Interruptions…

I’m going to interrupt the flow of this blog , but windex1.jpge really should talk about how we deal with interruptions to our work.

I try not to take phone calls during my work time; however, sometimes I have to. A doctor appointment, a work call – all important, can’t wait until later. At least with those, you know you won’t be on the phone long.

The other day a friend called me. I hadn’t talked to him in over a month, so I wanted to see how he was. We live in different times zone, which makes scheduling time for a chat rather challenging. I told myself, even upon answering, that I wouldn’t talk long. But we did get carried away in catching up.

Set boundaries. I finally did tell him I needed to get back to my writing. He understands. Many people don’t, so I don’t regularly say that. I do tell them I can talk to them later or that I’m in the middle of something – both of which are true.

Phone calls and text messages are easier to put on hold – put the phone in the other room or turn it off. It really is not that hard.  Having children or spouses is a whole different topic, which I’m going to talk about during another blog.

*

Right now, as I said, I need to interrupt the flow of this the gold tooth.jpgblog with an announcement.

You can win my short story, The Gold Tooth! Click here. This is only for a limited time.

Long lost sisters are reunited at the reading of their mother’s will. Celeste who has cared for their mother in her declining years is awarded a small, broken music box. The force of nature, Nancy, who hasn’t been seen they were teenagers, is awarded the entire estate. Before they leave the office, Nancy is given the option to exchange the estate for the box. Nancy laughs off the incredible offer and moves into the estate. What’s discovered in the music box could cost one sister her freedom and the other her life.

A Tribute to Poe on his Birthday

January 19th, is the 210th anniversary of Poe’s Birth.

poe4Although many people are content with the reason of Poe’s continued relevance in our society is the stereotypical tortured artist.  There is no doubt he was tortured, and for reasons of which we are all familiar; he was an orphan who lost every women he ever loved.

His battles with alcohol, I believe, are highly exaggerated. But it makes for a good story. I’m not saying he never drank – he drank to excess plenty of times, he may have officially been an alcoholic as we understand the word today; however, it was not a constant. There were many years through his marriage to Virginia that he did not drink or drink to excess. Before his death in 1849, he’d joined the Sons of Temperance Movement – to get people to stop drinking.

The reason Poe has remained relevant throughout the years is his work touchespoe our deepest fears and deepest desires. He has continued to inspire other writers

 

 

 

 

 

poe2and artists of all types.

 

 

 

 

 

 

He wrote far more than what we, today, consider horror. He wrote essays, literary analysis, investigative pieces. He wrote about street paving, Stonehenge, and he was inspired by what he read in newspapers.  Berenice and others were inspired by stories of grave robbers in local papers.

poe3

The famed portrait of Edgar Allan Poe was taken three days after his suicide attempt in 1848.

Edgar_Allan_Poe_daguerreotype_crop.png

And, Eddy, my imaginative fiction, was inspired by that suicide attempt. He bought two bottles of laudanum on a cold winter night meaning to do himself in. He’d lost Virginia and felt he had no one. (Laudanum contained opium and derivatives of morphine and codeine.)

eddyfinalredonefromtresized

 

For Poe’s Birthday, I offer an excerpt from the novella:

   He stumbles from the pub, slips, and falls on the iced over bricks of Boston’s November streets. Save for the muddled voices beyond the closed door, the street is quiet as his body thuds to the ground. His breath billows in front of him as he gasps and grumbles and struggles to his knees, then his feet, to regain his drunken balance.

   The gaslamp on the corner offers a wavering yellow glow for the struggling figure on the lonely winter night. Thin strands of hair blow in the chilled breeze; he runs his hands over his head, straightens himself before he pulls at the sagging overcoat and tugs it closed.

     Remembering the tinctures of laudanum pried from the chary pharmacist, he hurriedly shoves his hands in his pockets, retrieves the bottles.

   His heavy breath mounds in front of him and, for a moment, he can’t see; then the luminous cloud of brandy scented air dissipates. The medicines are intact. Relieved, he stuffs them back in his pocket and buttons his jacket.

   “Edgar,” someone calls from the corner; the noise from the pub trails the swarthy figure out until the door slams to a close behind him. “You alright?”

   Edgar waves him off without turning around.

   The thick shadow chuckles as he staggers in the opposite direction.

   The winter is freezing cold, but the snow hasn’t endured. Small white crystals pile in corners and fill the air. The icy rain soaks him before he reaches his chamber on the second floor of the boarding house. The room is small, impersonal, but warmer than the street. An unlit lantern shimmies on the desk as he unsteadily seats himself, glances out the window.

   A barely discernable outline disquiets the otherwise muted darkness on the corner of the street below. He knows it’s the black dog that’s stalked him his whole life. Suddenly angered, he shoves himself forward, pushes the unlit lamp aside and topples the ink jar.

   “Get outta here, you wretched creature.” The incensed command lost in the night.

      Recovering the secreted bottles of opium from his coat pocket, he sets them side by side in front of him. Unsteadily he tugs the lid from one and snorts in a single gulp.

For More Posts on Poe – click this link.

To get the book at 3.99 – this weekend only – click this link.

To get the ebook at .99 – today only – click this link.

 

edgar_allan_poe_3.jpg

 

Much love and luck.

 

Procrasti-writing

I’ve begun procrasti-writing.Play At Work. Low Angle Of Dreary Female Freelancer Using Paper

That’s where you write, check social media, write, check email, write, look at the book sitting next to you, write, take your dogs outside. Writers know what I’m talking about.

I’m usually pretty good about sitting my butt in the chair and staring at a blank screen until the power to make words appear overcomes me.

procr1Writing is somewhere between a mystical experience and an un-tameable superpower.

Not really – it’s just hard work.

Maybe it’s the holidays, or the construction, or the baby-waiting game, but I am fighting inner-distraction at all angles.

I’ve also searched for church conversions on google. Don’t ask me why – it’s procrasti-writing. And Google is there allowing me to search anything my heart desires.

Remember the good old days, no internet, television turned to white noise at 2am, had to walk ten miles in the snow, uphill, both ways, then read books for actual research? And now, we sit at home, go no where, search google and amazon for random distractions, while not writing.

Ways to overcome procrasti-writing?

Use yoga techniques: When your attention procstrays, acknowledge it (close your browser), and come back to your breathing (which for a writer is writing).

Acknowledging that this Wednesday Writer Blog is a Thursday Procrasti-writing distraction, I leave you now to go back to my book.

Much love, readers and writers.

And Namaste.

 

 

Food Crimes: Gifting Times Two – Ethnic Recipes from my Friends.

john

Some years ago, John Voso Jr. put together a cookbook, Italian Recipes from my friends; the proceeds from which went to the Richie White Fund. Richie White was a young boy who spent most of his young life in the hospital battling cancer. He lost that battle a few days after his fourth birthday.

 

 

 

This year, John has put together Ethnic Recipes From My Friends. The proceeds benefit a number of good charities.

20180818_163559(0)

 

The book contains JackFruit tacos. You’ll remember that some months ago, I tried JackFruit tacos at a vegan restaurant and loved them.

 

 

43531062_2191834697807633_2971797741660798976_n(1).jpg

When John Voso, his wife, Debbie, and myself met for dinner, I was surprised to find this recipe in the book! I, personally, can not wait to make them myself.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The book contains recipes from a number of different people and cultures:

Angel Wings from Poland, 45249898_10215606113699519_8495535016174944256_n

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sonoran Style Carne Asada, 44957040_10215568156710618_4786004417256095744_n

 

 

 

 

 

 

42876531_10215381572126120_7345769895918829568_nand don’t forget about dessert, A Nut Kuchen!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ethnic Recipes from My Friends will make a great gift and it supports great causes. Contact John Voso to order your copy!

45697053_10215631174366020_4530526997847212032_n

Coffee and your Character – Writer Wednesday

I’ve been thinking of coffee shops. And it’s not only because I’m a caffeine addict. Coffee and coffee shops are a part of our everyday lives and, therefore, our characters’ lives. What type of coffee shop and what they order will inform our readers of who they are in ways we won’t need to spell it out.

catwithstarbucks

I, personally, savor that first sip of morning tea. For a few moments, it’s the perfect temperature and I hold it close to my face, ready for the next sip as the first drips of bitter black tea warm my throat and my body, the caffeine going to work immediately to bring me to full wakefulness in anticipation of a busy day.

A friend described a man in her carpool who stopped every day at Starbucks for a large quadruple espresso latte on their way to work and on their drive back from work. But, she added, he also complained constantly about his budget. This told me a lot about the person in just a few sentences.

Does your character rush into Starbucks and curse the line? Probably orders ahead for pick up, but what if it’s not there? Or is your character the kind that seeks out the independent coffee shop because it may be less busy or just because it’s independent.

There used to be a coffee shop on Ventura Blvd between Hazeltine and Woodman. I don’t pinkremember the name, but I do remember the walls were pink. I liked it for it’s small town charm. Local home made jams lined the shelves behind me while local artists’ paintings adorned their walls. They only had a few wooden tables, a few more outside, and a few bar-type seats at the counter. Instead of the iced black or green tea choices at you-know-where, I opted for their daily choices, which might icled iced peach or raspberry-ginger. They offered an array of vegan or gluten free cookies as well. Who could resist?

I used this coffee shop in my story “Harvey Levin Can’t Die” (originally published in Pilcrow and Dagger Sept 2016). The story really is about change. How society reflects the harveylevincan't dieindividual and how the individual internalizes society. One of the characters worked there, but felt out of place. This also represented her life, she felt out of place and hadn’t really begun to make real decisions about who she was or what she wanted. But, of course, that changed and so did her involvement in the coffee shop and the guests as she becomes more proactive in her life. The reader is left to decide the interaction between her and society and whether the influence is good or bad.

It would have implied something different about my character if she’d worked at a chain coffee shop. The chain itself would have had an influence and been a foil. She wouldn’t have been able to grow and and the readers couldn’t see the change within the coffee shop itself; therefore, the setting was important in that instance.

Each place, each chain, is different. The people who go to the local Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf Company are different than those who go to Pete’s or even Starbucks. As writers, I imagine we’ve all spent time in these places. And our jobs as writers are to observe. Beyond the color scheme and coffee served, there’s a different atmosphere garnered by and at these places, and the people are different or act different.

I rarely see the impatient phone-bearing customers from the Monday morning Starbucks run at Pete’s. Nor do I see the more relaxed culture of the Pete’s “give me the multi-grain scone and flipped macchiato” at Coffee Bean.

1dollarstorysmashwordsI used another independent coffee shop for “$1.00 Stories” (originally published in The Chicago Tribune’s Printers Row Journal April – 2016). A mixture of independent coffee shops, one of which still squeaks by in the recesses of North Hollywood. I wanted a friendly owner and regulars my character would recognize. Not that he cared about them; it was more important for the story that they were familiar with Cris, and they accepted with good-natured-humor his occasional weirdness. I didn’t want to make him completely unlikable. I wanted him to come across as a little more complex, so he went to this coffee shop where he knew the owner and sneered at the community table while the regulars chuckled.

The joy I get from using independent coffee shops (or even invented coffee shops) is that I get to describe them, which will also tell us something about the character. In “Harvey Levin”, the character hated the pink walls. But using a chain also tells us something about the character.

Our characters are going to need caffeine at some point in the story. Giving the reader their choice of coffee shops, even in one line, gives the reader an insight into the person we’re creating.

Now my tea’s cold. But I don’t own a microwave and that never tastes good anyway.

 

Harvey Levin Can’t Die is available on Kindle and at Smashwords.

$1.00 Stories is available at Kindle and at Smashwords.

 

 

Namas-Cray

My friend Laura LaBrie from Lovely Lattitudes, first said this word to me.  It describes life, don’t you think?  My new book was all set to go, it just needed a title.  I felt like this word, “Namas- Cray” accurately described the stories involved.

In everyone of these stories, the characters are, shall we say, a little off. One woman is planning her “Perfect Day,” when she’s interrupted by a young couple about to rob her. Did  I mention her perfect day involves suicide?

In “Harvey Levin Can’t Die,” the narrator is just going about her life, working at a coffee shop down on Ventura Blvd, when the whole world seems to get serious. Her b/f leaves her to go back to college. Customers want to talk about serious stuff, not reality tv. WTH? But she finds the underground – and accidentally – I mean, it was probably an accident – mows down Harvey Levin with her car.  She tried to report it! The police didn’t want to hear it!

Talk about having a cray day –

So this title fit PERFECTLY.  I think whether you are an avid reader or someone who picks up a book to make it look like you’re an avid reader, you will love this book.  (Humble, right?)namascraycoverwithfilter

You can win a copy on GoodReads!

 

The Evolution of Writing Style

A prompt in a writing group to think about style inspired me to consider the evolution of my own writing style.

Writing evolves, grows, hopefully gets better, with all we learn and experience in life.  But style is something a little different. Style, sometimes, doesn’t change. Or, I should argue, doesn’t change that much. Maybe, it’s the small changes that only a critical reader might notice.

Last year, when I published Here in the Silence, I felt the stories earned that title. All the protagonists were struggling with finding their own voice. They felt silent or silenced, either from their own lack or from those around them.

This year, with Namas-Cray, my characters are different. Some are still struggling with being heard, (Of Strays and Exes), while some believe they are completely aware of who they are and what they want (A Perfect Day). There’s darkness, but there’s a dark ironic humor that embeds itself in their thoughts and actions: “Of Strays” begins with “When I killed my neighbors dog….” and in “A Perfect Day” a woman’s suicide is interrupted by an armed burglary.

What’s different between these two years of writing is the ironic humor. And, I’ve noticed that’s worked it’s way into most of my writing, including my poetry, “The Fly” features a fly who has “24 rose colored hours” of life, both celebrating and loathing those hours.

I’ve always handled my own life’s struggles with humor. When my daughter was a teenager, she looked at me and said, “Is everything funny to you?” Anyone who has a teenager knows – it’s got to be funny or you’ll lose your freaking mind. Therefore, to answer her question, I gave her a long, slow nod (gritting my teeth).

Does that mean my writing style will make you laugh at the dead dog or at the woman’s suicide attempt?  Absolutely not!  That’s where the irony comes in. It’s subtle and sardonic. The protagonist in “Of Strays,” offers to pay for the dog.  She doesn’t quite get the loss. But the protagonist grows to understand. And, in “A Perfect Day,” suicide is never a humorous topic, but our very serious plans being interrupted by life is something everyone can relate to. Her day is no longer so perfect when an armed robber says, “your money or your life.” And his plan, certainly, is not going as well either. Irony!

One of my students believes that “humor” should never be used in conjunction with a serious topic. In many cases, this is true. But we have to look at the irony surrounding the fiction that is how we learn and grow; introducing a topic with subtly allows the readers a way in to understand the situation, relate, empathize. The same is true of our lives. If you slam someone with truth, they are likely to back off and not engage. We introduce ourselves first, our struggles, along with the irony of moving on in our lives.

Let’s take a look at my life – what has happened in my life that might have made me feel more sardonic.  I teach a report writing class, which I run like a lesson in professionalism. How you present yourself as well as your writing says a lot about the person you are.  And then comes this Presidential campaign. How do I tell my 18-22 year old students to act like a professional when #45 acts like a spoiled child who’s had too much sugar?

Irony much?  This year, I was offered an African American Literature course. How do I stand in front of 36 students of diverse backgrounds as a white woman lecturing them on African American Lit?  Humor. Confront the irony. I asked them on the first day of class, “Does anyone want to know why a white girl is teaching an African American Lit Course?”

(According to the students, btw, I did a great job. Let me say, that I absolutely loved it! We built some iron bridges of communication in that class that I hope the students take out into the world with them. I took the course for a number of reasons, one of them was the above #45. But that’s a whole other story – We’re focusing on irony, life, writing style).

I do believe life affects writing style. Everything we learn, do, experience, and want should affect our writing style. We should grow and evolve as humans and as writers.

I was stuck once on a story. I’d been working with it, not quite able to get it to that sweet spot, when I decided on a vacay to New Orleans. I’m not much of a drinker, so it’s not the absinthe smoothies on Bourbon Street that inspired the trip, so much as the fanfare, the history, and the culture. I might have thought about the story while I was there; I don’t really remember. But, upon my return, the answer materialized. The story became what it needed to be. (It’s under consideration for an award as I write this).

That trip has stayed with me, as well as my other travels, other experiences: the homeless man at Starbucks focusing with intensity on a spiral bound notebook as if he was finishing his own novel – “$1.00 Stories” – the psychic who told me my illusion bubbles had burst “How to Throw a Psychic a Surprise Party” and so on. We must let life affect us, work its way into us, our style must evolve, or we stay stuck in life and in art.

writing life.jpg

I’m interested in hearing thoughts on this.  Do agree? Disagree? Has your style changed? How or why?