“Molly is funny and quirky—that’s just how I like it! Who else has a professional accordion player spouse? Quirky!”
Ellen Cagnassola, www.sweetsoaps.com 

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THE HO AND HUM

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I had a big plan today: I was going to throw on some work clothes and open the doors to the screened porch wide. Then I was going to race downstairs, get buckets, the mop, the broom, and wash it all up out there.

After that, I planned to first, arrange the rug; and second,  drag around the porch furniture until everything looked just like Martha Stewart’s screened porch. I would happily sort through my accessories, deciding whether to put out the little frog or the fake jade plant on the side table. I would dust off the lampshades, set out the new pillows I got the other day at Pier One, and finally heave a sigh of contentment.

But it’s a bad hair day. There are a few grains of cat litter between the sheets when I go to make the bed. I burned my toast. I am getting a cold.

Instead, here is what I did:

  • I stayed in bed longer than usual (eating the burned toast and not noticing the cat litter as yet) and listened to a podcast about a woman who was murdered, but they never found her body in the Australian outback. This podcast never features a case that is actually solved, but I like the voice of the narrator, who is called “anonymous,” and has a very sexy accent.
  • I got dressed in the same clothes I had on yesterday.
  • I put all of my bed socks in the hamper, figuring that I won’t need them again until November.
  • I rooted around in the medicine cabinet until I found the nasal spray. Used it.
  • While flossing, brushing, and taking what my mother called a “sponge bath,” I listened to another podcast about a man who is 22 years older than his wife and has had multiple heart attacks. That was so depressing that although I had just made the bed, I had to lie down on it for a few minutes to recover.
  • I petted my cats for fifteen minutes. This is good for them.
  • Got up.
  • I looked through the French doors onto the porch and noticed how filthy everything was out there. At least a half-inch of winter dirt and dust. I had a sinking feeling.
  • So I lay (I looked this up, it is “lay, not laid”) down on the bed again to restore myself.
  • I had a second cup of coffee  at the kitchen table while reading about Donald Trump’s first 100 days. This was not good for my general disposition. I headed upstairs, but stopped myself from going into the bedroom to rest, because my husband was watching,
  • So I went back down and filled the bird feeders. This was exhausting.
  • I emptied the cat litter boxes and put in new litter. At least when the cats track it into the bed, it would  be clean litter.
  • I looked at my emails. Then I switched over to my podcast app and deleted a bunch of podcasts about unsolved murders.
  • I wandered around the house, making a mental list of chores to do when I have more get up and go.

Now I am bored.

 

 

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THE BUN

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There is one magical bun. He is very soft and gentle, but he hops terrifically fast. The expression “hops like a bunny” is about him. He is the bun who brings all the Easter eggs and hides them around your backyard. On cold days, he hides them in your house. Some of the eggs are the ones you colored two nights ago with your mom while your dad checked his emails. The other ones are plastic and have jelly beans inside. You hate the licorice ones!

You might wonder why the bun brings eggs instead of an Easter Chicken. Kiddo, that is a mystery that will never be solved.

Easter is fun, because of the EASTER BASKET. The bun hides that in a really tough hiding place, where kids never go. So look in your laundry hamper. Or check under the sink in the kitchen.

The Easter Bun is trying to get you healthy, so if there’s a toothbrush or a box of raisins in there, try to act happy about it.

There will probably be ham for dinner with the hash brown casserole from Gran. Don’t be a fusspot-eat two bites of ham and sneak the hash browns into your napkin. Then casually knock your milk glass over, and nobody will expect you to finish dinner. Your mom will sigh and tell you you can go and watch TV but only eat THE EARS off the chocolate bun in your basket.

It’s a hoppy bounce day, isn’t it?

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A BOOK IN HAND

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Honestly, it is like giving birth, figuratively. What took two and a half years of frustration, brain-wracking, ripping apart and starting over,  and sitting glumly looking out the window has finally come to fruition: I am holding my own second novel in my hand.

My copies of the book are delivered about a month before general release. This is for marketing purposes. What this means to me is I get to run all over the neighborhood, waving the book around and whooping. It also means that I am only supposed to give my copies away to those who are in a  position to promote it for me: book reviewers, book bloggers, newspaper columnists, etc. I am sincerely going to try to limit myself to these people this time around, instead of handing my book out to all my friends because I am so excited. I ran out of my copies of my last novel in about an hour.

Would you like to know how to go about writing a novel? Me, too. I don’t think I do it right, but I am willing to share my process, perhaps as a cautionary tale to others who hope to become novelists.

  • Get an idea for a book. This is called a premise. In the case of Crossing the Street, I knew I wanted to write a story about the friendship between a millenial woman and a precocious little girl.
  • Start writing the book immediately. Hope that as you develop the characters, whom you love, an excellent plot line will develop right along with it.
  • Get stumped, because that plot line is absolutely not materializing.
  • Put in some very dramatic and tragic stuff that doesn’t work.
  • Send all of this off to your publisher and editor, who concurs that this isn’t working.
  • Go back to the drawing board.
  • Call up some friends for advice. They give great advice. But the plot line still doesn’t work.
  • Pout.
  • Call another friend who is a published author. She gives you a private seminar in plotting.
  • But the damn plot line you are desperately holding onto still sucks.
  • Email your editor for help. He basically shoots down the whole thing (rightfully so) and says that you are trying too hard. He suggests taking an online course in STORYBOARDING.
  • DO THAT.
  • Spend about four weeks working on a storyboard for the book. Make some great progress after throwing out the dramatic and tragic stuff.
  • Get stuck two thirds of the way through the storyboard. Write another email to your publisher asking him if he could just provide you with one little plot event to bring a climax to the book so that you don’t have to crawl into a hole to die. He generously does this, knowing he doesn’t want your blood on his hands.
  • Finish the storyboard and heave a huge sigh of relief.
  • Get writing. Realize that you are completely failing at show, don’t tell (you can look this up; it pains me to even think about it at this time).
  • In a panic, you email another writer friend, and ask for help. Apparently, this email alarms her. She replies that you need to calm down and take a few deep breaths. Then she sends you a very confidential excerpt of her work in progress that gives a terrific example of showing, not telling.
  • You read the excerpt and wish you could write like this woman, but you actually begin to understand what all the hoorah about showing vs. telling is all about.
  • You go back to your manuscript and take out all the telling.
  • Then you start writing all over again, showing the hell out of everything.
  • You finally finish.
  • Your publisher says “I think you got it. This was a hard row to hoe, but we can publish this. Here are my editorial suggestions.”
  • You rewrite the book again.
  • The copy editor then gets the book. She makes her suggestions.
  • You realize you used the word okay forty million times in the manuscript, and spelled it differently every time.
  • You rewrite the book again.
  • You are getting sick to death of these characters, and you want to murder all of them. Plus, you hate punctuation marks all of a sudden.
  • BUT WAIT. The book is finished! You have a cover!
  • Blurbs. Thank God you have great author friends who agree to give testimonials. Praise heaven for these folks.
  • The day comes. A box of books arrives. You hold one in your hand and take a selfie.
  • You thank heaven you have that Photoshop App.
  • Voila! A bestseller (hoping and praying) is born. Almost overnight!
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THIS IS ME

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This is me after I have finished mopping the wood floors, waxing them, and admiring them when they are dry.

This is me watching kitten videos on Facebook.

This is me when my husband says he has an accordion gig and he won’t be home for supper, so I can have a sandwich while watching Netflix.

This is me on Christmas morning.

This is me every single time I have pasta.

This is me looking at a photo of Idris Elba.

This is me whenever I see a baby.

This is me immediately after taking a nap.

This is me, exactly seventy-one days before my new novel is released.

This is me.

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MARA COOPER KNOWS NOT HER POWER

I began my writing career with “flash fiction,” which is defined as very short stories. I self-published a book of flash, Characters in Search of a Novel, which is still and always available on Amazon. Although I went on to write novels (my second, Crossing the Street, is available for preorder on Amazon, published by The Story Plant), I still love to write flash fiction. I can’t seem to stop! I publish these on Medium, a website for writers and readers, and I write there for Literati Magazine. Here is one of my latest, which, of course, I also illustrate!

MARA COOPER KNOWS NOT HER POWER

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I love her. Here are some of the things that I would do for Mara: I would eat sushi for her, even though the idea of raw fish makes my insides churn. I would have lunch for seven consecutive days with my Aunt Gert, and I would smile every time she told the same story about how hard she worked at the brassiere factory (why this would impress Mara is anyone’s guess, but I would do this just to suffer for Mara’s love). I would get a tattoo of Mara’s name in a secret place, so as not to embarrass her. I would kiss her after she eats garlic toast.

I would get her flowers every Friday and deliver them in person to her door. Ok, maybe I would have them delivered, because she might think I was a stalker otherwise. I would not buy her chocolates, because she does Paleo. I would look directly into her eyes and smile at her often, because women like men with confidence. I would never walk behind her, unless, of course, she wanted me to.

I would take her to the theatre to see depressing plays about people in crisis. I would sit through all the movies she likes about time travel. I would read all the Stephen King Dark Tower books, even though I think they are boring, because Mara carries one of them into work every day and reads it during break.

Mara loves soup. I know this, because she orders it in for lunch all the time. She eats it properly, with the spoon held parallel to her lips. I would do this, too. Mara has remarked that soup is all one needs for a perfect meal-soup and candle light. I would eat that hot, watery broth with a few leeks floating in it and declare myself sated. For her.

I would start jogging, because Mara has “running a marathon” on her bucket list. I would get those legging things, so that I would look good trying to keep up with Mara in her Lulumen-Lulomom-Lulubel (whatever they are) togs.

I would be patient but persistent. Not stalky or creepy. Just there for her. I would have a handkerchief ready for sad situations, and a pocket full of change for parking meters.

I would kill anybody who tried to hurt her. I would send her mother flowers on Mother’s Day. I stop smoking. I would grow a goatee. I would try to give up watching football. I would start wearing aftershave, but not Axe. I would learn how to tell jokes.

I would throw myself under a train for her.

I am not sure how to introduce myself. “Hi, I am Clayton. I have worked one cubicle over from you for a year.” That just doesn’t cut it. “Hey, Clayton here, you know — from accounting!” GOD, no. “Hey there! Clayton. I am only doing this job until I get out of law school.” (Better. Note to self: apply to law school). “Hi. I’m Clay.” Shit.

Damnation. Here she comes. I got nada.

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