Snowmobiles … Here I Come

Liz and I are heading up to Killington, VT, this weekend with Finders Keepers Web master Ron and his wife, Anne, so I’m pretty excited about that. I went skiing once about 15 years ago–in Killington–but haven’t been on the slopes, or Killington, since. But since I’m not much of a skiier–and my back keeps me away from some of the more dynamic activities–I’ve decided to try something else:

Snowmobiling.

Ron is a big-time snowboarder, so he’ll be doing that, and Liz will be trying theLiz and I are heading up to Killington, VT, this weekend with Finders Keepers Web master Ron and his wife, Anne, so I’m pretty excited about that. I went skiing once about 15 years ago–in Killington–but haven’t been on the slopes, or Killington, since. But since I’m not much of a skiier–and my back keeps me away from some of the more dynamic activities–I’ve decided to try something else:

Snowmobiling.

Ron is a big-time snowboarder, so he’ll be doing that, and Liz will be trying the snowboard for the first time. And Anne will be skiing. So that leaves me all by my lonesome, off to snowmobile. I’ve been jet skiing many times, so I figured this wouldn’t be too far off. I’m already booked for a two-hour guided tour through a state park, which I hear is great.

So as Friday comes closes in, I’ve got snowmobiling in my sights …

Jamaica Mahn – Coyaba Resort

Last month Liz and I took a nice little jaunt to Jamaica, and it was faaaaaan-tastic. We stayed at a boutique hotel–Coyaba Resorts–in the Montego Bay section of the island. If you want to check it out, go to www.coyabaresortjamaica.com. We give it a big, big thumbs up.

Now, it depends on what kind of vacation you’re looking for, but if you want nice and quiet, this is definitely for you. There’s only 50 guest rooms set among three buildings, so it’s nice and quaint, with great, friendly sLast month Liz and I took a nice little jaunt to Jamaica, and it was faaaaaan-tastic. We stayed at a boutique hotel–Coyaba Resorts–in the Montego Bay section of the island. If you want to check it out, go to www.coyabaresortjamaica.com. We give it a big, big thumbs up.

Now, it depends on what kind of vacation you’re looking for, but if you want nice and quiet, this is definitely for you. There’s only 50 guest rooms set among three buildings, so it’s nice and quaint, with great, friendly service. Rooms are big, food is very, very good, and the beach, while small, is clean. There’s a small gym and spa, and a nice tennis court. The outdoor pool in the back is great, as is the outdoor bar. There’s also a nice dock that overlooks the ocean. And I made good use of the various hammocks set back from the beach. (I posted some pics under the PHOTOS section).

I will say that you can hear some nearby traffic and some planes at a distance, so that is one detractor, but overall it’s super quiet and calm.

Liz and I did the all-inclusive food plan, which works out great. The breakfast and dinner menus are excellent. Lunch is just so-so, but otherwise really, really good food.

If you’re looking for a big activity vacation, this place isn’t really the ticket, but if all you want to do is chill on the beach while a waiter brings you Rum Punch and Pina Coladas all day–jackpot. I would absolutely go back.

Alex? Hairball? Meet My Shoes.

For those of you with cats, this might sound like a familiar tale, and for those without … well … here is one of the joys of having a cat.

Now that March will soon be upon us (not that we could tell given all the snow), Alex is starting to go through his annual shedding phase. It only really started kicking in about two weeks ago, but now that it’s started … oh, is it loads of fun.

Since cats constantly clean themselves, it’s sort of an occupational hazard to wind up ingesting soFor those of you with cats, this might sound like a familiar tale, and for those without … well … here is one of the joys of having a cat.

Now that March will soon be upon us (not that we could tell given all the snow), Alex is starting to go through his annual shedding phase. It only really started kicking in about two weeks ago, but now that it’s started … oh, is it loads of fun.

Since cats constantly clean themselves, it’s sort of an occupational hazard to wind up ingesting some loose fur. And to rid themselves of that fur, cats puke up these giant clumps, otherwise known as hairballs. I can usually tell when Alex is about to hurl up a hairball, because he’ll be still, and start wheezing … [i]kaff … kaff [/i]… and then [i]hhrrrlllll [/i]… just a big yak.

Well, yesterday morning around 5 a.m. I got up to take a shower, and I see Alex sitting in the living room, in pre-yak mode. He wheezed a few times, and so I readied myself to get some paper towels for the innevitable mess. Only no puke. So in my early morning fog, I shrugged it off and took my shower. Afterwards, feeling clean and at least modestly refreshed, I got dressed, and then went into the living room for my shoes.

Yeah … that’s was my bad.

It’s not so much that Alex yaked up a big skanking puddle of hairball and salmon flavored cat food on my shoe–which he did–but it’s that he yaked up a big skanking puddle of hairball and salmon flavored cat food [i]in[/i] my shoe. Not just on, but in. In a 1,000–square-foot, two-bedroom apartment, that’s the one place he chooses to yak.

So my day started off by scooping out a whomping puddle of cat vomit from my shoe.

Ahhh … good times. … Good times …

The Star Wars Syndrome

Now that I?ve finished Finders Keepers, and the manuscript is channeling through the U.S. postal service on its way to the agent I?ve been telling you about, I thought this would be a good time to look back at really crucial part of the writing process:

When to stop.

Last week I had lunch with an old friend of mine, and were talking a little bit about it, and the thing is, it can be really, really difficult to know just when to be finished with a project. Even though I?ve read Finders Now that I?ve finished Finders Keepers, and the manuscript is channeling through the U.S. postal service on its way to the agent I?ve been telling you about, I thought this would be a good time to look back at really crucial part of the writing process:

When to stop.

Last week I had lunch with an old friend of mine, and were talking a little bit about it, and the thing is, it can be really, really difficult to know just when to be finished with a project. Even though I?ve read Finders Keepers all the way through at least a dozen times, plus read and edited sections another 20 times or so, I can always find something else to tinker with.

As I was telling my friend, I?m sometimes at odds with myself about when I should keep going and when I should do more revisions. Sometimes I think that a section isn?t quite working, and then I look at it the next day and realize it?s good, even great. And sometimes I feel great about a section, and then look at it the next day and realize it needs work. And sometimes a lot of work.

So when should I let it be? When should I get back to it? Not only can I just get too close to the work, sometimes I get tired. I get woozy. I get hungry. When I?m going for hours, or just having a tough day, I?m not always at my peak focus. I’m not concentrating as well as I could. Ideally, every session at the computer would be as good as every other, but I?m human. Sometimes I?m on fire, sometimes I?m not. Which is why I find it so important to stay on a schedule, doing multiple revisions, trusting that, in the long run, I?m getting it right.

I?m sure there are parts of the manuscript that simply aren?t as strong as others, which isn?t to say they?re bad. It?s just that, not every portion can be great. I?d love to say that Finders Keepers is absolutely perfect all the way through?and hey, maybe it is; it?s a matter of opinion?but no matter how many times I?ve said to myself, [i]okay, that?s a wrap. I?m finished[/i], I would inevitably look back at a section and think, [i]oh, boy, that?s not quite right. I just need to change this a little bit …[/i]

This can go on forever and ever and ever. At some point, as a writer, you just have to decide to be done.

Take George Lucas, for example. I won?t rehash all of the re-issues he?s done on [i]Star Wars[/i] over the years, but I can relate to his desire to fix what he thinks isn?t quite right. What could be better. And I?m not saying it?s right or wrong to go back and release newer versions of and older work, but think of it from the creator?s point of view. You spend months, years and sometimes even decades working on something, and you?ve released it to the world. But then you start obsessing on all the imperfections and think, I know how to fix this. All I have to do is …

So, yeah, it can be tough to know when to stop. There?s always some part of a project that could be better in one way or another. Sometimes it?s easier than others to know when to keep going, but sooner or later you just have to move on with your life, and trust that the work you did is good enough.

Post edited by: rcolchamiro, at: 2008/02/28 17:27

Status Check: Finders Keepers Ready for the Agent!

After almost three months of intense revisions on Finders Keepers, let me say this:

[i]FINALLY![/i]

As I noted in some of my previous blogs (Jan. 19, Dec. 26), I?ve been cutting, tweaking, pruning, dicing, slicing, editing, re-editing, re-re-editing and re-re-re-editing Finders Keepers to get it as lean and mean as possible for the wonderful world of publishing. Well, that time has come.

I?m proud to say that I?ve made my last edit (thank God) and that the most up-to-date versioAfter almost three months of intense revisions on Finders Keepers, let me say this:

[i]FINALLY![/i]

As I noted in some of my previous blogs (Jan. 19, Dec. 26), I?ve been cutting, tweaking, pruning, dicing, slicing, editing, re-editing, re-re-editing and re-re-re-editing Finders Keepers to get it as lean and mean as possible for the wonderful world of publishing. Well, that time has come.

I?m proud to say that I?ve made my last edit (thank God) and that the most up-to-date version of Finders Keepers is now in the mail to the agent I?ve been talking about.

And as of today, I’ve got a shiny new manuscript ready to send to the agent I’ve been talking to. She’s waiting to receive this bad boy, which will go in the mail tomorrow.

But for now, I want to do a little recapping. When I started this campaign of editing madness, my manuscript came in at 128,368 words and 544 pages, which, as I?ve noted before, was a bit on the long side. Well, after many, many, many, many, many rounds of editing, Finders Keepers is now a mean and lean 103,503 words and 420 pages.

Let?s check out that progress in grid form:

Original Word Count: 128,368

Final Word Count: 103,503

Original Page Count: 544

Final Page Count: 420

Applying a little more math, here’s some additional analysis.

Total Words Cut: 24,873

Total Pages Cut: 120

All told that means I cut 25,000 words?twenty-five thousand?and 120 pages. Honestly, I didn?t think I could do it and keep the story fully intact. And I?m proud to say that, not only did I get there, but I did so without sacrificing the story, without cutting any chapters, characters, plot points or humor. Finders Keepers is as wild and goofy and fun as ever.

What it did take was about a bazillion little snips that ultimately added up to something significant. Tweak after tweak after tweak.

Having Finders Keepers this sizzling and lean only helps me. Shorter is almost always better, and Finders Keepers is certainly better than ever, which really jazzes me up, as the buzz from the earlier, longer versions was pretty darn good too!

So now that I?ve got this butt-kickin? manuscript circulating in its best form ever, the odds of it getting picked up sooner rather than later have only increased.

These past few months were a real triumph for me. Not just in regard to Finders Keepers, but to me as a writer. The time I spent really forced me to step up my game, to become even more disciplined and focused than ever. And since I?ve got about another dozen books just circulating in my brain, ready to come out, that?s going to be good news indeed.

Post edited by: rcolchamiro, at: 2008/02/23 06:07

Billy Joel at Shea Stadium

I’m not a Mets fan, so I have no sentimental attachment to Shea Stadium, but I am PSYCHED! Got tickets to see Billy Joel give the last concert there. Ever.

I was surprised I got through online, but I’m going!I’m not a Mets fan, so I have no sentimental attachment to Shea Stadium, but I am PSYCHED! Got tickets to see Billy Joel give the last concert there. Ever.

I was surprised I got through online, but I’m going!

Bank of America Can Bite Me

I was running low on cash the other day, so it was time to make a stop at the ole bank machine. I’m a Citibank dude, so I made a special trip Friday morning to swing by the Citibank branch off the 14th St. F stop, so I wouldn’t have to pay a user fee at another bank. Except when I got there, I discovered that it’s no longer a Citibank. (It’s another bank; I can’t remember which).

So I kept walking, thinking (incorrectly) that I would find another Citibank somewhere on the way. When I didn’tI was running low on cash the other day, so it was time to make a stop at the ole bank machine. I’m a Citibank dude, so I made a special trip Friday morning to swing by the Citibank branch off the 14th St. F stop, so I wouldn’t have to pay a user fee at another bank. Except when I got there, I discovered that it’s no longer a Citibank. (It’s another bank; I can’t remember which).

So I kept walking, thinking (incorrectly) that I would find another Citibank somewhere on the way. When I didn’t, I finally stopped into a Bank of America in Union Square, and did the bank machine thing. I inserted my card, denoted how much cash I wanted, and then waited for the bills to start churning. But before I that could happen, I got that usual message, telling me that because I wasn’t using a Bank of America card, I would have to pay a fee.

[i]Yeah, yeah. Gotcha. Let’s just get on with it.[/i]

The user fee? $3! [i]Three dollars![/i] To get my own money! Are they out of their #$@! minds?

Naturally, since there was no Citibank near my office, I had to ultimately use another bank’s machine. Washington Mutual got me for $2, which is still outrageous. But of all the banks so far, Bank of America has the highest fee I’ve seen.

I’ve come to accept that I’ll need to pay a service charge if I withdraw cash from another bank’s machine, but $3 is just a slap in the face. Bank of America can bite me. Really … really … hard.

Being Okay with the Choice Not Chosen

I remember a time in college where I was caught in this weird sort of limbo, where I was always kind of around, but I didn?t really participate. I would go out to local bars, but didn?t feel much like talking, because, for the most part, I don?t like crowds. Still, I would show up and chat a bit with people I knew, but I wasn?t really involved. Some of the times I went simply because I was lonely or bored, but others because I felt like if I stayed home, I might have missed something good, whateI remember a time in college where I was caught in this weird sort of limbo, where I was always kind of around, but I didn?t really participate. I would go out to local bars, but didn?t feel much like talking, because, for the most part, I don?t like crowds. Still, I would show up and chat a bit with people I knew, but I wasn?t really involved. Some of the times I went simply because I was lonely or bored, but others because I felt like if I stayed home, I might have missed something good, whatever ?good? meant.

But it was deeper than that. For years and years I had a guitar?an electric for a while, an acoustic for a while?but I never learned more than a few chords. Why? Because on some level I felt like if I couldn?t get good in like, four days, then what was the point? If I practiced and practiced and practiced and practiced, I might be sort of moderately okay … [i]eventually[/i]. But I wanted to be good right now. Today. Immediately.

Besides, if I was busy practicing, during those times, I wouldn?t have been able to do … something else.

Same thing with exercise. How many times did I say: [i]Okay, I?m gonna get in shape, gonna flatten my gut, gonna get six-pack abs, gonna lift weights, gonna learn karate[/i]. Well, back in those days I didn?t get in shape, I didn?t flatten my gut, get six-pack abs, lift weights or learn karate. Why? Again, because it would have taken too long. And working out would have kept me from doing anything else. Not that I filled that time with anything worth noting. I wasn?t participating in much: I wasn?t making connections with other people, even though I was physically present.

I?ve since gotten in shape, became a regular racquetballer and swimmer for a few years, and even took Kung Fu and Chinese kickboxing for a while (Although, my gut only left me for a few months about ten years ago, and has since been like a friend who needs a place to stay for a few days and winds up moving in; I want him to go, but I can?t quite get myself to kick him out).

[b]The Choice Not Chosen[/b]

But over the years I began to realize that at least one key reason I didn?t commit to exercise or guitar or other activities was that I wasn?t making my peace with the choices I didn?t choose. For example, if had committed to practicing my guitar an hour a day four days a week, that would have meant not going out, seeing people or just being available?for each of those single hours I was practicing.

Because I wanted to have [i]all [/i]of my options open to me at all times to do any number of [i]other [/i]things, I committed to nothing.

And yet had I actually practiced several days a week, in a year?s time, or two years time, I [i]would[/i] have been at least okay at the guitar and enjoying it more and more as I improved (nope, still haven?t learned). Had I hit the gym regularly, I would have looked better, been healthier.

And that?s where I really missed out back then. Being on call to go … wherever … would only have been of value had I actually gone places and done things when opportunity knocked. Which, for a while, I didn?t. I was in constant waiting mode. And I?m not sure what I was waiting for.

It?s like never settling down in a relationship because there are just too many other people out there who [i]might[/i] be better. It?s always about what [i]might be[/i] rather than [i]what is.[/i]

This sense of … waiting … really peaked for me when I was around 21, and lasted about a year, and while I certainly became more active in the years subsequent to that time, I still struggled with it for a long time. I still need reminders now and again to actively participate with any number of people, although today it?s because my schedule is so maxed out that I sometimes overlook what?s right in front of me. But back then, I wasn?t maximizing; I was minimizing, and then sulking about not having more fun. About not connecting.

[b]Participation is its Own Reward[/b]

Somewhere along the line, though, I really started to focus on this idea of choosing?and not choosing, which is a big key to my being a participant in just about anything. For example, there were a few times before I got married?not many, but a few?when Liz would want us to go away for the weekend to visit one of her friends or relatives, and I wouldn?t want to, because somewhere deep down I thought if I went to visit [i]them[/i] I would be missing out on [i]something else[/i].

But that?s really not the case. By going on these little trips, by engaging with other people … that?s when I feel most fulfilled. I don?t feel like I?m missing out on something else. The participating [i]is[/i] the something else. For a long while I was missing out on making connections with other people because I was on stand-by waiting for the chance [i]to[/i] make a connection.

It?s like letting train after train after train go by just waiting for the [i]right[/i] train to arrive. I can?t always know when the right train comes along, but never choosing pretty much guarantees that I?ll get nowhere fast.

The times I felt most in conflict came about because I hadn?t made peace with what I would be giving up, rather than focusing on what I would be gaining.

M. Scott Peck writes about this idea in his book, [i]In Search of Stones[/i]. As he put it: [i]Each choice of an option is usually foreclosure of another. Choose to go to medical school and it is not likely you will ever go to law school. Choose the track of hopefully becoming a corporation CEO and you will likely choose not fulfill your potential for motherhood. [/i](Well, this was written about 15 years ago, but you get the idea).

[b]Missing Out is A-Okay[/b]

Today, if anything, I struggle with committing to too many things. But when I do choose I try to be aware of what I?m choosing, and also what I know I?m giving up as a result.

For example, it?s easier for me to get up before 5 am because I?ve made my peace with what I don?t choose: Sleep! (Actually, I do actually sleep a 7 to 8 hours a night). To facilitate this schedule, I also choose to go to bed earlier than I used to?around 9:30 p.m.?rather than staying up watching TV until 11 (or even 2 or 3 a.m. on the weekends), which I also happen to enjoy and did almost my whole life. But I?m okay not keeping those late hours anymore because of I what I get in return.

I?m going to miss out on things. It?s gonna happen. Forever and ever. But the more I make my peace with what I don?t choose?by letting go of all the other things I [i]could[/i] be doing?the more I find it easier to relax and enjoy myself with what I do choose.

Post edited by: rcolchamiro, at: 2008/02/14 20:15

Touring with the Enemy ? With Photos!

As part of my job as a commercial real estate editor, I manage to finagle my way into some cool things now and again, and yesterday was one of those times. As a lifelong Yankees fan, it kinda rankled my feathers a bit, but I reached down deep inside and got over it. After a year of trying, I got myself on the media list for the NY Mets, and yesterday got a full-access tour of Citi Field, the new ballpark that will replace Shea Stadium.

And yes, it was very, very cool. And freezing @$#! coldAs part of my job as a commercial real estate editor, I manage to finagle my way into some cool things now and again, and yesterday was one of those times. As a lifelong Yankees fan, it kinda rankled my feathers a bit, but I reached down deep inside and got over it. After a year of trying, I got myself on the media list for the NY Mets, and yesterday got a full-access tour of Citi Field, the new ballpark that will replace Shea Stadium.

And yes, it was very, very cool. And freezing @$#! cold! When was the last time you went to a baseball stadium while it snowed? But it was so totally worth it.

I was there with about 50 or 60 of my closest reporter friends (actually I didn?t know any of them), and got to walk the under-construction stadium, from the very top level all the way down to the field. So I?ve touched home plate even before the Mets players! (I’ve got a bunch of photos uploaded, so check on the Photos section and see what I mean!)

I have to say, this stadium is going to be great. There are great site lines from every seat, and as a spectator you?ll be really close to the field no matter what section you?re in. The physical seats are not in place yet, and the guts need to be built, but the shell is almost entirely done.

So one thing I’ll always be able to take with me, for all my years, is that no matter what happens on that field, no matter how big games the Mets play, no matter how many great players touch that field, I’ll always be able to say that I was there before it all started, on the field, with the snow and the cranes and metal girders, looking out from home plate in a way that very few people ever will.

As a Yankees fan, it stuck in my craw just a little to be on Mets turf, but this was just too cool to pass up. Now I gotta get myself onto the Yankees media list and get a tour of that too!

Post edited by: rcolchamiro, at: 2008/02/18 18:45

Writing Secrets Revealed – Alex Style

Out of all the writing and editing techniques I employ, regardless of where I sit, what time I get started or how long my sessions go, there’s one factor that sets my writing time apart from the rest:

Alex. Yep, Alex the cat.

I’ll be writing in the morning, say, about 5:30 a.m., and already Alex is meowing at me, having decided that, [i]yeah, yeah, yeah, your book blah, blah, blah … dude, give me some attention, give me some now and I don’t want to hear about you work it out, so get Out of all the writing and editing techniques I employ, regardless of where I sit, what time I get started or how long my sessions go, there’s one factor that sets my writing time apart from the rest:

Alex. Yep, Alex the cat.

I’ll be writing in the morning, say, about 5:30 a.m., and already Alex is meowing at me, having decided that, [i]yeah, yeah, yeah, your book blah, blah, blah … dude, give me some attention, give me some now and I don’t want to hear about you work it out, so get to it[/i].

So, innevitably, I stop what I’m doing, go find Alex, pick him up, and as he rests on my shoulder, he starts purring like crazy. I’ll usually sit at the desk for a few minutes with him like this, and even though I don’t get a ton done while he’s in my arms, I have to admit, it really sets me in a good mood.

There’s something about the rhythm of his purring, his warmth, that I connect with, that seems to find its way down my arms and into my fingers. Maybe it’s our connection that I relate to, that his energy becomes part of my writing, so that, in a way, it becomes [i]ours[/i].

Now, I haven’t done any scientific studies tracking the quality of my writing sessions as they pertain to his purring, and even if there isn’t any noticeable difference, in the end, I doesn’t matter. Because of all the ways I can think of to start my writing session–heck, to start anything–having Alex with me, purring away, is pretty darn great no matter how it all turns out.

Post edited by: rcolchamiro, at: 2008/02/11 18:55

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