Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Recent Great Reads

What I've been reading and enjoying lately ...

A Study in Sherlock, Edited by Laurie R. King and Leslie S. Klinger
This is a collection of short stories "inspired by the Holmes Canon" by authors who don't normally write of Holmes. And they're extremely entertaining! What was fun was the diversity of ideas, from stories of Holmes himself and Watson, to stories that told other points of view of famous Holmes cases, to stories of different characters acting Holmes-esque. Loads of fun for the Sherlock fan!

Northwest Angle, William Kent Krueger
The latest in his series featuring Cork O'Conner, a part Irish-American, part Ojibwe former county sheriff in Northern Minnesota. Cork's no superhero, but he's good and just, and you want him to be your friend and champion. Northwest Angle is a gripping story that starts with a natural disaster and ends with a man-made one. It'll have you short of breath and appreciating how Krueger makes you feel part of the action.


The Albuquerque Turkey, John Vorhaus
This is slapstick in book form. Radar Hoverlander has vowed to go straight from his life of cons, but his father reappears in his life and sends his plans and resolutions packing. The ending is grand, hilarious, over-the-top, and totally entertaining (as is the entire book). You'll laugh out loud, roll your eyes, and enjoy it immensely.

Ghost Hero, S.J. Rozan
The latest in her Lydia Chin/Bill Smith PI partnership, Ghost Hero is told from Lydia's perspective and concerns the world of Chinese art. As always, Rozan gives us an excellent mystery to (try to) solve and introduces us to a fascinating world we (probably) didn't know much about. I always learn something from reading her books, both about whatever topic she's covering and about how to tell a great story. Jack Lee, another PI who works with Lydia and Bill, provides a touch of the silly and absurd, while contributing to the resolution of the mystery. A great addition to the series!

Thursday, November 3, 2011

10 Things I Learned Along the Way to Publication

I developed this list of tips and lessons for a session I led at the Avondale Writers Conference in Avondale, AZ, last weekend. The concepts aren't original; you'll hear them from other writers. But though I understood some of them intellectually, it took some doing to accept them in practice. I hope they help you learn some lessons and avoid some heartache and/or mistakes.

1. Take every opportunity to talk to people who know stuff. Whether it's stuff about writing, stuff about your special interests, or stuff about life. Talk to people.

2. Write what you want to write. Not only what you know already or what you think will sell.

3. Have an elevator pitch. You'll use it trying to find an agent, trying to get the book sold to a publisher, trying to spread the word about it, and trying to sell it one-on-one. It's indispensable. Practice it endlessly.

4. Find a support group. Online, in-person, whatever. Have a group of writers you can talk to who will eat chocolate or drink wine with you in sympathy and celebration. (A shout-out to Christine, Wendy, Tracy, and Cary, as well as the SinC Guppies!)

5. Get involved in any way you can. You never know what connections you make will help you write or sell a book later.

6. Cultivate patience. Make sure you have to be doing this.

7. The perfect haircut won't make your life unicorns and rainbows, and neither will publication ... but it's pretty great. Writing doesn't get easier, and now you have to learn to promote and spend lots of energy on that. But it's still a gift.

8. Plan your public persona as carefully as you plan your prose. You will be a living, breathing, speaking representative of your book.

9. Accept that you can't do it all. Do what you enjoy and don't bother with what you don't like.

10. Enjoy every step. It really is magic. Don't get so wrapped up in promotion that you don't stop and smell the new-book-smell.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Anyone in the Phoenix Area?

I'm headed to Phoenix this weekend for a couple neat events.

Saturday, October 29, I'll be presenting a session at the Avondale Writers Conference in Avondale, AZ. If there's a writer out there looking for inspiration, I hope you'll join us, because it looks like a fun day.

Sunday, October 30, I'm going to the mothership. That's right, I'm visiting The Poisoned Pen Bookstore, foundation of Poisoned Pen Press. I'll be talking with my editor, Barbara Peters, about writing and racing and more. The store even promises Halloween candy! What more could you ask for? Here's the info from their calendar.

And here's the guest blog post I wrote for the bookstore's site, about Books as Comfort Food. Check out the blog to see what chocolate and horse racing have in common.

Monday, October 17, 2011

A Heartbreaking Day in Racing

(cross-posted from Two For The Road)

I write fiction. Murder mysteries set in the racing world. Which means that I cheerfully plot how and why someone dies. Sometimes it's someone who deserved to die. Sometimes it's not. Typically, the bad guy who did it is caught, and always in mysteries, readers have the satisfaction of knowing why it happened.

We say truth is stranger than fiction. The racing world today knows it's significantly more heatbreaking than fiction, too. A very good racecar driver died Sunday in the opening minutes of the last IndyCar race of the season. He won this year's Indy 500 (his second win). He'd tested the new 2012 IndyCar chassis, and one tweet I saw said he was excited about its safety measures. He was 33 and leaves behind a wife and two children.

Racing's an extremely dangerous sport and business. And sometimes there are no reasons why, bad things just happen. One such happened Sunday.

Rest in peace, Dan Wheldon.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

A Very Different Kind of Interview

Not long after the publication of Dead Man's Switch, I had the opportunity to talk with a friend of mine (thanks, Shane) who collects conversations with interesting people for the Web site Travels of John. No amount of protesting on my part that I couldn't compete with the likes of George Steinbrenner, one of the Lost Boys of Sudan, and other real notables would dissuade him. And I'm very grateful, because it was a fun interview and I'm honored to be part of a group of fascinating people featured.

Here are an excerpt and links to the post:

Whodunit? Danger, murder, paranoia and… race car driving?

Tammy Kaehler is hardly the first to divine career direction in a corporate hospitality suite. It’s near-certain that many a deal has been forged amid the celebratory clinking of complementary beer bottles, hands shaken only after proper removal of wing sauce via Wet-Nap. She may, however, be the first for whom the glad-handing and overwhelming noise of a professional auto race served as inspiration—for a version of the Great American Novel.

Was your writing career destiny or coincidence? 

The writing itself was destiny. The racing part of it as subject matter was coincidence. I mean, I can’t draw a thing, I can’t paint, I couldn’t design a birthday card for the life of me. I understand the value of visuals, but I don’t have that skill; I am intellectually formed by words. Words create the pictures; they create the shapes; they create, I don’t know, memorization for me. In college, my mother suggested I become a writer for TV or something, and I remember looking at her and wondering where in the world she would have come up with something like that. It just didn’t make any sense at the time, but I look back now and think, “Well, of course.”

Read more at http://travelsofjohn.com/interviews/general/tammy-kaehler/.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

See Me Wednesday, October 19, in Signal Hill!

Anyone in the Long Beach or Signal Hill area? Join us at the Signal Hill Library for a "first-timers" (newbie authors) panel!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Elvis, Alien Babies, and Me

(aka, Where I've Been, Part 1)

It's been a while. But the particular madness known as book-promotion-plus-full-time-job is wearing off, and I can think again (I won't claim other madness won't set in). And what's clear is that I've neglected to post news, thoughts, and updates here. So I'll work on fixing that.

One of the silliest (and possibly farthest reaching!) places my book turned up last month was in a tabloid. Yes, I was in a TABLOID. How awesome is that?!?! And I didn't even have to have to have an alien baby or see Elvis in my moldy bread. It was the National Examiner, and I got a brief review in the lower right corner (photo taken by me at supermarket checkstand) that included "This amazing debut novel..." and "Pulse-pounding excitement...." I'll take it! In fact, I took three copies.


Sunday, August 7, 2011

Blog Roundup

I had a couple more guest blog stops over the weekend to finish off my release-week blog extravaganza.

Fresh Fiction: The Hamster Wheel and Life Lessons

Campaign for the American Reader: Tammy Kaehler's "Dead Man's Switch," the movie

Hope you'll stop by!

Thursday, August 4, 2011

More Guest Blogs to Visit ...

Things are still crazy in my life, as I prepare for three separate events this weekend (starting tonight!) to celebrate my release. It's a good kind of chaos, I keep reminding myself. In the meantime, I'm on a couple other great blogs....

Poe's Deadly Daughters: Racing Into the Mystery World

Suspense Your Disbelief: My Made It Moment

Hope you'll stop by!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

RELEASE DAY!

I can hardly contain my excitement, but I've already been bubbling over with it for weeks, and I've got words on three different blogs today, talking about it:

Poisoned Pen Press Authors blog: Do I Need to Write?

BookPage blog: Cars, Books--and Some Very Fast Research

The Page 69 Test

I hope you'll stop by one or all and celebrate with me!

Monday, August 1, 2011

Blogging Today

I've got two posts up today!

First, I'm guesting at Dames of Dialogue on the topic The Advice You Can't Live Without.

I've also got a possibly controversial post on Danica, Dale Jr., and hype over on Two for the Road: What's With All the Hype?

Hope you'll check them out!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Guest Blogging Today

Today I've got a guest blog post up at the fun Buried Under Books blog, all about how I wear the sportsfan-pants in my family....


http://www.cncbooks.com/blog/2011/07/26/wearing-the-sportsfan-pants-in-my-family/

Monday, July 25, 2011

Lime Rock Live Action!

A really great, short video that captures the excitement of the race weekend at Lime Rock Park and the fun of launching Dead Man's Switch.



Special thanks to Chet Johnston, Alexander Blanco, Jack Diamond, and Sovory.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Launching DEAD MAN’S SWITCH at the Lime Rock Park ALMS Race

You’ve all been waiting patiently for the full report with photos, and after processing an awful lot of data—photos, video, and mental impressions—here it is.

I didn’t know what to expect when my husband and I traveled 3,000 miles to launch my new mystery novel at the actual race weekend it was written about (the American Le Mans Series race at Lime Rock Park in Connecticut). I had 100 trade paperbacks with me, and I had no idea if I’d be shipping them all back home or if I’d sell out and wish I had more. I know many authors talk about not selling many books at mystery conventions or even bookstore signing events, for instance, but this was a different situation. I had no bookselling competition for one thing. But would racegoers want to think about fiction? They’re at a real race, would a mystery novel, however related, be too different?

We knew going into it that there was no way book sales could outweigh the cost of getting and being there. That wasn’t the point. The point was publicity, photos, and being able to say I’d launched the book there. So our goals really had to do with selling some books, making good contacts for future promotion, and collecting useful photos and video. As we pulled into the track on race morning, I thought to myself, “Don’t expect to sell them all. Be glad if you don’t have to ship every single book home.”

Bottom line? The trip was a screaming success. Between me, the Series merchandise center, and the track merchandise store … out of my 100 paperbacks, I carried two home. TWO. (And really, only one made it to my house, because I gave one away to Top Gear host and SPEED Channel commentator Rutledge Wood in LAX baggage claim.)

In addition to my adventure at the track itself, the owner of a wonderful local bookstore—Darren Winston, Bookseller (with me and Corvette Racing program Manager Doug Fehan at right)—threw a launch party for me one night, and had 100 hardcover books to sell. This was another situation for which I had no expectations, especially with the old saying, “What if you throw a party and no one comes?” running through my head. His results? In two hours, he sold about three dozen books—and he’s continued to sell them at a good rate in the ensuing weeks.

Even more than sales, Darren Winston and I got—and are still working on—some great publicity about his business and my book. More, the people who did attend the launch party were a really interesting mix: mystery readers, fans, and insiders; local readers, artists, and friends; Corvette owners and fans; track management and racing insiders, including Skip Barber himself (that’s him at the top of the page); and even the Corvette Racing team (with me at right).

The verdict on my first foray into promoting a racing mystery at a live race and to race fans? It could hardly have gone better. Even more fun, since the race weekend I’ve heard from two fans (one Corvette owner and one track volunteer) who have already read the book and enjoyed it. What more could I ask for?!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Book Launch Report Preview

There is a big video project going on in my house this week, as we try to capture the excitement of being at Lime Rock Park to officially launch Dead Man's Switch, and I am culling the best photos and putting the story down. I promise, that will come soon!

In the meantime, as a preview, here I am with all four Corvette Racing drivers, who joined us for my launch party at Darren Winston, Bookseller.

From left: Oliver Gavin, Tommy Milner, me, Olivier Beretta, Jan Magnussen

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Final Cover Art!

Not only are my books at the printer (this very minute), but I also got a copy of the final cover. Love it!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Playing Catch-Up

You make your lists, you plan your week, and then something silly turns everything upside down. Or many somethings. It’s been a strange last ten days….

On the disappointing and mildly annoying front: technology has not been my friend. My computer contracted a virus so terrible that it needed a week with Dr. Geek Squad to recover. So I tried to keep up with everything I was supposed to be doing using my husband’s decade-old, backup machine, crammed into a corner of his office. What’s more, the iPad I ordered, which should have arrived two weeks ago, was snatched away a mere three miles from my house! (OK, it was recalled; something to do with an ID hardcoded into the device.)

And then it rained in Los Angeles this morning. In JUNE! I’m not sure where summer’s gone, though I hear Texas might have found it.

I’m pretty sure I’ve figured it out the message in all of this: the universe is stating clearly: “Step away from the machines, Tammy. Step away, and read a book.”

At the same time, some very good things have been happening, on both a personal and professional front. My husband and I made a new friend (an old college acquaintance of his who we ran across recently), someone I hired at my day job is off and running in a very satisfactory manner, and there are exciting possibilities afoot for book promotion.

Most exciting is a new blog I started with fellow author Simon Wood (www.simonwood.net). Simon writes books that keep you up at night. He has an eclectic professional background, he’s British, and he’s a kick in the pants. He’s one of those guys who starts insulting you fifteen minutes into a conversation (and expects to be insulted right back). We get along fine.

The relevant bit is that Simon, too, has a mystery about a racecar driver coming out this year (it’s already released in Britain, but we don’t get it until September, which I don’t mind, because it means mine comes out first). So we started a blog together, all about racing. Or at least our opinions on it. I’ll blog Mondays, he’ll blog Wednesdays, and we’ll compare and argue about our opinions on different topics on Fridays. We hope you’ll join us and chime in at Two for the Road: twofortheroadblog.blogspot.com.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Videos!

With the help of a couple kind friends, I can now offer friends and readers a little more insight into me and my new book. Tell me what you think!

Introducing Tammy Kaehler


About Dead Man's Switch


And a special thanks to Cirinelli Productions Video and Multimedia Services for the fabulous work!

Saturday, May 21, 2011

A Celebration is in Order!

This blog exists for me to share my thoughts on a variety of topics. It does NOT exist for endless buymybook, buymybook, buymybook self-promotion. That said, this post is a little self-promotey, but only because last week was a pretty darn good week in my world. You see, like the garden now that it’s spring, good reviews of Dead Man’s Switch are bursting into flower!

And friends, you can’t begin to imagine the RELIEF I feel at reading these. Sure, I like the book, and some friends like the book (OK, my agent and publisher like it too), but there’s no guarantee the rest of the world is going to like it! So take the following as not “look at me, I’m so great,” but as me inviting you into the wonder of “oh wow, someone actually likes my creation. How utterly amazing!”

First to come along was Publisher’s Weekly, one of the book-review heavyweights. And they liked it! Calling it a “winning debut,” the reviewer commented, “Even those unfamiliar with this world will appreciate Kaehler's vivid descriptions of the intricate teamwork involved in racing, the amazing equipment, the split-second decision making required of the driver, and the pulse-pounding race itself.”

Read it all: http://screencast.com/t/UmaQXWznbUQs(There's a broken link on the Publisher's Weekly site, which I’m hoping they’ll fix soon, but for now here's a screenshot.)

Then I heard from new friend and award-winning author Vincent O’Neil (whose Death Troupe I just finished reading and loved), who kindly sent me the following:
With DEAD MAN'S SWITCH, Tammy Kaehler has brought the suspense world a whole new genre—car racing! Whether you know nothing about the sport or follow it closely, DEAD MAN'S SWITCH puts you on the track, behind the wheel, in the pits, and everywhere else as new heroine Kate Reilly tries to solve a murder that could end up taking her job, her freedom, or even her life. Trust me: You'll want to be there when the checked flag comes down.
—Vincent H. O'Neil, Malice Award-winning author of DEATH TROUPE

Vinny may be surprised how often I use “Trust me: You’ll want to be there when the checkered flag comes down.” I love that.

And last, but not least, Fresh Fiction posted a great review online, calling Dead Man’s Switch “chock full” of drama and the characters “full of life and believable.” In addition, the reviewer said, “As a long-time motorsports fan AND a mystery fan, I highly enjoyed this book. It wasn't condescending to those with racing knowledge, yet I don't think it would be overwhelming to those with no racing knowledge.” Just what I was aiming for.


Not to mention that the rain stopped, the clouds went away, and the sun is shining. Now, how to celebrate?

Thursday, May 5, 2011

What Sue Grafton Told Me*

*And hundreds of other attendees at Malice

Last weekend I attended the Malice Domestic Mystery Convention in Bethesda, MD, commonly known as “Malice.” I had a fabulous time. Readers, writers, authors—and fans, all—of mysteries were there, happily talking to each other in the audience of panels, in the hallways, in the hospitality room. It was pretty much a mystery lovefest. Whether one was a writer or not, published or not, famous or not didn’t matter. We all chatted with each other.

Even Sue.

You see, Sue Grafton was the recipient of the lifetime achievement award at Malice, and for all her celebrity (at least in our world; if any readers of this don’t know who she is … well, for shame, and go look her up), she attended panels and events right along with us. She also smiled at us, chatted in the elevators, didn’t mind us praising her writing when we ran into her in the restroom (I’m lookin’ at you, Sandy!), told us about her chickens, and generally acted like a mere mortal, instead of a mystery-writing goddess.

Because she is … both of those. A mystery-writing goddess because, well, hey, 22 books. Mortal, because in a lot of ways, she’s just like me. Or I’m just like her (without the chickens).

Here’s why. She told us, “Fear is my constant companion,” and “I’m always scared to death. I never take anything for granted.” Holy smokes … but, 22 books, Sue? “Just because I’ve written 22 books, doesn’t mean I can write 23.”

On one hand, I think … you mean this fear will never end, will be my constant companion? On the other hand … hell, if she can do it and she’s scared, so can I. Potentially.

To be honest, we writers all know every writer is pretty much afraid at all times (AT ALL TIMES) that he/she/me will never write anything good, ever again. We know this. We joke about it to each other. But it still helps to hear it from someone successful. It’s not just the beginners like me who are terrified. If Sue Grafton occasionally burst into tears and thought she’d throw up on her computer during the writing of T is for Trespass (she started at A is for Alibi, people, that was a lot of books later!), then I am validated. Being scared does not imply I am or will be a failure. There is hope.

Not only is there hope, but there is also a feeling that maybe we writers are very brave. Sue also told us, “You have to be willing to fail. Every book you go into, you have to be working out on the edge of your talent.” I’m guessing that’s without a net. And that takes guts.

One last note. She referred to her latest pets as “a nice balance to the agony of sitting at my computer.” I’m thinking I might have to get me some chickens.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Ham to Hermit to Ham Again

I started my professional career as an extrovert. My first job was one of travel, presentations, schmoozing, and always being a collected, articulate representative of the college I worked for. I know I have that skill … somewhere in me. You see, my husband and I have spent a lot of years now as hermits. Regardless of the number of extroverted jobs and roles in my career—and I’ve hammed it up onstage many times—I’m most happy sitting quietly at home and reading a book. Or writing.

Like many writers (and engineers, like the ones I work with), I dread small talk. I don’t mean I dislike chatting with people, but I often feel awkward doing so. Don’t we all? Well, not all. You see, I have a friend who can walk into a room of strangers and have them all dying to talk with her inside of 15 minutes—which is a rare gift I don’t possess. And watching her makes me realize how much better I am at other things….

But again, I have to admit that I can do it. I have done it. But I haven’t flexed those extrovert muscles in a lot of years, and I’m honestly just so darn out of practice.

Back to my point about hermiting (hermitage?). Here I am, facing the classic writer’s dilemma: I’ve finally won my way to publication … and now I will go promote. Part of me wants to run screaming back to my comfy chair and my writing desk (not the one pictured here, but I can dream, right?). Part of me is recoiling from all the prep I’m doing, including photo shoots and video production. Who wants to see that much of themselves?

And yet … there’s a small part of me that’s ready to go. So I’m trying to tune in to that voice, to flex those long-forgotten muscles. It’s time to channel my inner ham, tap into my superstar, and get ready for a year of adventure!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Confessions: On Needing Appointments to Write

First confession: It is a daily struggle (for me and for many, many other writers out there) to fit everything in and have any downtime at all. Consider: sleeping, showering, day job, exercise, shopping, cleaning, writing, blogging, social networking (Twitter, Facebook, and GoodReads), planning promotional efforts … oh, and reading to keep up with my mystery “industry.” And talking to my husband. And keeping up with my friends and family.

However, this is not a whine-blog. The above list is also not to fool anyone into thinking that I actually DO it all. I do three-quarters of it—and which three-quarters varies on any given day, though I’ll grant you that sleeping, showering, and the day job are non-negotiable. My point is that I have learned enough about myself to know that some things—even those most important to me—won’t get done with regularity unless I am accountable to someone else.

Second confession: I’m a Type-A, competitive, overachiever. If I’m given a goal, I need to beat it. If I know someone’s counting on me or expecting something from me, I am a failure if I don’t deliver. Given that, what’s a self-aware woman to do when she’s not getting her writing or exercising done as regularly as she really actually wants to?

You got it: set appointments.

I don’t mean schedule appointments in each day to write, because I’m a natural-scheduler, and I’m usually bogged down by the huge to-do list I carry around in my head. I mean appointments, and here’s the trick, with other people. Hire a personal trainer to make sure I show up and work out. Find a writing buddy and have a weekly meeting. Nothing motivates me like the shame of showing up and either wasting someone’s time or not having delivered what I said I would.

Hey, they’re my psychoses, and I like them. I say, whatever works, so long as I’m writing….

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

I have a book cover!

And I think it's fabulous! What do you all think?

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Inconvenience Yourself Day, and Other Don’t Miss Holidays

I was doing some research the other day—OK, I was noodling online instead of doing what I was supposed to be doing, like writing—and I stumbled across lists of crazy holidays**. Or as one site titles them, “observances, awareness days, theme days, and celebrations.”

We all know Talk Like a Pirate Day, right? That’s September 19, in case you’re wondering. You’ve got another seven months before it be time, matey. But you wouldn’t believe the treasures this week alone offers:

Tuesday, February 22, was Single-Tasking Day. Honestly, I know some people for whom every day is single-tasking day. This didn’t excite me much.

Wednesday, February 23, is not only Curling is Cool Day (!), but also Inconvenience Yourself Day. I’m going to spend a lot of time Wednesday thinking about how to truly and best celebrate Inconvenience Yourself Day … which may be its own answer, really.

Thursday, February 24, is National Chili Day (I know what I’m having for lunch!) and National Personal Chef Day. That’s simply not nice. Why make me feel inferior because I can’t celebrate it?

Friday, February 25, is … nothing! Nothing, according to the bible of all weird days. But my backup Web site offered up this gem: Pistol Patent Day.

And that begs the question—about not only Pistol Patent Day, but National Tortilla Chip Day (Feb. 24), Be Humble Day (Feb. 22), and all the other days—do we really need these? OK, I could argue for Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day (Feb. 24), but the rest? What do you think? And what are your favorite “holidays”?

I leave you with February 26, For Pete’s Sake Day.


**After a bit of research (hey, this turned into its own quest), I decided that the most legitimate resource was the one published as a book for purchase (or available online daily): Chase’s Calendar of Events. Though occasionally I got distracted by crazy days from other sites … I mean, who doesn’t like International Dog Biscuit Appreciation Day?

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Undone by Sweater Pills

I’m six months out from the release of my first mystery novel—wait a minute, had to put my head between my knees for a minute, because that still makes me feel faint sometimes—and after a four-month crash course in “ohmigod, how do I promote this thing?!” I’m finally coming to terms with the scope of activities and opportunities available to me.

Notice that I said “coming to terms with.” I said nothing about “have a handle on,” nor “ready to confidently march forward and flog this bad boy.”

It’s been a long few months of research. But much like my fiction writing, I just have to keep forging ahead, keeping the faith that I can make it make sense someday. So yay, I’m starting to have a plan, to mark dates and options on a calendar. I’ve even kept writing on the second book a little bit. It’s just the rest of my life that’s falling apart.

The day job is fine. That pays the bills, so it has to remain fine. And I’ve slowly restarted my exercise regime. I’ve managed to keep my fingernails tidy and unbitten (if you know me, sadly, you know this is progress)—which is a point of personal pride and a mark of maturity.

But my house is a mess—and I mean dusty and disorganized both. I don’t manage to really cook (as much as you can call what I do “cooking”) more than once a week. I have piles of papers that represent tasks to complete, bills to pay, friends to follow up with—items to return, for Pete’s sake! But what really got me were the sweater pills.

Really. I can’t find the time to sit down with a lint roller or our battery-operated shaver (I even own one of those!) and shave the damn pills off my sweaters. Or worse, the little wormy-pill-logs under the armpits. Does this make me a bad person? Does it make me look hopelessly disheveled? Do I care? And why is this threatening my hard-won feeling of finally being in control of my life? Does anyone else go through this, or am I just insane?

Don’t answer that. Or do, and tell me what thing-you-know-you-should-do is the thing you never get to.