiful facelift. It was lovely before, but the beautifulness has truly stepped up a notch. Well done, Lori! (And the most amazing news is that there are no rules associated with this award, so enjoy at your leisure!)


My next award is the Versatile Blogger Award, given to me by Yelena Casale, a new blogging friend who is an urban fantasy writer with an amazingly practical and helpful blog, filled with tons of great information for aspiring writers.

The rules for this award are a little more intense:

1. In a post on your blog, nominate 15 fellow bloggers for the Versatile Blogger Award.
2. In the same post, add the Versatile Blogger Award.
3. In the same post, thank the blogger who nominated you in a post with a link back to their blog.
4. In the same post, share 7 completely random pieces of information about yourself.
5. In the same post, include this set of rules.
6. Inform each nominated blogger of their nomination by posting a comment on each of their blogs.

Would you guys be opposed if I adapted this award slightly and just passed it on to five of you? I hope not, because here's my list:

1. Rebekah Crane, who has the dual job of writing an amazing paranormal novel and also talking me down from ledges whenever I'm afraid I've stolen an idea from an already-exisiting novel, even if I've never read it before. Versatile indeed, my friend!
2. Beth Christopher, who I will love until the day I die. Her blog, "On the Trail," follows her life as an active, nature-loving Coloradan, and she writes some of the most poetic blog entries I've ever read. (Also, I've been fortunate enough to read the first few chapters of her current WIP. Quite simply put, it's badass.)
3. Peggy Eddleman, who has one of the greatest "brands" I've ever seen on her blog. Its title, "Peggy Eddleman: Will Write for Cookies" pretty much sums everything up. Also, her first novel, THROUGH THE BOMB'S BREATH, will be published by Random House in September 2013!
4. Jaye Robin Brown, an animal lover and writer of the type of fiction I go crazy to read. She also hosts this great "Memories of a High School You" series... Definitely worth checking out when you're in the mood for a trip down Memory Lane!
5. Lora Rivera, who I respect and admire so much. A contest win brought us together, and I'm so, so, so happy to know her. Lora is a a writer of literary adult and children's fiction, a freelance book editor, and a Life Book writer for Aviva Children's Services. She's also just a wonderful person.

So there you have it! I was fortunate enough to receive this award twice before (must be the whole, "Are you a zookeeper or are you a writer" thing ;)), so here's a link to my first seven random facts: An Embarrassment of Riches, and here's a link to my second seven random facts, which are about the main character in my novel BELOW THE SURFACE (formerly titled THE MERMAID GENE):Versatile Blogger Award and Seven Facts About Kai Murphy.

This time around, I think I will give you--in no particular order--my seven favorite books of all time:

Photo Courtesy of GoodReads

Photo Courtesy of GoodReads

Photo Courtesy of GoodReads

Photo Courtesy of GoodReads

Photo Courtesy of GoodReads

Photo Courtesy of GoodReads

Photo Courtesy of GoodReads
Oh my gosh, is it just me, or is it nearly IMPOSSIBLE to lower down your favorites to seven?? I'm already second-guessing myself, but I think this is a good cross-section.

Have a wonderful week!

What Would YOU Ask a Zookeeper? (+ Shout-Out to Lydia Kang!)

Have you guys discovered Lydia Kang's blog yet? She's a brand-new member of the Lucky 13's Blog of 2013 debut authors, and her YA sci-fi, THE FOUNTAIN, debuts in Spring 2013 from Dial Books for Young Readers.

In addition to being a writer, Lydia is also a doctor, and she generously shares her medical knowledge every Monday during an ongoing series she calls Medical Mondays. During this series, she takes reader questions about medical-related issues, and this is a GREAT resource for aspiring writers. Here are some examples of past questions:
  1. "Can you explain how a person might go blind after a severe trauma, rather than by disease?"
  2. "What kinds of effects can prescription drugs of abuse can a person have, and what are the withdrawal symptoms if they go off the drugs?"
  3. "What's the turnaround time for tests to prove illegal steroids were being used?"
Do you have a medical-related question in your work in progress? Take advantage of Lydia's expertise by emailing her at: MedicalMondays (at) gmail (dot) com!

I've been enjoying Lydia's "Medical Monday" posts so much lately that I feel inspired to try my hand at my own series. After thinking about it for a little while, I think I may have come up with something.

As many of you know, I'm a zookeeper and animal trainer by background, so I definitely have my share of random animal knowledge.  And occasionally, one of my writerly friends will have an animal-related question about the novel he or she is writing. (i.e., "What does dolphin skin feel like?" ... "If my protagonist killed an adult brown bear, could he carry the pelt by himself, or would it be too heavy?" etc.)

In the spirit of knowledge sharing, I'd love to start a new series on my blog called "Ask a Zookeeper," where I take any of those random questions you have about the animals in your stories. (I've worked with primarily North American animals and some Asian animals, but I know lots of others who can help with additional animals.) And look, I've even designed a pretty badge, using a pic I took of Lyutik the polar bear at the Alaska Zoo:


Do you have a question?  Shoot me an email at lisa.chickos (at) hotmail (dot) com or leave a comment, and please feel free to spread my post to others you think may be interested in participating. I look forward to reading your questions!