Sweet Melissa & More

Sweet.MelissaWith two second-in-series novels ready to debut into the e-book and print world within a month or so of each other, I am focused on the third book in each series. Ideas pop, plotlines entice, characters beckon. “Come to California,” say David and Melissa from the third in my Traveling Girl series. Love this original cover art by beautiful & talented Bodicia.

“We need you in Blue Lake,” say Fast Eddie and his first love, from coastal Michigan.

What’s a writer to do?

Well, if you’re like me, that’s easy. First, I go with inspiration. It doesn’t happen that often anymore and I take advantage of it when it does, even if it’s just to write snippets of conversation or a plot idea. Lots of songs spinning ’round the turntable in my head, too, suggesting mood.

Second on my list is writing to deadline, and that’s easier since for the #indie Traveling Girl series I make my own deadlines, thank you. Which means, Eddie, contracted for October, you are up.

Fast Eddie’s Bar & Grill shows up in the first two Blue Lake novels,  and at the time the name “Fast Eddie’s” was just one of those things that came to me. I don’t tend to question stuff like that. I liked it, I used it, I moved on. Ha!

Now I’m playing with the idea of just how Eddie got that Fast attached to his name. I have a few ideas…

As I begin the third books, and the second ones prepare to make their bows, treat yourself to the firsts in these series, Gypsy is New Adult paranormal and Blue Heaven is contemporary romance.

Go on, you know you want to:)

Celebration Central

love.photoFinally opened my rusty heart. Hadn’t known it was closed, although all evidence pointed that way. For several years, I eschewed invitations to family holiday parties hosted by  friends because they made me miss my own family and the days back when, every holiday, my house was Celebration Central. Why did I say yes this year when Donna invited Al & me for Easter dinner?

I didn’t think about it, just did not shut down as per usual when the words “family” and “get-together” are mentioned in the same sentence.  As I filled an Easter basket with goodies, I thought about this new thing I was doing. How would it be, seeing grandparents, parents, children and grandchildren? Would I be sad? Would my heart seize?

Patrick.girls.I was not and it did not. I have known this family since my own boys were small. That’s Patrick and his daughters: Juliette on his lap and baby Lilianna in her chair.  Pat and my son Mike were great pals.

When I remarked to Donna’s sister that we hadn’t seen her in too many years, maybe since the cruise, her husband piped up to say they’d seen me up at the cottage not all that long ago. Yes, I remembered. That was the last time I danced on a chair. So it was a little while ago. We’d all matured, some more than others.

Dan had a devilish gleam to his eye. I blushed and shook my head at how silly I had been after one too many glasses of wine. Even full of wine, I remember walking after midnight with Donna to the dock. We settled back to watch the stars, Stony Lake pooling under us, surrounding us, stars from the sky reflecting on the water’s surface. So many stars. Like heaven opened up and shook out an extra handful just for us.

Yesterday, four generations gathered, two dozen in all. We knew every face, every story. These were friends who had turned into family a long time ago, without me noticing. But my heart noticed. And Celebration Central turns out to be located within the heart as well as around the dinner table.Easter.photo

#1 Fear Banished

098Among my many phobias, I’ve conquered only one. But it’s a biggie. The #1 ranked fear shared by so many: fear of public speaking. I hated presenting in college and high school, suffered through speech classes, shuddered to even introduce myself in a group.

That’s why I’m a writer. I work alone, communicate easily online, love my blog, am addicted to Twitter. The first time I walked into a classroom and realized that I had to actually talk to these people, I wanted to turn around and run back out. What was I thinking?

I was thinking a degree or two in English would be fun: lots of reading and writing, my favorite things. And I could teach, which to me seemed like discussing exactly what I loved. Ha. I was in denial about the “talking” part, and to this day I work really hard to get my students to do most of the talking in class.

xmas 09 001When I published my first book in 2007, I realized I needed to promote it at least a little bit. I had 1,000 copies in my closet that were not going to move themselves.

I arranged to give a two-part talk at my local library, and I only got through it because I took a pill that many actors and musicians use to stop the fear of public performance. I felt energized on that stage with a room full of people who had come to hear me. This was a very different audience from a room full of teenagers forced to read poetry and novels. I liked those talks and wished I could feel that way without meds.

Duty done, I went back to routinely refusing all offers to speak about my books. I read one poem at a writer’s function, because it won a prize and they paid me. When the hostess asked me to read the longer piece, which had also won, I declined. The poem was hard enough!

Just last week I was invited to read a poem or short bit of prose with a group of writers and I declined, automatically. And then I remembered: I wasn’t afraid to speak in pubic anymore. Magically, that fear had evaporated.

It happened at a workshop called “Public Speaking for Writers” facilitated by The Write Concept‘s Linda Anger (pronounced Ahn-Jay). Sounded like something I needed, so I signed on. Right away she had us warming up with partners in preparation to speak in front of the group. I am fine one-on-one but was dreading the going to the front of the room and claiming the floor part.

I walked to my doom, clutching the notes I’d taken. And suddenly, something lifted. I felt it. I was as comfortable as if I were in the last weeks of a semester with a great, engaged class. I was having fun. I loved it.

So, maybe teaching for many years helped, maybe Linda has some kind of magic not in pill form, probably both. I don’t think it was a coincidence that my life-long fear of public speaking vanished at the moment I stood in front of Linda’s DWW workshop. I think, between the two of us, we banished it.

Coming Soon

natalia.star.F335

Today I finished the final draft of Natalia.  Do you recognize her? That’s her mom, Gypsy, to the right. Natalia’s having a rest over the holiday weekend before one final read-through, copy-edit, and beta-read by Marla.

Natalia is different: my first published novella. She will be indie, but I’m unsure how to market her. Natalia’s all grown up, well, 15 anyway, and coming into her Paradise Powers full-on and fast, saving 17-year-old Melissa from a Dark Initiate who may or may not be part of the local Rom community.

So there is YA. There is NA. There is paranormal. There is mystery. How the heck do I market that? I am thinking NA because Melissa falls in love with Dave and there’s a full-on love scene. All suggestions on how to present this one welcome.

Jesse (1954-2014)

peace.imagesAn old friend from my past died a few weeks ago, and he’s been on my mind a lot since then. Jesse and I knew each other as teen and new adults. Friendships in those years meant more than family to me, and it was the same for my friends. We were family to each other, because our families of origin didn’t work.

Many of our gang, dubbed the Pranksters by the slyly intelligent Doug Beeler years before I read Ken Kesey, had fathers who drank, parents who were divorced, mothers who hit us, and so on. Some of us had been forcefully evicted from the family home. Jesse, in this merry band of long-haired freaks, was the coolest.

Jesse’s family seemed fine to me, but he fit right in with the rest of us misfits. Jesse wasn’t much taller than me, and I’m 5’3. He had shoulder length black hair and a tidy mustache that didn’t ever grow over onto his lips. He had black framed glasses when wire rimmed specs were the rage. He was damn smart, and those glasses suited him. He was unique. A character. A charmer with braces and an easy smile. He was a peacekeeper and a positive force in our band of gypsies.

One of the things I really loved about him was his vocabulary. He spoke with ease and assurance in long sentences designed to provoke laughter. We always wanted to laugh back then. Laugh and listen to music. And if we could, get high.

Jesse called weed things like sweet leaf and smoke. He called cigarettes “tubes.” When he had to leave, he’d say “Gotta book” and when he loved something, it was “cool” it was “far fucking out.” We all loved the F word as adjective, but Jesse said it first.

He wore plaid flannel shirts and jeans with holes, not patches. He had a style about him, a bandana around his forehead and crown, with the rest of that dark hair in disarray to his shoulders, no farther. Worn boots that looked like Doc Martens before there were Doc Martens.

Jesse taught me to beg with class. He had a loose-limbed stance and a totally relaxed walk. He was relaxed when he pan-handled, too. The world was a different place then. We were too young to work and too old for an allowance. Some of us didn’t have addresses, most of us walked or hitched by way of transportation. On rare occasions, Jesse’s dad would let him drive the ‘Cuda.

On those days when we wanted to be high, which was every minute of every day, and needed money for beer or weed, Jesse taught me to stand casually outside the party store at the Crossroads (also named by Beeler, Jesse’s best friend) and instead of holding out a hand and saying “please can you buy me some beer and also can you pay for it?” look a person in the eye to get a feel if they would give me their loose change.

Then, still not holding out my hand, say two words: “Spare change?” Only when I heard the jingle of silver coming out of pocket or purse, did I hold out my hand for the offered coins and say thank you. Jesse always added “peace” so I did, too. So this job of pan-handling for substance abuse purposes had two parts: part one, gather “bread” part two: find a buyer for beer or a seller of pot.

Later, when I was on the road and hungry, I didn’t panhandle much. I’d rather go hungry and only felt comfortable begging with Jesse safely tucked somewhere close but out of sight. Also, I did not like the taste of beer, but drank it only for the buzz. Jesse taught me how to do that, too. Drink as much as possible in one swallow, then pass the GIQ.

Jesse could roll a joint with one hand, hanging from the limbs  of a tree in the “Living Room” (another DB coinage) deep in the woods at the state park where we sometimes hung out. He’d spark a match and inhale with aplomb, that sweet smile on his face as he held the smoke as long as possible.

When I got the news of Jesse’s death, I hadn’t seen him in forty years. Our paths diverged as I got straight and started a family. I have heard through mutual friends, though, that he went out the way he was then. Still seeking the next high, still smiling.

Parents: The Other Side

xmas 09 025Am I a hypocrite? I talk about missing my sons, and how far away they are and how it breaks my heart, but in all that I never really talk about how I am with my own parents. It’s complicated. But I often think of them now, and how I don’t see them much, or keep in better touch.

My parents were an important part of my sons’ lives, but before that, when I was young, they never seemed to care where I was or what I was up to. They didn’t come to my first (group ceremony in Detroit) wedding, although my mom helped me choose a graduation dress that could double as a wedding gown, as I did both in the same month.

Before that, they didn’t know (or care) when I quit school at 17 to hitchhike around the country. My mom & I had a huge fight and I left home on her order when I was 15. My dad was living on his own at the time, but he said I could stay with him. I did. For a few weeks, and then I was off again on my adventures. I was homeless but happy.

They were supportive when I decided to go back to school and get that diploma, but things were still rocky between my mom and me. Dad tried to help and when it became clear I could not live with my mother, he provided a small home on the other side of town for me to live in until I graduated high school. Yes, I lived alone. Until my boyfriend (soon to be first husband) moved in with me.

They did help after the divorce, when I was at rock bottom. And they came to my second wedding, which was a full stop shindig, my betrothed footing all the bills. I didn’t have any special mother-daughter moments. She didn’t shop for a wedding dress with me or give me a wedding shower for husband #2. My parents came to my third wedding, too, and by then my mother was ready to believe I’d never stick to anything. That was 29 years ago this September. Still together.

When Mom did call me, or I called her, she remarked without fail that she didn’t keep up with her own mother until her parents were getting old, and that she thought it was weird when parents and children stayed in constant contact with each other.

I never agreed with that, but I wasn’t going to say so. I was fine not being in close contact with her, but I always wanted something more with my sons. I just wasn’t sure I deserved it. Or that they would be open to a mom who bugged them all the time on social media, texting, phoning, visiting.

Unlike my own mother, I would love nothing more than a daily (or even weekly) text, email, or phone call. But I hold back from initiating contact lots of times because I don’t want to bother my kids. I remember how little real estate my parents took up in my head when I was starting my family. I wonder if maybe it’s the same for all young people, or was I conditioned not to care?

Since my parents are not online (lucky for me as this particular post might hurt their feelings) I can’t email them or text. I try to remember to call, but since they moved full time to Florida, we’ve visited once. And I was sick the entire time. We haven’t been back since.

I think I should give the folks a call today. After all, they are getting older. And so am I.

*photo of (from left) my brother Bill, me, Dad, Mom, brother Bob.

The Versatile Blogger Award

Wow! My first ever blogging award, and it only took 12 years. Exciting. And thank you to Bodicia at A Woman’s Wisdom for the nomination. How did I win? Here, in her words:

The rules for The Versatile Blogger Award are:

  • Announce your win with a post and thank the blogger who nominated you.
  • Present 10-15 deserving bloggers with an award.
  • Link your nominees in the post and let them know they have been nominated.
  • Post seven interesting facts about yourself.

I just met a new blogger yesterday whose posts from the male pov I really enjoy. And I’ve been following a nature photography blog by fellow TWRP author these days.

Another newish-to-me blog has critique partners sharing the word on writing. The others have been my faves for awhile now; they write on a variety of topics: social media, travel, photos, astrology, and personal essays. All of them post regularly, and Barry, as well as his in-depth posts about the stars positions in the sky and what that means for us, offers a new forecast every Monday. Free. Yeah, he’s cool. They all are.

Jack Collier

Nia Simone

The Violet Femmes

Molly Greene

One Woman’s Life in Maine

Astrobarry

Paperback Writer

Laura Zera

Cindy LaFerle’s Home Office

Bob Sanchez

7 Interesting Fact About Me

Or: As Interesting As It Gets

1. I’ve visited 38 states, passed through many more, and won’t rest until I’ve seen them all.

2. I was the first person I knew to practice “joint custody” when my marriage broke up. I still don’t know anybody else that has done it.

3. I’ve been married three times (!)

4. I’m an introvert who thought she’d pass out the first time she realized that “teaching” meant “talking to people.”

5. I have two degrees in literature and have written at least ten novels. The first four were practice and I threw them away.

6. I have been keeping a diary since I could write.

7. I’m vegetarian 7 years and working on cutting dairy, caffeine and all processed foods from my diet. Radial vegan. Maybe, someday.

8. I met the mother of a pirate in the first Johnny Depp movie.

9. I am the first person in my dad’s family to go to college.

10. I’m gonna be a granny this summer:)

Thanks again for super book blogger and humorist Bodicia for the nomination. Accepted with much gratitude.

Finding Silver Linings

Cali 011Thanks to a friend, I’ve been thinking about discovering the silver linings in sad or disappointing events. She says every experience has the potential for a silver lining. I didn’t think that was true, but I decided to try to find the silver in one of the saddest things I’ve ever experienced: the gradual realization that my kids (grown men now) would not be returning, perhaps ever, to live in their home state of Michigan. Where I live.

We were not going to have any more family holidays together. We would not be meeting for lunch. We were not going to throw a barbecue for our friends and invite the boys to bring their friends. We were not going to shop for Christmas gifts, groceries, or school books together. Tim was not going to be taking over the garage for yet another car project. That part of being a mom, being in close physical contact, was over for me.

Cali.2014.5photoMothers have to let their kids go, and I did, of course. I had no choice, and while it makes me feel sorry for myself, I am happy for them. Their happiness makes me so very happy, always.  So, besides their happiness, where is my very own personal silver lining? I just didn’t think there was one, but finally, the other day, I realized  Tim is living my California Dream. (When I was four, we lived in California for about a year. Growing up, I constantly wished that we had never left.) There’s something about being close to the ocean that has always fed my soul. I know why he chose it; it’s part of our shared DNA.

Mike is living another kind of wonderful life further up the coast. 2011vac.AcHas a wife he loves. Great job. A dog, for the first time ever, and a house. He has a baby boy of his own on the way. Of course I am overjoyed. But my first grandchild will not know me the up close and personal way my sons knew my mother. Where is the silver lining in that?

It took me a little more time to figure this one out: the fact that there is to be a grandson is a gold star, which everyone knows beats silver linings. And I will consciously create moments with this already so beloved boy still yet-to-be.

Here’s my big selfish silver lining to all of this, and it’s been happening for years. Al and I have visited California six times in the last decade. First when Mike was a grad student at USC, then when Jessica and he moved to Beverly Hills, then at their wedding in the canyons of Malibu. Twice, we’ve visited Tim and his wife in their beachside community an hour north of LA. And once, after Mike and Jessica moved, we took a road trip from LA to Seattle, visiting with the kids on either end of the journey.

A&C.cali.2014

We wound our way through Big Sur, a dream of mine since I first read On The Road a million years ago. We found out-of-the-way beaches and tall mountains and generally did so much traveling to places I’m not sure we’d ever have seen had our children not moved west. And we plan more silver lining places: Vancouver this summer, maybe the Canadian Rockies or Alaska or both, next.

Which makes me think suddenly that there’s another silver lining especially for me in all this. I’m finally getting serious about becoming fit enough to venture afoot to all the places I still want to see in this wide world.

Bad Boyfriends

Photo by Isaiah 12:2The worst boyfriend is the one who has sex with your mother. And you walk in on the primal scene. This happened to a friend of mine. All the rest might have happened to me. I had many bad boyfriends.

Bad boyfriends eat your food, sleep in your bed, and drink your wine but never take you out for a meal or ask you to meet his friends. He doesn’t want to meet yours, either.

Bad boyfriends never say “I love you” instead, when pressed, they say “What is love, anyway?” Worse boyfriends say “I’ve never loved anyone.” Sure they have, they love themselves. A little too well.

Bad boyfriends sleep with your friends and PS those girls are not your friends.

Bad boyfriends share exotic drugs with you and as soon as you are under the erotic spell they leave. These guys are sadists. Their whole intent is to withhold and punish. They probably had sex just before they got to your place because how else could they possibly refuse your charms?

Bad boyfriends bring bricks of weed into your apartment to steam then divide into ounces with your Weight Watchers scale, giving you a contact high and the reek of marajuana just before you go to your job at Taco Bell.

Bad boyfriends, glued in place with eyes on sports screen, say “Yeah, I’ll have another beer.” You hadn’t offered.

Bad boyfriends use you as a gap girlfriend until the one they really love comes home from college. Worse boyfriends talk about how she is the most intelligent, funny, and sexy woman he has ever known.

Bad boyfriends cook for you, love you well, then disappear from your area of the planet, leaving no clue as to where he’s gone.

Bad boyfriends leer at waitress’s cleavage. Worse boyfriends ask her name and what time her shift ends.

Bad boyfriends say “you’re cute, but my ex is beautiful.”

Bad boyfriends say they were just tested and clean of all STDs, some you have never heard of. And they are lying about it.

Bad boyfriends steal you from your spouse, cheat on you, beg you to come back to Detroit from the private paradise that is Key West in 1974, and then, when you do return, they cheat on you again almost immediately.

Bad boyfriends meet you at guitar lessons, he’s giving, you’re taking. He flirts, kisses you silly, rolls a joint, smokes it with pleasure in your kitchen, and still wants a check after teaching you absolutely nothing except that he would be a very bad boyfriend.

Bad boyfriends, after you break up, discourage any new suitor who asks his permission to date you by saying nasty things about your body.

Girls should be forgiven for allowing bad boyfriends into their lives. We’ve all had one. Or, in my case, many. Bad boyfriends may be wounded, but that doesn’t give them the right to cut your heart out.

Ever had a bad boyfriend? How about a bad girlfriend? Please add to my list of flashing DANGER signs in the comments. For all of us.

*Photo credit Isaiah 12:2

Seeking Skinny

xmas 09 064Bikinis and me are over for good and I’m good with that. However, The End of Dieting by Doctor Joel Fuhrman is so outrageous and eye-opening that I just might be scared slim. Fear isn’t really the right word for how I feel reading this book and taking in its messages. More, I feel hope. For the first time in a long time it’s sinking in about what exactly I must change for optimum health.

I don’t mind getting old, it’s actually pretty fun and interesting, but looking into the not-too-distant future, I do not want to be a sick 60-something.

Fuhrman’s investigation into the myths of the standard American diet shock me. He’s got the data and he is not afraid to point the finger. One of the more outrageous claims he makes (and I paraphrase) is that if you are slim and eating the standard American diet as dictated by our government’s food guidelines, you are either a smoker, a drunk, a drug addict, or have a disease that is quietly killing you.

Whether he actually comes out and says the dairy and meat lobbies in this country have a huge impact on what those government food guidelines say, I’m not sure. But it’s implied and anyone with knowledge of how Washington works can connect the dots. Sounds cynical, but I tend to believe him about the meat and dairy folks colluding with lawmakers, even while Michelle Obama, with best intentions, champions better health.

The last time a book had a significant effect on the way I eat turned me vegetarian seven years ago and this former filet mignon and cheeseburger lover has never looked back. I dropped twenty pounds when I stopped eating meat, but soon, I began replacing my old favorites with more cheese, butter, bread, crackers, pasta and other refined carbs. I also opened the door to dessert, and I’m not talking fruit and an ounce of dark chocolate.

What I learned over time is that vegetarians are not necessarily healthy eaters. Chips are vegetarian. So is dip! And cake! I’ve known forever that I consume too much sugar and don’t exercise enough. Until this book, I was okay with that and with my big middle. Yes, photos can be painful, but I don’t feel fat unless I actually grab my love handles or glance in the mirror just after a bath. As with pictures, that’s when I can see the truth, even if I don’t feel it.

But now I’m learning not just what my problem is but WHY I still have this issue. It’s not about calories, but also about where those calories come from and how they metabolize in the body. As my old Weight Watcher leader used to say “Nobody ever got fat eating vegetables.”

So far, the nutritional science in this book makes sense to me. I don’t really think slim people who eat meat and dairy are secret addicts or have a disease. I know many slim people who eat the standard American diet and are not addicts. Yes, they’re dying, but aren’t we all?

For  me, it comes down to wanting more control over how I live out the later years of my life. And yes, how I die. I want to travel,  feel energetic, keep a sharp mind, be free of disease for as long as possible. Doesn’t everyone?

more love & more joy