A LETTER FROM SANTA

It’s a crazy-busy time of year, so I thought I’d share one of my yuletide favorites—it is a Letter from Santa!

 

I’m writing this note to inform you that

misfortune has taken away,

The things that I need for my visit…

My presents, my reindeer, my sleigh.

 

Now, I’m making my rounds on a donkey

who is old, and feeble, and slow,

So, if you don’t see me this Christmas…

You’ll know I’m out on my ass in the snow!”

 

Hope you all have a fantastic holiday!

 

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LABOR OF LOVE

 

Baby elephanthttp://www.phuket101.net/2015/02/baby-elephant-playing-on-beach.html

 

Did you know elephants are pregnant for almost two years? Actually, the average is twenty-two months!  And then they deliver a baby weighing as much of two hundred and thirty pounds! Can you imagine?

Yes. I can. I’ve been pregnant with my book, “BOSSES AND BLACKJACKS: A Tale of the Bloody Fifth in Philadelphia” for three years! At least, that’s what it felt like. In reality, with time out for holiday seasons, it was actually more like two-and-one-half years—so I’ve still got Momma Pachyderm beat!

Morning sickness was the endless research. The girth increase was felt with each additional chapter written. Toward the end, attempting to bend over to pick something up from the floor or cutting my toenails, was represented by the painful process of editing.

Now—at last—I’m in labor!

By that, I mean I have sent the entire finished manuscript to be formatted and finalized for submission to the magical world of Amazon!

Here’s hoping the delivery will go smoothly! (I can guarantee my book baby will not weigh 230 pounds!)

Stay tuned for the “birth announcement!”

 

 

 

TURKEY TROT

Thanksgiving is next week. I can’t believe how calmly I said that.

We celebrate Thanksgiving each year at our house—and by “we” I mean twenty to forty immediate family members!

In the old days, when there were seven or eight of us sharing the holiday, the beautifully roasted turkey would take center-stage in the middle of the dining table waiting for the ceremonial (dramatic music playing in the background) carving. It was surrounded by the appropriate side dishes and condiments, with lovely serving forks and spoons of polished silver.  Each person had at least two glasses included in their place-setting that rested on a lovely table linen, and their napkins were actually held, just so, in rings of appropriate autumnal materials.

We all sat together,

said “Grace” together,

ate together,

and sang “We Gather Together” together!

We made Norman Rockwell proud!

Kiss those days good-bye!

Thanksgiving now begins the night before, with the female regulars coming over to peel and cut up every vegetable there is; eating pizza in-between mincing olives for the stuffed celery; arguing over using a food processor instead of knives for chopping onions for the stuffing and gravy; singing and dancing and telling stories of the “old days”; eating chocolates; and drinking wine. Drinking a lot of wine. When the wine is all gone, the evening ends.

The family has grown exponentially. And the next day, Thanksgiving:

It’s buffet-style from the kitchen counters:

Elbowing each other to get to the gravy.

Making “yuck” sounds, as one of the perhaps two people who actually like them, spoon creamed onions onto their plate.

Waiting in line to take your seat at one of the three to six tables in various rooms because the person seated at the end in the corner is still in the kitchen fixing their plate and nobody else can sit down until they do—unless everyone stands up and moves out of the way to let them through—which is not done with smiles on their faces because their food is getting cold!

Make sure you grab a napkin before somebody else takes it!

Invariably, someone says, raising their voice above the din, let’s say “Grace.”  Five people actually hear them, and so a syncopated “Amen” is heard.

As the hostess, I try to join at least one or two people as I eat my always over-filled plate of turkey and everything else, before most of the clan are back in the kitchen for seconds.

Finally, when the thirty-seven desserts (I might be exaggerating a bit here) have been transformed from their initial beautiful presentations to mounds of unidentifiable mush, it’s time to do the dishes. At this point, the male family members all forget what their thumbs are for and cannot hold a dishtowel.

Through the evening, laughter is the underpinning of the chaos!

Time is not on my side at Thanksgiving, which is why you will never see an artistic vegetable tray like that pictured above anywhere near my house!

But, in the end, I know I am blessed more than most to have such a large, boisterous, loving, family to be with at this beautiful time of year. So, yeah—

Thanks!

Happy (early) Thanksgiving everyone. Please let me know in the comment section if you have any suggestions for keeping the craziness at a minimum this year!

Another Season

Autumn is the time of year when trees shake off their leaves, and reveal the homes they’ve been sheltering all spring and summer.

The eggs have all hatched. The babies have fledged. The parents have completed the care and feeding of the young.

The birds are all planning where they will spend the winter.

The aviary that is my backyard takes on a different look, with new visitors who will stay with me through frigid days and snowy nights for the next several months.

Another season of life to share.

THANK YOU TREES.

Halloween Horror

LET’S PLAY

If you can guess what I have in my pocket, you can have it.” He patted the right pocket of his dirty overalls as he approached.

Glancing around, I discovered I was alone down here with this small skinny boy. How could I be alone? I’d followed at least a dozen other commuters through the turnstile before descending to the platform. I backed away quickly, trying to recall which way I should run to reach the subway steps leading up to the street.

“No thank you,” I replied.

“You don’t even want to guess?” he asked, more aggressively.

I couldn’t move. I don’t know why. I think it was his eyes. They were an iridescent green I had never seen before.

“I’m not very good at guessing,” I told him. Again, I managed to take a few steps back.

“You’re just like the rest of them. Nobody ever wants to play.” His eyes grew brighter.

“I just want to go home,” I said.

“Then try to guess, and I’ll let you.”

I began to shiver. Was it his closeness? Probably the cool draft that’s always present in the subway tunnel. No—this was different. Panic was starting to tighten my throat, making it hard to respond.

“A toy?” I asked weakly.

“Don’t be stupid! If I had a toy, I wouldn’t need you to play with me.”

“A piece of candy?”

“I’ve been down here a long time…if it was candy, I would have eaten it by now,” he scoffed.

I tried to think back to the kinds of things my brothers always had in their pockets.

“A pen-knife?”

“Nah.”

“A yo-yo?”

“Nope.”

Trying to buy some time, I decided to ask a few questions of my own.

“How long have you been down here?”

“What year is this?”

“What year?”

“Yeah…what year.”

“1990,” I replied.

“Then I’ve been here about forty-three years.”

“What? Wait a minute…you’re only about twelve years old—how could you be down here that long?”

“It’s a story I won’t tell, unless you guess right. C’mon, c’mon…make another try.” He was growing impatient.

“A piece of paper?”

“Ha! You’re smarter than the rest. you’re close.”

Oh my God…“Is it a ticket?”

“Hoorah! At last! I knew you were a smart one! And now you may have it.”

The strange, transparent little boy with the mesmerizing green eyes reached into his pocket, pulled out a faded ticket, and handed it over to me with a grin.

“I’ve been saving this since that day I fell onto the tracks.”

I took the ticket from him and squinted to try to read the destination. “Hell?”

All at once I could feel the poke of the elbow into my back pushing me over the side of the platform, and the sharp edge of the iron rail as my head slammed down into the dark gravel. Then came the screeching sound of the train’s breaks as they failed, and the laughter of a young boy.

Faster Than a Speeding Bullet

I don’t know about you, but I’m always looking for helpful writing advice.

Perhaps you’ve noticed—there’s a blizzard of it out there.  And like snowflakes, no two advisors are the same, in the way they drift their sage words against the fence corralling our own individual genius.

Take a moment to pat yourself on the back for having your shovel handy at moments like this.

In editing my book, Bosses and Blackjacks, I’ve been struggling to decide if the beginning is too slow. But, today I happened upon a mound of advice that I did not have to dig through to understand.

I share it with you now, dear reader:

“Opening a novel with a lot of fast action is like putting your reader on a Japanese bullet train going 320 miles an hour. The landscape outside the window is all blurry.

There’s no reason to look at it because you can’t really make sense of it. You might as well take a nap.”

(By Sally Apokedak, @sally_apokedak
Sally is a literary agent with the Leslie H. Stobbe Literary Agency and is a popular speaker at writer’s conferences around the country.)

I agree with Sally.

No need to change my book’s beginning. Ease into it, so my readers have a sense of my protagonist and the world he lives in, before he goes crashing headlong into a drift of life-threatening hairpin turns.

Do you agree that we all latch onto any advice that fits exactly with what we were thinking in the first place—as I did here? We are vindicated We feel affirmed. We have packed our egos neatly and made it to the station on time.

All aboard! We are on the right track!

Before You Shred It – Read This!

When you feel like you’ve reached the end of your rope (or chain) with your latest manuscript—before your shred it into tiny little pulp flakes—take a moment to read the following writing advice.

Who knows? It might just be enough to rev up your genius motor and get you back to saying: “Type magic fingers, type!”

1. Have your characters avoid asking questions. Instead have them speak in declarative statements. Instead of saying, “What happened to your face?” Have a character make a statement, “Your face looks horrible. I knew going to the bar was a bad idea.”

2. Have characters agree. It’s an easy trap (and a realistic one) to have characters disagree. We tend to think that causes drama. But actually it stalls a plot. Have characters agree and suddenly your plot goes to unexpected territory.

With permission from Patrick Wensink, author of “Fake Fruit Factory.”

Infrastructure Needs to Quiet Down!

It’s 5:45 a.m. and the bedroom window is open. I think I hear a freight train in the distance. A constant low rumble. I do mean constant.

I think to myself, “Damn, that is one extremely long train!” Then it dawns on me (get it? dawns?), it’s not a train.

It’s infrastructure!

The streets around our house are being drilled and dug up, and ditches are being backfilled and flattened with huge pieces of orange equipment. Our sewer lines are being replaced, and the rumbling, scraping, rat-a-tat-tat is endless!

Now, don’t get me wrong—I’m all for replacing hundred-year-old sewer pipes. And repairing bridges and highways and all that other stuff that needs fixing. That’s the sort of thing our tax money should be used for.

Summer, when everyone has their windows closed because of air conditioning, is the season for this sort of activity.

But it’s autumn for cryin’ out loud, and the air snaps like a spiced wafer and is filled with the aroma of apple cider. I NEED my windows open at this time of year.

I’m an October baby and this is MY month— not Caterpillar’s!

Let Me Get Right to the Point!

You know how when you are reaching the end of a fantastic book—and you don’t want to finish it—because then what will you do with the rest of your life?

You’ve been living in this fantasy world for hours and hours, perhaps days and days. You don’t want to say goodbye to the people (or creatures) who inhabited that world with you. What will become of them? Where will they go next? You want them to live and grow old with you. But they can’t and they don’t.

Depressing, right?

That’s where I am in my writing. I’m this close to finishing my first book, and I’m a little depressed because I will have to say goodbye to the familiar occupants of my pages. What will become of me? Where will I go next?

If my son were here, he would place one hand on each of my shoulders, look me in the eye, and say,Calm down.” For some reason, that always worked.  Amazing.  Writing that helped.

So, “buck up,” me—“get back to work and finish that thing!”

Please visit the “comments” section. I’d love to hear how you, dear reader, push through when you’re nearing completion of a writing project, and make the decision to say, “Th-th-that’s All Folks!”