She will find her way the way I did, a short story

When the verdict was handed down, tears of anger are slapped from the eyes of Amy Quinn. She’s helpless to stop herself from looking at George Cook, who’s waiting for her to glance his way, his beady eyes laughing with demonic glee, a child molester turned loose to destroy more innocent lives. Harold lays his long, wrinkled fingers gently over Amy’s own. “We did all we could, child, don’t let it get you down.” Amy has grown to love this wizened old prosecutor who has to duck under doorways, his silver hair wild sprouts, sprinkled over the garden of his fertile mind. She nods at him, unable to speak, and gathers her things, hurrying from the room.

Pushing blindly through the crowd, she blasted her way through the massive doors of the Boone
County Courthouse. Her office is inside the courthouse, but that’s the last place she wants to be right now. She’s headed for oblivion, and the trip is a short one. Emory’s Bar & Grill is right across the street.

George Cook had been molesting his fifteen year old stepdaughter for the last few years. The girl had come to them several months ago, depressed, suicidal; desperate for help, and Child Protective Services had immediately taken the steps necessary to remove her from her home. Part of Amy’s job as the psychologist for CPS was to comfort, counsel, and advise “at risk” children, and from her first meeting with Heather Green, she had liked the teenager immediately. Short and stout, with eyes like Raggedy Ann and a boy’s crew cut, she was a fierce and intelligent young woman. The Brewers were considered saviors at CPS, the middle aged couple always willing to offer emergency shelter to troubled teens, no questions asked. They had embraced Heather, and after only a few weeks, the teenager’s state of mind had improved tremendously. As part of the investigation, Heather had been examined by a local physician, who’s report had confirmed the girl’s story of sexual abuse. Heather was prepared to testify against her stepfather, and Harold had felt confident that they could put the evil bastard away. Their case would have been a slam dunk if it hadn’t been for Heather’s mother.

Mildred Harper was the CPS case worker assigned to investigate Heather’s abuse. Several days after George Cook’s arrest, Mildred paid a visit to Heather’s mother. When she returned to Amy’s office that day, Mildred’s face had been a mask of total disgust. “Oh, Amy, you would not believe this house. It smelled like dirty feet and cat shit. There was trash piled everywhere! I’ve been doing this job for five years, and that was the filthiest house I have ever been in. I was afraid to sit down!” as she crumpled into the nearest chair.

She had described Norma Cook as a butterball in a moo moo, dirty bare feet, with a wooly gray Afro topping an impish face, her eyes tiny slits in biscuit cheeks. “She’s a horrible woman, Amy. She said that Heather was a liar, that if anything had happened between her husband and “that girl”, it was Heather’s fault for seducing him, leading him on with her skimpy clothes and “breast that she shouldn’t even have yet.” She said that about her own daughter!” Lisa cried, as she ran for the restroom.

As Amy had listened to the sound of Mildred being sick, a rush of maternal love had enveloped her. This job was the older woman’s whole life. The short, staunch spinster had a wild mass of gray hair, wire rimmed glasses riding the tip of her misshapen nose. But she was ferocious in defense of these children, pouring her sweet heart into their protection. She was a loner, and spent her nights watching TV and caring for a slew of animals.

Waiting for Mildred to recover, Amy’s thoughts had turned to Norma Cook. She recognizes the classic symptoms of denial. The woman was unable to accept the fact that she was married to a pedophile. Or maybe she just didn’t care, Amy is gaining steam now, becoming angry, or maybe, she had just been jealous of her daughter, who’s body attracted George Cook in ways that her fat ass didn’t anymore. Whoa girl, Amy thinks, you are not supposed to be thinking

those kind of thoughts, but she feels better anyway, after throwing up with her mind, while Mildred throws up with her body. The poison has to come out somehow. As Mildred drags her emptied, pale shell from the restroom, Amy asked, “Are you alright?” “I feel better, thanks, but I’m worried that we are gonna have major problems from that woman.”

How right Mildred had been, Amy thinks, as she orders her second beer. Her exotic, royal blue eyes catch her own reflection in the mirror behind the bar. People have told her all her life how beautiful she is, but the six foot blonde scoffs at her looks. If anything, beauty has been a deterrent to her, a roadblock. She is a serious young woman, on a quest for justice, her mission to rescue the innocent children, ready to do battle for those who can’t defend themselves. If Mildred only knew how much there were alike. This is Amy’s first job since she received her master’s degree, and over these last six months, Lisa has been her guiding hand. Amy is thankful for her everyday, and for this wonderful little town, the first place she has felt at home since Claire and Chicago. She is the head of Child Protective Services, with a Master’s degree in psychology from Texas A& M. Mondays are hard for her, it seems that most of the damage done to the children occurs on the weekends. She’s only been here for three months, and already she feels an overwhelming sadness at times. The things people do to their kids. But, this is what she has wanted her whole life, to make a difference, to help the people who can’t help themselves. She is a petite young woman, but formidable when crossed. She moved to Chicago for this job, and this morning she is homesick for Texas. She was raised in the country, with three older brothers, and she’s not afraid of anything. But the human snakes she encounters in some of the homes she visits here make the rattlesnakes at home look like prized pets.

But a smile quickly replaces her sadness as, not the first time in the last three months she thinks of John Graves. She met the lieutenant right after she started here, her job requiring continuous interaction with the Chicago police. He is quite a bit older than her, but she likes him. She finds his rough exterior attractive, reminding her a little of her brother, Jack, all rough lines and sharp corners. She senses a calm, softer layer underneath all that gruffness, and it has her attention. Amy can’t think about anything good after what just happened with George Cook.

She can’t believe the son of a bitch is a free man. She knew they were in trouble the minute she walked into the courtroom this afternoon, Norma Cook sitting smugly behind her husband, no Heather to be found. What had the woman threatened to do to her daughter if she testified?

Amy could kick herself for not seeing the red flag when she called the Brewer’s house yesterday. Heather had been reserved, the effervescence of late absent from her voice. Amy had chalked it up to nerves about the trial, never dreaming that the girl would pull a no show. Without Heather’s testimony, the defense attorney had torn them to shreds. The bubble butt lawyer had reminded her of W.C. Fields, all bluster, a bulbous, drinker’s nose. He was out of Dallas, one of those snakes in the grass you see on TV commercials, making a joke of the profession of law. “Your honor, my client is the true victim here. A young girl, jealous of her mother’s happy marriage, has brought shame and embarrassment on the good name of her stepfather.”

Harold really had done all he could, even though Heather had tied his hands. Carrying himself in regal fashion, calling Dr. Phillips to the stand, “I would like to enter as exhibit A the doctor’s report of his examination of Heather Green. Doctor, state in your professional opinion what you discovered upon examining this young lady.” The doctor had made a convincing witness, explaining the medical aspects of Heather’s sexual abuse, the broken hymen, the brutal damage done to her young vagina, but the defense attorney backed the doctor into a corner, “Isn’t it true, Dr. Phillips, that this damage could have been caused by any number of the young boys Heather has been having sex with?” W.C. Fields had done his homework. Harold was left with no recourse but to dismiss the doctor, for Heather had admitted to being sexually active, and without her there to defend herself, he was afraid of doing more harm than good. George Cook had always used a condom on his step daughter, the brilliance of evil, and with that knowledge, the district attorney’s office had declined to administer a DNA test.

When Norma Cook took the stand, it was another nail in our coffin. The woman must have taken a bath and bought a new dress, for her appearance was matronly and respectable, her hair tamed into a grandmotherly bun. She painted a picture of her daughter as a wild and disrespectful child who resented her stepfather for trying to bring some order and discipline into her life. She described her husband as a good man, hard working and honest. She apologized to the judge for the lies her daughter had told , and begged the court to release her husband so that they could rebuild their lives. The defense attorney had closed the deal, “Your honor, this is a travesty. The young lady who has brought all this trouble and heartache down on her family is not even here today. Obviously, she has realized the error of her ways, and decided not to get herself in big trouble by bringing her lies into your courtroom. I move that this case be thrown out, and my client be reunited with his loving wife.” The judge had bought it, hook, line, and sinker. CPS was never even allowed to testify, and the judge angrily reprimanded Harold for allowing this case to get this far. Case dismissed.

Amy doesn’t want another drink. People are starting to drift into the bar after work, and conversation is the last thing she wants. What she does want is at home, a hot bath, some candles, soft music, and something good to eat. As she steps down from the barstool, she thinks of Heather. Amy has been in her shoes, and she hopes that somehow, the young woman will find her way out, just like Amy did.

Reunion with an old friend, a short story

Irene is a true believer. She believes in dreams, signs, spirits, things that defy explanation. But one thing Irene doesn’t believe in is coincidence. Helga Steiner showing up yesterday was no coincidence.

Irene had been doing the breakfast dishes, worrying the finish off the plates, her mind picturing her and Maddy in that TV version of the big mother and daughter talk–even though she wasn’t Maddy’s mother–when Helga had knocked on the front door. It was as if Irene had conjured up her friend with the pure power of dilemma. Helga would know what Irene needed to say to her granddaughter.

Helga and Irene had been friends for over thirty years, but this was the first time they had actually seen each other for at least ten. Irene was so glad to see Helga, she could have cried. The two women hugged fiercely.

Helga still had the same crazy style, her hair shocking red, piled high on her head, a loud yellow silk cowboy shirt and blue jeans. Gold and silver bracelets jangle on her wrist. Her cat-like eyes were spidered with black mascara and thick black eyeliner. The only thing different had been the added wrinkles. The skin on her face had always been dark and leathery, but there were deep creases now, lines zigzagging across her face like a road map.

Irene had made a pot of coffee, and they’d spent at least an hour catching up. Helga was on her way to San Antonio, to live with her daughter. She said that when she’d seen the Waxahachie exit, she almost flipped the UHaul, deciding in that instant that she needed to see Irene while she still could.

Helga had moved to Missouri ten years before to take care of her dying mother, but she and Irene had kept in touch over the years through letters and phone calls. But a lot had changed since the last time Irene had heard from her.

Helga’s mother died six months before and not long after that Helga found out she has cancer. She said it was in remission, and with her signature sense of humor, Helga had laughed deep and hard, saying she decided she better “get while the gettin’ was good.” She had always been a tough old bird, and Irene understood exactly what she meant. Being able to drive herself to her final destination at least made her feel like she still had some control over her life.

As she’d listened to Helga, Irene had become distracted by the sounds of a normal Saturday morning streaming in through the screen door, Katie barking as she chased a squirrel, the little boy next door varooming, giving his hot wheel a motor, carefree and innocent. Irene had to shut the door. How could the world just carry on, she’d thought, while Helga sat there, only steps away, bearing the heavy knowledge of her impending death?

Her bright yellow shirt had made Irene want to cry. That was Helga, sticking her tongue out at death, daring it to come. A picture had formed in Irene’s mind, a negative that must have lain dormant for years, waiting for this moment to develop. It became a crystal clear image, a snapshot of life, wonderful and horribly cruel in equal measure. THIS IS HOW IT IS.


Irene’s been tossing and turning in her four poster bed for hours. It’s Sunday night and she needs to get to sleep, she’s got to be at the Senior Citizen’s Center by seven to make the lunches for the shut ins, but her mind won’t let her rest. Seeing Helga yesterday has sent her on a trip down memory lane. They didn’t meet under the best of circumstances; they’d shared a room in the hospital, Helga there for a hysterectomy, Irene with a broken arm. Irene had argued with Dr. Williams in the emergency room, she couldn’t stay in the hospital, she had kids at home that needed her, and besides, she had no insurance. The old doctor had been adamant that he was keeping her for a few days, for “observation.” He had been her physician for decades and had seen the bruises, but Irene had always made up a lie; she’d bumped into the door, tripped over one of the boy’s bikes.

But Eugene had finally gone too far. Irene had decided then that she was through making excuses for him. Dr. Clark had tried to talk her into pressing charges, but she had refused, and that’s when the doctor had decided to keep her there, in the hospital. He wouldn’t even allow her to have any visitors, hoping that if she had a few days to think it over, without any outside interference, she might change her mind. As fate would have it, those days spent in the hospital would end up changing Irene’s life.


Irene gets out of bed and quietly makes her way to the kitchen. Maybe a glass of warm milk will help her sleep. She pours some in a pan, and sets in on the stove to warm. Always the faithful companion, Katie appears in the kitchen door, the look on her speckled black face a question, “What are you doing up so late?”

Come here, Katie,” Irene says. She stoops down, her knees making that cracking sound they always do these days. She puts her arms around Katie and gave her a big hug and a kiss. “You are such a good girl”. She isn’t worried about waking Maddy up, the child could sleep through a tornado.

She hears the milk hissing in the pan, and rises with effort from her crouched position. Damn, she hates getting old. She pours the scalding milk in a mug and sits down at the table. Katie walks over and lies at her feet. Its past midnight, and the only sound in the room is the ticking of the clock on the wall.

Irene has sat here countless times in the dead of night, and she is usually soothed by the sound, but tonight, it’s the most lonesome sound in the world.

As she sips her milk, she thinks about the first time she laid eyes on Helga. She smiles now at the memory, but it wasn’t very funny then. When they’d wheeled her into the hospital room, she was already depressed, her husband had broken her arm, the doctor wouldn’t let her go home, and she had young boys at home, the only person to take care of them the drunken bastard who’d put her in the hospital in the first place.

Then of all the people she had to room with, there was Helga. Irene knew her type, she’d seen her share of women just like her in the honky tonks Eugene frequented, the kind of woman he was attracted to; all dolled up, ready to party. As soon as she’d seen Helga, Irene had shut her eyes, pretending to be asleep. She’d thought, I’ll be damned if I am going to make nice with a woman like that.

But once she’d closed her eyes, she had slept, the sleep of the dead, her mind and body beaten down, exhausted. After the fight the night before, Eugene had left, as usual, and she had tried to sleep, but her arm had hurt so badly sleep had been impossible. When the light of day had come, Irene had driven herself to the emergency room. All she’d been able to think about was getting something for the pain. It had never occurred to her that her arm might be broken, or that she’d end up staying in the hospital.

This life, a poem

First and finally we are loners
from that beginning breath
until the last dying ember
we are given the task of loving
yet on our own.

It’s through the grace of God
and the hand of family
the compassion of a friend
the devotion of a pet
it could be as simple
as the peaceful repetition
of supper on the stove
or the wild passion of romance
that the journey is eased
the impact of life’s
storms lessened,
and delight is brought
to the act of living.

Still, when the day is done
and the last whistle blows
we leave like we came
unleashed from this earth
but as one.

We are always waiting for something

While I was waiting for something, I started thinking about all the waiting I do. My ex is moving out today, but he’s still sleeping and I am waiting for him to wake up so he can get the hell out of here. It got me to thinking about all the waiting I have done where men are concerned. I have been married a couple of times, been in more than a few serious relationships, and also raised two sons. So I figure I have spent approximately one million, two hundred thousand; three hundred and fifty days waiting on men.

Waiting for them to come home

Waiting for them to wake up

Waiting for them to call

Waiting for them to say I love you

Waiting on them hand and foot

Waiting on them to change their mind

Waiting on them to move out

Waiting on them to arrive

Waiting on them to leave

Waiting for them to propose

Waiting on them to make up their minds

Waiting on them to move in

Waiting on them to see the light

Waiting on them to change

Waiting for them to pick up after themselves

Waiting for them to stop snoring

Waiting to see if one is attracted to me

Waiting on them to learn some manners

Waiting for them to stop being such assholes

I’m through waiting.

Sunday lust, a poem

I felt like posting a poem I wrote a few months ago. The writer in me, the creative writer, is yearning for sustenance, and the writer’s ego in me can’t help but share, or I guess it’s ego, it just feels wrong to keep what I write to myself. I haven’t been motivated to send anything out for awhile, so hey, here we go. I am at least sending it out into the blogosphere.

Sunday Lust
“I dream of a cranberry couch,” she said to her husband
as she ran her wrinkled hand across the tattered sofa.
The coffee perked, filtering through last night’s dream.

In her dream she had been a young man,
a testosterone-charged gigolo, a contestant in a reality show
sailing a royal vessel across miles of aqua-blue heaven.

Waking had been a disappointment, quiet
stretching across the hours. Putting the dream into words
might have ruined their day; or worse, tainted its memory.

So she said the first beautiful words that rolled off her tongue
grounded her to yesterday, to domestic pleasures.
She stirred the coffee and gazed at her husband with Sunday lust.

An Unfinished Story From Highschool

Two failed marriages, two house payments behind, two kids with a less-than-stellar mother, fired from two jobs in less than two years; Karen Freeman had stopped believing in second chances. “Why did I let you talk me into this?” she snarled at her best friend, Judy, as they stepped into the past. It was the twenty-year reunion of the class 71, Wichita High.

A wannabe 70s rock band was playing a sorry rendition of “Purple Haze” in the corner of the gym as Judy shouted. “I need a drink!” She made a beeline for the refreshment table, Karen on her heels.

“Ooh, look…Tom Jeffrey’s is fat…and bald!” Judy pointed to a short, chubby man standing in a group of other similarly overweight males–the former Wichita football team.

Karen slapped Judy’s hand down. “Stop pointing!”

“Thank you, sugar,” Judy winked at the young man as he handed her two plastic-cup margaritas.

“You are incorrigible,” Karen said, taking her drink from Judy.

“And the night is young!” Judy glowed as her eyes took in the room. Suddenly she took off across the gym floor, “I’ll be right back!”

Karen had been a beanpole in high school, a nerdy girl who’d never belonged to the in-crowd. Judy hadn’t been that popular either but she’s never seemed to care. She had always had a reservoir of self-confidence that Karen had lacked, though Karen had been confident to a point. It was just that over the years, she’d let the cards she’d been dealt bring her down. It made her angry at herself, for Judy had been through plenty of her own trials and she was still on fire with life.

But Karen’s bitterness ran deep. She stood by the refreshment table sipping her drink and spotted Sarah Womack, once Wichita High’s head cheerleader, who looked to weigh about two hundred pounds. Karen was overcome with evil delight. She’d filled out quite nicely after she’d had her kids, and though she admonished herself for being catty, she couldn’t help but feel peacefully vindicated. Though when she looked down at her Target dress and Payless shoes, she saw that it didn’t make a difference if Sarah Womack became the fattest woman in the world, she’d always outclass Karen.

Then she saw him walking toward her next to Judy, his once-dark hair white as an albino rabbit’s, though she would have recognized him anywhere; tall, still lanky Bobby Griffith, the boy who had loved her, the boy who’s affection she had scorned. As the now grown man looked into her eyes, she saw herself as the person he must have seen back then, the one she’d forgotten about.

Confessions of an aspiring writer

I would imagine that everyone has heard the saying, “Necessity is the mother of invention.” As a newly single writer, I am here to tell you that never were truer words spoken. For three years I wrote poetry, short stories, essays, a few articles here and there, not really worrying about whether the markets paid or not. My husband paid the bills and supported me in my writing endeavors. (At least I thought he did.) I was building my publishing credits, creating a portfolio while I looked for a publisher for my novel.

Don’t get me wrong, I worked hard and I worked long hours. I was dedicated. I created a blog which I still maintain for other writers, listing markets and links to help guide them through their journey. I created and edited an online flash fiction journal. I also spent a lot of time on writer’s message boards, giving and receiving advice and searching for markets, making friends; and yes, wasting time chit chatting.

Those days are gone. I have been forced by circumstance to support myself. I had several choices when my husband left: I could go out and get a regular job or start my advertising business back up–which I created and ran for ten years and grew to hate–or I could try to make a living as a freelance writer. I chose the latter. I had to do a lot of soul searching, for as anyone who writes for a living knows, security is not a word that applies to freelancing, or at least not to new freelancers. But I love writing. I made a commitment to myself when I gave up my advertising business that I would spend the rest of my life writing. And that is what I am going to do.

I find that the biggest challenge for me is a psychological one. It truly is mind over matter. Still, I get up everyday with a clean slate, determined that I will not give up on my dreams. I am strong, smart, industrious and a good writer. And there ARE ways to make a living writing, though what I have found is that the easiest way for a beginning freelancer is to write for the web. I get paid through Paypal for most jobs. I look for jobs that pay quickly. I write content. I have written for a soap opera site. Whatever writing I have to do to make sure the bills get paid that’s what I do; so far so good.

But I find it highly ironic that I used to be such a Prima Donna about writing for the web. When I would read post by writers on message boards who were working for very little pay I would bombast them, telling them that they shouldn’t give their work away. Now I eat crow everyday as I check the job boards and submit my beautiful words for less than I think I deserve.

I guess you could consider this a confession, the confession of a woman who is determined to make it as a freelance writer and is willing to do whatever it takes to make that happen. The good news is that I no longer have the luxury of hanging out on message boards. Time is money, and the hours that I don’t spend writing for the web I spend sending out queries to magazines that pay good money. I have created a resume and am starting to get more offers for web work than I can handle. I have also learned that my background in writing ad copy in real life equates in the writing world to copywriting. Beginning copywriting, granted, but still, I’ll take whatever accolades come my way.

I realize that the road ahead is a long one but I am hopeful and excited. I know that as I continue on my journey as a freelance writer the more experience I get under my belt the more often better paying jobs will be available to me. I also know that the time will come will I will want to write new poetry and short stories, maybe even more novels, or who knows? Maybe I’ll even write a non-fiction book. The writing world is wide open before me. All I need to do is keep plugging along and not lose faith.

I am sure I am not alone in my predicament. My hope is that these words will help other writers who may be in a similar life situation. And on that note, I’d like to close this confession with a challenge. I have always firmly believed that you can do anything you set your mind to. I intend to be a shining example of exactly that. What about you?

The Importance of Reading Out Loud

One of the most valuable lessons I have learned about creative writing is the importance of reading your work out loud. I am not referring to reading the finished product to an audience. I am talking about reading your draft out loud, to yourself.

When I was writing my young adult novel, when I finished a scene, after I was reasonably sure the words were just the ones I wanted, that my dialogue was natural, that my grammar and spelling were correct, I would print out the scene, and in my office, alone, like a performance artist, I would act out the scene, reading out loud, using the voices of the narrator and each character. If someone had seen me they would have probably thought I was nuts. But this was a sure fire way of finding out what sections of the scene needed work.

Reading a piece of fiction or poetry out loud, you hear it with the ear of the reader. Sentences that need pauses, words that require inflection or emphasis, the dialogue between two characters, rise up off the page in a way they simply can’t do by reading the work silently.

How to develop real creative writing talent?

I am reading a book by Cormac McCarthy called “The Road,” a heart-wrenching story of a man and his young son trying to make their way through a future gone mad. The world as we know it has ended, and there is barely nothing left, only fire, ash, sorrow, and dead bodies. There are few survivors, and most them have banded together into evil, insane gangs that prey on the decent.

I came across a metaphor last night that prompted me to write this post. McCarthy was describing the dead trees. “the thin black trees burning on the slopes like stands of heathen candles.”

What a picture that creates! The thing that makes McCarthy’s passage great is the fact that he describes something in a way no one else could. That is the sign of true creative writing talent, the ability to convey a message in a way that is unique and not cliche. Think about it. The greatest writing is that which makes us see things in a new way, a way we’ve never considered.

Why I deserve something?

I was born into slavery. All my life I had been a tool, a means to an end for other people’s needs and desires. I was kept in the dark, living on a diet of stale Ritz crackers, peanut butter and diet root beer.

But the day came when I finally saw the light. I remember it well, it was the eve of my 16th birthday. My keeper forgot to lock the door when he left for his latest assignment as a hired killer. I escaped, running through the streets of the city, shouting for joy, saying hello to EVERYONE, amazed at the beauty of the people around me, at the bright lights and the excitement of freedom, of living. Then suddenly, someone took my picture. At first I was frightened, but the old woman who had snapped the photo was kind. She snapped several others. Then seeing my discomfort, she wrapped her arms around me as we walked to the photo development shop. As we waited for the pictures to be developed she fed me chocolate truffles, cooing over me, telling me what a pretty child I was. She had never had children, she said.

Well, I had never seen myself, I had never even looked into a mirror. And I have to tell, you, one hour later when the photos she had taken of me were passed into my hands, my life changed. I really WAS pretty. I had a button nose and big brown eyes. And my smile was radiant.

I never returned to my prison. The old woman took me home, adopted me, and began to fill my starving belly with cheeseburgers, french fries and strawberry milkshakes. I was in heaven, though there was only one thing missing. I needed a camera. For Christmas that year, the old woman bought me a disposable camera and I became a fanatic, snapping pictures of all the beautiful, free people that came into my line of vision.

That was many years ago. The old woman, the only mother I have ever known, died last year. Now here I sit, free but poor, living on a diet of stale Ritz crackers, peanut butter and diet root beer, unable to even afford a disposable camera, just wishing that Ted Murphy, the CEO of PPP, would have mercy on this wounded soul and make my dreams come true by hooking me up with some HP camera gear.

I could start my life anew by making my profession one of taking digital photography and finally be able to afford the chocolate truffles, cheeseburgers, fries and strawberry milkshakes my dear mother raised me on. I beseech you Ted, oh powerful one, choose this former slave and prospective photographer as one of the lucky posties that you bestow a gift upon!

How to control my thoughts?

I started out this morning in a really good mood. I was very calm, even felt peppy, the first time I’ve felt that good since the marriage trouble started the day after Thanksgiving. But I started having a sinking spell around noon, and I decided to pay attention to what was really going on in the back on my mind. You know what I mean, those little tapes we play in our head that tell us things are not going the way they should, that nobody loves us, or that we aren’t pretty; everybody has different negative stuff they play, whether they are aware of it or not, or I think pretty much everybody does, at least when they are going through a rough patch in their lives. That’s usually the first thing we do is start beating ourselves up.

What I began to tell myself, however, was that those tapes were old, worn out and not true, and I started playing new tapes, telling myself that I loved myself, that God loves me and that I am fine, safe, even on the way to being happy, maybe for the first time in years. We really DO have the power to control our thoughts, and as we all know, our thoughts control our actions and our actions define our destiny. So, at least for today, I am headed to a much better place emotionally, for I overcame. I plan on doing it again tomorrow.

How to find time for myself?

I have a confession. I am a lurker. And one of the places that I often lurk is the WAHM forum. I love the place, and you know why? Because I used to be a single parent and I can’t help but admire their stamina, persistence and the actual joy that comes through from work at home moms in their posts. I have never seen a group of harder working people.

I just wanted to stop by here tonight before I pile up in the bed with my little dog and a good book and say to the WAHMs out there to remember to take some time to yourself. I don’t care if it’s an hour a week and all you do is go to Walmart, do it alone, find a babysitter, trade turns with your neighbor or another WAHM so she can do the same. Enjoy some quality time.

As women, we are guilty of putting everyone’s needs before our own. And that can be honorable, but it can also take a huge toll on you and the people you love. Taking time out for yourself is a gift you give to you all. Good night, and keep on plugging along!

We are whatever we think we are

I had a conversation with my 27-year-old son today about the hype surrounding The Secret. If you have been living under a rock and haven’t heard of The Secret, it is a huge–I guess you’d call it a movement–that teaches people about the Laws of Attraction, and how gratitude and a positive frame of mind can actually draw to you the things and the people you desire.

My son has watched the CD and is very excited about it. But he made me feel really good when he told me that many of the basic teachings are things I taught him long ago. I actually wrote a poem about 20 years ago called MIND CONTROL about a mother whose son was sick, who didn’t have health insurance, but with positive thoughts, chicken soup and aspirin, his white blood cells did battle with the bacteria and made him well.

I have always believed in the power of positive thinking. We ARE what we think. If you are unhappy right now, try this. Smile. Get up and walk to the window and stretch as you smile. I guarantee that you will detect a change in your negative feelings.

We can even create our own heaven and hell right here on earth with the power of our mind. If we are constantly telling ourselves that we will fail, or that we aren’t good enough, or thinking from a place of lack, then failure, rejection, and lack will be our reality. The proof of this in my life has been overwhelming, but remaining positive in a negative world, keeping a good and grateful attitude no matter your circumstances, has to become part of who you are, it’s not a temporary remedy, it’s a way of life.

It is wonderful that people are embracing The Secret. But what I wonder is why not until now? Maybe it’s the presentation combined with timing. We live in chaotic and frightening times, and many people have become disillusioned with religion. I blame this mainly on the years and years of corruption in the church and from its leaders, and also on the violence that has been wrought in the name of religion.

I have heard rumblings that Christians feel that The Secret is trying to replace religion, and I disagree. The Secret teaches that we are energy, just as Wayne Dyer has taught for over 20 years with his belief that we are all connected to a Source. You can believe in God and Jesus and still believe in the power of your mind. God created free will, and what is that but choosing your own life?

The Secret Science of Getting Rich

I was talking about “The Secret” here a few weeks ago, about how hyped up my son is about this program after watching the movie. I saw the authors of the book on Oprah a few weeks before Justin told me that he’d seen the movie, and the impact it had on him. I got fired up myself, listening to what was said on Oprah.

“The Secret” takes the tenants of The Laws of Attraction and applies them to the everyday, teaching us how to project positive things into our lives. But now that have taken it one step further. There is now a seminar and an affiliate program in place called The Secret Science of Getting Rich and after all I have heard, I have no doubt that they really can teach you how it is done.

I am so glad to see that this way of thinking and these teachings are making such an impact on the masses. I am running across people almost everyday who are excited about The Secret and have jumped on the bandwagon. It is about time there was a move toward something positive in this country. I was beginning to wonder if negativity and bleakness were the new order of the day. Maybe there is hope for us after all.

I am married to my job

I have been thinking about what I wanted to say, and it occurred to me that productivity is just about my middle name these days.  From the summer of 2003 until this past November, I lived in a dream state. I spent a year writing a YA novel, then I spent my time learning about the publishing industry, hanging out on writer’s message boards, playing at being a writer, writing poetry, short stories, essays, and a few articles here and there, getting a bunch of publishing credits under my belt. My hope was to be a great ‘writer.”

I didn’t make any real money to speak of, my husband paid the bills, so I didn’t worry about it. I had basically, if the truth be known, browbeat him into to supporting me. He kept telling me that I needed to get a job, but I was in denial about so many things. My son was in trouble with drugs and would soon no longer be with us.

My marriage was in trouble too, but I didn’t want to acknowledge that fact. Actually, I am not sure I even knew it. You know how they say that things can change in a New York minute? Well that’s what happened the day after Thanksgiving of last year. My husband informed me that we was in love with someone else and was leaving me. I was devastated, but my first thought was of course one of survival. How was I going to take care of myself?

I had signed up with Payperpost a few months before that and was making a little cash, but once Shane hit the door I hit the computer. Hard. I did all the paid posting I could, for PPP and other companies. I worked to get my PR up so that I could take better paying opps and also because I fell in love all over with my blogs and became proud of them, plus it felt good to be helping other writers who were also struggling to make ends meet. I started writing for Associated Content. I began taking other low paying content writing jobs, counting my pennies, holding my breath. I have been working like a demon ever since, practically married to my job. But I haven’t thought about it, I have just worked, grateful that I had the ability to make a living online. All I could concentrate on was the fact that I had to take care of myself so I wouldn’t lose my apartment, and thus my freedom, and eating is always a good thing. :)

I was finally able to start paying my own bills within a few months. Then last week I won that $1000 from PPP and I was ecstatic. I felt like it was a gift from God for all my hard work. Then yesterday I was hired to write for a site called The Go-To Girls where I get to talk about my experiences with online dating and offer advice on sex and relationship. (Got plenty of experience, been there, done that, got too many t-shirts, as I said in my first article I just finished writing.)

With all of this good fortune and the hard work I have done, things are settled into a comfortable monetary place so that I am actually able now to write Monday through Friday about 7 hours a day if I want and still make a good living. I can get up at 6 and work until 2 and be done. I love that.

It’s been a rough road, but you know what? I wouldn’t have had it any other way. Even though I have often worked seven days a week these last few months I am glad I was forced to wake up and smell the coffee. I love working. Up until the summer of 2003 I had been a career woman all my life. It is who I am, and I feel like my old self again most of the time. So, in conclusion, my thoughts on productivity is that it is essential to good mental health. And being self sufficient is something I will never relinquish or give away again.

My thoughts on Dale Carnegie book How to win friends and influence people

I decided that the best business book I ever read was Dale Carnegie’s HOW TO WIN FRIENDS AND INFLUENCE PEOPLE. I read it when I was probably 16 years old. My daddy was in the Jaycees for a time. The Jaycees is an organization much like the Kiwanis. That was during one of his periods of trying to improve himself in between bouts of manic depression and alcoholism. Let it never be said that a person with mental illness and/or a social disease cannot also be a great person, even if their periods of greatness may come and go. My daddy was one of those great people and he taught me much about life and about human nature, as did this book.

It changed my life as a matter of fact. For one thing, it made me realize that I possessed some of the key qualities that it takes to succeed, in both life and in business. I was intelligent, I was friendly, I had good manners, and a sort of charisma that was already drawing people to me. What HOW TO WIN FRIENDS AND INFLUENCE PEOPLE did was shore up my confidence in myself and help me to see that there was a much better way of living, a happier life, out there for me than the one I was living.

I have spent my life as a career woman. I have sold life insurance, winning top honors continuously, I have been the office/credit manager of a building material center, I have been the assistant administrator at two nursing homes, I owned a small advertising business for 10 years, and now I am full time blogger/writer. And through all of these incarnations I thank that one little book for helping me to see what a people person I was and that I really could win friends and influence people. And I have!

Experience of a writer with getting free search engine traffic

SEO, Search Engine Optimization. To put it simply, it’s a way to ensure that words, keywords, will be picked up by Google and other search engines’ spiders, who crawl across the web every so often before they update their databases.  I think it’s underhanded. (But I also think ads for food on TV never taste as good as they make it look!) Still, I think this kind of writing is death to creativity.

Here’s an example. I applied to a company to write a weekly article for their website. It paid, and after years of being a career woman and a business owner–even though my wonderful husband told me when I started writing full-time that I could write whatever I wanted and not to worry about the money–the idea of actually being paid on a steady basis was very appealing. The company had a formula to follow for where in the article and how often certain words should appear. Ok. I tried it. But I failed the litmus test, because they also had tip and tricks for pulling on the heart strings of readers, and my article “didn’t make the editor cry.”

Yuk. I hate manipulation. I didn’t bother responding.

Now I know that all of this is just part of commerce and capitalism, and it’s not going anywhere. And I’m sure not all SEO devices are to be frowned upon, I guess if you are selling something, it’s like advertising, getting the most bang for your buck. What I hate to see is an aspiring writer, filled with passion and talent, but since they need to put bread on the table, they sell out to content sites who’s only goal is to sell articles to companies who need them for their websites. These articles must be designed for ultimate optimization so the “spiders” can crawl. Good name for the nasty little buggers. These writers get paid peanuts, receive no byline, sell all rights, and all of their writing time is eaten up writing this robot content.

I can see right now that being able to say what’s on my mind with impunity is going to be one more reason I love having a blog. :)

If you are new writer, please don’t write for content sites. There are lots of jobs you can do from home that will pay much better, and you won’t have to compromise your integrity. Check out the WAHM forums. Jobs galore. And if you actually have a job outside the home and you are writing content, well, I guess I’ll have to concede that there’s a lid for every pot. I HAVE actually seen the websites of several writers who make a good living writing SEO. Ok, I’ll give them that. Maybe their minds are wired for technology and they just happen to be able to turn a good phrase.

If that’s the case with you, great. If not, then I’ll repeat myself. Please don’t waste your talent writing for content sites. Write for the love of it. Like Wayne Dyer said, “Do what you love, and the money will come.” That’s why I repeat what I said yesterday. You WILL NOT find those kinds of jobs listed in my Monday markets. Ever. The markets I list will either be reputable ezines that don’t pay–which is a great way to build credits and get clips, and how I started out–or they will be paying markets; magazines, both print and online, seeking fiction, essays, articles, poetry, calls for anthology submissions, contest, an eclectic mix that will have a little of something for every type of writer.

You will find that probably 85% of them will be paying markets, period. I don’t like the idea of working for free. But I will slip in a classy ezine here and there for newbies who are just trying to get their foot in the door.

And no, I am not “making a living” as a freelance writer yet, and yes, I know that I am one of the lucky few who doesn’t have the money monkey on my back. But don’t for a second think that I am some kind of prima donna housewife who’s NEVER had to worry about money. I raised two sons as a single parent, often working two jobs. But I am headed in the direction of actually making a living freelancing, for with each credit I add to my portfolio, reputable credits, the more attention paying markets are giving to my cover letter. And up the ladder I move. Upward and onward, toward my dream of being a respected and well paid freelance writer and traditionally published author.

Speaking of which, I’ll have to tell you someday soon what I think about vanity publishing and Publish America, Authorhouse, IUniverse, Whitmore Publishing, Traffford Publishing–there are plenty more, so called publishers whose Google ads you see everywhere.

Let’s just say for now that I don’t think everybody who has the capability to sit down at a computer and type is necessarily a writer.  Aaaahhh, boy did it feel good to get all of that off my chest. I never knew blogging could be so therapeutic!

Blogging is like fishing

There has been the coolest conversation going on across the blogosphere and I decided it was time for me to jump on board. Char at Essential Keystrokes, a fellow Gack Inker and great blogger, started it with her post about how to explain blogging to your mom, a brilliant post that compared blogging to a Farmer’s Market and prompted others to describe what metaphor fit blogging for them.

Though there are a lot more really good metaphors, in fact, too many too list here by now, I really like what Liz at Successful Blogger, who honored me several months back by naming me an official SOB, had to say about bloggers being learners and teachers and how she has pumped the volume way up on this deal and turned it into a group writing project with ten bloggers who post their metaphors receiving a copy of a book called “What Bloggers Won’t Tell You About Blogging.”

So, I thought about it for a couple of days and decided that to me the best way to describe blogging is to compare it to fishing. I do paid blogging for different pay to post services and this is what led me to the fishing comparison. Especially with PPP, for the new opportunities come out off and on during the day and the competition to get the best paying ones is fierce. So what I do is this. I get up early in the morning, the early bird catching the worm, and I do a couple of blog post that are assigned to me by other companies while I have my coffee. It is quiet and peaceful, the morning sun shining through my office windows like the sun shining across a lake.

Once I have done my assigned post I take a bath and make some breakfast, and then, by 9:00 am, when the opps start coming out at PPP, like new fish being added to a stocked pond, I have my pole in the water, waiting. clicking to refresh the page like watching for a bobber to peek below the water. It works most every morning that I end up making a pretty decent amount of money. If I haven’t made the quota I set for myself, I am back after lunch, fishing for a few more hours before I am tuckered out and call it a day. But like fishing, there is a limit to my catch, and like life, there must be balance. In between doing paid posting I must fish around and find interesting, news worthy or helpful things to blog about that will assure that my blog retains its quality and keeps my readers coming back. I mean heck, who would want to sit and watch me fish all day?

How to get ready for a job interview if you are a woman?

I hope this doesn’t sound like bragging, but in 35 years I can’t remember NOT landing a job I really wanted. I feel that qualifies me to offer you advice on landing the job that YOU really want. Of course, unless you have inside connections, maybe your father owns the company, you can’t get the job without first acing the interview. Here are ten steps to make that happen:

Dress for Success: First impressions mean everything. No matter how smart you are, or how qualified for the job you might be, if your appearance is not up to par it could sour the deal.

Be on Time: This goes without saying, but I read on a forum not long ago a post from a man who said he had a girl call him twice, late for her interview, with one excuse or another. Needless to say, he didn’t hire her. Punctuality is tantamount. If you can’t make it to the interview on time how can you make it to work on time?
Make Eye Contact and Offer a Firm Handshake: To me, this is one of the most important aspects of the interview. This is your chance to let yours shine. And make sure you make eye contact and offer a firm handshake both in the beginning of the interview and at the end. You want to be remembered, and by presenting yourself coming and going as someone polite, professional, and confident you will definitely accomplish this.

Be Yourself: When I mention that I am nervous about a meeting, an interview, or a date, and friends tell me just to by myself, I always say, “Who’s better qualified?” There is only one you, and that automatically elevates you to the level of unique! Don’t be concerned that your interviewer might find you too eager, too laid back, too this or too that. After all, you can pretend to be someone else, but the person who interviews you will be able to detect such deceit. Trust me.

Be Prepared: It is so very crucial that you have your resume polished, that your portfolio is professionally done and up to date, and that you have taken the time to consider any questions that you may be asked during your interview. Some of these questions could be about your past performance, your personal references, why you feel you are the person for the job, what you can bring to the table, etc. Don’t despair if a question comes out of left field. If you are have done a good job in previous positions, if you really are qualified and want this job; if you show enthusiasm, you should be able to handle whatever comes your way during the interview.  I honestly believe that by using these tips you will be able to ace your next job interview and be the person who is hired. Good luck!

Best Books to Learn Creative Writing

When I first decided to write full time four years ago, like everything else I make my mind up to tackle, I knew that I first needed to study to craft. I mean, yeah, anybody can string words together, but there actually are rules to creative writing. Don’t ever let anyone tell you differently. I read a lot of advice books from established authors on the craft of writing, and I’d like to share with you the most important things that stuck with me, and also the names and authors of a couple of those books.

The main thing about creative writing is that you want your reader to forget they are reading. Make the story read so smoothly and flow naturally, and that’s what will happen. You aren’t writing for yourself, you are writing for the reader’s entertainment. Anything you put in your story that doesn’t advance the plot doesn’t belong.


Use all five senses, sight, sound, touch, smell and taste, as you describe scenes. That puts the reader in the moment. Most writers are avid readers so you know what I am talking about. If a woman, for instance, is cooking a pot of stew and talking on the phone, you want the smell of the broth, the sounds going on around her, like the birds singing outside or what she is saying to the party on the other end of the phone, the heat rising from the pot, what her facial expressions are like, how the carrots feel in her hand as she chops them. Do you see what I mean? Just pretend you are a camera recording an event. That was really the MAIN thing that I never forgot.

Now here are two books that I recommend over all others for beginning writers: Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott and Dare to Be a Great Writer by Leonard Bishop. I found both of these at the public library, though the link above will lead you to a paperback copy of Bishop’s book for a little over $2.00. It is an older book, but the advice is timeless. Both books are down to earth, easy to understand, filled with humor and moral insight, and the best frigging advice I could direct you to.

How to free my mind?

I have always been a person who strives to understand human nature and myself. When I was in high school my goal was to be a psychologist, in fact. That’s how fascinating people and their motivations are to me, figuring out what makes them tick. But alas, life intruded and I never got to follow that dream. However, that didn’t stop me from continuing my quest to learn how the human mind works and what motivates us. This quest has created for me a deep and abiding spiritual life as well as a life of the mind. I have been told more times than I can remember that I am ‘too deep’ or “out there.’ So be it. I like who I am and it doesn’t bother me that I don’t easily fit into a mold. In fact, I’m proud that I don’t.

So in that vein of discovering what motivates us, I wanted to speak to you about a book I just finished called, “Co-Dependent No More: How to Stop Controlling Others and Care for Yourself,” by Melony Beattie. I was led to read this book out of a sense of desperation. After my husband and I separated I was, for the first time in years, single and living totally alone. I had lived alone back when my son first went off to college, but I hated it. This time I wanted to learn to like it, but first I knew I had to figure out how to like myself more. Ever since my other son died two years ago I have really been down on myself, bearing the weight of guilt that comes with grief when someone you love kills them self. I began to really watch myself, how I related to other people, my reactions to situations, and I saw that I was a controlling person, although I cloaked it under the umbrella of trying to help. The control I needed was not actually about other people. It was me who felt out of control. This much I knew before I cracked open that book. But let me tell you, I didn’t have a clue how co-dependent I was or how much better I would feel after reading the book. I see that I am not so “out there” after all, for one thing. Millions of people are co-dependent, and the good news is that you don’t have to stay that way.


I learned that most co-dependents come from dysfunction families, of which I am one of those people. Learning to be a caretaker, someone who could be depended on to save the day, learning to please others to win approval, is something co-dependents often learn when they are young and growing up in their dysfunctional homes as a coping mechanism. Well that describes me perfectly! And reading those words gave me so much hope, because behind them came suggestions on how to change.

I don’t need other people’s approval to be happy. I need MINE. I don’t have to give and give to be liked. If I am loving myself, people will be naturally drawn to me. I don’t have to be in control of anything but myself. I don’t have to be reactionary. Nothing is the end of the world except the end of the world. I can trust myself to make good decisions. I am not helpless, nor am I am victim.

I feel the yoke of guilt and shame I have carried all my life being lifted daily, and I can’t tell you how free I am feeling. Of course, it will take time to undo behaviors that are almost as old as I am, but I am being patient with myself. Now that I am armed with knowledge I feel empowered to finally be free of the need to please.

If you see yourself in this article, by all means PLEASE get this book and read it. I bought it used on Amazon for around $6.00. The best money I have ever spent. I am going to read it again. That’s how good it is. This journey of life can be heaven or hell. The last few years have been hell. I am so outta there!

The Restorative Value of Margaritas

Thank God it’s Friday! she said with delight as the blender worked its magic.
Honey, what are your plans for tonight?
Me, I’m drinking and flashing.

Flashing! He said, his forehead askew
Didn’t I tell you about that?
The last time you did it was that evil brew
And I will no longer stand for it!

Not to worry, you silly man
That’s not the kind of flashing I meant
I’m meeting my friends because I can
So don’t get your nose all bent

We write a story in under an hour
While we drink martinis or margaritas
Then once we’re done, we critique our wares
It’s better than sitting outside with the mosquitoes!

He kissed his wife and smiled sweetly
Well in that case have a good time
I’m watching wrestling, though I’m defeated
by how it’s turned so nickel and dime.

Chicken today and feathers tomorrow

That’s what my daddy used to say. And this writing life fits this old country saying to a tee. You can go for weeks and not hear a word, your inbox,  your mailbox, silently taunting you, and then BOOM, a slew of rejections, or in this case, good news!

I received my copy of The Sword Review in the mail yesterday. I have a flash fiction piece in there. But what was so very cool about it is that on the cover, a few spaces down from the other stories listed inside, it said, “Bonus! Print version only!” with my story and name listed. When I opened the book, my story was the first one. It made me feel special, and boy don’t we writers love and need to feel special every now and then.

I also got two request for the full manuscript of my novel from agents and a contract for a poem I’ve had accepted in an anthology called “Susan B and Me” coming out in the fall. All of this on the heels of my granddaughter’s birth. And on top of that, my husband got a big raise at work.  So yep, my daddy was right, it’s chicken today. I guess I better get my appetite whet for some feathers.

Why is flash fiction important for writers?

Flash fiction is the best and fasted way for a new fiction writer to get some publishing credits under their belt. Or that’s been my experience, anyway.  Although, my VERY first published piece was an essay and found it’s way to getting published out of sheer luck. I was looking for a market to send it to, so I described the essay at WritersNet, and of all things, an editor at Hot Psychology magazine read my posts and was interested in it. Man, was that ever a thrill! But it’s rare for something like that to happen.

After I sent Maddy into the wild blue yonder, I discovered another online writing group that had flash challenges. I had never even heard of flash fiction, but I jumped in head first to these flash & chat sessions, began subbing the finished product to small literary e-zines, and before I knew it, I had a hand full of flash pieces published.

There’s no confidence builder like a yes. From last fall until now, I wrote and submitted like a demon. I now have a list of flash pieces, essays, a few newspaper articles and YES, finally, my first bona fide print magazine piece, published.  When I found out in January that one of my pieces had been nominated for a Pushcart, Lord don’t you know, my heart soared!

But as I said yesterday, in the back of my mind was my novel. The winner of the Delacorte contest was announced the end of October of 2005. And for all of these months, while I was busying building my portfolio, Maddy was sitting lonely, waiting for me even offer her a glance. Finally, a few weeks ago, I could no longer avoid the fact that if I were ever to get her published, I would have to start sending out queries. But I did a smart thing. I asked a fellow writer, a YA author, to read Maddy for me and tell me what she thought. Her advice was priceless. Though she loved the book, she pointed out some grammar and punctuation errors, along with tweaks here and there which would make the story stronger.

Joy of getting immersed in my passion

When I started writing “The Sun Shines on Maddy Weaver,” I had no idea it would end up a novel. All I knew was that I had a story to tell–actually, I had a childhood to rewrite–and that I had a message to bring to kids in similar situations. That message was one of hope.

My fingers flew across the keyboard, words trapped for years planted themselves on the page. I couldn’t wait to wake up in the morning so that I could write again. I could look up at the clock and hours would have passed as if they were minutes. I wrote in my sleep, the words typing themselves on a keyboard in my mind. In the middle of dinner, I would jump up and write something down, a thought, a phrase.

There was no joy like the madness of that immersion into Maddy’s world.

Within weeks, I realized I had the makings of a novel on my hands. So I took a break and started studying the craft of novel writing. I joined an online writer’s group, where I posted a short excerpt. No one had read a word up until then. And to my utter delight, I discovered that my peers loved it. To hear a professional writer say, “Your voice exudes charm and personality” was like they had handed me the Oscar!

It took over a year to finally come up with a draft I was happy with, and I entered Maddy in the Delacorte Middle Reader’s Contest. It was truly like saying goodbye to my little girl.

I didn’t win, and now, eight months later, after becoming sidetracked with other writing, the experience of which I will tell you about tomorrow, I find that I am a better writer than I was last summer. I am in the process of another round of editing Maddy, and this experience too I will share with you in days to come.

What is the importance of editing for writers?

When I left off last week in the discussion of my writing journey I was talking about how much I hated editing. But about that time is when a fellow writer said something that really hit home, about how editing was like rebuilding the engine of a car. For a former tomboy and car enthusiast like me, the metaphor was perfect.  I have been editing my novel, hating every minute of the work, for a few weeks now, and I kept wondering why I was so uptight, feeling so rushed.

What I realized is that my age, 51 next month, has felt like the sword of Damocles hanging over my head for whole three years I've been writing full-time, always thinking, gotta get published, gotta make money, gotta hurry before time runs out. And this attitude shows in my stuff. I have a file full of stories, essays and articles that reflect the rush, that aren't quite there yet, that need to be fleshed out, cut down, returned.  I decided at the end of 2005 that 2006 would be the year of really breaking through, getting published in major pubs, making bucks, but this morning I am embracing the fact that, nope, 2006 for me is "The Year of Editing."

Understanding this and accepting it have already made me breath easier. It takes what it takes, and I have a lot of overhauling to do. And that's where I am with my novel. Once I shut myself away from the world and stop that analytical and business side of my brain from trying to run the show, I'm right back in that world I created, but I am finding myself editing from a reader's perspective. I impressed myself with my prose, I got the story down and finished, and now I'm trying to view it with detachment.  I'm just going to start repeating, "I love editing, I love editing.."

I hate editing…no, hate is not the right word. I am impatient, and thus editing frustrates me. I thought when I sent my novel off to Delacorte contest that it was good to go. Nope, not by a long shot. I’ve always heard that you should step away from your work for a bit before you do any editing. I see why now.

I am in the process of killing my darlings, rearranging paragraphs, correcting punctuation, even deleting whole sections and totally rewriting others. It’s satisfying work, because I know for sure how much better the novel will be when I’m finished, but I’d like to quote Kris Broughton, who nailed the way a final draft feels to me, “overhaul it from the ground up - just take it apart, sentence by sentence, comma by comma, verb by verb, and take your time putting it back together as if you were blueprinting a brand new engine.”

It has taken me 2 weeks to get to chapter 7. I have to keep reminding myself that it’s all worth it, that it takes what it takes. Hopefully when I’m done I’ll have something a publisher would be happy to see.

Shrek fan fiction

Poor Donkey. After Shrek and his princess bride rode off into the sunset, bound for a fantasy honeymoon, green ogre love and the land of Nod, Donkey was left to fend for himself. Shrek no longer needed his four legged companion, though the two of them had been through so much together.

“Dayumn!” Donkey brayed in lonely frustration as he stood at Shrek’s empty castle gate. “Why does marriage have to change folks?”

He gazed up at the sky, a tear dripping into the fur under his huge brown eye. “And what’s that ugly ogre thinking anyway? He ain’t gonna like living in this pile of brick!”

Hanging his head, Donkey ambled down the path, away from the castle, dejected, imagining the castle filled with the laughter of miniature Shreks, which made him even sadder. But the main thing on Donkey’s mind was where he would live now that Shrek had boarded up his treehouse in the forest. “Mmmrrhhp,” Donkey snorted. “Some friend. The least that lily livered traitor could have done was left that dump for me.”

Donkey wasn’t watching where he was going and stumbled into a huge bramble of bushes. “Arrghh! Crap!” He whined, fighting his way out of the bush. Scratched, bleeding, Donkey was at the end of his rope. But as he came into a small clearing, there, like something out of a fairy tale, sat a beautiful, thatch-roofed cottage. “Whaaa? Wonder who lives here?” He brayed a bitter laugh, “mmmrrhph, probably Shrek’s hired help!”

As he drew closer to the cottage, Donkey saw a basket sitting on the steps. Warily, looking around, as if there was a soul out in the middle of bumfriggin castleville to see him, Donkey checked it out. There was fruit, apples, “oh yeah” and peaches, “oooh, boy!” but most amazingly of all was the note pinned to the basket.

Donkey, this place is our gift to you, mine and Fiona’s. No way could I live without my best friend near by.

Love always, Shrek.

“Well hot diggity dog!” Donkey shouted, dancing a jig around the yard of his new home. “Man, do I love that big ole ugly ogre!”

Confessions of a self made businesswoman

I’m talking about me. All my life I’ve been a businesswoman. As I said in my bio, the only thing I did as far as writing was concerned, up until three years ago when I started writing full-time, was dabble in poetry. I would write a poem on a napkin in a bar and give it to someone I had just met. I have written more poems than I could ever count for people I cared about, family, friends, lovers. I had a girlfriend who would call me and have me write her a little ditty for someone at work. I’d say, “call back in an hour” and I’d have it ready for her. But once I decided to make a career out of writing, once I got past that innocent, doe-eyed, romantic stage of simple creation, the businesswoman I have always been came calling.

So here I sit, still trying to decide what I want to write. I spent a few hours last night working on a piece I started a year ago, about a women strapped to a toilet chair in a basement. But then, here comes that businesswoman, asking me, “will this sell? What genre is it, thriller, horror, what, what? Is there a market for this if I spend the time to write a whole novel? That’s a big investment, what will the returns be?”

I stop. I start perusing horror sites, reading stories, comparing, evaluating, thinking, “Ok, yeah! That scene is just as scary or more so than some of the stuff I’ve run across.” I get excited, remembering all the old horror movies I loved so much when I was a really young kid, The Hand, The Blob, Straight Jacket, Hush Hush Sweet Charlotte, Psycho, then along came the Omen, Amytiville Horror, The Exorcist, and how I used to devour Dean Koontz and Stephen King novels the minute they hit the shelves. I thought about how all the most memorable scary movies had a character who was unforgettably crazy or a monster, like Frankenstein, Count Dracula, The Mummy, then along came the modern day monsters, Freddy Krueger, Jason, Leatherface, Michael Myers.

That businesswoman was planted firmly on my shoulder, shouting, “create a character of your own, one that will be a huge hit! She reminds me of all the stories I have written over the last three years that aren’t published yet. “Several of them,” she says, “with some tweaking could definitely fit the horror genre.” Suddenly they feel like inventory I need to move before I restock.

Then that mantra I hear over and over comes back to me, “just write, don’t worry about anything else, just start writing” I can’t seem to do that, I have a compulsive need to know, or at least have a good idea, what the future of what I write is going to be. I hear so many writers say they can’t “not write” but I can “not write” if it means that my time will be wasted. “Time is money” that businesswoman whispers.

But then I think about Maddy, my middle reader, and how I really did just sit down and write the story. What pure joy that was. And right behind that thought comes another one. “I wish I could hurry up and get this published so I could market it! I’m great at marketing, I need Maddy on the shelves!” Although, I will admit, the businesswoman has been influenced by the writer to a large degree, because the writer adds softly, “I really can’t wait for kids to read this, I think they will love it.”

Oh innocent, doe-eyed muse, please return! Gods of creative writing, scary stories, horror novels, would you put a muzzle on this businesswoman and let me write in peace?

What are backlinks and what is their importance?

For the benefit of those new to blogging and building a website that attracts a lot of search engine traffic, after explaining pagerank and its importance in search engine strategy, this time I will explain what back links are, or the importance of them.  It is not so much the quantity of your back links when it comes to page rank as it is the quality of these back links. By quality back links I mean links from sites that talk about the same things you do and have a good page rank and are respected by search engines for their traffic, content and popularity. There are several ways to gain quality back links. One is by making sure your content is helpful in your chosen field. You will discover that by continuously providing quality content, back links will show up from respected sites naturally, because quality begats quality and your information WILL be found. This is the best kind of back link in my opinion, because it came to you organically, honestly, simply by doing a good job, thus the link counts for a lot. For example, I discovered that you can actually move up in page rank if you have one high page rank back link as opposed to many links from low ranking sites. Alexa, which is another barometer of your site’s popularity and one that affects the rating of paid to post bloggers, has a free tool bar you can download which will show you the page rank of each site you visit. This shows up as a very non-intrusive box at the bottom of the screen and one I have come to totally rely on in helping me to build both my page rank and my Alexa score, (the later which is done automatically just by having the tool bar installed, by the way.)

OTHER WAYS TO OBTAIN QUALITY BACK LINKS:  You can gain quality links aggressively without simply depending on your content, although, as they say, content is king. One of these ways is by becoming a member of forums in your chosen field with your signature in your posts and be a helpful, knowledgeable participant. Another way is to make thoughtful comments on blogs in your field that have a high page rank. You can also gain quality back links by reviewing sites with high page rank, linking to them in your post and hoping that when they see your link they will reciprocate. Of course, you can ask to trade links, but personally I feel better when I get a back links without asking. I feel like I have earned it. You don’t have to buy back links, although I see plenty of this going on and I suppose it works and is another option, but one that is not necessary and actually doesn’t buy you the strong back links you really want, those you worked for. The main thing to remember is that it is the quality of the back links, not the quantity that affects your page rank in a positive way.  Though building quality and natural back links and thus page rank takes time, if you are passionate and hardworking, they will come to you.

What exactly is Google PageRank and why is it important?

I have been doing research on page rank and back links for some time now and I wanted to share with you what I have learned. For those of you who are new to blogging and don’t know much when it comes to Google page rank, I will do my best to explain.  Google bases page rank on several factors, one of them being keywords. SEO, or search engine optimization, which is the art of using the right keywords, plays a big part in obtaining a good page rank. Google’s spiders pick up on these keywords and move you up in the search engine. But from what I see, Google bases their page rank more importantly on traffic, quality content and back links.

WHY PAGE RANK IS IMPORTANT?  For me it is of the utmost importance. I blog for paid to post services and the better your page rank the more money you can make by being offered higher paying opportunities. But page rank is important to bloggers who don’t use paid to post services as well. Most bloggers I know monetize their blogs by using programs like Google Adsense, Yahoo ads, Text Links ads, and recently arriving on the scene Ask.Com and Ad-Click, along with tons of affiliate programs that pay per click, per sale or per referral. You need traffic to make any decent money because it is a numbers game. The more traffic the more possible hits. And if you have good traffic it is usually a given that your page rank will increase.