Just Mute It

indexTV is managing to ramp up the Disgust Factor by offering us advertising about grosser and more personal subjects than ever before.

I am not much of a TV-watcher but find it on more than I would like now that there are two of us who are retired and I won’t mention names or point fingers but one of us is a news junkie. There is WAY more 24-hour News Drone on than I would prefer. It’s entirely another topic, but someday I’d like to write about the BREAKING NEWS! stories (which are seldom stories at all).

BREAKING NEWS! Unemployment rate for September the same as August!

Oh really. How, um, interesting.

Anyway. At the risk of becoming a real asshole, I have been convincing enough that all parties now agree (or pretend to agree) that commercials which offend me the most should be muted. But if only by the very act of  muting, someone would know it. They know everything else about what we’re doing, why not that? That would be great! You’d mute and that activity would be picked up by all the stations. They’d tell the major networks and the cable networks who would tell all the Companies Who Make Gross Products, especially big Pharma (who are laughing their asses off at our erectile insecurity all the way to the MegaBank). Everyone would KNOW we are doing it.

That strikes me as a pretty good advertising tool. The offending companies would ask themselves: Are there commercials out there that are annoying our audience so much that they mute us, or {gasp} turn us off completely? Whoa!

Wish I knew how to implement such an add-on. Because if I did, then after I told the stations who’d tell all the networks who’d tell the advertisers, then they’d start using my amazing mute-detection system. Then I’d go on a huge campaign to get everyone to mute. Then those companies would see how much they are offending people. Then they’d take those abhorrent ads off the air. Then I’d be happy and could watch that cute Geico gecko and Flo from Progressive all day.

I googled something like “how to complain about erectile dysfunction ads” but only got sites that want me to buy Viagra and Cialis or “teach” me about this disorder. So, naturally, I’m outraged.

I did find this by Puddytat, a very interesting comment about ED ads occurring in early afternoon during football games when there are likely to be children present. I thought this quote very humorous, although sad, because it is true:

“Naturally, the “family values” crowd have been silent on the subject. I suspect that this is because a mega corporation (drug company) is profiting from the sale of outrageously priced penis pills. If not, marching orders would have gone out to gin up pearl clutching, phony outrage, and “think of the children” talking points.”

Great perspective, there.

The following is a partial list of mute-worthy advertising subjects:

  • erectile dysfunction
  • vaginal dryness
  • condoms (WOW, I didn’t think they could do this but MTV Music Awards did)
  • constipation
  • bladder control
  • catheters
  • toenail fungus

As I said, a partial list.

More and more, I’m convinced there is no romance left in this world. No topic is too sensitive to discuss, or advertise, or promote for profit.

Am I the only one who feels that way? If not, is there anything we can do about it?

To add an additional insult onto my ever-growing misery, I get my AARP Magazine which usually covers interesting, informative, safe topics and on the cover:

Best. Sex. Ever. Even in your 70’s – We Show You How.

Huh? This is AARP Magazine? WTF??!!

I wrote them an email and here’s what I said:

To whom it may concern:

I am someone who turns off the TV (or at least mutes it) when I see commercials for a) erectile dysfunction, b) vaginal dryness, c) bladder control, d) anything mentioning “black or bloody stools”, e) feminine catheters and f) toenail fungus.

Is there anything we can do to get these disgusting commercials off the air? And further, why does AARP (of ALL organizations) feel the need to jump on the how-can-we-be-grosser bandwagon with this article? I didn’t read your article, and threw the magazine directly into the recycle bin without reading anything else either. Except to get your email address so I can complain.

I am a writer. I write women’s fiction. I can’t believe we have come to this. Is nothing sacred? Is there absolutely NO romance left in the world? Do we really have to be inundated with these over-the-top, way-too-personal topics?

And surely, anyone who is getting your magazine, i.e. those of us who are over fifty, pretty much knows the mechanics of sex by now. The commercials have told us the products we need.

If you would, kindly remove us from your mailing list. You are a huge disappointment.

 Do you think I’ll get a reply? Do you think my email will be printed?

Hunh. No way.

Then We Came To The End

Then We Came To The EndWhat a great title. This novel was included in the reading list at the end of Stephan King’s On Writing. I decided to go through the list, one by one, throwing out those dealing too heavily with the supernatural, horror, etc. and try each one. It has not been a disappointing experience.

To the contrary, I have discovered many authors that I really admire who were previously unknown to me, and so now I’m going to drone on about this latest little wonder, Then We Came To The End by Joshua Ferris. By the looks of this author, he is on the lower side of middle age, and extremely hot. He’s got the kind of literary-genius look that is so appealing.Joshua FerrisMr. Ferris has come up with a unique concept. I don’t think I’ve ever read a book quite like this. The last two sentences are eerily excellent. To quote them here would render them out-of-context, but I couldn’t help but read them over and over, and get kind of goose-bumpy all over again.

First of all, it’s written in first person plural, which I wasn’t sure I would like. All about we. We did, we thought, we never believed it possible, so you never know whose POV it is. I guess you could say it is “omniscient POV”. I found I liked it, and hoped that at the end, I might have a clue as to which of the characters had told the story. I will not divulge the results.

It’s about work. The office. An advertising firm, going through the downturn (after 9/11). It captures office life at its most ridiculous and cynical. This is a something that interests me personally, because I have long been kind of a tongue-in-cheek eye-roller when it comes to office politics, office lingo and office behavior in general. It’s in my novel, Perigee Moon, (in case you’d like to take a peek) just how unreal it can be, and how sometimes we need to run away — screaming — from all of it.

This book has a scene in it about people scavenging office chairs after someone has “walked Spanish” which is a euphemism for being canned, that is hysterical. It’s about people switching chairs then being afraid of being found out by the “office coordinator” who keeps track of serial numbers and which office stuff belongs to which person, and who wields more power than is perhaps appropriate.

We all know how that goes.

This book may not be for everyone, but if you’ve ever been in an office atmosphere where doing honest work becomes obsolete, and instead red tape and seniority and office politics reign supreme, then you will likely appreciate this. It’s packed with humor and irony.

Highly recommended.

Others on Stephen King’s list follow. I apologize for not including links but that’s just the way I am sometimes. Lazy and doing a half-assed job.

These are all great writers. Most of the novels are suspense, and while I loved all of the writing, I found some of the stories to be a trifle unbelievable. But then — It’s Fiction!!

  • End of Story by Peter Abrahams
  • The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga
  • One Good Turn by Kate Atkinson
  • The Last Good Day by Peter Blauner
  • Peace Like a River by Leif Euger
  • A Fan’s Notes by Frederick Exley

You might notice, the list is organized alphabetically by author last name. The next two were Jonathan Franzen novels. I’ve already read them! So I am up to “G” with lots of goodies in store,Jane Eyre

In between, I read Jane Eyre. I had never read it before. It was quite remarkable, and Ms. Bronte had one hell of a vocabulary. I found some very interesting sections, ofttimes of soliloquy, and some very impassioned dialogue and inner thoughts. I thought I might choose a few passages that I found particularly delightful and perhaps offer an explanation or definition of sorts in today’s urban speak. This will occur in an upcoming post.

Won’t that be jolly? I hope you’ll stay tuned for it.

On Reading “On Writing”

On WritingStephen King’s “On Writing” has been recommended and suggested so often I finally decided to read it. As with most How To Write books, I bought the actual book. For some reason, I prefer the physical book because they are easier to reference in the future. Or maybe I just like seeing those books sitting on my book shelf, and by virtue of their being there, I feel more like an actual writer.

It was an engaging memoir on writing, of how he, Mr. King, got started and it’s not surprising that he was interested in Sci-fi and horror and the supernatural from the time he was a little kid. It’s filled with humor and a bit of history, but at its heart, it’s a book “On Writing”. Not the usual how-to but a more general discussion of the subject.  It was one of the best books I’ve read on the subject.

A few things I took from it:

Just start writing. Do it every day. Set a goal and Just. Do. It. This is the closed door part. The part where you don’t show anyone what you’ve written. Just get it down. Start with a couple of ideas about what it is to be about, and let the characters take you where they will. Stephen King is a “pantzer” as opposed to a “planner” I think. He didn’t mention making any outlines and seemed to indicate that the work will suffer from too much plotting.

When finished with this, the first draft, put it away for at least six weeks. Do something else. Work on a new project or go fishing. But don’t look at that manuscript once.

After six weeks, pull it out and read through it. Then comes the second draft. It should be at least 10% smaller than the first draft. Take out unneeded junk and fix the other stuff, repeated words and omitted words and any other problems you see.

Here’s the part where we have to take different forks in the road. At this point, Stephen King gives the manuscript to his Ideal Reader (his wife) who gives him her very honest opinion. He listens and mostly agrees and makes the appropriate changes before sending it on to his editor. After that it’s in the agent’s hands I guess, who sells it to a publishing company, or probably sends it on to the same company that published all his other work. They schedule it up for release, and then the money starts rolling in.

It doesn’t work that way for most of us, who are reading On Writing, but nevertheless, the book is very educational, and is also encouraging. It’s worth reading.

Some other information I found useful:

Writers can be grouped into something like the Four Food Group Pyramid. The bottom and largest group are the bad writers. They have no talent for it, their interests lie in other areas. Give them all the creative writing classes in the world and they will still suck.

Up a level and the next largest group are the competent writers, all those at the office who can compose emails with proper sentences and punctuation, and then the good writers, those who write and actually make money at it and then — Ta Da! —  the genius writers. Those in their own class, born not made, “divine accidents”. You know who they are, Shakespeare, Dickens, Faulkner. (My favorite author, Jonathan Franzen, comes to mind.)

Is it possible to move from one group to another? Sometimes. The bad writers usually remain in their own basement of horridness, unable to claw their way upwards to a more respectable level but the competent writers can evolve upward into the good writers’ group with the proper amount of practice. Not training, practice. Mr. King does not specifically say that education is not necessary. To the contrary, a degree in English is an excellent way to launch a successful career, and Creative Writing classes and workshops can be fun and interesting, but not required.

Whatcha gotta do then, is get a schedule and stick to it, and write your brains out for the allotted amount of words per day. Not time, words. If it takes three hours to crank out 2,000 words on Tuesday and seven on Wednesday, sobeit. Eventually you will get better. And better and better.

Another thing. When you aren’t writing, read. Read everything. It’s what I’ve been doing lately. There is a suggested reading list in the back of On Writing. I chose three at random, and one from my list of classics to read before the end of 2012 (that didn’t work out too well, replace with “2013”). I also chose a book by Stephen King, The Dead Zone, because it is one of his older ones, and less science fiction-y than some, since this and horror in general are not my usual genre.

He also suggests reading a really awful book. Reading bad books is as helpful as reading good ones. Reading something you consider a real eye-roller serves a couple of purposes. First, it enforces the idea that you can at least write as well as this author, and it is a powerful reminder of what NOT to do. I chose Valley of The Dolls, by Jacqueline Suzanne. In fact, this book is mentioned in On Writing as a good example of literature of questionable value.

Ms. Suzanne reaped in plenty of profits with her tome. I first read it back in the sixties, but want to read it again with a more finely-tuned writer’s eye. If nothing else, it will provide a funny blog post. It brings to mind, 50 Shades of Grey which I blogged about earlier this year. Books like this may have changed over the years, but the premise is still there. Bring on the smut and they’ll keep readin’.  Why read a novel that is filled with deep characters, thoughtful descriptions and believable dialogue when I can get a trip back into the Red Room of Pain?

Here’s my complete reading list for the next month (or so):

  • End of Story by Peter Abrahams
  • One Good Turn by Kate Atkinson
  • The Last Good Day by Peter Blauner
  • The Dead Zone by Stephen King
  • The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
  • Valley of the Dolls by Jacqueline Suzanne

Please Read My Error-Ridden Autobiography!

Oops! Road SignRecently I received an offer for a free copy of an autobiography by a new author. I don’t think this person is famous, but I’m not sure. It took me a very long time to figure out why anyone should care about the Kardashians so maybe this author is famous and I just don’t know it. The author is extending her book offer for two days and is hoping scads of people will say, “Wow, I have been waiting for something like this to happen! Look! An autobiography of someone I don’t know anything about!”

The author goes on to say:

I would also appreciate some ‘honest’ reviews and I really do mean HONEST.  I would not be offended by negative reviews; I want to know how people view the tale as a whole and the presentation style.  I am aware there are some errors in text, punctuation and grammar and some sections would benefit from re-phrasing/re-writing.  A revision is being worked on.  However, I would like to know what you think and to learn from you.

Couple of issues I see here.

You are aware that there are errors in the text, punctuation and grammar. Okay, the chances of my actually downloading your book have decreased dramatically with that sentence. You are also aware that some sections would benefit from a re-phrasing/re-writing. Now, I am pretty sure I am going to pass on this astounding offer.

She says “a revision is being worked on” and would like to know what her audience thinks and she wants to learn from us. And she doesn’t mind negative reviews, though how it could be anything but negative is hard to imagine. Without exception, I can say that I do not enjoy books that need to be “worked on” and errors that could be easily fixed, should be, before they are offered to the reading public.

Unfortunately, she is kidding herself if she thinks the public is dying to read a poorly-written book about a subject they may not care about written by an unknown author. Take it from me! I know no one is grabbing at books by unknown authors. And I also know that offering something before it’s ready for prime time is not a wise thing to do.

I passed on the amazing free book that I could have read (all the while grinding the enamel off my teeth as I encountered spelling errors) so I could pass on my thoughts to yet another newbie author.

This would be my advice were it solicited but which, alas, it was not:

Don’t release work that you know has errors in it. Sometimes errors get by. I know, I’ve done it myself but I never released anything that I knew had errors, and passed it off lightly as “Please excuse the many mistakes. I’m still learning!”

You can’t assume there is anyone out there who is willing to spend time teaching you how to be a better writer. That’s something you must learn on your own. There are a myriad of books available and I can recommend many. Take an online course, or if you don’t have cash to invest, there is a wealth of information on the internet, which I know you have access to or I wouldn’t have been solicited to download your free wares. Here are just a couple of sites you might find interesting and from each of these you can link to a myriad of other great resources.  50 Tips on How to Write Good (Yes, the word misuse in the title is deliberate) and The Grammar Girl can answer just about any grammatical question you have.

And finally, at the risk of sounding harsh, when I think of autobiography I think of someone famous, about whom I would like to know more. I don’t think of autobiography in terms of the average guy. And while I know that each person is unique and that person’s experiences one-of-a-kind, still it is very difficult to make your life story interesting to others. If you want to write about your life, couldn’t you disguise it as a novel? That’s what most new authors do anyway, because we all think we’ve had such interesting lives that all mankind can benefit from our tale.

It’s okay if it’s not perfect the first time. It’s okay to release something that isn’t error-free. It happens all the time. But really. This book sounds like the author was so excited to get it into the hands of the entire reading public, she chose to ignore its many problems.

That isn’t the way it works in the real world.

Photo courtesy of Microsoft Clip Art

Sometimes You CAN Tell a Book By Its Cover

Emails pop up every day in my inbox, offering eBooks at reduced prices, sometimes free, and I always look at them but seldom take advantage of any of the offers.

But one day a book popped up that immediately caught my interest. I was captivated by the book cover. It’s the picture of a shack amongst trees and a full moon overhead.

Asleep Without Dreaming by Barbara Forte Abate.

Asleep Without DreamingPerhaps It’s because I am partial to moons these days but I thought wow, that’s one hell of a cool book cover. And I liked the sound of the story too, so I went for it.

I’m glad I did. It was beautifully written. Long complex sentences that I often had to read more than once.  It’s about a fifteen-year-old girl, Willa, who is pretty much alone. Her father left her with the woman who was her mother, but with whom he could not live.

Some people should never have children. Willa’s mother, Stella, is one of those. Willa lives her life, one day at a time, struggling to survive. She and Stella leave town one night to start a new life, after one of Stella’s probably shady dealings has blown up in her face. The car breaks down, they end up in a town as dismal as the one they just left.

It’s the story of that summer, spent in a neglected, seen-better-days motel. The prose is dark, it is often depressing, and the reader wants so much for something good to happen to Willa, who asks herself the question “Why is it so easy for everyone to leave me?” Stella begins to disappear for days at a time, until finally she never comes back at all.

There’s a boy, whom Willa comes to know, and their love is so deep that they don’t even need to speak about it. It just is. But all the while, the reader is beginning to speculate, that something is very much amiss, yet hopes please, don’t let it be true.

Many readers don’t like books like this. They want fairytales, and happily ever after, and devoted parents, especially moms with their daughters. This novel has none of that. Instead there are beautiful descriptions, haunting images and profound thoughts.

This book affected me very deeply, as an example of true literary fiction, of not writing to a formula, but writing from the heart.

The book cover captures the essence of the story. In this case, you can tell a book by its cover.

Boomer Lit Friday

Perigee Moon Cover jpgI’m participating in a Boomer Blogging Extravaganza which will take place every Friday. It’s a way to bring attention to the new genre of books called Boomer Lit. Click here, Boomer Lit Friday  to go to your one-stop shopping boomer lit blog which will feature snippets from a variety of boomer lit novels. It’a a good place to get a taste of what boomer authors are writing about.

Perigee Moon is the story of a man who has a life crisis, who comes to realize that he must be true to himself and makes the changes necessary to remove himself from a ruined marriage and the ”should do” world in order to have the lifestyle he craves.

The following is another section from Perigee Moon. Kate is trying to break up Luke and Abby. She has accosted Abby in the grocery store and convinced Abby to have lunch with her, where she proceeds to lie to Abby about a dire diagnosis she has just received, and appeal to Abby’s compassion and selflessness to break it off with Luke so Luke and she (Kate) can be together again. She has taken Abby’s cell phone and texted him with it. Luke thinks it’s Abby texting and breaking it off with him, which is why he didn’t go to Abby’s house after work, as he has been doing every day for several months.

Here’s Abby at home. Luke hasn’t come and there is no word from him, which is making her assume a lot of things.

When she wakes it’s seven o’clock. She’s been alternately crying and sleeping for hours. Her head aches, her eyes are swollen, and she feels heavy as if she can’t move her legs over the side of the bed to stand up. But she does and goes to the bathroom and starts the water running in the big tub, adds some bubble bath and lights candles.

It’s dark already. She hears rain on the window. The wind gusts and rattles the screens. She’ll have to put the storms down soon. It’s a hard job and one she dreads, and she had been planning to ask Luke to help her with it. Thinking of him brings fresh tears to her eyes, which are already scratchy. They’ll be swollen for a day or two. She remembers how it had always been. Go on a good crying jag and it’s cathartic while it’s happening but you’ll pay for it the next day.

She decides to get a glass of wine, goes downstairs and there is a half bottle of Cabernet on the counter, opened last night. She takes a glass and the bottle. This could be a long night. A long, cold November night.

She’d thought it possible he might come out like always, and they’d discuss it and then she’d tell him about the lunch with Kate and she wouldn’t assume everything was over between them. If he wanted, or needed, for things to be over between them then she’d let him tell her that. He didn’t come. It’s past seven, he should have been there over an hour before so she knows. He won’t be coming.

He’s with Kate. Kate’s got to him and he’s succumbed. Otherwise, he would have been here as he said he would. He’d never before said he’d be there and then not showed up or at least called to say he’d be late. Something is wrong and Abby knows what it is. He doesn’t have the guts to face her. That’s why he hasn’t come. So much for the vows of honesty between them. Maybe it was too much to hope for, that there could be honesty when it comes to leaving a girlfriend and returning to a wife.

She’s never thought of herself as his girlfriend. She had never been anyone’s girlfriend really, and it would have been nice to contemplate the status of girlfriend back, oh eight hours or so ago, before things had changed so much. Now she is no one’s girlfriend and no one’s wife and no one’s significant other. She is back the way she’d been before June. Alone. Alone with Milly and Buzzer, her only companions in the evenings. The crazy lady who talks to dogs.

Kate had said Luke belongs with her. He will never belong with Abby. No, he belongs with, and to, Kate. And she wonders, now that Kate has said she wants him back, does he realize that was what he’d wanted all along?

Kate is the mother of his children. A big draw for any man, she knows that. It’s why John could never completely commit to her. And Luke won’t be able to either because of that shared experience that she can never give him. The gift of a child, with the melding of chromosomes, half his, half Kate’s. And Kate might be sick, really sick, and she wants him back. How can she, Abby, stand in the way of that?

Guest Post: Patricia Sands, Author of “The Promise of Provence”

Today, I have the honor of welcoming Patricia Sands, a Boomer Lit author, to my blog. Patricia is the author of the newly-released The Promise of Provence.

I just finished reading The Promise of Provence today, and I found it to be terrific, full of surprises and a richly character-driven novel with beautiful descriptions of France. If you’ve ever entertained the idea of visiting the south of France, I highly recommend this book. It will certainly lure you into making the decision to do so. It’s a wonderful story of love and loss and finding happiness in unpredictable ways, and throughout the message is “what doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger.”

Here’s Patricia!


Music and writing: what works for you?

There is an ongoing discussion on this topic. Some writers prefer silence to concentrate, while others crank up the decibels to find inspiration. Then, of course, there are the in-betweeners, happiest when soft background sounds bring calm to their creativity.

Whether the writer is a plotter or pantser, did not seem to factor into the equation, when I queried some other authors.

I seem to make my decision based on what I am writing at the moment and how easily it is coming to me. There are days when I turn on the music first and let it guide me to where I want to go. At other times, I am so focused on what I want to say, that I forget to put any music on. Those are generally the days when I find myself still in my nightgown at noon!

When I was writing The Bridge Club, the time frame of the story spanned from the 1960’s through to 2010. What a trip down memory lane! There’s no question that the tunes playing as I wrote each section contributed greatly to bringing back the reminiscences I needed in order to write the story.

I began with Bob Dylan, Gord Lightfoot, and their cronies and worked through the Beatles, Stones, and Woodstock era, Motown, the Eagles, Leonard Cohen, the Tragically Hip, Elton John, the Eurythmics, U2, Coldplay, Diana Krall, Alicia Keys, Kelly Clarkson.

The songs from such different times and places had the power to evoke the same emotions as then and bring memories flooding back.

As the characters aged in that story, there were definitely days when my choices leaned more to classical and jazz. Somehow though, our Boomer generation has never abandoned the musical history we experienced in our younger years. The proliferation of ‘oldies’ radio stations bears testament to that and this was definitely the music that most inspired my words. At times the music relaxed me and at other times it was invigorating.

When I began writing The Promise of Provence, we were living in France for five months and I listened to a great deal of French music. My greatest discovery was Zaz, a young woman with an eclectic Gypsy jazz style that I found energizing. You can find her at http://www.zazofficial.com/.

Since I was also writing about the pain and joy of romance, Adele was another constant companion.  When I typed “The End” I almost felt I should list her as a contributor!

There are most certainly times when music is my muse. What would you say?

the promise of provenceSurprise, shock, and a shift in life as she knows it tumble into Katherine Price’s world when least expected. The future she envisioned suddenly vanishes, leaving little to focus on beyond her career and the caregiving her elderly widowed mother might require.

Fate has other plans for Katherine.

June in Provence is full of promise when Katherine arrives from Canada, eager to feel renewed by her surroundings. Endless rows of lavender prepare to burst into pink and purple blooms. Fields of sunflowers flow in golden waves among vineyards and olive groves. Ancient hilltop villages beckon. It’s the postcard setting she envisioned, but is that all she needs?

After a year of heartbreak, Katherine has impulsively agreed to a home exchange in the south of France. Colorful locals, a yellow lab named Picasso, and the inspiring beauty of the countryside breathe new life into her days.

Seeking to shed the pain of betrayal and loss, she struggles to recapture her joie de vivre and searches for the answer to a haunting question: is it too late to begin again?

As Katherine explores the romantic cobblestone lanes of medieval towns, the beautiful boulevards of Paris and the sun-kissed Mediterranean coast of the Côte d’Azur, unimagined possibilities present themselves.

An enduring story of hope and change in life’s later years is woven through the author’s love-letter to France. Like a well-travelled friend, Patricia Sands invites readers into a world she loves and entices them to linger.

“Be prepared to fall in love with Provence! This is a story that will draw you in with its vibrancy in setting and characters. A must read for any woman with a desire for romance and travel.” Steena Holmes, author of Amazon bestseller Finding Emma

Buy The Promise of Provence on Amazon:

Visit Patricia Sands online:











Boomer Lit Friday

Perigee Moon Cover jpgI’m participating in a Boomer Blogging Extravaganza which will take place every Friday. It’s a way to bring attention to the new genre of books called Boomer Lit. Click here, Boomer Lit Friday  to go to your one-stop shopping boomer lit blog which will feature snippets from a variety of boomer lit novels. It’a a good place to get a taste of what boomer authors are writing about.

Perigee Moon is the story of a man who has a life crisis, who comes to realize that he must be true to himself and makes the changes necessary to remove himself from a ruined marriage and the ”should do” world in order to have the lifestyle he craves.

This excerpt occurs after Luke has initially contacted Abby. It is the second time they’ve seen each other since the reunion. He finally made the call, and Abby invited him out to her house for a simple dinner. As he left, Luke asked Abby to go to a movie and dinner the following Saturday night.

They’ve just left the movie, Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris, chosen for its PG rating. (Abby had told him she wasn’t ready to see an R-rated movie with him for which she made no apology.)

They decide on seafood for dinner. While they wait for a table, they sit at a wrought iron table outside with a glass of wine. Luke tells Abby he would like to help out in the garden, become her apprentice. She smiles at him when he says this, and tells him he can come as often as he likes.

“I used to have a garden,” he says. “But it was nothing like yours. Just a few things, some lettuce, tomatoes, summer squash. Easy to grow herbs.  But since it’s just me now, I haven’t had one.”

“It’s become a big part of my life, growing, picking, canning, freezing,” she says. “By fall, I’m relieved to go indoors and relax for the winter, but in spring, I’m ready for the next season. The break is good. I feel renewed, ready to go again.”

“I’d like you to teach me,” he says.

“I’d be delighted.”

Author’s note: Of course. She’d be delighted. That’s what she’s thinking. The more she sees of him, the better she likes it.

At a Crossroads: Contrived Plots vs Quiet Stories

IntersectionDuring our lives, we occasionally have periods of lethargy, of standing still, as if on a four-way street corner wondering whether to cross the street, turn left or right, or go back home. And it’s fine when we come to these places, if we stop and ponder what to do next. If we really think about it, rather than just plod on doing what we’ve been doing because that’s what we do.

I’ve been writing for several years now, and I love to write, although I haven’t been commercially successful with it. In fact, the ink is red when looking at income versus expenditures. I’ve thought about quitting, about reentering the work force, about volunteering.

I am confused about all of it. I haven’t worked on a novel in nearly a year now, because I made the decision that I’d market what I have first. It makes it harder to get going in the morning, when faced with marketing. I’d much rather sit down and reread what I wrote the day before, and tweak it, which is how I work.

Marketing is just a swirling mass of stuff. It’s easy to get a book out there, in either print or electronic form, or both, and there are so many good writers and so many good books, that it must be like Halloween to a five-year-old. Where should I go first? Which should I choose? Which is better, best? Which is funnier or more haunting or has the best characters or the best plot or the best action?

With so much competition, and much of it so good, and dare I say, better than my own,  it’s no wonder it’s hard to get books in front of readers.

Sad 3D Man FreeDigital Photos Dot NetFor several months,  I’ve been waking up in the morning with a bad feeling. I’m not moving towards a goal. I’m like a fly at a picnic, I don’t know where to go next. What’s the best way to spend my time?

I think it’s because I’m not working on a novel. I’ve been thinking about another book, but the ideas have been coming slower than usual. I can’t seem to get it going.

The new one will be different from my other novels.

This might be the one. If I can pull this off, and can say to myself that this is the best I have ever written, then I can be satisfied I will have accomplished what I have set out to do.

Okay. So that’s decided.

Meanwhile, I saw a tweet (Twitter must work) from a woman from whom I have taken several classes. And they were mostly good classes — I learned a lot. This class is in story structure, which I thought I could benefit from. My novels are so character-oriented that this time, I want more.

After reading the description of the course, I decided to do it. It lasts for one month, the month of April. Online, very convenient, work at your own pace, and at your preferred level of involvement. Perfect.

Three published authors were mentioned in the synopsis who will contribute to the lectures.  These authors must have great story structures, right? Since they are offering up their expertise?

A good thing to do, thought I, in preparation for this course would be read a book by all of these authors, and dissect the stories and see how each story fits into the structure.

Doesn’t that make perfect sense?

By not mentioning the name of the course or the authors or titles of the books, I can protect their anonymity since I don’t intend to write reviews of either the course or the novels.

Book #1 was the best written of the three. It was funny, sarcastic, cleverly written. Wow, I thought to myself, I am really going to enjoy this book because I love the writing. Even though this is not my usual genre, I am going to really like this a lot. And I will learn so much from it because it will have great writing and I like the main character and the plot will be, like, totally cew-ell. About half way through things started to get confusing. Everyone double-crossed everyone else. There was so much double-crossing going on I was bleary eyed and found myself shaking my head and saying “wha-att?” In the end, there were five murders, IRS agents who were really assassins, an ex-girlfriend who was really a murderer,  murderers murdering other murderers, and the grand finale, the final double-cross by the hero. There was one character who turned out to be a double-crosser and ultimately a murder victim, which still makes no sense to me. It seemed to serve no purpose other than to get the hero (who was a nearly good guy) off the guilt hook.

Book #2 wasn’t so well-written. It started with one murder and one disappearance.  The alleged perpetrator was a character who was written as hugely malign. There wasn’t one shred of decency in this horrible man. Bad to the bone. Nasty, mean, vicious. Accused of the crimes, shipped off to jail. Years later, it was determined that Mr. Bad Guy didn’t really do it. Even though he was 100% evil, he did not commit the murders. So who did? Two murders later, we find out. What a contrived story that was. And the son of the wrongly-accused-yet-horrible-man alleged murderer and the daughter of the wonderful father never-did-no-wrong-to-anybody murdered guy, end up together in the end. Okay! Whatever.

Book #3 was worst of all. Interesting, that I read them in the sequence I did. What starts out as an accidental death on a park trail, (woman pushes man, man falls over cliff and dies) ends up with woman covering up the death because they were arguing at the time about whether to keep a sack of diamonds  which was found on another dead body they happened to encounter along the trail. The evil woman wants to keep the diamonds, the good husband (who recently found Jesus) says no way. This book contained no profanity (“he called me a name you would call a mean woman”) and interspersed throughout were Bible verses and references to being saved. Gulp. Okay, last chapter. The body of the husband was deliberately switched at the morgue with a John Doe. But wait! He wasn’t really dead! He was in a coma. Thankfully, he came out of it on the last page but that’s where the story ended. Oh, and the coma guy’s sister and the coma guy’s best friend got together. Ah.

It’s clear I can’t compete with this kind of stuff. Nor would I want to. I will continue with the class, but comparing my plot with some of the other students’ plots? No way. Let’s just say  — No puedo hacer eso.

I can’t do it. I’m sticking to my Quiet Stories.

3D Man photos courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.

Boomer Lit Friday

Perigee Moon Cover jpgI’m participating in a Boomer Blogging Extravaganza which will take place every Friday. It’s a way to bring attention to the new genre of books called Boomer Lit. Click here, Boomer Lit Friday  to go to your one-stop shopping boomer lit blog which will feature snippets from a variety of boomer lit novels. It’a a good place to get a taste of what boomer authors are writing about.

Perigee Moon is the story of a man who has a life crisis, who comes to realize that he must be true to himself and makes the changes necessary to remove himself from a ruined marriage and the ”should do” world in order to have the lifestyle he craves.

This excerpt is some internalization by Abby, a few days after meeting up with Luke again, after 45 years. They had seen each other on Friday night at the Reunion, and gone out together on Saturday night and he’d asked if they could see each other when they got back to their respective cities. Abby thinks if he were serious, he’d have called by now. She was sure serious about getting together with him, and she is very disappointed that she hasn’t heard from him.

Abby is a left-winger, an earthy gardener type, who believes in doing the right thing. I liked the character of Abby, she was fun to write, but it was easy to stray into that goody-goody land which might make her character less appealing.

Abby wishes she’d have asked Luke for his numbers too. Women are now allowed to call men. It has long been an acceptable practice. She works outside in the garden for an hour or two each day, then goes inside. Maybe he’s called. She checks voicemail and caller id for a number which could be his. Sunday, after she’d got back home, Monday, Tuesday, then Wednesday. How long did he intend to wait? Maybe he’s had second thoughts. That was always the problem, people had second thoughts, decided no, that hadn’t really been such a good idea after all.

By Wednesday, she decides, figures out, that he probably won’t call. If he had been serious, surely he’d have done it by now. When the phone rings after dinner and caller id says “Private” she feels hopeless but answers it, just in case. It’s possible, people could be “Private” too, isn’t it? But it’s not a person, it’s the Democrats asking for donations, time or money. No, she wants to yell at them. Leave me alone, don’t ask me about this stuff now, I can’t think about it. She feels like crying, she’s that disappointed.

She pours a glass of Pinot Noir and lights several candles in the bathroom and soaks in the big tub until the water goes cold, so she lets some out and adds more hot, something she would never have done under normal circumstances. Usually she is conservative, about everything except politics. Conserving water and heat and gas, so she doesn’t consume more than necessary. Recycle, recycle. Recycling is the way of her life, preserve the earth, leave it in as good shape as possible, don’t be conspicuous in your consumption of anything.