Monday, May 28, 2007


I have a sort of official website up now, so if you want to hop over and take a look, my new cyberhome is:

It still needs some tweaking (I just noticed a typo on the front This really illustrates how important editors are, and a fresh set of eyes...and that third cup of coffee. But anyway, it's there. Feel free to comment, just be gentle...until I make money at this, it's the free website templates for me.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Flawed Idealism

Last night I finished reading a book that actually was on my must read book list..wahoo. It was Sarah Gruen's WATER FOR ELEPHANTS. I probably wouldn't have picked this book up, just because it was too popular, but Sara is a member of a writing community, Backspace, that I also belong to and it's a very supportive place...everyone tries to read everyone else's books. This book is a serious success and now I know why. Sarah is a genius with flawed characters. Genius. Of course, it's a great story and I have a whole new appreciation for the history of the circus which, in and of itself, is a bonus. Anytime I close a book and have learned something new or can appreciate some aspect of life I normally wouldn't look twice at, I am a happy reader. As a writer, though, I was completely envious of the ease with which she created these messy, heartbreaking, real with a capital R characters. It made me wonder, do I just not pay enough attention to people? Do I just not have enough messy, heartbreaking people in my back history to pull from? HA. No, that's not it. I have plenty of messy, real people in my life to study but when it comes to making up people, I tend to lean toward the idealistic. Why?

I'm also in the middle of M. Atwood's CAT'S EYE and she, too, is brilliant with creating characters with cracks, weaknesses and painful histories. I get it. I just can't seem to translate it to paper.

Then there's the question, when I'm completely honest with I really want to? When I look back at my main characters, they are people who I would look up to in real life, people who I would want as friends. People with backbones. I think Ayn Rand really influenced me more than I realized in this area of writing. Her characters were the kind of people I would want in my life, though I know people personally that hate her books for this reason--because her characters aren't realistic.

I do feel like I'm creating characters that I want to spend time with; people that I want to stay with for 300 plus pages, BUT I also know the reader has to identify with the characters and that means flaws, that means being human. And, of course, people can have backbones and ideals and still have flaws. I think that's the middle ground I need to find my big feet standing on.

I'll have to work on this.

Anyway, I'm officially at the halfway point with STRANGE NEW FEET. It's all downhill from here. Well, not really...but from here, it will be closer to the end than the beginning.

I'll leave you with a quote from THE FOUNTAINHEAD:

"Show me your achievement, and the knowledge will give me courage for mine."

Monday, May 21, 2007

Mirror Mirror on the Wall

Okay, let's talk about something not quite so serious as death by whopper.

Namely, ghosts. Do you believe in them?

My mother took a tour of Nemacolin Castle in Pa. this weekend. It was a ghost tour actually. Now before you start moaning and rolling your eyes--stop it, I can see you--there has been lots of documented unexplained activity in this castle, from so called paranormal investigators (which were there this weekend as well) and also regular folks. My mother experienced lots of weird things during the tour, of which I will spare you the details so you don't sprain an eyeball, but the most amazing thing was something she saw when she got home. A picture that she took in the tea room. She was taking a picture of the table with a tea set, but in the left side of the frame is an original gilded mirror. In the reflection of the mirror, you can see the back of my Aunt who was standing across the room and...a ghost. Seriously. You can see a man leaning against the wall right in front of my Aunt, wearing a white silk shirt. You can even make out a large square ring on his middle finger. He appears to be looking right at the camera, and has a mustache. Of course my Aunt was amazed when she saw it. She would have remembered some wierdo in a fancy silk shirt and pimp ring standing in front of her. My mother printed out the picture and took it back to the castle to talk to the investigators. They seemed skeptical! Isn't that funny? The woman explained to her that they had to be skeptical as most things eventually are explainable. There were only 11 people on the tour. None of them were wearing a white silk shirt, none of them remotely resembled the man in the mirror. She tried to take more pictures of the tea room at that exact angle, putting a friend against the same wall for comparison. She said it took forever. Her batteries drained twice. The camera froze up and one of the investigators told her to try leaving the room, where it suddenly came back on. They were all excited by this. They asked her to send them the picture so they can analyze it, sharpen the image or whatever. Can't wait to hear the consensus. Weird pimp guy or spirit?

So, anyway...back to the question. I would like to believe in ghosts. I would like to believe there is something beyond death. I will tell you that a picture of a ghost would be more likely to convince me of the existence of souls and the great beyond than any religion would. But, I just don't have any solid evidence. No one does. It's all about faith...again.

Something that would make sense to me is the theory of energy being engrained in space/time. I guess if a person repeats the same activity all their life, say going up and down the same stairs, than they could be engraining that image for others to view later. Sort of like when you get older and you notice that all the lines you have around your mouth and eyes are the ones created by years of smiling. They are permanent now. Like the engrained images of people's past energy maybe?

If you're interested, here's a link to the top believable ghost pictures of all time:

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Pirated Twinkies

Okay, this is sort of writing related but, bonus...I get to rant.

This caught my eye on the front page of Yahoo: Burger King sued over trans fats

Apparently a nutrition advocasy group sued because Burger King hasn't changed their frying oil to one without trans fats, like other fast food chains have. Here's a quote from the article that really makes me wonder if maybe we should really take a look at more than just our waistlines:

"Consumers have no way to guard against the risk of consumer trans fats."

WHAT????!!!!! No way to guard against this? How about STOP STICKING THE STUFF IN OUR MOUTHS????

Are they kidding? When did free will go extinct? When did people stop taking personal responsiblity for themselves??? Wait, don't answer that last one.

Okay, seriously we are heading in very dangerous terrority here. We have got to stop expecting the government and lawmakers and advocacy rights groups, and manufacturers and our mothers, neighbors, mailmen, etc. to protect us. We've got to stop blaming and suing each other. Take personal responsibility. Make educated decisions. Here's a head really don't know Burger King is unhealthy?

Whopper with cheese: 760 calories/47 grams of fat
Large Fry: 600 calories/33 grams of fat
Large Coke: 297 calories

1,657 calories and a whopping (pun intended) 80 grams of fat for one meal.

So, what would happen if we all decided that we wanted to be in charge of taking care of our own health and everyone just stopped eating there? No lawsuits, no advocacy groups, no indignation...just chose to eat healthy? Well, I bet they would figure out a way to serve healthy food or go out of business. We are the ones driving them, not the other way around.

Okay, for the writing related part:

I wrote a short story a few years ago called PIRATED TWINKIES. It was a very tongue in cheek story about a guy named George who lived in a time where sweets, fats, etc. had been banned by the government. Twinkies were the hot item on the black market. After already failing two weigh-ins, he gets busted buying twinkies and gets sent to the 'maintenance facility' (basically prison). After doing his time and being forced back to his required weight, he gets out and decides to kill himself. He gets a hold of some bootlegged whiskey and drinks until he happily passes out on the railroad tracks, thinking it would all finally be over. Unfortunately, he wakes up in a hospital a few days later only to find out the train didn't kill him, but did sever off both his legs. He is horrified until he glances at his chart and sees that his weight is now listed as 180 lbs. He wonders, stunned, how he lost 60 pounds. Then he looks at the empty space in the bed, smiles happily and asks to use the phone. His twinkie dealer was very happy to hear from him.

Sadly, I don't think this is as far down the road as I thought it was when I wrote it.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Mother's Day

How to juggle being a writer and motherhood:
Throw all the balls up in the air and then duck!
Just kidding, it's not that bad...who needs hair meals and clothes without baby spit up...and sleep?
Okay, I joke but I wouldn't have it any other way. These three little people are the only things I'm sure I have done right with my life so far. Every day, they show me new ways to look at the world. They give me a reason to be silly, go to carnivals, get out of my own head and live in the moment.
Mother's Day makes me especially aware of how lucky I am to have this job.

Monday, May 07, 2007

The Road

I've ignored my must read book list again and picked up a novel I didn't have on there. Cormac McCarthy's THE ROAD. Curiosity, I guess. After all it did get the Pulitzer Prize for fiction and more importantly was Oprah's book club selection! So, what's all the fuss?

I'm about 3/4 of the way done, thanks to not being able to put this book down until after one in the morning, and then only because my eyes were burning. The amazing thing is, the whole story consists of a man and his son walking across a post-apocalyptic America. That's the entirety of the plot. Neither the man nor his son are named, nor is the event that has destroyed life on earth. But, in this simplicity lay incredible heartache and gorgeous prose.

I'm not sure why he uses such rhetorical devices such as leaving out the apostrophes in the contractions. Maybe he was trying to give the reader a sense of the rules changing; a sense that the world they live (and speak in) no longer has rules. He also skillfully uses a lot of repeating themes and images: gray, fear, the uncertainty of an "I don't know" response to a lot of questions.

I spend most of the hours with this book alternating between trying to read through tears and trying to unclench my jaw. Even after I put it down, I couldn't release myself from the world he created. Even then, I strained to see through the dark, feeling the falling forest around me and expecting scrawny, soiled men with human flesh in their teeth to sneak into my room. I almost woke up my babies just to hold them. It is that powerful.

As a writer I am both humbled and inspired by this masterpiece.