Technical writers or non fiction writers scribble to pay the bills and for the love of the analytical or the exercise of truth or deception.

Fiction authors write to illuminate their world or escape it.

Whichever kind of writer, it's all about staying alive and helping or entertaining others.

The Writing Life

Like most writers, I have a love of reading and the power of words. When I was younger, I read everything I could get my hands on, but I don’t consider myself well read. I consumed books like a starved person, so quickly I hardly knew what I had read. By some strange process of osmosis, I learned from everything I read, but I cannot give you an erudite discussion of characters, plots, or authors. I can only tell you it’s lodged some where in the core of my being and informs my writing.

In addition to reading, I’ve spent a life time writing---from that first elementary school composition to my college days when I studied French literature and wrote explications de texte. Along the way, I fell into technical writing--to put food on the table and pay bills. In the 90s, I had the good fortune to take a dialog class with Sol Stein, former owner of Stein & Day publishers in New York and a prolific author. That led to his California-based writers’ group, Chapter One. It was a rigorous, ego-bruising experience, but I was intent on learning everything I could about fiction writing. A few years ago, I also had the good fortune to study with another writer, Louella Nelson, an experienced romance writer and teacher of fiction writing. She provided a different perspective and balance to my writing.

My novel, DREAMING OF LAUGHING HAWK, a mainstream, Sixties era novel, is available on Amazon in print and ebook (also available in Canada, Europe, Japan, and Brazil). Download a free sample. If you like it, I hope you'll download the book and post a review on Amazon.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

The Good and the Bad

We spend of good deal of energy in life trying to anticipate and ward off the bad things that come our way so that when something good happens we are stunned.

So here is my story--a few weeks ago I decided to mention to my doctor that I thought there might be something in my leg. It felt too firm, but otherwise there was nothing very noticeable about my left thigh. The doctor thought it was nothing but decided to play it safe and request a second opinion. (Thank you!) An x-ray, an MRI, and two biopsies later, the conclusion was that there was something nasty embedded in the muscle tissues. Possibly a low-grade fibrohistiocytic sarcoma.

I now have an 8-inch incision on my leg and an ankle-to-hip brace. But hey, I can wiggle my toes and the pain is subsiding. I am thankful for the excellent care I have received from doctors, nurses and hospital staff. I am thankful for my husband and my two RN daughters who have watched over me to make sure I am getting the best of care. And I am thankful for all the those who have offered a helping hand, their prayers and well wishes. That says that for all the bad there is in the world, there is also a lot of good. I am stunned and appreciative.

And now I hope this ordeal will be soon be over and there will be no other unpleasant surprises (although I expect there will be some radiation treatments). I have no patience with show stopper events in life. I do however have a greater appreciation for all the angels on earth and in heaven.

Monday, January 5, 2015

What's Your Mantra?

It's January, that time of the year when we assess the past year and look forward to correcting our course in the new year by trying to implement a few resolutions.

I'm of the opinion that before you can make a resolution, you first need to find your mantra. If you break down the Sanskrit roots of the word mantra, it means mind instrument. In other words, a mantra can be a tool to set the stage for change.

So what exactly is a mantra? Some claim it's om, the sound of universal consciousness that pulls you into meditation and quiet. That may be true, but I like to think it's more than that. A mantra is an intention. It sets the stage for successful change and helps achieve those nagging resolutions that bedevil us.

When I was a child, my mother had a bagful of sayings or mantras which she drilled into me. Her favorite was "Don't be like the rest of the sheep." In other words, do your own thinking and make your own decisions. While I didn't appreciate it at the time, that mantra became embedded in my mind and became the road map of my life. She could just as easily have said "You're stupid and will never amount to anything." That brings me to the most important feature of a mantra: it must be positive and self-affirming. My mother should have constructed her mantra in a more positive manner, but her intent was positive. She meant for me to be free-thinking and independent.

Before you draw up that list of resolutions, construct your mantra for the new year. Write it down on a piece of paper. It should be a positive, concise statement that fits your heart. As you repeat it each day, you will find it shapes your experience until it becomes your truth. No one can tell you what your mantra should be. It has to come from your soul. It has to form your intention. It has to direct your life. And then those resolutions will naturally take root and progress.

Here's a YouTube video that's a favorite of mine. I think this healing mandala will put you in the right frame of mind for a little meditation. It's absolutely beautiful and relaxing.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

The Empress Wears Rags

The inspiration for this short story was a recent shopping trip where I noticed a pair of tattered jeans on a rack for $235. I throw away clothes that look like this. I might use them for gardening. I certainly would not wear them anywhere or gift them to anyone. They look awful and I find it appalling that a department store would have the nerve to put this on display, not to mention the price tag. Nevertheless, some fool must be buying these.

* * *

It was a shopping day for Jana. She had to come up with a birthday gift for her daughter-in-law that would not be met with contempt or boredom.

In his 39th year, Jana’s son Chad had acquired his fourth wife, Marta. Jana could only conclude that her son made a good deal of money as CEO of a tech firm to be able to support his financial obligations to so many ex-wives and a young son and daughter.

Jana recalled the first time she laid eyes on Marta. Jana had been sitting at a fashionable outdoor restaurant waiting for the arrival of her son and his then fiancée. They pulled up to valet parking in a bright red Tesla and Chad gallantly held the car door open. Out popped Marta with her blond streaked tresses, designer shades, and large hoop earrings. She was wearing tight black leather pants and a low-cut silk blouse. Marta listed forward from the weight of over-sized breast implants and her precarious perch on impossibly high-heeled shoes. Jana watched them stride into the restaurant. Such confident, beautiful people in their own little happy bubble. And when she offered her hand in greeting, Jana noticed Marta’s French manicure; the bling on her fingers, wrists and throat; the perfect white teeth; the scent of expensive perfume. Jana wondered if Marta would be as avaricious and narcissistic as her predecessors.

That was when it occurred to Jana, between all the happy small talk and wine at that first dinner, that she must be a failure as a mother. Somehow she had failed to impart some important truths to her son. Nevertheless, she would bite her tongue and do her best to be accepting of her son’s choices in life.

Now as Jana drifted through the racks of clothes and contemplated a purchase of jewelry in this upscale department store, her eyes settled on a pair of blue jeans, torn and faded. Jana fingered the $235 price tag. She imagined Marta tip toeing across the travertine in high heels and these blue jeans as she sipped a glass of white wine and flashed one of those condescending looks she was so fond of inflicting on her. This was the perfect gift. Jana pulled the size 8 jeans from the rack and headed for the cashier. Nothing was too good for her daughter-in-law.

The next morning Jana headed to her favorite consignment store and picked out a nondescript pair of size 8 blue jeans for five dollars. She brought them home and laid them out on the garage work bench next to the expensive department store jeans. Next she took a pair of scissors, her cat’s wire hair brush, and a meat tenderizer. She slashed, pounded, and shredded the five dollar jeans until they resembled the department store jeans and then she strategically doused them with bleach water. When she was satisfied with her artistic endeavor, she tossed the jeans into the washing machine while she contemplated how she would replicate a fashionable label and an expensive price tag.

Ah, she was a genius. A little sewing machine magic and some clever work with fancy paper and stamps and she was in business. Jana carefully wrapped her masterpiece in tissue paper and placed it in the department store box, wrapped it in gift paper, and tied it up with a bow. God, she hoped Marta wouldn’t try to return these. She laughed. Well, that might be fun.

On the day of Marta’s birthday, Jana arrived at the dinner party, uninvited, and breathlessly explained that she had dropped by to bring Marta her gift on the occasion of her very special birthday. Marta set down her glass of white wine and managed a stiff smile as she accepted the gift.

“Oh, do open it now,” Jana watched as her daughter-in-law untied the ribbon and pried off the gift wrap.

Marta unfolded the jeans and held them up. “Wow. How cool.”

“You can return them if you need to.”

“Oh, no.” Marta peered at the size tag. “It looks to be the right size.”

Jana had been careful to conceal a convincing replica of a price tag in a way that made it look like oversight. Marta’s greedy little eyes widened with surprise as she spied it.

And so that was how the empress Marta came to dress herself in rags and neither she nor any of her family or friends dared to think that those jeans were anything other than the classiest, sexiest fashion statement—except, of course, her wicked mother-in-law who laughed all the way home (and returned the $235 pair of jeans).

* * *

OK, so I ripped off that old fairy tale The Emperor's New Clothes

Monday, December 15, 2014

To Believe or Not to Believe in Santa

When I was a child Santa Claus was a big deal. I was a true believer. It was important to be especially good at Christmas time or Santa might just fly over and not stop. Come Christmas Eve, I was amazed at how presents somehow mysteriously appeared under the tree after returning home from a drive in the country. The treats left for Santa were half eaten. The huge footsteps in the snow were Santa's.

I remember being eight years old when my mother sat me down for the Santa Claus lecture. Apparently, I had committed the sin of being a too ardent believer in ol' Kris Kringle long past the age of innocence. My mother tried to explain that Christmas was about the spirit of giving and that Santa Claus wasn't actually a real person just a symbol of that spirit. I remember being very angry with my mother. "What? You couldn't wait until AFTER Christmas to tell me about all this spirit stuff? You had to ruin Christmas?" The truth is I'm still mad about that after all these years. I forgave her for a lot of things, but I never forgave that.

When I had my own children, I certainly encouraged the Santa myth. When my oldest daughter was four, we celebrated Christmas at my parents. Looking out the window, my daughter started to jump up and down and squeal. She had spotted Santa running through the snow in his bright red suit. She was beside herself with joy. Her cousins laughed. "That's not Santa. That's Uncle Bob." Their cynicism could not spoil the moment for her. She was a true believer. I let her sort out the truth on her own when she was ready for it.

Fast forward and I now have grandchildren, six-year old Jake and four-year old Kylie. My grandson is a true believer; my granddaughter is somewhat cynical. Jake has an "elf on the shelf" named Bennie, a sort of scout elf who checks things out for Santa to make sure who is naughty or nice. Bennie mysteriously changes his location in the house every day. You're not supposed to touch him, according to Jake, or he might lose his power. Kylie doesn't think much of Bennie and asks her mother to touch Bennie so he loses his power and his status is reduced to that of an ordinary toy.

To believe or not believe. I think it's a wonderful thing to encourage fanciful dreaming in a child--that little touch of magic that will serve him or her well in adulthood. It's like lighting a candle in the window of your soul and being transfixed by the flame as it dances and flickers in the dark.

Monday, December 8, 2014

A Dark, Dark Tale

I don’t know how this dark story turned up, but I decided to let the character have her say. Maybe it’s the rain in Southern California. In the land of sunshine and drought, a few drops of rain can affect the brain.

* * *

It’s 1451 and my husband stands in the darkened doorway and says: “You are fouling our bed with your disease.” If I weren’t so near to heaven I would tell him that I am dying from him, not this plague that has laid me and my children so low.

“Dear husband,” I reply, “do not linger, but bring us a pitcher of fresh water and a bit of bread.” He is terrified of the plague we call the sweat and does not approach. I listen to the shallow raspy breathing of my two-year old Mary who lies next to me. Her little chest rises and falls with great difficulty. I hold her hand in mine. On my other side, is ten-year old Charles, the golden boy, the son on whom my husband has built all his dreams for a better life. I place my hand on his sweaty palm. He is delirious with fever.

“Will he live?” my husband asks. He does not care about me or Mary.

“Tell cook to bring a chicken broth with a pinch of my herbs.”

“Do you never tire of playing the witch?”

“If a witch could save your son’s life, I wager you would pay any price she asked.”

He turns to leave.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

T'is the Season

It’s that time of year when we wistfully wish for peace and goodwill on earth. Ha! This has not happened in the 2000+ years since the birth of Christ. If Jesus were to show up today in any country in the world, there would be plenty of folks eager to nail him to his cross again. The world is filled with ugliness that none of us can escape—that is to say some of us manage better than others, but no one can get out of this world without a brush with evil in some form or another. Every day we are confronted by death, destruction, deceit—the list is long. We put our blinders on and try to deny evil or our part in it. We blame others, even God.

Nevertheless, we hope. We pray for the healing that comes from wisdom and love. We struggle to mend the torn fabric of our family lives. We look to government, business, educational, and religious leaders for honesty, direction and justice. And we fail over and over again, year after year, to make the right choices, exercise responsibility and love, to lift our faces up to God, to defeat evil.

In the year 2014 we have drifted even farther from the concept of peace and goodwill. Each of us must light a candle for hope, purification of spirit. We must grow hearts. We must understand that we will reap what we have sown. And we must ask ourselves the question—what would Jesus or Mohamed or Buddha say or do? If each of us asked ourselves what is good and right in the universe, could the world finally turn toward peace?

So this holiday let us do more than wish: let’s practice the things which can change the world for the better. Light up a child’s eyes, feed a hungry family, set aside grievances, fight injustice, find a way to make a contribution to community or country. Let us each be a light in the darkness, an angel of peace.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Thanksgiving 2014

Today is a day of thanksgiving when we celebrate the bounty, goodness and freedoms that have been bestowed upon us as a nation and as individuals. And while we are aware that there are those who suffer from want, misfortune or loss of loved ones, almost everyone has a treasure trove of thankfulness for the kindness, goodness, and love that has come his or her way in life.

So this morning when I read about the story of twin 3-year old boys who weighed only 15 pounds each, I thought what a horrible life to be starved and abused by your own mother. One of the twins is now in intensive care in San Diego. The other, who was rescued from his home, is also severely malnourished and has a fractured jaw. Maybe this Thanksgiving there will be a glimmer of hope for them and a chance at a better life.

Life, even when difficult, is meant to be embraced and we thank God and those that help along the way.