Randomness Report From the Mile High

Summertime, and the livin’ is… busy? Happy? Crazy? Breathless? All of the above! Especially that last one. I’m no longer writing from the oxygen-rich, sea-level air of New York state. After months of planning and organizing and packing, weeks of transitioning, days of driving, I’m all set up in my new office (and home) at 5280 feet up. Because…

1. We moved back to Colorado! After 2 years back east, we realized how much we love the mountains and sunshine of the Centennial State. Yes, it really is sunny here. Mad sunny. The whole snowstorm thing is kind of an urban legend perpetuated by native Coloradans to keep people from moving here, but we’re totally onto those tricksters now. I mean, it’s so sunny here that even when it rains, we get rainbows.

2. Speaking of rainbows, did you see the Double Rainbow Guy video? If you have a few minutes, watch the whole thing.

I seriously got choked up watching this. How many people (especially adult people) do you see getting so emotional over anything, let alone a rainbow? Whenever I see a rainbow or some other really cool natural phenomena, I think about how fortunate I am to be able to witness such things, and “Bear” reminded me of that. Plus, I have a special affection for double rainbows, because they seem to appear in my life an special occasions, marking big and wonderful changes. The first was on our wedding day.

The next was 2 years later on the day I accepted my first book deal, just after I left work for the day, wondering where this new path would take me. And three years after that, on the day we moved back to Colorado, we had a flash rainstorm followed by… yep, another double rainbow — the perfect welcome home sign. I didn’t even take a picture because I knew I’d always remember it.

3. FIXING DELILAH HANNAFORD news: The book is now called FIXING DELILAH, and the new cover is coming soon. Those of you who’ve scored ARCs have seen one cover, but it’s changing, so hold on! FIXING DELILAH officially hits the shelves, new title and new cover and all, on November 2.

4. Facebook freedom rocks! Hi. My name is Sarah. And I’ve been Facebook free for many blissful days. By “free” I mean “profile-less.” I still have a fan page for book updates and contests, but I don’t have the whole ball of big brotherly wax following me around to different web sites and collecting my personal information for some yet-to-be-revealed plot of global domination. Or something. Wait, I think my tinfoil hat is getting hot under all this sun…

I hope everyone is having a wonderful summer filled with happy sunshine, double rainbows, and lots of great books!

Making Space Online & Offline, Inside & Out

I’m not big into resolutions. For me, there’s nothing like jumping on a trend to set myself up for utter failure. If I’m going to make significant changes, the need and desire has to come from within, not from a prescribed date on the calender. So this post isn’t about resolutions, but the realizations I’ve come to after reflecting on 2009. After spending my second full year as a full time writer. After launching one book, writing another, and starting two more. And here’s what I’ve figured out:

I need more space.

No, it’s not you. I don’t need space from you. I just need more space in my life. Physical space in my living area. Space between buildings. Creative space in my head and heart. Space between all of the online interactions and social networks into which I dove headfirst throughout 2009.

Technology and social networking have allowed me to connect with writers and readers in a way that just wasn’t possible when I was a teen reader. It’s been one of the most rewarding aspects of becoming a published author, and it’s something I look forward to continuing throughout my writing career. But I need to figure out how to do it better. Right now, I’m feeling a little one-night-standish with the Web, when I’m really looking for a committed relationship.

I love connecting with readers, but is clicking the “I like this” button on someone’s Facebook status lauding the wonder of guacamole really connecting? Is joining the group “I bet we can get one million people to hop on one foot and sing the national anthem while wearing a red sweater” really connecting? Is telling people what I ate for lunch really connecting? No, no, and no.

For me, connecting as an author is personally responding to reader emails. Participating in online discussions about writing. Discovering new books and recommending them to others. Meeting bloggers and librarians in person at conferences. Visiting schools and chatting with students who love to read and write. Going on a writers’ retreat with fellow authors. That’s the kind of connecting I want to do.

I’m also trying to figure out how to get more out of blogging. It’s the primary reason (second only to laziness, procrastination, and genuine writerly busy-ness) that I haven’t been posting much in 2010. Not that I don’t want to — I really enjoy blogging as much as I enjoy reading other people’s blogs because it’s another way to connect with readers, writers, and book people. I just want to make my posts more informative and fun and not too overwhelming (for me or for my 3 readers)! So there might be more space between entries this year, but hopefully, the quality of those entries will be better.

By freeing up some space between online interactions, I’m also hoping to free up some space inside from which I can draw more creative energy. More book writing. New story ideas. Photography. Tree hugging. All of the things I need to do to keep being me. To be happy and content. Do you feel a song coming on? 🙂

Here’s the scariest part. Now that I’m making an effort to put more space in my life online and on the inside, I’m seeking more space offline and on the outside, too. I’m… wow, this is so crazy… I’m getting rid of books. Yes. Books. Whole boxes of them. As much as I love books, I’ve finally accepted that unless they’re classics, stranded-on-a-desert-island favorites, written by author friends, or certain fantasy series’ that I love revisiting, I don’t re-read books. I don’t even refer to them again. I simply collect them on my bookshelf like little trophies, because I’ve always loved being surrounded by books and because that’s just what authors do. But with so many amazing new books published each year, and still hundreds if not thousands of classic adult and YA titles I’ve yet to read, I’m just not going to re-read most of the titles on my shelves, no matter how much I enjoyed them the first time. Instead, I’ve decided to donate them to local libraries and high schools, and to keep donating, as long as I keep reading.

And reading? That’s something I’ll never give up.

All I need to do now is get back to those Colorado open skies…

What about you? Is space important to you? How do you make room in your life, online and off?

Christmas Pajama Breakfast: The Birth of Embarrassing Traditions

In my family, you’re never too old for matching pajamas on Christmas morning (and you’re never safe from Mom’s carefully planned pajama theme, no matter how new you are to the Ockler family scene).

It started quite accidentally, way back in the eighties…

Read the whole tale at Reading is Bliss, complete with photographic evidence and a contest to win a hardcover copy of Twenty Boy Summer!

Treasure Hunting on Lake Erie

After a particularly vicious storm on Sunday (you know, the one I where stood outside watching the lightening?), Mom and I spent the following day hunting for sea glass along the shores of Lake Erie at Woodlawn and Hamburg Town beaches. Together, we came away with over 700 new pieces, plus a few interesting rocks and fossils, shells, ceramic tiles, and one dinosaur. That was Mom’s — the dinosaur. Something about abandoned toys really freaks me out, especially when they’re floating in the water, so I leave the creepy stuff to her and stick with what I know.

Lake Erie Gems

Looking for sea glass requires patience and skill — it’s generally quite small and can be hard to spot among similarly colored rocks, shells, leaves, things that crawl, and other lakeside debris. No matter how many times Mom and I walked back and forth over the same stretch of beach, heads down, eyes trained on the thin spread of rocks where the water meets the sand, we continued to find pieces that we’d overlooked just moments earlier. Often, we’d catch a shimmer in the wet sand as the tide pulled back the lake like a skirt, only to lose sight of it as the water again rushed forward. Other times, we’d spot a brightly colored blue or red square a few paces ahead only to scoop up a piece of old plastic. There’s also the tricky matter of avoiding fish bones and litter and separating genuine lake-aged glass from the just-broken bottle shards of last night’s party crowd. Dangerous work, for sure.

Despite the obstacles, the long search is always worth the effort. Genuine beach glass uncovered as easily as something plucked form a store shelf wouldn’t hold such mystery, like the rare red glass in TWENTY BOY SUMMER, or the amber glass largely created not by our modern beer bottles as I once thought, but by Prohibition-era rumrunners who smuggled cases of booze from Canada into Buffalo, dumping bottles in the lake whenever the police got too close.


As we continued our treasure hunt, girls chatted on blankets in the sand despite the post-storm chill and thrillseekers braved the choppy, muddy water to windsurf and kiteboard. On one beach, a bulldozer beeped and roared along the waterfront, clearing tree branches and other debris that washed ashore in Sunday’s rain. Not far from where the waves nipped at our toes, the windmills from Lackawana’s urban wind farm towered in the sky, shooting up like trees from the industrial remnants of the Bethlehem Steel plant.

Lackawanna Windmills

Here in the southtowns of Buffalo, despite greening efforts like the Lackawanna wind farm, a storm like Sunday’s is enough to flood area waterways and contaminate the lake, and swimming is still forbidden on certain beaches for the entire season due to pollution.


Oil Change


Still, for our walk up and down the shore, the sun shone warm on our backs and the rush of the wind-tossed waves dulled the sounds of civilization. As we combed the sand for hidden gems, it was enough just to be there, to hear the seagulls call to one another across the sky as we dropped tiny bits of amber and kelly green and aqua and white into our bags and wandered along the beach in search of more, a never-ending quest to unearth the buried treasures of the lake.

Treasures of Lake Erie

I’m a Danger to Myself and Others

6 Reasons I Need to Be Grounded

6. I’ve missed 2 fLiP iT fRiDaYs in a row. 1 for being on an all-day Amtrak ride from NYC to Buffalo. And 1 because I don’t remember why — I only remember the aching guilt. Guilt guilt guilt. Grounded!

5. I haven’t updated this blog in, like, forever. Lazy. Busy. Grounded!

4. I keep staying up way past my bedtime. So far past, in fact, that I’m now sleeping in the future, waiting for everyone else to catch up. Exhausted. Cranky. Grounded.

3. I was visiting my parents tonight and my Dad asked if there was anything sweet in the house, and Mom and I said no, which was a total lie considering the box of Dolci Bakery’s chocolate covered macaroons hidden beside me. And by macaroons I really mean macaroon — just the one — because I ate all the others. I was entering a Great Moral Dilemma (silently amongst myself) about whether to confess and pass over the last one, but by then, Dad was already in the kitchen digging out some cookies Mom remembered were in the freezer. There were 4. Cookies, not freezers. He offered to defrost and share 2 with me, completely oblivious to the macaroon non-admission. I would have eaten them, too, but then Mom found some more sweets. OMG I’m a horrible daughter! Ga-rounded.

2. There’s this crazy lightening storm going on at my parents’ house, the likes of which I haven’t seen since this one night in Denver where it was so intense, the midnight sky looked like daylight and Alex and I debated sleeping in the car in the garage. So what do I do? Go outside with my parents and the dog and stand in the driveway to watch. Um, what does it mean when your nose hair suddenly tingles and your mouth tastes like copper? It means you are dumb. Grounded.

And the number 1 reason I need to be grounded…

1. When I picked up my Mac laptop tonight, there was a rattling inside. Not like a light, tappy, Smart Food White Cheddar Popcorn kernel-rattling, which would be somewhat unsurprising given my propensity toward the cheesy treat as writing brainfood, but like a something-is-definitely-effed-up-in-this-piece rattling. Frantic, I opened it and booted up, but everything looked okay — no cracked screen or missing keys or buttons, and all the sounds and icons came on. Still, each time I tipped the computer, something obviously loose and foreign clunked around inside. I watched a bunch of movies last night so I thought maybe it was a loose DVD or DVD drive component, but nothing would eject (and I was certain I’d already ejected the last movie earlier today). I closed it up again, tipped and gently shook and shook and tipped and shook, and finally, out popped…. a quarter. A quarter! WTF!?! Note to self: Mac laptop is not a piggy bank. Or a slot machine. I don’t even know how it got in there or where it came from. The DVD drive isn’t even an open slot. God, the whole thing was very grilled-cheese-in-the-VCR, you know? How did I not blow myself up? How do I function? Idiot on parade. Grounded!

Devoted readers (and those whom my mother pays to pretend), will someone please volunteer to banish me to a place — a place that’s heavily padded — before I actually hurt myself?