In the past few years, since I began producing novels, I’ve had many interviews and answered multiple questions about inspiration, the logistics of writing, dealing with writer’s block, research, character development, and in-depth questions about specific novels. One question I’ve never been asked is-why do you write? What do I hope to accomplish in my writing life? What do I want to convey to the reader? Do I want you to learn something new, or bring a societal issue to the forefront? Back in the old days when I wrote policy papers and newsletter articles for a medical association those were exactly my goals. Now, as a fiction writer my number one goal is to entertain my audience.
The thing I love about a good book is its ability to transport me somewhere else — either geographically, or historically. My goal in writing my own novels it to provide a break for my reader from the harsh realities of real life. Let’s face it, there are so many concerns pressing down on us. In our own lives we might be dealing with illness, job insecurity, struggling to pay the bills, difficulties raising children, the list is endless. Outside of our private concerns, we are bombarded with the state of the world-terrorism, mass shootings, racial upheaval, and market fluctuations turning a hard-earned 401k into a 201K overnight. All coming at us from a sensationalist industry following the motto, “if it bleeds, it leads.” My family jokes about the 24-hour news network CNN, calling it Constantly Negative News. If I can carry my audience away from the world for a few hours, then I’ve accomplished what I set out to do.
Many would argue this goal is superficial, and writing should be about more than entertainment. Perhaps they would be right. Don’t get me wrong. I address serious nonfictional matters in my novels ranging from cancer (Planning for Love), to war injuries and survivor guilt (Second Chance Christmas), abusive relationships, divorce, and single parenthood (Heart of Design, Art of Affection). I even thought I created my own medical condition, only to find out that Mirror Touch Synesthesia is an actual syndrome and is probably as difficult to live with as my character portrayed it in Poplar Place. These matters are researched and respectfully handled and may bring new knowledge to my readers. I’m always grateful to readers who provide constructive feedback, both positive and negative, about these issues in the storylines. However, my first question I want answered is whether you loved it or hated it-did it entertain you? Did you find the humor, feel the struggle, get angry at a character, or stay up late to find out what happens next? If the answer is yes, then I’ve achieved what I set out to do.
I gauge television shows with what I call my anticipation and disappointment meter. You know what I’m talking about-the show that’s so appealing you anticipate it from week to week, and are sorely disappointed when the credits roll, because you could watch it for hours more. Those addicted to Game of Thrones or Downton Abbey probably know what I’m talking about. I take great pride when a reader tells me they were sorry when the story ended and beg for the next installment. It means I distracted them from their own concerns for a short period. As someone who dealt with postpartum depression, and rediscovered laughter through Stephanie Plum novels, I know the value of being pulled up from the depths of despair through a book. Perhaps one day I can do that for another. That’s why I write.
“The characters make smart choices, because the drama is generated from actual events not manufactured from emotional outbursts. Plus, the dialogue and characters were spot on. I will read more of this author in the future.” — Musings & Ramblings Review
“This was a great 5 Star Read!” — Harps Romance Book Review
“This engaging romantic story is full of witty dialogue which keeps the story fresh and fun. Yet, it has enough action and drama in it to keep the story solid.” — The Kindle Book Review
The next few days will be sad, teary-eyed ones for me. Why? Because it’s summer time and I live in a transient area filled with military and state department families who are constantly on the move. I’ve been living in Washington, D.C. suburbs since seventh grade. You would have thought by now I’d be used to the moving, and in a way I am. I’ve gotten used to every year a friend here or there will move away. However, this year is hitting me hard, due to the fact I’m experiencing the biggest loss of friends, as are my children. Four families we are close to are moving away. Two are heading to the “left coast” i.e. California, one is going as far flung as Japan, and the fourth is heading south about three hours away. My oldest and youngest are each losing two friends. In addition to losing good friends that I call upon for last minute favors, to pick up my kid, or grab a coffee with, my husband and I are also losing two favored baby sitters. For those of you with kids, you know how difficult it can be to find a new sitter. All the families are in different services, and two own homes here and feel they may return in three to four years. So, there is hope we will see them again and pick up where we left off.
Due to the location I live, this cycle will continue. My child’s elementary school announced last year that it had the most military families of any school in the county. Making it difficult for the administration to plan from year to year since it usually isn’t until September, when school begins, that they know how many children will be in each classroom; sometimes leading to overcrowded or too few students in classrooms. On my street of about a dozen houses three are rental units owned by military and generally rented to military. One family a few doors down is retiring from the military this year and, to my relief, plan to stay in their home.
As stressful and difficult as it is to move, (trust me I understand, I’d rather gnaw off my left arm than move) sometimes I think it’s worse being left behind. Military and State Department folks get the adventure of learning a new place, making new friends, and experiencing new cultures. Military wives living on base tend to form support networks, so it can be easier to fit in to a new situation. Whereas, those of us left behind have no new adventures, we just search to fill the void. Those voids are often never fully filled if the friends that have left were close ones. My sadness is compounded as I watch my children realize their good buddies will not be here over the summer to play at the pool, or join at the local bounce house, or have a simple play date. They too search to fill the void, although I know, come fall, there will be new classmates and friendships will blossom. As I’m not in school, new chums will not be as easy to come by.
A girlfriend of mine, let’s call her Kay, lived a few doors up the street. She once told me about an abrupt conversation she had at a cocktail party. Kay was introduced to the woman who lived directly – I mean DIRECTLY – across the street. Once the across the street neighbor found out her husband was military she told Kay they couldn’t be friends because she’d be moving away soon. Kay and I laughed over the slight a number of times. Indeed the neighbor simply ignored Kay, no courteous waves from the car or acknowledgments from the yard. The short-sighted neighbor missed out on five years of good times with Kay, who has moved away but still returns to the area almost quarterly. On the other hand, I understand where the abrupt neighbor was coming from. My heart sinks a little every time I fall into a friendship with a military wife, knowing, down the road, I will be feeling as I do today – sad and a bit weepy having to say good-bye to another good family as they load up the minivan and trundle on to their next adventure.
Today I am in hog heaven because it is National Doughnut Day. Where else but America would we create a day for the exalted Doughnut? According to Wikipedia – “National Doughnut Day is on the first Friday of June each year, succeeding the Doughnut Day event created by The Salvation Army in 1938 to honor the women who served doughnuts to soldiers during World War I.” According to doughnut history, in 1920 Adoph Levitt, a refugee from czarist Russia, invented the first doughnut machine. And by 1934, at the World’s Fair in Chicago, doughnuts were billed as “the hit food of the Century of Progress.” Legend says that dunking doughnuts first became a trend when actress Mae Murray accidentally dropped a doughnut in her coffee one day at Lindy’s Deli on Broadway. In the 1934 film It Happened One Night newspaperman Clark Gable teaches young runaway heiress Claudette Colbert how to dunk.In 1937 a popular song proclaimed that you can live on coffee and doughnuts if “you’re in love.”
What’s even better than celebrating the lard-fried, finger-licking, mouth-melting, doughy goodness? The fact that major franchises began giving out their calorie-laden, morning breakfast confections to the general public back in 2009. Today they are doing it again! Yes, you heard right. Stop by Krispy Kreme to receive a free doughnut, no purchase necessary. (I’ve provided the link so you can locate the store closest to you and drive there now!) No Krispy Kreme? No worries, you can swing into your local Dunkin’ Donuts and get a free doughnut with purchase of a drink. If you don’t have either one of these two shops in your area, check your neighborhood doughnut peddlers to see if they are participating in the madness. Aren’t you excited? I am.
My love affair with the doughnut goes back to the time of childhood, when every so often my father would make a doughnut run on Sunday morning to the local Winchell’s, and come home with a dozen assorted kinds – crÃ¨me filled, jelly filled, bear claws, chocolate sprinkled with coconut, pink frosted sprinkled, powder-sugar, the list goes on and on. (Pardon me, while I wipe the drool off my keyboard.) It didn’t matter what kind, I wasn’t picky. I’d stand in my pajamas, at the front door, hopping from foot to foot as I waited impatiently for the yumminess to arrive. Attacking my father as he came through the front door, I’d snatch the bag and race into the kitchen to place the marvelous O’s on the table. My adoration for doughnuts could be comparable to the level of Homer Simpson’s.
The affair continues today and my love of doughnuts has been passed along to my children. Our donut of choice comes from Shopper’s Food. A local grocery store? That’s right. Not the doughnut shop. Our local grocery store supplies us with a treat they label the COLOSSAL DONUT. It is a drool-worthy lump of fat of epic proportions, and they are my family’s favorite brand. Homer Simpson would be in ecstasy and bypass his precious Lard Lad Donuts for the Colossal Donut. If you have a Shopper’s Food in your area I recommend you try one. (Not today. They aren’t free today. Go next weekend.)
Well, I could write more but-.it’s getting late… I must dash to my own Dunkin’ Donuts to get my free one before they run out! Happy Doughnut hunting.
According to my husband, in the past two weeks, my education has become complete. You see, unbeknownst to me, two weeks ago my “movie education” was sadly lacking. Now I am complete. Why? I have just finished watching The Godfather – the entire three part saga, based on Mario Puzo’s mafia novel. Yes, I admit, in my forty years I’d never watched The Godfather trilogy. After completing the Corleone narrative, I can see why it is lauded as one of the best cinematic stories in movie history. And, why it has become a mainstream in our pop culture.
If not for The Godfather would we have had The Sopranos? Or Fat Tony on the Simpsons?Analyze This or That? Countless spoofs and references have been made on television and in movies. From such high ranking shows like Law & Order and NCISto Saturday Night Live. If you type in “Godfather spoofs” on You Tube, you receive over 51,000 results. I finally understand the full humor of Billy Crystal’s dream sequence in Analyze This. He dreams he is Vito Corleone getting shot in the middle of the street, and Robert De Niro plays the impotent Fredo. Even as recently as this year, The Godfather was referenced in the popular comedy Modern Family, when an enemy of Luke’s wakes up next to a stuffed zebra head. You’ll also find Godfather references on the stage. There’s a one man play called The Godfadda Workout, where a guy acts all the parts, both men and women.
Since I don’t live in a hole, prior to viewing the complete saga, I knew many of the famous Godfather lines and references. Like many who haven’t seen the movies, I may not have known which character to have attributed them to, but I’ve been known to throw some of them out on occasion. One of my favorites is Pacino’s, “Just when I think I’m out-they pull me back in.” Other favorites include:
“I’m gonna make him an offer he can’t refuse.”
“It’s not personal, it’s business.”
“Luca Brazzi sleeps with the fishes.”
“Leave the gun, take the cannoli.”
“Go to the mattresses.”
What surprised me most, was the incredible diversity of the cast, a bunch of young whipper snappers barely known, playing against Hollywood icons. I knew Brando played the Don, and that Pacino and De Niro were in the films, but that was about it. I didn’t realize the cast was as far reaching to include the likes of Duvall, Keaton, Caan, Kirby, Vagoda, and other movie legends, too many to list. In the opening party scene of the first film, I leaned over to my husband and naively asked, “Who’s playing Michael?” He looked at me like I’d grown a second head. “That’s Pacino, honey.” “Seriously?” “Seriously.” In the first film, Pacino’s voice was young and untried. It deepened to a man’s voice by the second, and changed again to a gravelly smoker’s voice by the third. It’s the reason I didn’t recognize it initially. The gravelly smoker’s voice and craggy face I knew from today, was unrecognizable to me in handsome young Michael’s face.
The Godfather is widely recognized as the quintessential MOB movie that changed the history of how modern audiences view organized crime, and how mafia movies are formulated. The compelling story has tentacled its way into modern culture. Did Coppola realize, in 1972, the impact his movie would have on generations of movie goers and TV watchers? Perhaps he got a hint when it won three Oscars for the first, and six for the second movie. The third film was nominated for seven Academy Awards, but won none of them. And though many people poo-poo the third film, I found it an exceptional wrap up of the life of Michael Corleone. A man initially estranged from the “family business,” who becomes one of the most despicably ruthless MOB bosses ever. A man who struggles to keep his family, and those he loves, in his sphere of influence, and in the end alienates all of them and dies alone. Neither murdered by his enemies, nor surrounded by what’s left of his family. A fitting end for a fascinating but merciless character?
I’m glad my cinematic education is complete. Now, I can fully appreciate Godfather references and be a part of those in the know. Tell me, what’s your favorite Godfather line? Is there a scene that sticks in your mind? Even if you haven’t seen the movie, do you understand the references? Do you think it’s one of the best sagas ever made?
Spring is in the air. Flowers are blooming, petite emerald leaves are filling the trees, and the grass is turning from brown to green. Color has arrived, not only in nature, but in the stores as well. That’s right, this year color is in. Bright colors that we haven’t seen since the 80’s are back. Fuchsias, electric blues, turquoise, and sunny yellows line the shelves and racks of department stores. Polka dots and stripes are in and olive drab is O-U-T. We’re seeing these beautiful colors everywhere, from shoes to nail polish to throw pillows. I for one am thrilled with all the color. Hello amethyst, good bye beige.
Are you afraid of color? Don’t be. Welcome it, and identify the shades that can be worked into your wardrobe. Pair a bright green silk top with an electric blue pencil skirt, or a white blouse with red capris. Beware that not every shade will work for you. There are a number of hues along the color spectrum. It’s simply a matter of identifying what enhances your hair, eye and skin coloring. The easiest way to identify colors that look good or bad, is to hold them just under your chin while looking in the mirror, and see how your coloring reacts. For instance lime green and most yellows don’t work for me. They turn my complexion sallow. However, electric blue brings out my eyes and make my complexion seem brighter by comparison. Take the time to test this out under both florescent changing room lights, as well as natural light.
Washingtonians, I beg you, put down the conservative black you determinedly wear to work. Put away the greys, which fade into the stone buildings lining the DC streets, and embrace the return of color. Washington is a town slow to embrace new fashion trends. In DC worker bees trudge around in brown suits and taupe shoes – running the country and playing politics. Don’t be the town fashion forgot. Step outside your comfort zone and purchase those melon pumps you’ve been eyeing since March. Pair them with some chunky jewelry and a new periwinkle handbag. You’ll feel perkier and look fresher if you bring a bit of spring into the florescent lights of your neutral beige office.
Bring color into your life, and you will soon find your life full of cheer. You’ll walk with a spring in your step and compliments will abound. Just as warm days pull us outdoors, color can enhance our mood, which increases endorphins. Color = Happy. Start the day right. Put down the tan dress and pull out the cobalt one – and while you’re at it, slip on some sassy red sandals! Step out with pride. Step out with style. Celebrate spring and rejoice with color.
This past year I turned 40. Yup, that’s right I admit to the “F” word. There are some definite plusses to ageing. Such as, wisdom, confidence and the ability to get exactly what you want from the United ticketing agent to your cell phone provider. However, I’ve recently become aware of some unexpected joys I didn’t notice in my thirties, and decided to compile a Top 20 List. Some of these delights apply to me, others were provided by my generous Facebook buddies, and are probably pleasures I have to look forward too.
For those of you within a couple years of 40, you might be able to identify with a few. Those over 40, you’ve probably traveled through these thrills and are onto other fun life changing activities. As a Facebook friend said – “Want to know what happens in your 50s? Nah, I’ll let it be a surprise.” For those of you significantly younger than 40, take note – because you, too, will someday turn 40.
You know you’re in your 40’s when…..
You spend half an hour at the drug store comparing wrinkle creams.
You realize the consistent pain in your thumb/hip/knee isn’t just sore muscles. It’s the beginning of arthritis. Now you understand the Aleve commercials. “All day long. All day strong.”
The kid at the grocery store calls you ma’am, and no longer asks to see your ID.
You get up after a movie and your stiff knees crack and creak like Orville Reddenbacher’s popcorn.
Things that used to be perky now sag, and you look for bras that “provide lift and support.”
Your hands no longer look like they did when you were 20, they look your age.
The last time you shopped for glasses it wasn’t for the sun, but those half-moon specs.
You have researched Botox on the internet, and given it serious consideration.
You’ve increased your computer fonts and icons to LARGE.
Your diet no longer consists of a single multivitamin. It has increased to include things like D, B12, Gingko, or Fish Oil.
Your kids ask you what a cassette player is, and you can recall what your first cassette was.
You enter a store and can’t remember what you’re there for.
Grey hairs no longer come in one or two at a time, they’ve exponentially exploded all over your head.
Your favorite movies as a kid are now being remade, only now they call it “rebooted.” E.g. Footloose, Batman, Total Recall
As you walk through Macy’s the sample ladies hone in on you and press packets of anti-ageing/wrinkle creams into your hand.
If you have to enter your birthdate online it takes a looooong time to scroll down to find it.
You attended an 80’s cover band concert and could sing along with every song.
Unless you’re perfectly toned, you’ve developed “batwings.”
Your kids can’t believe that you lived in a time period when households didn’t have computers, much less cell phones, tablets, and iPods.
Sporadically, you wake up sweating in the middle night, or rooms suddenly get steamy. You ask those around you, “is it hot in here?” and they shake their heads. Welcome to perimenopause.
It’s February 14 and today I’m writing about, what else…Valentine’s Day. Is this a day you look forward to as soon as New Year’s passes? Do you decorate your home with red hearts and pink cupids? Do you buy diaphanous lingerie, and look forward to exchanging flowers, cards & chocolates with your sweetheart? Or, do you dread its arrival like a root canal? Do you ignore the pre-Valentine hype, and wear stark black in revolt against the card makers and florists, and go out with your singleton friends to mock coupledom? Do you feel this holiday was created to personally torture you? According to Wikipedia “the day was first associated with romantic love in the High Middle Ages. By the 15th century, it had 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“).”
My feelings about Valentine’s Day could best be described as mixed. It goes back to junior high, at a time when it was no longer mandatory to pass out cheap 2X3 inch cards to an entire classroom full of red, heart–decorated, tissue boxes. A time when hormones raged rampantly and your self-esteem fluctuated by the hour. When Valentine’s Day arrived in junior high, if you didn’t have a sweetheart you tortuously watched other girls carry around red flowers, cuddly stuffed animals, or heart shaped balloons. Your eyes followed those balloons as they floated down the hall behind the lucky teenager. Needless to say there were a number of Valentine Day’s when I was relegated to “envious girl, pretending not to care.”
During high school, if you planned ahead, you and some of your other singleton girlfriends would buy each other white “friend” flowers or balloons just so you, too, could receive a delivery during fifth period. There were years I had a sweetheart in the pocket. Oh, the joy of joys, for then I was the girl to envy. I remember one high school boyfriend gave me a small heart with a teeny tiny ruby in it. A very generous gift and one, I’m sure, I brazenly flaunted. I still have that petite heart, and occasionally I wear it with three differing sized hearts that I have since received over the Valentine years.
Valentine’s Day in college came and went, similar to high school, sometimes single, sometimes coupled. College seemed to be a little less stressful as a singleton. You didn’t have a delivery boys interrupting English 101, or biology lab, and at my university if you tried walking across campus with a surfeit of balloons in February, you’d blow away like Mary Poppins. One year, as a college singleton, I was so tuned out to the Valentine hype that a girlfriend and I went to a movie, (aptly named Boys on the Side) and stopped at an overflowing restaurant for dinner. “It’s a Wednesday night, why is it so full?” We asked each other. As we bellied up to the bar the hanging hearts and pink balloons clued us in. “Doh! It’s Valentine’s Day!”
One memory remains constant through those tumultuous, romantically challenged years; every February 14th I would come down for breakfast to find a card and small heart-shaped box full of gooey chocolates. My wonderful parents always made my sister and I feel special and loved on the day. During college I looked forward to receiving a Valentine care package from Mom and Dad. Even today I still receive a Valentine card from my parents letting me know they love me.
I’ll be celebrating my fourteenth wedding anniversary this year, so I’ve been part of a couple over fifteen Valentine’s Days. My mother’s tradition carries on in my household; every February 14th I provide heart covered cards with silly sayings, and boxes of chocolates for my children, and my husband. However, even though I’m coupled up, and my husband always provides beautiful flowers, chocolates and occasionally jewelry, my emotions about the holiday can still be described as mixed.
I kvetch over the fact that it’s such a hassle to have one more holiday for which I have to buy stuff! I think to myself – it’s just scheme, between Hallmark and Flowers.com, to jack up their prices so they can laugh all the way to the bank at the poor schmucks who buy into this glorified cherub’s holiday. Chocolates flood the stores at a time while I’m invariably still dieting, to remove the weight I gained during the Christmas Holidays. There have been years I’ve gloomily told my husband, “Don’t buy me chocolate.” Attaining a table at a restaurant on V. Day can be akin to getting into a Walmart on Black Friday at two in the morning. Moreover, once you have children, finding a teen reliable enough to commit to babysitting, and one who won’t back out if she gets a better offer from her own boyfriend, can be a challenge unto itself.
On the other hand, every year my heart lights up when my husband arrives home, bearing an aromatic bouquet of flowers and a big, sappy card. In the morning my kids excitedly produce homemade cards written in an unsteady hand and still tacky with glue, to my delight. And, though my youngest can’t read yet, he is delighted with the cheap little Spider Man and Barbie valentines given to him by his preschool friends. He carries them around for weeks. So, as much as I complain about the stress and commercialism of Valentine’s Day, I don’t think I’m quite willing to give up on cupid’s holiday.
Take heart singleton’s, your day will come. If you’re unconnected this Valentine’s Day get your girlfriends together, crack open a bottle of your favorite wine, and watch movies that glorify strength of single women, such as The First Wives Club, Beaches, or even Boys on the Side. Leave the romance to the couples, and enjoy the freedom of being single.
Today’s blog is here to provide a bit of commentary on smart and poor fashion choices in our culture. To be clear, I’m a clothes horse. I love following fashion trends, new shoes, and finding the flawless little black dress that hugs the curves and makes you feel sexy the moment you step out the door. I appreciate the beauty and comfort of a perfect pair of jeans. The key is knowing when and where these items should be worn.
For instance, a night out on the town – dinner and the theater is the perfect place to wear the LBD. Leave the jeans at home and step out with style. Going to a low key club? You can spiff up your fav denims with a pretty silk blouse, sparkly earrings, necklace and high heeled boots. Accessorizing is an important key to making an “eh” outfit into a “wowee” one. So, don’t forget to swing by your jewelry box, belt hanger, or scarf drawer before stepping out. And always, always, always (did I say always?), put on lipstick. I keep half a dozen tubes in the main floor powder room, two in my purse, and three in the car so I can always get my hands on a tube in a pinch. Remember Cherry Red, or Peony Pink slicked lips are far more attractive than crusty chapped ones, and your lipstick completes the ensemble.
Now that we’ve talked about sensible fashion choices, I’m going to share some fashion faux pas and foolish fashion choices that I’ve had the displeasure of witnessing.
First and foremost, pajamas are not for public consumption. Let me clarify this point. Pink bunny covered lounge pants, and a ratty T-shirt still qualify as pajamas. We know you wore them to bed. It is inappropriate to wear such an outfit to Joann Fabrics or Target.Additionally, the slippers you wear around the house are just that. House slippers. Just because they have a rubberized bottom does not make them shoes. Leave ’em at home. If you’re so lazy you can’t be bothered tie on a pair of sneakers, purchase some mules that you can slide on and go. Please leave the gawd-awful crocs for the pool or soccer practice.
Sweats and work out wear are acceptable for the gym and quick errands. These include coffee joints, the grocer, Walmart, and Home Depot (you get the gist). You may also wear said apparel to fast food joints. It is not appropriate to wear such outfits to restaurants with waiters and cloth napkins. I’m happy you’re going green, but don’t ride your bike ten-miles and step into Maggiano’s wearing a helmet, spandex bike shorts and a sweaty T-shirt. Not only is it tacky, but you smell. It’s tough to enjoy a nice meal when you’re down wind of the B.O.
Finally, put on appropriate outer wear. If it’s 25 degrees outside and windy, a heavy coat is in order. No matter how awesome your dress is, no one looks sexy with blue lips and pneumonia. I know it’s a hassle, and I’ll cop to leaving my coat in the car so I didn’t have to carry it around a club. But, at least I had something to warm me up on the way home at two in the morning when the temp dropped into the teens.