Here's What You'll Wish You Knew
To the Girl Who Doesn't Want a Puppy,
I was you eight years ago.
My husband brought home a twenty-four pound, eight-week-old ball of fluff--and it was completely against my wishes. Let me be clear: It's not that I hate dogs. I'm an animal lover to my core. It's just that, well, when you buy a house and start a brand-new teaching job within the same two-week period, it just doesn't seem like the right time to buy a puppy.
And it definitely doesn't feel like the right time to buy a puppy that will turn into a two-hundred pound, horse-sized creature.
Thus, when my husband returned from a six-hour car ride with that ball of fur, I swore two things:
1. If the puppy woke me up or was a pain, our marriage wouldn't last.
2. I was not going to love that puppy. Ever.
Henry, as we named him (After the Henry & Mudge series, my favorite growing up...my husband didn't like the name Mudge, so we settled on Henry), didn't make it hard to hate him in the beginning, in truth. As twentysomethings who never had a puppy as adults, we naively went to Wal-Mart to buy a baby monitor because we were terrified we wouldn't hear him if he cried in the middle of the night. Needless to say, we didn't need the monitor to hear his howls from downstairs. Somehow, though, as the days turned into weeks, my husband simply "didn't hear him" in the middle of the night--and Henry didn't understand that three a.m. was not the time to play hide-and-seek under the deck steps.
There were plenty other incidents, too, that resulted in my haughtily looking at my husband and wordlessly reminding him that I was right--getting a puppy was a terrible idea. There were chewed shoes--I can still picture those leather kitten-heeled shoes from T.J. Maxx that were shredded--and chewed baseboards. There were popped cans of soda that resulted in sticky messes all over the kitchen, and stolen bags of Cheese Puffs that resulted in a very nauseous mastiff puppy. There was the time I decided to give in and maybe love Henry a little bit--and then he peed on my lap while I was holding him. There were nightly frustrations as I tried to do lesson plans with a puppy tugging at my pants.
There were so many times that I swore up and down that I would never love the puppy. I would never, ever be best friends like him. Dogs might be man's best friend, but women knew better than to be friends with a slobbering, terribly behaved creature, I assured everyone who would listen.
But to the girl who is nodding along now because you don't want a puppy, either, here's what you need to know: Enjoy every damn minute of it. Every single second.
Soak in every angry time you call that puppy and he flops down in the yard instead. Enjoy every chewed shoe, every mess, every wild moment. Enjoy every playful excursion and every second of training that puppy.
Seriously soak up every single second, even when you're convinced that puppy will never be a friend of yours.
Because here's the thing. Even when you feel like you might hate that puppy, even when he drives you crazy and he sheds everywhere and there are not enough Clorox wipes in the world to clean up his messes, you will miss these days. They go so fast, so very fast.
And before you know it, before you can even realize it, your heart will soften. Suddenly, that puppy that is nothing but a reminder of why you are so tired will, in fact, worm his way into your heart. Before you even know what's happened or how, he will be the one you look forward to seeing when the world is falling apart. He'll be the one you laugh with and rely on. He'll be your rock in a life that can be so, so hard. He'll be there when you're crying your eyes out over lost friends and lost jobs and lost everything. He'll be there to share cupcakes with and run through the sprinkler with and dance to Taylor Swift with. He'll be the one you take too many selfies with, you buy too many toys for, and that you hurry home just to be with.
In short, somewhere between where you are now and where I am, you'll fall in love with the puppy you swore you didn't want. He'll become your best friend, your confidante, your world.
You'll build a friendship that is impossible to understand and impossible to foresee. But built it you will. The days will turn into weeks and the weeks into months. Years will pass and you'll get fooled again--you'll get fooled into thinking your friendship will always be there.
To the girl who doesn't want a puppy, though, here's the thing. I know you can't see it now through your sleepless nights and accident cleanups, but there will come a day when you miss that puppy energy. There will come a time when suddenly, that puppy can't zoom around the house anymore. There will come a day when he doesn't chew shoes because it's too hard to bend down to pick them up. There will be a day when his legs don't work anymore and you can barely remember a time when you dashed through the sprinkler or danced in the kitchen.
In the blink of an eye, you'll be me, eight years later, watching her very best friend in the world fall apart a little more each day. You'll be me, looking at those sad eyes and gray fur and wondering where the time went. You'll be me, wishing you had savored the moments a little more, taken a few extra pictures, and not spent so much time trying not to love that fur ball. You'll sit and remember all the moments, good and bad, and realize that they were what built your friendship.
You'll realize that those puppy years and all the years after didn't just grow a friendship--they grew you. They changed you. They made you who you are today.
These final years are perhaps even harder than the puppy years in some ways. Now, as I sit and know that our goodbye is coming sooner rather than later, I have a heart full of memories and a memory full of love for that puppy I didn't want.
But I'm not that girl anymore. I have Henry to thank for that. He taught me what it was to be patient and to love, to truly, unconditionally love--destroyed kitten-heeled shoes and all.
So I know you might not want that puppy.
I know you are going to have hard days.
I know you'll probably threaten to divorce your husband several times--and probably, deep-down, mean it a little.
But to the girl who doesn't want the puppy...you will. Oh, someday you will want nothing more than to have that puppy back.
Trust me--from one girl who didn't want the puppy to the next, you will want these days back more than anything.
Hours and hours of hard work, of fighting with the images in my head, of putting down words despite my own self-consciousness. Hundreds of dollars on a cover, thousands of pep-talks. Chocolates by the fistful (I’m a stress eater) and wine to soothe my nerves.
All for what? Apparently one single star.
A few years ago, when my debut thriller got picked up by Avon Books/Harpercollins, I thought it was finally my time. I thought all of the tears over bad reviews, rejections, bad book sales, and empty book signings would be over. When that debut hit the USA Today Bestseller’s list, I thought for sure my hard work had finally paid off and I would reap success. I could finally tuck away that self-doubt that had been my nemesis for years, the voice always huskily whispering to me that I wasn’t enough.
But here’s the thing, dear writer—the self-doubt never dies. It’s always gnawing on you from within. Sure, hitting a list or scoring a sought-after publishing deal might squash it for a while. But it’s always waiting for the right moment—another rejection, a bad review, or a bad sales month. Then, it rears its ugly head once more and you realize the harsh truth. No matter what you do, self-doubt will always find a way back in. More often than not, the imposter syndrome and the feeling of not being good enough will worm its way into your brain at the exact moment you feel like quitting it all anyway.
Thus, after my third and fourth thriller manuscripts were flat out rejected, my self-doubt and imposter syndrome crept back in. I thought for sure I was done. I felt like a one-hit wonder, a washed up, terrible writer. I let the self-doubt monster within convince me of what all writers perhaps fear the most—I wasn’t a good writer after all.
This funk went on for several months until finally, thanks to my husband and a long look inside, I told myself to get back up. I was a writer. I had a voice I needed to share and stories to tell. I was meant to keep writing.
Thus, I flung myself into the world of self-publishing. I decided I would stand confidently and be my own supporter. I would skip all the gatekeepers in the publishing world. I had learned enough to spread my words and to tell the stories I wanted to tell. I wouldn’t cave to pressures to write the norm. I would write my stories that stepped out of genres and out of the confines of the publishing world. I would stand tall and proud in my words. So I did just that—I self-published those rejected manuscripts and put them out into the world.
And it’s had its ups for sure. I’ve won an award on my first self-published book. I’ve gotten enough positive reviews to keep the self-doubt monster from preying on me. I’ve been able to stand steady in my boots. I’ve even convinced myself that this was the writing path for me all along, that maybe my own journey would inspire others to stop depending on publishers to feel successful.
Tonight, though, the monster reared its ugly head out of nowhere. As my latest self-published book has just hit Netgalley, I’ve been staring and waiting to see what others think. Perhaps this is the problem—I have not yet gained the confidence in myself to ignore what others think and to only hear my own voice. I am still looking for validation. Because as I sit here staring at my first review on Netgalley, it’s a one-star review. And as I study the scathing words and the knocks on my writing, I’d like to say it doesn’t matter. I’d like to tell you dear writer, that I’m going to ignore it, shake it off. That I don’t care what others think of my book, let alone one person. That would all be a lie, though.
So I’m going to tell you the truth.
It hurts. It stings. It sucks.
And the self-doubt monster is now consuming all those lists I’ve hit, those achievements I’ve had, those successes. It’s gobbling them up one by pretty one and spitting out the remnants of a writing career I was once proud of. It’s convincing me with its confident stance that I am a failure, a nobody, that I never really was that good.
It hurts like hell because, like so many writers, I’ve felt called to this. I’ve always wanted this. I’ve hung the past six years on this impossible dream. I’ve listened to the podcasts and written the positive sticky notes to tell myself to just keep going. I’ve talked the talk of finding confidence and celebrating your achievements and never backing down.
Yet that one review has slaughtered all my faith and has made me truly feel like just quitting, like it was all for nothing. That’s the truth of how I’m feeling. I am devastated. I feel like a loser, like an absolute terrible writer.
Why write this, then? Why spread my morose feelings of quitting and failure?
Because I think so many times in the writing world, the loneliest part of it all is feeling like you’re the only one struggling. It’s bad marketing to talk about failures and bad reviews, we’re told. People don’t want to hear about your struggles.
That’s probably true. But when, as writers, we stop talking about the hard times, the problem is that we set a dangerous precedent for our peers—we make them feel like everything should be perfectly rosy for them, too. We convince them that no one else is crying over a review or feeling like a failure or wondering if they even are talented at all. We make them feel even more alone than any scathing review could.
So tonight, as I wiped away tears and the painful sting of failure, I write this with one hope: That somewhere out there, another writer who is suffering, too, will find peace in knowing they are not the only one. I hope that by sharing these raw feelings someone out there can understand that list or no list, published or not, we all face hardships in our self-confidence as writers. We all get rejected and bad reviews. We all think about quitting. We all, in short, feel like shit because someone hates our work.
But then, because we are writers to our core, we get back up. We put pen to paper again. We let our voice sing on the page once more, even at the great risk of having others critique us harshly again. Because, even in the middle of feeling like a failure or like quitting, we know that there are worse things than failing—and that’s to silence our writing voices forever.
So I carry on—sub-par writing, clunky verbiage, forgettable characters, and all.
Mexican Gothic Book Review
I have been seeing this book all over Instagram and couldn't wait to get my hands on it! Perhaps it was because of all of the hype that I felt a little bit let down by this one because it definitely wasn't one of my favorites (as I'd anticipated).
What I liked:
I loved the eerie atmosphere in this book. From the beginning, it has a "Yellow Wallpaper" vibe, which is my FAVORITE creepy read of all time. I loved the almost haunted feel from the very beginning of the book when Noemi first arrives at the mansion looking for her cousin. So many creepy things occur right away--from the staff at the house to Virgil to the silent dinners. I loved how the author established that vibe right away.
I also liked the last 20% of the book because it was intriguing--very, very weird, but intriguing all the same. It was unlike any book I'd ever read before, which was a good thing.
I liked how Noemi's character wasn't predictable and was a strong protagonist.
What I didn't like:
I didn't like the pure Rebecca vibes at the beginning of the book. It felt so similar to the movie I watched (I didn't read the book), and for me, that detracted from the story. I also felt like the pacing/flow was off. It seemed almost like two different books. The first sixty percent of the book was pretty dull, slow, and rooted in realism. The fantasy elements that were introduced in the last part of the book, thus, didn't feel as rooted in the story and I had a hard time suspending disbelief. While there were some creepy scenes for sure, I was pulled out of the horror element by the truly odd storyline. This one is memorable, but it definitely didn't resonate with me. I found myself skimming the last chapter just to finish it because I wasn't as invested as I would like.
All in all, I gave this one a 3.5 stars. The writing is certainly stellar. It was just the overall plot and pacing that fell flat for me. I definitely recommend you check it out, though, if you like a dark, gothic read with a strong supernatural element.
After receiving a frantic letter from her newly-wed cousin begging for someone to save her from a mysterious doom, Noemí Taboada heads to High Place, a distant house in the Mexican countryside. She’s not sure what she will find—her cousin’s husband, a handsome Englishman, is a stranger, and Noemí knows little about the region.
Noemí is also an unlikely rescuer: She’s a glamorous debutante, and her chic gowns and perfect red lipstick are more suited for cocktail parties than amateur sleuthing. But she’s also tough and smart, with an indomitable will, and she is not afraid: Not of her cousin’s new husband, who is both menacing and alluring; not of his father, the ancient patriarch who seems to be fascinated by Noemí; and not even of the house itself, which begins to invade Noemi’s dreams with visions of blood and doom.
Her only ally in this inhospitable abode is the family’s youngest son. Shy and gentle, he seems to want to help Noemí, but might also be hiding dark knowledge of his family’s past. For there are many secrets behind the walls of High Place. The family’s once colossal wealth and faded mining empire kept them from prying eyes, but as Noemí digs deeper she unearths stories of violence and madness.
And Noemí, mesmerized by the terrifying yet seductive world of High Place, may soon find it impossible to ever leave this enigmatic house behind.
USA TODAY Bestselling Thriller author with Avon Books (HarperCollins), The Widow Next Door