"The notion that such persons are gay of heart and carefree is curiously untrue. They lead, as a matter of fact, an existence of jumpiness and apprehension. They sit on the edge of the chair of Literature. In the house of Life they have the feeling that they have never taken off their overcoats."
- James Thurber, My Life and Hard Times

Friday, May 13, 2016

Channeling my inner trout.

Well, here comes that damned Universe, trying to tell me something again. 

Say what you will about astrology, but I'm slowly realizing I was born a Pisces for a reason. It only took me 62 years. Look at the symbol for The Fish:

Not that one. I can't read, well, whatever that is. What language is that?

Look at this one, which happens to be the constellation:

Two fish, pulling against one another constantly. A perpetual state of yin-yang, yes-no, pushme-pullyou. I could tell you the entire story of my life, or I could just save everyone's time and point to the fishes. Gayle wants A, but gets B. 

Let's have an example: There were two very strong female influences in my life, my mother and HER mother. 

My mother was a passive-aggressive narcissist who wanted me to be soft, sweet, passive, and blameless, but beautiful, brilliant, and talented, too, as long as I didn't REALIZE I was BBT. Her favorite sayings for me came from Proverbs, "Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall," and Romans, "...for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God."

Then there was my grandmother, who sang on the radio, entertained family and friends, was loved by many, and was fond of telling me, "If you don't toot your own horn, no one else will," and "Don't hide your light under a bushel."

So... I'm supposed to be beautiful but not self-aware and brilliant but self-effacing and talented but retiring and light up the world without broadcasting it. 

I've never really worried about being beautiful (we've had this discussion). I know from my grades at school (and my at-home Jeopardy playing) that I'm at least smart, which is brilliant enough for me. As for talent? As soon as I started writing, I knew I had a talent for words.

Talent can get you started, but you also need the wisdom to develop it. I've taken classes, attended workshops, and tried my best to write a better book each time I sit down at the laptop. I have a writing family (http://writersconference.com/la/), a tribe, whom I think respects me and my work. Their motto is, "Aim for excellence. Settle for exceptional." 

Excellence is always where my rocket launcher is pointed.

But once I have a book release, my mother's Bible verses come out to haunt me. Don't be too proud of your work. Don't think too highly of yourself. You're just a sinner, like everybody else. 

I get right to the edge of shouting, "Hey, look at this book! You gotta have it!"  And instead I whimper, "I kind of like this one. Maybe you should try it."

Not. This. Time.

I love this book, as much as I love my other books, but this time, the world will know it. I'm actually hiring a publicist to help me spread the word about my book, and how much the world should love it. It's a big step, a hot stack of money, and it may not work as well as I'd hoped. But this week, my Free Will Astrology horoscope said:

"A thousand half-loves must be forsaken to take one whole heart home." That's from a Coleman Barks' translation of a poem by the 13th-century Islamic scholar and mystic known as Rumi. I regard this epigram as a key theme for you during the next 12 months. You will be invited to shed a host of wishy-washy wishes so as to become strong and smart enough to go in quest of a very few burning, churning yearnings. Are you ready to sacrifice the mediocre in service to the sublime? 

I'm heartened, and ready to sacrifice the mediocre. In fact, I may just build a bonfire and set it aflame. Okay, Universe, I'm listening. When A MORE DEADLY UNION comes out in June, be prepared for the positive, beautiful, brilliant, talented Fish to take the reins. 

Meet my role model, my heroine, my inner Talented Fish.

Monday, May 2, 2016

A thing of beauty is a joy forever... in the eyes of the beholder

Last year, I participated in August McLaughlin's "Beauty of a Woman Blogfest." There are two categories to this cyber-festival, beauty in general and the beauty of sexuality. Last year, I was in the mood to go big or go home, so I wrote a piece that took TMI to new levels, all about sexuality and growing older.

This year, I thought I'd take it easy on myself and just talk about beauty in general. As it turns out, that's harder to discuss than sexuality, at least for me. What is beauty, and do I ever feel like I achieve it?

I have a confession to make: I am a nerd. A geek. A no-frills, non-prissy, jeans-and-tees gal. Oh, I began life in lace and ruffles. Mom wanted a girlie-girl who flounced about in ribbons and organza. God knows she tried.

Of course I was cranky - what kind of cowgirl wears a skirt?

But by 3rd grade, I knew I felt more comfy in a plain wool skirt and a sweater. When jeans came into fashion, I had found my style. Jeans and a sweater, or a tunic, or a silk shirt, or a tee. Dress them up with heels or down with tennies. The thing about them is, I didn't even have to check myself in the mirror. I felt good. Did I feel beautiful? 

Here's the thing about beauty: I'm in my 60s and still not sure what it means, or why it's important. The definition of beauty is a combination of qualities, such as shape, color, or form, that pleases the aesthetic senses, especially the sight. As a former engineer, my first question is: define "pleases". 

I was a pre-teen when the Beatles hit America. Here they are, in all their glorious youth:

Who did I like? This guy.

I've never been attracted to pretty boys. Tom Cruise? No. George Clooney? Not for me, thanks. Chris Hemsworth? Seems like a nice guy, but I'll pass. Give me Ringo over Paul, Spock over Kirk, McGee over DiNozzo. The combination of qualities that pleases my aesthetic senses is obviously not on the same page as the rest of the world.

Actually, I've always had a crush on Ducky, even when he was a Man From U.N.C.L.E.

I can't be the only one... can I?

Recently, I attended a horse show in Las Vegas. It was a huge show, over 700 exhibitors, and there are probably a dozen reasons why my horse and I should never have gotten to participate, beginning with the fact that he broke his leg as a 4-year-old and every day that he is healthy is a blessing. 

While at the show, I bought an outfit to wear for the competition. There are more expensive outfits, but this one felt like it cost an arm and a leg. My trainer took a picture of me before we faced the judges.

What I see when I look at that picture is an old gal who could lose a few pounds. What my trainer said to me was, "You look so beautiful." Did I feel beautiful at that moment? I felt good. I felt happy. Beauty was not on my list of needs. 

I wish I had some kind of wisdom to impart about beauty and what it means to be beautiful. Don't misunderstand. Just because I'm a geeky girl doesn't mean that I don't enhance my eyes with a little makeup, or wear a little bling from time to time. None of it makes me look in a mirror and say, "You look beautiful."

All I want to see when I look in the mirror is someone who feels happy. Maybe that's the quality that pleases my senses.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

You do not write away heartache

My fingers drag across the keyboard, typing, then deleting. When you are a writer and you experience sorrow, your first impulse is to write it all down. You believe that, if you get the feelings up and out of you by writing them, the pain will lessen. 

I won't try to tell you differently. There is a release, a bit of steam off the top. But feelings are wordless. Getting them "up and out" is not a job for the brain. It's a job for the heart, the gut, the body. Typing words is just one piece of the healing process.

We lost a friend this weekend. I say "we" because it's not just me, it's a network of people I have grown to love and trust and enjoy. She had cancer and fought it and just couldn't overcome it and all we are left with are memories of this bright, strong, beautiful young woman. 

Alyssa Barnes was 23. She lived several hours north of us, in Sacramento, but I saw her often on Facebook and once a year when we'd gather for a vacation together. I miss her already. My days did not always include her, and yet there is a black patch in the corner of each hour now that she is gone.

Before she died, she had wanted to be married to her love, RJ. For their wedding, I got her and RJ stars with their names -- something you can do via starregistry.com. Alyssa loved the outdoors, so I thought having stars with their names would, well, ground her memory in this world. On Friday, I rushed to Sacramento to give her the certificate, but I was too late.

This is the constellation, Lyra, and the coordinates of their stars. 

It reminds me of the line in The Little Prince: "If you love a flower who lives on a star, it is sweet, at night, to look at the sky. All of the stars are in bloom."

Alyssa Barnes was a warrior nymph, at home on earth or in water. She was as sturdy as an oak, with many branches for stray birds, and as deep as a mountain lake, with secrets known only to a few. She was grounded and rich as the soil of the earth, and her smile was as clear and open as the sky. She was a rock for her family during life's storms. And she picked her friends like flowers, and pressed them in the pages of her heart.

I will look for her spirit where my feet touch the earth and I can see the heavens above me.

Friday, March 18, 2016

But... will you still like me?

My fourth Peri book, A MORE DEADLY UNION, has a cover, jacket copy, has been edited and formatted. It is *thisclose* to being ready to release, apart from all the hoopla that surrounds a book before it's unleashed upon the world.

My editor, Jennifer Silva Redmond says, "A book is released too late for the author and too soon for the publisher." She is correct. My author's heart is telling me to hurry up and hit the bright red Publish button, while my publisher's head is saying, "Whoa, there, Flicka."

I need to make people want it first. It's the tension before the kiss, the suspense before the fright, the build-up that makes you run screaming for the Buy-Me option on Amazon. So here's your first tease:

"How far would you go for someone you love?

Someone is threatening Peri Minneopa’s client. The most likely suspect is a man whose past relationship with her client could ruin his chances at being elected mayor.

This would be easier if her boyfriend, Detective Skip Carlton, wasn’t in a coma after being shot. Peri’s been dating him for 10 years, but without a marriage license, she can’t even visit him in the hospital.

She knows better than to interfere with the police’s efforts to find Skip’s shooter, but her case keeps showing up in the middle of their investigation.

Now she’s questioning her skill and her need for independence. What is she willing to do to solve her case and see Skip wake up?"

I worked and slaved over this story. It was important for me to tell it well and get it right. Granted, my goal is to make each book a well-told, wonderful story, but this one cuts close to my bones. For this one, I aimed for excellence, not knowing if I could settle for exceptional.

Before I release this story to the world, we need to talk.

One thing I've learned in three Peri mysteries is who my readers are. Most of you are women, and of those women, many of you are of a certain age. With Peri being in her 50s, she is a gal you can relate to. There are women (and men) within my age group that hold attitudes about people, attitudes that I will not judge, but that I may not agree with. It's all okay. We can still be friends, I hope.

My original idea for A MORE DEADLY UNION came from the repeal of Proposition 8 (this made gay marriage illegal) in California. Not being gay, Prop 8 didn't affect me personally, except that it did. Being married to a black man, I'm aware that interracial marriage was not approved in the US until 1967, that it wasn't approved by over 50% of public opinion until 1994, and that Biblical verses were cited as being the reason many people disapprove.

A MORE DEADLY UNION is a mystery, of course, but it's also about Peri's fight to be with Skip as he lies in the hospital, in a coma. To underscore her predicament, she is working with a gay couple, who help her understand the importance of marriage from their own experience.

I'm not certain if some of you will be turned off by a gay couple, but I'm hoping for one thing: that you trust me. You know that my mysteries do not feature graphic violence or sex. And my discussion here about the book should let you know that I'm sensitive to your opinion, I'm aware of potential backlash, and I'm not going to blindside you. 

Well, almost... I admit, the ending of this book surprised me. Sometimes characters do that.

If you're still (or even more) interested in the book, you can pre-order the ebook on Amazon here: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B01D3MMZ9K. Don't worry, there'll be a paperback version, too. 

And stick around for any contests, launch party swag, etc! 

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

March madness

No, I'm not talking about the NCAA championships, although they certainly drive my husband mad. I'm referring to Saturday, March 26th, when I'll be joining a few other authors from Orange County to have a Book Fair at The LAB Antimall in Costa Mesa. 

I've never been to this anti-mall, but the pictures of it look interesting. It's not exactly close to me, but I have traveled much further to sell books, so color me enthused.

What books am I bringing? Just my mysteries this time around, for two reasons:

1. For this particular fair, I wanted to represent a clear brand. I figured the mysteries would be more enticing.

2. Rumor has it that parking at this location is in Far Far Away, so I cannot be schlepping a ton of books to the event.

I'm also noodling over what kind of enticements to offer people to get them to either read more of my books, or to purchase my ebooks if they are not into buying tree-books. I might offer them a some kind of opportunity to win a prize, or get an early copy of A MORE DEADLY UNION. 

Whatever I do, you know I'll report back here on how it turned out. In the meantime, here's the link to some of the authors who'll be joining me: http://ocwriters.org/book-fair/

And here's the link to The LAB, so you'll know how to find me: http://thelab.com/

It's from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. I'd love to see you at the event!

Proud Member of ALA!

I support fair and equitable library access to ebooks and so should you.