This baby will be born in November.

This baby will be born in November.

Welcome To Skull Mountainbook three in the Gabriel Hunter series, will be out in November if it kills me and it just might.

Let me tell you a little about writing a book: it’s hard! And it doesn’t get any easier with each book you write. Sure, there are mechanical elements that have to be in every story, and I’m not talking about comma placement, but it seems the more I know the harder it is to write. I say things to myself like, “that can’t happen,” or “don’t forget on page 59 the character said this.” I won’t bore you with the nonsense that runs around in my head.

I’ve heard this analogy a million times, but it’s worth repeating. Writing a book is the same as birthing a baby. For those of you who have birthed your babies you’ll understand, and for everyone else, trust me. I spend months writing a first draft, just like a pregnancy. There’s research to do, like I did when I was having Noodge 1. “Ooh, what does the baby look like this week???!!” The story has to get on the page, just like the baby must grow in womb.

But the editing process is just like the labor and delivery. And if you were like me and gave birth without the aid of pharmaceuticals (not my choice, believe me) the pain of reworking your novel rivals that of pushing a child into the world. Because when Skull Mountain will finally be done, I’ll be panting, sweating, thinking I’m not going to survive, and wondering why the heck I thought writing this book was a good idea to begin with.

Then when your baby is born, wearing a beautiful new cover with your name printed on it and crisp, clean pages to flip on the inside filled with your magical words that come to life, you’ll want everyone in the world to know about it because you created it. “Look what I made! Me! I did that! Can you believe it??!!” Just like having a baby.

You’re going to want everyone to come over and visit with the baby. You’ll want them to hold it, see how marvelous it is, and then write a great review about it so others will want to pick up your baby and drool over it too.

The difference is your book will never sass you back. It won’t know more than you do, think you’re old no matter how long ago you wrote it, and it won’t go to the therapist some day blaming their failures or bad book rankings on you.

Skull Mountain is in the labor and delivery process now. This has been a very long delivery for me since I decided to trash the original version of this book and start over. But come November, you’ll have a brand-new pretty copy to hold in your hands or download to your Kindle. I hope you’ll come visit us on the maternity floor and ooh and aah over it. I’ll have the cannolis. I’ll need it.

Something’s Gotta Give kitchen  6

Here’s Jack in an early scene in the movie. I think what gave here were his pants. ;-)

Did you ever see that movie, “Something’s Gotta Give” with Jack Nicholson and Diane Keaton? It’s a fun movie. If you haven’t seen it, rent it. I think of that movie often when I’m trying to figure out how to juggle life. In the movie, Diane Keaton’s character has a very structured, predictable, boring life until Jack Nicholson comes along and turns that predictable life on its head.

My life is pretty predictable too. I have the Noodges, a dog, a husband, a home, a career. I exercise to stay nice and healthy. (Two separate things.) It’s important to me to do all my jobs well. There is a lot at stake if I screw up being a parent or a wife. Not to mention, I like having a clean house. And if I don’t devote the time necessary to my writing career my books will only be read by my friends and family. In order to do everything well, something’s gotta give.

My kids are around because it’s summer vacation, but I still have a book I’m trying to publish. I pushed out the release date of Welcome To Skull Mountain because quite frankly, the story needed trashing. Believe me, trashing a 200-plus novel is a huge decision. Writing while the Noodges are around is hard even now while they’re teenagers. If one of them comes to me and says, “Mom, guess what?” or “Mom, listen to this,” or “Mom, you want to go to the movies?” I drop everything and run. I won’t turn my kids away when I have so little time with them left. Noodge 1 goes to college in three years! Three! He was two like a blink ago and now he’s almost a man ready to fly the nest and I want to hold onto him with both hands and say, “Just a little longer.” But spending time with them means no writing or less writing which in essence is no writing.

Writing is hard and takes a lot of time if you’re going to do it right. When I write I don’t always have time to do the marketing of my work I need to do so I can have the number of readers I want. It’s frustrating not to have the hours I need. Time with the kids, time writing, time marketing, time exercising.

Something’s gotta give.

I’ve got an ugly word for you: Compromise. If you’re a type A like me, you just cringed. People like us don’t want to compromise. We want to do it all. Yeah, well, take it from me, you can’t. Everything is a compromise. Everything. 

“You can have it all. Just not all at once.” Suzyn Waldman said that. She’s the female sports announcer for the New York Yankees. I believe what Suzyn said and hearing her say it made me feel better. I’m just not sure I like it, but at least I can take a deep breath and know all the things I want in life, time with my kids, tons of readers, tons of books, and toned muscles will come.

What about you? What are the compromises you’ve had to make? What gives in your life?

JoshCymbals

“Persistence prevails when all else fails.” That’s one of my favorite quotes. I have it on a plaque. Persistence is one of the few things you can control and we all know how Italian women want control.

Recently, I put together a new workshop for writers. This one is about – you guessed it – persistence. The writer’s journey is a long one and without a little persistence and a few good laughs you’ll give up. Planning the workshop got me to thinking about Noodge 1.

He started playing the drums at the age of 8. He’s 15 now, (I am so not old enough to have a fifteen year-old) and has learned a valuable lesson about persistence. It pays off. He tried out for the marching band drum line last year as a Freshman. He made the cymbals. Cymbals is the place where most kids start. You have to work your way up to a more coveted spot like Tenor drum or Snare drum. There is also the Bass drum, which a Freshman can make. Noodge was disappointed he landed on the cymbal line. He wasn’t even going to be holding a drum.

He worked hard; never missing a practice or game. He rehearsed his part as a cymbal player and he continued to work on playing his snare drum. He knew his marks on the field during the halftime show. He had a difficult person on the cymbal line he needed to learn to deal with.

Auditions rolled around for the 2015 fall season. He practiced that audition piece and when it was time to show the judges what he knew he was ready. He made the Snare drum. This is what he said to me, “I worked hard and it paid off.” That was the best lesson he could’ve learned and I didn’t have to do a thing. Persistence.

Parents need to be persistent. As a parent, you’re going to have to say “No!” more than once. You’re going to have to remind them to do their homework, to choose the right friends, to be active, to read. The list goes on and on. It’s exhausting. It would be much easier to give in to your child’s demands, to let them do what they want, but you must stay strong. You know what’s best for them.

Writers need to be persistent. You have to show up every day. Write something. The first draft will stink. I promise you that, so forgive yourself now and get the work done. Your gem will shine in the editing, but you have to show up to do that too. You need to learn your craft and meet other writers who can be a support to you.

But it’s also about passion. You can’t show up every day if you don’t love what you do. Noodge 1 wouldn’t have practiced, even under the threat of bodily harm, (which no one was going to suggest, by the way) if he didn’t love to play the drums. There have been many times along my writer’s journey where I woke at 5 am to write. Someone said to me once they could never get up at 5. They hadn’t found their passion yet. The only reason I could be up at that hour was because of my love of writing. I have to write. I can’t imagine not writing. I would never get up at 5 am to make a three-course meal. I’d rather starve. Passion is what got me to be a published author. Passion will take you where you want to go too.

If you could be anything at all, what would that look like?

Photo courtesy of morguefile.com

Photo courtesy of morguefile.com

LIfe is a lot like an ocean’s wave. We wait with anticipation as the wave rises out of the water’s surface hoping the wave will climb and climb. All the while, the white foam curls around the top like a lip. The wave is smiling at us. But the wave is going to crash and you’d better not be standing under it because it will flip you, toss you, and drag you. And if you’re not careful it will drown you.

I grew up at the beach. I learned at an early age how to handle the waves. You can jump them or swim through them. You can even ride them. But it only takes one time for the wave to grab you and turn you upside down; salt-water rushing up your nose. You can’t tell where the sky is and you don’t know how long it’s going to be before the wave slams you on the ground and when it does dump you at the edge you’ll be covered in sand in places you didn’t even know existed.

Life is all about how we handle the waves. Our ocean is a little rough right now. Our puppy had surgery and the surgery caused a complication.It’s going to be weeks before we know if he’s totally healed. Plus we have a few family members who insist on getting caught in the undertow. Some want to be dragged out and one, well, she thinks she’s surfing so I guess it doesn’t matter, in her world she’s having fun.

I want to grab a good book, a beach chair and plop myself down in the sun. I want to listen to the roar of the ocean and smell the salt air. If I’m lucky, I’ll find a few pieces of blue and green sea glass. I have no interest in riding the waves today. I want to spend time with my children before they get to the other end of the beach and I’m nothing more than a glance over their tanned shoulders.

But the ocean is calling and its wrapping its cold hands around my ankles. My toes sink deeply into the pebbled sand. Will I jump or dive? Or will the ocean win this round? Nope, not today.

Photo courtesy of morguefile.com  CLICK PHOTO to learn more.

Photo courtesy of morguefile.com
CLICK PHOTO to learn more about the Super Summer Reading Program.

Everyone should be a reader because reading is magic. For those who tell me they aren’t readers, they just haven’t found the right book or genre or author or magazine or whatever. It’s out there. I promise. Don’t give up.

I like to promote just about anything that has to do with reading. MyCentralJersey.com is sponsoring a Super Summer Reader Program. Anyone can participate and you get a chance to win two free tickets to a Somerset Patriots game on August 10. Plus, the best part, in my opinion, is you get the chance to meet over a dozen local authors. (I bet you can guess who one of them will be!)

Summer is a great time to catch up on all that pleasure reading. Click on the MyCentralJersey link and find out how you can be a part of the Super Summer Reading Program. Hope to see you there!!

I took Noodge 2 to see the Disney Pixar film Inside Out the other day. She asked if I’d go with her and when your thirteen year-old daughter wants to do something with you, you drop everything and go.

When I asked Noodge 2 if she liked the movie, she replied with a shrug of her shoulder and a wrinkle of her nose. “I guess. It was a one and done for me.” I think she was trying to be nice for my sake.

You see, I loved it.

Here is the synopsis from Fandango.com: Emotions run wild in the mind of a little girl who is uprooted from her peaceful life in the Midwest and forced to move to San Francisco in this Pixar adventure from director Pete Docter (Up, Monsters Inc.). Young Riley was perfectly content with her life when her father landed a new job in San Francisco, and the family moved across the country. Now, as Riley prepares to navigate a new city and attend a new school, her emotional headquarters becomes a hot bed of activity. As Joy (voice of Amy Poehler) attempts to keep Riley feeling happy and positive about the move, other emotions like Fear (voice of Bill Hader), Anger (voice of Lewis Black), Disgust (voice of Mindy Kaling) and Sadness (Phyllis Smith) make the transition a bit more complicated. ~ Jason Buchanan, Rovi

Lately, my emotions have been running wild too. I have teenagers and having teenagers sends your emotions on a roller coaster ride. We all know I don’t like rides. Don’t get me wrong, having teenagers is a wonderful thing. They can dress and feed themselves, most of the time, you can have real conversations with them, as long as you don’t give advice or embarrass them in any way, you can leave them home alone and not worry about the house burning down, well, you can leave them for short periods of time, anyway.

Sometimes, though, it’s frustrating having teenagers. They want to sleep late. They think you were born yesterday and at the same time you’re old. They’re messy. We all know how I handle that.

But other times having a teenager is bitter sweet. You’re baby is growing up at the speed of light and you can’t slow it down and yet, you know you aren’t supposed to. The things that once made them laugh only get eye rolls and grunts now. You are no longer their hero, but their nemesis. They don’t want to bake with you, make crafts with you, play trains with you. In fact, their favorite thing to do is either sit in their room with the door closed or sit on the computer with headphones in so they can’t hear you calling them.

And yet, it wasn’t so long ago I was holding them in my arms reading them stories and tickling their bellies. They have forgotten the memories I still hold dear. Many times Noodge 2 clucks at pictures when she was a toddler embarrassed by her hair or her pose. I tell her to be quiet. Those pictures are for me. They are the reminders of my little girl who used to climb into my lap with stories and adventure of her Little People. Sometimes, I miss that.

Let’s get back to, Joy. In the movie, Joy tries to keep Riley happy by using her memories. Every one of Riley’s pleasant memories made me think of a time with my Noodges. Those memories no longer worked for Riley and it occurred to me sitting in the movie theater next to my teenager, those memories no longer work for her or her brother either.

That’s when I began to cry. Yup, I’m a crier. It’s awful. I cry at commercials, movies, stupid cards, songs, and the memories of my children when they were little. (I also cried the other day when Noodge 2 performed at her voice recital. So, their ages really have nothing to do with it. I’m pitiful.)

The writers at Disney Pixar hit it on the head. The character Joy wasn’t only Riley’s emotion, she represented the emotion of every mother on the planet. (Okay, not every mother.) Joy held Riley’s memories with love. Joy longed for the time when Riley was little and giggling with her parents, playing with her friend, or winning a hockey game. I can’t hold a memory in my hand, but I have photos and videos of a time when life was simpler and the time when my children would leave me was way out in front of us. Untouchable. Like a cloud. Yeah, well, now we’re smack in the middle of that cloud and it’s turbulence all around.

So, what’s the point of all this besides the fact I’m a crier? Live in the moment, maybe. Hug your kids every chance you get. And hug them tightly. Inhale their smell. Tell them you love them. Cherish the memories because they make you who you are even if those memories have faded for your kids. Maybe those memories make your kids who they are too.

So, my faithful reader, I challenge you. Go see Inside Out. Bring your kids or bring the friend you aren’t afraid to shed a tear in front of. I promise it will be a joyful memory.

 

Photo courtesy of morguefile.com

Photo courtesy of morguefile.com

What are your neighbors like? Not to brag, but I have wonderful neighbors. That doesn’t always happen and we’ve been lucky enough to experience it twice. The first house the Coffee King and I bought, many years ago, we had fantastic neighbors. We moved out of that house ten years ago and we still keep in touch with many of them. The second house we bought, well, let’s just say during the six years we lived there we never said two words to the people who lived next door to us. And believe me, it wasn’t because we didn’t try. In fact, the more they ignored us, the more fun it was to say hello.

But out here in the country, we struck gold again. Let me tell you a story….

It was a warm, June morning. The kids had made it to their destinations without a hitch. The morning was looking good and I needed exercise. Who better to go with me than my furry monster? Munson and I headed into the neighborhood.

Now, I don’t know what it is with this dog, but three minutes into every walk he has business to do. I’m always prepared. But on this particular walk, Munson had more business and I was out of bags. We were almost home and I tried to make him run the rest of the way. Poor dog. He must’ve been thinking, “Lady, I’ve got to go! Are you crazy???”

I couldn’t let my dog make a mess all over the street. Well guess what? Dogs and toddlers can’t hold it.

I was faced with a dilemma: Did I leave the mess and come back with bags?  Or just leave the mess? In all honesty, bags weren’t going to work here, more like a fire hose. Maybe I could wait for a good rain to come along?

Instead, I called my neighbor Bobbie. She lives across the street from the crime scene. Frantically, I searched for Bobbie’s number. “Are you home? I need help,” I said to the voice mail. I figured a similar text might get me an answer.

But when Bobbie didn’t respond to my overwrought request for help I decided to wait for a good rain and went home. (Don’t judge me.) That’s when I decided to pull my phone from my pocket. And there were four texts from Bobbie. She’d sent the neighborhood watch to my house.

Charlie, who lives across the street, was searching in my windows. You see, he saw the garage door closing and assumed someone was in the truck holding me at gunpoint. He watches the same television shows I do.  I would’ve assumed the exact same thing was happening had I received the desperate message I’d left Bobbie. Plus, my overactive imagination and the fact I write thriller type novels, always has me assuming there’s a dead body in need of hiding in every scenario.

While Charlie and I were having a good laugh over the mishap, another neighbor pulled up. He was coming to see if I needed an ambulance. Bobbie had called him too.

And that’s when I read the rest of the four texts. Bobbie was coming back from wherever she was! I didn’t get to her in time. She too pulled into my driveway ready to rescue me.

The lesson here? Be more specific on your voice mail messages. Unless kidnapping is involved, “I need help” might not be the way to go.

But I know I have great neighbors. Who Watch. And you can’t beat that.