I crashed a Ski Doo this weekend. It was basically a fender bender. No one hurt, ego excepted. One would think that snowmobiling is a simple sport, easy for a beginner to master. After all, how hard can a sport with an actual mobile be?
It turns out pretty hard.
These are tips for jolting safely over the bumpy mountain “paths” to your destination.
- When you’re skidding down the hill, swiftly approaching another Ski Doo, use the brake instead of the gas. This is important. There’s a reason it’s tip one.
- Don’t put your foot down, or it will get squashed. Unfortunately, your every reflex will tell you to put it down the way you would if you were on a bike.
- Momentum is your friend; it’s better for the engine. However, the throttle will be really hard to grip. You will get terrible thumb cramps. I have tiny hands, and by the end of the ride, my thumbs had died. I had to take them home and give them a nice funeral.
- If you’re stuck in the snow, have your guide get you out. Don’t try to do it yourself, or you’ll make it worse. This one works better if you have a guide.
- When your guide offers to double up for a fast ride, your first thought will be: “Okay, I have to trust this guy not to get me killed in a horrible Ski Doo accident.” Your second thought will be: “I’m going to die in a horrible Ski Doo accident.”
- If you fall, get back on. Unless you got squashed, in which case don’t.
Not every author knows martial arts. This became apparent when I read about a protagonist taking down her opponent with a hook kick to the armpit. This is impractical because…it’s her foot. It takes longer to get there, and it’s awkward once it does.
I have a blackbelt, and I’ve been doing martial arts since I was five. My mom signed me up for it after ballet turned out to be a bust. The teacher treated her class of kindergarteners like we were training for the Bolshoi Theatre.
Here are my tips for making sure your fight scenes land the punch you’re looking for—nerdy pun intended.
- Put violent words in there. Crashed, smashed, bashed…all of these are good. Make your reader wince when they read it.
- Keep it simple. The fancier you try to make it, the easier it is for you to leave the reader going “huh.”
- Eyes, throat, and groin are the best targets. They’re classics because they work.
- Just because your protagonist is smaller than their opponent doesn’t mean they’re going to lose. Their tactics may be different, but that’s where the knee to the groin comes in.
- Add some humor. There’s no reason why your protagonist can’t clobber their opponent with a coffeemaker, then joke about what happens when they don’t get their caffeine.
I discovered I actually like part of Twitter. It’s not only a cesspool for presidential lies and lonely internet people angst. We’re in a pandemic, so we’re all lonely internet people. The part of Twitter I like is called #MSWL, and it’s where literary agents post witty snippets about what writing they want to see.
It’s where I daydream.
I spend a lot of time mentally bracing myself for rejection. Spoiler alert: writers get rejected a lot. It’s nice to take a break and imagine what would happen if the agent who said she wants to read about “nerdy yet awe-inspiring talents” thought I had “nerdy yet awe-inspiring talents.”
Spoiler-alert: many writers secretly want to be awe-inspiring.
The information about what agents like and don’t like is also useful. Before you submit to an agent, it helps to research online/stalk them. That way you know which agents are looking for a queer/BIPOC version of And Then There Were None and which want “gothic horror botanicals.” Then you can do a google search to figure out what a “gothic horror botanical” is.
You’re not wasting an agent’s time—or your own—with a project that isn’t a fit. It’s also handy for finding “comp” titles to link your book to, ahem.
And of course, for imagining the far-off day when you will be the comp title.
Parents in young adult books are often woefully inadequate, assuming they’re still alive. It’s about a fifty-fifty. Unless the genre is fantasy, then they’re goners. This enables the teen protagonist to step up and save the day. But if those parents—or their authors—wanted to get their act together, here are the pitfalls to avoid.
- Parenting in absentia. When asked, this type of parent will go “Kids? What kids?”
- Plain old stupidity. These parents will swallow any excuse their teens give them. They never, under any circumstances, ask follow up questions.
- Plain old abuse. The Dursleys are the prime example of this. The greatest magic of all in Harry Potter may be that Child Protective Services was never called.
- Acting like teens themselves. This type of parent is the “fun” one who likes to go to concerts, get wasted, and bring home dubious sexual partners. The child in this relationship is the one who gets to mop up the vomit and remind them how birth control works.
Full disclosure, I enjoy books where the parents are complete train wrecks. Many of us come from dysfunctional childhoods ourselves, so it’s more relatable than we like to admit. If nothing else, it’s good for a smile and an eye roll.
A lot of weird cures for coronavirus have popped up on the internet and other questionable places. They range from the wrong, to the very wrong, to the this-will-get-you-killed wrong. Here are the funniest:
1. Cocaine. If you learned about it in a solemn eighth grade assembly, it probably won’t boost your immune system.
2. Drinking bleach. You won’t get coronavirus with this one…because you’ll be dead. Even if it’s called something fancier like “chlorine dioxide” it’s a bad idea. Even if it’s only a couple of drops, still no. Don’t drink the stuff from under your sink.
3. Garlic. That works for vampires, not coronavirus. Read more fantasy books and fewer conspiracy theories.
4. Colloidal silver. Nope, that’s werewolves. See above.
5. Taking out the batteries from your wireless devices. I don’t know what the person who wrote this one was thinking. I suspect they’ll be buying a tinfoil hat soon. Tinfoil hats also do not cure coronavirus.
The moral of the story is: don’t believe everything you read on the internet. Like this blog post for instance, I have no medical expertise whatsoever. But I don’t need it to know not to drink bleach.
Yesterday evening, I decided to go tromping through the woods and streams in the pitch black (and no, I don’t mean over the streams, I mean through the streams)—my first night hike. I decided to dress like a human marshmallow with jeans, snow pants, a sweatshirt, snow jacket, gloves, and three layers of socks.
Fun fact: It turns out that my groupmate could literally see the heat streaming off me. I’d texted someone earlier about the hike, ahem Mom, and she was worried about frostbite in a British Columbia winter. I did not get frostbite.
It’s actually a good thing I had those three layers of socks though because the sole of my boot came off halfway. The group leader had to fix it with compression tape. Unfortunately, that also made the boot smaller, and I felt like Cinderella’s ugly stepsister trying to squeeze my toes in.
On the plus side, the hike was quiet, still, and serene…the perfect atmosphere to imagine the chuckle you hear is a serial killer behind you. Either that or a groupmate goofing off.
I hiked to the top of Mount Benson recently—took about a half day. Turns out hiking is hard. I died ten minutes in, and my glutes still haven’t been resurrected. I spent the afternoon hobbling around my apartment going, “Ow, feet, ow.” Also, turns out that hiking boots really are a better choice than sneakers.
My hiking partners were a guy who insisted on scrabbling up whatever 90-degree rock faces he could find and a woman who plans to scale Kilimanjaro. I realized that I was in trouble walking across the parking lot when I saw that they were already faster. As a novice hiker, I spent most of the trip clinging to various tree branches to keep from accidentally staggering off the mountain.
But I made it the 1,000 meters to the top where we had a snowball fight. Hint: don’t be the monkey in the middle. And don’t mention that you’re using someone else as the monkey in the middle, otherwise you will be ganged up on.
The views were amazing. I saw fir trees, clouds, and other snowy mountains. All of which were more spectacular than I made them sound. They made me forget that my muscles had committed mutiny 500 meters ago.
I recently sold my car to myself. I was bringing it into Canada, and that’s what the forms said. It’s a good used car; though it has a ding on the front panel from when it lost a fight with a parking garage pillar and a dubious smell from when I barfed in it (migraines). I’m pleased with my purchase.
Since I’ve arrived in Canada, my paperwork has been labyrinthian. I think they have a law: no visitor will be admitted unless they have so many documents they need a binder clip to attach them all. I knew unpacking my stuff would be a drag, but no one warned me I would have to go to the office more than twice to get auto insurance.
This is what I’ve learned:
1. If a form has both letters and numbers, like a A10 or an AG1, then God help you.
2. You will spend the remainder of your life in a waiting room with no guest WIFI and no magazines. The employee there will tell you that they’re understaffed at least four times.
3. If you get stuck, don’t worry. There are forms to interpret the other forms (Customs D-19-12-1 memorandum). God help us all.
Canada isn’t the only offender. The California DMV demands that you come in person if you want to find out what date your license there was issued (I needed this date for an insurance discount). If you tell them you live in Canada, and it’s a thousand-mile road trip, they will not be moved.
They will offer to transfer you.
Road trips suck ass. You sweat through your shirt (hello armpit stains), between your thighs, and onto your seat. You can never get your butt comfortable. For longer journeys, you have to get moving before the sun does.
When I was a kid, my dad would sing, “in the middle of the night, it’s a paradise” before we went to visit our grandparents in southern California. I loved it. If you did that to me now, I would slap you.
Then there are the people who insist on going exactly the speed limit on two lane highways. You don’t pass these people because you don’t want to get creamed by a semi. But you hope they break down and starve to death on the shoulder.
You also ask yourself fun little questions i.e. does four power bars count as lunch? And then there’s this vicious cycle: You drink. You have to pee. You drink. You have to pee. It leads to despair and public bathrooms.
It’s better than flying though. Anything to avoid the steward’s: “Now boarding group A. A as in awesome. Now boarding group B. B as in beautiful.”
And of course, there are the golden elite premium members. I-5 has no elites. Only exhausted, dusty survivors.
Visiting new places is fun. Often those places have pretty forests and/or good shopping. But it can also be stressful, and you may wonder why certain cars have chosen to park in the middle of the lane. One vehicle I passed had no driver; the person had left it there with a cardboard sign in the window to advertise their garage sale.
This weekend I went to Vancouver BC to wander, dazed and blinking, around various cultural and natural sites (for the record, their forests are very pretty). Here’s what I learned about travel:
1.) Bring a friend whose skills compliment your own. On my trip, I did the driving while my friend navigated, chose the Airbnb, and found activities…okay she did most of the work.
2.) Your budget is toast.
3.) Take naps. Pull over and find a sunny park or, failing that, collapse on the floor of whatever museum you’re touring.
4.) Drive around in search of Starbucks so that you can steal their Wi-Fi to make the directions on your phone work.
5.) You will do way more walking than you thought you would. Wear tennis shoes or athletic sandals (you can scrub the random sticky stuff off your toes later).
6.) Good food is key, and in a pinch, frozen yogurt counts as dinner.