Saturday, April 4, 2015

I Never Knew

During a conversation in which I did all of the listening and none of the talking (common in this neighborhood), an older woman scoffed at the idea of blogging. She said it was "stupid" and "a waste of time". I managed to squeeze in a few words and asked why she thought so.

"What's there to write about? What does she think she has to say that anyone cares about, anyway?"

That's when it hit me.

I don't blog for others. I blog for me. (I can be selfish that way.)

I never thought about it until my kind and wonderful neighbor sparked the notion. I don't blog because I actually think anyone out there reads what I write - although we all found out that in fact they do when malicious co-workers who live on drama share your blog with the college president, didn't we? Which reminds me, I saw the little twit at a festival last weekend and had a surprising emotional reaction. Rather than wanting to split her lip, I felt sorry for her. She's still trapped in that world of unappreciative, condescending bureaucrats, sucking the very life from her worthless,black soul while I'm happily writing and tooling around in me wee boat. Karma will get you every time.

Back to my point; I don't post because I think you're on the edge of your seat about my most recent thought. (Although I don't know why you wouldn't be.) I blog because...well, because I want to. If I don't get this stuff out of my head then it rumbles around in there and takes up space that could be used for other things.

What things? I don't know, Stop interrupting. This is my blog.

I didn't bother to try to enlighten my neighbor regarding my realization. It would have been lost on her. Besides, she was already onto another topic. I think she was belittling someone's teenage daughter for not being athletic. A heart of gold, that one has. Actually, I should sincerely thank her some day; she's given me so much material for my writing...and now she's enlightened me about why I blog!

Friday, March 20, 2015

While I Wait

While I try to find project to keep me occupied while I search for a literary agent, I stumbled upon what I believe is a great idea. I'll write a cook book! Why the hell not, right? The world could never have enough cook books. I read them the way other people read novels. Why not make my own?

The tricky part is what specifically to focus on? My first thought was trying to recreate favorite recipes from my travels, but I'm not exactly a globe-trotter. I don't think the result would be global enough to appeal. Then I considered knock-off recipes of my favorite restaurant dishes, but that's been done and done ad nauseam, plus I don't really like to go out to eat. I'd rather cook at home.

Then it hit me. Why not a cook book dedicated to CHEESE? Wait, it gets better.

Lightening struck and I thought, how about a book packed only with BEER recipes? Wait for it.

How about a book that celebrates all things BEER AND CHEESE?!? Hallelujah, that's it.

Stop shaking your head. Beer and cheese are what make this crazy world go 'round. Copernicus knew this to be true and now you do as well.

Feel free to make suggestions, submit recipes or pictures, or scoff. It shall be a glorious book the likes of which have never been imagined. OOOOOOO!!! How about scratch and sniffs?!?! Imagine a scratch and sniff picture of a steaming loaf of hot bread made with beer and Irish cheddar....

I've got work to do!

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Got It Covered

I found a photo on Pinterest  (damn that thing for sucking me in) that feels like the perfect cover for Keys Disease. Of course, there are reasons why I can't just pluck a photo off the net and create a book cover; there are rights and there's money to be paid and yadda yadda yadda. However, I'm going to share that photo, giving full credit to those who deserve it. I don't know who they are, but...

Let It Be Known, I did not take this photo and am not claiming any rights to it whatsoever, so help me God, Amen.

Are you ready to see it?

Isn't it great?!?

The main character limps into town in a VW bus just like's perfect. Just perfect.

Feel free to share your thoughts. Does this photo make you think "road trip" or "paradise, here I come"? As I've mentioned, I won't be able to use this exact photo, but I'd like to find something similar. If you think you have want I need, lay it on me, friends! We'll work something out...maybe we'll barter, maybe I'll pay you in shells, maybe in rum. Maybe I'll lend you Dougie for a week.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

It's Done!

My third book, Keys Disease, is finally done. Kaput. Finito. It's a wrap.

Whew. Now comes the daunting and stressful task of finding a literary agent to sell it to a publisher. That's something I didn't do with the first two, but am tackling this go round. It's a game of patience and those of you who know me well are probably harrumphing at the notion. Patience isn't something I have in abundance. I used it all up when my kids were young. What I have left gets sucked up by the whack-job neighborhood in which we live. However, I'll have to dig deep and find more because I'm gonna need it.

It could be a year or more before anything happens.

I'll wait while you read that again.

Yep, a year.

You know what happens during the waiting period, right? Self doubt. Discouragement. Distress. But guess what? I plan to keep dark thoughts out of my head. I won't let the ticking of the clock make me second guess the book's merits. It's not going to be remembered as a classic piece of literary fiction, but then again, that's not my goal. My goal is a little less lofty, but only a little. I wanna sell a gizzillion of them, make some readers happy, and publish another dump truck-full between now and when my ashes are scattered near the base of Minard Castle in Annascual, Ireland.

Until last night, I'd been struggling with what to label the book's genre. Labels are so damn important in the publishing world. Just calling it "fiction" isn't good enough. There's classical, contemporary, literary, women's, historical, science, horror, etc. You get the idea. The one that is least impressive to my ears is "Other", but it seemed to be the best fit. My round novel didn't fit neatly into any of the square holes of genres. But a friend suggested another. One I'd never heard of. Perhaps she made it up. I don't care. It works. Are you ready?

South Florida Sleaze.

Voila! It fits Keys Disease like a glove. Done and done. I'll take it.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015


Following the sage advice of my editor, Nina Alvarez, I'm using an e-reader to listen to my next book to allow me to get outside the story. Hearing Keys Disease read by someone else is rather thrilling and even a little hair-raising. Listening makes it so much more realistic. What an ingenious idea! (And honestly, one I'd never have thought of, so thanks Nina!)

As you can imagine, my immature sense of humor gets the best of me when the computerized, emotionless female voice says bad words. (I've dubbed her R2M; Read to Me. Apparently, I've got a slight nerd gene floating around.) 120 pages into the exercise, and I still laugh out loud when R2M drops the f-bomb or gives a flat goddammit. We all know someone who laughs harder at their own jokes than anyone else in the room. Quite frequently, I'm that person, but I think it's swell. It makes spending time alone a damn good time.

Back to the point, Nina's suggestion was brilliant. I'm catching things that I'd overlooked in spite of multiple read-throughs. Not huge, glaringly ugly obstacles, but small bits that should be cleaned up. Repeating a word that was used a few sentences earlier, inconsistencies in a character's speech, that sort of thing. They were invisible to me until I heard the words being read aloud. I find that fascinating.

Stop yawning. This is exciting stuff.

Know what else is exciting? My Irish is coming right along. I can say please and thank you, ask for a menu, order a sandwich and a beer (critical), and talk about the weather. I'm currently working on the verb "to eat", which if you've seen the size of my caboose, is a very important one for me to master. I find it charming that instead of saying "The men eat." as we do in English, the Irish say, "Itheann na fir.", literally "Eat the men". Please admit you see the humor in that sort of sentence structure. If you don't, then perhaps this isn't the blog for you.

Fortunately, my high school French teacher, Catherine Nye, was a top-notch educator. Her methods for learning to conjugate verbs stuck with me and thirty years later, I'm using her shoe form to learn the verbs "to be", "to eat", and "to drink". These are probably the most important for me. You're scratching your head. Think about it. The things I will most likely need to convey or the things I'll want to talk about will involve my state of being, "I am...lost, tired, hungry, happy, etc" or involving the actions of eating and drinking. (Refer to a few paragraphs above regarding the size of my backside.)

Olaim beoir agus ta me sasta. (I drink beer and I am happy.) I suspect I will say this quite often whilst traipsing through the Motherland.


Sunday, February 8, 2015

Keys Disease

It's been a productive few weeks for Book Three. Dynamic, you might say. The bottom line is that my next novel finally has a title.

Are you ready?

Keys Disease

It's okay to swoon. I did, too, when it slapped me across the face. Admittedly, I didn't coin the phrase, although I recall only too well how it feels to suffer from the affliction. Until this book, "keys disease' simply referred to that overwhelming desire you get to ignore your real life and make your Keys vacation your permanent situation. Each time Doug and I came to Islamorada with the kids during spring break or over Thanksgiving, I suffered from keys disease for months afterwards. I'd scour online job ads, apply to anything and everything, while day dreaming of palm trees and turquoise water.

This book has taught me that there are other versions of the disorder. I don't want to give away too much, but the symptoms may include excessive consumption of alcohol, drug use, human trafficking, unhealthy relationships, a sense of being stuck, trapped by one's income, etc. There are many forms the disease can take. None of them are terribly pretty, but all of them make for great stories.

In addition to establishing a title, the book's ending wrote itself yesterday morning. I thought I knew how it would end, but I was wrong. As is often the case, my characters have minds of their own and do whatever the hell they wish. I've lost all control over this band of boozing bandits and love-sick saps. It's so alarming when I think I have the upper hand and then one of these hambones takes control of the keyboard and before I can recover, we've shot off in an unpredictable - but wonderful - direction. They especially like to do this just when I think I've wrapped things up. That's when they pull at a loose thread in the fabric of the story, unraveling another mess for me to stitch back together. While I tell you now that the book's ending has been written, we all know that decision rests firmly in the hands of those telling the story; I'm just along for the ride.

I've worked on the book's cover, too. I'm not ready to reveal it yet, but I've shown it to a couple of friend's whose opinions I value, and their reaction to it was just what I'd hoped. I look forward to sharing it with all of you in the near future. Until then, I'll keep you posted on what happens as I make another attempt to wrap the book into a neat, little package.

Slan go foill. (Did I tell you that I'm teaching myself to speak Irish?)

Saturday, January 17, 2015


Why are the Irish such stubborn asses?

Don't get your dander up, lads, I'm including myself in that generalization. Perhaps you'd feel better if I labeled the behavior as tenacious. That has a more pleasant ring, aye?

According to an online dictionary:
To be tenacious is to be persistent, determined, unyielding, steadfast.

To be stubborn is to be obstinate pigheaded, difficult, contrary.

(Interesting to note that the online resource uses tenacious to describe stubborn, but not the other way around.)

I suspect most of us would prefer to be labeled steadfast rather than pigheaded. In practice, I suppose they are pretty much the same, stubborn and tenacious. The next time I am tempted to be obstinate and contrary, I'll make a concerted effort to be unyielding and persistent instead. I wonder if anyone will notice a change in my demeanor. I'll keep you posted on that.

Anyway, back to me countrymen. Why so stubborn, I mean tenacious? Could it be the result of hundreds of years of English oppression? (Sorry, blokes. I know you get tired of hearing that, but you brought it upon yourselves.) Perhaps it stems from years of famine, poverty, slavery, and war. Surviving such dreadfully abominable circumstances no doubt cultivated resilience in the Irish. Making it through hundreds of years of heinous treatment certainly required tenacity. Perhaps they even had to be stubborn.

Only rarely have I exhibited such behavior. It's not in my nature to be stubborn.

Just kidding. I'm downright pigheaded about most things. I forego tenacity and head straight for full-blown stubbornness. I believe in doing things all the way. A prime example: I said I'd never hire an editor. I had what I considered to be some pretty darn good reasons, too. I was most certainly obstinate whenever a friend or acquaintance even broached the subject. I wasn't going to give a complete stranger the reigns. God knows what they'd do. Probably delete all the cursing and water down the cheap sex. I couldn't let that happen.

Turns out Stephen King said, "To write is human. To edit is divine." I saw the quote on Goodreads and harrumphed it, but it stuck with me for a few days. I realized that if Stephen King thinks that highly of the process of editing, then I'd better reevaluate mine. Thank you Mr. King for the slap upside the head. I appreciate it more than I can articulate.

Through the generous help of a kind friend (Christine Green), I connected with NY editor, Nina Alvarez. Wow. What an invaluable and constructive process this editing thing has been. I was quite literally sick just thinking about handing my manuscript to an unknown person, who I imagined held a great big red pen ready to strike out this and delete that. I couldn't have been more wrong. I now appreciate and recognize the importance of the crucial skills the right editor can bring to the table. Nina is teaching me to step outside the story and see what's really there, instead of what I think is there. It's been eye-opening. Exciting, too.

Nina's wisdom and patience are just what the doctor ordered. Not only is she incredibly supportive, but she drops brilliant snippets of truth about the craft of writing that illustrate her understanding and experience. Please indulge me while I share two:

Her response to my frustration with finding a perfect ending:
"Go back and find the clues you left yourself. The ending is there, just waiting for you to find it."

Her description of drafts:
"The first draft is you telling the story to yourself. The second is you telling the story to your readers."

I wish I hadn't been so stubborn regarding editors in the past. However, I'm glad that Stephen King's comment about the subject danced across my computer screen. It has forever changed the writing process for me - in all positive, constructive ways. My sincere thanks to Christine Green for her willingness to share. Some people would want to keep Nina's talents for themselves, but Christine's heart is too big for such foolishness. My deepest gratitude and appreciation for Nina's honest insights and observations. The final product is going to be so much more than I'd have been able to accomplish without her guidance and direction.

Enough of the gushy stuff, I mean you'd think I was writing an acceptance speech. Perhaps I'll need this crap when I win the coveted Most Tenacious, Pigheaded Irish Wench Award.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

The Fever Finally Broke

After a week of hell, the fever finally broke!! The flu still has the upper hand, but I'm making a slow come back. I managed to stand for 90 minutes late this morning, tinkering in the kitchen, before having to lie down for two hours. I also made baked ziti for Lauren... and then headed straight for the sofa. After an hour or two, I found the strength to make it to my desk.

Tomorrow will be better. I should be back to full strength in a few days. Thanks for asking.

Now that the fever is gone and my thoughts are sort of normal (don't expect miracles, okay?), I'm rethinking the title for book #3. After my last post, in which I proposed

Southernmost Invasion: The Swarm

one of my friends private messaged me. She said the title sounds like science fiction and she has a valid point. I don't want potential readers to think it's about a swarm of killer bees or tropical zombies.

Back to the drawing board? I don't know. Perhaps either Southernmost Invasion or The Swarm would be good....maybe putting them together pushes it over the science fiction edge. Your feedback is needed now more than ever!

On a side note, I had a conversation with a grown man today that you wouldn't believe if I testified about it in a court of law. I promise you this: the jackass and his heartless, selfish comments will be included verbatim either in book #3 or #4. If I can work the scene into book #3, I certainly will do just that. Then I will gift wrap a copy and hand deliver it to the donkey with said passage highlighted. Perhaps I'll add his email as a footnote, so that any reader who finds themselves moved by his callous, half-witted, short-sighted, malicious drivel can afford themselves the opportunity to drop him a line. 

I shudder to think this "human" is responsible for raising three sons and I pray to Allah, Jehovah, Waheguru, Elohim, Vishnu, and Baby Jesus that they are somehow spared from becoming a soul-less ghoul like their father. One such man on Earth is more than humanity can handle.

I relish the opportunity to share the exchange with you. Your cute little mouths will drop open, drool will escape and drip onto your lap, causing you to wipe your slobber with the back of your hand before you wipe it on your pant leg. Then your mouth will drop open again, repeating the sequence. Ahhh, yes. Good times.

Thank you, Mr. Ignoramus Lunkhead, you discourteous twit, for providing what is sure to be a memorable segment in my next novel. Writers rely on harebrained nincompoops such as yourself for fodder.

Where's the NyQuil?!?

Monday, January 5, 2015

Great Potential

Wow! You guys don't disappoint, that's for sure. I asked for editor referrals. Bam! I asked for title suggestions. Bam! Bam! Bam!

Thanks to the treasured advice from my friend, Christine Green, I have partnered with editor Nina Alvarez. She hails from Rochester, NY, and I think we make a good fit. Nina's been editing for several years and has some great success to show for it. I'm excited to have her onboard with this project. (I can't believe I hired an editor. It's exciting and unnerving. I swore I'd never do it.)

If you're a regular visitor to this blog, you may recall that Hellbent has been the working title of book #3. I like the name and it works with the story line, but there are at least a dozen other novels out there with the same title. The world doesn't need another.

You offered some amazing suggestions. Some were hilarious (thanks, Tiffany Paine), others quite nautical (thanks, Tim Farley), and some made sense only after a couple of glasses of wine (thanks, Lisa Perkins). After sorting through all of them, I have a tentative new title:

Southernmost Invasion: The Swarm

oooooo. I likey. Do you?

I've been battling the flu since before my last post, so I'll have to revisit this when the fever finally breaks. I liked the title Southernmost Swarm: The Invasion a little better at first, but I think it might be too hard for people to say. Please do me another favor and say it out loud. "Southernmost Swarm". Do it again. Is it hard to say? Does it sound odd? Now try doing the same thing with "Southernmost Invasion". Different experience, right?

To give proper credit:
 - Invasion was suggested by Marie Pauly
 - The Swarm was suggested by Tim Farley

(No, I don't play favorites to people whose last names ends with the "lee" sound.)

Thanks guys! You will both be officially thanked on the dedication page!

I added "Southernmost" to tie the title specifically to the Keys. Your thoughts on the new title are most welcome.

One blog post, some de-germing with Lysol, and it's back to the sofa I go. When will this damn flu ever end?

Friday, January 2, 2015

Be Nice and Find Me A Title!

I'm going to talk about a subject that most of you will shy away from. It's okay. I know that it makes people uncomfortable. No, it's not politics, because I hate that subject. Not religion either; I've already done that. It's not farts. People love talking about those. Well, at least my family does. I assume all families do. (That will be a topic for another day.)

Recently, I've been touched by the number of people who've contacted me to thank me for writing "Confessions of a Catholic School Dropout". Actually, I think shocked would be a more appropriate way to describe how they've made me feel.

There are a shit ton of women (hmm...there are a shit ton or there is a shit ton? I think "is".) out there who have pasts similar to my own. More than I suspected. Those that I've spoken with are grateful (their word, not mine) that I publicly owned my past and wrote about it for others to experience.

Stop rolling your eyes. I can see you. Does that make you nervous? Then be nice.

My past is exactly that. The past. As a small child, I was the victim of sexual abuse by a family member. Period. The end. I don't dwell on it because it's over. I'm not proud of it, but I'm not ashamed of it either. I didn't do anything wrong.

I'm not going to rehash all the stuff that's already been said about victims feeling guilty for their abuse. I'm sure you already know about all of that. It sure is weird, though. You know what's even more weird? There are adults who still blame the child for being abused. Yep, it's true. I just talked with one today. She's a grown-ass woman, married, with three beautiful baby boys. Her mother (and other family members) continues to blame her for the abuse she suffered as a child!

What the hell is wrong with people?!? I want to punch that poor woman's mother in the vagina. Repeatedly.

Okay, enough about that.

I've set an artificial date in my head for publishing the third book - which STILL doesn't have a title. The book is officially done, but I'm editing. Along those lines, I've decided to hire an editor. Yup, it's true! I'm biting the bullet and hiring someone who knows what they're doing. I've fought the idea for years, but I can finally admit that it's a necessity for a really well done novel.

Does this mean I'm growing as a person? (My closet sure says that I am.)

I hate asking for help and that's what hiring an editor feels like, which is why I refused to consider it for the first two books. Having said that, we all know that there were typos in both books and that there were some timeline issues in the second. I used to say that I was proud of the good and the bad in each book; that everything between the pages was mine. I didn't want an editor to be able to take credit for any part of what I'd written. I still don't, but I've decided that if I can find the right editor, I won't feel that way.

So...the search is on for a qualified editor that 1) I can work with; 2) I can afford; and 3) I can trust. Feel free to send recommendations or  - even better - offer your services.

For those of you who aren't editors/don't know any editors, you can help me with the book title....

The setting is the FL Keys (of course) during mini season. (That's a two-day affair during which people can fish for FL lobsters before the commercial season begins. Our islands are mobbed by people from the mainland. They are like locusts and leave a mess in their wake. Most locals hate mini season.) It's a story of life and death, love lost and found with a little bit of human trafficking thrown in for good measure. Some of the characters are despicable ghouls, others have questionable morals but are trying to become better people. It's my best story yet.

The damn title continues to elude me and I don't mind asking for help with this problem. What the hell am I gonna name this dang thing? Get busy and start thinking.

And, please remember to be nice. Just because Santa doesn't arrive for another 356 days, it doesn't mean you can be a dick.