Right now, I'm staring at my computer screen and trying to ignore the papers on my left. AKA: My edits.
Right now, I'm in a sticky spot, where lots of little changes add up to big ones.
Right now, I'd rather nap, blog, or cook than rework this chapter. But I still would rather edit than clean, so I'm not completely hopeless.
Right now, I'm wondering why editing had to be so hard, and why there has to be so much of it, and why I can't enjoy it like some of my other writing friends do. Also, why I complain so much when I ultimately like writing stories. BUT. The editing. It will never be my favorite.
Right now, I know that's okay, and that I'll keep going anyway.
Right now, I want to say that I'm grateful for all of you, and for everything you've said about my recent blog slump. I want to say that I'm not going anywhere, but that things will be changing. I don't know what all those changes will be, but there's likely to be a makeover at the very least. Because a fresh look always helps.
Right now, despite struggles, I'm so happy.
Right now, I'm listening to "Joy To World" by Three Dog Night.
Right now, I'm going to rework this chapter, because it's my actual job. And that is a wonderful miracle.
This is a drawing I did of Ninja Girl. She critiqued me the whole time. "I'm not doing that with my arms!" "My hair doesn't do that!" "My dress isn't that color!" She is hilarious. So now you know, it doesn't matter if you can draw or not, your kids will still complain about your attempts. I think because they have this image in their heads, and you just don't interpret it the way they want.
Anyway, I try not to get too frustrated with her, because I know she's learning from me. She watches me draw with utter fascination, and she is already picking stuff up. It's amazing to watch her learn! The girl just loves to color and draw. I remember the first time I put a crayon in her hand at maybe 18 months or so—she held it the right way and she just COLORED. When I did the same with my older son, he ate the crayon.
Actually he ate/destroyed all drawing utensils until he was like 3 or so.
Ninja Girl is three, and the girl will color and draw for solid chunks of time. An hour or more. And it's amazing what she comes up with. Today I thought I'd share:
The two green figures are mermaids, and the others are butterflies. The thing above the squiggly water line is a boat. I just think it's the most adorable mommy baby pair of mermaid in the world. I know, I'm totally bragging, but it's just so amazing to watch a child learn a skill (like watching Dino Boy learn to read—SO rewarding).
I can only hope both my kids will keep at their individual talents. Because seeing them right at the very beginning, it has reminded me just how much work and time goes into all we do.
The title of my post makes me sad, yet it's the truth. I don't know if there's something about the 4 year mark or what, but as I approach that date (October 10th) I can't help thinking that I've said practically all I can say. That I'm a bit fatigued of hearing myself "talk" and wonder if others are, too. What once was an enjoyable activity has become sort of an obligation, a source of anxiety.
I probably shouldn't be telling you these things, but here I am doing it anyway.
Let's get one thing clear—I'm not saying I'm shutting down the blog. Oh, I've thought about it often, especially since I sold my book, which is rather ironic since maybe now is the best time to have a blog and network. But there's been...a shift. People treat me differently now, and not always in a good way. It's strange how once you "get there," people tend to think you go deaf/blind and they can say whatever they want about you, true or untrue, sometimes cruel.
I never really saw it coming. I mean, I saw it happen to people who got Major Book Deals, but I didn't think it would happen to me. My deal was average. My book is debuting in paperback even. Maybe I never mentioned that, but it is. Don't get me wrong—I am VERY happy with my circumstances. I just never expected that they would have such an effect on people's perspective of me.
Because I'm still the same person. I say what I've always said, and yet now people view it differently. It's so weird, and some days it's no big deal, while other days I feel like everything I thought I knew about people and the internet and publishing has been erased.
I feel very...exposed, though at the same time I have closed off more of myself than ever. And I have this compulsion to continue that, to protect myself from the impending onslaught of judgment. Frankly, it scares the crap out of me.
And so the thought of blogging for 2 more years before my book even gets out there has become this overwhelming monster. What will I talk about? I've seen people lash out at my friends for the smallest things, and that's what I have coming. People will roll their eyes at my pathetic attempts to promote. They will read ARCs and say mean things and I will be a baby unable to handle it—and of COURSE they will @ me on Twitter with their 1 star reviews just to make sure I see what a horrible job I've done.
The internet used to be fun. Right now? It kinda hurts, and I've barely begun.
I honestly don't know what to do. I wish I did. Writing stuff like this helps me feels better, though now if I do I get viewed as ungrateful and whiny. As much as I want to shut down the blog and go all J.D. Salinger, a part of me still wants to participate in this community as well. I'm trying to figure out if there's a way to have my cake and eat it, too. Maybe there isn't. Maybe I just have to deal with the bad stuff and try to focus on the good. Maybe I'll have to go a little AWOL and only show up at random. Maybe I'll have to do something really crazy, like sign up for Tumblr.
There's one thing I've been wanting to do for a long time, and that's take down my follower count. I've always disliked that button, because it seriously changed the world of blogging when they added it. What used to be more of a community turned into kind of a popularity contest, and I dragged my feet even putting it up to begin with. But I wanted people to be able to follow if they wanted, so I relented. Now I'm thinking it's time to get rid of the number. Maybe it will help me remember the earlier blog days, and that I'm supposed to be doing this for fun.
About a week and a half ago, Nathan Bransford asked an interesting question: Should Agents Respond To All Queries? Since I am a former client of his, I tend to watch these topics fairly closely, even though I don't often weigh in. I've read the responses, both from writers and agents, and I find the whole thing rather interesting. It seems it's not so much about the "no response mean no" policy anymore, and more about what agents "owe" writers.
It seems the vast majority of querying writers are of the opinion that the "no response" policy is rude. There have been comparisons to agents being employees, and that writers have the power even if it may not look like it at times. There have also been comparisons to "customer service," and the fact that it's just bad business not to respond to a customer.
I think writers are kind of missing the point.
Because the agent/writer relationship is NOT an employer/employee relationship. The agent/writer relationship is a partnership.
It has really bugged me that some people are claiming that agents are writers' employees. Anna, my agent, is NOT my employee. She is employed by Curtis Brown. If I viewed her as my employee, that would mean that I am completely in charge of not only the relationship, but my own career.
This is not the case.
I know that might sound terrifying to some writers, but it is the truth. If you are seeking an agent, you are seeking a business partner. That business partner has certain assets that would be beneficial to you, such as connections at publishers and experience with the market. But to get those benefits, you have to give up some freedom, so to speak. You are no longer the sole person invested in your career—you have a partner.
If Anna were my employee, that implies that I have the freedom to boss her around and tell her how to do her job. I can't even imagine! It implies that I could tell her how I want her to submit my work to editors and who I want it subbed to. I could tell her to sign my friends because I like their work even if she might not. If I were truly her employer, I suppose I could decide to pay her less commission, too.
Obviously this is not the case. Nor would I want it to be! I am with an agent because I believed it would benefit my career. I wanted help and direction in my writing. I wanted a partner who could help me get my work out there in a bigger way than I could on my own.
I am lucky to have Anna as my partner in this writing adventure. It is a symbiotic relationship. I provide her with good material, and she finds an editor to buy it. She gets to enjoy my success as well as hers. We discuss things—I don't tell her what to do. I use her wisdom, while she listens to and embraces my ideas. This is what it is to be in partnership with an agent.
Which brings me to the "customer service" comments. While I can see why writers are saying that they are agents' customers, it's simply not the truth. You can say that you will be paying for a service, thus you are always right, as the "good service" canon says. But it's slightly different. You are NOT a customer—readers are customers. You are a potential business partner.
Agents do not take any money upfront, though their upfront work load can be quite heavy. There is usually much editing to be done. They have to prepare a sub list, make calls, use their connections, all while balancing other clients AND potential clients. So you can't really be called a customer because you have paid nothing for their work—and there is no guarantee that you will pay for their work.
So what is the agent really looking for when open to queries? An agent is looking for a good investment.
That's right. Because it's a partnership. Agents want to invest in your work, give you a leg up in hopes of propelling your career forward faster than you can. And if they are able to accomplish that, they take a small commission—their return on the investment.
In your query, you are not saying "Look at me! I will pay you and give you business!" No, you should be showing an agent how you'd be a good investment. You are saying, "These are my assets. This is what makes me a good investment." It's a subtle difference, but one that changes everything.
The truth of the matter? Nathan Bransford made no money on me. For over a year, he put in hours and hours of work. He did everything he possibly could for my book because he believed I was a good investment, that I could be published writer. And honestly, it killed me sometimes that I couldn't pay him, that I couldn't pay Anna until I finally sold. Because these two agents have been the best partners a writer could ask for, and I wanted to hold up my side of the deal and write a book worthy of selling.
I know querying is hard. Heck, it took me two years and almost 200 queries to land an agent. But let's at least be clear on what the agent/writer relationship is, because I think when we understand that we are neither employer or customer we get to the heart of the matter. And that's this—we are in this together.
It's about that time again! Leave your questions in comments, and I will answer as fast as I am able. Yes, you may ask as many as you'd like about whatever you want. I will be around all day, and all questions asked before I wake up tomorrow will be answered.
Yesterday a package came from Japan. It was full of AWESOMENESS, with a simple letter of congratulations from the lovely Claire Dawn. Claire has followed my blog for a long time, and her excitement about TRANSPARENT selling has meant so much.
Claire is just one of many bloggers who've brightened my day. I know sometimes it doesn't seem like a comment or tweet can do much, but I can't tell you how many much-needed smiles you've given me these last three years.
A lovely reader named Bethany sent me an article on Yumiko Oshima the other day, and I was so excited to learn that her art is the origin of the kitty ears anime trope. Now I'm determined to hunt down The Star of Cottonland.
You have recommended anime to me. I found Fruits Basket, Ouran High School Host Club, Hikaru No Go, Avatar: The Last Airbender, Bleach, Moribito: Guardian of the Spirit, and so many more from YOU.
You send me links that made you think of me, and I'm always very pleased when they are about ninjas or cartoons or cupcakes, and everything else, too.
You have sent me thoughtful emails of encouragement and thanks and just plain kindness. These have helped me get through the hardest of times.
You have taken time to read this blog, which is sometimes silly, cheesy, and even melodramatic.
You have spread the word about my contests, ENTERED my contests, and been so gracious whatever the outcome. And to the winners, you have shared your words with me, and I do a little dance every time I hear of your successes.
You guys, out there in blog land, constantly make me happy to be a writer, to be part of this community. That any of you would take the time out to be kind to a stranger (because, really, I am one to so many of you) says volumes. You are wonderful, and you have been a big part of my journey thus far. I hope it never changes.
Okay, I've been staring at the Blogger box for like 15 minutes, which means post of randomness is the only way to go:
• My friend Michelle's MONARCH is out today! It's been available for little bit, but today is the OFFICIAL day. So I had to remind you to check it out. Michelle is awesome, and she is a writer after my own heart in that she's a genrebuster. Woot!
• I've finally discovered the key to getting people to talk to you on Twitter—WATCH TV. Who knew? I'm watching Buffy The Vampire Slayer for the first time and tweeting about it each night (at #firsttimebuffyviewer), and my goodness the Buffy fans have come out of the woodworks! It's been fabulous fun, to interact with people on Twitter. Believe it or not, I don't really get that many replies on Twitter. I was starting to think I was boring!
Well, now I know—I just need to watch more TV. When I'm done with Buffy, I'll have to hold a vote for the next popular-show-I-never-watched. Star Trek: Next Generation? Battlestar Galactica? LOST? Dr. Who? Oh, the possibilities.
• And, of course, since I'm chin-deep in edits, I have a new book idea! I am in love, guys. Rapturous, crazy love. The kicker? It's a HISTORICAL (with a touch of the paranormal [as in actual ghostly things, not creatures]). Which means RESEARCH. Because I don't have enough work. Oh, brain, you hate me, don't you?
But I LOVE this idea. It's fun and offbeat and new and as out-of-genre as usual. There is a plucky band of scamming orphans, ghostly apparitions, grizzly deaths, and a creepy girl who knows things, all set against Gold Rush Era San Francisco.
First, if you'd like to hop on over, the lovely Chantele Sedgwick interviewed me. And don't forget that the auction is still on!
So, this came in the mail yesterday. When I pulled it out, I thought something like, "I don't remember it being this...huge." I mean, look at all those pages! And all the purple comments! TRANSPARENT isn't even that long—about 72k. I can't imagine how massive it would have been if I wrote, like, 100k or something. I have A LOT of work ahead of me. Good work—possibly even fun work—just a whole lot of it. (Note to self: Write shorter books.)
But that's not all that came...
Books! Pretty books! I've been wanting to read Ten Things We Did, and the second I pulled out Wildwood I drooled. SUCH a pretty looking book. It looks like a classic already.
Both of these things were so surreal. I mean, I'd heard of people getting books from their editors, but for some reason it didn't process that I would get books from my editor! It was totally unexpected and fun. When I got the package I was so confused as to why it was much bigger than a manuscript, and then I opened it and was all, "Sweeeeet."
Then there's all that writing on my manuscript—and it's not MY writing. I've printed out my books before. I've written all over them. I know what a marked up manuscript looks like. But I can't tell you how weird and cool it is to see my editor's comments on there. My. Editor. It really didn't hit until now that I HAVE ONE OF THOSE. And she read my book and thought a lot about it and has all these amazing ideas on how to make it better. Not only does she have ideas, but she can TELL me her ideas. In querying, I remember how badly I wanted an agent to just TELL ME what the problem was. Well, I got what I asked for, and it's amazing, plus a little bit scary. But mostly amazing.
So I bet you're wondering what you do with a 10-page editorial letter and 274 pages of in-maniscript comments. You aren't? Well, I'll tell you anyway.
First, I freak out a little bit. Or a lot. Have you ever seen the movie Matilda (or read the book, of course)? If you have, you'll remember that scene where a boy is accused of eating the evil principal's chocolate cake. For his punishment, he's forced to eat a gigantic cake and no one can leave the school until he does. It's a little bit like that. I've just had this amazing, rich cake set in front of me, and as yummy as it looks it's hard to see any possible way to eat it all.
I am easily overwhelmed like that. So I have to stop and strategize. The first order of business is to boil down the editorial letter:
It's much easier for me to look at a page and a half of bullet points than the entire letter at once. It's the same amount of work, and yet it doesn't feel like it. I can see that I have 31 points to address, and I can check them off, which helps me see that I am making progress. I like progress.
After that comes breaking down the book into manageable chunks:
Looking at the whole thing at once puts me on edge, so I buy pretty folders and divide the manuscript into sections of about 3 chapters. When I begin edits, I will take out one folder and that's all I will see. It makes it much easier for me to work without getting overwhelmed by the sheer amount of things to do. I will go through each chapter and outline the changes that need to be made, then I'll make them. Then I get to check off more stuff! It's a party.
Okay, there's my "process" post for you. Better get to, like, actually working now.
It's you. It probably sounds cheesy—and heaven knows it doesn't always feel like that—but the only person you're competing against in writing is yourself.
This is a creative venture, after all. It's subjective. Yes, there are accepted standards, but at the same time those standards are often broken. Maddening, right? I both love and hate the idea of subjectivity. Sometimes I just want there to be a formula that says my book is GOOD. Of course then it could also say my book is BAD.
A lot of the times, I want to make this more complex than it is. But there's a simplicity to the writing/publishing gig that we will never escape:
1. It's subjective.
2. Therefore, stuff happens that may not make sense.
3. We can't control anything but our own work.
That's...pretty much it. It's kind of like running a marathon. Yeah, you could focus on those guys who run at Olympic speed. You could get bitter and think, "I will never run a marathon that fast, so I'll give up." But that fact is, if you CAN run a marathon you are pretty dang awesome. And if you can beat your own time, that makes you even MORE awesome. Independent of anyone else.
Writing a book is like that. Yeah, maybe you aren't the Olympic Book Writer, but if you've finished a novel, you are AWESOME and I raise my glass of Sprite to you. And if you've improved since then, you are MORE awesome. It keeps going—independent of anyone else.
I could spend a lot of time wallowing in the fact that I didn't sell as fast as I wanted. Or that I'm still so far from publication. Or that I won't be a bestseller. Or that I'm not this or that and the other. But that's just silly—I'm further along than I've ever been! I've written a better book than I ever have! And it's going to be published!
Comparing me to me, I've improved a lot, and I've come a long way. When I remove everyone and everything else from view, I can sit here and be proud of myself.
Because the most important thing is besting myself, and as long as I do that everything else will work out.
No, not my acceptance to Hogwarts. Not even Pottermore. My first official EDITORIAL LETTER came yesterday! (If you don't know what that is, an editorial letter is when your wonderful editor sends you everything they would like to see improved in your novel.) I might have freaked out a little. Or a lot. But you guys know that about me already, so I'm assuming that's not really a surprise.
Well, The Letter is long, and smart and kind and involved and full of things that have me going "Well, duh, why didn't I see that?" Editor Erica has certainly lived up to all the rumored brilliance and kindness. She is just wonderful, and I am SO LUCKY. I am also a little scared, but mostly LUCKY and EXCITED.
So. This means a few things:
1. I have actual WORK to do. Like, official I-am-being-paid-to-write work. Which is cool—and a little intimidating—but again mostly cool. Also surreal.
2. And not only do I have work, but I have a DEADLINE. A real live deadline! I can't tell you how ecstatic that makes me. I've been setting my own for forever, but this one was given to me! I feel all legit and stuff.
3. Since I have work and a deadline, that means my writing (okay, editing) actually has to come first now. Before blogging, networking, etc. I only have so many hours to work sans kids, and those will be spent on TRANSPARENT.
4. Which means that, until I have my edits done, I won't be blogging as much. Right now I've decided to go down to 3 days a week, but it might be less if I need the time. You can expect a post Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday for Happy Writers.
Hope you'll stick around! I promise to be extra interesting. Okay, I can't promise that, but I will do my utmost. And if I fail I will make it up to you in baked goods.
Oh, Pretty Pretty Princess. Do you remember that game? There are some toys and games that define your life, and Pretty Pretty Princess was one of them. Along with the Skip It and roller skates and the original Pet Shop animals and American Girl dolls.
I didn't actually own Pretty Pretty Princess, and I'm not sure my parents even knew how much I wanted that game because part of me, even at age eight or so, thought princesses were stupid. The other part, of course, wanted to be a pretty freaking princess, dang it. So I would watch the commercial—with its promise of bracelets and earrings and crowns—longingly. What a genius concept! First to get dressed up as a princess WINS.
Then my friend got Pretty Pretty Princess for her birthday, and I kind of made it a goal everyday to get her to hang out with me so I could subtly suggest we play "that one princess game."
It was awesome! There were different colored jewelry sets, and I would always fight for blue, because, well, I couldn't go ALL girly. I remember a black ring that was, like, the KISS OF DEATH. You could not be the Pretty Pretty Princess if you had the black ring (Which, thinking about that now, sounds terrible!).
One day, we were playing this game, and I was close to winning. I had my ring and bracelet and necklace. The crown was in sight. I was almost to Pretty Pretty when my friend's father came in.
He scared me, always had. He wasn't around much, but when he was he always had a beer in hand. And he swore a lot in addition to being loud. For a little Mormon girl, it was an experience. Not that I was completely sheltered. I grew up in the Bay Area, for Pete's sake. My mom taught me to be prepared and aware. I'd been teased in school for my religion. I knew there were people who didn't like us, but I never saw this one coming.
"Hey!" he said. I may have been Mormon, but even then I knew what drunk sounded like. "You're that little Mormon girl, aren't you?"
"Yes." I fidgeted with my bracelet, the jewelry seeming far more stupid than pretty all of the sudden.
"How many wives does your dad have?"
I stared at him, completely confused. "What?"
"How many wives! Polygamy. You Mormons can marry more than one woman." He leaned on the doorjamb, smiling. "Man, that'd be great to have a few. One for cleaning, one for cooking, one for...you know."
I had no idea what he was talking about. The tears were right there, begging to pour out, but I sucked them in. "That's not true. My dad is married to my mom and that's it."
He laughed. "Well, you better watch out, because that could change."
He disappeared, but his words stayed. I had never heard about this. I didn't know a single Mormon person with more than one wife. He had to be wrong, but a little part of me wondered. Doubted. Because he was an adult, and I was a kid.
"I don't want to play anymore." I pulled the bracelet off, the necklace, the silly snap on earrings. I didn't feel pretty at all. I felt ugly and strange and possibly wrong about something I believed implicitly. I ran home, hot, angry tears streaming down my face. Someone would have told me about this if it were true, wouldn't they? I would have noticed at church. I wasn't a stupid child. I was observant, sometimes too observant for my own good.
I asked my mom, and because she's an amazing mother she told me the truth. She told me it wasn't true. She told me my dad wouldn't marry another woman. But she also told me that our church used to practice polygamy, like they did in the Bible's Old Testament. I didn't like the idea, honestly. It was the first of many trials of faith and quests for understanding.
But one thing I did know—I was never playing Pretty Pretty Princess again.
When I was younger, I had a bad attitude. Okay, sometimes I still have a bad attitude. But as a teen I was particularly cynical and sarcastic. It was my comfy shell, a way of protecting my seriously fragile feelings from the bullies who so enjoyed messing with me. Because if I pretended it didn't hurt, pretended it didn't matter, maybe it wouldn't. And after awhile it worked. I totally faked myself out. I became as hard on the outside as I needed to be. As the Simon & Garfunkel song said—I was a rock. An island. People only brought pain, so I never let them get close enough to do their damage.
As you can probably imagine, the advice I most hated at the time was, "You can choose to be happy. Attitude is a choice."
I wanted to punch every adult that told me that. I wanted to scream in their faces, "YOU HAVE NO IDEA HOW MUCH I HURT." I mean, c'mon, do you really think telling me that will help? Thank you for pointing out that I'm not pleasant to be around—it makes me feel much better! Because I didn't know that. Hell, I don't even like to be around myself! Not surprised others can't stand me, since that's kind of my goal. Can we be more obvious?
Well, truth be told, I still hate when people tell me that. Not because I don't believe it, but because I KNOW it's true. I really do. I know a person can change their attitude if they want.
But...it's not so easy for some people. I have anxiety—social anxiety in spades, mixed with a fear of failure, some OCD (heavier on the Obsession side, leading to catastrophizing and then panic attacks), and a lifetime of low self-esteem tied to a lot of bullying. I don't say this to make excuses, but because I don't think a lot of people understand how HARD it can be to change your attitude when that is the exact kind of mental disorder you face.
So I want people with anxiety or depression or other mental hurdles to know that I get this—I get how much it can hurt when someone says, "Well, just STOP BEING SAD. Duh." And then you want to burst into tears because you would LOVE to not be like this, and you are trying so hard not to be but obviously it's not working and people just don't understand.
It sucks, it really, really sucks. But the thing is, even though I have received that advice at the worst possible moments, it doesn't negate its verity. We CAN change our attitudes. I know this to my core, because I have done it, both for better and for worse.
Is it hard to change my attitude? YES. Very hard, in fact. It can be a full-time, weeks-and-weeks-long battle to beat back my negative, anxious tendencies. For me, it is so much easier to let those dark thoughts take hold, to play with them and let them hurt me. Sometimes, it takes every ounce of willpower I have to decide that I will smile instead of cry, that I will see the good and not the bad.
But you know what? It's worth it. Being happy—even when it feels like the hardest thing in the world—is always better than giving into the anxiety. I wish I had the strength to do it all the time, but I haven't given up yet and nor do I intend to, though sometimes I don't even realize when I've fallen back into it again.
Just this week I was emailing a friend who has also been struggling with her writing, and I told her she needed to DECIDE to have fun. The second I wrote that, I was like, "Dude, tell that to yourself, Miss Whiner." I have been telling that to myself since then. And guess what? I'm feeling better. Not perfect, but better. Because I am stronger than I think, and I've had years of practice in the willpower department.
So as much as I hate hearing it, being positive, happy, optimistic is a choice. The choice is harder for some than it is for others—and, boy, do I know that—but in the end being a happy writer is entirely up to you. I wish you luck in getting there.
It's been awhile since I got a drawing up here. Again, the scanner. We're on speaking terms, but we have our troubles. The truth is, I still love traditional media. My tablet is great, but for some reason it's not as cathartic as pencil on paper. And since I do draw as a hobby and intend to keep it that way, enjoyment is the main factor here.
This girl isn't anyone in particular, though I think Izzy from SIDEKICK wouldn't have a problem stealing this outfit. I get in these moods where I just want to draw frilly stuff. Bows and poofs and lace. Okay, and corsets. So I sketched this during church, and I thought she turned out cute.
Speaking of cute...well, not really. *I* think it's cute, but it's also brilliant and something I want really, really bad—the Wacom Inkling:
Isn't that the Coolest Thing EVER? I'm drooling over it. That cute little thing would make my drawing life so much more convenient. No more scanner! My sketches transferred right to my computer all pretty and ready to go! Of course, I'm still slightly skeptical about just how well it'd work, but I'm DYING to try it out. Dying.