Bodice Ripper vs Real Life

Screen Shot 2014-12-03 at 8.09.39 PM I’ve narrated (and read) a ton of romances. One of my favorite moments, a moment that clues you in to the fact that the guy is a keeper, is when the hero tucks a strand of hair behind the heroine’s ear. Now, I know, it’s a little cheesy, but it’s also soul-meltingly sweet. You can always tell a guy is good if animals love him and he tucks hair. It’s like one of those universal law things…like…you know…gravity.

Imagine my surprise when I recently experienced a moment like this—a moment from romantic fiction—IN MY REAL LIFE. With my husband, no less! (Of course, I already know he’s a keeper.)

We were in the kitchen the day before Thanksgiving and I was busy making a pie crust or something. I was telling him about my day when he cupped my face in his hands and said softly, “Shh. There’s something under your eye.” Now this wasn’t hair-tucking, but a man gently cupping a woman’s face while he sweetly brushes away a stray eyelash is…dare I say it…sexy.

Only he kept brushing.

And that eyelash or whatever wasn’t going anywhere.

“Sorry,” he said. “I thought you had something under your eye. It turns out it was just a skin tag.”

….. ……….. …………….. WHHhHhhhHhHHAAAAaaaTTT? Are you kidding me? It’s “Just a skin tag!!!”

My entire body convulsed with the sheer horror and I immediately ran upstairs to stare at myself in the mirror.

My life, most assuredly, is not a romance novel.

But my husband is still a keeper.

Skin tag, though. Gross.

StoryBundle and Meet Martin Kee

Yesterday, I introduced you to Jack Wallen, one of the writers for this month’s StoryBundle (a horror collection which my book TUNNEL VISION is also a part of). Today, meet Martin Kee, writer and also curator of this bundle.

Meet Martin Kee

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1) Your book is included in StoryBundle’s horror collection. What draws you to horror?

I don't typically outline what I write, so as the book progresses, it seems that things just tend to gravitate in that direction. There's a sort of inexorable truth to horror, that idea that we all, at some point in time, will end. It's a universal constant. Things decay. So I guess the more I write on a certain subject, whether it be about dark matter or parasitic fungus, or robots, or graphene, there's always a deeper horror there at the bottom, a deeper truth that a lot of people don't like to think about. That truth usually lies in bad things happening to people you care about.

2) Tell me a little bit about the book in the collection.

BLOOM is essentially two stories, taking place in two very different places, in very different times. One story tells the tale of a young man whose childhood friend suffers from a brain tumor. Every time she meets him, she doesn't remember who he is, so Tennyson has to essentially reintroduce himself. But as bloom, a parasitic fungus, begins to overtake the coasts and sweep inland, he loses touch with her. Determined to find her, Tennyson sets out to delve into what the world has become in order to be reunited with his best friend.

The second story, one that shares the same space as Tennyson's, is that of Lil'it. She isn't entirely human. She's smaller, with odd tumors on her back in the shape of wings. She's referred to as feh which is just one sound short of spitting. In her world, she is essentially vermin, handled like a poisonous serpent. This is due largely to the fact that she is able to secrete custom prions and viruses in her salivary glands. When she is sold off to a wealthy land owner, she makes a play at freedom and finds that it's much more complicated than simply running away.

The two stories are related to one another in spite of how different they seem, and it's up to the reader to find that connection.

3) Do you have anything else published?

I do! My first novel, A LATENT DARK, was in a horror bundle back in 2012, and I've just released a short science fiction novella on Amazon called GLEAN, which is the beginning of a series.

Both books can be found here: http://www.amazon.com/Martin-Kee

I also write short stories and content for video games.

4) What really scares you?

Shame, I think. Disappointment. I don't like to disappoint people, so I often sink into some dark places worrying that I might screw things up for folks I care about. I suppose that's an odd thing to be scared of, but there it is. Now, of course, disappointment comes in many forms. It could be not winning the lottery, or having your spouse cheat on you. I think I could probably survive those things pretty well. But knowing that I might have lost the trust and faith of the people I love... well, it would be hard to live with that, especially looking at the long road ahead to regaining that trust.

Death, surprisingly, doesn't really scare me much aside from the physical desire to survive. I mean, everyone does it eventually, right? And there are far worse things to worry about. I think worse than death, would simply being erased and forgotten, to look back from my death bed and realize nothing mattered and nobody would remember me. That seems much more terrifying, not so much the void, as in the wasted time. I mean, I'm 42 years old. If I died tomorrow, I hope I'll have more to show for it than a level 70 druid in WoW.

5) What’s your writing process like?

I'm one of those "gardeners" you hear about. I start with some very vague plot points and sort of explore as much as I can. It's a much more enjoyable process to me than outlining first, but it's messy. I do a lot of rewrites, and sometimes don't even really know what the book is about until the 8th draft or so. It's time consuming as well.

That's not to say that I don't outline though. I do, just afterwards. Thats' where I chop the book up and put all the pieces back together in the right order, then go through and pick apart every chapter, then every paragraph, then every sentence. Usually the rewriting process is more fun and more involved than writing the original draft.

6) Where can people find out more about you or see more of your work?

Well there's my author page: http://www.amazon.com/Martin-Kee

And I also have a poorly maintained blog: http://marlanesque.com/ where I sometimes go to vent or ramble. There's a lot of flash fiction up there as well, along with links to anything new I might have published. I don't live in any delusions that I am a blogger by any means. Most of my ideas end up in my books instead of on the site.

Then there's Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/martinkeeauthor which is, you know, Facebook. I post updates there maybe more than I do on the blog, because it gets the most traffic. You can follow any of these with Likes if you want to see what I'm up to as I shuffle around in my comfy pants, making things up.

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Check out the bundle by clicking on the above picture, and/or leave a comment below to be entered into a drawing to win the entire bundle. Winner chosen August 1st.

StoryBundle AND Meet Jack Wallen

I am so excited that my collection TUNNEL VISION AND OTHER STORIES FROM THE EDGE is included in a horror package offered by StoryBundle. Basically, you pay what you think the package is work, and get up to nine different books from different independent writers. So you’re supporting indie authors and getting a sample of work that you might never have found on your own. Plus, you can even donate part of your price to a nonprofit. It’s a win win win. Now, usually, I write comedic things, but there is a darker side to me. It’s reflected in Tunnel Vision if you’ve read it. 1930s. Insane Asylum. Baby born in the tunnels and raised by the inmantes there.

And I love a good ghost story.

Here’s some information about another writer whose work is included in the StoryBundle package. Meet Jack Wallen…and check out both of our books in this bundle by clicking HERE. You have only 20 days to grab the deal!

 

 INTERVIEW WITH JACK WALLEN

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1) Your book is included in StoryBundle’s horror collection. What draws you to horror?

I was originally drawn to horror as a young boy. A local horror show, Nightmare Theater with Sammy Terry, drew me in and never spat me out. Watching that campy horror host not only made horror fun, but made it cool.

As an adult, I believe horror is one of the most cathartic genres of fiction you can read. In the safety of your own home, under the covers in your bedroom, you can open up a book of horror and dive into fear without worrying for your life. Your heart races, you might break out into a sweat, and you might wind up having nightmares...but in the end, you wake up alive.

 

2) Tell me a little bit about the book in the collection.

This book came from a rather dark place in my career as a writer. I wrote the novel as a reaction to some of what I saw in the publishing industry. The story centers around a has-been writer desperate to gain back the fame that once filled his boudoir with prostitutes and his nose with cocaine. In the process he winds up in league with The Nameless – a demon from Hell who has a very different path set out for our anti-hero.

This book has been one of my proudest achievements, as it was compared to the early works of my idol, Clive Barker.

 

3) Do you have anything else published?

Yes. In fact, my goal for the end of this year is to have more than twenty books published. The current list includes the following series (listed in series – if applicable):

 

The Fringe Killer Series

A Blade Away

Gothica

Endgame

 

The I Zombie Series

I Zombie I

My Zombie My

Die Zombie Die

Lie Zombie Lie

Cry Zombie Cry (due August 21st, 2014)

T-Minus Zero

Zombie Radio

The Last Caskset

 

The Shero Series

Shero

Shero II: Zombie A GoGo

Shero III: Death by Cosplay

 

The Nameless Saga

Hell’s Muse

The Nails of Calvary (due October, 2014)

 

Screampark

Klockwerk Kabaret

Among You (due out Sept, 2014)

The last three novels are currently stand-alone (in the case of Among You – yet to be released). I plan on writing the second book in the Klockwerk Kabaret series near the end of the year. It was my first steampunk novel and it made me fall in love with the genre.

As you can tell, I try not to pigeonhole myself into one genre (well, sub-genre...as most of what I write is rather dark). My biggest selling books are my zombie novels – and that is clearly my first love – but I tend to write what I feel at the moment. I also prefer not to write two novels from the same series or genre in a row. This has worked out well for me because it ensures, when I set out to write a new book in a series, I am completely thrilled to be back with that particular story.

 

4) What really scares you?

Failure. The idea of failing is ever present in me...it has been since I was a young boy. Of course, failure encompasses so much (financial, social, professional, personal). I’ve never been afraid of the usual suspects (spiders, snakes, tornadoes, horror...). To this end I do everything I can to always stay ahead of the game – be it my skills, network, etc.

 

5) What’s your writing process like?

I absolutely adore the process of writing. My wife once asked me a question: “If you couldn’t make a living as a writer, would you still do it?” I answered without hesitation...yes. The act of creating is so important to my existence (I was a professional actor for twenty years).

I generally take about two months to write my first drafts. After that I go back through the manuscript to catch anything I missed. Once that is complete, I send the draft to beta readers. I differ with most authors in that I prefer betas to see the early version so they can not only get a feel of the story in its rawest form, but make suggestions that I can then either accept or reject before the manuscript goes off to my editor. After me and my editor go back and forth, the manuscript is then sent to a proof reader. During this process I work on designing a cover and marketing material for the book.

 

6) Many of your books are about Zombies. What is it about zombies that pulls at you?

First and foremost, zombies are such a wonderful metaphor for humanity. We are all so very close to becoming drones in the corporate world – our lives on autopilot for the majority of our waking hours. I also love the fact that the zombie has yet to be confiscated and ruined by Hollywood. You’ll never find sparkling zombies (unless you count the strippers in Zombies Vs. Strippers). Finally, the zombie is the one creature that elicits end of the world scenarios and imagery. That’s powerful stuff there. Humanity may well be just a madman away from the apocalypse, so the genre can be very visceral and immediate for readers. The apocalypse is something that could happen – the veil between fiction and non-fiction grows very thin.

 

7) Do you watch The Walking Dead? Side question: have you perfected a zombie walk of your own to blend in if the apocalypse comes?

I do and I have. I straddle the fence on The Walking Dead. On one side I love the show and how so often they focus on the simple act of survival. On the other hand, I worry they spend a bit too much time on the romance aspect. I’m not one hundred percent sure the apocalypse is the best time for booty calls and hookups. But then...we’ll all need those reminders that we are still human. But lovers of zombies and apocalyptic fiction would rather see less lovin’ and more survivin’.

My zombie walk? I don’t necessarily think all zombies will drag one of their legs behind them (unless they spiraled into the zombie abyss with a broken leg). My take on the zombie walk is to imagine your brain having just enough power to remember how to put one foot in front of the other. Stand outside of any given bar at closing time and you’ll see the zombie walk to perfection.

 

8) Where can people find out more about you or see more of your work?

You can check out my web site http://www.jackwallen.comBlog September 2013 through 2014.docx and get information on all of my books (as well as my blog). You can also visit the following:

 

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/author.jackwallen

Twitter: @jlwallen

Google+: https://plus.google.com/u/0/+jackwallen/posts

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B004MZWR3W

 

I also host a weekly podcast (a character from my I Zombie series) called Zombie Radio: http://www.zombieradio.org

 

THE BUNDLE:

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GIVEAWAY: Leave a comment and you're entered in to WIN this bundle for free! Winner is chosen August 1st.

I'm Reading On May 10th for Midwestern Gothic

I'm reading on May 10th for Midwestern Gothic at Commonwealth of Letters at 6:30PM(ish). By 'reading' I mean I'm giving a reading or performing or reading out loud or what have you. So. Yeah. Me. In the flesh (but not naked flesh) standing fully clothed and reading out loud for whoever shows up. Hopefully, it'll be a full house instead of just a creepy guy wearing thick glasses and eating corn nuts. They graciously published an excerpt from my memoir in their Issue #11, and I'll be reading from that. If you're in Grand Rapids, Michigan on May 10th, why not show up and listen to some Midwestern writers read to you? It's lovely, comforting, and only mildly chafing. Here's the info that I shamelessly lifted from the Facebook post, because, well, I'm lazy. We all know this. I'm lazy and I'm tired and I'm crabby...but I promise for the reading, I'll be perky and upbeat. I'll be reading about my childhood so I might also be slightly tranquilized. Just, you know, FYI.

Midwestern Gothic

INFO SHAMELESSLY LIFTED FROM FACEBOOK:

We’re excited to be hosting a reading at the Great Lakes Commonwealth of Letters space in Grand Rapids, Michigan, featuring the following Midwestern Gothic contributors:

Katie Booms is a writer, visual artist, and advocate for community-building. She welcomes collaboration of all kinds—find her on Twitter as @ka_booms and say hello! She earned her MFA in poetry at the University of Wyoming, served for a year with AmeriCorps at the Freret Neighborhood Center in New Orleans, and currently teaches at Grand Valley State University in good 'ole Grand Rapids.

Tanya Eby is an audiobook narrator and novelist. She’s recorded over 300 novels for NY Times and USA Today’s Bestsellers and was nominated for an Audie Award in 2013. She has published several novels including “Blunder Woman”, “Easy Does It” and “Foodies Rush In”. Her novella “Tunnel Vision And Other Stories From The Edge” takes place at the Grand Traverse Insane Asylum in the 1930s, and will be released soon in audio. Her nonfiction piece for Midwestern Gothic is from her current memoir-in-progress Popsicle Toes.

Michael Lambert lives and works in Wisconsin. In 2012 his work received the Thomas Hickey Creative Writing Award from the University of Wisconsin—Platteville and was nominated for the Carson Prize. Recent work has appeared in Driftless Review, Midwestern Gothic, and Mixed Fruit. His first collection, Circumnavigation (Red Bird Chapbooks, 2014), is dedicated to self-propelled travel in North America as it relates to the perpetual phenomenon of ending where one begins. http://michaelvaughnlambert.tumblr.com/

Besides Midwestern Gothic, Hadley Moore's work has appeared or is forthcoming in Newsweek, Witness, December, The Indiana Review, Confrontation, The Drum, Ascent, Redux, Knee-Jerk Magazine, and other publications. She is at work on a novel and a collection of stories, and is an alumna of the MFA Program for Writers at Warren Wilson College.

Adam Schuitema is the author of the short-story collection Freshwater Boys, which was named a Michigan Notable Book by the Library of Michigan. His stories have appeared in numerous magazines, including Glimmer Train, North American Review, Indiana Review, TriQuarterly, Black Warrior Review, and Crazyhorse. Adam earned his MFA and Ph.D. from Western Michigan University. He's an associate professor of English at Kendall College of Art and Design and lives in Grand Rapids, Michigan with his wife and daughter.

There will be issues of Midwestern Gothic for sale, as well as personal swag from each of the authors reading. Hope to see you there!

 

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I Haven't Been Writing And The World Keeps Spinning

writing I haven’t been writing. This isn’t tragic or earth-shattering, and there’s no weeping or dramatics going on with me. I’ve just decided that, well, I need a break. I’ve been pretty much writing every day since I was…seven? Eight? And over the years I’ve developed quite the ego that my work is so great and that the world just hasn’t noticed my greatness.

And then…it dawned on. Holy crap! Maybe I’m like one of those contestants on American Idol who is shocked, SHOCKED to hear that I’m tone deaf and I have no future in the arts. Maybe, just maybe I need a reality check.

I’ve been working so furiously and a bit maniacally, that I’ve never slowed down enough to really look at my work and see what bits are working, and what bits need work. It’s hard to do that when you’re constantly producing. And that’s been me. I’ve been a writing machine. A factory. And there’s no beauty in a factory. In fact, most factories smell like boiled eggs.

So last month I quietly stepped back from my writing group to take a breath. I stopped sending out the endless queries to agents and publishers that have thus far been a constant source of “no” and the self-doubt and self-loathing that comes with every rejection.

I’ve started watching more movies. I’ve started reading for pleasure. I’m blogging still, but just a bit. You know, when I have something important to say about Bigfoot or my kids, or magic or something.

What I’m not doing is working on a new novel. I’ve toyed with it, flirted with the idea, but it’s bored flirting.

This is not to say I’ve given up. I haven’t. I’m just taking some time to breathe. To reflect. And to really, really listen to myself and figure out if I am, indeed, tone deaf, or if there is a way to reshape my words so that they have more impact.

I still have stories to tell…but the next one I tell…I want it to have a real purpose. I want it to mean something—not just to the reader but (perhaps more importantly) to me.

Maybe when all this snow melts and it’s spring again, maybe then I’ll sit down and begin to type. Until then, I’m narrating and working hard to bring other people’s stories to life, while I hope my own stories will wait until I can do them justice.

New Audiobooks, New Perspective, Same Desire For Potato Chips

I've been lax with the blog, but for a very good reason. I wish the very good reason was that I was too busy watching Netflix while eating potato chips, but the actual reason is I've been working. Working on writing, on narrating, on producing audiobooks, and working on getting healthy and having a kinder perspective on life in general. The last one included a session with a nutritionist where a dude with Hobbit bare feet welcomed me to the office and then I broke down in tears in the nutritionist's office and moaned "How many rice cakes do I have to eat before I start to lose weight?" But that's another story. For now, here are some of the crazy projects I've been working on and producing. If you need a new listen or you want to get your grandmother an audiobook where two to four cowboys play 'horsey' in a barn...

I can't even finish that last sentence. I just can't. Deeeeep breaths.

Here are some of my projects:

audiobooks_color

1) "Foodies Rush In", narrated by Kate Rudd, written by Tanya Eby. GENRE: Contemporary Romance.

This time I went with a new narrator to see how my words worked when someone else read them. Kate gives heart and warmth to this sweet little love story. Rated PG-13, maybe R if you don't like some swearing. Click on the picture to go to Audible:

Foodies Rush In, audio

2) "Two to Mango", narrated by Tanya Eby, written by Jill Marie Landis. GENRE: Comedic Mystery.

I loved this book. It's book 2 in a series and is a delightful mystery set in Hawaii. Rated PG. The 1st book "Mai Tai One On" is also available. Funny, quirky characters.

Two to Mango Audiobook

3) "Briar's Cowboys: Daly Way Series Book 5", narrated by Tatiana Sokolov, written by Brynn Paulin. GENRE: Erotica.

Tatiana is my evil twin who narrates erotica titles so that I don't give heart attacks to listeners who are expecting, well, less hotness. This one is super hot. Certainly an R rating and one you should listen to in the privacy of your home, or maybe with a partner, or, uh, more. There are cowboys and sultry scenes AND an actual storyline and real characters.

Briar's Cowboys Audiobook

Those are just a few projects I've been working on. Plus, I finished the 1st draft of a new novel that's action packed and mind bending. More on that, and some other stories from my awkward life, to come. Until then, happy listening. Be good to yourself.

Vote On My Next Novel

I’m ready to start my next writing project, but I just can’t figure out which one to do. I have several ideas. It’d probably be good to start something especially since I’m trying to find an agent for my memoir and that’s super depressing to say the least. The search for an agent is depressing, not the memoir. images

A few years ago I asked you dear readers to choose the book I would write and post as a blovel. The result of that was ‘Tunnel Vision’…which is (I think) one of the best things I’ve ever written. So I thought I’d turn to you again. Can you help an unfocused writer focus?

It’s possible I could post this next piece as a blovel too, if there’s interest.

So. What book would you like me to write…or…which of these would you be most likely to read?

THE CONTENDERS: 

1)   A sequel to “Pepper Wellington and the Case of the Missing Sausage” called “Pepper Wellington and the Case of the Bad Curry” in which Pepper and her friend attend a dinner party when people start dying. They’re on an island so Pepper must solve the crimes before she’s dead too. It’s sorta like a “And Then There Were None” but with more food and less British stuff.

2)   A sequel to “Foodies Rush In” in which the characters from the first book celebrate the holidays. We’ll meet new characters, see multiple layers of disfunction and bad holiday sweaters. This would, hopefully, be a comedy and a feel-good type of book.

3)   A suspense/action novel in which a young girl discovers that her chemist father made her resistant to drugs so she’s the only one that can see that the happy world she lives in, isn’t really happy. She goes on an adventure to stop the poisoning and mind-control of her people. Lots of running, explosions, and a little darkness.

So. Help a girl out. Which book should I write? And if you know of an agent who wants a memoir called “Popsicle Toes” that’s in a similar style to “The House on Mango Street” lemme know.

POLL CLOSED

Thank you for voting!

#3 wins with 63% of the vote! Let the writing commence!

!!!!

Big Giveaway

I have to say that being a narrator is a pretty kick ass job. Sometimes literally. Or at least literally kick-ass in the stories I get to read. Sometimes I’m catching criminals, sometimes I’m falling in love, and I get lucky over and over and over again in various degrees of detail. Oh, how I love my job. Screen Shot 2013-06-18 at 6.48.05 AM

June is audiobook month AND it’s also the month where I have a birthday. My birthday is June 30th . This day is important because, in days of old, most coupons expire on June 30th. I don’t know why, but it’s true. AND this June 30th is a big birthday for me. The big FORTY. Which means any time I leave the house wearing tight pants and sequins, people will look at me and think “Huh. There goes a cougar”.

In honor of all that, I’m giving away some of my promo copies for some of the favorite things I’ve narrated. These are MP3 discs so you get the whole book (5-14 hours usually) all on one disc, which you can then put in your computer and transfer to your iPod or phone or whatever.

That’s right. IT’S A GIVEAWAY. All you have to do is comment below. On this blog only. No Facebook or Twitter comments, so we all know it’s fair. Also, when you comment, you type in your email so I’ll have a way to get in contact with you. Your email isn't visible to anyone and I won't share it. After the contest, it all gets deleted. You won’t be put on any mailing list or anything. I’m too lazy for that. If you have a preference for a book or if you like mystery better than romance or vice versa, let me know.

On my birthday, I’ll choose winners of the books.

  1. Last To Die A Rizzoli and Isles novel by Tess Gerritsen. How lucky am I that I took over this series around book 7? I love these women, and the men they work with and love. This series is a mystery and has great depth of character and emotion. Fingers crossed I’ll get to narrate more of these. I’m really proud of my work with them. [soundcloud url="http://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/97284042" params="color=ff6600&auto_play=false&show_artwork=true" width=" 100%" height="166" iframe="true" /]
  2. A Perfect Evil by Alex Kava. I took over this series in the later books, but then recorded some backlist titles. Here we meet the troubled Maggie O’Dell and her partner Tully. Hard-edged murder mystery with dark killers. Again, love love love this series.[soundcloud url="http://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/97284040" params="" width=" 100%" height="166" iframe="true" /]
  3. Married by Monday by Catherine Bybee. Fun romance series, perfect for the summer. Lots of fun characters.[soundcloud url="http://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/97284043" params="color=ff6600&auto_play=false&show_artwork=true" width=" 100%" height="166" iframe="true" /]
  4. Summer Nights by Susan Mallery. A Fool’s Gold romance. I was lucky to get cast with this series from book one and have been able to grow (along with the stories and the characters). Each book stands alone, but together you get a sense of the town. This book has two of my favorite female characters: Annabelle Weiss and Charlie.[soundcloud url="http://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/97284047" params="" width=" 100%" height="166" iframe="true" /]
  5. Rainshadow Road by Lisa Kleypas. Romance but with a hint of magic. Her work reminds me a lot of Alice Hoffman and I LOVE Alice Hoffman.[soundcloud url="http://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/97284045" params="" width=" 100%" height="166" iframe="true" /]

Runners up will get copies to one of my own quirky rom-coms.

Good luck and happy listening, and happy me, almost officially a cougar. Prrrrr.

Conversation with Kealoha, Exploding Sausages, and 9 Other Random Things

ME: What should I blog about? (Kealoha stretches and makes an ‘errr’ sound.)

KEALOHA: Write about how awesome your husband is.

ME: Nah. No one wants to read that.

(Pause)

ME: I mean, I don’t want to make anyone JEALOUS.

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I really am searching for blog topics, but what’s currently on my mind are things that are frequently on my mind and hence probably boring and repetitive to anyone who reads this blog even semi-frequently:

1) I’m turning 39 next month and am having a prolonged panic attack of:  “I’m Middle-Aged With A 40-Year-Old Paunch, Graying Hair And I Look Matronly”.

 

2) The above paranoia is enhanced because I’m going to New York in less than two weeks to spend a weekend with two of my college roommates and they still look lithe and perky and, well, hot. I sorta just look sweaty. Maybe I’ll be the designated picture taker or just take pictures of my feet.

 

3) Because of the above two things, I’m probably going to go to Kohls for some Spanx that will hold in my 40-Year-Old stomach. When I wear Spanx, I feel like a sausage, and not breakfast links either. I feel like I'm a giant KIELBASA. I’m afraid I’ll bust out of the seams and then on the streets of New York, someone will scream “Oh my god! It’s an exploding almost-40-year-old sausage-woman!!” Then they’ll make a SyFy movie based on me.

 

4) “Foodies Rush In” just came out. I think some people are actually reading it. Kealoha formatted everything and he tells me not to just give it away because it has value. But I still might smuggle some books to NY and see if I can get my still-hot former roommates to hand them out to people.

 

5) We go to Paris in July (hence 1, 2, and 3) and I haven’t learned a single phrase of French yet. I’m considering pretending I’m deaf, but I don’t know sign language either.

 

6) I’ve got one more book to narrate and then no further gigs booked for the rest of the summer. Massive, massive panic attack.

 

7) I’m now polishing my asylum story. I love it. After this, it’s time for a literary collection of short stories tentatively called “Seven Sarahs”.

 

8 ) I really wish I could just be okay with who I am, how much I weigh, what I write, etc. etc. If they invent a pill for that, let me know. I’m not opposed to medication.

 

9) My husband really is awesome.

 

10 ) I don’t have a 10, but you can’t have a list of 9 things, especially if you’re OCD. So for my OCD readers, I filled in the space here so you don’t have to.

 

Yeah. Those are my potential blog topics. I’m not going to write about any of them.

Instead, I’m going for a walk, and then I’m going to make salmon dip.

 

"Foodies Rush In" is now available! Read an excerpt here:

 

I'm thrilled to announce that "Foodies Rush In" is now available as an ebook! The paperback version will be ready soon. Look for it on Amazon, Smashwords, and soon on Barnes & Noble. Click on links below. The price is only $2.99.

You can't even get a latte for $2.99!

"Foodies" on Amazon

On Smashwords

On Barnes & Noble

Here's the first chapter of the book to get you started. It's a quick summer read featuring awkward characters, food, and some sauciness. Apparently I cuss in it a lot, but I didn't even notice that.

******

CHAPTER ONE

Even before Dana set her bags on the wooden floor of her 1950s era cookie cutter house, she could hear her kids calling her name and running over themselves to get to her.

“Mommy! Mommy!” they cried. Were there two more beautiful words in the English language? Maybe “Eat Chocolate” but “Mommy! Mommy!” came a close second.

She set her bags down, kneeled, opened her arms and was promptly tackled by her four-year-old daughter dressed in layers of pink tulle, and her six-year-old son dressed as a zombie. “I thought Halloween was over. It’s supposed to be Thanksgiving in a week!” she said amidst the kisses and elbows and general head butting that represented the love-fest greeting from her kids.

“Don’t you know?” she heard her sister Valerie say. “They’re not dressed up. This is how they are, like all the time.”

Dana peeled her daughter Ruby from her neck, and lifted her son Zach off her stomach and sat up. “Should I have warned you before I left?” she asked.

Her sister smiled. “To tell you the truth, I sorta already knew. Come on kiddos, give your mom some space to settle in before you maul her to death. You’d think she’d been gone for a year and not just five days.”

“Hey! Mom. Mom. Mom. Mom? Mom,” Ruby chanted. “Ma? Mommy. Mom. Hey. Mom.”

Dana shook her head and smiled. “What, sweetie?”

“You bring me something?” Ruby shot her that smile that melted icebergs.

Her son stared at her intently. For a brief moment Dana thought he was going to ask her for brains—it must’ve been the makeup. Instead, he said, “What I’d really like is some more Clone Troopers. They have any Clone Troopers in Vegas?”

“Not exactly. But they did have these.” Dana pulled two plastic jars of M&Ms from her bag. She’d had them printed with the kids’ names on them. She had tons of swag from the conference, but most of it related to her new canning venture and was being shipped to her. The t-shirts, mugs, necklaces, and small velvet painting of Elvis for her sister, waited in her bag.

The kids grabbed the M&Ms and scampered off to sort colors and devour the candy mercilessly.

Valerie stared at her, arms crossed over her gigantic boobs—thanks to lactating for twins. Dana gave her sister some credit. She at least waited until the kids were out of earshot before she said, “Okay, dish. Who’s the guy and are you pregnant?”

“No, I’m not pregnant! Don’t be ridiculous! We didn’t even…” Dana lowered her voice to a whisper, “sleep together.”

“You’re not supposed to sleep. That’s not how I got pregnant. I sure as heck wasn’t sleeping.”

“It was nothing,” Dana said, trying to sound as if it really was nothing. She scooped up her bag, opened it and handed her sister the 5x7 portrait of Elvis. When you put him on the wall and walked back and forth in front of him, his eyes seemed to follow you everywhere. It was creepy, yet comforting at the same time.

“Oh, no,” Valerie said. “You are not distracting me with artistic genius. I want his name, his height, his income level, and when are you seeing him again.”

“Theodore Drimmel.” Dana waited to see her sister’s reaction. It took Valerie a moment to think it over and then her nose crinkled as if she smelled something bad.

“I like the Theodore part,” she said, “but that Drimmel has got to go. Maybe he can take your name when you get married.”

“Valerie! Don’t be ridiculous. It was a fling. I’m not going to…” Suddenly, Dana saw herself standing next to a punked-out Theo and both of them giggling, right after they’d said “I do” and “Oy”.

Dana continued, “Look, do you want the vital statistics or not? I can give you age, height, and income level, but not much else. And…is there any coffee? I’m in need of a serious jolt of caffeine. I know it was only five days, but there’s a three hour time difference.”

Valerie nodded and walked into Dana’s kitchen. Dana loved her kitchen. Sure, it could be a little bigger, but it had all the earth tones she loved. Green cabinets, creamy brown counters flecked with golds and greens, easy-to-clean linoleum. It hardly sounded romantic, but when her then-husband Paul had said she could do anything she wanted to the kitchen—within a budget—she’d thought she’d won a trip to France. Of course, she realized he’d given her free reign of the kitchen around the same time he’d started seeing his new wife. Best not to think about that.

Valerie grabbed two mugs, poured equal amounts of cream into both and topped it off with hazelnut coffee. “Yes,” she said before Dana could question her. “I’m back to drinking caffeine. The twins aren’t sleeping through the night yet, so that means I’m pretty much constantly wired. His name is Theodore,” she transitioned from one thought to the next so quickly that Dana had trouble noticing they were on two different subjects.

“Yes. And he’s opening a gourmet food store somewhere in the Midwest, so he’s employed and gets some kind of paycheck. He paid for things for me without hesitation, and I haven’t experienced that since…well, never. He’s a few inches taller than me, so I can still wear heels. He’s nice. Funny. Cute in a TV CSI scientist kind of way. What else? He’s a great kisser. But that’s all I know. Nothing else.”

“You forgot to say when you’re seeing each other again.”

“We’re not. Ever.” Dana sipped her coffee, reveling the warmth it gave her, and then became aware that the warmth was actually from the glare her sister was giving her. “Don’t give me that look, Val. It’s not a big deal. It’s a small deal. A good deal actually.  It’s ridiculous to even think that I’d see him again. I’m a mom. I’m busy. I haven’t dated since The Culture Club was considered edgy. And everyone says what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas.”

“Yeah…well, everyone is stupid. Are stupid. Everyone are stupid.” Valerie looked confused. “Seriously. I have baby momma brain. Don’t listen to everyone is what I’m trying to say.”

“I’m not ready to date.”

“Yes, you are.”

“No, I’m not.”

Valerie set her mug down on the countertop. They listened to the kids shouting out random colors. Zach was trying to trade Ruby one blue for four purple and Ruby wasn’t allowing it. Smart girl, Dana thought.

Valerie yelled at the top of her lungs “Knock it off, kiddos, or you’ll wake the twins!” then immediately said, “Paul’s been gone a year. You’ve been divorced since June. The holidays are breathing down your neck. You. Are. Ready. To. Date.” Then she sipped her coffee in an “enough said” sort of way.

Dana felt the familiar plum rise in her throat any time she thought of her ex. It was true that she’d been devastated when he left, but honestly, she wasn’t shocked. They weren’t right for each other. They liked each other, married each other because they’d thought the other one was “good enough”. Truthfully, they’d both had biological clocks that were not only ticking, but booming. And they’d had five years together. Five years of coexisting together, but not really living. Not fully. So when he’d met and fallen in love with someone else—Dana had been devastated and hurt, but not at all surprised. And she’d never seen Paul happier.

That might’ve been what hurt the most. That and Paul seemed content to see the kids only occasionally, especially now that Alyssa was expecting.

Dana had tried to imagine herself going out on dates again. How did one do that? Dating was a horrible experience in her twenties. She couldn’t imagine doing it now in her late thirties, with two kids. And what would she do? How would she even approach the topic of who she was and what she offered now? She could just imagine walking up to an attractive man and saying, “Hey, I’m Dana! I’m a single mom with two kids. Do you want to be an instant dad? Do you want to have frenzied sex when the kids are at their dad’s and secret sex once every month while the kids are sleeping? Because that’s probably what we’ll do. Oh! And are you willing to go through a police check and probably an anal probe just to make sure you’re not hiding anything, because I’ve watched a lot of America’s Most Wanted over the years, and I am not letting any freaks near my children.”

Dana had a few issues.

“I’m not ready to date, Val,” she said, this time using her End of Discussion tone. “Besides,” she finished, “he’s already married.” She just didn’t say that technically, if you didn’t think of paperwork, he was married to her.

Summer Reading ORGY! Okay. I said that to get your attention.

I decided not to teach this summer, so I could narrate full time. And…uh…well…it looks like I’ll have some extra time to write and read. Yay! (Fingers crossed that I get some more narration gigs soon.) So I’m kicking off my Slow Down And Read summer campaign. This is year two. YEAR TWO! I can’t believe a year has passed. Crazy. Anyway. I have a stack of books I’ve been meaning to read. Okay. Probably closer to three stacks if you add all the titles I have on my Kindle. But here’s the physical stack:

 

So? What’s on my Summer Reading List? Here it is in no particular order because that requires effort. Oh. And I'll put links up if you want to read more about the books:

 

“Kushiel’s Dart” by Jacqueline Carey

I picked this one up at my writing group’s conference. I don’t really know much about it except it’s fantasy, and the lady on the cover isn’t wearing a shirt, so she’s either a sorceress or a temptress or maybe both.

 

“The Princess Bride” by William Goldman

 

I’ve seen the movie a hundred times. In fact, the first time I saw it I went with a group of friends when I was in high school. I didn’t get to do a lot of social things when I was a teenager, and this has always been a highlight. I’ve seen the movie so much, I didn’t really feel the need to read the book. A shocker, I know. But Kealoha swears it’s wonderful and I’m betting it probably is.

 

“The Table Comes First—Family, France, and the Meaning of Food” by Adam Gopnik

Kealoha got this for me for Christmas. Since we’re going to Paris in July, I should probably crack this puppy open and get reading.

 

“Bossypants” by Tina Fey

My mother-in-law loaned this to me, so I’ll try to read this first. Sometimes, I think Tina Fey has the life I’d have had if I made two or three significantly different choices in my life like, I dunno, stay in New York and perform more. Not that I’d be famous or anything. Whatever. Tina Fey, she funny. I like funny.

 

“Catch Me” by Lisa Gardner

I actually got this book by mistake. I THOUGHT I was grabbing a book by Lisa Unger, a suspense writer whose work I really dig. I guess I blanked on her name. So I’ll give this one a try.

 

“Aegean Intrigue” by Patricia Kiyono

This is written by a woman in my writer’s group. I’m really curious to check out her work. It sounds like a lot of fun.

 

“The Marriage Plot” by Jeffrey Eugenides.

I pre-ordered this when it first came out and am ashamed I still haven’t read it. Eugenides is a master and I’m curious about this plot of marriage and English majors.

 

“Checker and the Derailleurs” by Lionel Shriver

I’ve read two books by Shriver and they both destroyed me. You know, destroyed me in a good way. She’s emotionally complex and an intense storyteller. I got to narrate one of her books, and read “We Should Talk About Kevin” last year. I’ve vowed to read everything she’s written. I know nothing about this book, but I’m excited to read it.

 

“Let’s Pretend This Never Happened” by Jenny Lawson

If you don’t read The Bloggess’s blog, you should. She’s quirky, twisted, dark, swears all the time, and comes up with tshirts that are so wrong, they seem perfect. AND I give her the award for best cover.

 

Finally, I asked for some suggestions, and this is what people wrote in on my FB page:

“The Dovekeepers” by Alice Hoffman (I love Hoffman. Good pick) “The Flight of Gemma Hardy” by Margot Livesey “King Solomon’s Mines” by H. Rider Haggard “Trajectories” by Tess Grant “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks” by Rebecca Skloot “Trouble in Mudbug” by Jana DeLeon

I’ll choose one more from the suggestions above, or comments posted, and I probably need to read a classic. Feel free to join me in my summer reading bacchanal. Actually, that’s probably a better name for my campaign: Slow Down And Read is now my Book Bacchanal. Because books are better with wine. Oh! And I'm on Goodreads too, and will occasionally post reviews.

What are you reading?

Top Ten Books I Read, Narrated Or Listened To in 2011

There are certain things you can count on in connection with the calendar. In July, there will be magazine issues all about grilling. In September, it’s back to school stuff. November and December is all about food…and January is all about losing weight and looking back on the year and making pointless lists. I love pointless lists. Nothing feels so organized and meaningful to me than the Top 10 Movies of 2011, or the Top Ten Books About Girls, or whatever. So I’ve decided to write my own list, and randomly organize whatever stuff I want to. Here’s the first of those lists.

So here’s my

Top 10 List for Books* I Read, Narrated, or Listened to in 2011.

(*The books aren’t all written in 2011; that’s just when I read them.)

 

#10  “Eat Me” by Kenny Shopsin

Kealoha bought this for me for last Christmas. I opened it and was like “Oh. Ok. Thanks.” Then I read it. Couldn’t put it down. It’s about this Kenny character who owned a diner in New York where if he didn’t like the looks of you, he’d refuse to serve you. He’s angry, irritated, and has an enormous menu. The book is his philosophy of cooking. It’s surprisingly down to earth and takes all the snobby foodie BS out of food. Plus there are some great recipes. And he finally taught me that I will never make pancakes better than pancakes from a mix, so I can finally stop trying. What a relief.

 

#9  The Dante Valentine 5-book series by Lilith Saintcrow

I narrated this series at the start of 2011. 5 books right in a row. The books are about a Necromancer and Bounty Hunter set in a futuristic world. There are battles with demons and the Devil, and Dante falls in love with a demon. Talk about complications. The novels were filled with terrific characters, and I got to do some kick ass character voices. (My favorite was a deep and gravelly bounty hunter that pushed my vocal register into the basement.) I also lost my voice during the recording and we had to take a week off.

Strangely, in the book, Dante gets her vocal chords crushed by Satan, so there’s all this talk of her voice being ruined. We plowed through the narration anyway, and used my cracking voice to fit the text.

I was super proud of my performance in these. Sadly, it’s not on iTunes, nor did I ever receive copies of the 5 discs. I’m wondering if they didn’t produce the books after all. And they were never reviewed. It’s a shame. It’s a terrific series.

 

#8 “The Hunger Games” by Suzanne Collins

Lot of press on this one, but for good reason. This dystopian YA novel should be considered a classic. It fits right in with “Lord of the Flies” and “Catcher in the Rye”.

 

#7  “The Bell Jar” by Sylvia Plath

I re-read this to consider using it for my Women and Madness in Literature course. It’s still a shocking read. You think you’re reading this nostalgic bit about a girl in the 50s in New York, but then it starts to change. The book makes the reader feel what madness feels like…how it feels utterly normal. It’s devastating and beautiful, and I’m having my class read it.

 

#6  “Matched” by Allie Condie

Another dystopian YA book. I put it above “Hunger Games” simply because this one didn’t get as much hype. It’s about a futuristic society where The Society.

 

#5  “Split Second” by Alex Kava (Maggie O’dell series, backlist)

I love narrating the Maggie O’dell series by Alex Kava. She’s a complex character. You can tell she has heart, but there’s been so much that’s happened to her in her life, that she’s shut herself off from feeling. For some reason, they decided to have me narrate one of the earlier books in the series (I think I took over in book four or five). It was fun to see Maggie when she was a little more green as a detective, and meet her nemesis, and the man who ultimately changed her.

 

#4  “The Silent Girl” by Tess Gerritsen

Loved narrating this. I was tentatively scheduled to narrate this with the instruction that I needed to sound a little tougher. The author thought I was a little too ‘soft’ in “Ice Cold”. So I tried to give the characters more edge. More darkness. My director encouraged me to push the accents and vocal distinctions for the characters. I was nervous, but tried anyway. Audiofile Magazine nominated this as one of the top 10 in mystery and suspense and said “listening to Tanya Eby is like listening to a full cast recording”. That was incredibly satisfying.

 

#3  “A Visit from the Goon Squad” by Jennifer Eagan

I read this one in the summer. I was immediately drawn into a world of pulsing music and characters who are weighted down by time. I still think about this book. It’s a terrific piece of writing.

 

#2  “We Need To Talk About Kevin” by Lionel Shriver

One of my favorite books I’ve ever narrated was by Lionel Shriver called “The Post Birthday World.” It was never reviewed, but I feel like I gave the performance of my life. Or at the very least, the book came at a time in my life when I was on the brink between two worlds. It pushed me to change my life.

I decided if I couldn’t narrate all of her books (which I wish I could) I could at least read them. This book “We Need To Talk About Kevin” is a journey of regret, remorse, and an attempt to understand the very human mind of a monster. It’s compelling. Disturbing. And deeply emotional. To read a book about a kid who kills his classmates sounds awful. Who wants to read that? But Shriver manages to tell a story about being a parent; a story of hope and loss; a story that feels very real and reminds the reader that there is so much in life that we have no control over.

 

#1  “Ready Player One” narrated by Wil Wheaton, written by Ernest Cline

And finally…my top favorite book of 2011… “Ready Player One”. I listened to this and was transfixed. First, the inner geek in me rejoiced that Wil Wheaton (from Star Trek TNG) would narrate it. But the book itself sucked me right in. It’s an epic journey into the futuristic Oasis. A quest for a Holy Grail, imbedded in video game lore. If you liked 80s movies and video games, if there’s anything sci-fi in your little heart, if you like nerds and geeks and outsiders…you’ll love this book. It was entertaining, delightful, suspenseful, and the characters are filled with heart. Wheaton’s performance is also terrific.

 

 

Next list? Hmmm. 80s montages, or geek movies, or food I ate in 2011, or....I dunno. Stay tuned.

New Review of "Pepper Wellington and the Case of the Missing Sausage"

This is in the October issue of "On The Town". I didn't even realize they had the book. See original story HERE. By Joanne N. Bailey-Boorsma

Pepper Wellington and the Case of the Missing Sausage By Tanya Eby 

With perfectly normal Amy Wellington set to walk down a perfectly normal aisle, a wedding weekend that should be perfectly dull turns into fun, games, and murder when her mother, Pepper, and hunky ex, Graham, arrive for the nuptials. Turns out perfectly normal Amy is perfectly unique Sausage Wellington, running from a past that has now caught up to her on the picturesque Leelanau Peninsula and plans to wrap its loving and patchouli-scented arms around her despite Sausage’s objections. When wedding guests begin dropping like flies the night before the wedding, Pepper sends Sausage and Graham to a secluded cottage for their own safety. Soon the remaining guests-turned-suspects all arrive, seeking sanctuary and unwittingly putting themselves in very close quarters with the murderer.

In true Eby style, the book is fast and funny. I tried to figure out the culprit before my eyes read far enough, but I was pleasantly surprised when the villain was revealed. Like Eby’s other books, Pepper Wellington has a satisfying ending with an out-of-left-field twist that suits the pace and the story perfectly.

Review "The Tiger's Wife"

For my Slow Down And Read campaign, I'm slowly working my way through a list of summer reads. Some new, some classic, some literary, some popular. And some of the books I'm listening to as audio versions. This way I can read one book and listen to another. Here's my review of Tiger's Wife:

 

The Tiger's WifeThe Tiger's Wife by Téa Obreht
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I sorta don't get it. True, I did listen to the audio version and that can be different. I don't know. I just expected...more. I thought that there was some terrific writing in it (and the voice of the grandfather will give you chills) but it felt really fractured to me and the payoff wasn't what I was hoping for. The narrator is enjoyable. I think she narrated the Hunger Games series too and I like her style. I liked Obreht's blending of fairytale/folklore with aspects of the war, but all in all, the piece felt too disjointed for me to be left with much of a payoff. It is enjoyable and worthwhile. Maybe all the hype just made me think it was going to be something more than it was.

View all my reviews

Six Sentence Sunday 5/1/2011

And it was at that precise moment that the florid man with the enormous eyebrows made a peculiar sound like “Hrrrrrrrrrr”, clutched his chest, and pitched forward, straight into a rather large slice of prime rib that was so rare it seemed to be still pulsing with life.

The man, however, was not pulsing, with life or anything. In that brief moment, he was knocked stone cold dead.

“Well, I never!” cried Melody, as if angered that the man dared to behave so poorly at the dinner table.

Pepper Wellington jumped up, took the man’s pulse, and shook her head. “He never will either,” she said. “He’s expired, I’m afraid.”

 

 

 

From "Pepper Wellington and the Case of the Missing Sausage" by Tanya Eby

Melodramatic Writer Meltdown

I’m having an existential writer moment. At least I think it’s existential. Hell. Basically, I’m just throwing a tantrum. I get so tired of promoting all the time and then when I see my sales report (abysmal) it’s really hard not to take it personally. It reminds me of auditioning…even dating…where somehow you’re never quite good enough. To wax old-gold-digger: Tarnation!

I guess this is the modern life of a struggling writer, or any artist really. You have to produce work, believe in your work, constantly put it out there, and hope that it catches on. I wonder though, sometimes, at what point do you just give up? Not that I’d ever give up on writing, but I do think sometimes of giving up on trying to get a big publishing house, or even promoting my current work.

 

I just sent out a dozen free books to people in hopes that they’ll help spread the word about my work. There’s no telling if it will work. That all comes out of my pocketbook. I had to buy the books to give them away. Ouch. And I paid for some advertising. Promo stuff. Etc. etc. And now I’m looking at doing a reading/signing at St. Cecilia. I couldn’t get Schuler’s to call me back. A reading is a great idea, but it will probably cost me about $500 with food and promo materials. And there’s no guarantee that anyone will show up. (See the onion spoof  here. It’s funny because it’s true.)

 

Sometimes I wonder if I’ve been swept up in some massive scam that gets writers to pay for promotional material and even their own books. Then I immediately stop thinking about that because it’s too sad.

 

Wah. Wah. Wah.

 

I think this is just another temporary setback. I’ll get over it. It just comes at a time when I still don’t know if my teaching contract will be renewed and I’m not sure how many more voice over gigs I’ll get. If teaching tanks and I’m not selling books…dear god…what will I do then? It scares me. Deeply. Probably not the best time to watch the first episode of Mildred Pierece where she’s all starving and looking for work. I do not want to be a waitress again. I really don’t.

 

I’ll get over this and my tight pants. I’m not dieting, exactly, but I am upping my workouts. I probably need the endorphins. And I have wonderful friends and family who read my work and love it. And, of course, I’ve got my kiddos and Kealoha. It’s just sometimes I get tired of all the work and I want to see the fruits of my labor. And by fruits I mean ‘income’ and by labor I mean ‘writing’. That’s my dream, I guess. To one day see my writing pay off, literally.

 

It might never happen. So…guess I’ll just continue doing what I do. I might bitch about it every now and then, but sheesh, I’m endlessly flawed and human. And my zodiac sign is Cancer, so what can you expect really?

 

And Mildred Pierce eventually made some kind of fortune out of pies or something, didn’t she? I haven’t watched the whole thing. I’m afraid maybe she has some kind of confrontation with her daughter involving wire hangers. (I could be mixing up old movies here.)

 

I’m hoping all this will blow over when it’s finally sunny outside and I can get over my angst and put on a sundress and a pair of sandals. That’s all I really need. OR…I could pretend I’m in a 1950’s melodrama. I sort of like that idea. Let me go get a hanky so I can flit it around while crying dramatically, and without tears.

I leave you with some melodrama. Enjoy.