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?”

Friday, October 8, 2021

Friday Feature: For a Good Rhyme, Call....

Remember telephone booths? Tucking a dime (then a quarter) in your shoe so you could feed it into that phone slot in case of emergency?

When I was growing up, telephone booths weren’t hard to come by. There wasn’t exactly one on every corner but, like mailboxes, you could easily find several in a neighborhood

Now, of course, cell phones have replaced these 24-7 call boxes but a new, bright blue call box has popped up on a Dubuque Iowa Street corner. It's not a displaced Tardis but, rather, a booth where visitors can step inside, dial a (rotary) phone, and call up a poem.

The Dubuque Telepoem Booth features the work of Iowa poets and is open round the clock. It's one of five of these installations, which stretch across the United States (the one closest to me is in State College, PA). A directory in the booth allows visitors to browse the possibilities, then simply dial a number to hear the poem they choose.

Sounds like a good rhyme to me.

Wednesday, October 6, 2021

Way Back Wednesday: Familiar Place and Now-Familiar Characters

This post from 2009 references the novel I'm revising (again) now, and Lewisburg, PA, 
the town that inspired the setting. Hard to believe I'm still trying to get this book just right.

The novel I am writing now is set in a college town which has its roots in the small Pennsylvania town where I spent six years acquiring two degrees. The details are different, of course. Because this is a work of fiction, I can take liberties, adding and subtracting people and places to suit the needs of my characters and plot.

Part of the fun of creating my fictional town is reliving - mentally, anyway - the experiences I had in the real one. As I write, I am amazed by how many memories and feelings readily resurface. I can't remember what I wore to work on Friday, but I can remember what I was wearing the night I met the guy I dated in grad school, the succession of apartments I lived in while I pursued my master's degree and the feelings that enveloped the campus during finals week. It's not at all difficult to remember being a freshman trying to find her niche, a sophomore living in a special interest house, a junior getting serious about coursework or a senior trying to imagine what the next year would bring.

In a very real sense, the campus and the town shaped the person I became, in part because I spent so much time there. And because I stayed beyond the typical four years, moving from campus to the previously mentioned succession of apartments while I worked on my master's degree, I developed a love and a respect for the town that made my college experience possible.

Using all of that as a starting point creates a special kind of challenge. The people I place in this fictional town can bring it to life - if I do it right - but because this is a work of fiction, the lives they lead must be different from the one I led. As a writer, I'm doing what all writers do - trying to imbue fictional characters with real and believable feelings in a real and believable place that is not exactly the same as I remember.

So, as I labor over my pages, I'm grateful for the nostalgia that keeps this project close to my heart, and therefore helps to keep me both motivated and honest. Even when it is fun, writing is hard work, and I am in awe of those who make it look easy.

Monday, October 4, 2021

A Little Nostalgia



Lately, I've been going through old posts here to find some to press into service for my Way Back Wednesday feature. I knew I'd been blogging for a long time, but reading posts written when my now almost-24 year old was in middle school has really driven that point home. 

Actually, it's been a lot of fun. Revealing, too. Sometimes, I wonder if I've changed-- especially amid COVID -- if I've lost patience, empathy, or the positive outlook I always prided myself on having. Nothing like reading the words of my former self to put things in perspective.

There here have been ups and downs -- something that's still true now -- times when I got busy and no post materialized (still true). In fact, when I first started out, I didn't even have a regular posting schedule -- that didn't take shape until I retired (which was, it turned out, only a dress rehearsal). There were features I'd totally forgotten about (I mean you, Link of the Week), and stories I'd forgotten I told, and there were times when I used this space to share excitement (book contracts!), change (a new job!) and loss. 

As I read through the posts, I'm finding that, to borrow a cliché, the more things change, the more they stay the same. The same topics -- work and writing, faith and family -- still resonate with me and make up most of the content. I still worry about finding a balance that prioritizes my work without making my family feel neglected. I still have good writing days and dry spells, and times when projects get delayed by lack of time, lack of energy or life in general.

And as for patience, empathy and a positive outlook? They're still things I have to cultivate and, like anything else, I'm more successful some days than others.

When I first started blogging, first on TypePad and then here on Blogger, I had no idea I'd still be doing it fifteen years later. On the days when topics are hard to come by or I'm scrambling to fit in a post, I wonder if maybe I should cut back a little, but the answer is usually no. On any given day, I have no idea if I have five readers or five thousand (though the latter is unlikely), but I write on anyway.

Thank you for reading my posts -- the poignant ones and the late ones and the ones where my characters take over. It's always fun to imagine who my readers might be, and I hope I inject a little levity or something of value into your day.

Or evening. 

Let's make a deal. I'll keep writing, and you keep reading.

I'm looking forward to seeing what my next read-through turns up and, when I find something I like, I'll share it on a Way Back Wednesday, in the hope that you'll like it too.

Thanks for stopping by.