Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Whoooo Are You? Who-who? Who-who?

So, who are these people you're spending so much time with? Instead of doing the dishes, you're following this raven-haired vixen down dark alleyways. You're thinking about your square-jawed anti-hero while watching your kid play soccer. They hold your attention longer than Glee and Walking Dead combined (okay, maybe not Walking Dead cuz zombies are AWESOME).

Who are these people?

They are the characters in your story, Opus Magnus in the City: Hellzapoppin'.

You know them but how do you get them out of your head and onto the page? How do they sound when they talk? What do they believe? I'm not talking about those traits you're asked to consider when filling out those templates. You know those templates -- eye color, education, the type of coffee they drink. Yeah, that stuff's important but don't you want to know more?

What would your character do if someone cut her off on the freeway? Curse? Shrug? Follow dangerously close to the offender's bumper? Why would she do that? Write a scene about it.

What would your villain do if he came upon an abandoned toddler in a car? Walk on by? Call the police? Why? Write a scene about it.

Un mas.

What would your character do if they're in the middle of Nowhere, California with the girl he just broke up with, flat tire, full bladder and dying cell-phones? Write a scene about it.

Go on. Do it. I'll wait... It's okay, no one's gonna read it. Have at it...

Finished?

Didn't that feel good? Wasn't that fun? Yeah, it was.

Most likely, these scenes won't find their way into your novel. The point is, Friend, you know more about your characters in an environment. You're hearing them talk and reason, seeing them act in application and not in theory.

Many times, I discover who my characters really are by the end of the first draft. Again, it's application versus theory. Before finishing that draft, I thought Nicole Baxter from The View from Here was a chaste, honorable woman and she was -- until faced with a situation that forced her to make a choice that wasn't so honorable. But this discovery only happened because I had spent time with her, in her world.

So, damn the charts! Put your people in random situations. Listen to them. Raise the stakes. And then... write. Your dialogue will be truer. Their reactions more honest.

You owe it to yourself and to your characters. And eventually, readers of your great work, Opus Magnus in the City: Hellzapoppin'.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Fun with Sign Language

So, the family went to the Phoenix Zoo on Black Friday. This sign greeted us at the entrance:



Concealed and non-concealed.

Wow.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Writing Opp - Director of Grants

Director of Grants - GLAAD

The Director of Grants is responsible for assisting the Chief Development Officer in the expansion and diversification of grant opportunities from private and family foundations, including but not limited to corporations and institutional donors. The individual will work with the Chief Development Officer and the Senior Director of Programs to cultivate relationships with new and existing grant donors. The position works in a collaborative environment with the Development, Programs and Finance teams and is supported by the Corporate and Foundations Relations Associate.

With the support of the Chief Development Officer the Director of Grants will implement strategies to cultivate long-term, comprehensive relationships with all institutional grant-making organizations. The Director of Grants oversees all facets of the grant application process, which includes researching, editing and submitting grant proposals that are tracked via Raisers Edge. S/he will manage and grow a portfolio of corporate and foundation funders to ensure a diverse revenue stream for GLAAD. The individual is responsible for matching grant opportunities in accordance with GLAAD’s current programs and initiatives.

The Director of Grants will initiate and maintain communications with prospects and funders through in-person meetings, telephone exchanges and other methods of prospecting such as written correspondence via letters of inquiry, formal proposals and official visits to funders. The individual will work with staff members at all levels to ensure that application deadlines are met, proposals are of the highest quality and that grantors expectations are met. In conjunction with the Corporate and Foundations Relations Associate, the Director of Grants will meet with Programs staff to gather programmatic information to support grant application and also with the Finance team to assist in developing budgets which capture direct and in-direct costs associated with the grant.

The ideal candidate must have strong understanding of process improvement systems and change management, excellent interpersonal, communication, and managerial skills.

Duties and Standards:
Technical Competencies:
Assists in identifying and developing new funding strategies and matches grant opportunities to strengthen GLAAD’s programmatic endeavors, increase the endowment and operational support and expand GLAAD’s presence in major cities across the nation.

Works with the Development and Programs staff to tie grant opportunities with capital and program needs of the Center.

Identify and research public and private funding sources including corporations, private foundations.

Partner with the Programs team to extrapolate information to support proposal development.

Understands and observes funding requirements and guidelines and track the deadlines of potential funding sources.

Assists the Programs team in preparing and submitting programmatic reports as required to funding organizations.

Works in partnership with the Chief Development Officer to foster relationships with private funders to advance grant opportunities.

Maintains regular communication with contacts in the private funding arena through collateral materials developed by the Programs and Public Relations team.

General Responsibilities of the Position:

Identify grants opportunities in conjunction with the Development and Programs Teams.

Develop grant proposals, in close cooperation with Program, Operations and Finance colleagues.

Liaise and maintaining good relations with the representative offices of major donors and with national organization grants and program colleagues.

Responsible for full compliance with requirements and conditions in grant agreements and contracts, in close cooperation with colleagues in the Programs and Finance divisions.

With the support of the Programs and Finance teams, ensure accurate, transparent and timely financial and narrative reporting to donors.

Utilize Raisers Edge to maintain tracking systems, which includes processes, documentation, and data for effective grants management and tracking.

Education: Bachelor’s Degree. Interest and passion for LGBT issues. Demonstrated mastery of writing skills. 3 to 5 years of successful experience in the research, writing and securing of grants in the non-profit sector.

Preferred minimum of three to five years experience in supervision, administration, or management of grant process and related philanthropic duties. Knowledge of or willingness to be trained using Raised Edge.

Compensation
Salary is commensurate with experience. Benefits include: 403(b) retirement plan; escalating vacation beginning with three weeks+; Paid sick, personal days and holidays; and organization paid health benefits for employees including medical, dental, vision, flex spending accounts, flexible work arrangements, employee assistance program and life and long-term disability insurance.
Other Notes
• Applications MUST include resume, cover letter & salary requirements to be considered.
• GLAAD does not have the ability at this time to provide sponsorship for this position.
• GLAAD does not have the ability to provide relocation benefits to candidates.
• GLAAD is a business casual dress environment.
• Candidates MUST be able to pass both financial and criminal background check.
• The above statements are intended to describe the general nature and level of work performed by people assigned to this classification. They are not intended to be construed as an exhaustive list of all job duties performed by the personnel so classified. Management reserves the right to revise or amend duties at any time.
• This job description reflects management's assignment of essential functions; it does not prescribe or restrict the tasks that may be assigned. Critical features of this job are described under the headings below. They may be subject to change at any time due to reasonable accommodation or other reasons.
Contact
Human Resources (no phone calls, please)
Email: jobs@glaad.org
• Applications MUST include resume, cover letter & salary requirements to be considered.

Equal Opportunity Statement

GLAAD is committed to providing equal employment opportunity to all employees and applicants for employment without regard to their race, color, religious creed, sex, gender identity, age, national origin, ancestry, citizenship status, physical or mental disability, medical condition, pregnancy, marital or veteran status, sexual orientation, height and weight, or other personal characteristics as may be protected by applicable law.

This policy applies to all terms and conditions of employment, including, without limitation, hiring, placement, promotion, layoff, termination, transfer, leaves of absence and compensation; relationships with outside vendors and customers; use of contractors and consultants; and in dealing with the general public.

· Location: Mid-Wilshire / Miracle Mile

· Compensation: Salary is commensurate with experience. Benefits include: 403(b) retirement plan; escalating vacation beginning with three weeks+; Paid sick, personal days and holidays; and organization paid health benefits for employees including medical, dental, vision, flex spending accounts, flexible work arrangements, employee assistance program and life and long-term disability insurance.

· This is at a non-profit organization.

· Principals only. Recruiters, please don't contact this job poster.

· Please, no phone calls about this job!

· Please do not contact job poster about other services, products or commercial interests.

PostingID: 2074781938

Talking about the Life II

Morning, morning, everybody!

Sleep well? Yeah? Me, too, until the LAPD helicopter started buzzing around the neighborhood at approximately 5:30. Other than that, I slept swell.

There's this writer-guy with the coolest name in the world. Kipp Poe, that's his name, and he gave me the opportunity to share my writing life and The View from Here on his blog.

So, go check it out as well as the entirety of Kipp's blog -- great interviews, great books. He, too, has a new book out. Die Already is available in Amazon's Kindle store.

Monday, November 22, 2010

A Novel Idea - the Life of a Chapter

I'm working on something new, and I thought I would share my process with you -- the life of a chapter as it goes through edits and reversals, shuffling and poking.

I don't have a title for this book yet -- maybe I'll ask for suggestions as the story takes shape. Part of my process is writing a synopsis of each chapter. This is very loose, can change at any moment even between paragraphs. In the end, this chapter may not even make it into the novel.

Shall we begin?

Story tags: lies, a husband lies, friends find out, murder, everything's false, affair, awful discoveries. Narrator has no name, antagonist has no name yet but will call him C.H. because his wife's name is 'Cori' and he is her husband.

I've chosen Chapter 7. And here it is (click to make bigger):



Yeah. I'm old school -- paper and pen first.

So. This is Chapter 7 for now. Very short. Some specificity. Blanks and questions. Stay tuned -- it won't look this way next time.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

New Ways to Get The View from Here [update]



Wanna read The View from Here?

Don't have a Kindle?

The View from Here is now available in several electronic formats, including:
PDF, LRF (for Sony Readers), Palm, and HTML. The Nook version is also at BN.com! Still for the low-low price of $3.99.

Visit my page at Smashwords and download away!

Friday, November 19, 2010

Writing Opps

So.

Are you interested in writing about how to diagnose ABS pump brakes? Or about the history of orchards in Colorado? Do you want a few credits to your name? Make $7.50 or $15.00 per article?

Then, I have a job for you, my friend.

Demand Studios is looking for writers to pen articles with random information. I've done it and it's cool. And they pay twice a week. And there's no pressure to do it every week. Just when you want to. Which is cool, too.

Oh. Another thing. Come closer... closer... So, yeah. I'm happy at my job right now. City of Hope? Yeah, they're cool people and what have you, but I heard you weren't happy with your place. It's cool, it's cool, I get it.

I know a guy. Yeah, cyber-ly. And he sends out these listings of jobs -- some are writing, all are non-profit cuz you know, that's how I roll. Yeah, so here's what I'm gonna do. I'm gonna post the writing-related ones cuz you're special to me. Nah - no problem, no charge. Just, you know, remember me when you get all hired and stuff. Again, I'm just posting. Here's one to get you started:

BEAUTY BUS FOUNDATION DEVELOPMENT AND PROGRAM ASSOCIATE

Beauty Bus Foundation

The Beauty Bus Foundation is a non-profit organization dedicated to enhancing the quality of life for chronically or terminally ill individuals and their caregivers by bringing beauty into their lives.

Beauty Bus provides in-home beauty and grooming treatments, free of charge, to men, women and children whose illness or condition prevents them from accessing a salon or spa.

Beauty Bus strives to empower our clients, help them maintain dignity and give them respite during difficult times.

Development and Program Associate

The Development and Program Associate must be a compassionate visionary and must embrace the challenge of working in a new non-profit organization. The Development and Program Associate will be responsible for coordination of development and program duties at Beauty Bus Foundation.

Primary Duties:

o Support development efforts, including grant writing, donor outreach, event coordination and related administrative tasks

o Coordinate public relations and outreach activities, including website, social media and newsletters

o Support Client and Volunteer coordination and outreach

Additional Duties:

Development

o Research Grant opportunities, draft grant proposals, submit grant reports and track grant information

o Coordinate donor contact, including letters

o Assist Founders and Program Manager with donor outreach, follow-up and implementation of donation programs

o Coordinate and assist with fundraising events

o Data entry of donation information and management of donor information via databases


Public Relations

o Draft and distribute newsletter

o Assist in Beauty Bus Foundation marketing communications, including materials development (e.g., brochures) , web marketing (Facebook, Twitter and Beauty Bus Blog) and website management/updates


Program

o Schedule client visits, including follow-up and attending client visits as needed

o Update volunteer and client information and keep contacts up to date

o Coordinate volunteer Salon/spa outreach and continuing education for volunteers

o Coordinate volunteer recognition event

o Assist Program Manager with volunteer coordination

o Assist with special events such as caregiver retreats, as appropriate


Ideal candidates will possess the following:

o Passion for Beauty Bus work and mission

o BA/BS required – Graduate Degree Preferred

o Prior experience in non-profits and fundraising

o Experience as a volunteer and preferably supervising volunteers

o 2 years of relevant work experience

o Strong interpersonal skills

o Excellent written and verbal communication skills and strong organizational skills

o Ability to satisfy deadlines with a high level of initiative, accuracy and attention to detail

o Ability to maintain accurate records and create reports as needed

o Computer skills including Microsoft Word, Excel, Power Point, Quickbooks, ACT

o Knowledge of social networking and marketing tools, including Facebook and Twitter

o Ability to work some evenings and weekends, when needed, for relevant events


Development and Program Associate reports daily to Program Manager and ultimately to Beauty Bus Founders.

Full-time position. Salary range $30,000 - $35,000 dependent on experience. Health care plan.

Please send a detailed cover letter, resume and references via mail, email or fax:

Beauty Bus Foundation

11301 W. Olympic Blvd #303

Los Angeles, California 90064

Phone: 310-287-1272

FAX: 310-287-1271

Email: beauty@beautybus.org

Talking about the Life

Hey, hey, hey!

I talked with writer David Wisehart about The View from Here and the life of a writer over at his blog Kindle Author.

Interested? Then, click away!

And thanks, David! Enjoyed sharing.

OMG, Amazon!

Guess what?

Amazon announced yesterday that you can now gift a Kindle book to anyone with an e-mail address. I know, right? Just in time for the holidays! From the press release:

Beginning today, just in time for the holiday season, customers can give Kindle Books as gifts to anyone with an e-mail address--no Kindle required. Kindle Books can be read on Kindle devices and free Kindle reading apps for iPad, iPod touch, iPhone, Mac, PC, BlackBerry and Android-based devices. For more information or to give a Kindle Book as a gift, go to www.amazon.com/givekindlebooks.

So, you know what that means? Yes! Exactly! You can give anyone with an e-mail a copy of The View from Here. All you have to do is go to the book's page (or any Kindle book's page) and select 'Give as a Gift.' Your loved one will get an e-mail announcing their Kindle book gift and they return to the Kindle store to read their book on one of the free Kindle applications (PC, Mac, iPhone, iTouch, Android or BlackBerry).

This is incredible news -- for readers and writers. Thanks, Amazon!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Thank You to Early Supporters!

Hello, All!

So, I was writing in my car (while driving) the other day when an idea struck me!

Idea Fairy: You know, there were some folks who immediately stopped what they were doing AT THAT VERY MOMENT to purchase your new Kindle book, The View from Here .

Me: Yeah. That's pretty cool.

Idea Fairy: So, did you thank them?

Me: Of course. I believe in being gracious. And I tip my servers all the time -- even when they suck. You know the other day --

Idea Fairy: Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know about the lady at that place who did that thing. Not the point, Howzell. Why don't you thank them publicly?

Me: Ummm... Like a skywriter? Or -- ooh! A blimp? Yeah! Nothing says 'I love you' like a zeppelin.

Idea Fairy: Zeppelins are pretty cool, but I meant thanking them on your blog.

Me: [blinking].

I exited the 405 Freeway, then, and stopped to put air in my tire before picking up the girl. And then a whole bunch of other stuff happened, but I won't go into it (soccer cleats and Pop Tarts were involved).

Anyhoo, here's what the Idea Fairy wanted me to do:

A big THANK YOU and HUGS to:

David, Gretchen, Gigi, Stacey, Toni, Joe, Stephanie, Wess, Tasha, Dee, Debbie, Cloda, Norma, Tracy the Poet and Suzanne the Novelist.

If you bought a copy of The View from Here , and want to let me know, please do. David's pricing zeppelins right now so let me know before we have take-off!

Rachel

Monday, November 15, 2010

The View from Here - Excerpt

1
I sat in the waiting room of Orleigh Tremaine Newman – a Whole Person Corporation. The space stank of old coffee, onions and lavender perfume. The receptionist—a Goth girl named Piper—sat at a messy desk and polished her nails shiny black as the ringing telephone rolled to voice-mail. Boxes of copy paper and toner towered near a dusty, plastic fichus. A crumpled Burger King bag sat atop an abandoned computer monitor.

This space was nothing like my former shrink’s clean, bright and clutter-free waiting room. There, Kimmy, the receptionist, answered the telephone after the first ring and never ate obnoxious foods at her desk. She had remembered each patient’s name and most important, each of our prescription needs.

Nervous, I kept my eyes on Angelina Jolie’s picture in People magazine because I didn’t want to chat with the other patients seated around me.

The blonde sitting across the room tore at a napkin until tiny bits of paper settled at her feet like snowflakes. A morbidly-obese pink-skinned man rocked back and forth in his chair. I didn’t know his problem, but I’m sure eating played a role. Another woman—a redhead—sat next to the fat man. She rubbed a blue satiny square cut from an old baby blanket.

I was the ordinary, always-anxious Black girl wearing antiqued Levis and Gucci loafers. I had a house, a husband, a Volvo, and a job writing about groundbreaking drug therapies developed by CelluTech, one of the leading biotechnology firms in the country. Unlike the blonde across from me, I tore my tiny bits of paper internally—mounds of confetti piled near my gallbladder. I never thought that at 37 years old, I’d still need therapy.

#

During the spring of my fifth grade year, my great-aunt Beryl had noticed that I had “retreated inside” of myself. No matter how many tablets of Vitamin C and St. John’s wort she forced me to take, I still wasn’t ‘actin’ right.’

“Your momma and daddy been dead for eight years,” she said. “Why you all strange now?”

I shrugged, then retreated to the pages of Anne of Green Gables. Strange? I had never talked much. Had always picked at my food. Preferred the company of fictional characters in books and on television over Aunt Beryl, her ten cats and her nosy church friends.

Out of ideas, she took me to see Simon Daniels, Ph.D. Once a week, I’d expressed my anguish through journal entries, word searches and collages made from cut-out pictures from Ebony magazine.

After Session 10, Aunt Beryl marched into Dr. Daniels’ office to say, “You still ain’t fixed her.”

Dr. Daniels cast a worried glance at me, then said, “Miss Porter, she’s lost both of her parents. That’s a painful ordeal, even for adults. There’s no pill for grief, and it doesn’t have a time-table. It doesn't show up like the Number 3 bus, rumbling at each stop—anger, denial, acceptance—until it reaches the terminal at the end of the day.”

Aunt Beryl clucked her tongue and hoisted her purse onto her lap.

“Nicole’s bus has just taken an eight-year journey,” Dr. Daniels explained. “It may be years before she reaches the end. She needs your patience and understanding. You are the only person she has left in the world.”

Aunt Beryl glanced at me, then, her brown eyes—Dad’s eyes, my eyes—softer than before. “You sure she don’t need to take nothing? I hear ginger root—”

“She’ll be fine,” Dr. Daniels had assured her. “She’s young. She’ll bounce back.”

I stopped seeing psychiatrists during college because college women often resisted advice from people with wrinkles and W-4 forms. We ignored The Man and embraced Oppression, stumbled around campus hung-over from weed or Boone’s Strawberry Hill, zoned out during French Lit, but incredibly alert back in the dorm for General Hospital. Angry, moody and high for four years—who had the time or the desire to see a shrink?

Besides, Doctors Daniels, Handler and Grinstein had fixed me. Yes: each had suggested that I continue seeing a psychiatrist throughout my life; but those had been “suggestions.” I’d suggest that all women consult a personal dietician and a genetics counselor, and to hire a maid. No harm if they didn’t. Merely a suggestion. And I considered therapy like that—an elective like Metals or Home Ec class.

Truman and I married, and all was fine until our 11th anniversary. As we spent less time together, I became more insecure and Truman became less communicative. Once we started bickering over trivial things—you didn’t put gas in the car, why didn’t you put gas in the car? — I thought, Maybe it’s me. Maybe I should get help.

I didn’t perform a comprehensive search for a psychiatrist. Instead, I called my HMO’s customer service line, and asked for an African-American woman who specialized in death, grief and marriage. Gayle Clark, M.D., a wee Black woman with a small gray Afro, made pots of hot peppermint tea at each of our sessions. She had listened, nodded and prodded me about my parents, my aunt, about my insecurities and abandonment issues, and how all of this was affecting my marriage. She had also prescribed Paxil to combat my anxiety, and Valium to help me sleep.

Truman knew about Dr. Clark, but he never asked what we talked about. Instead, he said, “Glad you’re talking to someone,” then returned to playing “World of Warcraft.”

“Someone” used to be him.

One afternoon, after discussing Truman’s late nights at work, and my sense of being ignored, Dr. Clark announced her departure. Her husband, an Adventist pastor, had agreed to build a church in Bolivia. Dr. Clark would follow him and provide family counseling for the soon-to-be-converted. She had already selected my rebound relationship. “Her name’s Lori Tremaine,” she had said. “And she is a jewel. A wonderful, warm human being.”

I studied Dr. Tremaine’s profile on the Find-a-Therapist, Inc. website. The white woman in the picture posed with a golden retriever beneath a giant oak. Her long auburn hair piled atop her head like autumn leaves. Do you feel detached from your life, from who you are? Do confusion and dread haunt you day-to-day? Are you exhausted by the secrets you keep? I can help you find inner peace.

2
As I entered the office, Lori Tremaine, Ph.D. stood from her high-backed leather chair to shake my hand. “Nice to meet you, Nicole. Glad you could come.”

I forced a smile and assessed the woman’s handshake: limp. And: glad you could come? As though she was hosting a Tupperware party. Or a wake.

She sported a pixie haircut now, and wore a denim Be-Dazzled blouse separated from the denim skirt by a wide snakeskin belt the color of mangoes. Her hazel eyes, rimmed with green liner, sparkled as though she had just finished a bottle of white Zinfandel. She looked more like Reba McEntire than a member of the American Psychiatric Association.

Her office smelled of cinnamon and chocolate-scented candles. A large cup of coffee sat near the computer keyboard, coral lipstick prints around its rim. Every flat surface hid beneath stacks of papers, elephant figurines and pictures of the doctor and her life-partner on their sailboat. There were no chaises like you see in movies and television sitcoms. Just regular leather chairs placed before her massive wood desk.

I settled into a guest chair.

Dr. Tremaine said, “Water?”

“No, thank you.” Out the picture window, I glimpsed a blue ribbon of ocean twinkling with sunshine.

“So, Nicole,” Dr. Tremaine said, sitting behind her desk. She opened a manila folder that contained two sheets of paper, then, glanced at me. “Why are we here today?”

“Well,” I said. “Umm… I thought Dr. Clark… You know… Did she, like, forward my file?”

“Let’s see...” The psychiatrist returned her attention to the folder’s contents. She pulled out the second sheet, then slipped on a pair of emerald-colored reading glasses. “It says here…” She read in silence for a few moments, then said, “Nothing much. Just a note that says, Talk about the house.” She peered at me over the top of her frames. “Does that mean anything to you?”

I shivered, then offered a curt nod.

Dr. Tremaine closed the folder, and said, “Don’t feel pressured to talk about that, though. We can discuss other issues first to become better acquainted. Tell me about your family life.”

“I’m here because of my family life.” I paused, then added, “Kind of. And it’s related to the house.” I scratched my nose and stared at the wrinkled lip prints on Dr. Tremaine’s cup. “Not just my family life now, but also my childhood… Not that my life now isn’t affected. Because it is. But my life then—that’s not the primary reason I’m here. Although…” Lost and nervous, my right foot bobbed up and down as though it generated electricity for the lights and computer.

“Okay.” The woman slipped off her glasses, then sat back in her chair.

She wasn’t taking notes. Why wasn’t she taking notes?

“We can talk about whatever you want.” She reached for her coffee cup and sipped.

“I’m not much for chatter,” I said, fighting the desire to slap the cup from the shrink’s hand because people in need of help don’t like seeing their care providers taking it easy like retirees on a Carnival cruise. “So, if you don’t mind, I’d like to start on the house. If you don’t mind.”

“I don’t mind at—” Dr. Tremaine took another sip of coffee, but didn’t place the cup back on the desk. She smiled at me with coffee-stained teeth and lips uneven with color. “You start then.”

I nodded, then shifted my leg so that the other foot could pump. “This will sound weird out of context, but…” I swallowed, then said, “My house is haunted... I think.”

#

I think.

As though those two words of uncertainty negated the heretical “house is haunted.” Because hadn’t I learned in church? The dead can’t haunt. They lay in their graves, awaiting the return of Christ so that they could either be caught up in the clouds or banished to Hell. For the living know that they will die, but the dead know nothing. Nada. Zilch.

Truman and I had visited a so-called “haunted house”—an antebellum Victorian wasting away in the bayous of Louisiana. We had listened to the Cajun tour guide whisper about the souls of runaway slaves trapped there, and about cold spots and mysterious crying, about pictures that, when developed, came out as blurry spots. “Ghosts,” the Cajun had said with a certain nod. And we had shivered in those cold spots and had heard the crying of tortured slaves and had taken pictures of creepy Spanish moss hanging from moaning oaks and had glimpsed the empty bedrooms where little white children and their mothers had died from consumption, and we had had our film developed and had noticed the blurry spots in each shot.

“They’s ghosts,” Truman had said in a Southern accent. Then, we had laughed and had placed those photographs in our travel diary alongside pictures of the Eiffel Tower and the Mayan ruins.

Saying “haunted” to Dr. Tremaine discounted everything I religiously believed. Aunt Beryl had never wavered from her strict understanding about the Dead’s state, never telling me once that my Mom and Dad were watching over me in Heaven—even though the Heaven story could’ve offered a lonely child comfort, and kept her from visiting the dungeons of her imaginations. But my aunt didn’t play that. She had scolded me the one time I had joked, “My mom is rolling over in her grave.” And now, to utter this “haunted” heresy aloud, and to a stranger?

Aunt Beryl was probably rolling over in her grave.

In my profession, I showed restraint in the words I chose. Sorenifib may help prevent some kinds of kidney cancer. Because my writing had to remain hyperbole-free, my natural inclination to over-exaggerate and overstate eked out in other ways.

My house is haunted.

Not My house is noisy.

Not My house is too cold and makes strange sounds.

Again: not that I believed (religiously) in “haunted” anything. And no one had died in our house. The previous owners had suffered a huge loss once their dot.com fortune dwindled and the bank foreclosed. Their American Dream had died, but Carl hadn’t hung himself from a ceiling beam in the living room; and Yvette hadn’t slit her wrists in the master bathroom’s sunken tub. They had moved to Miami to teach graphic design to senior citizens.

But once we had moved in, I realized that the house was too big, and had too many hallways, doors and walls. My voice echoed in the quiet on one day, and on the next, it didn’t carry at all. The stale stink of cigarettes inhabited the guest bedroom even though neither Yvette nor Carl had smoked. Long shadows in the living room threatened to swallow me if I wandered too close. And the grumble of the foundation steadying itself on the hill sounded too deep—as though construction had originated in Hell.

A month after moving in, I walked back from the village coffee shop at the base of the canyon and stood before my new home. Why did my skin crawl? The house hadn’t done anything to me except… exist. And it didn’t resemble a jack-o-lantern or evil incarnate like Shirley Jackson’s Hill House. The two-story Mediterranean sat on a hillside in Beachwood Canyon, its fa├žade partially-covered by pink bougainvillea. It boasted a flagstone walkway that meandered between bushes of fragrant wild rosemary. Harmless. Even… pleasant.

“Newsflash: houses make sounds and sometimes, they even smell weird,” Truman (a son of the suburbs) had said. “You’re used to living in apartments.”

He was right about that. After my parents’ deaths, I had moved into Aunt Beryl’s three-bedroom apartment condo in Culver City. Her house was never quiet. She owned 10 cats: Moonlight, Phinneas, LaLuz, Cooper, Sheldon, Olive, Peanut, Benito, Rambo and Orson Welles. Constant movement, constant mewing, the ever-present glow of amber-colored cat eyes in the dark.

Then, Truman and I married, and had lived in apartments where our neighbors blasted Wu Tang Clan at one-thirty in the morning; where the aromas of bok choi and garlic spirited through the corridors; where carpeted floors held the footprints of people we would never meet.

But in the canyons of the Hollywood Hills, the howls of coyotes and the wind rustling through chaparral drowned out a woman’s screams. The earth overpowered all man-made scents with its rotting sweetness, and I held my breath every time I stepped outside. Smelled like someone had dumped a hooker out there in the coarse grass. That stink just didn’t seem normal. Also not normal: opalescent mist creeping across the canyon’s face from sunrise to sunset. The thick aroma of evergreen sap drying on the asphalt, and in the soles of your shoes. Sharp wild sage scorched by past brush fires. Wildflowers that smelled like cinnamon, cheese and peppermint combined—nothing like their domesticated cousins in shops and stands, flowers that smelled like… flowers. The canyon’s version of nature seemed heavy, aggressive… primal.

For months, I had left most of the moving boxes packed and stacked in the guest room. I had restricted my living to my bedroom and to the upstairs den. The house didn’t want me there, just as Aunt Beryl hadn’t wanted my books and pens and childhood all over her (and the cats’) condo.

“What do you wanna do?” Truman had asked once. “Move?”

Yes, let’s get something smaller, something less isolated, I longed to say. But moving would have been impossible. The bank had given us the last honest home loan in Los Angeles, and we would have had to sell at a tremendous loss. And Truman doesn't lose. Also, I could not scientifically prove to my husband why the house gave me the heebie-jeebies. Not that I needed to produce a vat of phosphorescent ectoplasm, but it would’ve helped.

With nowhere to go, I swallowed my anxieties about the drafty cupola at the end of the hallway that shrank if I peeked out its window. I ignored my bedroom ceiling that lowered an inch every night as well as the slow-spinning ceiling fan that would, one day, chop me up as I slept. I reasoned away the weird scratching at the window screens, and disregarded the strange flashes of prismatic light in the sky right above the hilltop. I ignored all of this (unsuccessfully) because lint and spontaneous combustion, open metal cans and lockjaw, also freaked me out. I ignored all of this because my earliest childhood memories featured me nightmaring every time I closed my eyes, the Boogeyman, Satan and Dracula hiding beneath my bed, perching on my shoulder, and tapping at my window. For me, having the heebie-jeebies was as natural as having the hiccups.

And I was just a country mouse (in this case, a city mouse) unaccustomed to uninhabited bedrooms and chirping crickets and settling foundations and bubbling hot water tanks and the dark-dark night. And the cold. So cold in the canyon. So cold in the house.

The anxieties of a city girl. That’s all.

#

I think hung in the air, a cartoon arrow pointing at me, the woman God should strike dead. My left eye twitched so much that I closed them. My heart—a mini-rhinoceros ramming at my chest wall—boomboomboomed, and as I struggled to breathe, my eyes filled with tears. One drop, and then another, and then countless drops slipped down my cheeks. “Holy crap.” Why the hell am I crying?

Dr. Tremaine gasped and sat up in her chair: I was a premature ejaculator, and needed no foreplay to get worked up.

Embarrassed, I diverted my gaze to the walnut-sized jade elephant near the psychiatrist’s penholder. I swiped at my wet face, catching mucus and melting dignity in the palm of my hand. “May I have some tissue?” My stomach twisted, pissed that I had to ask, and also because I didn’t see a box of tissue anywhere. Weren’t all shrinks required to sit a box of tissue on their desks next to the Rorschach blots, the Rubik’s cube, and the dish of peppermints?

“Umm…” Dr. Tremaine gaped at her desk as though it had transformed into a rotisserie. “Just… Hold on.” She darted out of her office, and returned a moment later with a handful of paper towels.

Paper towels.

Not tissue.

I dabbed my face with the paper towels (industrial brand, and so it felt like bark scraping against my face) and pretended to pull myself together. I’d never talk to this woman about my life now. Not ever.

Over those remaining forty-five minutes, I didn’t mention my haunted house again. I didn’t talk about growing up with ten cats and Dracula at my window. Instead, I told the psychiatrist a fable about my mother Claire and my father Clifford. Before their deaths, Mom had practiced law, and Dad had delivered babies. Mom had favored rayon pantsuits. Dad had enjoyed chocolate pudding pops. They had competed in ballroom-dance competitions to keep their love alive. While they were out fox-trotting, I stayed with the Evans Family, our warm-hearted next-door neighbors.

Four minutes to three o’clock, Dr. Tremaine plucked a prescription pad from her desk drawer. “I’m glad to have context for our appointment next week. Did Dr. Clark give you some kind of activity to do between your chats?”

Chats?

I said, “I kept a journal.” And I had stopped writing in it after entry four. “She never read it. It was just to, you know… Get all my feelings out, I guess.”

Dr. Tremaine said, “Paxil and Valium, right?” She offered me two prescription slips and said, “I write in a journal, too. It’s a safe place to admit my fears, to open up and be honest with myself. I can write about things I could never say to anyone else. Not even my closest friends.”

I nodded, and slipped the prescriptions into my purse. Whatever, lady.

Dr. Tremaine stood from her desk. “So, same time next Wednesday?”

I smiled, and said, “Of course.”

Fun with Sign Language

Don't know about you, but I love signs. Especially the ones with wacky punctuation. Here are two of my favorites:

This sign can be found on the big island of Hawaii, in a lovely almost-beachside cafe that sells delicious burger patties topped with a fried egg and brown gravy:



So "birds"? If they're not really birds, then what are they? And what's the little claxon-thingie in the upper right, next to the "birds"?

This sign can be found at the bumper cars at Circus Circus Las Vegas:



"Absolutely no"? So then, I can bring drinks and food in the bumper car line, since you told me 'no' about some previous question not indicated on this sign?

Do you have pictures of great signs? Send me an e-mail and I'll post them in "Fun with Sign Language".

So You Wanna Buy A Kindle Book...

but you don't have the Kindle device.

Well!

You will not be given the bum's rush, dear ones! No, Jeff Bezos and Company embraces the idea that reading e-books should be everyone's joy. Okay? Okay.

For example, you can't wait to buy The View from Here but you have no fancy e-reader. Go to the book's page, and scroll mid-way down. On the right hand side, you will see "Read Books on your computer or other mobile devices." Other mobile devices include iPhone, BlackBerry and Android. There's also a PC and a Mac option. So, you're like, "Wow. I'd like to read on my iPhone and my PC. What now?"

First! Go to Apple's App store. Purchase the Kindle for iPhone app -- it's free! Or simply click on "Get Kindle for iPhone" on the book's page, and then click on the App store icon on the next page. This will upload the Kindle platform on to your phone. Then! Return to The View from Here at its Amazon page. And press "Buy Now!" It will then be sent to your phone. Amazing, right? It really is.

Say you want to read on a big screen, like your PC or Mac. It's also easy. Select "Get Kindle for PC (or Mac)" and after agreeing to stuff and clicking 'yes' and 'next' a few times, the Kindle platform will be uploaded onto your hard drive.

Books books everywhere. Enjoy!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

The View from Here is out on Kindle, Nook and Smashwords!


As the cliche goes: I am over the Moon! And! And! You don't even need the Kindle device to read it. Go to the book's page on Amazon, and select "Get Kindle for PC" or iPhone, BlackBerry or Android. Same goes for Barnes & Noble's Nook.

The View from Here focuses on the beauties and hardships of marriage; the betrayals and promises made between husbands and wives; and the grief of one woman haunted by secrets.

Nicole Baxter has always tried to control every element of her life, but that control is slipping away. She has issues. Abandonment issues. Marital issues. Conception issues. And she thinks her house in the hills is haunted. It doesn't help that her husband Truman spleunks and climbs, making her worry more with each adventure he takes. As the two grow apart, Nicole makes decisions that may ultimately shatter her fragile marriage.

Her life changes on the afternoon she receives a phone call from the harbor. During a scuba dive, Truman disappears. No one -- not his diving instructor, not the Coast Guard -- can find him. Is he still alive? Or is grief making her believe the impossible?

Monday, November 8, 2010

A Writer's Fears

A writer is always scared. If one tells you that they aren't scared, point at them and shout, "You LIE!" As you write and eventually publish (or not) Opus Magnus in the City: Hellzapoppin'!, doubt and anguish swirls in that writer's belly like... like... And this is a fear -- not coming up with the right simile? Or is it metaphor? See how that works? Gah. What, you ask, would a writer, strong and true, be frightened of?

Fears While Writing Opus Magnus in the City: Hellzapoppin'
Is this narrative too smart for today's readers?
Is this narrative too dumb for today's readers?
Am I dumb?
Will Mom, Dad, Nana and the Bishop bristle at my sex scenes, all the cussing, that mention of a joint and a stripper named Skittles?
Is it long enough?
Courier or Times New Roman?
Where the hell did my plot go?
Is that reference from "The Goonies" too obscure?
Am I a writer yet?

Fears While Finding an Agent to Represent Opus Magnus in the City: Hellzapoppin'
Snail mail or e-mail?
Did she get my query letter?
Frances -- is that a man agent or a woman agent?
Will I get rejected?
How many times will I be rejected?
Did my e-mail go to Frances' spam folder?
Crap -- is that chicken grease on my query letter?
I see Inbox (1) -- is that a rejection?
Who'd want to rep me since my writing sucks?
Am I a writer now?

Fears After Finding an Agent Who Will Now Feed Opus Magnus in the City: Hellzapoppin' to Editors the World Over

Does this agent know what she's doing?
Why aren't editors responding?
Is all of New York closed for Hallo-Thanks-Hannu-mas-Kwanzaa?
What idiot would want to buy this story of mine?
Does this editor really like my work?
Will this editor have a job a year from now?
Why isn't the editor responding?
Why isn't my agent responding?
Has she (agent and/or editor) changed their mind and I didn't get the 'You're Fired' e-mail because of Gmail's robust spam filter?
Am I a writer now??

Fears After Finding an Agent Who Will Now Feed Opus Magnus in the City: Hellzapoppin' to Editors the World Over and It Sold and is Now Available for Purchase and Mockery
Is it me or does my cover suck?
Why isn't anyone here for my book signing?
Is that my name spelled wrong on the press release?
Do I own e-rights for Saskatchewan?
In perpetuity perpetuity?
Why isn't my editor calling me back?
Where is my agent?
Am I a writer now?

And.... repeat. Fear: it's what's for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Oh, Snap! George Takei Uses the 'D' Word

The It Gets Better campaign just gets better and better...

And now, George Takei addresses a bully in the form of Arkansas school board member Clint McCance.

And Mr. McCance? You, sir, are no Summer's Eve. I know Summer's Eve, and you, sir, don't even come close. No one feels fresher after being splashed in your Haterade.

Thanks to Jezebel for the link.

Ahoy- hoy!

Hey!

It's been a long time. So much has happened since my last posting. Lindsay Lohan in and out of jail/rehab. T.I. in and out of jail/saving jumpers. The kimchi shortage in South Korea.

But!

I'm back, and will have oh-so-many interesting things to say and share. Trust.

Stay tuned, dear friends.