Thursday, May 30, 2013

The Moviegoer

Published in 1961, The Moviegoer, by Walker Percy, won the National Book Award. An acquaintance suggested that I read the book, and it was my good fortune to do so.

It is as relevant today as it was fifty-two years ago, speaking to the human condition, of love and ideals in a life that values beauty but is determined by status and money. The malaise that blinds the eyes of soul. Though blunt, the humor saves the novel from being a recounting of depressing events that define one’s life and the pursuit of meaning. I highly recommend this book.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Announcing the Release of My New Book: A Penny in Time

Calling all fans of the Bully Dogs series and Frances Reed (Fran to her friends)! The third book in the series, A Penny in Time, is now available in paperback.

 Get to know Fran's friend Dusty better as she sorts out all the changes life has recently dumped on her. Her best friend now only cares about makeup and boys. Her dad has a new girlfriend who loves everything feminine and pink (neither is Dusty's favorite). And now she's thinking about her good friend Frank in new and different ways. A fantastical trip to another dimension—or was it only a dream?—gives Dusty a fuller perspective and confirms her inner strength.

A Penny in Time follows books one and two in the series: Bully Dogs and YNK: You Never Know. Get your paperback copy of A Penny in Time now at>>

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Listening to Those Pesky Voices

Creating characters with a distinctive voice is a challenge for a writer. In order for a character to feel true, the experiences and reactions must have verisimilitude. Every character I have created is based on my experiences; yet, they all come to life and have opinions, feelings and emotions that surprise me. I “hear” their voices all the time, telling me about their wishes, characteristics, likes and dislikes.

One instance is when Dean, the boyfriend of Fran in YNK (You Never Know), let me know in adamant terms that he would never wear a Polo shirt--he was a plaid flannel sort of guy. Fran reminded me that she rolls her eyes a lot instead of commenting out loud, which drives her mother crazy. Annie, another friend of Fran’s from YNK, is afraid of going to sleep in the dark. In fact, Annie is afraid of the daytime, too. While I don’t consider myself brave, I have never thought about being afraid of waking up like Annie does.

I have stood up for what is right, like Dusty defending Yugo in A Penny in Time. And like Dusty, I have lived through divorcing parents--but not exactly the same situation as she. I’ve been bullied, but Fran’s situation was what my daughter went through in elementary school. I have been chased by a dog that I later became friendly with, but never had a job walking him. I lived next to a crotchety old man whom I never liked, but my brother and he became friends. I did not have a boyfriend in junior high, but did have boys as friends.

The most intense experience I had with characters “speaking to me” was with a girl named Della. One of my unrealized wishes was to write a perfect short story. One day this little girl, “Della, if you please,” started reciting her story. “No!” I said to her, “your story has been done by much better writers. Southern writers that grasp culture and slavery. Not my thing. Go away.” She pestered me every day, conjuring scenes and dialogue. Finally, in exasperation, I wrote the story. It is perfect in all the technical aspects that make a good short story. But it is trite and says nothing new. Several years later, however, I recognized that this entire story will fit beautifully in an adult fantasy novel I am working on, Eye of the Moon, that takes place in the future on another planet.

One of the most compelling things I have learned from my characters is how to listen with intent. You may think I am merely daydreaming, with my unfocused eyes and lack of attention, but it is more likely I am having a fascinating conversation with characters who need to be heard. And that translates as well to the real “characters” in my life. Although, to tell the truth, sometimes I prefer to listen to the voices of the “others”.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

A Paean to Motherhood

I must admit:  to me, this whole parenthood thing is a conundrum. I think one of the most complicated and intense relationships is that between a mother and her child. The developing infant requires constant attention, affection and nurturing, creating a bond; all the while this dependent being is striving for independence. Push, pull, stay with me, leave me alone. One hand gripping our heart, the other tearing at the ties that bind. I remember the euphoric feeling of holding my newborn for the first time and the heartbreak when she left home as an adult.

I told myself I had done a good job raising an independent young woman but I never intended for her to join the Air Force and then move to Australia for five years. I remembered how I cried non-stop for that whole Thanksgiving weekend when she called to say she had been deployed to Iraq. And how I danced, paced the hours until she walked through the door, home again, and I hugged her and cried for joy.

I missed her terribly while she was in Australia and sometimes feared she would emigrate. But she is coming home in June. I know I will fall in love all over again with my child; but where she alights next is another chapter of her story. I know that I will slide again into the blue sea of mixed emotions that parenting brings. Sometimes I wish she could see me as a person and not just her mother, but that will never stop me from always pinning that badge on my heart and wearing it proudly.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

We Won’t Let the Bullies Win!

In the past few weeks, two horrifying events have been reported:  the bombing of the Boston Marathon, which killed three people and injured more than 170, and the suicide of Audrie Pott, the young teen driven to death by being bullied. Both of these tragedies are examples of “extreme bully mentality,” the imposition of another's will through force, intimidation and violence. Whether by an act of terrorism or sexual predation, the bully has killed and maimed and damaged our lives, our hearts, and our souls. But I believe that together we can stand up for ourselves and each other. That together we can make it clear that we will not be stopped by the actions of a bully.

We as a nation are reeling from the psychological impact of terrorism. We have been victimized by strangers who feel it is justified to use deadly force on innocent people, for whatever reason. We are vulnerable to unreasonable, malevolent actions intended to do great harm to us. We are not safe on our streets, at work or at home. We have been violated and our rights abused.

Audrie Pott was allegedly sexually assaulted and marked with black ink over her body parts by three suspects that she knew, and confronted online, to no avail.  A humiliating photo of her had been circulated to schoolmates the day she decided her life was over and hanged herself. Although several friends and classmates knew of the incident at the party where underage teens, Audrie, too, had been drinking, no one spoke up or spoke out and no one stopped the alleged sexual assault to Audrie. The three young men who are suspects in Audrie’s assault took pictures of her half-naked with their names inked on her body so that she clearly knew the next day when she awoke who had been where as she lay in a drunken state in an upstairs bedroom. Then they had the audacity to share photos of her with classmates and friends. She had not been violated three times in one night; she was repeatedly violated over and over on a daily basis until she felt she had no other escape but suicide.

Sadly, Audrie Pott is not the only teenager driven to death by being bullied.  To the young men who did that to Audrie, and to the other men who perpetuate violence on women, you have blood on your hands. And to the others who looked at Audrie’s photos and snickered, laughed or high-fived each other, you, too, are splattered with blood. As are the ones who knew right action from wrong action and did not stand up, did not speak up, did nothing.  Evil triumphs when ‘good’ people do nothing, to paraphrase a quote attributed to Edmund Burke.  If this is too harsh to state, then let me remind you that these acts were not “pranks”; these acts were a “big deal” and immoral, as well as illegal.

It is in my not-so-humble opinion that we must act. We must do something to change this bully mentality. I can only imagine a little of the nightmare that Audrie’s family is suffering; and the families of the alleged perpetuators. Would this have had tragic consequences had there been intervention sooner by the school authorities, the parents, bystanders? I am comparing sexual predation to the acts of terrorism because there is a similarity of an attitude that one does not have to respect another’s rights of being. I do not have any solutions for the global terrorism, but I will advocate for victim’s rights and the right for all children to be safe in their homes, schools and playgrounds. Anywhere, to be safe, anywhere.

I cut out and will save the photo from the Seattle Times of Bill Iffrig, the Boston Marathon runner knocked down by the blast. He got up and crossed the finish line. I do not know his personal reasons for completing the last fifteen feet of the race, but for me, he symbolizes the spirit of one who will not be stopped by a bully.

We are the difference in our children’s lives and we have the responsibility to teach our children life skills so that they can thrive, not just survive, at home and at school, in relationships and at work. We need to give them “running shoes” so that they can be empowered to keep going to spite the bully, not to run away from the bully. Let’s give our children, all our children, a chance to cross the finish line.