Take the Wheel Gets Bigger and Better

The revised edition of Take the Wheel: A Woman’s Guide to Buying a Car Her Own Damn Self will be out in November! Here’s a quick tour of the changes:

  • The booklet Alternative Fueliverse has been updated and included in the text of Take the Wheel. If an electric car or plug-in hybrid is on your shopping list, you’ll find the most useful information for making that decision all in one book.
  • All makes and models have been updated, so there aren’t any mentions of cars that aren’t built anymore.
  • The financial and insurance sections have been updated to include special cases like ride hailing and car sharing. There’s information on these uses for your new car throughout the book, but you’ll see the most impact — and run into the most pitfalls — when it comes to financing and insuring your new car.
  • There’s basic information included on advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) and the coming of autonomous technology.

All told, the changes and updates add a couple dozen pages to the book. And it’ll be getting fresh, fly cover! And a new, lower price! It’ll still be available in both paperback and ebook formats.

There are a couple points of bad news. The first is that in order to create the new edition, I had to take down the old edition. So the 2013 first edition is no longer available. You can make it.

The second point of less than great news is that I wanted to include a myriad of voices from women who have bought cars. I put out the call, I boosted posts, I asked in person, and I got two lukewarm offers of stories. Meh. So I had to let that dream go and merely update the information to make it more timely and relevant for today’s car shoppers. If you want to tell me your car shopping story, though, I’d still love to hear it! Click Contact to send me a message.

If ADAS and autonomous cars are something you’re interested in, a published book is not ever going to keep up with that noise — um, I mean, news. To separate the news from the noise and find out how to use the new technologies in your new car, head over to Carsplaining.com.

My Shitty Mantra

Mr. HG had both had long, stressful workweeks, and a non-rainy Sunday was in the forecast. A couple hours under the trees with the dog would be the mind-cleansing, soul-restoring excursion we needed.

It was true — our minds were cleansed by exhaustion and our souls were restored by surviving. It was a far harder hike than the map let on.

We’d done most of the easy trail loops at the nearest state park, and they hardly justified the drive. But the last time I’d been there with our ever-game mixed-breed dingo-looking dog, I’d taken a closer look at the map. There was another loop! It was about five miles, which sounded perfect.

My mantra isn’t Instagram-worthy, but my dog definitely is.

We parked and hung our state parks pass in the window, then headed out onto the trail. It was muddy, but not horrible. It had been a really hard winter of rain, snow, more rain, and mudslides. So a muddy trail was whatever.

It went up and down for a while, and we saw mule deer and their tracks and their pellety poop. We’d gone a couple miles when we saw the sign for the loop proper, the 2.5-mile lollipop at the far end of the trail. It had been a more challenging hike than we expected, so I checked in with Mr. HG and the dog. They were game. So we went on.

It wasn’t long before we were hiking along what is usually a lovely little stream but in these conditions was a very full, fast little river. The water table was so high at the bottom of this valley that the trail was an unavoidable 4 inches of water. Over the tops of hiking shoes, up to the 65-pound dog’s knees. Or his ankles. You know where I mean. The water was deep and there was no going around.

This was the first time my shitty mantra popped into my mind that day: What are you gonna do, stop?

Like I do every time this not friendly version of my very own voice pipes up to ask this question, I imagined stopping. In this case, it meant standing, sitting, and/or eventually lying down in a shallow swamp. I would likely become like those dead people trapped in the swamp that Frodo reaches out to in Lord of the Rings. I would wait there for the mule deer to nudge my pale, bloated body. So no, I was not going to stop.

After that, we rose out of the valley. And dipped back down. And up. And up. And down. And up. It was a lot more elevation gain and loss than we anticipated. We took a lot of breaks. I was glad I’d overprepared and brought water and snacks for what was supposed to be a pleasant little Sunday hike.

On one of the long, steep uphills, my shitty mantra piped up again: What are you gonna do, stop?

Well, no, but I can pause. I can catch my breath. I can pet the dog and make sure he’s doing okay. I can stretch my calves and appreciate the trees instead of staring at the muddy trail in exhausted frustration.


I don’t only hear my shitty mantra on hikes. I hear it on long runs too, where I imagine stopping a couple miles from home. Maybe calling for a ride. Maybe crying on the curb. Maybe wishing I’d brought money so I could buy a restorative scone at the coffee shop.

I also hear it when I have the kind of overbooked, deadline-filled week of writing and editing that I’d had before we hiked what turned out to be a black-diamond-rated trail, the only one in the park. As my eyes are about to fall out of my head and my brain wants to shut off with the help of much, much whiskey, I hear my shitty mantra:

What are you gonna do, stop?

And just like on the trail, just like on a long run, but maybe even more than either of those, the answer is no. I imagine what stopping would mean: abandoning my writing studio, getting a real job with hours and expectations that aren’t my own, buying business casual clothing. Oh, hell no.

But maybe I can pause. Maybe I can pet the dog, who keeps a bed in my studio, and make sure he’s doing okay. (In truth, he checks in with me to see if I’m doing okay far more often. He’s a good dog.) Maybe I can take a day off. Ha ha ha! I’m a freelance writer and editor who’s establishing a publishing business. Day off. No fucking way. How about just taking enough time to rewatch Rogue One? Maybe we can try that?

So it’s not a positive, Instagram-ready mantra. I’m not doing it while laughing and eating salad and wearing yoga pants. It’s not even very kind. It’s a pretty shitty mantra, really. But it has kept me going through rough spots for years, so what am I gonna do, stop?

Keeping Up Online Appearances

This is not a rant about the intertubes or my lack of self-control when it comes to IMing my writer friends.

It is a weak excuse for taking four months to update my personal web site.

I have an active online presence; really, I’m everywhere. I’m on Twitter (the feed is down there in the right-hand corner of your screen), I’m on Facebook, I’m on LinkedIn, and I’m on Flickr. I also have a blog I’ve devoted to my dog that, oddly, gets a couple dozen visitors a day. (You can read about my obsession with my shelter dog here.) I have four email accounts I use and one I don’t, but it came with my last ISP. Yes, it is a Hotmail/MSN account.

For my professional life, I am the Guide to Exotic Cars for About.com, which requires another handful of blog posts and other new content each week. I also write cool articles for HowStuffWorks.com’s science and autos channels, and keep up the auto events calendar for the New York Times. This doesn’t even count my offline work, which amounts to about half of my business each month.

Now for the weak excuse: I’m all over the damn Internet; why do you need me to write anything here? You don’t. I know. But this is the place you land when you Google my name, or you follow a link in my email signature. If you’re, say, an editor I’ve never worked with, a post from last November is not going to impress you, nor are links to articles dated four months ago.

So I hereby promise halfheartedly to keep my own personal web site more up to date. But know this, editors: if this site gets behind again, it’s because I’m chasing down a story for you.

On Great Expectations

Surprisingly, I’ve never read Great Expectations, though I bet I would like it. (Anyone who slogged through the middle of The Count of Monte Cristo would probably like G.E., right?) But I have great expectations every, oh, 20 minutes or so. This is usually great, but the letdown can be awful.

I have been a fount of ideas lately, thanks to a two-week nearly unplugged vacation and a LOT of Stumptown Hairbender. I’ve got article ideas, narrative non-fiction book ideas, how-to book ideas, novel ideas, and blog ideas, and I’m putting every iron in the appropriate fire. By which I mean I’m pitching, researching, and writing like crazy. I really want to work on all of these projects, and I really believe in each one. Great expectations, see.

But that letdown I mentioned has been a bitch this summer. Emailed pitches are bouncing back; swamped editors are not replying; agents are sending me personal, very kind rejections. Time to make a frowny face. 🙁

But damn it, I really do believe in these project ideas. So I’m marshaling my friends and fellow freelancers for help. Ellen suggested that I ignore the admonition to NEVER FOLLOW UP WITH AN EDITOR ON THE PHONE and, you know, just call. I did. I got an invitation to discuss the shape of an article once the current issue of that magazine is put to bed.

Nicole, my marketing pro of a friend, is reading over parts of my book proposal to make sure I’m selling myself and showing that I can complete and sell a book, too. I suck at marketing; she most definitely does not.

I’ve even pressed my soon-to-be-sister-in-law Mariah into service as a sample chapter reader. She’s in the target audience for my book. I told her that if she slams my work in her critique, I’ll still buy her a nice wedding gift. Well, nice-ish, anyway.

The result of all this marshaling? Great expectations. Without them, the armies of rejections would get a freelancer down so far she’d never get back up. So, with that in mind, I’ve got a proposal to polish, a book to edit, a blog post to write, an image gallery to upload …

On the Importance of Being Mobile

Last week, I cleared out some time in my schedule to bring my car in for a recall repair at the dealership (no, it’s not a Toyota and it has nothing to do with brakes). I visited the manufacturer’s web site — that’s how I found out about the recall — and made my appointment there.

When I got to the service center, though, the appointment hadn’t gone through. I had to reschedule for a the next week. One wasted hour later, I was back in my home office working on my About.com web site. One hour of my life spent with nothing to show for it — not even a new lap time on Forza 3.

For the rescheduled fix, I brought my netbook, planner, work glasses, a pen, and a to-do list that included writing a new blog post for this web site. When I checked in at the service center desk, the guy asked if I wanted to wait, and I asked “Do you have wi-fi?”

“We do if you want it,” he said. “All you have to do is ask.” He walked me through the garage to a very nice waiting room with comfy couches, free wi-fi, free Starbucks from a magical machine, and a stack of People magazines.

So far, I’ve completed my Monday morning plan of attack, attended to my email, caught up on RSS feeds, and, now, written that blog post. Oh, and I had a crazy little latte from the machine.

If the freelance life is about freedom, that means untethering yourself from your desk and working wherever work can be done. I’ve spent weeks in my office, all day, every day, for no very good reason. If I can choose my work, I can certainly choose my venue.

Today, I chose the Subaru waiting room, and I ticked things off my to-do list as my fuel something or other got fixed.

The Monday Morning Battle Plan

About a month ago, I bought myself a little Asus netbook. It’s wee, and blue, and I love it. I will love it more when I have to lug it around an auto show for two days and it doesn’t tear my shoulder apart like my five-and-a-half-pound laptop did, no matter what bag I used.

But if I’m not traveling, what use can I put this little guy to? As a freelance writer and editor working from home, getting out of the house is always nice. So I’ve instituted a new ritual: the Monday morning battle plan. It gets me out of the house and makes the rest of my week far more productive.

Here’s how it works:

  • Throw tiny computer, Moleskine planner, pen, lip balm, and obnoxiously sparkly change purse into my backpack
  • Head to a coffee shop, usually one within walking distance
  • Order a cup of coffee (preferably one with at least one refill) or a pot of tea and find a table
  • Check email — all four accounts — and my About.com Exotic Cars page
  • Figure out what must be done that week and what I would like to get done that week, and write it in the planner, along with any firm deadlines, meetings, appointments, etc.

Ta da! This takes about an hour, maybe a little more. Without the distractions of home (the dog, laundry, podcasts on my office computer), I can see what I need to do, and give myself five days to do it. And if I plan it all out on Monday morning, I find that don’t usually add much to the list as the week progresses. It’s more about crossing things off than adding new items.

This week’s to-do list is short, which means more time to pitch new markets (Oprah, I’ve got my sights on your magazine) and add lots of new content to my About site. And, of course, more time to play fetch in the backyard.

Ford’s Future

I went to a lovely lunch last week with Dan Kapp, who’s been in Ford’s powertrain division for 31 years, ever since he got out of college. He spoke to the group of NWAPA members and local media for over an hour about EcoBoost, hybrids, clean diesels, Ford’s long-term plans … he really covered a lot of ground.

You can read my post about the press event at GoodGreenCars.com.

Blogging about Blogging

I’ve been given a new blog all my own, though it’s still part of the RiverWired.com universe. Check it out at GoodGreenCars.com. There aren’t many posts yet — I heard about it Monday and it went live yesterday — but I’ll be posting more often here than I did on RiverWired.com.

The new blog is all cars and alternative energy, plus tips on saving gas. We’ll see how it goes in the next couple of months.

Lunch with Lutz

Had lunch with GM honcho Bob Lutz on Tuesday in Seattle. It was interesting to talk to Mr. Lutz, as he’s on a kind of PR tour to counteract the negative image people have about the company. Also, the restaurant used fresh local berries in its desserts. Tasty. Read about Mr. Lutz’s comments (and not a word about the food) in my post on RiverWired.com on Friday, June 20.

KHG.com, Now with Comments

Join me in welcoming myself to the twenty-first century: this site now allows for comments on posts on this very home page. Feel free to read the PDFs mentioned in the posts then come back here to tell me how insightful you found the articles to be. Just click on the title up there to be taken to the comment entry box.