Irene and Living Love to Fight Hate

Irene is a singer. She’ll be 93 this October. She radiates happiness and energy and brilliance. She is a woman who takes it all in and loves everyone with the kind of love that knows you are flawed, but doesn’t care because we are all flawed. 

“People ask me what my secret is,” she laughs. “I say I have no secret. I just am me.”

She is so much her. 

She sings soprano in the church choir. She has sung for God for years, decades. 

“Is that your secret?” I ask.

She just laughs. 

“I still go to church,” she says. “I still go to the center.”

She uses a cane that her neighbor gave her. The cane is solid, black, nice, but not enough to keep her steady all the time. Her house is neat and clean. Her caregiver sits at a table watching as Deb and Scott Hammond, two Maine Rotarians, fit Irene to a wheelchair. 

Irene is an easy fit, gracious and kind. It’s hard not to stay inside her house and hang out forever, to maybe beg her to sing hymns, to share her secret that is no secret. 

Outside flowers surround her home. Birds of Paradise and Bougainvilleas flourish, blooming everywhere, reaching out of the lush green leaves and up to towards the sky. 

Bar Harbor/MDI Rotary ClubRotary Club of Ellsworth,Maine and Dawson Creek Rotary Club members raised funds to purchase, ship and fit wheelchairs to people like Irene. Club members were helped by a Rotary District 7790 grant and nine Rotary clubs in Belize. 

It’s a collaborative effort that crosses three countries and creates lifelong friendships for everyone involved.

The Angry Man

I once had an angry local man ask me why our Rotary club goes to other countries when we should be doing work here, in our own county. He was the kind of man who believes in taking care of needs at home first, I guess? Which I get.

But the thing is we do.

Local Rotary clubs in Maine help local organizations in Maine all the time. Our club alone raises thousands of dollars that we give to local nonprofits every year. But the beauty of Rotary is that it’s more than that. It’s about building international friendships, too. It’s about Rotarians from Belize also coming to Maine or Canada and helping us with projects. It’s about making connections and building stronger friendships, not just with the woman next door who needs her driveway shoveled out, but with people like Irene.

I told this to the angry man. I said, “You can help people at home, and people far away. They aren’t mutually exclusive.”

And he said, “No you can’t.”

And I said, “You know that playground? By the Y? Rotarians helped build that? You know our hospital? Every year, Rotarians raise thousands to help local cancer patients who go there.”

He sputtered and turned away.

There will always be people who are threatened by love and friendship. Don’t let them make you doubt yourself.

Stay shiny even as they try to dull you down.

EVERYTHING ISN’t AN “EITHER OR”

There is too much anger and hate in this world. We need to hold each other close and offer support on all levels. And good work? It doesn’t have to be an either-or situation.

You can help people in your community. You can help people across the world.

You can have friends next door. You can have friends in another hemisphere.

Good things don’t need to exclude other good things. Dichotomies don’t need to be worshiped.

LIVING LOVE TO FIGHT HATE

When people kill other people, shout hate, hurt their bodies, their souls because they’ve created a hierarchy of worth and decided that some of us are ‘other.’ When people refuse to see the beauty in difference or accept the responsibility that comes when you are lucky enough to be part of a dominant culture, hate festers and becomes violence. Not always, but too often.

And it’s easy to feel powerless against that.

What can you do against that?

Support organizations and people that are working for peace and supporting empathy. Work within yourself to support empathy and acceptance and peace. Make friends. Spread love. Spread knowledge. Be brave.

Meet people like Irene, deal with people like the angry man. Do like Rotary asks you to – build goodwill and friendships. Be a part of a movement towards change.

And don’t give up.

Never give up.

IN THE WOODS – READ AN EXCERPT, PREORDER NOW!

My next book, IN THE WOODS, appears in July with Steve Wedel. It’s scary and one of Publisher’s Weekly’s Buzz Books for Summer 2019. There’s an excerpt of it there and everything! But even cooler (for me) they’ve deemed it buzz worthy! Buzz worthy seems like an awesome thing to be deemed! 

You can preorder this bad boy, which might make it have a sequel. The sequel would be amazing. Believe me, I know. It features caves and monsters and love. Because doesn’t every story?

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is b5314ed645a47991655395d180f52f5c.jpg

HEAR MY BOOK BABY (AND MORE) ON PATREON

On February first, I launched my Patreon site where I’m reading chapters (in order) of a never-published teen fantasy novel, releasing deleted scenes and art from some of my more popular books. And so much more. Come hang out with me! Get cool things! 

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is The-Last-Gods-3.jpg

WHAT IS PATREON? 

A lot of you might be new to Patreon and not get how it works. That’s totally cool. New things can be scary, but there’s a cool primer HERE that explains how it works. The short of it is this: You give Patreon your paypal or credit card # and they charge you whatever you level you choose at the end of each month. That money supports me sharing my writing and art and podcasts and weirdness with you. 

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Superheroes-7-1.jpg


HELP US AND DO AN AWESOME GOOD DEED

Thanks to all of you who keep listening to our weirdness on the DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE podcast as we talk about random thoughts, writing advice and life tips. We’re sorry we laugh so much… sort of. Please share it and subscribe if you can. Please rate and like us if you are feeling kind, because it matters somehow. There’s a new episode every Tuesday!

ART

You can buy some of my art. I paint to help inform my stories and some of the prints are available now. There will be more soon. You can check it out here. 

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Potato Tacos of Awesome


Print Recipe


Potato Tacos of Awesome

This recipe is adapted from shelikesfood.com

Cuisine american

Servings
humans

Cuisine american

Servings
humans


Instructions
  1. You need to find a knife. Do not think about suicidal confessional poets from the 1960s. Just find a knife.

  2. Use the knife to cut the potatoes into bite-sized pieces. Don’t ponder about what ‘bite-sized’ means. Don’t riff on how different people have different mouth sizes and therefore different bite sizes. Just cut the potatoes. Cut them on a cutting board!

  3. Get a large pot. Put the cut-up potatoes in the pot. Fill the pot with water. Think about this. Are these the characters in your story, perculating under your subconscious? Ready to make something happen in your plot? Yes. Yes. They are.

  4. Boil those characters for 15-20 minutes. They should be fork tender. What does that even mean fork tender? Aren’t we all fork tender, us humans? So easily hurt.

  5. Cry.

  6. Drain the potatoes, those poor tender potatoes. Pause to write a poem. Make sure when you come back that those little sweet potatoes are pretty dry.

  7. Cast aside your feelings. It’s time to get serious. Find a skillet. Do not comtemplate the last time you used a skillet as a prop device in your murder-mystery staring your ex boss. Instead, turn the stove burner on to medium heat. Put that skillet on the burner. Yes, the same burner that you’ve turned on.

  8. In the skillet, put olive oil, potatoes, and spices. Double up the spices if you aren’t afraid. You want depth to your story. I mean recipe.

  9. Stir it up like it’s a good plot.

  10. Cook it for 3-5 minutes. Flip it. Cook it on that side for 3-5 more minutes. You want it crisp, but not burnt. Use your own judgement about what constitutes crisp. You can do it! I believe in you!

  11. Find the corn tortillas. Put potatoes in them. Put the other toppings in them. Hope for good reviews on Amazon and GoodReads. I mean, hope your family likes them.

Seven Cool Things About Being A Writer

Okay. There’s like a trillion million things but here’s a short list OF WHy it’s cool to be a writer.

I am making this list a non-serious post, because I had TWO serious posts on Monday and I need some lightness, you know?

Okay. Here goes for real. Cool Things About Being A Writer



1. You do NOT have to get up early in the morning to go to work. Score! 

2. You get to go to the bookstore and look at books in your genre and stay stuff like, “Gwenda Bond. I went to school with her. Tiffany Trent. I slept with her. John Green. He is so nice. Tim Wynne-Jones. I have seen him dance. Varian Johnson. I love Varian. Etc….”

3. You get invited to high schools and they expect you to just talk about yourself and writing. Instant therapy anyone? Plus, sometimes you get to flirt with the librarians. I LOVE flirting with librarians. 

4. You get to know awesome writers and sometimes read their stuff before they are even published. God, how cool is that?

5. You get fan mail. Seriously? How many professions get actual fan mail? Okay. You also get the occasional review that’s made of evil but whatever… Honestly every time I get a piece of fan mail I freak out like, “What the heck? This is to me? Because of my book?” It is really the best feeling and if you are about to be a published author get ready BECAUSE THIS WILL HAPPEN TO YOU!!!!!

6. Did I mention the whole not-having-to-get-up-early to go to work thing? 

7. When cool stuff happens to your author friends and/or mentors or Twitter friends or whatever you want to scream and happy dance all around your kitchen AND YOU CAN because nobody expects writers to act sane. Score!

IN THE WOODS – READ AN EXCERPT, PREORDER NOW!

My next book, IN THE WOODS, appears in July with Steve Wedel. It’s scary and one of Publisher’s Weekly’s Buzz Books for Summer 2019. There’s an excerpt of it there and everything! But even cooler (for me) they’ve deemed it buzz worthy! Buzz worthy seems like an awesome thing to be deemed!

You can preorder this bad boy, which might make it have a sequel. The sequel would be amazing. Believe me, I know. It features caves and monsters and love. Because doesn’t every story?

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is b5314ed645a47991655395d180f52f5c.jpg

HEAR MY BOOK BABY (AND MORE) ON PATREON

On February first, I launched my Patreon site where I’m reading chapters (in order) of a never-published teen fantasy novel, releasing deleted scenes and art from some of my more popular books. And so much more. Come hang out with me! Get cool things!

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is The-Last-Gods-3.jpg

WHAT IS PATREON? 

A lot of you might be new to Patreon and not get how it works. That’s totally cool. New things can be scary, but there’s a cool primer HERE that explains how it works. The short of it is this: You give Patreon your paypal or credit card # and they charge you whatever you level you choose at the end of each month. That money supports me sharing my writing and art and podcasts and weirdness with you. 

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Superheroes-7-1.jpg


HELP US AND DO AN AWESOME GOOD DEED

Thanks to all of you who keep listening to our weirdness on the DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE podcast as we talk about random thoughts, writing advice and life tips. We’re sorry we laugh so much… sort of. Please share it and subscribe if you can. Please rate and like us if you are feeling kind, because it matters somehow. There’s a new episode every Tuesday!

Art

You can buy some of my art. I paint to help inform my stories and some of the prints are available now. There will be more soon. You can check it out here.

Even Potatoes Can Be Creepy When They’re Randomly Showing Up Everywhere

The city of Jackson, Mississippi is having a weird situation.

To be fair, Jackson has had weird situations before. People left Christmas trees in potholes. They decorate road signs in ways road signs aren’t supposed to be decorated.

But now what’s happening in Jackson is about something sacred.

It’s about the mashed potato.

People are leaving bowls of mashed potatoes in all sorts of random places.

According to a Huffington Post piece, a resident is quoted as saying, “So we don’t know if someone is just playing a prank or if someone just had a lot of leftovers.”

Nobody knows what it’s about. That’s sort of creepy. Also, it’s a great base for a story. The best stories come from unexpected details and places. The best stories involve mysteries to be solved and motivation to solve them.

Writing Tip of the Cast

Don’t be afraid to take something beautiful like a potato and turn it into something creepy and evil. Keto certainly wasn’t afraid to do that.

Dog tip for Life

Always sniff things before you eat them.

SHOUT OUT! 

The music we’ve clipped and shortened in this podcast is awesome and is made available through the Creative Commons License. Here’s a link to that and the artist’s website. Who is this artist and what is this song?  It’s “Night Owl” by Broke For Free.


WRITING AND OTHER NEWS

IN THE WOODS – READ AN EXCERPT, PREORDER NOW!

My next book, IN THE WOODS, appears in July with Steve Wedel. It’s scary and one of Publisher’s Weekly’s Buzz Books for Summer 2019. There’s an excerpt of it there and everything! But even cooler (for me) they’ve deemed it buzz worthy! Buzz worthy seems like an awesome thing to be deemed!

You can preorder this bad boy, which might make it have a sequel. The sequel would be amazing. Believe me, I know. It features caves and monsters and love. Because doesn’t every story?

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is b5314ed645a47991655395d180f52f5c.jpg

HEAR MY BOOK BABY (AND MORE) ON PATREON

On February first, I launched my Patreon site where I’m reading chapters (in order) of a never-published teen fantasy novel, releasing deleted scenes and art from some of my more popular books. And so much more. Come hang out with me! Get cool things!

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is The-Last-Gods-3.jpg

WHAT IS PATREON? 

A lot of you might be new to Patreon and not get how it works. That’s totally cool. New things can be scary, but there’s a cool primer HERE that explains how it works. The short of it is this: You give Patreon your paypal or credit card # and they charge you whatever you level you choose at the end of each month. That money supports me sharing my writing and art and podcasts and weirdness with you. 

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Superheroes-7-1.jpg


HELP US AND DO AN AWESOME GOOD DEED

Thanks to all of you who keep listening to our weirdness on the DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE podcast as we talk about random thoughts, writing advice and life tips. We’re sorry we laugh so much… sort of. Please share it and subscribe if you can. Please rate and like us if you are feeling kind, because it matters somehow. There’s a new episode every Tuesday!

Even Potatoes Can Be Creepy When They’re Randomly Showing Up Everywhere

 
 
00:00 / 00:21:13
 
1X
 

Roombas, Shaun Talks About Robbing Houses, and Random Mashed Potatoes in Jackson, Mississippi

The city of Jackson, Mississippi is having a weird situation.

To be fair, Jackson has had weird situations before. People left Christmas trees in potholes. They decorate road signs in ways road signs aren’t supposed to be decorated.

But now what’s happening in Jackson is about something sacred.

It’s about the mashed potato.

People are leaving bowls of mashed potatoes in all sorts of random places.

According to a Huffington Post piece, a resident is quoted as saying, “So we don’t know if someone is just playing a prank or if someone just had a lot of leftovers.”

Nobody knows what it’s about. That’s sort of creepy. Also, it’s a great base for a story. The best stories come from unexpected details and places. The best stories involve mysteries to be solved and motivation to solve them.

Writing Tip of the Cast

Don’t be afraid to take something beautiful like a potato and turn it into something creepy and evil. Keto certainly wasn’t afraid to do that.

Dog tip for Life

Always sniff things before you eat them.

SHOUT OUT! 

The music we’ve clipped and shortened in this podcast is awesome and is made available through the Creative Commons License. Here’s a link to that and the artist’s website. Who is this artist and what is this song?  It’s “Night Owl” by Broke For Free.


WRITING AND OTHER NEWS

IN THE WOODS – READ AN EXCERPT, PREORDER NOW!

My next book, IN THE WOODS, appears in July with Steve Wedel. It’s scary and one of Publisher’s Weekly’s Buzz Books for Summer 2019. There’s an excerpt of it there and everything! But even cooler (for me) they’ve deemed it buzz worthy! Buzz worthy seems like an awesome thing to be deemed!

You can preorder this bad boy, which might make it have a sequel. The sequel would be amazing. Believe me, I know. It features caves and monsters and love. Because doesn’t every story?

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is b5314ed645a47991655395d180f52f5c.jpg

HEAR MY BOOK BABY (AND MORE) ON PATREON

On February first, I launched my Patreon site where I’m reading chapters (in order) of a never-published teen fantasy novel, releasing deleted scenes and art from some of my more popular books. And so much more. Come hang out with me! Get cool things!

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is The-Last-Gods-3.jpg

WHAT IS PATREON? 

A lot of you might be new to Patreon and not get how it works. That’s totally cool. New things can be scary, but there’s a cool primer HERE that explains how it works. The short of it is this: You give Patreon your paypal or credit card # and they charge you whatever you level you choose at the end of each month. That money supports me sharing my writing and art and podcasts and weirdness with you. 

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Superheroes-7-1.jpg


HELP US AND DO AN AWESOME GOOD DEED

Thanks to all of you who keep listening to our weirdness on the DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE podcast as we talk about random thoughts, writing advice and life tips. We’re sorry we laugh so much… sort of. Please share it and subscribe if you can. Please rate and like us if you are feeling kind, because it matters somehow. There’s a new episode every Tuesday!

The Good That Happens Even In the Middle of Evil: The Boston Marathon

It’s been six years since the Boston Marathon. This is what I posted that day. It’s about what I saw and heard and felt.

So, I was at the Boston Marathon today to take pictures of my friend, Lori, running and then crossing the finish line. Before the marathon I had lunch with my daughter Em. She was nervous.

“I have a bad feeling,” she said. “You need to be careful.”

“You have no faith in me. I am a perfectly capable person.”

“I just am worried.”

“I will be fine,” I told her. I insisted it, actually.

But I did several things that I don’t normally do. I didn’t take the T. I chose to walk from Cambridge to mile 25.5 or so of the race route. I figured out the T route and everything, but I just didn’t want to go on it. Walking was healthier, I figured. I was going to watch a marathon.

So, I walked and set up for taking pictures. I didn’t expect to see Lori for an hour, so I hung out with some people from New Jersey, talked to some cops. I took some pictures and kept wondering if I should walk the rest of the route to get ready for when Lori crossed the finish line. Logically, I knew I should, but my gut kept me back. I moved up a bit, but not as much as I should have. One of my friends called, and as we talked the first explosion went off.

About 15 seconds after the explosion, .25 mile away or so.

“What was that?” he said.

“That was bad,” I answered. “It was an explosion. It was absolutely an explosion.”

The Second Detonation

Then the second explosion happened. And I hung up. And I looked at the cops. And the cops both lifted up their portable radios to their ears. That was not a good sign. Then they began to run towards the finish line along a parallel road. That was a worse sign, especially since one of the cops looked like he never ran. Ever.  

I followed them. It smelled of smoke. It smelled of fear and confusion. Cops and medics and volunteers swarmed the area. Blood pooled on clothing and the ground. Debris was everywhere. People were crying and hysterical.

The police turned me around. So, I turned around. I regret that now. I don’t know how I could have helped. I am not a trained emergency medical technician. I regret that, too. There were cops and medics everywhere. Their shiny, reflective yellow vests were like pieces of good and brave in a smoky land of pain. I wanted to tell each of them how heroic they were. There was no time for that. They were busy saving people.

The timing of these runners put them right about the finish line when the explosions happened.

Runners

So, I went back to where I had been taking pictures. Runners were wandering around still, confused, cold. They had a combination of runner’s fatigue and shock. Shivering and stunned, they were desperately trying to contact family members. Some walked in circles because they didn’t know how not to keep moving, but they also didn’t know where to go. They had spent 25 miles moving forward, towards this one destination called the finish line and now they were stuck, aimless. Their ultimate goal was suddenly gone, devastated by two bombs. Those of us who were there to watch, gave them our cell phones so they could call family members who were waiting for them. They were waiting for them right by the bombs. We gave the runners money so they could get on the T when it worked again. We gave them our coats.

“How will I give it back to you?” one runner asked as she shrugged on a dark green fleece.

“You don’t need to. You never need to,” a man next to me told her.

“I have to,” she murmured. “I have to.”

I gave away my coat. I passed around my phone. The service was in and out.

One woman said, “Please tell me it wasn’t the subway. My kids are on the subway.”

“It wasn’t the subway,” I tell her. “It was the finish line.”

She cocked her head. “What? No? How?”

How?

That was the question: How? We knew by then that it was probably a bomb, and the hows of making a bomb are easy, but the ‘how could you” is a harder question. How could someone kill runners and spectators? How could humans ever think it’s okay to hurt each other? How could anyone commit violence in big acts with bombs or small acts with fists.

How could we? How could humanity?

“How?” she kept saying. “How?”

And then the police moved the runners out, detouring them down another street. And then they told us, the watchers, to go. So, we left, a massive exodus towards the bridge and Massachusetts Avenue. People were still sobbing. A man on a corner was reading from Boston.com on his iPhone trying to find out exactly what happened. People stood around him, strangers listening to him say the words, “explosions… injuries…”

Three girls were crying, young and scared and broken inside.

“They are so hurt. They hurt them. They are so hurt,” one girl kept repeating. We kept walking.

Connections

As I walked across the bridge, a woman on the phone sobbed to her friend, “It was so big. The explosion was so big. I dropped everything in my hands. I dropped my lens cap. I dropped my purse. I dropped it all. I called my sister. I called my friend. I called everyone. I just need to talk to someone. I feel so alone. It was awful. People were missing their legs. It was awful.”

And then she saw me, this talking woman, and I nodded at her and I grabbed her hand and squeezed it. She squeezed back. We kept walking.

A leather-jacket guy next to me was telling another guy in plaid that he had no way home. I gave him my cell. We kept walking.

I made sure that Lori’s husband and daughter were okay even though they’d been waiting right across the street from where the bomb exploded. They were. I knew Lori was okay already because I’d been tracking her route. I’d never been so happy that she was running hurt and that was making her slower than normal.

The Sobbing Man

As I was feeling thankful, a man in front of me went down on his knees on the sidewalk. It looked like he was praying, but he was really sobbing. We all stopped walking. People pat his back. People murmured things. He stood up and we kept walking again. We walked and walked and gradually the crowd thinned, and gradually the sobs lessoned. But the sirens? The sirens grew louder and more continuous. They were forever sirens. They did not stop.

And so many people will not be able to walk ever again. And at least three people are dead. And so many people have had their hearts and bodies broken at this marathon that should be a celebration of human endurance and spirit and will.

And so many people helped others, making tourniquets out of yarn, carrying the injured, soothing the shocked, giving away their clothes to keep runners warm. And so many people have hearts of goodness. We can’t forget that. Not ever. Not today. Not in Boston. Not ever. Because that is exactly what the Boston Marathon is about: It’s about not giving up, not giving in to pain. It’s about that celebration of surviving and enduring against all odds, against everything. It’s about humanity. No bomber can take that away. Not ever.

After the Marathon

That same night, I was sitting in a restaurant in Cambridge with my daughter and we learned that my dad (a volunteer firefighter) had tumors surrounding his lungs. He died 13 days later.

That week, I was besieged by internet trolls who insisted that my daughter’s gut feeling meant that she was part of a giant conspiracy or that I was part of the same giant conspiracy about an event that ‘totally didn’t happen.’

It happened.

I’ll post this thread, this memory, to make sure that I never forget that it happened.

Sometimes, we spend too much time forgetting, not letting the good and the horrific inspire and motivate us to make change in ourselves, our community, our world.

Violence kills people every day. In big ways that make the news. In quieter ways that we rarely hear about.

And good happens, too. In big ways that make the news. In quieter ways that we rarely hear about.

Three Years Later

I became a volunteer firefighter for our town. I was terrible at it and it’s not my way to help save the world. But I helped our town a little bit for a little while. I did it because I was tired of not being able to help, to respond. I did it because I wanted to pay tribute somehow to the people who were hurt at the marathon and my dad, my little hobbit dad, who spent his whole life trying in big and little ways to try to make this world a better place.

Writing News

IN THE WOODS – READ AN EXCERPT, PREORDER NOW!

My next book, IN THE WOODS, appears in July with Steve Wedel. It’s scary and one of Publisher’s Weekly’s Buzz Books for Summer 2019. There’s an excerpt of it there and everything! But even cooler (for me) they’ve deemed it buzz worthy! Buzz worthy seems like an awesome thing to be deemed! 

You can preorder this bad boy, which might make it have a sequel. The sequel would be amazing. Believe me, I know. It features caves and monsters and love. Because doesn’t every story?

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is b5314ed645a47991655395d180f52f5c.jpg

READ MY BOOK BABY (AND MORE) ON PATREON

On February first, I launched my Patreon site where I’m reading chapters (in order) of a never-published teen fantasy novel, releasing deleted scenes and art from some of my more popular books. And so much more. Come hang out with me! Get cool things! 

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is The-Last-Gods-3.jpg

WHAT IS PATREON? 

A lot of you might be new to Patreon and not get how it works. That’s totally cool. New things can be scary, but there’s a cool primer HERE that explains how it works. The short of it is this: You give Patreon your paypal or credit card # and they charge you whatever you level you choose at the end of each month. That money supports me sharing my writing and art and podcasts and weirdness with you. 

Art

You can buy some of my art. I paint to help inform my stories and some of the prints are available now. There will be more soon. You can check it out here.

Finding Hope Despite Everything

The clunky sound of metal hitting metal makes all the customers at The Wilderness turn to look out the restaurant’s big front glass windows and onto the Main Street of Colebrook, New Hampshire.

The waitress sprints out the front door, runs to one of the vehicle, which had been backing out of a parking space and into the path of a big, black truck that resembles almost all the big, black trucks people drive here in the northern tip of New Hampshire’s Great White Woods.

A driver’s getting out of the car. The waitress sprints back inside, clutching a young boy – less than a year old – to her chest. Her entire body’s shaking as she holds him, kissing his forehead, once, twice, too many times to count as his tiny bare feet dangle in the air, bumping against her waist.

“He was in the car. He was in the car.” Her words rush out so quickly as she walks in circles around the restaurant that’s really a diner. “He’s okay.”

“Is he okay?” An older man asks even though she just said it.

“He’s okay.” She says it like a mantra, repeating it over and over to make it true. “He’s okay.”

“It’ll all be okay,” the older woman with the older man says, warming the baby boy’s foot in her hands.

“Some day.” The server kisses her baby boy’s head one more time. “You got to have hope, right?”

“Soon,” the lady tells her. “Some day soon.”

It takes the server a half hour to stop shaking. She apologizes as she carries her baby around, taking orders, refilling water, bringing out food with her free hand. Even in that moment of extreme duress, this mom doesn’t stop. She won’t ever stop.

The Great North Woods

The Great North Woods of New Hampshire demands that you don’t stop. It’s a landscape carved in and out of mountains that requires grit to survive. It’s not a land of perfect white churches and 1950s-style New England movies featuring sleigh rides. It’s beautiful, yes, but the beauty is more rugged. The beauty is in the survival.

Presidential hopefuls come to the state, hoping to get a boost. But the state itself is pretty divided between the southern wealthier parts where I grew up and areas like here where houses put up their own make-shift billboards begging for change, struggling for hope.

As a kid in southern New Hampshire, I grew up poor in a town with rapidly increasing wealth. I had teachers tell me that there was no hope for me because my voice was ‘ridiculous.’ I had other teachers tell me that I could do anything.

I was never sure who to believe.

When credit card companies called my mom, I had to pretend she wasn’t home. When we sold our house, I had to pretend it was because we wanted to. When my nana stood in line for us and brought us government cheese, I had to pretend it was real cheese, special cheese from France, when a friend opened our fridge and saw it there.

I was ashamed of being poor, of my voice, of our circumstance.

I was stupid.

There’s nothing shameful about being poor. There’s nothing shameful about circumstances that you can’t control.

Drugs and Shame

While I’m up there, 17 North County residents are arrested in a drug trafficking sweep. Some are arrested outside the Wilderness. Most of the drugs arrests involve Suboxone and meth. At a classroom where I’m teaching for the week, we’re not allowed to talk about the bust because one of the kids is connected. Maybe more than one.

These kids? I’ve talked to thousands of kids, but these kids? They are my favorites.

There is nothing shameful in the mistakes your family members make. They aren’t your mistakes. They are theirs.

I want to somehow explain all that to them. I don’t know how.

Pittsburg is a tiny town without a grocery store and it’s about a half hour from Colebrook. The town has a library, but it’s inside the school and only open on Saturdays to the residents.

“We can’t take out enough books,” one student complains. “It’s so hard.”

Hard Possibilities

Lots of life is hard up here, where an entire eighth and seventh grade class combined is only eight students, where you’re in class with your cousin and everyone knows, as one student tells me, “everything about your life since you were born 25 weeks early.”

That hardness doesn’t mean you should pity them though. These kids are some of the liveliest individuals I’ve ever met, free and comfortable in asserting who they are, grit and all, and still striving for futures and hopes that are still possible.

They are still possible.

They write stories, act out scenes, share their own stories without the slightest bit of hesitation. Whether it’s the UFO sighting above Beaver Falls or the grandmother who had the best restaurant in the area, unless you didn’t finish your meal and then she’d sit on you, it’s all about connections and community and laughter.

Different Worlds

The northern parts of New Hampshire aren’t similar to southern New Hampshire. It’s not just about the geography. It’s also about the economy. The unemployment rate is higher, but the people are underemployed, working below their educations and skill sets. Stores are shuttered. There are no Starbucks or an easy to find McDonalds.

There are good things happening too. Robotech is about to hire 25 people at its new facility. There’s a proposal to make a community college in a place where there was once a mill. Snowmobilers come and so do summer tourists on ATVs.

But as one student tells me, “Sometimes it gets so lonely. It’s like the world forgets us.”

Another one nods, “I just can’t wait to get out.”

“Where will you go?” I ask.

“Anywhere. Anywhere.” She sits back in her chair, arms crossed, eyes toward the ceiling. Her face loses its hope.

“Maybe you could take that UFO over Beaver Falls,” another kid tells her.

They dissolve into teasing, giggles, and more stories. Kids again. Just kids. Momentarily not worrying about drug trafficking busts, the economy, getting away, but just laughing. The way it’s supposed to be. A way free of other people’s verdicts and edicts, no shame, no fear, just existing, just being who they are meant to be right now – kids.

READ MY BOOK BABY (AND MORE) ON PATREON

On February first, I launched my Patreon site where I’m reading chapters (in order) of a never-published teen fantasy novel, releasing deleted scenes and art from some of my more popular books. And so much more. Come hang out with me! Get cool things! 

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is The-Last-Gods-3.jpg

WHAT IS PATREON? 

A lot of you might be new to Patreon and not get how it works. That’s totally cool. New things can be scary, but there’s a cool primer HERE that explains how it works. The short of it is this: You give Patreon your paypal or credit card # and they charge you whatever you level you choose at the end of each month. That money supports me sharing my writing and art and podcasts and weirdness with you. 

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Superheroes-7-1.jpg

IN THE WOODS – READ AN EXCERPT, PREORDER NOW!

My next book, IN THE WOODS, appears in July with Steve Wedel. It’s scary and one of Publisher’s Weekly’s Buzz Books for Summer 2019. There’s an excerpt of it there and everything! But even cooler (for me) they’ve deemed it buzz worthy! Buzz worthy seems like an awesome thing to be deemed! 

You can preorder this bad boy, which might make it have a sequel. The sequel would be amazing. Believe me, I know. It features caves and monsters and love. Because doesn’t every story?

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is b5314ed645a47991655395d180f52f5c.jpg

Lambs Growing On Trees, Man. Write Your Truths Because Other Truths Change

Science isn’t always right.

I know! Shocker.

Once, some scientists had this theory about the Vegetable Lamb of Tartary. They truly believed that the lamb grew on a tree.

To be fair, it was the Middle Ages in Europe and things were kind of like America right now. People had no clue about stuff, but they pretended to.

Anyway, according to Ripley’s Believe it Or Not,

There were believed to be two distinct varieties of Vegetable Lamb: a bizarre plant that produced tiny lambs inside pods, and an equally-bizarre hybrid creature that consisted of a whole, full-sized lamb, which lived suspended from the ground by a small stem! 

Chris Littlechild, Ripley’s Believe it Or Not

People believed this for centuries, right? Centuries.

What does this have to do with writing? When we write, we bring our pasts, our systems of belief and it ends up on our pages. Our work reflects our society and it reflects our own morality and beliefs. To be a good writer, we have to know what our truths are but also be willing to be challenged about them.

Writing is a communication, a social contract between the writer and the reader. We’re asking our readers to share our story, but also more subconsciously, to hear about our world views and thoughts. We’re inviting them in.

Writing Tip of the Pod

It’s good for us to look at our own beliefs and morality occasionally. What do we believe in? Why do we think that’s right or true? How is that showing up in our stories?

Dog Tip For Life

Dogs truths are simple. Love is good. Food is good. Sleep is good. Squirrels are evil. Don’t be afraid to gel your beliefs down into simplicity.

HEAR MY BOOK BABY (AND MORE) ON PATREON

On February first, I launched my Patreon site where I’m reading chapters (in order) of a never-published teen fantasy novel, releasing deleted scenes and art from some of my more popular books. And so much more. Come hang out with me! Get cool things! 

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is The-Last-Gods-3.jpg

WHAT IS PATREON? 

A lot of you might be new to Patreon and not get how it works. That’s totally cool. New things can be scary, but there’s a cool primer HERE that explains how it works. The short of it is this: You give Patreon your paypal or credit card # and they charge you whatever you level you choose at the end of each month. That money supports me sharing my writing and art and podcasts and weirdness with you. 

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Superheroes-7-1.jpg

IN THE WOODS – READ AN EXCERPT, PREORDER NOW!

My next book, IN THE WOODS, appears in July with Steve Wedel. It’s scary and one of Publisher’s Weekly’s Buzz Books for Summer 2019. There’s an excerpt of it there and everything! But even cooler (for me) they’ve deemed it buzz worthy! Buzz worthy seems like an awesome thing to be deemed! 

You can preorder this bad boy, which might make it have a sequel. The sequel would be amazing. Believe me, I know. It features caves and monsters and love. Because doesn’t every story?

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is b5314ed645a47991655395d180f52f5c.jpg

Lambs Growing On Trees, Man. Write Your Truths Because Other Truths Change

 
 
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1X
 

TIPS ON MAKING DEVILED EGGS – Cooking With a Writer

Okay. I’m still talking about deviled eggs because? Well, you’ll see.

Tips on Making Deviled Eggs

1. Here’s a hint: They are called devilled eggs for a reason.


2. And, no, it is not because of the little hint of jalepeno that gives them a kick.


3. It’s because you have to HARD BOIL the little suckers first, and there are all these rules about boiling them. 


Yes, rules about boiling an egg. 


4. Boiling an egg should be simple.


5. It isn’t. 


6. It really isn’t simple if you get distracted by the fact that the 90-second rice pouch you put in the microwave just exploded.


7. But this is about eggs, not exploding rice pouches.


8. So, if you manage to boil the egg, then plunge the poor thing in cold, cold water, you must then PEEL THE EGG!


9. Eggs are not meant to be peeled. This is why they are eggs. Not bananas.

10. If you have happy, young fresh eggs they are harder to peel. The old buggers are better. 


11. Be prepared to sacrifice many, many eggs in your egg peeling quest for the perfect egg to devil.


11. Once, eggs are peeled, halved, and stuffed do not be offended when people in house say, “Holy crud. It’s like the egg has acne pits or something.”


12. Do not be offended when people in the house say, “Um? Are you sure this is a devilled egg? Should it be all wobbly like this? And gooey? It’s kind of gooey.”


13. Do not be offended when people in the house say, “Next time, can we just buy the premade kind in the grocery store.”


14. And do not have hurt feelings when they do not celebrate with you because you keep saying, “But look at the yolk. It isn’t green. That’s a big achievement, not to have green yolks.”


15. Do not throw eggs at them.


16. Or men in banana suits.


17 Just accept that you are not a gifted devilled egg maker. We can not be gifted in all things eggy. You are a good scrambler. Be happy with this.

WRITING AND OTHER NEWS

IN THE WOODS – READ AN EXCERPT, PREORDER NOW!

My next book, IN THE WOODS, appears in July with Steve Wedel. It’s scary and one of Publisher’s Weekly’s Buzz Books for Summer 2019. There’s an excerpt of it there and everything! But even cooler (for me) they’ve deemed it buzz worthy! Buzz worthy seems like an awesome thing to be deemed! 

You can preorder this bad boy, which might make it have a sequel. The sequel would be amazing. Believe me, I know. It features caves and monsters and love. Because doesn’t every story?

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is b5314ed645a47991655395d180f52f5c.jpg

HEAR MY BOOK BABY (AND MORE) ON PATREON

On February first, I launched my Patreon site where I’m reading chapters (in order) of a never-published teen fantasy novel, releasing deleted scenes and art from some of my more popular books. And so much more. Come hang out with me! Get cool things! 

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is The-Last-Gods-3.jpg

WHAT IS PATREON? 

A lot of you might be new to Patreon and not get how it works. That’s totally cool. New things can be scary, but there’s a cool primer HERE that explains how it works. The short of it is this: You give Patreon your paypal or credit card # and they charge you whatever you level you choose at the end of each month. That money supports me sharing my writing and art and podcasts and weirdness with you. 

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Superheroes-7-1.jpg

Why Blogging is Good for Writers (okay, for me) and, no, it has nothing to do with marketing

Why Blogging is Good for Writers (okay, for me):

1. Complaining is Easier On the Blog

When you complain about how scared you are that your book will be toilet worthy, you can’t see other people roll their eyes at you. They also don’t get too angry at you or call you a stupid head when you don’t go to the ER after gashing your arm. Cough. Not like I did that.

Cough.

2. People Get It and Don’t Always Judge

People understand sometimes because they are also scared that your book will be toilet worthy, and they know how hard it is to plunge out a book from the toilet. And they might even understand because they too have refused to go to the ER. Or can relate because they are scared that their own book is toilet worthy

3. You Learn

You can learn a lot about people’s personalities from how they write. You know it’s true. Why do I feel like certain authors are the kindest, nicest humans ever?

Because of how they blog.

Why do I feel like some authors are narcissistic liars who only care about themselves? And are really creepy?

Because of how they blog.

4. You Become a Better Writer

Seeing how people blog helps me to better understand people and hopefully better understand my characters. And all writers need to do that.

The more we learn, the more we learn about our own craft AND the more we learn about other people. Seeing how people react to our blogs, helps us understand how readers will react to our stories.

Because writing is about communication. We send our words out into the world and when people read them? Not only is that the best, but that’s communication and sharing.

It’s amazing.

WRITING AND OTHER NEWS

IN THE WOODS – READ AN EXCERPT, PREORDER NOW!

My next book, IN THE WOODS, appears in July with Steve Wedel. It’s scary and one of Publisher’s Weekly’s Buzz Books for Summer 2019. There’s an excerpt of it there and everything! But even cooler (for me) they’ve deemed it buzz worthy! Buzz worthy seems like an awesome thing to be deemed! 

You can preorder this bad boy, which might make it have a sequel. The sequel would be amazing. Believe me, I know. It features caves and monsters and love. Because doesn’t every story?

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is b5314ed645a47991655395d180f52f5c.jpg

HEAR MY BOOK BABY (AND MORE) ON PATREON

On February first, I launched my Patreon site where I’m reading chapters (in order) of a never-published teen fantasy novel, releasing deleted scenes and art from some of my more popular books. And so much more. Come hang out with me! Get cool things! 

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is The-Last-Gods-3.jpg

WHAT IS PATREON? 

A lot of you might be new to Patreon and not get how it works. That’s totally cool. New things can be scary, but there’s a cool primer HERE that explains how it works. The short of it is this: You give Patreon your paypal or credit card # and they charge you whatever you level you choose at the end of each month. That money supports me sharing my writing and art and podcasts and weirdness with you. 

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Superheroes-7-1.jpg