Of Rubbing Alcohol and Vacuums and Viruses

I've been staying with my parents for a week now. While I'm sure they are more ready than they can put into words to see me and the rabid tornado Pea away, they have been highly gracious hosts. As a houseguest, I'm not the best. I'm sure I'm not the worst. But I'm not the best.

I am however a people-pleasing, helpful-seeking, middle child. So I've vacuumed twice since I've been here. Oh, the memories as I pulled out Ol' Trusty, my mom's 1987 Electrolux behemoth. Over the years, it's acquired new hoses, a new plug, possibly a new motor, but it still sucks up dirt. I can remember the day the vacuum cleaner salesman came to our house. He pulled out a little baggy of sand and threw it (threw it!) all over our living room floor. Then he sucked it up. Then he had mom run over the spot with our old vacuum which obviously wasn't working well or the Electrolux salesman wouldn't have been there, then after she finished, he went over the spot again and sucked up more sand. No clue how much my parents spent on that Electrolux in 1987, but I'm pretty sure it's paid a better return than any other investment they've made over the years. Certainly more than our 401K has lately.

Oh, and, yes, we were vacuuming up little sand granules for years.

Do you know what kind of vacuum I have? A trendy purple Dyson. Which has served me well, but I can almost guarantee you it won't be picking up anything other than landfill dust when the Pea is in his 30's.

As a houseguest, I hate to ask for anything that I've forgotten, so it killed me that first night to have to ask if I could borrow their rubbing alcohol. Mom pulled out the bottle, and I swerved a double take. The label said, "Wal-Mart Brand Rubbing Alcohol." Now, for those of you unlearned in Wal-Mart lore (which is probably every one of you who is not from Northwest Arkansas and married to an ex-WalMart-vendor and most of you who are), there is no such current thing as Wal-Mart brand anything. There is Equate. There is Great Value. There is Ol' Roy for you dog foodies. But as far as I know, there has not been a Wal-Mart brand since maybe 1991 give or take a few years. I looked on the bottle for an expiration date. 1997. This amused me for some reason, using the same rubbing alcohol I used during junior high, and I pointed it out to my dad. His response? It's rubbing alcohol. It doesn't expire.

I tell you this not just to show you that my parents are perhaps the least wasteful couple in America, but to make a writing point. yes, an actual writing point!

When I had one chapter of my rough draft finished on my WIP (which I'm rewriting right now), I read a Publisher's Weekly announcement for a super cool debut author. Part of the blurb said they were hopeful it would do for light Sci-Fi what Hunger Games did for dystopian. Gasp. My story was light Sci-Fi. And it hit me. Was this what it felt like to hit a trend? FYI, I have never been on trend in my entire life. I bought my first Guess? jean jacket four years ago. It was everything my 4th grade self imagined it would be.
Now, has Sci-Fi taken off at light speed according to their prediction? Well, no. The cast of Glee did show up at Comic Con, and this made me squee, but that influx of YA Sci-Fi? I like to think it's happening slowly but surely. And the debut novel has been a huge success.
It's over a year since I finished that first chapter. Over a year since I finished the entire first draft, in fact. A lot has happened in my life during that time. Some good. Some bad. Some gains. Some losses. I thought the manuscript was ready at the beginning of the year. Then I went to a fantabulous writers' workshop in March, received spot-on amazing critique and feedback from talented writers, agents, and editors. On the way home, I locked myself in a bathroom stall in the San Jose airport and cried my eyes out. People liked my writing. But I knew it wasn't enough. So close, yet so, so, so far away.

Hence the rewrite. I'm halfway through it. My story is so. much. better. But it's not there yet, and I know it. A mean little voice crops up every so often and says, "Tick tock. That trend window is closing. Probably already shut." But as my dad said, "Rubbing alcohol doesn't expire." If it's good writing and a good story, if it works, it will appeal to the right agent, the right editor, the right readers. Whenever I finish it. Lord, please, please let that be soon. 

Now if only Mom's Electrolux could suck the stupid virus off my computer.


  1. I know how you feel! I'm almost done with my rewrite after Big Sur. My goal is to be done by the end of August and query shortly after. Let me know if you need someone to read over your stuff. I loved what you had at Big Sur. Finish it! Yay YA SF!

  2. I've been feeling this way a lot lately, especially with so many agents adding YA scifi to their wish lists and editors telling agents they want YA scifi. There's so much pressure to finish quickly and always with that annoying thought at the back of my mind, "Will I be too late?"

    And my rewrite is so close to done, but it seems like it's been "so close" for a long time now. Some days I think it doesn't matter how much time and effort I put into it. It'll never be done.

    Thanks for the reminder that timing isn't everything. :) Great post!

    And if you want to swap mss again when you're done, I'd love to read the changes you've made. :)

    -Abby (Blogger hates me today and says I don't have access to commenting on your blog with my Google account. I'll try the url option....)

  3. Your dad is right. A great story will never expire. I have been loving and reading and writing light sci-fi for, well longer than I care to admit. I don't think it will go away. Good luck with the rewrite.

  4. Aw! This is touching. Your book will still get there because a good book is a good book, no matter what genre. That is a fan-tabulous post! Love it. And I can relate to the vacuum story. The darn Kirby salesmen got us hooked. I hate carrying that heavy thing up and down the stairs but it works and it works GOOD. :) Good luck on your book!

  5. Abby A - lol...we seem to be tracking along so closely in our journey, bumps and all. And, heck, yeah! I'd love to do another swap! Just let me know when you're ready.

    Abby 2 - Thank you so, so much! I had a roommate that had a Kirby, and all I remember was it was so heavy but so powerful. She had actually inherited hers from her mom (circa early 80s), and her mom bought a new Kirby. :)

  6. I loved this!! First off, stuff just aint't made the way it used to be! It's a cryin' shame.

    Second, I do the same thing. One of my stories is of a genre that really isn't big at all right now in YA. In fact, I never hear about it. I'm TERRIFIED of a big debut of it coming out all the time, not because I'm selfish or greedy...but because it will become a trend and I'll either miss it or be a "follower." how lame am I????? I need to stop caring and just be happy being me.

    Love the expired rubbing alcohol!!!!