A Pet Name

Finally get round to this part…

I’m a dog nut. I feel about dogs the way some people feel about babies. If there’s one in the room I have to pet it, play with it and want one of my own. Unfortunately, it’s not possible at the moment. The place we live doesn’t allow pets.

But I dream. I go to pet stores and dream of the day when I can buy chew toys and big squishy pillows and vacuum the house once a day because black dog hairs get everywhere.

A black lab.

That’s my breed and always has been. I can flirt with idea of getting another breed. I love Great Danes and I’m nuts about my friend’s gorgeous white Alsatian, but I’m just a black lab girl at heart.

My son and I have been discussing names for a while now. He wanted Maxime (named after Robespierre), like the one we had when he was born. I didn’t think we should name the new dog after our old one. I suggested Thorin – he vetoed. I suggested Lucky Luciano – he liked it but it was the dog name I had picked out when I was twelve. At thirty-eight it didn’t feel right.

Then we went to see Rogue One and it hit me.

Vader!

That is going to be our dog.

We’re going to name him Darth Vader, but we’ll call him Vader on a daily basis.

If an intruder ever sneaks his way into the house and the dog grabs him, I’ll get to say, ‘Vader, release him,’ when the cops come.

That’ll scare him straight!

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A Pie and a Pet Name

Pie time…

I started baking when I was fifteen. My great-grandmother and grandmother were big bakers but my mother has never enjoyed it. Actually she says that she ate so many home-baked treats when she was kid that now she prefers the store-bought kind.

But I love baking. The stirring, the grating, the cracking of eggs. Days spent in the kitchen are wonderful days. There’s a reason my main character in Chocolates in the Ocean wanted to renovate that room first.

When I started baking my father’s job took him away a lot. Each time he came back from a long trip I would bake him something special.

Lemon meringue pie is his favourite.

The last time I made it was for his birthday four years ago. I followed the recipe to the letter and the less said the better. Haha that rhymes.

Now I know to use the zest of just one lemon and the juice of only two. If you try the recipe, please do the same. Unless you like dessert that taste like toilet cleaner.

Sometimes the best way to show someone we care, is to do something special for them. Making them their favourite dessert is a good place to start.

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A Princess, a Pie, a Pet Name

 

2016 came for Princess Leia.

Yesterday, I sat in the cinema with my son and watched Rogue One. (Go see it now. Preferably at a cinema that has been smart enough to realise that Star Wars fans will want to see IV immediately afterwards.) The last scene – that day – was heart-breaking. Don’t worry, no spoilers.

Now I get it. Now I feel like a part of me has been lost, too. The memories of something I cherished, something that has been with me all my life … a part of that is gone.

Star Wars (meaning IV: A New Hope – when I was a kid we just called it Star Wars) is the first film I ever remember seeing. I remember trying to wear a towel like a cape and pretending I was Princess Leia. I remember playing outside with the boys and Star Wars being the only game where they didn’t think it was weird that a girl had a gun, and didn’t relegate me to the tree house/bench/safe spot.

When my mother and I joined my father in Jeddha (again, go see Rogue One) in 1985, we only had 3 films in the apartment. A free one from Sony where a creepy looking French guy jumped out of a girl’s television to explain why Betamax was the right choice, Thunderball and Return of the Jedi.

The only movie documentary I ever sat through was the one where they explained how they re-mastered the original Star Wars movies. (I don’t want to talk about I, II and III.) When my son came along, I couldn’t wait to share them with him. He had light sabres and a Darth Vader mask.

My ex-boyfriend told me about a time, just before we got together, when a bunch of us were having lunch together and I turned to one girl in horror and exclaimed, ‘How can you not like Star Wars?!’ He told his best friend about it that night and they both agreed I was the one for him.

The older Harrison Ford gets the more he looks like my grandfather. I lost him fifteen years ago and still can’t speak of him without crying. Seeing Han Solo on screen in The Force Awakens was like being close to my grandfather again.

So I do get it.

For the first time. I feel part of it.

I have lost something, too.

Now it’s getting late, so the pie and the pet name will have to wait.

I love these artist tributes. I hope Carrie Fisher would have loved them, too.

This one is my favourite, by Julija Néjé.

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Careless Whisper

Another celebrity lost.

It seems like this year all my friends are constantly mourning someone they never met but still had a connection to.

I have not joined in any Facebook shares or mourning threads. I have not responded to the heart-rending eulogies some of my friends have written for these people who touched their lives with their work and left them great memories.

I never had a single celebrity poster on my walls growing up. While my friends had posters from Cocktail and Dirty Dancing, I had pictures of Lucky Luciano. When they covered their walls with Marcus Schenkenberg, I had pictures of Robespierre and Saint-Just.

Yes, total geek.

Did I get teased for it? Did I feel different from the others?

Yes.

Did I ever consider that life would be easier if I would be more “normal”?

Yes.

Did it change who I was?

No.

I have loved songs, movies and books, but I have never felt a desire to become part of the lives of strangers.

But today I think of Careless Whisper. I think of the mixed tape my father recorded off the radio when he was in Doha in 1984. Where Careless Whisper features 3 times. Along with Total Eclipse of the Heart, Billie Jean and Flashdance. I think of the memories we had, listening to that tape together on countless drives in Saudi Arabia and in Denmark. I think of so many other great times we had together during those years.

I think of my family.

Of the times we have shared, the hopes we have for the future, all the love we have for each other.

I enjoy the memories that have been awoken, even as I feel sorry for those who today have lost a friend and a loved one.

Perhaps that it why my friends mourn so loudly. Because they remember things, too. Perhaps the things they remember are lost to them forever.

Sometimes the awakening of those memories is unbearable.

So we mourn all over again.

Or maybe I’m still the nerd who just doesn’t get it.

Book Buyers Remorse Part II

I have a new obsession. I need to know what’s going on at least once every hour, sometimes more. Feels like the early part of a relationship where you’re constantly checking your phone for any kind of communique from whoever you’ve fallen so hard for.

My obsession?

AMS.

No, I’m not dating an Angry Mad Scientist.

But remember I did tell myself something had to happen when I was out 400DKK for books I hadn’t really wanted. (And still haven’t read.)

I told them that day that I had given up on the whole “indie” thing and was focusing on trying to find an agent. But leaving that money on the table bugged me.

So I decided to give it one last go.

I already tried Twitter. I already tried Facebook. I already tried blogging about things that didn’t really interest  me. I already tried newsletters and got no subscribers.

The same successful indie author who recommended Facebook told me to stay away from advertising on Amazon because no good ever came of that. But then he waxed lyrical about Facebook and that didn’t work for me.

Amazon it was.

I created a Sponsored Product add and waited to see what happened.

Squat.

Just before I gave up, I decided to try a Product Display Ad although having to commit myself to $100 was quite a bitter bill to swallow.

Then I went to Paris.

While I was there I noticed an unusual charge on my credit card. AMS had taken $1.20. I had no idea who the hell AMS was. My initial thought was that I my details had been hacked by someone who was trying to steal a small amount to see if I reacted to it. While I was on hold trying to cancel my card, I got an email from Amazon. Just your average update email, nothing personal.

I decided I had better take a look at my campaign.

There it was.

People were reading my book.

Not buying it, but borrowing it.

The figures kept rising.

Then they dropped off, but then a few sales ticked in.

Yesterday I had my first day where nothing – nothing – happened, and it was like being dumped by my Angry Mad Scientist.

I keep checking, keep looking, keep hoping that it will start up again.

But people are reading my book.

I made an effort and I saw results.

Now I’m going to keep going.

I’ll just check AMS again.

 

To Face Unafraid …

It’s Christmas and that means Christmas songs. I was listening to an old favourite today.

Just think about these lyrics for a moment:

Later on we’ll conspire

As we dream by the fire

To face unafraid

The plans that we made

Walking in a winter wonderland…

It’s so easy to make plans when you’re happy, dreaming in a winter wonderland, not thinking about the real world that comes back when the snow melts.

Sometimes it’s the cruelest thing we can do.

Get swept away in the heat of the moment and take someone else with us.

Say that we’re ready for a new project/venture/relationship when in reality we’re not. We’re just caught up in the moment.

So we backtrack. We let down easy. If we have the courage. If we don’t, we just stop talking to the person or act so that atrociously they stop talking to us.

Or we worry about upsetting the apple cart; we’re not sure we can really do what we want, so we shake our heads and go back to doing no more than dreaming.

Want it when it’s grey and pouring down with rain, not just when it’s covered in beautiful snow and you’re lounging by the fire.

And when you know you really want it, take it.

Face the world unafraid this Christmas.

 

Book Buyers Remorse

Last month I popped over to the shopping centre behind the office for something in my lunch break. Can’t remember what it was.

There was a pop-up stand by Starbucks, one of those that appear one day and are gone the next.

As I walked past, the man on the stand came up to me and asked, ‘Do you read books?’

Looking at him with the contempt such a question deserved, I was torn between, ‘Of course I read books!’ or ‘What do you take me for?’

Long story short, he was promoting books for an author. The author was sitting behind a stack of his books. I walked away with 4 for 400DKK. A bargain actually, considering how expensive books are in Denmark.

By an author I’d never heard of. Another indie. I felt I should be supportive. Then it turned out he’d been doing it for years and was extremely successful.

I walked away with 4 books I still haven’t read and the feeling that I really should be better at saying no. I couldn’t really afford to spend 400DKK on something just for me, not with Christmas coming up.

I thought about taking them back, but he’d signed them for me and it would have seemed so rude. I thought about selling them, but I’d still lose money and who would pay the postage? He’d been so friendly, offering to be on hand with advice if I needed to talk about my own writing.

He said, ‘There are a few success stories out there. If you work with e-commerce, you should be able to make a go of it.’

I thought about that a lot. So instead of taking them back, I decided to take the books as a lesson. A lesson that I should get back to my book. Find out what I wanted to do with it. Whether that was to keep trying to find an agent, or find the indie style that worked for me. To at least make enough to break even on the 400DKK.

Because it doesn’t matter how many excuses I come up with, how much I tell myself I don’t have time, at the end of the day I still just want to write.

Sometimes it’s like struggling back to something I lost so many years ago.

But I think there’s something worth finding at the end of the road.

I just have to keep going.