If You Enjoy Crossword Puzzles…You Should Write a Novel

I’ve been working diligently on a second novel with the goal of publication in spring of 2018. That would be a year and a half to generate a second book. Or, half the time it took to finish my debut novel, The Intersect. It’s a relief to think I might have learned a few things along the way. So, in the spirit of being open, let me share a few insights.

The Learn

  1. In the words of Dorothy Parker, “the art of writing is applying the ass to the seat”. In following her advice, I’ve discovered my hip flexors, sacroiliac, and glut muscles. Yow!
  2. Writing and speaking can be done in the same voice but not at the same time. Too much talking, and I can’t write. And after hours of writing, I’m unable to utter an intelligent sentence.
  3. If I don’t shed a tear when I’m working on an emotional scene, there’s something wrong. This should not be confused with the tears that I shed when I can’t get a scene right.
  4. If you respect your characters, they speak on their own. Dialogue is easy. If you try to control them, they rebel and make you seem the fool.
  5. You need to believe in yourself as a writer before anyone else will. Then, you need to hire a terrific editor to teach you all that you’re doing wrong.
  6. Eating is a major component of the creative process. Any food will do. But try to stay away from items purchased at Costco. Large quantities can be polished off in short order.
  7. If you love crossword puzzles, you’d love writing a novel. Words connect scenes. Themes carry through. And everything that you put down on paper can have an alternate meaning.
  8. It’s truly satisfying when someone enjoys your work and writes a note. It’s even better when they go on Amazon and provide a review.
  9. The arc of creation matches the bell curve. At the start, there’s excitement as the story unfolds. At its peak, you’re certain it’s all working. Upon publication, you’re sure you’ve screwed the whole thing up.
  10. There’s a seed of truth about the author’s life in every novel. Just a seed. If it were all true, it would be called a memoir.

Continue reading . . .    

Are You Too Old to Change? Why You Should Reconsider.

Years ago, my mother rebuffed the news of my coming out by explaining that she couldn’t deal with it. Her exact words. “I’m too old to change.”

But you’re only fifty-five?

It rarely happens in life when you have extreme clarity. But at that particular moment, it was like a lightning bolt out of the blue. I made a vow to open my mind to the possibilities of life. I’d do my best to never be, too old to change.

Change is hard

And it has been a challenge. Over the years, we’ve moved from city to city, from job to job. My career in healthcare has had its ups and downs. Mostly ups, until the last move to Phoenix. But even then, I realized early on that I’d landed in the wrong organization. The thing about change is that sometimes we need to be careful about what we wish for. And to recognize when it makes sense to say no thank you, and move on.

Career as a Writer

I’m grateful for many things in my life, but none more than that one insight from my mom. She suffered a lot of emotional pain with that too old to change. And though it’s a wonderful thing to hear affirmations from those we love, sometimes, it’s the judgments that force us to envision whom we choose to be. My mother offered that gift, and to her, I’ll be forever grateful. By learning to change, my life has turned out to be a lot better than I ever expected.

Why is the Television so Darn Loud?

There is something going on in our house. Something inexplicable. The volume on the television is too loud. Until it isn’t. And then, you struggle to understand the words being spoken by the actors.

Yes – I know

If you’ve read my blog, and by the way, thank you for doing so, you know I am deaf in my left ear. 100% deaf since I was two-years-old. A case of pneumonia killed the nerve. Nonetheless, I’m keenly aware of the volume on the television. And if in doubt, I live with someone who can hear perfectly.

Commerce in Action

I realize that when commercials are playing, the volume is always louder. That’s so you can hear the commercial whether you’re in the bathroom or standing in front of an open refrigerator (my two favorite spots during commercial interruptions). Okay, I get it. But what about when you’re streaming Amazon or Netflix? There are no commercials. And still, the music to “Mr. Selfridge” is blaring. If I lower the volume, I can barely make out what anyone is saying. Are they mumbling? Is it their British accent? Or have the actors attended the Marlon Brando School of Mumbling? Continue reading . . .    

Why is the Medicine Cabinet in the Kitchen?

The other day, I needed heartburn medication and so I went to our kitchen drawer. Food generates heartburn. There’s no sense walking to the master bath for a simple roll of Tums. The kitchen seemed a logical location.

Why is the drawer full?

At first, I couldn’t find the Tums. That’s because the drawer was loaded with over-the-counter medications. From Gas-X to Tagamet to Advil. From Tylenol to Aleve to Mucinex. Alka Seltzer Cold and Flu, Gaviscon, Nexium and chewable Vitamin C. The drawer was brimming with health remedies. It made me wonder. Are we really this ill? 

Medicine Cabinet

We don’t have a medicine cabinet in our house. Instead, we have drawers in the bathroom that provide ample space for everything we might need. Upon recent inspection, we seem to need a lot. How many first-aid creams are required to heal a cut? Does Airborne protect you when you fly? Does magnesium really support a healthy immune system? We live in a pill-popping society. Perhaps with a healthier diet, we could skip the Pepto-Bismol and Dulcolax.

Expiration

Once a year, I think about going through all the meds to check expiration dates. But I don’t. It just seems too overwhelming. Instead, I commit to checking before using any of the products. Frankly, I think it’s a waste of time to do that with cough syrup. Robitussin is so disgusting—going bad can only improve the taste.Continue reading . . .    

If the Sky is Up, Why Are You Looking Down?

I hate to admit it, but I spend a lot of time looking down. Is this a matter of safety, not wanting to trip, or a reflection of my innate personality? Am I making too much of this? Perhaps. It wouldn’t be the first time.

Avoiding potholes?

It isn’t that I’m afraid of falling. My balance is okay. Of course, there are nights when I stumble along in the dark to you know where. When I first step out of bed, my feet are stiff—curled tightly—like claws. Eventually, the muscles relax. I must look like a parrot walking along on the tile, shifting left to right. But no one else is up to see me. Except for the dog. Move, and he’s awake.

It’s not about shoes  

I’m not looking down because I’m fascinated with shoes. I could care less. Though in Phoenix, flip-flops almost pass for formal wear. And then there’s the occasional lady in high, spiky heels. It’s amazing to watch her balance on stilts. It’s like watching a circus act without a net.

New York City kid

I think the real reason I look down is based on where I was raised.  In New York City, you don’t make eye contact with strangers. Not unless you need something. Otherwise, you’re just asking for trouble. No one wants to be on the end of a hey man, what are you looking at? Best to keep your gaze downward—avoiding the dangerous elements populating your world. Little boys have been beaten up for much less.Continue reading . . .    

Ever Walk into Your Beloved? Are You Clumsy? Or is it Something Else?

It’s odd, but it seems our house is just not big enough. Oh, there’s plenty of square footage. Certainly plenty of space for two men and a dog to navigate. And still, we’re constantly bumping into one another. I can’t quite figure it out.

Points of contact

The foot traffic is swift in the hallway. Living in the Sonoran Desert,  you drink a lot of water. It’s not unusual for us to nearly knock each other down crossing back and forth to the bathroom from our adjacent home offices. But our most popular rendezvous is in front of the refrigerator. Here is where we have real fender-benders. Squeezing by, accusing the other of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Meanwhile, our dog hovers, standing guard at his bowl, hoping we’re engaged in a struggle to feed him.

Navigating corners

Blind corners are also a hazard. There’s nothing worse than being frightened by the sudden appearance of the only other person in the house. It often seems that Jeff has materialized out of thin air. After I jump, he’ll say rather indignantly, “I live here too.” Perhaps because we both work out of the house, we’ve become oblivious to the other. Talk about focus and powers of concentration.

Footsteps on the path

Years ago, a friend said he’d seen us from a distance and we were standing very close. If that’s true, perhaps that’s why we keep bumping into each other. I guess if you walk through life together, it’s expected that sometimes your foot lands in the same spot. Or maybe, we’re just clumsy. Hmm. I wonder.

For musical inspiration on men walking, click on this link: http://bit.ly/2xRQJjA

Why is there a Poodle in the Bathroom?

Growing up in New York City in the 1960s, a poodle lived in our bathroom. Pink, with black eyes and a white bow permanently sewn to its head, it sat atop the back of the toilet tank, beady eyes watching our family during the most intimate of moments. By now you’ve probably guessed that the crocheted body with four tiny legs and a bouncy tail, concealed the extra roll of toilet tissue.

Is this for the company?

When you live in a one bath apartment, there is a decorating dilemma. That single bathroom serves both family and guests. And so along with the poodle cozy, there were decorative hand towels that we didn’t touch. And now that I think about it, I never did see that poodle lying atop the tank disemboweled. That stuffed poodle was a permanent fixture. The order of the day: reach under the sink if you needed to refill the roll.

Toilet training?

Years later, the lessons learned in my childhood are hard to shake. And though we don’t have a poodle cozy for the extra roll of toilet tissue, I remain unwilling to use the decorative hand towels. Why should I have this reaction in my own home? It must be the result of my early toilet training.Continue reading . . .    

Smartphone Etiquette – Stop Looking at Your Damn Phone

It has finally happened. I was at dinner with friends and within five minutes of being seated, we were all looking down at our smartphones—Googling, Facebooking, and God only knows what else.

Nomo what?

Nomophobia (fear of being without your mobile phone—no mobile—nomo—get it?) is the new frontier of addiction. It’s so sad. Time lost with loved ones because our attention has wandered to the technology in our hand.

I’ve heard it said that the generation raised with smartphones is struggling with the development of their social skills. To be honest, it hasn’t done much for people my age either. We now all text. It’s so much easier than having a real conversation. And Facebook gives us the false sense that we’re in touch, even though you can’t actually touch anyone. Facebook friends create the illusion that we’re loved or important or part of something bigger than ourselves. In reality—we’re really sitting alone—observing other people’s lives. I guess that’s better than nothing.

I’ve fallen into the trap 

To be a successful writer, we’re told to expand our reach. People need to know who we are in order to trust that they might enjoy our work. I doubt Hemingway or Fitzgerald had an ongoing relationship with their public—but then, I’m no Hemingway or Fitzgerald. Still, can you imagine those two literary giants texting? Now, Dorothy Parker—she’d have excelled at tweeting in 140 characters. Still, being witty 24/7 is a challenge for any modern author. Best to say nothing at all. At least then you can retain some semblance of quiet intelligence.Continue reading . . .    

Death & New Orleans

A few weeks ago, I was in New Orleans to celebrate a friend’s birthday. The city seemed to be full of funereal fun. Seriously. The tourist shops were stocked with voodoo dolls, death masks, and skeletons. Everywhere you turned there were signs of decadent decay. Above ground mausoleums—crumbling and creepy. And all the ghost tours. It seemed as if some poor soul had died a violent death on every corner. I guess that’s what happens when a city is situated below sea level. People are macabre.

1987?

But it wasn’t until I separated from my traveling companions that I began to remember. New Orleans was where I’d vacationed with Richard, my first partner, some 30 years earlier. He was a 2nd-year ophthalmology resident at Henry Ford Hospital at the time. A year later, after graduating from his residency, obtaining board-certification and landing his first job, he became ill. He died of AIDS  in July of 1989. He was only 33 years old.

Startled by the recall

As I walked around the gift shops, I slowly remembered. The pink and purple masks we’d bought that hung on the wall of our first apartment. Our breakfast at Brennan’s when Richard introduced me to Bananas Foster. His delight in Cafe Du Monde and the deep-fried beignets covered in confectionary sugar. We were together again as I examined the handicrafts and listened to the live music in Jackson Square.Continue reading . . .    

Is Your Refrigerator A Mess?

I wish my refrigerator was spanking new. Perfectly clean with all my favorite foods lined up on shelves that sparkled. Labels facing front so that you can read them. Tupperware neatly stacked. No crumbs or wet spots anywhere.

A little OCD?

Yes, I’m neat, but not a neat freak. I don’t mind if a drawer is messy—as long as it’s closed. The bedroom closet may need some straightening up, but not every day. And frankly, I’m okay with the state of the garage. Of course, it’s easy to pass through there quickly. Really—who lingers in a garage? But the refrigerator feels different. Maybe that’s because I spend so much time looking inside of it.

Voila!

Think of how a trained chef dresses a plate.  It’s more than just the food—it’s about eye appeal. How the colors balance. How the shapes contrast. It’s lending an artistic eye so that everything presents in an appetizing way to heighten the experience.

Older Models

The fact is, older homes come with older refrigerators. I’ve tried taking apart our refrigerator and washing out every nook and cranny. I’ve even tried ordering new shelves and drawers, but everything is out of stock. Discontinued can be such an ugly word. Continue reading . . .