Linda Seed's Blog

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Sneak peek: The Promise of Lightning

The Promise of Lightning, Book 2 in the Delaneys of Cambria series, is heading to Amazon and other book retailers in the next couple of weeks. I can't wait to bring it to you, so in the meantime, here's a look at the first chapter. I hope you enjoy Drew and Megan's story

Drew McCray hated weddings.
First, they didn’t mean anything. You could take vows in front of a church full of people, and your wife could still run out with all of your stuff, leaving you with nothing but a broken coffeemaker and your memories.
Second, you had to smile and make nice with a bunch of strangers—or people who were worse than strangers—and eat overcooked pasta while the band played the Chicken Dance.
You didn’t want to get him started on the Chicken Dance.
So he was already predisposed to be grumpy as hell six months before, when his sister had announced her engagement and asked him to be in the wedding party. He’d hidden the grumpiness for her sake, though. That is, until she called eight days before the ceremony and told him about Wedding Week.
“What’s Wedding Week?” he asked her. He was standing in his workshop with a half-built sloop set up on pallets in front of him, his cellphone to his ear, the smell of sawdust in the air.
“It’s going to be fun!” Julia assured him, her voice annoyingly perky, especially at this time of the morning. “We’re going to have the rehearsal and the rehearsal dinner, of course. And a party for the out-of-town guests. And the bachelor party. And kayaking! You love kayaking.”
He did love kayaking, but he wasn’t going to love doing it with Julia’s future in-laws, given his complicated and troubled past with the Delaneys.
That was a long story, and one he didn’t much like to think about. But the gist of it was, if he had a choice between spending an event-filled week with them or stabbing himself in the eye, he’d have to seriously think about how much he needed his binocular vision.
“Damn it, Julia. I can’t go to Cambria now. I’m busy. I’ll go for the wedding, like we’d planned.”
“You’re not busy,” she said.
“Well, that’s … how do you know if I’m busy?”
“Because when I talked to you yesterday, you said that you didn’t have much going on this week. You said the boat you’re working on isn’t a rush job, and you didn’t have any special plans, and you were just going to have a relaxing week.”
Had he said all that? Thinking back on it, he guessed he had. But when he’d said it, he hadn’t realized his sister was luring him into a trap—one that involved a bachelor party, kayaking, and probably even the damned Chicken Dance with a bunch of people who probably were hoping his kayak would sink to the bottom of the Pacific Ocean.
“Seriously? That’s what yesterday’s phone call was about? You were grilling me for information so you could spring Wedding Week on me?”
“Well …”
“I probably can’t even get a flight on such short notice.”
“I checked online, and there’s a flight from Victoria to San Luis Obispo tomorrow morning on Delta.” She sounded pleased with herself.
“Tomorrow morning,” he repeated. Then he was silent, brooding over the imminent loss of the quiet, uneventful week he’d had planned.
“Oh, come on, Drew. I know I should have told you earlier, but you’d have figured out a way to get out of it. And I need you there. You’re my brother, and I love you, and Dad isn’t here anymore, so …”
He closed his eyes and tipped back his head, letting out a sigh.
How was he supposed to say no, now that she’d played the Dead Father card?
“Will you do it?” she prompted him.
“Julia …”
What else could he do? She was his sister. His fathers were gone—both his biological father and the man who’d raised him—and his relationship with his mother was difficult at best. Julia was all he had left.
“Of course I’ll do it.”
“Oh! Thank you, Drew. Thank you! I’ll email you the flight information, and the itinerary for Wedding Week, and—”
“There’s an itinerary for Wedding Week?” He was already regretting having caved.
“It’s not a colonoscopy, Drew, it’s some parties and kayaking. It’s going to be fun!”
“Can I just have the damned colonoscopy instead? Because—”
“Drew. I’m happy. Let me be happy.”
And that settled it. Of course he wanted her to be happy. And of course he wouldn’t intentionally do anything to take that happiness away.
“Send me the information,” he said, then hung up the phone and slid it into the back pocket of his jeans.
He shot a glance at Eddie, the big tabby cat who’d adopted him a few weeks before. “I’m screwed, Eddie, aren’t I?”
Eddie just meowed.

Drew regretted that leaving early meant he’d have to put a hold on his current boat project—a custom sloop he was building for a local guy on Salt Spring Island.
When life got to be too difficult or too impossible to fathom—when family problems or the demands of an inheritance he didn’t know what to do with overwhelmed him—Drew built boats.
The boat-building had started as a hobby when he was a kid living in Montana with his parents and his sister. When Drew was about twelve, his father—or, at least, the man he’d then believed to be his father—had begun building a twelve-foot fishing boat from a kit in the family’s two-car garage.
After about a week of standing tentatively by while Andrew McCray began the painstaking process of laying out plans and patterns and cutting panels of wood out of teak, Drew asked if he could help.
What followed was a period of time Drew looked back on as one of the best in his life. He and Andrew worked side by side on the boat for months, when they weren’t occupied with work or school. Drew had learned about the tools, the materials, and, most importantly, the art of craftsmanship—the satisfaction of striving for excellence not because he’d be graded or judged on the end result, but for the sake of the thing itself.
And he’d learned about his dad, because they hadn’t just worked; they’d talked about things they somehow hadn’t been able to discuss with each other before. Andrew talked about his work as a repair technician for the telephone company, telling stories about his coworkers and his frustrations with his boss. Drew talked about school and his teachers and the girls he liked, and whether he should pursue football when he got to high school or let that slide so he could focus on his grades and still have time to be a kid and mess around with his friends.
When the boat was finished, there had been fishing trips on Ennis Lake. It embarrassed him now to think that sometimes he hadn’t wanted to go; at the time, he’d considered it childish and boring to have to spend time with his father when he could have been with his friends.
Now, he would have given ten years of his own life just to have his dad back long enough for one more day out on the lake beneath the puffy clouds, with the sounds of the birds and the insects in his ears.
He couldn’t have that, but he did have work that was a direct legacy from his father.
Drew had been building custom boats for a living since shortly after he’d graduated from high school. He’d started as an apprentice at a shop in Bozeman that made drift boats that could navigate the rivers of Montana.
While he was doing that, he was building a boat in his parents’ garage in his spare time. The first time he took the boat out onto the lake, another fisherman asked about it—and then offered to buy it.
He built another one and sold that, and another after that. Eventually, he realized he no longer needed to be anybody’s apprentice.
At the height of his business—before his ex-wife, Tessa, drove him into bankruptcy—he was renting workshop space five times the size of his parents’ garage, and he employed three people, including two builders and one sales guy.
The business was easy enough to move from Montana to Salt Spring Island, off the coast of Vancouver, when he’d needed a change of environment. Only now there were no regular employees, and there was no sales guy. There was only Drew, building boats small enough that he could manage alone or with part-time help that he brought in on an as-needed basis.
At first, working on such a small scale came from necessity. When Tessa had left him, she’d cleaned out the bank accounts and maxed out the credit cards. He couldn’t afford to pay anybody, and he couldn’t afford advertising. But now that money was no longer an issue—or at least, the lack of it wasn’t an issue—he kept doing what he was doing because it was peaceful, and because working alone amid the smells of sawdust and varnish gave him time to clear his head.
And right now, he really needed time to clear his head, because he was about to face more family complications than he knew what to do with.
While the idea of staying here and hiding out with his boats and his solitude was appealing, he didn’t want to disappoint his sister.
So he packed his stuff, scrambled around to acquire a cat carrier that would fit under an airline seat, left his home and his quiet island, cursed the gods for his circumstances, and caught the flight Julia had picked out for him.
If it all went as badly as he expected, he could always fake his own drowning during the kayaking trip.

Megan Scott thought, not for the first time, that she might have too many pets.
There was Bobby, the Maltese she’d had since she was in college; Sunshine, a golden retriever she’d adopted after he’d been hit by a car and then abandoned; Mr. Wiggles, an angora cat whose owner had wanted to put him down over a treatable health condition; Jerry, a three-legged hamster; and Sally Struthers, a guinea pig she’d agreed to provide a foster home for, but who’d charmed her way into becoming a permanent part of the family.
The thought that she’d gone overboard with the furry friends usually struck her at two times: when she was cleaning up after them, and when her boyfriend, Liam, was complaining about them.
Which he was doing now.
“I get having a dog. Who doesn’t like to have a dog to come home to after work? But, Jesus. This place is like a petting zoo.” Scowling, he lifted Mr. Wiggles from his spot on the sofa and deposited him onto the floor, then sat in the space the cat had just vacated.
“Liam, you’re a rancher,” Megan pointed out to him, not unreasonably. “You’re around animals all day.”
“Yeah, but not in the house.” Mr. Wiggles was rubbing up against Liam’s leg, and Liam nudged him away with his foot.
“Okay, I can admit that it’s a lot for the space I’ve got. But I’ve had Bobby forever. And the rest …”
The rest of the animals all had been in dire circumstances when Megan had met them. What was she supposed to do? Let them suffer? Let them be put down, dying alone and unloved when they still had so much life left in them? She was a vet, for God’s sake. She’d taken an oath to protect the welfare of the animals in her care, to ease suffering. What else was she doing by providing a home to her pets, if not easing their suffering?
“Yeah, yeah,” Liam said, having heard it all before. “I guess it would make more sense if you had a bigger space.”
That part, at least, was hard to argue with. Megan’s house was a one-bedroom, one-bathroom cottage that barely could accommodate her own needs, let alone those of her animal companions.
“It is a little tight in here,” she admitted. The house had been built in the 1920s, a time when people had lower expectations in terms of square footage.
“If you’d consider moving in with me …”
Here we go.
Liam had initially broached the subject of the two of them moving in together months before, shortly after Liam’s brother Colin had become engaged. Megan supposed it was an issue of brotherly competition. She had been using various arguments to put him off, and she pulled out the best of those now.
“But, Liam, you live with your parents.”
He shrugged. “We’ve talked about this. I only live with them because it’s convenient to be there at the ranch. We can get our own place. Hell, we can have a place built on the property. Someplace big enough for your dogs and your cat and your damned guinea pig.” He grinned. “Your hamster can have its own room.”
He wasn’t exaggerating about the hamster room. Liam was a Delaney, and the Delaneys had serious money—enough that she’d be able to have whatever features she wanted in this hypothetical new house of theirs.
The only problem was, the main thing she wanted out of any new home was that Liam not be in it.
She’d been seeing Liam for two years, and over the past six months or so, she’d slowly come to the realization that she wanted to break things off.
She just hadn’t figured out how to do it.
An outsider observing the situation would have thought that the problem was Liam’s personality. He was temperamental and prickly, quick to anger and perpetually irritated. But what the outsider wouldn’t see was that Liam was also kind, honest, loyal, and willing to sacrifice anything for those he loved.
He was also sexy as hell.
That last part was what had gotten her into trouble, had gotten her hopelessly enmeshed in a relationship that just wasn’t working.
As for why it wasn’t working, that was more simple than any question of his temperament, or their compatibility, or the collective sum of his flaws and attributes.
What it came down to was that Megan’s heart just wasn’t in it. And that wasn’t something you could overcome through compromise; it wasn’t something you could smooth over with the help of a relationship counselor.
Her heart knew what it wanted, and it didn’t want Liam.
She’d been working her way up to telling him for months now, but she hadn’t been able to do it. And now, she really couldn’t do it until after the wedding. She was in the wedding party, and so was he. The potential awkwardness of both of them going through the activities of Wedding Week fresh from the emotional savagery of a breakup was something she couldn’t even contemplate.
So, she would have to wait. But as the wedding drew closer, Liam was becoming more and more determined to persuade her to take their relationship to the next level. Was that because he really wanted it? Or did he sense her pulling away? Was this his last-ditch attempt to grab onto her before it was too late?
She looked at him, at the way he was sprawled comfortably in her living room, his long legs stretched out in front of him, his arms spread along the back of the sofa, and she felt a genuine, warm bloom of affection. She loved him, she really did.
She just didn’t love him the way he needed her to. If she could have, she would have. God, it would have made things so much easier if she could just marry him, have his babies, live on the Delaney Ranch for the rest of her days in comfort, with a clear view of her place in the world.
She just couldn’t do it—and if she tried, it wouldn’t be fair to either one of them.
“Hey, Liam? I’m pretty tired. I think I’m just going to call it a night.” They’d gone to dinner at Robin’s and then had come back here, and from the looks of him, he intended to stay awhile. But right now, she just wanted to be alone, wanted to watch TV in her sweatpants and not think about the state of her love life.
“Yeah, I’m pretty tired, too,” he said agreeably. He got up and headed toward the bedroom.
“Um … Liam?”
“Yeah?” He turned back toward her.
“I think I’m going to just … you know. Sleep alone tonight. If it’s okay. I’ve got an early morning.”
And, oh, the look on his face. He looked like a kid who’d just opened the Christmas present he’d always wanted, and then had learned that it was intended for someone else.
He rallied admirably, though.
“Oh. Sure. Call me tomorrow?”
“I will.”
He went to kiss her, and she offered her cheek. And if he couldn’t read that one—couldn’t see that it meant trouble—then he wasn’t really trying.
“Is everything okay?” he asked.
“Yeah. Yeah. I’m just ...”
“Tired,” he supplied.
“I am.”
“Well … call me.” He went out the front door and closed it behind him. When he was gone, she exhaled in relief.
If she weren’t such a wimp, she could fix this. Could let him go, so he could find someone who really did want all of the things he wanted.
After the wedding. I’ll wait until after the wedding, but no longer.
She scrubbed at her face with her hands, then felt Mr. Wiggles rubbing against her pant leg.
“He’s gone, you can get back on the sofa,” she told him.
The fluffy white cat leaped up onto the cushions, turned around a few times, and curled up into a ball of fur, purring contentedly. Megan wished there were something or someone in her life that could make her purr like that.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Is Inspiration Key for Writers? No, But Actually Writing Is

A lot of advice is floating around out there about how to be a writer. Everybody who's made any money in the business seems to have a book or a workshop offering guidance on everything from plotting to voice to marketing. Some of the advice is good, and almost all of it is well-intentioned.

Rarely do I come across any writing guru so wrong-headed that I feel the need to respond to them publicly. But last week, I attended the Santa Barbara Writers Conference, and I found myself at a workshop that had me struggling not to jump out of my seat and argue with the instructor.

The instructor, whose name I won't mention here, was lecturing on the correct state of mind one must have before sitting down to write a novel. Inspiration is essential, she said. You must think about the book, plan the book, and meditate on the book until the fire of artistic inspiration burns so brightly in you that you simply must write or you'll implode into a cloud of pixie dust and repressed dreams.

I paraphrase, but that was the gist.

Only when you simply can't do anything but write must you actually sit down at the keyboard and put words together. You write only when you simply can't contain yourself any longer.

I have a response to that, and I'll give it to you now because I'm aflame with the need to say it:


Bullshit, bullshit, bullshit.

The advice is simply wrong. Writing is something you do, it isn't something that happens to you like a fever or a lottery win.

Writing is an art, yes. But it's also a job, a practice, a habit. It's a skill that you have to hone through daily effort. It's a profession that takes ongoing dedication.

The advice that instructor gave her eager students was not only wrong, it was destructive, for several reasons:

1. It makes new writers think they're not good enough.

If you're only fit to write a novel if the inspiration for it is bursting out of your chest like the creature in Alien, then most of us are, therefore, unfit to write a novel at all. I haven't been at this very long in the whole scheme of things, but I've been at it long enough to know that if we write on a regular basis, we're writers. What if I bought into the line that I'm only a writer if I feel that divine glow of artistic fire? I might conclude that I'm not a real writer at all.

And then I might quit, deciding that I'm unworthy.

2. It encourages sloppy work habits.

If I'm a plumber, I'm not going to refuse to work on a clogged drain until I'm simply so inspired that I can't restrain myself from working on that clogged drain. I'm going to just get to the client's house and remove the hairball that's blocking the pipes. It's my job, so I'm going to do it whether I feel particularly inspired or not. If I don't, then I'm not much of a plumber, and I won't have a job much longer.

Similarly, a writer can't always afford to wait for inspiration. If you're traditionally published, you've likely got a deadline, and if you don't meet it, you're probably going to lose your opportunity. Deadlines don't wait for inspiration.

Self-published authors like me make our own deadlines, but the same goes. Our readers aren't going to wait years for us to be inspired—they're going to forget about us and move on to other things if we don't keep publishing new work. And the mortgage isn't going to wait for me to be inspired, either. It just needs to get paid, and that won't happen if I don't produce new work that will, in turn, produce new royalties.

I'm a professional with a job to do, and as a professional, I'm going to show up every day and do that job, inspired or not.

3. The writer's brain is like a muscle that needs to be exercised in order to perform at top capacity. The more I write, the better I get at writing. It's like any other skill, and like any other art. If you stop doing it, you'll forget how to do it, or at the very least, it'll become harder. This workshop leader's advice completely ignores the fact that practice improves performance.

4. It reinforces the idea of writers' block.

Writers' block is like the monster in the closet that you were afraid of as a kid. The more you believed in it, the more it became real to you, and the more it became real to you, the more it interfered with your sleep and made it impossible for you to get out of bed to go to the bathroom.

If we accept the idea that we must be inspired in order to write, then we must also accept the idea that there will be times when we can't write. And once you let that idea in the door, you're pretty much screwed. The book won't get written, and the sink won't get unclogged. And good luck getting all the way to the bedroom door before the closet monster eats you.

What do writers do? They write. They don't write if they feel inspired. They just write, regularly, because it's their job, because it's their thing. Because the words need to get written no matter what mood you're in.

If I wrote only when I was inspired, I'd have succumbed to writers' block long ago, and I'd be wallowing in failure and frustration.

5. It reinforces the idea that writers are a special breed, and you're not one of them.

Writers aren't some otherworldly creatures divinely chosen to bestow their ideas upon the world. A writer is anybody who sits his or her butt in a chair long enough to write something. And I know that idea is threatening to certain people in the industry who have a lot invested in feeling special. But the fact is that anybody can do it. Not everybody does it as well as others, but anybody can do it.

Bottom line: If I wrote only when the fire of inspiration made it impossible not to, I'd have written one book and stopped. Which means that a couple of the novels I'm most proud of wouldn't have been written at all, and I wouldn't have readers waiting for my next book, because there wouldn't be one.

If I wrote only when I was inspired, that inspiration that I was waiting for might never come, because the mental muscles involved in making it happen would be so out of use that my brain simply wouldn't work that way anymore.

I write because I've made the commitment to do it, and because I have things to say, not because I've won the Inspiration Sweepstakes and simply can't do anything else.

Writers write, always. Inspired or not, special or not. Writers write. That's the only requirement, but it's a pretty crucial one. Inspiration can come along for the ride or not, but either way, this train is leaving the station.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

What I'm reading: The Handmaid's Tale, The Nest, more

Like most writers, I love reading, and I fill pretty much every spare minute of my day that way. I read before I go to sleep, when I eat (but only if I'm eating alone—manners count!), when I need a break from writing, and when I just need to retreat from the stress of whatever might be bothering me that day.

Here, in no particular order, is what I've been reading lately. These aren't reviews as much as brief impressions. Maybe you'll find something you'd like to try, too.

The Handmaid's Tale, by Margaret Atwood

When the Hulu TV series debuted and everybody started talking about this book, I realized it was something I should have read a long time ago but never did. So, I set out to correct that.

Of course, as many people already know, the book is brilliantly written and utterly devastating. In the current political environment, it's all too easy to imagine an America in which Constitutional protections no longer exist, freedoms are a thing of the past, and women are treated as chattel. It's just so frighteningly plausible.

It's always nice when brilliant literature is also compulsively readable, and this book was. I could barely put it down.

Wifey, by Judy Blume

I remember when this book came out, back in 1978. I was ten years old, and I knew Judy Blume for her children's books, like Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret and Blubber. I remember the hushed rumors in the school hallways that Judy Blume—yes, that Judy Blume—had written a dirty book.

And it is a fairly dirty book, though not by today's Fifty Shades of Grey standards. It's also a flawed book. But it's funny, clever, and surprisingly poignant in its message about the difficulty of finding fulfillment within a marriage to a man who feels it's a woman's duty to cook pot roast every Wednesday and look good at The Club to impress the Joneses. The book's a little dated—thankfully, marriage doesn't usually look like this in twenty-first-century America—but the main character's frustration comes through loud and clear despite the changing times.

Golden Prey, by John Sandford

Dang, I love me some Lucas Davenport. John Sandford's Minneapolis police detective never gets old for me, even after twenty-seven books. Somehow, John Sandford keeps the dialogue fresh, the plot exciting, and the bad guys three-dimensional book after book. Some of my favorite series detective novels lost their zing as the series continued (I'm not mentioning any names), but Sandford's Prey series delivers every time.

It's one of the few series I'll pay full price for, even in hardcover. I love Sandford's Virgil Flowers series just as much. The books are gritty and the crimes are vicious, but somehow it all still comes off as a lot of good fun.

End of Watch, by Stephen King

Stephen King's a master. He just is. End of Watch, the third book in the Bill Hodges Trilogy, doesn't disappoint.

I did find it kind of odd, though, that the first two books in the series were mostly straight detective novels, but the third veers off into the paranormal territory we're more used to seeing with King. I might have enjoyed End of Watch more if King had stuck with the premise that the trilogy would be old-school crime novels without the paranormal pyrotechnics.

But in the end, King's writing makes it all worthwhile, as it always does. I particularly enjoyed the flawed character of Bill Hodges. He's fully realized, and seems to come to life on the page.

House Rules, by Jodi Picoult

This book, about a young man with Asperger Syndrome who's accused of committing a murder, started off really well, but then ...

This is the second Jodi Picoult novel I've read—the first was My Sister's Keeper. Both books gave me a similar experience. In both cases, it went something like this:

This is good. This is very good. Wow. I can't put this book down. This is great. Okay, now, that seems unlikely. Why is he/she doing that? Okay, but it's all going to work out, I'm sure ... Huh. Well, that's odd. I wonder what ... ARE YOU FREAKING KIDDING ME? WHAT THE HELL IS UP WITH THIS ENDING?!!

The Nest, by Cynthia D'Aprix Sweeney

There's this family, and a dispute over an inheritance ...

The setup might seem like we've seen it before, but this book was so full of interesting characters and family dysfunction that it all seemed new and fresh. The author avoids the trap of cliches to take things in a few directions I didn't anticipate.

The character of Leo Plumb, whose charm and favorite-child status seem to help him land on his feet no matter how badly he's screwed up, was a lot of fun. The family dynamics will be familiar to anyone who's ever had a dispute with an adult sibling.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Lindsay Lohan, My Dog, and Hoarders are Killing My Book (Or, Why Working from Home Is Basically Crap)

I've had some difficulty writing lately. Or, to be more accurate, I've had some difficulty not doing other things long enough to get my daily word count done. Lately, a typical writing day for me looks something like this:

6 a.m. to 9 p.m.: Wake up kids, make breakfast, get everybody ready for school, get everybody delivered to school, shower, and do the various housework-type tasks that enable me to keep my home relatively hygienic and not resembling something from an episode of Hoarders.

9 a.m.: Prepare my writing area. I arrange things just so, with my cup of coffee, a notebook for whatever blindingly brilliant insights come my way, and a comfortable chair.

9:05 a.m.: Begin to write.

9:07 a.m.: Notice that I have a notification on Facebook. Check it out, to see that it's a meme about Sean Spicer.

9:08 a.m.: Write some more.

9:10 a.m.: Remember that I need to wash towels or we won't have any clean ones for the next day. Go upstairs, throw a load into the washer.

9:15: Look in the fridge for a snack, realize that we're out of yogurt. Find a pad of paper to start a grocery list.

9:20 a.m.: Okay, it's really time to write now. Actually succeed in writing two paragraphs.

9:30 a.m.: Get an email from my husband asking if I can pick up youngest child from school this afternoon. Answer in the affirmative.

9:35 a.m.: Start wondering how my Facebook ads are doing. Check the Ads Manager to find out my cost per click.

9:40 a.m.: Write another paragraph.

9:45 a.m.: Realize that I need to research tibia fractures for my story line. Spend the next thirty minutes going down the Internet rabbit hole looking at X-rays, diagrams of bones, and websites about orthopedics.

10:15 a.m.: Write another paragraph.

10:25: Wonder what Lindsay Lohan is up to these days. Might as well check!

10:40 a.m.: Remember that I have nothing in the house to cook for dinner. Google "what to make for dinner." Sift through casserole recipes and Martha Stewart quiche recipes.

11 a.m.: Go to the grocery store to get ingredients for quiche.

12 p.m.: Lunch!

12:30 p.m.: Write another two paragraphs.

12:45 p.m.: A nap sounds good. Naps are awesome. I'll concentrate so much better after a nap.

2:30 p.m.: Wake up from nap, realizing that I slept almost two hours rather than the 15 minutes I'd planned. Rush out the door to pick up kids from school.

3 p.m. to 7 p.m.: Bring kids home, do more laundry, dispense snacks, nag people to do homework, make dinner, clean up from dinner, chat with husband about his day, my day, and the dog's behavior issues.

7:15 p.m.: Look back at my day, baffled about why I didn't get more writing done.

I'm thinking I might need a better system.