Monday, October 25, 2021

Sometimes, it Doesn't All Make it Into the Book - Part 3

For the past two weeks, I've been sharing outtakes from the MAC (Marita, Angel, Charli) series. Here's the final outtake, the conclusion to last week's scene with Marita and Lukas. 

Lukas plunked his plate and glass onto the table and sat down across from her. "Where were we?"

"Bets and Trevor set a date."

"Oh, wow. When?"

"Two weeks from Friday." Marita studied his face. Disapproval?

"That was fast," he said.

Ah. Surprise.

Marita washed him waiting to see if he'd as the question that would be foremost in her mother's mind or Nora's but no snark was forthcoming. "Yeah. Their first choice venue had a last minute cancellation, so they snapped it up."

"Good for them."

Marita chewed slowly, ruminating on her words and aware of Lukas watching her. "Yeah. Bets is excited. Rushing around, finalizing details, and collecting RSVPs." She let the statement hang in the air. Lukas didn't say a word.

Get over yourself, Marita. Just put it out there. "Are you coming with me or not?" Okay, not quite like that.

He raised his eyebrows. "I thought this was already decided. I'm not sure why you're arising me to an event you don't really want me to a trend."

"I neer Sadi I didn' want you to cone. Your the one who said you didn't think you should go with me."

He set down his sandwich and reached across the table, taking her hands in his. "Look, Marita, my feelings for you haven't changed. But I'm not sure I can watch you entertain your inner wild child."

"Because that would change your feelings?"

He took a bite of his sandwich, buying time, no doubt. She set hers down, her stomach suddenly in knots. What did she expect him to say? Why did she keep asking questions she didn't want the answer to?

"Watching you let loose scares me a little. It makes me feel like I don't really know who you are."

"What about all your talk about God loving me, no matter what?"

"Marita, I'm not God. I'm human. And, trust me, I've been praying about this."

"How noble of you."

He put his elbows on the table and folded his hands, leaning into them. "When you're with Bets, it's like you're a different person, someone I don't recognize. It's almost as though you've gone back in time to a Marita I've only heard stories about. And that Marita made reckless choices and impulsive decisions-- the kind of thins I though you'd--" 


Resting his chin on his hands, he nodded. "And when..."

Marita held up her hand. "No. Don't say anything more."

Friday, October 22, 2021

Friday Feature: How Real is this Show?

I've been fascinated by FX's Impeachment: American Crime Story. Though it bothers me that some of the actors don't (to my mind) look enough like the characters they're playing, they are nevertheless roping me in with their performances. 

The more I watch, the more I find myself wondering how accurate the storyline is. I was not only alive when all of this was happening, I was a full-fledged adult. I was not, however, the newshound I am now and I had a small child, so it's not surprising that I didn't get as absorbed by the story as it was actually unfolding as I am now. In addition, while news was quite accessible 20+ years ago, it wasn't as ubiquitous as it is now.

But this is now and so, if I want to know if something is accurate, I simply need to ask Google and follow the path to an article that tells me what I want to know. In this case, it was an article in Rolling Stone that contained an interview with show runner and playwright Sarah Burgess.

Bottom line? Pretty real. Monica Lewinsky was a very involved producer on the show, working with Burgess and others to make sure as many details survived as possible. This is, admittedly, one side of the story but a side that, when coupled with research into the facts that were reported at the time, helps to create a well-rounded story.

And a well-crafted and engaging one at that. 

Wednesday, October 20, 2021

Way Back Wednesday: A Room for All Seasons

This is one of my favorite posts, written when my 
daughter was small. The porch-turned-office has been my work space for quite some time, and the playroom has morphed into a family room that looks nothing like it did when this post was written. I still have fond memories of the cheap laminate desk and Friday mornings spent writing when my school counseling job was a four day/week gig.

 It was my sanctuary. The walls were paneled in light oak, rough to the touch, and straight out of the 1970s. The floor was a darker hardwood, covered in part by a cream fringe throw rug that only partially hid the green paint stain (that came with the house) on the floor. The bookshelves were bursting with novels, biographies and plays - some that had been read, and others I'd probably never get to - with my dictionary and thesaurus within easy reach.

An oak laminate desk filled one wall. Chosen in part for its cost and in part for its size, it was home to my computer, printer and files. While the long file cabinet across the room held paid bills, insurance information and other important paperwork, the file drawer in the desk held dreams - works in progress and idea folders - along with a pile of rejection letters I'd been unable to throw away. Despite their message, the letters were part of the dream because they offered proof that I really was a writer, despite the fact I hadn't set aside regular writing time since I'd had my daughter.

The room was tacky, but cozy, and filled with items I treasured, still photos of shows I'd performed in and family I cherished. While my office lacked the pulled-together style that filled the pages of decorating magazines, something magical happened in there every time I sat down to write.

As my daughter grew, and toys began taking over the living room, I realized it was time to relinquish my sanctuary. The desk was relegated to the basement, and a new wall-to-wall carpet not only hid the green paint stain, but created a soft, warm place for my daughter to play. Gradually, my books were replaced by her books, my photos put aside as her artwork graced the walls. Eventually, the photos traveled to the basement as my time at the theatre was replaced by playtime and storytime, then chauffeur duties and time on the bleachers at basketball games.

In time, we enclosed a porch to create a new office, one shared by the whole family. Much smaller than the playroom, it is frequently a mess, the place where all the papers in the house come to die. My collection of books has been downsized, my dictionary, thesaurus and files relocated, and I often work in there, among the piles. Many of them, I must admit, are of my own creation. But just as often, I work in other places, and even in the car, usually while I am waiting for my daughter.

But the beauty of dreams is that they don't need a home. And while my theatre dreams are on hiatus and my writing dreams are squeezed into the nooks and crannies of my life, my most important dream is being realized in every other room of my house, with my family, every day. Sometimes these day-to-day dreams absorb me (or frustrate me) and creative pursuits take a back seat. But when I look at the big picture, I think that sounds about right, because after all, family makes a better sanctuary than a room. 

And a room without a family is just a room.

Monday, October 18, 2021

Sometimes, it Doesn't All Make it Into the Book - Part 2

Last week, I shared a Marita and Gregory scene from the MAC series -- one that didn't make it into the book and, if it had, could have taken Angel down a different path.

This week, I'm sharing the first part of Marita and Lukas scene -- a different take on one that actually made it into the book. Because it's a long one, I'm splitting it up across several posts. 

Marita drummed her red-lacquered nails on the table, trying to ignore the glares from the patrons perturbed by the single woman taking up a booth in the packed deli. Lukas was never late, especially when he knew she had to get back to work after lunch. She checked the time on her phone and took a sip of her iced tea, hoping it would quell the uneasiness that had taken up residence in her stomach.

Was he coming? Or had he thought they were finished when he walked out of the restaurant and left her sitting there? 

She had every right to be mad at him about that. 

But he had every right to be mad at her about the conversation that had precipitated his departure.

He was right about the wedding. And, Gregory aside, if Lukas didn't want to go to the wedding with her, what did that say about the future of their relationship? Skipping Bets' wedding was one thing but, if she and Lukas were going to have a future together, he was going to have to find a way to make nice with Bets and Trevor.

She took a huge bite of her sandwich. Come on, Marita. Be fair. You need to give him ore that one chance to --

"Hey." Lukas slid into the seat across from her. "Sorry I'm late. Last minute crisis."

Marita froze, her overstuffed mouth incapable of forming words. She covered her mouth with her napkin and muttered, "it's okay."

Lukas laughed. "I placed my order, but figured I'd better with sit with you while I wait so I could appease the table-stealing vultures. Hey those are some fancy nails."

Marita finished chewing and swallowed, her sandwich congealing into a hard lump somewhere between her mouth and her stomach. "Thanks."

What was going on? Sitting across from her was he old, lighthearted Lukas. The pre-Gregory conversation Lukas.

"You okay?" 

Marita nodded. "Yeah. Just a little confused. The last time I saw you--"

"I know. I've had some time to think."


A bell rang, and Lukas
looked over at the counter, then at the ticket in his hand. "That's me. Hang on a second."

As stepped away to pick up his sandwich, Marita took another monstrous bite of her own. What was going on here?

Friday, October 15, 2021

Friday Feature: Pondering Podcasts


I am fascinated by neuroscience, but I haven't had a science class since college, so I like it when I can find sources that explain things to me in layman's terms. Recently, I came across a short list of psychology podcasts that included a few on the brain. One I immediately dismissed as something other than leisure listening, but I'm looking forward to checking out a few of the others. 

My daughter is a serious podcast listener, and creating podcasts is on my list of author wanna-dos. But, like anything else, listening to podcasts requires time, something that always seems to be in short supply, which leaves me wondering if I'll bridge the gap between "that sounds interesting" and actually finding out whether or not it is.

Podcast listeners: when do you do your listening? Anything you'd recommend?

Wednesday, October 13, 2021

Way Back Wednesday: Maybe it's Not an Age Thing

Once upon a time, I was young(ish) and my daughter was a pre-teen. I remember being slightly more patient then, and 
with a better tolerance for noise.

Or maybe not.

It's a beautiful, perfect fall day - the kind of day that impresses even those who, like me, aren't always enamored of the outdoors. And I considered taking my laptop out on the back patio to write this...except that my husband and daughter (both of whom love the outdoors) are already outside...which means it's quiet in here. And so I'm letting in the fresh air and sunshine by opening windows and blinds, but I'm staying inside where I can work undistracted, and guilt-free, knowing we are all where we want to be at the moment.

Both my husband and my daughter are able to work undistracted even in noisy environments. In fact, they prefer them. They can't understand why I'd choose to work in silence when I could be listening to music, watching TV, or both. I can't understand when I became my mother, admonishing my daughter (and sometimes my husband) to "turn that down."

I used to think my husband developed this preference because he grew up in a large family. As the seventh of ten children, he had little experience with quiet or solitude. My daughter, however, is an only child, but has inherited her father's preference for background noise. I blame it on her dad, who loved to wind up all of her musical toys when she was a baby, and delight in the resulting cacophony. That was over a decade ago, and I didn't enjoy it then, either.

But maybe it's genetic. And most likely, it will serve her well. I find it increasingly difficult to find the kind of peaceful quiet I need in order to relax, focus and, ideally, create, whether I am seeking this elusive silence at home or out of the house. At work, the lively presence of elementary school kids is palpable, even when the hallways are quiet. When I go to lunch, restaurants play background music, have televisions on, or both.

Outside of my own house, I'm better able to relegate these things to white noise. At home, however, my parental senses remain heightened despite - or perhaps because of - the fact that my "baby" is nearly twelve. Most days, a blaring television, or even the sound effects from an action/adventure movie make it very difficult for me to focus my attention where it belongs, let alone create. But, when the television is on, I know where she is and what she's doing.

But when I can find that is the best therapy imaginable. It's restful, restorative and the backdrop I need to form intelligent thoughts and write coherent sentences. Some may choose to believe that I am getting old and crotchety. I prefer to think that I recognize the value in something that seems to be so hard to come by.

Monday, October 11, 2021

Sometimes, it Doesn't All Make it Into the Book - Part 1

daschorsch via Pixabay

This semester, I am once again seeking to establish a better work-life balance, this time with a focus on my writing. Toward that end, I've declared Tuesday afternoons "Take Back Tuesdays," wherein I put my writing first on the list and then dig into other responsibilities. As the semester powers forward, bringing with it an ever-growing virtual pile of paper and projects to grade, I know the amount of time I allot each Tuesday afternoon is likely to shrink but, for now, I can easily carve out an hour or two.

Last Tuesday, I wanted to use some of the time to pull out my idea files and see what popped up. In the process, I came across some outtakes from the MAC (Marita, Angel, Charli) series -- a couple that didn't make it into any of the books -- and I thought it might be fun to share them here. If you've read the books, you know how the story ends, and you can also see where the story might have gone another way...but didn't. 


      Monday morning, Marita was on her way out of Conference Room C when she practically ran over Gregory.

He took a step back as she stopped abruptly, losing her grip on one of her bags. “We’ve got to stop meeting like this.”

“Very funny.”

“I thought so. Here. Let me help.” Gregory picked up the bag that had tumbled to the ground. “Geez, what do you have in here?”

“Work stuff. My machine, supplies….”

“It’s heavier than my briefcase.”

“Welcome to my world.”

He slipped the bag over his shoulder. “You’re grumpy this morning.”

“Sorry. My kitchen turned into wedding central this weekend. RSVP cards, favor bags, cake samples….”

“That last one sounds good. You should have called me.”

“No time. Let’s just say it was not a social gathering.”

“Bets is turning into Bridezilla?”

“Not exactly. She’s just stressed out. Go figure.”

“I wondered how she thought she could pull a wedding together in three weeks. Some of my friends have taken three years to plan theirs.”

“That’s Bets.”

“Are you at all concerned that she’s rushing into this?”

Marita looked at him, not even trying to hide her annoyance. “No. Why would you even ask that? You’ve known her for, what, fifteen minutes?”

Gregory held up both hands in surrender. “I’m sorry! Occupational hazard.”

Marita set her bag down on a bench outside the courtroom. “No. I’m sorry. It was a long weekend, followed by a very long, difficult morning.” She sat down beside her stuff. “I think maybe it’s catching up to me.”

Gregory set down the bag he was carrying and moved Marita’s other bag to the floor so he could sit beside her on the bench. “Okay. But, listen. At the risk of stressing you out further, I got the strangest message on my voice mail this morning — from someone named Angel Alessio? Said you sent her my way? Want to clue me in?”