The Line Between Sanity and Fiction

30006330756_fb2235b576_z
Courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons

Merriam-Webster defines sane as mentally sound; especially :  able to anticipate and appraise the effect of one’s actions.

She defines fiction as an assumption of a possibility as a fact irrespective of the question of its truth.

Here’s the problem: as an author I’m able to anticipate the effect of my character’s actions because I’m their God, and in my mind anything they do always contains the possibility of fact. You’ve heard the old adage: there’s truth in fiction. I can’t have my readers say, “that could never happen!”

The line between sanity and fiction is a blur for me.

Two summers ago I struggled to finish Welcome to Skull Mountain, the third book in my middle grade series. While I forced the words onto the page, a man and a woman started talking to each other in my head. They would talk when I should’ve been writing WTSM. The spoke when I was reading for pleasure, driving in my car, and taking long walks.

I heard songs on the radio that meant something to them. I found myself creating a sound track of songs fitting their story. When they popped up in my head I played the music suited to their relationship. I listened to them fall in love, have arguments, and was even a voyeur while my male main character came down with appendicitis. The entire time they invaded my space I thought  – Shut up! You’re driving me crazy.

They made me nuts because I couldn’t think about anything else. I wanted to know what they were up to next. I decided the only way to quiet the noise in my head was to write their story. They became Grace and Blaise in the first book of my women’s fiction/contemporary romance series. Thanks to Grace and Blaise I sold that book, A Second Chance House, to The Wild Rose Press in a three book deal. (Due out probably early next year. Still waiting on a publication date. Publishing doesn’t move quickly.)

I’m very attached to my characters. I spend a lot of time with them. I hear what they hear, see what they see, smell what they smell, and feel what they feel. I’ve developed a crush on Blaise because of the many hours I’ve spent in his company. (Hopefully, Grace will forgive me. If she doesn’t, I can just knock her off. I am still her God. It’s not insane to think you’re a God, is it?)

Author, Editor, Social Media expert Kristen Lamb says authors play literary Barbies. We make them move, say, and do whatever we want them to do. (Often times, they do what they want to do no matter how much we try and force them to do our bidding. Kind of like having kids.) But, we basically pose them, tell them what we want them to say, wind them up, and set them loose.

Recently, I played music from off my phone. The Coffee King came in and asked who I was listening to. I told him. I added that this guy wrote a song that would be perfect for Colton and Harley. (The protagonists of book two in the same series.) CK scrunched up his face, looked at me and said. “It’s like you’re playing with Little People.” Yup. Just grown up versions who curse and have sex.

I worry about myself. While I’m deep in the worlds of my characters I can be found laughing out loud at something they’ve said or done. The other day my writing buddy KM Fawcett looked across the table at me and said, “Are you crying?” I was. I couldn’t help it. Colton often makes me laugh and cry.

The good news is many other authors react similarly to their characters. I know authors who have cried when a character dies. I haven’t killed anyone I cared deeply about. I’m sure I will cry then too. At the moment, I’d rather someone cut my arm off before I had to hurt Grace, Blaise, Colton or Harley in a tragic way. (There’s so many people to worry about.)

Do you see what I’m saying? Insanity? Or possibly good at what I do? I’m going with the former. No offense to my author friends who cry and laugh through their work. I can only speak for myself.

I’m not sure how to handle my situation. Should I seek therapy? Do therapists lock people away for thinking someone is in your head talking? I don’t talk back. That must be a good thing.

Until I find a support group for my mental illness, I’ll return to Heritage River. I left Harley in a parking lot in the middle of a very important conversation with her BFF.

What?

“Dispute not with her: she is lunatic.”
William Shakespeare, Richard III

 

 

Advertisements

Rantings From A Food Critic

15821850321_00a32d97f5_z
Courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons

I’m not your typical food critic. I don’t go to restaurants, scare the employees, order several dishes from the menu, and then write my opinions in the most sought after review columns.

Nope. Not me.

I’m the worst kind of critic. I HATE FOOD.

Hate is a pretty strong word, don’t you think? I dislike food – intensely.

I get very little joy out of food. I eat because I have to eat. People have told me they wish they could be like me. No – you don’t. Really. Trust me.

It’s super hard to come up with meal ideas when you don’t want to eat anything. I’m never in the mood for anything. I mean – NEVER.  I never crave anything either. (Except chocolate and caramel.) Not even when I was pregnant. The task of preparing meals for the Noodges and the Coffee King is daunting. I never know where to begin since I don’t care about the result. Food is for survival purposes only.

Obviously, I know which food groups are good for you. I use chicken, fish, and poultry as my base and build from there. But to say I’m in the mood for herb crusted chicken blah, blah, blah with a side of green yada, yada, yada won’t happen.

When I was a kid, my Italian mother would stand above me and shout, “but what’s there not to like? It’s only sausage and potatoes!” My Pop-Pop, (Italian grandfather straight off the boat) often asked when I refused to eat anything with tomato sauce, “What kind of an Italian are you?” The kind that likes cannolis, Italian cookies, Italian bread, and pretty much anything my professional baker Pop-Pop could make.

It wasn’t until I was in my forties that I discovered the source of my problem. I’m a supertaster. I have too many taste buds. (This is a real thing. I’m not making it up.) Lots of foods like broccoli, coffee, anything sour, taste really bitter to me. You should’ve been there when I accidentally ate broccoli rabe at a conference luncheon and needed to spit it out – immediately. It wasn’t pretty. What tastes like normal food to others taste terrible to me. In fact, I’m not sure I know what “normal” tastes like. I prefer to stick to anything bland. Macaroni with butter is an all time favorite of mine. On those Sunday dinners growing up, my grandmother would pull out some of the spaghetti for me and put butter on it before she dumped her homemade sauce on the rest.

So, tell me. What’s your favorite dish? What’s on the menu tonight?

In Honor of Best Friends Day: Friendships Are Like Paper Plates

  I’m a firm believer that friendships are disposable. I know that sound harsh, but look at it like this; some friendships are like paper plates and some are like your good stoneware. A paper plate serves a purpose and when that purpose is over or the plate is a bleeding mess you toss it. But […]

In honor of National Best Friends Day, one of my favorite blog posts is making a return visit. To all my stoneware: Thank you for your beauty, integrity, and taking up space in my cabinets. I love you all! S. 

 

ShoreProm1987 -2
My senior prom. Thirty years ago. (Time flies.) These girls were my besties back then. Betsy, on the left, is stoneware. Loren, on the right, also stoneware. I love them both dearly. Meredith, the one next to me, paper plate. Her plate got tossed thirty years ago. Just the way it goes. 

 

I’m a firm believer that friendships are disposable. I know that sound harsh, but look at it like this; some friendships are like paper plates and some are like your good stoneware. A paper plate serves a purpose and when that purpose is over or the plate is a bleeding mess you toss it. But your stoneware comes out every day, sometimes three times a day and is probably in your favorite color. Stoneware helps you, supports you, is reliable, loyal, accepts you for the cook you are, and heats up like a hot flash for you. You might buy thousands of paper plates over your lifetime, but you’ll only have a setting for twelve of that stoneware.

You don’t know when in your life you’re going to find that perfect set of stoneware. You might have to buy it in pieces. Some during high school, some during college, maybe even a piece you picked up along the way. But don’t look for a bargain. Stoneware is worth the price you pay. And if you do get it on sale, well, then, lucky you.

Paper plates are easy to find. They’re every where you look and they’re cheap. But they will always and forever be only paper plates. Don’t hold any grudges over them, though. I’ve had some paper plates I’ve loved over the years, but they still had to go when their purpose was served. I trashed paper plates in middle school, high school, college, from the countless jobs I’ve held, neighbors, committee groups, the list goes on and on. The best thing about paper plates is when you’re done with the package another package miraculously shows up in your cabinets. Right when you needed them the most. Paper plates are great-fill ins when you don’t have time to wash your stoneware. But when you’re making lasagna for dinner and the cheese won’t stick together and is running off the spatula nothing will do, but your favorite stoneware dish.

My stoneware set is much smaller than twelve, but I’m okay with that. We’ve been together a long time. My stoneware never disappoints me and is as vibrant as ever. It’s always there when I need it, shares secrets with me, makes me laugh, and reminds me why I bought it in the first place.

I’m thankful for the paper plates too. They’re quick and easy. They’re fun.

I often wonder if my Noodges have started buying pieces of their stoneware. Many times I look at the selection in their hands and think, “Dear Lord, that is a paper plate if I ever saw one. Put it down.” And sometimes I think, “that could be a keeper.” But that will be for them to decide. And I know for myself, there have been times when paper plates were disguised as my favorite stoneware. It wasn’t until the bottom leaked that I realized I’d been holding an imposter. I guess that will happen to my kids too.

How about you, faithful reader? What’s in your cabinet?

 

 

 

Sweating With the Oldies

 

9591995333_16c34bbd0e_k
Courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons

I’m one of those weird people who like to exercise. For someone who is Type A, exercise has been a constant companion to me. She cures many of my ailments; such as big mouth syndrome, come down off the ledge illness, and a current favorite; mid-life hormonal combustion.

When my friend, Ella, asked me to join her at a Zumba class, I jumped at the chance. I used to take Zumba all the time, and loved it. I mean, who doesn’t love to dance, destress, and burn a gazillion calories?

The class was filled with everyone from seven to ninety-seven. Okay, maybe not that old, but close. Trust me. I think it’s fantastic to find older people getting up and shaking their groove thing. I plan on being in my nineties, wearing my yoga pants, and doing the hustle across the dance floor. (I also plan on completely turning off my filter, and saying every single non-politically correct thing that comes to my mind! People will think what I say is cute because I’ll be old. That’s what everyone says about my grandmother and her miniskirts.)

There’s a down side to Zumba, though. I can’t work out with my nose pinched closed. I do need to breathe, but with breathing comes inhaling the smell of a skunk in the summer sun. I discreetly checked to see if the skunk was coming off of me, but thank everything that is holy, I remembered to wear deodorant and I had showered earlier that day. I was sweating pretty good, and by the end I was a tad ripe, but the skunk stink was on someone else. And not Ella! Maybe I could do what the ladies did back before showers existed. I can spray a handkerchief with perfume and keep it over my face.

If you’re a single male, and into women, a Zumba class might be a great hook-up place. There had to be forty people in that class and only one of them was a man. Those are some pretty good odds. I thought our guy had to be smart swinging his hips around for the ladies until I found out he stalks women from one gym to another. Then he was just plain creepy. Maybe the skunk was him?

I can’t begin to describe how ridiculous I must look in a Zumba class trying to follow the fancy footwork, but I can tell you this: My lack of skill doesn’t stop me. And when I go to Zumba class I’m Jennifer Lopez. At least in my delusional mind.

About an hour in I felt ten years younger. I thought, look at me, keeping up, recapturing the exercise high I miss because I don’t run anymore, and not an ache or a pain anywhere. Ninety minutes in, I thought, when the hell is this class going to end? The muscles in my back twisted into a tightly woven braid, and my knees ached like a bad tooth. I went from feeling ten years younger to feeling ancient. The ninety year-olds were holding up better than I was.

The class had several instructors. They were all lovely, warm, and friendly. These kooky women wanted to take a picture of everyone together after class. Stinky, sweaty people standing in a huddle was a bad idea. Let’s not forget the skunk! Not to mention, my hair wasn’t exactly picture ready after ninety minutes of sweating with the oldies. I found a clever way to hide, and not touch or get too close to anyone. You know how I sceeve people. Again, not Ella!

All in all, it was a great time. Maybe I’ll get asked to go again. Hopefully, there won’t be anymore pictures. And my handkerchief is ready.

 

 

What Do You Dream For?

4467646483_eff01257ed_z
Photo Courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons

We dream. The Universe provides us with those dreams, but they don’t always look the way we imagined them. That’s okay. Often times, the dream turns out better.

Somewhere along the way of leaving the Charlie’s Angel’s Hideaway House behind for makeup, I decided I wanted to be an author. Not any author. A famous one. With tons of readers. I wanted a huge publishing deal (not that I totally knew what that was back then) with a publishing house in New York City, the publishing capital of the world. I did know who McMillan was if only because they had a hand in publishing text books.

My dream to be a famous author isn’t looking exactly like I thought when I was 12 then 15 then… never mind the numbers. Publishing is a very different animal than when Stephen King signed his first contract for Carrie. That’s okay.

I indie published my middle-grade fantasy adventure series and coming to that decision wasn’t an easy or quick one. That looks nothing like my first dream.

Recently, I announced on my Facebook page, another new adventure in my publishing dream. (If you’re kind enough to follow me in both places, pardon my redundancy. If you don’t follow me on Facebook and want to, I love seeing friendly faces over there.) I signed a three-book deal with a traditional publisher for my women’s fiction series. Now I’m a hybrid author. No one even knew what that was ten years ago. Times change.

I’m very excited about this opportunity. Every author desires for their work to be wanted and liked. (We know we’re not supposed to read the reviews, but still get bummed when there’s a less than favorable one. It’s like picking on our kids.) I’m glad my new publisher believed in my work the way I do.

Even though I have and will have books in two different genres all my books have a united theme: Family are those who love you when you need them whether you’re born to that family or find them along the way. All my main characters seek to belong, to be loved, want a chance to fit in somewhere.

The first book in the new series, A Second Chance House, about a woman who is given the anonymous gift of dilapidated house in a new town, is in edits. I’ll announce a release date when I have one.

I don’t have the fame of my beloved Stephen King. (yet) The dream to be an author has most certainly come true and for that I’m grateful, humbled, and thrilled. I didn’t have any idea how hard it would be to find my readers, but I am, one at a time. The process might take longer than I thought, but it’s very rewarding when I get an email from a reader who saw me speak four years before, finally read my book and loved it enough to drop a line. Or when an eighth grader draws me a picture of one of my characters and has his teacher mail it to me. Or when a book club turns the woods behind one of their houses into Kata-Tartaroo and goes on a scavenger hunt. (That’s one of my favorite stories.)

I couldn’t make my dream come true without my readers. Thank you for being a part of my journey. I appreciate you reading my books, your continued visits to the blog and the comments you leave behind.

What was your dream back when playgrounds and sidewalk chalk were a daily existence? What does that dream look like now?

Shopping For Girls’ Clothes

8952114635_116f58987f_z
Courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons. This is not my child. 

 

Ever since I became a mother, I’ve been shocked at how hard it is to find suitable clothes for girls. When Noodge 2 was still in diapers, the rise of all the pants and shorts weren’t high enough to cover the diaper no matter how hard I pulled the pants up. I often wondered why anyone would manufacture bottoms that couldn’t cover a diaper? What 1 year-old needs a low-rise jean?

I didn’t have these problems for Noodge 1 – the boy. Shorts and pants always came up around the diaper.

As time marched on and I could completely control what they wore, finding appropriate fitting and looking clothing for a child wasn’t terribly difficult. I could guarantee certain stores wouldn’t let me down. One of my favorites back then was The Children’s Place. The shorts for girls came down mid-thigh, the price point was fantastic since every season I was replacing a wardrobe, and the clothing held up well wash after wash.

The length of shorts for the boy was never a problem. Every pair, regardless of where I purchased them, came to his knee. Not the case for the girl.

The funny thing about kids is they grow up and if they haven’t developed a mind of their own before puberty, be certain they will have one immediately following. They want a say in what they wear. And they should have a say. But the battle for age appropriate, and school appropriate and plain old appropriate is a big one.

When your daughter enters middle school, fitting in there becomes survival.  That means she wants to look like everyone else. Individuality isn’t in the forefront just yet. Even though as parents we preach: march to your own drummer, don’t jump off the Brooklyn Bridge just cause Taylor did, and stop worrying about what other people think of you. Problem with that age is you think everyone is thinking about you when in fact everyone is thinking about themselves.

Your daughter wants to wear what she sees everyone else wearing and when that includes shorts that barely cover her panties the battle just got harder. Let me digress for a minute if you will. Consider this a public service announcement. Mothers, don’t buy your seventh grade daughter bras from Victoria’s Secret. Cause guess what? When someone else’s daughter sees your daughter’s bra while changing for physical education she goes home and asks her mother to buy her one too. That makes mothers with enough sense to buy plain white bras for their twelve-year-old daughters have to work harder in battle. Don’t make them work that hard. Buy your daughter’s bra in plain, white cotton, without lace and leopard print too please.

Most girls want to shop in the places where her peers are shopping. That practice has been going on since someone decided wearing clothing instead of fig leaves would be beneficial in cold weather. I was that girl too. Wearing the right clothes on the prairie was very important a thousand years ago.

Now I have a teenage daughter and she wants to wear the cute clothes she sees on line. I don’t blame her. I would too. In fact, I do too. Just because I’m older doesn’t mean I don’t want to be fashionable. But I think teenagers, girls, have it harder.

Everything that’s out there for girls, young woman, with real curves and real bone structure and not the body of a mannequin, is too short, cut too low, too fitted, and comes complete with holes in it all strategically placed to show off her underwear.

Why must tops be made to stop mid-belly? And please, spare me the mind set, well, if she has the body for it she should wear it. Which I have actually heard more than one mother say. Why do you want your daughter, at any age, going around with her belly hanging out unless she’s at the beach? I’m pretty sure if I showed up at my mother’s house with a crop-top on she’d be asking me what the heck I was thinking. It would be for different reasons than the mother of a teenager, since at my age my belly is the equivalent of watching a car wreck, but she’s still my mother and still offers her opinions when she thinks I’ve lost my mind. way.

As I go from store to store with my daughter all I see around me are shorts that won’t make the finger-tip length rule at school. And let me add for my mothers whose daughters wear uniforms to school, your kid has to put clothes on every weekend too. So, it doesn’t matter that your child won’t be wearing shorts to school. On Saturdays, those same shorts aren’t Daddy appropriate either. The Coffee King has very specific rules about clothing. It might feel like a double standard, but again, girls’ clothing are too short, too low cut, too clingy. Boys’ clothing? Not at all. Noodge 1 is always in appropriate clothing. I couldn’t find shorts too short for him unless he wanted to start wearing the girls’ clothing. Then he’d be getting the too short lecture as well.

I hate that I have to say no to most of the things she likes. “Too short.” “Too low.” “Too much skin.” I just want to walk into the “it” stores and come out with bags of clothing that my kid likes, feels good in, and won’t get her “dress coded” at school. Why has the fashion industry decided that what’s “in” means show off your tits and ass? (Yes, I said bad words. It’s my blog.) I’ll tell you what adds to the fashion industry’s decision, twelve-year-olds wearing Victoria’s Secret!

I have no easy answer to this dilemma. I could start sending off letters to clothing stores asking them to stop carrying that kind of clothing for girls. Or write to the manufacturers asking for some help. Go ahead and offer the shorty shorts and half-tops, but please also offer full-length clothing that doesn’t cling to her every curve. I basically boycott the stores because we walk out empty handed, but my kid still needs things to wear and wants to tell her friends she went shopping in the cool stores. She certainly doesn’t want to shop in the stores I do. (Where things are more appropriately proportioned because you’re not getting a woman my age into some of those shorts. Nor should we be.)

In the meantime, it’s back to the battle field. Credit card at the ready.

 

Sometimes We Find Family Along The Way

DPhiE Reunion Large group
Delta Phi Epsilon sorority Delta Omega chapter at Monmouth University. The entire group in attendance at the recent reunion.

Family are the people who love you when you need them whether you’re born to them or pick them up along the way. That is the heart of all my books whether it’s my middle-grade series or my women’s fiction series.

Last week I spent some time with my sorority sisters. My sorority, Delta Phi Epsilon, celebrated its 100th year anniversary and my college’s chapter, Delta Omega at Monmouth University, held an event for all sisters current and alumni. Because when you become a D Phi E sister, it’s for life.

I was a commuter student when I went to Monmouth. There are some great things about being a commuter, but it’s hard to make friends if you don’t get involved with something. As a Freshman, I kept to myself mostly. I’m an outgoing introvert (a personality trait that quarrels with itself often) so I needed some friends and fast. I’d already known a couple of the girls in the sorority and a friend at the time encouraged me to pledge. I’m so glad I did.

D Phi E reunion Just Us
These are some of the special ladies I went to school with. I love them all. 

I met the Coffee King because of that sorority. And I made some fantastic friends. Here’s what’s so great about the girls I went to school with, years can go by and we won’t see each other or talk outside of Facebook, but all it takes is to be in the same room with them and it’s like no time has gone by at all. I walked into that event and saw women I haven’t seen in 25 years. The hugs were fierce and the tears were real. That’s friendship. That’s sisterhood.

I’ve been asked often how could I have joined a sorority. (I don’t adhere to conformity well) but my sorority wasn’t like that. Our motto translated is “To be rather than to seem to be.” We believed in everyone being an individual. There was plenty of room for all personality types. Those girls accepted me for who I was and still am. They let me be me and I let them be them.

Those girls were strangers to me all those years ago. It was scary at that first pledge class meeting with nine other girls I didn’t know, but was about to be thrown together with twenty-four hours a day for six weeks. We had to learn to get along, learn to work together, learn to respect each other and we did it. That doesn’t mean we didn’t fight, because you always fight with family. We had a lot of fun together too. Mostly, it was fun. (I’d tell you some stories, but then you’d need to go into the Witness Protection Program.)

My sisters are there for me whenever I need them. I don’t even have to ask. They only have to hear that one of us is in trouble, sick, or celebrating and they are right there beside you holding your hand or cheering you on too. (Who else would help you bury the bodies??) When my first book came out my sisters applauded the loudest. I am eternally grateful for that. (Ladies, I’ll need you again soon. Stay tuned. wink wink)

 

D Phi E reunion My Family
My family tree. My Grand-Big Sister, Big Sister, and Little Sister. 

These amazing women are my family. The family I picked up along the way. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.