Let’s Try This Again….

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.

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The Magic of Writing

Thank you, TOIS, for allowing me to inspire young minds, year after year.
Thank you, TOIS, for allowing me to inspire young minds, year after year.

Ever since I was seven, I wanted to be an author. I loved the magic of books and their stories and the way an an author can take your hand and say, “follow me for awhile. I have something to tell you.” And you go willingly. I wanted more than anything to create those magical stories myself. I’ve always written something, whether it was in my journal through my teen years, my first novel at the age of twelve, screenplays in college, or tariffs for a phone company. But now I’m an author of books with readers of my own and when I take the time to enjoy my accomplishments, I’m sort of proud of myself. “I did it,” I say.

One of the things I love about being an author is going into schools and speaking to the students about creative writing because my other passions are speaking to groups (we all know I talk a lot) and inspiring others to follow their dreams to be a writer too.

Recently, I spoke to 65 sixth graders. It was a total blast. I taught them something about writing, they got the chance to create a story, and they shared it with the group. I was humbled when one group of students asked me to read their stories out loud for them. It’s not easy to share your stories and much harder to have someone else’s eyes upon the rawness of a first draft.

Writing is magic. It’s not only the place of other worlds, but the place where dreams live.

Write.

Dream.

Live.

Magic.

 

Coming in April:

Book Three in the Gabriel Hunter Series
Book Three in the Gabriel Hunter Series

Happy Valentine’s Day

Courtesy of Morguefile
Courtesy of Morguefile

What pressure the month of February has. It might be the shortest month, but it has all the responsibilities every other month has: bills still need to be paid on time, grocery shopping needs to be done, there’s the Superbowl, several presidents’ birthdays, which means more white sales in February than any other time and did you know that February 10th is the day most couples break up? Of course, we can’t forget the biggest event of the month – Valentine’s Day.  It’s probably the next most important gift giving holiday after Christmas. Hence, why February 10th is probably a very popular time to end that rocky relationship.

According to Wikipedia, Valentine’s Day was first associated with romantic love in the circle of Geoffrey Chaucer in the High Middle Ages, when the tradition of courtly love flourished. In 18th-century England, it evolved into an occasion in which lovers expressed their love for each other by presenting flowers, offering confectionery  and sending greeting cards (known as “valentines“). In Europe, Saint Valentine’s Keys are given to lovers “as a romantic symbol and an invitation to unlock the giver’s heart.”

Like I said, a lot of pressure. It’s no wonder in our modern day world every jewelry store uses this time of year to convince couples their love won’t be complete without a clear, nearly colorless, rock either dangling from a neck or sitting high on the third finger of the lady’s left hand.

I, many, many years ago, was no different. Let me set the stage. My hair was its natural color and my skin as flawless as porcelain. I was young and in love. The Coffee King and I had been in a committed, long-distance relationship for three years. We wanted the same things from life. We knew there was no one else and Valentine’s Day was quickly approaching.

Sometimes being young also means being clueless. One evening, The Coffee King said to me, “There’s something I want to get you for Valentine’s Day, but I want you with me when I pick it out.”

My heart beat skipped to quarter notes. Of course, I would go with him.

He said something about me not having this gift idea of his.

He said he didn’t know my size. Ring size, certainly? Though I didn’t ask.

I arrived at his house in a new outfit with my nails freshly done. I couldn’t wait to see what this Valentine’s Day gift might be. “I have a picture of it,” he said.

My hands shook as I took the catalog from him. This was it, he was going to ask. We would spend the rest of our lives together professing our love for each other. Would it be a round cut? Or maybe marquis? How big would it be? Not that the size mattered. Absolutely, not.

I looked down.

And saw….

snow boots.

The Coffee King is very practical. I had never owned snow boots before and this fact was something he could not comprehend. He wanted me to be warm and dry. He wanted me to be safe on icy surfaces. That kind of caring is true love. Something I wouldn’t trade for all the diamonds in the world.

Eventually, we did get engaged. That is a story for another time. One that The Coffee King loves telling. And when we got married I wore the snow boots.

NOT.

 

 

Coming in April:

WelcometoSkullMntHRcover

A Note To My Daughter

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Recently, Noodge 2 made her Bat Mitzvah. Her parents are encouraged to write a little speech to her and deliver it that day. Since I have a blog post to my son I must include one for my daughter. I can’t be accused of playing favorites. Once again, faithful reader, I ask you indulge me. I am eternally grateful.

The doctors told us Noodge 2 was going to be a boy. I spent most of my pregnancy planning a life with two boys in it, but when a girl arrived my plans turned on their heads. What was life going to be like with a little girl? Would I worry more about her? Will she need to be protected from the bad things that happen in the world more so than her brother? What if someone picks on her? Will she be able to stand up for herself? Are big brothers supposed to chaperone their little sister’s dates? Yes, it’s a double standard, but I’m an Italian mother, worrying is what we do. Only, I don’t have to worry extra about her.

I knew by the time she was six months old she had the determination to do anything she put her mind to. I can’t share the story of how I knew this, she’d kill me, so you’ll have to trust me. I also knew determination would take her far and possibly make motherhood a bit of a challenge, but I wouldn’t want her any other way.

The Noodge isn’t afraid to speak her mind, which I love about her, so I don’t have to worry about her sticking up for herself. She’s smart enough to know the difference between right and wrong so I don’t have to send in any extra protection from the scary things that go on in the world because I know she’ll make the right choices when faced with tough decisions.

Unfortunately, for her, I still think older brothers should chaperone their little sisters dates. Sorry, Italian mother. No one’s perfect.

Noodge worked very hard to stand before you today and become a Bat Mitzvah. And like when she was an infant I watched, throughout this journey, in awe of her resolve to learn Hebrew and all that was asked of her to accomplish this important goal.  This is the same quality that drives her to do well in school and to follow her dreams of being a professional singer. The Noodge will accomplish whatever goals she wants to because she has the gifts to take her there.

She is kind and caring. She stands up for what’s right, and she’s fiercely independent. Also a quality that can make motherhood a challenge, but she makes me proud of her and every day I see her and say, “that’s my girl.”

I’m so thankful those doctors were wrong. I can’t imagine my life without her. I love you, Noodge. Every minute of every day. Now and forever.

 

Last Minute Plans

This is me and Kiki after the Bat Mitzvah. We have the same taste in clothes and often pick similar outfits and then show up at the same place wearing them. It's weird, but we like it.
This is me and Kiki after the Bat Mitzvah. We have the same taste in clothes and often pick similar outfits and then show up at the same place wearing them. It’s weird, but we like it. Our dresses for the party, though both black, were different. I think.

 

Have you ever planned a party? I’m talking a good size one with at least fifty people in a location other than your house? It’s okay if you haven’t and honestly way saner. Only crazy people plan those kinds of parties. Even crazier people used to pay me to plan parties. Yup, I was a party planner in the pre-Noodge days.

We recently held a party to celebrate Noodge 2 becoming a Bat Mitzvah. I don’t know if you’ve ever been to a Bar or Bat Mitzvah (Bar for boys Bat for girls) but after watching how much work the Noodges each put into preparing for their own day they deserved a party. Trust me. A Confirmation has got nothing on a Bar/Bat Mitzvah. No offense.

The day before the Bat Mitzvah was a day filled with last-minute plans. I had to attempt to clean the house because our families would be over that afternoon and the next day I expected twenty-five of our closest friends to hang out between the Bat Mitzvah service and the party. I might not have had time to rearrange my cabinets, but you know I had to wipe down the toilets.

After cleaning, I dropped Noodge 2 at the synagogue for her final run through only to find out we made mistakes in assigning Jewish family members prayers to read. The rabbi asked me who I wanted to take out and leave in. Me!!! To which I replied, “I have to call the Coffee King.” Like I know who can read what and when. My job involves balloons, favors, DJs, the photographer, and coordinating Noodge’s theme throughout. Jewish stuff goes to him.

A very well-meaning woman who worked in the synagogue office asked me for the names of the people who would lift the Torah, dress the Torah and say some blessings over bread and wine. Only she asked me using the Hebrew words. My reply? “You have to speak to me in English.” It’s not a secret I’m not Jewish.

This well-meaning woman strongly suggested I label everything in the synagogue kitchen for the Friday night Oneg and the Saturday Kiddush. Those are the meals after the services we had to host. This lovely lady actually handed me a sheet of labels she had made that read, “Wilk Friday” and “Wilk Saturday.” She wanted me to leave directions for the kitchen staff as well. My thoughts were, doesn’t the staff know what do do? This wasn’t the first Bat Mitzvah ever. There is only one Bar or Bat Mitzvah happening at a time. You don’t share your day. Whose soda was it going to be besides ours? I suppose she was trying to be helpful.

But all I wanted to do was put my tablecloths out because I had to pick Noodge 1 at school, stop at the seamstress to retrieve Noodge 2’s dress for the party and wash the car. The dumb car was covered in so much salt we were going to make our dressy clothes dirty getting in and out. I had to wash it. It ended up snowing Saturday morning so there went the wash, but who knew?

Right before I left the synagogue Friday afternoon, tables now covered, kitchen appropriately labeled, another well-meaning woman looked at me and said, “You look tired.”

WHAT????!!!!!  I had pictures in three hours.

Now I was determined to muster up the energy to finish my last minute plans and actually catch my breath before we had to change into those dressy clothes and go back to the synagogue. I wouldn’t have puffy, sunken eyes for the pictures. Oh, how I miss my twenty-five year old skin. The skin I have now doesn’t bounce back the same way, in fact it doesn’t bounce at all. It just hangs. And apparently gives away how tired I am. Stinker.

Back at the house, I declared fifteen minutes of rest to my family then slapped on extra repair eye cream and more eye shadow than Mary Kay.

I hoped I didn’t look like a ragged mess in those pictures. I kept hearing in my head, “you look tired.” Noodge 2 was beautiful, of course. Noodge 1 was handsome in his suit. A nice change from the zip-up hoodie. I always love the Coffee King in a suit. My sister Kiki and her clan, all looking spiffy, arrived for pictures and to be a part of this special event. The Coffee King’s family was there too. All my last-minute planning made a wonderful memory for my girl. I wouldn’t want it any other way. Tired eyes and all.

 

 

Do Overs

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This is my crack. Kidding. Not crack. Just chocolate.

My first day back to work in 2015 didn’t go quite the way I planned. I had organized my desk and my calendar. I blocked out time to write a short story I’m going to enter in a contest, time to come up with clever blog posts for all of you to read, and time to work on Welcome to Skull Mountain, book three in the Gabriel Hunter series due out in the spring. (Thanks for letting me plug it.) Then the Universe laughed at me.

Noodge 1 must have his high school I.D. with him at all times while on the school campus. Every morning, I ask him if he has it. Yesterday he didn’t realize he had left it at home until we were at the bus stop and the bus was coming. Yes, I take him to the bus stop. I live in the country. The bus stop is no where near our house, the bus comes before 7 and we don’t have sidewalks or street lights. I might not trust my Noodge to have his I.D, but I trust everyone else less. I had to drive him to school. I took a deep breath, didn’t panic, knowing I could make up the time elsewhere.

Every morning I take Munson out to play. An eight month old German Shepherd puppy needs to run. He loves to chase leaves. I let him have at it while throwing a tennis ball into the mix. Munson was in his glory and full of mud which I didn’t realize until he was dripping on my floor and getting mud all over the walls. Have you ever tried to clean a 60 lb puppy? Munson lives from a place of “are we playing a game?” and “can I eat it?” Another deep breath, but now I missed my yoga class. I didn’t panic. I’ll just eat fewer calories.

At lunch time I burned my food because Munson needed to go out. More leaves, more mud, fighting with the prong collar. A nap was in order, but I don’t take naps. In fact, I hate sleeping. And my writing time was being gauged into.

Instead, I put a candy dish full of Hershey kisses on my desk. Comfort food. I’ve never put a full bag of candy within arms reach of my computer before. If I’m going to eat the chocolate at least I can walk downstairs to get it. But my stress level was up and chocolate releases serotonin in your brain as well as increases the numbers on the scale, but the kisses are wrapped in pretty Christmas foil and I’m bummed the holidays are over. I have to search for a holiday movie on Netflix now and what happened to my Christmas music?

Then, Noodge 2 sent me a text around 1:30. She didn’t feel well. She wanted to come home from school. My new year hadn’t gone the way I planned. I wanted a do-over. And candy.

Remember do-overs? Do-overs allow you to make mistakes, try something out, and not worry about the results because you can just shout “do-over” again until you get it right. The best games I played had a do-over option. Do-overs mean there is still a chance for your plans to turn out the way you hoped. Do-overs make me think of hot summer days, cherry ice-pops dripping down your hand, running across the parched earth kicking up dirt in your wake and filling the air with your laughter. Do-overs are about childhood when you still have all the chances to live the life you dream about.

Today was my do-over and every day I wake up. Today is another chance to write those stories, practice yoga, laugh with my Noodges, wipe off the dog, and eat the chocolate. That’s the only “do-over” I need.

Why Are Certain Stories Timeless? What Scrooge Can Teach Us About Great Writing

 

Even though Christmas has past, I’m still in the spirit. (I hate to see the season end.) I’m reblogging today a post from author and social media expert, Kristen Lamb. She’s done a fantastic job of breaking down one of my favorite stories – A Christmas Carol, and showing how Charles Dickens infused the Christian meaning of Christmas into his work. If you’re a fan of A Christmas Carol then I think you’ll enjoy the post too. I might be late, but Merry Christmas. Thanks, Kristen for letting me share.

Kristen Lamb's Blog

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One of my all-time favorite movies for the holidays is The Muppets Christmas Carol. I believe I’ve seen this movie a few hundred thousand times. I’ve worn out three VHS tapes and at least three DVDs. I play the movie over and over, mainly because, well, duh,  MUPPETS! I drive my husband nuts playing this movie over and over…and over.

I’m worse than a three-year-old.

Muppets aside, I also can’t get enough of the music. I love the story of A Christmas Carol no matter how many times I see it, no matter how many renditions, and I am certainly not alone. Charles Dickens’ story of a redeemed miser is a staple for holiday celebrations around the world and across the generations.

This story is virtually synonymous with “Christmas,” but why is it such a powerful story? Why has it spoken so deeply to so many? Why is it…

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