The Places We Hide – an Excerpt

Hey, everyone! I realized that I never do book excerpts on here. I know! I know, right? What kind of author am I? Apparently, I am an author who fails to market.

But here’s an excerpt. I hope you’ll read it, like it, and buy it! That’s me marketing. 🙂

The Places We Hide

Chapter One

Hiding women are so similar; most of us are pretending that we aren’t hiding at all and we all seem to do it – the hiding – right out in the open. 

The sky looms over the tops of the little colonials and Victorian houses that line lower Ledgelawn Avenue. The air breathes across the neighborhood like some sort of cold soldier, waiting for things to happen. 

I haul in a bag of pellets off the front porch and into our living room and call for Lilly to hurry up before I open the heavy drapes by the loveseat window. I’m trying to make the room a tiny bit brighter, which is a losing battle, especially given the deep, gray color of the coastal Maine sky. 

            Winter will be fine this year. 

            I tell myself these sort of lies all the time. I tell myself that it is totally healthy to binge on Doritos after a meeting or that other mothers also hate quinoa. I tell myself that our lives are safe and good now. Safe and good. I tell myself that we won’t be found.

            If I was a drinking kind of person, I would be tempted to pour myself some wine, but instead, I just settle into the couch and wait for Lilly to come downstairs. There’s a copy of Louise Erdrich’s Love Medicine on the round, farmhouse-industrial coffee table in front of me. It was on sale. Everything I buy is on sale. 

            It’s been over a year though; we’re safe. 

            When I pick up the book, the first page mentions rape. I put the book down and stare at it. Then I turn it over so I don’t have to see the blue cover and the woman’s face up in the sky or the words ‘triumphant national bestseller,’ even though I know those words probably mean that it has a happy ending. Right? 

            Books tend to be liars. 

            No. No, that doesn’t have to be true. For months, I’ve been trying to convince myself that I don’t need to worry about things anymore. Lilly and I have made a life for ourselves. The threat of snowflakes doesn’t change that, doesn’t take away the safety and life that I’ve built. Still, the memories of another winter, a specific winter day, come blizzarding back to me. The screams that I didn’t realize were my own. Lilly in my arms, gasping for breath. Escaping out the window onto the porch roof. Convincing Lilly to jump into a neighbor’s arms. The house on fire behind us. 

            I pick up the book again. Winter will be over eventually. It’s only just starting. Obviously, I need to get used to it – to the short days and cold, the way the memories keep flooding back no matter how hard I try to push them down. 

            “Mommy! I’m ready!” 

            The happy noise of Lilly’s feet tap lightly down the dark-stained tops of the wooden stairs that we just re-stained last week. We painted the baseboards white, hiding the scuff marks of past owners. Moving on, starting over, everyone does it, just not quite so dramatically as we did.

            “Hey there, cutie face,” I say as she rockets over to the couch wearing a glittery rainbow ballerina tutu over her unicorn leggings. She has her favorite pink wool giraffe sweater on and layered over that are the gold fairy wings that I bought her for her Halloween costume. She was a ballerina-fairy-kitty, a Lilly original. Today though, she’s topped her ensemble with a cowboy hat. “You look stylish.”

            She beams. “Do I have to wear a coat?”

            “Yes.”

            “But my fairy wings.” She points at them sticking out behind her. 

            “Need to come off in the car anyways.” I’m bringing her to a play date even though I still worry about not being with her 100 percent of the time. I push the unhealthy anxiety into my shoulder muscles.

            Batting her eyelids, she leans forward. “Mommy. . .”

            “They’ll be crushed. No self-respecting cowboy-ballerina-fairy wants crushed wings, right?”

            “True that,” she says with the fierceness of a fashionista and slings off the wings. She pulls a piece of toast out from the folds of her costume. “My bread is boring.” 

            “Did you put butter on it?” I ask. 

            “No. That would stain my costume.”

            “Not if you don’t put your snack in your costume, silly,” I say, standing up and tweaking her nose. 

Taking her bread, I head to the kitchen and apply some butter pretty liberally. I know that the good mom handbook is against fat in children’s diets and also against excess sugar, but I’m sure that I’ve been not following the handbook for a while now. Relocating your daughter, giving yourself a new name and identity, probably doesn’t fit in with the perceptions of good mom either. 

            “Baby, come in here and eat your bread at the counter,” I call. 

She skips into the kitchen and comes up to the little island/counter that separates the kitchen from our small dining area, which barely fits the table and bookcase that I’d put in it. The table came from Goodwill and had a million marks and scuffs on the wood, but I’d bought some ModPodge, fancy paper, and sponge applicators and made it prettier. It was good enough for us for now. And that is all that matters. Us. 

            Sighing, I head to the addition where the door to the basement, bathroom, and laundry are. I check the door to the little back deck and stare out at the fenced-in yard overlooking a short border of trees and then the town’s ballfield. Everything is secure. I let myself exhale for a second and lean against the big window, putting my forehead against the cold windowpane. I try so hard not to live in fear, to not be paranoid, and I usually think I’m successful, but then it’s habits like these that make me realize that I’m just fooling myself and that underneath the surface of everything is a constant fear made real by routines like this – double checking doors, first-floor windows, always knowing two escape routes from every room that we’re in. 

            Lilly comes in and grabs my hand. “You ready, Mommy?”

            I am. I have to go take photos for the paper and she’s heading to her favorite friend’s house. The beautiful thing about Bar Harbor, Maine compared to Colorado is how quickly the families accepted us and took care of us. Everyone is constantly having playdates and book clubs and gatherings. Allegedly, it’s because in the summer everyone is so overwhelmed by the tourists and then in the winter everyone is so overwhelmed by the nothingness and white grays of winter that they have to gather together in warm places to remind themselves that there is light in the grayness and cold that is the winter world. 

            When we head back to the kitchen, it’s obvious that Lilly has devoured almost all of her bread and has half demolished an apple. 

“You thirsty?” I ask, opening the refrigerator.

            “No.”

            “Want some milk?” I wave the jug in front of her face. It’s one of our running gags because she hates it so much and I always pretend to forget that she hates it so much. 

            She makes a barfing noise while I mock surprise and gulp some milk out of the jug myself. 

            “That’s rude, Mommy.” She crosses her arms over her chest.

            “I am a terrible, terrible human being and should go to prison right this second for such a serious offense.”

            She just sticks her tongue out at me. I put the lid back on the milk and pull out an apple, which I toss to her. She catches it in one hand. 

            “Just in case you get hungry later.” I put the milk back in the refrigerator, inhale through my nose, which is supposed to help with anxiety and fear of it away. I’ve got to tell you though; it’s hard to fear anxiety when it lives inside you like a constant friend. You get used to it hanging around.

            “They always feed me at Michelle’s,” Lilly says, studying the apple. 

            I hug her. “It’s just me trying to take care of you.”

            “You’re such a mommy.” She hugs me back. 

We put on winter jackets, hats, mittens and I resist the urge to recheck the back door and we go. I grab my camera bag and lock the front door behind us. Lilly skips down the sidewalk chanting, “Snow day. Snow day. Snow day.”

            She scurries into our MINI Cooper the moment I hit the fob that unlocks the car. The afternoon air is brisk. We’ve survived many Colorado mountain winters so I doubt a winter on Maine’s coast is going to be a big deal. The ocean makes the island we live on warmer. The snow doesn’t get too deep – not compared to where we were before. 

            Walter Hildebrand, one of those cops that are more a stereotype than they should be thanks to his massive girth and love of donuts, honks the horn at us. It’s a cheerful honk and not what you expect from a patrol car. 

“Ho! Ho! Ho!” he yells out his window, which he’s already rolling up again before we can respond.

            It’s getting closer to Christmas. I’m secretly excited about our first Christmas alone, but also worried because the gifts aren’t going to be nearly as fancy or expensive as the gifts Lilly is used to. She wants a certain doll that costs so much money that I’ve complained about it to everyone I meet. The other big thing she wants is a Lego set that is legitimately the same amount as one week of my small reporter’s salary. And a dog. I grew up poor, lower middle class, but until now Lilly has grown up rich – scared, but rich. Things are drastically different.

            “Buckle up, baby,” I say as she straps herself in. 

            “You don’t have to remind me, Mommy.” She cocks her head in a sort of arrogant way. “I’m a big girl.” 

            “I know.”

            “And I’m very responsible.”

            “I know.”

            I scruff her hair. She smiles at me. And looking over my shoulder, I back out of the driveway onto Ledgelawn. There’s a massive tree in between my house and the neighbor’s house and it makes me nervous whenever I leave. Down the street, Sarah Lowell is walking her big old pittie, heading in the opposite direction from us. Directly across the street, Karol Baker, lifts up his hand in a wave. I toot the horn in reply and Lilly waves enthusiastically at Karol. She loves him because he has a yellow lab that he always lets her pet. 

            “I like this town,” she announces as we drive to her play date. 

Continue reading “The Places We Hide – an Excerpt”
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Rebel Reading the Hobbit & Talking Head Syndrome

Rebel Reading the Hobbit & Talking Head Syndrome

 
 
00:00 / 00:23:47
 
1X
 

A lot of time I’ll be reading scenes in books and it will be two characters talking and I’ll only have a vaguely general idea about where they are. Maybe I won’t have an idea at all. We call this evil beast the talking heads syndrome. 

Cue scary music here. 

WHAT IS TALKING HEADS SYNDROME?

No, it’s not about the iconic 1980s group. Sorry!

It’s where there’s a lot of dialogue going on but there’s no actual anchor for the characters. It’s like they are floating in space blabbing at each other. There’s no physical world placement. 

This happens a lot and it’s because some of us are writers who really hear our scenes rather than see our scenes or live in our scenes. It’s also because we sometimes forget to get those anchors in there. 

How to Imagine Yourself in a Scene

To do this exercise you have to step away from the keyboard for a second and stand up. We know! We know! Writers are all about sitting down and putting their butts in the chair and getting the work done, right? Well, give yourself five minutes and stand up in a quiet place preferably not in Starbucks or anything. 

Now close your eyes and think about your scene where there are talking heads.

SMELL

There you are with your characters. Maybe you can even imagine yourself as one of the characters. Possess them like they’re Zac Bagans and you’re filming Ghost Adventures. Inhale. What kind of smells are you smelling? Remember that. 

SOUND

You’re still there with the characters standing in the setting. What do you hear? Remember that. 

TOUCH

Your characters don’t stay completely still for the whole scene, do they? Have them move even if it’s to fidget. Let them touch things. What do those things feel like? Are they hot? Textured? Hands aren’t the only things that touch. Does their hair sweep over something? Does their foot kick against a table? Do their shoulders lean against the rough wood of the wall? 

TASTE

What does it feel like inside their mouth? Dry? Coppery? Do they need to brush their teeth? Please make them floss. Everyone should floss. 

SIGHT

This is the fallback for most writers and it can have some issues. We want to be able to visualize the setting and where things are happening, but we don’t need the buffer of the character seeing what’s happening. 

There are a lot of stories where it says, 

“Shaun looked over and saw the cat dangling from the curtain.”  

Don’t pad the details with distancing words. Don’t tell us that Shaun’s looking. Just have us see. 

Instead write, 

“The cat dangled from the curtain.”  

It’s so much more powerful. 

MOVEMENT

Have the characters move. Give them actions and objective correlatives to their emotional states. 

What are the next steps to Banishing the talking heads?

No, it’s not casting David Byrne to an isolated bunker in Nebraska. It’s also not putting him on SNL. It has nothing to do with him! I promise.

The next step is incorporating what you imagined for tasting, smelling, hearing, seeing, movement into the actual scene. You have to have your characters’ perceptions of the outside world and setting incorporated into that dialogue and action. Don’t be afraid to dig deeper. 

WRITING TIP OF THE POD

Don’t be full of talking heads. Write scenes that come alive. 

DOG TIP FOR LIFE

Be in the moment, man, and actually notice things. 

Note: In the random thoughts in bed section of our podcast we talk about Liberal cheers, famous for being losers, getting thick thanks to the Coronavirus and Shaun binging Swedish Fish, and golf balls. How’s that for random? 

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.

Last week’s episode’s link.


WHERE TO FIND US

The podcast link if you don’t see it above. Plus, it’s everywhere like Apple Music, iTunesStitcherSpotify, and more. Just google, “DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE” then like and subscribe.

This week’s episode link. 

NEWS

Over 180,000 people have downloaded episodes of our podcast, DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE, you should join them.

Continue reading “Rebel Reading the Hobbit & Talking Head Syndrome”

How to Make a Good Book Better – Revision Tips of Awesome – Part Three

So, these past three Mondays, I’ve been giving revision tips to help with people’s stories. And this is the last in the series! I know! I know! The horror!

Get ready writers and put your revision hats on. As I write this, we’re in lockdown because of CoVid-19 aka the coronavirus, and I know you all just want to draft and eat, but get dressed and do the hard stuff, too. Revising makes your book so much stronger.

11.  GIVE YOUR CHARACTERS A REASON

Do not have your hamster kill your cat without a motivation. The cat’s tormenting? That’s a reason. The cat’s snoring? That’s a motivation. 

Every character has to have a want and a motivation, a reason for doing what they do.

In other words: Your characters need to make sense.

12. THINK ABOUT TIME FRAME

Should your story be an hour in the protagonist’s life? A day? A year? Does it really need to end with the prom? Plath says to think of the story as “an image stamped in Silly Putty, until it became distorted and possibly more interesting?” 

Pull out that image. Think about how long your story is in the character’s life.

13. ADD SOME TEXTURE

Think about figurative language. Think about symbols and allusions and metaphors. Use the tools of literature and the sounds of poetry to make your story resonate.

But, um, don’t put a simile in every paragraph.

14. MAYBE YOU SHOULD GO UNRELIABLE

Narrators who are reliable are sometimes narrators who are boring. What would happen if yours went to the dark side? 

15. BE TRIVIAL. BE DEEP

We want to hear what matters to the character and what trivial parts of his/her existence make him/her real. If she’s a bus driver. Let us know how that impacts her thinking. Let us see her job.

PART ONE OF THESE TIPS IS HERE!

PART TWO OF THESE TIPS IS HERE!


These revision tips this week are all originally from James Plath’s article “Twenty-one Tweaks to a Better Tale,” which was published in THE COMPLETE BOOK OF NOVEL WRITING, Writer’s Digest Books, Cincinatti, Ohio, Edited by Meg Leder, Jack Heffron, and the Editors of Writer’s Digest.


WRITING AND PODCAST NEWS

Over 170,000 people have downloaded episodes of our podcast, DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE, you should join them. There will be a new episode tomorrow! 

Last week’s episode’s link.

This week’s episode’s link.


Continue reading “How to Make a Good Book Better – Revision Tips of Awesome – Part Three”

How to Make Your Good Book Better – Revision Tips of Awesome – Part Two

I am still chugging along trying to get my draft done so that I can get to the fun stuff:

No, not drowning my sorrows in Sanka.

No, not learning the fine art of belly dancing.

I’m talking about revisions. Yes! I think that’s the fun stuff! I know! I know! Wild!

Check your scenes

Sometimes we have scenes that don’t fit.  And those scenes have to go.

Yes, you may want to have an especially poignant scene in your sci-fi thriller where Douglas, the hamster, gets out of his cage and is trapped in the minivan beneath the cushions. But does it really fit in a futuristic fable? 

“A scene should reveal something about the character, advance the plot in a significant way, provide insight into the ‘theme,’ or, as Eurdora Welty suggested, do all three,”   James Plath says. 

Too little? Your story feels like a writing exercise.


Too many? Your story is lost in a lot of moments and more moments and all the oomph of your story is gone. 

Think About How the Story is Framed.

This is the set-up. Think about THE COLOR PURPLE or Jay Asher’s 13 REASONS WHY. Brilliantly done. 

Don’t Forget That We Have More Than Eyes


Readers can smell and feel and taste, too. Make them do that in your story. Make your story a world that isn’t just visual. 

Think about Place


We’ve had a lot of posts about place here at the Tollbooth. 

Plath says, “Many stories exist in a vacuum, where lines are spoken without any description of an interior or exterior settling. That’s like going to the theater and having the house lights never come on …..”

These revision tips this week are all originally from James Plath’s article “Twenty-one Tweaks to a Better Tale,” which was published in THE COMPLETE BOOK OF NOVEL WRITING, Writer’s Digest Books, Cincinatti, Ohio, Edited by Meg Leder, Jack Heffron, and the Editors of Writer’s Digest.

Part One of these Tips is Here!


WRITING AND PODCAST NEWS

Over 170,000 people have downloaded episodes of our podcast, DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE, you should join them. There will be a new episode tomorrow! 

Last week’s episode’s link.

This week’s episode’s link.


I HAVE A NEW BOOK! 

THIS IS WHAT IT’S ABOUT

Rosie Jones, small town reporter and single mom, is looking forward to her first quiet Maine winter with her young daughter, Lily. After a disastrous first marriage, she’s made a whole new life and new identities for her and her little girl. Rosie is more than ready for a winter of cookies, sledding, stories about planning board meetings, and trying not to fall in like with the local police sergeant, Seamus Kelley.

But after her car is tampered with and crashes into Sgt. Kelley’s cruiser during a blizzard, her quiet new world spirals out of control and back into the danger she thought she’d left behind. One of her new friends is murdered. She herself has been poisoned and she finds a list of anagrams on her dead friend’s floor. 

As the killer strikes again, it’s obvious that the women of Bar Harbor aren’t safe. Despite the blizzard and her struggle to keep her new identity a secret, Rosie sets out to make sure no more women die. With the help of the handsome but injured Sgt. Kelley and the town’s firefighters, it’s up to Rosie to stop the murderer before he strikes again.

You can order it here. 


IN THE WOODS – READ AN EXCERPT, ORDER NOW!

My new book, IN THE WOODS, is out!

Gasp!

It’s 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!

Order 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?

In the Woods
In the Woods

ART NEWS

Becoming

Buy limited-edition prints and learn more about my art here on my site. 

Don’t Be a Punk. Coronavirus and People Being Liars

Don’t Be a Punk. Coronavirus and People Being Liars

 
 
00:00 / 00:19:01
 
1X
 

If you’re going to write or communicate, it’s really cool to know what you’re writing or talking about.

What? I know, right? Mind blown.

It should be self-evident, but sadly it seems that this is not self evident.

Here’s the thing. You think that you know everything until you realize that you don’t half as much as you thought you did. We live in a time period where everyone is yelling, ‘fake facts,’ and ‘false news’ and ‘liar.’ We live in a time period that’s amazing because so many of us have things like indoor plumbing, internet access, prescriptions, food. But we also live in a time where people think they are omniscient.

None of us are omniscient. We all see things from our own perspectives built upon by our culture and our experiences. Yet, some people think that they know everything and lay down these edicts about what the right way to vote, to write, to think, to create, to live is.

But these same people don’t know the difference between unfazed and unphased. Don’t be one of those people.

When you write, when you live, when you troll people on social media? Check your words and your facts. It makes your argument and your story and your opinion so much stronger when you can spell things correctly or when you have stats to back up your arguments.

And there is nothing bad about realizing that you’re wrong, about growing as a human in your thoughts. Evolving is a good thing. We promise.

Writing Tip of the Pod:

It’s okay to break the rules, but know the rules you’re breaking. Study your craft before you start telling people there is only one right way to do things.

Dog Tip for Life:

Know what you’re barking at, man. Don’t call a blowing bag a squirrel.

Free Write for Your Story:

Write about a character who thinks that he/she/they know everything about something but they are terribly wrong.

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.

This week’s episode’s link.

Note: We hunt for ghosts and talk about douchebags in our random thoughts, which are not transcribed here. 


WHERE TO FIND US

The podcast link if you don’t see it above. Plus, it’s everywhere like Apple Music, iTunesStitcherSpotify, and more. Just google, “DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE” then like and subscribe.

This week’s episode link. 

NEWS

Over 170,000 people have downloaded episodes of our podcast, DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE, you should join them. There will be a new episode tomorrow! 

Last week’s episode’s link.


WRITING NEWS!

I have a new book out!!!!!! It’s an adult mystery set in the town where we live, which is Bar Harbor, Maine. You can order it here. And you totally should.

THIS IS WHAT IT’S ABOUT

Rosie Jones, small town reporter and single mom, is looking forward to her first quiet Maine winter with her young daughter, Lily. After a disastrous first marriage, she’s made a whole new life and new identities for her and her little girl. Rosie is more than ready for a winter of cookies, sledding, stories about planning board meetings, and trying not to fall in like with the local police sergeant, Seamus Kelley.

But after her car is tampered with and crashes into Sgt. Kelley’s cruiser during a blizzard, her quiet new world spirals out of control and back into the danger she thought she’d left behind. One of her new friends is murdered. She herself has been poisoned and she finds a list of anagrams on her dead friend’s floor. 

As the killer strikes again, it’s obvious that the women of Bar Harbor aren’t safe. Despite the blizzard and her struggle to keep her new identity a secret, Rosie sets out to make sure no more women die. With the help of the handsome but injured Sgt. Kelley and the town’s firefighters, it’s up to Rosie to stop the murderer before he strikes again.

You can order it here. 


IN THE WOODS – READ AN EXCERPT, ORDER NOW!

My new book, IN THE WOODS, is out!

Gasp!

It’s 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!

Order 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?

In the Woods
In the Woods

ART NEWS

Becoming

Buy limited-edition prints and learn more about my art here on my site. 


As writers, how do we give kids hope?

As I struggle to finish the first draft of my new novel before my April 1 deadline, I can’t stop thinking about hope and suffering and how it relates to children’s novels and us as writers. 

Because, seriously, as writers how do we determine how much suffering children can bear to see. Do we want them to see it? 

This is me back when I was a little kid. I hadn’t read THE LORD OF THE RINGS yet. I think you can tell. Please ignore the vest. *cringe* Also, please ignore the uneven bangs. We couldn’t afford hairdressers.

A mother I know had three teens. She thought her youngest, a high school freshman, didn’t know that rape exists. She asked me for books to recommend to her daughter but wanted them to be pure and good. Only pure and good.

I know this kid. Believe me, she knew that rape existed when she was eleven. She knew that sex (in lots of forms) existed. She’d talked about it when she slept over my house and hung out with my daughter. 

But her mom wanted to protect her, keep her from suffering, keep her innocent. 

 This is the Emster. At this point in her life, she has read LORD OF THE RINGS and ANIMAL FARM here, but she hasn’t read SPEAK yet. Can you tell? 

Sometimes a parent will tell me that there are no hate crimes in high schools; yet in a 2007 GLSEN survey 86.2 % of LGBT students reported they were verbally harrassed, 44.1% said they were physically harassed and 22.1 % said they were assaulted. 

This was at school.
This was because of their sexual orientation.

This is Joe, my high school boyfriend and me after the prom. We dated for three years. Everyone thought we would get married. It was that kind of thing. Joe was gay. He is gay. He never told anyone until college. He couldn’t tell and survive. Not then. Even now it’s hard. But back then there were no books for him or for me (the girlfriend of a gay guy). There were no stories of our suffering, no written words that paralleled our lives and would help make us strong.

And those statistics I quoted up there? That’s just suffering kids endure because of sexual orientation. I’m not talking about gender or race or religion or disabilities or even political views. 

And my question is;  As writers, how do we give kids hope?
And my question is:  As writers, how do we show the hellmouth of the world, what Nietzsche called the “innumerable shouts of pleasure and woe” without pushing teens and children into despair? 
And my question is: How can our characters’ suffering give readers hope? 
And my question is: How can we make sure that kids like Joe or me or Em’s friend have the stories that they need to survive?

Because our books are the books they read first; the books that inform them; the books that show through story how they will survive the next 70-80-90 (hopefully) years of the joy and suffering we call life. 

Is it our responsibility as purveyors of craft to think about these things? Or is it just about writing a story? Hopefully, getting said story published and then hopefully seeing that story get five-star reviews and lots of face-out shelf time at the book store. 

E.B. White said, “All writing is communication; creative writing is communication through revelation — it is the Self escaping into the open.” 

So, what is it we want to reveal to the kids who read our books? What is it that we want to reveal to ourselves? 

Man, is it any wonder I’m having a hard time getting this draft done?  Sigh.


WRITING AND PODCAST NEWS

Over 170,000 people have downloaded episodes of our podcast, DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE, you should join them. There will be a new episode tomorrow! 

Last week’s episode’s link.


I have a new book!

THIS IS WHAT IT’S ABOUT

Rosie Jones, small town reporter and single mom, is looking forward to her first quiet Maine winter with her young daughter, Lily. After a disastrous first marriage, she’s made a whole new life and new identities for her and her little girl. Rosie is more than ready for a winter of cookies, sledding, stories about planning board meetings, and trying not to fall in like with the local police sergeant, Seamus Kelley.

But after her car is tampered with and crashes into Sgt. Kelley’s cruiser during a blizzard, her quiet new world spirals out of control and back into the danger she thought she’d left behind. One of her new friends is murdered. She herself has been poisoned and she finds a list of anagrams on her dead friend’s floor. 

As the killer strikes again, it’s obvious that the women of Bar Harbor aren’t safe. Despite the blizzard and her struggle to keep her new identity a secret, Rosie sets out to make sure no more women die. With the help of the handsome but injured Sgt. Kelley and the town’s firefighters, it’s up to Rosie to stop the murderer before he strikes again.

You can order it here. 

Continue reading “As writers, how do we give kids hope?”

Don’t Be Like My Mom. You Can’t Run From Fear; You’ve Got to Snarl at It Instead

It all began with my mom freaking out about a feather.

My mom has always been afraid of birds. That fear started long before I existed and was made worse by a visit to a science museum in Boston where an owl swooped near her head and glared at her. Apparently, that powerful owl glare was enough to push her over the edge.

I wasn’t allowed to have bird feeders or stuffed animal birds. If there were robins outside on our lawn, Mom would avert her eyes and draw the shades in the windows.

My mother’s fear of birds grew so big that she screeched when I was four years old and proudly brought a peacock feather home from a nursery school field trip to a wild animal farm. I was so psyched about this feather, which I won by answering a bunch of animal questions correctly.

The feather made me feel super smart for the first time in my little life. It was my prize and my reward and I was the only one in the whole nursery school who received one. It was like a Nobel Prize or a Pulitzer in my four-year-old head. It was such a super big deal and I knew — I just was absolutely positive — that my mom would be psyched and put it on the wall and maybe frame it or something while she announced to all her friends, “My youngest daughter, Carrie? She is so smart. So smart, I tell you! See this feather? It proves it.”

When I presented the coveted prize to my mom, she screamed and made me throw the feather outside.

“Get it out! Get that dirty thing out of our house!” she yelled. Actually, she screeched.

I remember pivoting in our heavily wooded, dark kitchen, running out to the screened-in porch, and into our yard. I took the peacock feather to a giant boulder where I played deserted island and Wizard of Oz and all my lonely made-up games, and I climbed up to the top of the rock.

Once there, I kissed the feather, the dirty thing, goodbye. I cried because it was so beautiful and I won it and then I had to let it go.

I let that beautiful feather go. I didn’t hold onto it the way we tend to hold onto our fears. It is just so hard to let go of our fears. That’s especially true for my poor mom who wouldn’t go to friends’ houses if they had birds in cages. She hated the beach because birds were at the beach. Every year black birds would hang out on our front lawn during their migration. There would be hundreds of them. She’d call in sick to work. Her fear held her back over and over again.

Years after the peacock incident, my mom ran screaming from a park where we were having a picnic with my daughter who was then two. A seagull had come too close. Too close was about a football field away.

When I caught up with my mom, she was standing in the doorway of a local restaurant, shaking.

“Don’t judge me!” she said. She was reapplying her lipstick with a shaking hand.

I grabbed her hand in mine because the lipstick application was not going well.

“I’m not judging you,” I told her, “but I don’t want Em to grow up afraid.”

That’s when I realized that my mom missed out on so much of life even though she was the liveliest, absolutely most alive person I knew. She missed out because she listened to her fear.

My daughter grew up to study Krav Maga in Israel, to apply and get in to Harvard, to become a field artillery officer in the Army. She’s jumped off roofs at stunt camp, log rolled, rock climbed, was the flyer of her cheerleading squad. She is known for picking up birds that she finds in parking lots, shopping centers, and bringing them to safety.

She is bold and unafraid most of the times. She’s not a fan of spiders, but she deals with them. Even when she is afraid, she faces her fears, snarls at them, and tells them to stand down.

She made my poor mom’s heart race and palpitate more than once.

Even for those of us who don’t have phobias like my Mom, the biggest fears that we have are often the ones about not being enough, not smart enough, not loved enough, just not enough. Of failure. Of being imperfect. Of being alone. There are so many fears we punish ourselves with. But we don’t have to listen to those fears. We can face the fears, see them for what they are and ignore the fears’ advice to cower, to yell, to blame, to run away.

My mother was afraid of a feather.

A feather.

And our fears? The ones we hold inside of us? The ‘not good enough’ moments that feel so dam real? They are even less substantial than that feather.

That’s right. Those fears are not even as heavy as a feather, nowhere near as substantial. Still, we let them hurt us and hold us back.

Here’s the thing: You don’t have to let them hold you back.

Here’s the other thing: You can’t ignore your fear and you can’t give in to it. You have to jump headlong into the scariness and embrace the fear and snarl at it and know what it is. What is it? Fear is that voice that rings so loudly in your brain telling you what to do or what not to do. When you refuse to listen to it? That’s when you win.

You can beat your fears.

What are you afraid of? What makes you shake and cower? Not your phobias. But your fears. Are you afraid of failing so much that you don’t try to succeed? Bankruptcy? Not being loved? Commitment? Being evil? Being good? Being taken advantage of? Taking advantage of others? Face them head on because those fears are keeping you from being your best self.

I’m trying to be my best self. I fail a lot! So much! But I hope you’ll grab my hand even when it’s shaking and try with me. I think we can do this. Together.

Email or comment if you want to say hi and talk about it, okay?

Latest podcast is here!


Continue reading “Don’t Be Like My Mom. You Can’t Run From Fear; You’ve Got to Snarl at It Instead”

Surviving Road Trips, K-Pop, Stranger Things, and the Takis Burn

Surviving Road Trips, K-Pop, Stranger Things, and the Takis Burn

 
 
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This week, we’ve stepped away from our normal format because we’re on a massive road trip from Maine to Georgia to Florida and back again.

So much time in the car is making our brains a bit – a bit – a bit – broken?

Have a listen. There’s a special guest. She’s eleven. She’s got opinions just like her dad.

Apologies for the car noises. That’s because we’re in the car. Come join us.


WHERE TO FIND US

The podcast link if you don’t see it above. Plus, it’s everywhere like Apple Music, iTunesStitcherSpotify, and more. Just google, “DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE” then like and subscribe.


Big News!

I just published a super cool adult novel. Gasp! I know! Adult! That’s so …. grown-up?

Rosie Jones, small town reporter and single mom, is looking forward to her first quiet Maine winter with her young daughter, Lily. After a disastrous first marriage, she’s made a whole new life and new identities for her and her little girl. Rosie is more than ready for a winter of cookies, sledding, stories about planning board meetings, and trying not to fall in like with the local police sergeant, Seamus Kelley.

But after her car is tampered with and crashes into Sgt. Kelley’s cruiser during a blizzard, her quiet new world spirals out of control and back into the danger she thought she’d left behind. One of her new friends is murdered. She herself has been poisoned and she finds a list of anagrams on her dead friend’s floor. 

As the killer strikes again, it’s obvious that the women of Bar Harbor aren’t safe. Despite the blizzard and her struggle to keep her new identity a secret, Rosie sets out to make sure no more women die. With the help of the handsome but injured Sgt. Kelley and the town’s firefighters, it’s up to Rosie to stop the murderer before he strikes again.

You can order it here. 


IN THE WOODS – READ AN EXCERPT, ORDER NOW!

My new book, IN THE WOODS, is out!

Gasp!

It’s 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!

Order 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?

In the Woods
In the Woods

ART NEWS

Becoming

Buy limited-edition prints and learn more about my art here on my site. 

Tips on Not Going to Jail on a Monday

Oh, you know you need this.

I’m on a road trip right now, so I’m reposting this old blog from a couple years ago because we all need to not get car sick (This is what happens if I write in a car.) and not go to jail.

Tips on Not Going to Jail on a Monday

TIP ONE – NO THROWING TURNIPS

When you say “hi” to a mean lady while perusing the turnips in the produce section and she TOTALLY ignores you, pretend she did not hear you.

Do not decide she is rude. 

Do not throw a turnip at her. This counts as an assault, possibly with a deadly weapon, depending on the hardness of the turnip.

DO NOT DUNK ANYONE IN A LOBSTER TANK

When the mean lady cuts in front of you at the fish counter at the grocery store and then asks what the difference between sea scallops and bay scallops are and then follows up that question with the comment on the price ($4.49/lb) and then asks if they’ll be fresh tomorrow and then asks for a different amount than originally specified and then once she’s finally done buying a pound of scallops, asks about whether it’s halibut season, not because she’s going to buy any, (“Gosh, aren’t they cheaper in late Spring?”) and then verifies that the price for the damn scallops was $4.49 not $4.41 

Do not kill her, no matter how tempted you are. 

Dunking someone into the lobster tank is not a good idea either. This counts as murder. 

You go to jail for a long time for murder.

TRY NOT TO MAKE THE I-WANT-TO-KILL-YOU FACE

When the fish man finally gets to you and finishes your order in 20 seconds, do not ask him why he skipped you in the first place, or lecture him about it, because he has probaby had a hard day. Plus he might give you bad fish in the future. Try to smile. It will be hard.

TRY NOT TO GET HYSTERICAL AND THROW THINGS

When the nice cashier lady asks you if you found everything okay and how your day is going, do NOT get hysterical and tell her about the mean lady saga and then compare it to being invisible and unloved and unworthy and how maybe you should just have an all-dessert lunch to make up for it, so you can be sugar high and guilty feeling as well as depressed over your new invisible status because then the nice cashier lady might call the police who might take you in for disturbing the peace, especially if you stand on the check-out line conveyor belt and try to choreograph a dance in a mad attempt to prove that you are human and you are visible.

DO NOT USE YOUR CAR AS A WEAPON

Just calmly walk out. Smile. Get in car. Do not run the red light. Do not bash into mean lady’s car when she decides to stop at a GREEN LIGHT! Yes! Yes! I swear she did.

BE GRATEFUL

Just go home, crawl into bed. Vow to never go to grocery store again. Feel guilty for being so angry. Wonder if perhaps you need therapy. Wonder if you’ll see mean lady there at therapy. If so, vow you will not go to that therapist.

Be grateful you are not the mean lady and that nobody is writing a blog about you. Breathe. You have your fish. You have your freedom. You’re okay. You’re visible. And if you aren’t? Well, that invisibility can be a super power, right? Feel powerful.


DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE PODCAST

Be one of the 161,000 downloads and listen to our quirky life tips, writing tips and general weirdness. 

Our latest episode is here!

WHERE TO FIND US

The podcast link if you don’t see it above. Plus, it’s everywhere like Apple Music, iTunesStitcherSpotify, and more. Just google, “DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE” then like and subscribe.

Big News!

I just published a super cool adult novel. Gasp! I know! Adult! That’s so …. grown-up?

Rosie Jones, small town reporter and single mom, is looking forward to her first quiet Maine winter with her young daughter, Lily. After a disastrous first marriage, she’s made a whole new life and new identities for her and her little girl. Rosie is more than ready for a winter of cookies, sledding, stories about planning board meetings, and trying not to fall in like with the local police sergeant, Seamus Kelley.

But after her car is tampered with and crashes into Sgt. Kelley’s cruiser during a blizzard, her quiet new world spirals out of control and back into the danger she thought she’d left behind. One of her new friends is murdered. She herself has been poisoned and she finds a list of anagrams on her dead friend’s floor. 

As the killer strikes again, it’s obvious that the women of Bar Harbor aren’t safe. Despite the blizzard and her struggle to keep her new identity a secret, Rosie sets out to make sure no more women die. With the help of the handsome but injured Sgt. Kelley and the town’s firefighters, it’s up to Rosie to stop the murderer before he strikes again.

You can order it here. Please, please, preorder it. 

So, um, please go buy it. I am being brave, but that means that despite all my reasons for doing this, I’m still terrified that nobody will buy it and I really, really love this book. A lot.


IN THE WOODS – READ AN EXCERPT, ORDER NOW!

My new book, IN THE WOODS, is out!

Gasp!

It’s 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!

Order 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?

In the Woods
In the Woods

ART NEWS

Becoming

Buy limited-edition prints and learn more about my art here on my site. 

What’s Killing Your Relationship and Your Character?

What’s Killing Your Relationship and Your Character?

 
 
00:00 / 00:20:58
 
1X
 

There was a post on Medium on PS I LOVE YOU called, “The Silent Relationship Killer You Never See Coming” about how the silent relationship killer is basically routine and sameness.

The author, Barry Davret, compared relationships to a song that you love so intensely you listen to over and over again obsessively, but then suddenly, you are done with that song.

Couples, he says, set weekly and daily routines after that initial burst of frantic attraction and then? They get bored of having intercourse every Saturday, date night every Friday, laundry every Monday.

If they’re polite, they’ll still ask each other how their days went, but they won’t actually care about the answer because the answer is always the same.

He writes

“Look back on the last six months. Does it feel like it was one day lived 180 times?”

How do you defeat being bored in your relationship?

He suggests two tips to not be bored

  • Occasionally be spontaneous
  • Pursue separate passions


This has never happened to us. As you can tell from our random thoughts, we’re weird. We’re so weird especially when we’re alone. I will fall down laughing because of the things Shaun says.

We think that Barry has it right, but he also has it wrong.

Yes, people get dulled by routines and because of the comfort in routines, and that might be partially be because they’ve stopped doing things on their own. But it’s also more about empathy and building walls around yourself so you don’t get hurt. The person you’re in a relationship with sees you warts and all? And that, my friends, can be a bit scary.

To have a relationship that lasts and evolves you have to do the following things:

  • You have to find humor in yourself and each other even during the bad times.
  • You have to blow off the assumption that you know absolutely everything about your significant other as if they are a blank piece of paper rather than a living, breathing, changing organism. There is still mystery in them even if you aren’t seeing it.
  • You have to be willing to be vulnerable so that your partner can see that mystery inside of you. There is nothing dull in courage and it takes courage to be vulnerable.

How does this relate to writing? Hold on! We’re getting there.

WRITING TIP OF THE POD

Our novels and characters also need to have tiny doses of the unexpected to keep people from being bored. We want to have each character have differences and not be the same. That sameness, that lack of diversity? It makes Johnny a dull boy. Insert quirks into your characters.

DOG TIP FOR LIFE

Even when you’re on the same walk that your person always takes you on, there’s going to be a nuance in the smells you sniff up on the side of the road. Rejoice in that nuance. Seek it out. Live in the moment. It’s a good way not to be bored.

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.


WHERE TO FIND US

The podcast link if you don’t see it above. Plus, it’s everywhere like Apple Music, iTunesStitcherSpotify, and more. Just google, “DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE” then like and subscribe.

Big News!

I just published a super cool adult novel. Gasp! I know! Adult! That’s so …. grown-up?

Rosie Jones, small town reporter and single mom, is looking forward to her first quiet Maine winter with her young daughter, Lily. After a disastrous first marriage, she’s made a whole new life and new identities for her and her little girl. Rosie is more than ready for a winter of cookies, sledding, stories about planning board meetings, and trying not to fall in like with the local police sergeant, Seamus Kelley.

But after her car is tampered with and crashes into Sgt. Kelley’s cruiser during a blizzard, her quiet new world spirals out of control and back into the danger she thought she’d left behind. One of her new friends is murdered. She herself has been poisoned and she finds a list of anagrams on her dead friend’s floor. 

As the killer strikes again, it’s obvious that the women of Bar Harbor aren’t safe. Despite the blizzard and her struggle to keep her new identity a secret, Rosie sets out to make sure no more women die. With the help of the handsome but injured Sgt. Kelley and the town’s firefighters, it’s up to Rosie to stop the murderer before he strikes again.

You can order it here. Please, please, preorder it. 

So, um, please go buy it. I am being brave, but that means that despite all my reasons for doing this, I’m still terrified that nobody will buy it and I really, really love this book. A lot.


IN THE WOODS – READ AN EXCERPT, ORDER NOW!

My new book, IN THE WOODS, is out!

Gasp!

It’s 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!

Order 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?

In the Woods
In the Woods

ART NEWS

Becoming

Buy limited-edition prints and learn more about my art here on my site.