Panic?

I don’t know how else but to describe what’s going on in my head. It feels like panic. It feels like a circuit board burning out from too many feeds—system overload. It feels like I might catch fire if I sit still too long, because everything in me is moving too fast.

Here’s the story.

I wake up at about 7 this morning (I’d like to say this is late, but my 5:30 mornings seem to be a thing of the past these days). I roll out of bed, take my allergy medicine, and head into the office. Sit down. Open up Facebook. Scoff, grumble, groan, hate myself, mumble, curse. Turn off Facebook.

Maybe I play a video game; I don’t remember now. But at about 8:30, I officially start working.

Now, on a side note, I don’t get paid hourly. I run a little company, and get paid commission on my sales. Not a terribly important bit of information, but I’m sure it contributes.

I turn on a YouTube video to play in the background (It was an episode of Modern Marvels about some ancient machine) and spend the next few hours finishing a few designs for clients (3 designs total). Actually, I told that backwards. I started designing, and then around the end, I turned on the video to listen to the narrator as I designed. Anyway, I get them all done and sent off, and then I tackle email. I have five waiting, three from this morning. Not bad for a Monday.

Also during this time, I take a phone call from the home office and banter a bit about the New Year. Completely forget to ask the question a made a note to remember. I also get in touch with the company’s tech guy to ask his advice about a problem I am having getting into our advertising account. He says he’ll look into it when the agency is open tomorrow. Sweet.

I feel icky. That’s right, I didn’t shower this morning. Time to shower.

Clean, fresh clothes, email time. I send out four quotes, and make copies of the request files. In that time (It takes about 30 minutes) one of my contacts writes back for more information. It’s not good news. I give the lady a referral and continue with my day. It’s about 3:30.

So I have worked for about six hours. Not even an 8-hour day. Chris brings me a big ole’ Gin and Tonic. Yum. I decide to take a break, and play as video game for what feels like an hour. Well, I get bored and decide I need to get back to being productive.

What to do? What to do? Well…

I need to create a new online quote system—something that will let my customers enter the specs for their order ideas and get an instant, obligation-free, anonymous* quote. Simple enough. I know how the code works; I’ve written this very program on 3 platforms to date. Easy—tedious, but easy.

And this is when my world falls apart.

Seriously, I freeze. My heart starts beating faster; my skin goes cold. My hearing dulls, and tunnel vision sets in. What do I do?

Come on Nick, just write the freakin’ code.

Then, I question myself. Do I really need to rewrite the code? Why not just update the form I built? It feels like 100 answers occur to me. This is why I must use the form. This is why I must not use the form. I decide that I just need to code a form by hand.

But… but… but… a thousand buts.

I should complete the web programming course I started. I should complete the video game programming course I started. I should complete the marketing class I started. Wait! Don’t you have a D&D game to run on Thursday? I should plan for it. No, you know what, I just need to make a list. Make a list of all the things I need to do.

Why aren’t I writing? Speaking of writing, the guy organizing the Writers’ Conference next September** is looking for people to join the advisory board for this year’s conference. Am I smart enough to be on an advisory board? I’m almost 42, I d@mn well better be smart enough. Seriously though, what am I doing with my life? I should be writing.

You know, N. K. Jemisin*** is an amazing author. She writes huge books. Amazing books that actually mean something. Why am I bothering even thinking about being a writer anyway? Honestly, I *should* have an entire series out by now. I wrote my first manuscript in 1994, and I have what? One novel published? Seriously, who do I think I am.

I shouldn’t be writing; I should be coding that d@mn form for custom quotes. Or, maybe finishing a course—one of the many I have started but not finished. Oh yeah! I also need to assign design ID numbers to my new designs, and write up a Social Media post about them to keep my company in the public eye.

The company I don’t get paid an hourly wage to run.

The company I only get paid commission for.

Why am I not a master-soap-maker yet? I just dropped $120.00 on soap. Oh yeah, I need to learn a lot about FDA regulations and stuff, and master the art of soaping before I can think about selling soap. Good thing I have that URL ready—the one I’ve been paying for for almost 20 years now. Great investment that.

I’m 42. Why am I not a master anything yet? I should be writing. I should make Thursday’s D&D game. I should take a course. I should code that quote form. Holy crap, I need to make dinner.

I need a drink.

God, just.. let me have a drink to turn my damn, useless brain off. Just slow it down. Just a little…

There are 3 ounces of cheap vodka in this cup now. As much Lemon Juice and as much Triple Sec. And maybe 9 ounces of Tonic. I have been working on it since I started this blog post, and you know what?

My brain has not slowed down one bit.

Back to the point: Panic. I feel like I’m panicking. Drowning in ideas. All I need to do is .. freakin’ focus on one. Just one! Knock it out, and do the next.

I realize I’m supposed to be submitting Saundra to a publisher this month—this week. But, I haven’t finished my edits. I pitched her. At the last writers’ conference.. the one the library wants me to volunteer for. Advisory committee…

Tangential thought…

I’m a pretty “good” salesman; I put good in quotation marks, because I mean it in the D&D way. Good versus Evil, not Good versus Loser. I’m good. I don’t want to lie. I don’t want to cheat.

I can tell in under a minute if someone is interested in what I have to offer. God, I can’t tell you how… hard… those extra minutes are—the ones it takes before they realize that they aren’t interested.

It’s in the eyes—what a cliché. But, it’s there, they lose their focus—drift to my shoulder. The corners of the mouth soften, loosen. The wrinkles in the corners of the eye disappear. Then it all tightens.

The eyes snap to mine. The mouth pulls tighter, lips thin. A smile, but no wrinkles in the eyes. Pupils sharpen, and a thousand thoughts zip by behind them. How wide should they smile? How do they get out of this conversation? It costs how much?!

God Damn, how often I see that in people. The instant they realize they are not interested in talking to me… Panic.

I smile. Stop speaking mid sentence. “But, I’m yammering,” I say. “I’ll let you look around; let me know if you have any questions.” The look of incredulous relief that settles over them breaks my heart. At the same time, it makes me feel like the kindest 42-year-old on the planet.

The no-eye-wrinkle smile returns. The gratitude and overabundant enthusiasm—the attention to price tags—the desperate search for something cheap to throw a few dollars at so they can flee my presence with a clear conscience. God, is this my life?

I break eye contact. Find something to busy myself with to that they can slip away “unnoticed,” or offer their thanks and promise to “stop by after they’ve made the rounds,” which I enclose in quotes because 9 times out of 10, it’s an exaggeration (at best).

But I should be writing. Or coding. Or studying one of 10 or so classes.

And finally, my brain has begun to wind down. I’m not in panic mode any more.

I’m… maybe drunk. I think I’m drunk. I feel pretty drunk. I definitely will be after another one of these cocktails. That’s what 6 more ounces? 3 vodka 3 Triple Sec? Something like that. God it feels good.

The numbness in my cheeks and fingers is nice, but only having one thing on my mind is heavenly.

Sure, I still need to do all that crap, but it’s 7:04 now. Time to mix up dinner and whatnot. I won’t be writing tonight, and I sure as hell won’t get any coding done.

Jotting down all of these thoughts has kinda’ gotten me depressed, which is stupid, actually, because I’ve not said anything that warrants depression. People don’t like high pressure sales; that has nothing to do with me. People have literally no idea how much stained glass costs, so when they freak out about the price of my sun catchers, that’s not about me. Customers genuinely appreciate my candor and honesty.

I can not tell you how many times people have thanked me for not selling to them. That sounds stupid… But, seriously, people have been truly grateful that I told them the truth, rather than let them make a several hundred dollar mistake. Sure, that doesn’t spell riches for me, but at least I’m not a predator.

Do unto others… and all that.

So, my thought is complete. As you have read, thus are my thoughts. This is what my mind does when it comes time to build a web form, or write a thousand words in my manuscript, or edit a chapter.. or anything. I panic. It feels like panic at least. I feel like I am afraid of something, and if I can just distract myself long enough, then it’s not my fault if I don’t do anything.

I don’t enjoy any of it, by the way. Just on the off chance you were wondering. I enjoy the instances of knowing that I have not hurt someone. Making sales makes me feel guilty. Do I really need all this money? It takes me 8 hours and $30.00 to make a sun catcher; am I an asshole for accepting $60.00 for it? Seriously, am I worth $3.75 an hour? If I had focused—mastered the trade—I could be making sun catchers in half that time. Would I be worth seven and a half dollars then? Aah, but if they don’t spend that $60.00, then I’ve done them a service. Why, that’s a meal in a moderately nice restaurant. I bought them dinner. What a hero I am.

What a narcissist I am.

I don’t enjoy it. I don’t like coding; I like having coded something. I don’t like drawing; I like having drawn something. Or… or maybe I do enjoy it. Maybe all of this gloom and doom is just coming from the vodka, and my fear of actually applying myself and suffering a few pains and disappointments along the path toward success. Or, maybe it’s a bit of everything.

So, I took an hour long break in the middle of writing this to surf Facebook. Didn’t read a single interesting thing, but I sure as sh!t wrote a page about why we need to encourage our neighbors to clean up after their pets. I included links to city ordinances and everything.

I’m about to get up to mix the beans which I had simmering all day with the rice I cooked while I was writing this. Then I’ll dice an onion, saute it in butter, salt, pepper and… probably sage. I’ll mic all that together and then may or may not announce dinner, because we have a huge crock pot of soup on, and Chris doesn’t care much for rice and beans.

What the hell is wrong with me. Seriously, I’m asking. I’m eating Saint John’s Wart like it’s candy, but I don’t see myself getting over what seems to be depression. I chug coffee all day long, but it is not helping the… disorder that shall not be named… What the hell is wrong with me?

8:09. I feel like I’ve gotten nothing meaningful done. Off to finish making dinner.


* Anonymous is important. Sorry to get emotional, but I am sick and tired of sales people trying to trick and bully people into buying. I can not bring myself to do that to someone, and maybe that’s why I’m not a successful man. But, I just can’t trick someone into giving me money—too much conscience. Too little hypocrisy. See, when I shop online, I want to be anonymous. I want to visit a site, see how much a product costs, and move along. I’m the same way in stores. I *peek* at price tags, and actively avoid employees, because I don’t want to be pressured and (rolling my eyes at myself) I don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings if their prices are too high—stupid, right?). Anyway. Online, I hate those sites that make you submit an email address to get a freaking quote. I always feel like they’re making their real money selling my information to advertisers. Seriously people, if your product is worth what you intend to charge, then give me a price.

Take this with a grain of salt though. When I show my stained glass at a craft faire, I intentionally turn all of my price tags out so people can glance at my prices and make a decision on their own. I don’t make them turn over a tag and then put on a poker face; no. No games with me. Heck, I don’t even look at my visitors. I greet them and smile, and stand at a respectful 3/4 position to them, but always seem distracted enough to allow them to surreptitiously suss out my prices so they don’t feel pressured. 0% pressure folks! I stand by my art, and I empathize with your “shopper’s discomfort.”

Ask me a question and “it’s on,” though. I stand by my work.


** Drop me a line if you are looking for a writers’ conference in the Midland/Odessa area to attend in September. I’ll send you the deets.

Do people still say “deets?” Is it still cool to say “deets?”


*** http://nkjemisin.com/ Seriously. She is amazing… but if you’re a White Dude like me, you’re going to need to be ready to check your invisible knapsack. Her writing is.. WOW. Holy crap. Amazing… but get ready to think outside yourself.

I really hope you like thinking outside yourself. I mean—no. Nevermind what I mean; this part isn’t about me; it’s about her. N. K. Jemisin is an amazing author, and I want her autograph, and if you like very human fantasy then you owe it to yourself to read her books, and if you resent her voice and message, well, that’s all you. Check her out. Visit her page. Read her books. Read her blog.

Her.

fixing house - east

Surprise!! The Permian Basin Writers’ Conference

Yesterday afternoon, just as I had gotten home from my shift at the Co-op, Chris calls me to tell me about the Permian Basin Writers’ Workshop that’s going on today. The event started with a catered dinner, at the local library where he had just performed with his quintet, and dinner started in an hour! No time to change–no time to get ready. Get back in the car, and get out to the library now!

Now, I am a faithful person, but I don’t usually believe in “God made it happen.” I believe the world works the way it works, and we were put here to enjoy, protect, learn from, and improve the world. I do not necessarily believe that God, or angels, or saints drop things in our laps, just because we pray occasionally.

I mean, seriously, how can anyone believe that when there’s still so much starvation, disease, and violence in the world. What kind of god would bless a middle-class white dude with unprecedented opportunity, while leaving whole other communities to starve?

Sorry… no.

Anyway, all of that having been said, it is pretty weird how this opportunity came to me. See, Chris and his quintet were playing a gig at the library. When the recital ended, he learned about the conference from the events coordinator. He called me, and, bam! I’m on my way to the conference.

Now, I didn’t have a perfectly stellar experience with the DFWcon. It was a great convention, and I am scheduled to attend next year, I just feel that I let myself down by choking so hard on my pitch session. I wasn’t looking to repeat that experience, so for this conference to pop up was a complete surprise. I had nothing prepared; I’d done no research. I just tossed myself in.

So that was last night. After dinner and the opening presentations ended, I decided that I should head on home (skipped the meet and greet and fled with my tail between my legs). Chris was waiting for me and we both squeed a little bit and got to talking about the event. He wagged a finger at me jsome for running away from an opportunity to speak to an agent (again), but instead of nagging, he sat with me and walked me through my pitch to help me build up some confidence about delivering it for real.

I did not sleep well last night. I think I woke up about … ninety-teen times. I don’t remember my dreams except that they were about people I used to know. I dragged myself out of bed an hour earlier than usual and did a tiny amount of research about this weekend’s agent (turns out he was already on my “to query” list).

I didn’t plan any of this! I intended to hang out with some friends today–take a day, off and easy. I wanted to put together some ideas for our D&D crew. But instead, I’m getting ready for a writing conference.

Sure, I know I said that I don’t believe God gives free opportunity to the privileged, while leaving the majority of humans to go hungry, but I have been praying for guidance–saying prayers like, “Please help me see opportunity, and help me find the courage to jump on it like a rabid, half-starved wildcat pounces on an overfed and quite slow-moving turkey.” And now here I am, gearing up for a last-minute event, bolstered by Chris’s coaching and the all-new pitch he helped me come up with. I’m nervous and hopeful. Wish me luck!

Oh, and in case I choke again this afternoon, my novel is an 80,000-word adult fantasy about the return of magic to earth, and the effect this has on a small apartment community in Midland, Texas.

DFWcon2015: Day 1

The official Day One began with (no surprise here) a hangover—it wasn’t terrible, just a bit of a headache and some drymouth. I got cleaned up and headed into town for the official first day of the DFW writers’ convention. Now, I am not a fan of driving, especially in cities, especially in big cities I’ve never driven around in before. So naturally, I was a bit frazzled upon arrival, but I found the Dee and Charles Wyly Theatre without any difficulty, and parking was a snap.

Inside, I grabbed my name badge, bought my official DFWcon coffee mug (they were green this year), and spent the next 45 minutes riding the elevators, trying to figure out where everything was.

I had signed up for a couple of limited-seating workshops that I was pretty excited about. The first was called “Read and Critique,” presented by Harry Hall and David Goodner. The group would be reading the first several pages of our manuscripts aloud for comments and advice from the presenters and our peers. I attended a similar workshop last year, and it was pretty painless, so I was feeling really good about this one. The other workshop I signed up for was “Query Letter Workshop,” presented by Jenny Martin, Julie Murphy, Rosemary Clement-Moore, and Janet Taylor. This one had me a bit more nervous, because I didn’t know what it would entail, but I knew my query needed a lot of help.

The first open-access workshop I took part in after the opening remarks, was “Pitching Practice,” presented by Jenny Martin, Julie Murphy, and Rosemary Clement-Moore. Now, I wasn’t going to go to this workshop at all, because I didn’t want to terrify myself before my real pitch session. But, I decided at the last second that maybe if I humiliated myself early, I would be looser and a little more relaxed. Nowhere to go but up, right?

So, the room was packed. We were given a pep talk—some pointers and encouragement, and then told to break up into groups, pick a professional, and make our pitches! I got to sit down with the absolutely lovely Julie Murphy, and I delivered my pitch at about 900 words a second.

Bam. Done.

…silence…

She asked a few questions, was very generous with her complements, and gave me some great advice. And then, like a robot on autopilot because my organic pilot had passed out from sheer terror, I thanked her, shook her hand, stood up, and left. Zerrt zerrt! Thank you very much! I will excuse myself now!

Okay, so, I’m not psychic. I’m not in her head, but I’ve done some face-to-face selling in my time, so I know what it looks like when I’ve made an impact, and when the shutters of disinterest come down.

I failed to make an impact, but she never shut down on me, so that’s good! This was a dry run, and I walked away with some great pointers: describe how magic works in the story—name the characters; give them some personality. Relax. Great advice! I wrote it all down. I even made myself a cheat sheet with bullet points so that if I choked, I could just pull it out to remind myself of critical topics and discuss.

I’ve been working on this story world since 1999; I know it like the back of my hand. All I need to do is start talking, and it will all flow. I even wrote down a catchy “elevator pitch.”

Confident! Excited! Ready.

Immediately after the workshop: my pitch session, for which I was late. Yeah, somehow I had convinced myself that my end time was actually my start time, and I was prepared to walk in at 10:10—exactly when my session should have ended. Fortunately, I caught my mistake a few moments after my group was sent in to make their pitches, and the gentleman at the door allowed me to skulk in after them. And skulk I did.

I tiptoed over to my scheduled agent, sat down, and proceeded to forget everything. I forgot my notes, my bullet points… that perfect elevator pitch. Poof. Big purple head of cotton candy.

She was so patient. She smiled and asked me questions about my novel, but I drew nothing but blanks. Hell, she could have asked me what my main character’s name was and I would have forgotten! So, I just stammered and laughed. Oh yes—my fatal nervous laughter. My skull is empty of brains but filling up with the sweat of a thousand terrors. Let’s laugh.

Anyway, after much effort, I managed to squeak out a hint about my plot, so she asked more specific questions. “Why is the world of magic coming back into the real world? Why is it coming back now? How will your villain do spoiler with spoiler?” My brain collided with itself again and again.

I know the answer to this,” it said with glee.

But what does she care about how the world got the way it is? None of that information is in the actual book,” it retorted. “To carry on about details that are not actually present in the manuscript would be downright irresponsible.”

To which my brain replied, “Yeah, but I know the answer! It means I know my world! I’ve thought all this out! All I have to do is get the mouth to start, and then charisma can take over and everything will work out.”

And then, “Charisma is being able to answer the question without this kind of one-man debate gumming up the works, so that’s right out. Besides, look at her. The shutter’s come down. She doesn’t care how well you know your stupid fantasy world.”

My brain actually sputtered then, “Then why the hell would she ask?!”

The response being, “Probably just to shut you up.”

That doesn’t even make any sense!”

YOU don’t make any sense!”

Now you’re just being juvenile!”

And she’s just being nice!!”

“… yeah, probably …”

Now, chuckle like a good little idiot, and let’s get out of here.”

And, what comes out of my mouth is, “Uhhhh *nervous chuckle*”

In the end, she said it sounded a little too quirky for her. Heh, yeah. How else could it sound coming from a big fat, purple-headed doofus? She invited me to send her five pages and a query anyway, (which I did last week, but of course I’m not holding my breath).

As I walked out, I remembered my cheat sheets, my elevator pitch, my bullet points—all of it. I just wore my best smile and chuckled, and when my buddy outside asked me how I did, I told the truth.

“I choked like a joke.” One of these days, I’ll look back on this and laugh for real.

Anyway, I know that I’m supposed to be all up-beat professional with my blog, but this is the way it happened. I’m not the only person whose brain turned to tomato aspic when it was needed the most. Maybe next year I’ll do just a little better.

But, I couldn’t mope around! I had a day and a half left, lots to do, and there were far too many people around to go about looking like the family dog who got left out in the rain on meatloaf night. So I hopped on the elevator and rode it upstairs, where I was just in time for my next workshop.

“Read and Critique.” Two pros and a handful of peers—read for a few minutes and we all critique each other. Man, there were some neat stories around the table, and some very useful critiques, too! I was still reeling just a little bit from my pitch session, so nerves got the better of me when it was my turn to read. I went way too fast, and I stumbled a little bit, but everyone was very kind and gave some great advice.

Then came lunch, catered by Wolfgang Puck. Two tables stood outside the lobby, piled with boxed lunches. I had no idea which one I had originally signed up for, but I was pretty sure it was the turkey option, so that’s what I grabbed. Lunch was… cute. It comprised a sandwich, a sliver of dill pickle, a chocolate-chip-esque cookie, and a bag of potato chips. Well, it was free, and it was food, and the flavors were on point, so I can honestly say I had no complaints about lunch.

Some of the ladies from the workshop invited me to sit outside with them, which was pretty intimidating, because I’m not very used to being invited to have lunch with other people. But, DFWcon is about networking as much as it’s about learning the craft and grabbing an agent, and how will I ever build up the courage to attend the receptions if I can’t even hang out with other writers? So, I put on my brave face, joined them, and we all ate and talked about our writing and inspirations. After that, we all exchanged cards and Twitter information.

I felt good, had some food in my belly and some caffeine in my blood stream—I felt pretty excited about my next workshop. Well, I guess it was just time for a brain fart. I ended up in the wrong room and sat through10 minutes of a class about writing creative nonfiction before I realized my error. So, I snuck out and tiptoed over to the “Query Letter Workshop,” but it was already going in full swing. I didn’t want to interrupt. So, I headed back downstairs to relax for a little while.

That was when I saw that Tex Thompson was giving a presentation called “Comma Sutra.” Now, if you have never had the opportunity to attend one of Tex’s classes, you absolutely must! She is brilliant and funny! I never don’t learn something from her. I attended, and I have to say I am happy I got mixed up previously, because I learned a ton! And, I laughed a lot too, which is what I really needed.

After this, I attended the class, “What to Expect when Publishing,” presented by Kendel Lynn. This was another eye-opening experience. *Big sigh* I tell you, this changes every year, it seems. I was just getting used to being responsible to organize signings and press releases and all that, but now there’s a huge focus on social media and… Blog tours?! I’d never heard that term before Saturday!

Well, as I sat in the class, trying to cram of this new information into my tomato aspic brain, I found myself wondering what I would write next—now that Saundra was finished. Our instructors said—and this was definitely not the first time I’d heard this—that once we get published, we are done with freedom. Our job is marketing and writing what our agent and publishers ask for. So, we are advised to write anything and everything we can before then—find what we really love.

I got to thinking about this after the class ended. I’ve written fantasy, both high and urban. I’ve tried my hand at sci-fi. While I thought about writing other things, I realized that I am finally done with Saundra’s story. There will be tweaks along the way, and I am sure that an editor some day will ask for edits, but the novel is finished, and I am finally ready to move on to something new. At that point, I had reached maximum brain capacity and was ready to shut down.

There was time for one more class before the dinnertime break, and the keynote and agents’ reception followed that. I was exhausted though, and while I felt bad for skipping the speech, I just did not have the fortitude to attend (or even run away from) the reception. So I called Chris to come get me, and we joined our friends for dinner at El Corazón de Tejas, where we shared the Sizzling Beef Parrillas, and I got a little tipsy with a Madria Rita. Fantastic dinner!

After all that, we headed back to our friends’ place, played a little WiiU, and then I crashed early with the hope of getting enough sleep before day 2.

DFWcon2015: Day 0.5

Chris and I rolled out of bed at about 6:00 am Friday morning. We’d packed most of what we needed the night before, so all I had to do was to make some last minute edits to my query letter and print out all the paperwork I’d need for the convention. We loaded up the car, grabbed snacks and breakfast on the way out of town, and hit the highway.

I can’t say much for the drive, mainly because I slept most of the way. Chris was so kind; he let me snooze as long as I needed, because he knew I was pretty anxious about the convention.

Dallas is a bit more humid than Midland, so I was pretty miserable outside in the 90+ degree weather. The Sheraton was, more or less, air-conditioned, but the skywalk—which I took to grab some Tex-Mex across the street—was not. By the time I descended into the Plaza of the Americas, I felt like I’d just jumped out of a sauna.

I ordered the Julio’s chicken flautas, beans, rice, and beef fajita tacos at J Pepe’s. It was pretty good—quick service and a good amount of food for under twenty bucks. Afterward, I mozied back to the Seminar Theatre where critically acclaimed author Steven James presented “Story Trumps Structure : How to Write Unforgettable Fiction by Breaking the Rules”

I was a little bit intimidated by the title of this presentation, because I feared it would be a 4-hour grammar and punctuation lesson. It was actually a great presentation about free-style writing. He described a set of creative tools for writers who are happiest writing without outlines, to help create punching, active, accessible fiction. Fantastic stuff! I haven’t taken this many notes since college. (Look below for links to his website and book)

The DFWcon pre-con mixer took place after the seminar, and I originally intended to be there, but nerves got the better of me. I called for evac minutes before the event kicked off, and Chris arrived with our hosts to whisk me away. Yeah, I chickened out, and I fear Friday evening would not be the last time that my nerves got the better of me that weekend. But that’s a story for another blog entry.

We began our evening with cocktails at VH. I tried the Flying Mule, the Cinco Pico, the Peach Julep, and the “El Chefo.” Man, that’s a lot of cocktails, and they were all fantastic! My favorites were the “El Chefo,” and the Flying Mule, as I’m a sucker for Campari and ginger.

After tying on a little bit of a buzz, we then headed into the Bishop Arts District for dinner at Hattie’s. We visited the bar while we waited for our table, and I enjoyed a Key Lime martini, which—oh my god—was pretty much key lime pie in a glass. With booze. It was really loud inside the restaurant, but that just made it easier to pay attention to my Low-country shrimp and grits. Fantastic.

We wandered around the art district for a little bit after eating, but the evening was just a bit too warm to enjoy, so we piled into the car and headed back to our friends’ place. I’d like to say something about the Dallas city lights at night, but I was pretty much asleep before the engine turned over. I’d also like to say that I slept like the dead, but with the convention—and my one-on-one pitch session—looming on the horizon, I barely slept at all.

COMING SOON: Day 1


Here are the places where I ate on Friday,

And, here are links to Steven James’s website, and his book: Story Trumps Structure.