Sunday, January 27, 2013

"To Do" List Overload! An existential crisis...

I slept for 11 hours and awakened feeling like I finally got the sleep I needed. Now it's late on a Sunday afternoon, and tasks loom before me like a mountain to be climbed. I am baffled by the amount of stuff I need to do:
  • send out announcements for my new novella
  • fold baskets of laundry and put it away
  • do more laundry
  • line up readings at local bookstores and libraries
  • prepare dinner
  • locate publishing possibilities for a new story
  • write new material for my new novel (which is HW for my novel writing group)
  • do vigorous lesson planning for my new classes-- while digesting new requirements for Common Core Standards
  • call my mother
There's more, but I'll stop there.

At this moment I am having an existential crisis. . Where is my maid? Where is my publicist? Why do I have so many clothes? Why can't I just rotate five outfits and be done with it all? Why do I have to comb my hair?  Why must I floss my teeth? Why am I trying to do so much in my life-- write a book, teach, eat healthy enough to hopefully live a long life? Why can't I retire like my cousin Betty? Why did I make all those career and lifestyle changes through the years? Why didn't I just stay with AT&T like everybody else?

My mind is reeling like this because all my body wants to do is lie in bed and read. Roll over and stretch like a cat. Usually my inner tyrant prods me forward, and once I'm up, I get some momentum.  But today, even the inner tyrant is on vacation. Maybe it's the wintry temperature, the calm after a frantic start of the new year. Or watching Contraband till 2:30 a.m. after attending a retirement party.  My crisis is almost over.... 

I can feel it. I'm beginning to see clearly.

This is what I will do... make a cup of tea, throw in a load of laundry, call my mother, saute a lot of garlic and throw in baby greens. Lie  on the floor, stretch like a cat and call it yoga.  Make a "To Do" list. Go to bed.
Tomorrow will reveal itself--task by task,  priority by priority.  This, my friends, is what life is all about. You do the best you can on any given day, then go to bed. Sometimes your best seems pretty pitiful. But if you're maxing out most of the time, you know when it's time to put the feet up. And this is definitely such a day for me.

Order my new novella Salt in the Sugar Bowl during the discounted preorder period!

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

The Next Best Thing Blog Hop

I am pleased to be a stop on The Next Big Thing Blog Hop. This particular blog tour invites writers to answer ten questions about their current Work in Progress, or forthcoming project, then tag four to five different authors. I was tagged by Terri Kirby Erickson, author of In the Palms of Angels. I bought Palms of Angels after hearing Terri read. Her poems were filled with such vivid images that I read the book from cover to cover like a novel. Read more about In the Palms of Angels at

My answers to The Next Best Thing Blog Hop questions:

1. What is the working title of your book or project?
            Salt in the Sugar Bowl
2. Where did the idea come from for the book or project?
            A friend and I were in a pub talking about the origin of personal issues (not the news worthy issues, the psychological kind). I recalled a couple of stories I’d heard about mothers and fathers who simply walked or drove away from their families. After such an event, no matter how together a person might seem, trust, loyalty, and bonding in relationships would become major themes at some point. Such events are defining moments. Each child would process it differently—depending on age, gender, personality, etc., but I don’t think anyone would escape the trauma of it. I knew I wanted to write about what early trauma and disappointment look like years down the road.
3. What genre does it fall under, if any?
I believe it’s realistic fiction.
4. If applicable, who would you choose to play your characters in a movie?
            Salt in the Sugar Bowl features a long list of characters because it tells a story about two parents and six children. Each chapter gives a snapshot of a pivotal crisis in one of their lives—so we have eight protagonists. I can imagine the roles played by Terrance Howard—as the patriarch, Hunter Sawyer. He has charm, but he also has that sort of lowdown quality exhibited in Howard’s role in Lackawanna Blues. The matriarch could be Taraji P. Henson because her beauty and potential can be eclipsed by a certain frazzled quality—which is Sophia Douglas Sawyer all day.
Hunter and Sophia’s offspring are adults or young adults—and a cast of characters might range from Willow Smith, to Alicia Keys, Mos Def, Keri Washington, Hill Harper, to Wood Harris.
5. What is the one-sentence synopsis of your manuscript or project?
When Sophia Sawyer disappears— leaving her six children to be raised by her husband, she considers everything except how her absence will color their lives as they attempt to live, love, trust and function as adults.
6. Will your book or story be self-published or represented by an agency?
I am grateful that Main Street Rag Publishing Company is releasing the novella in April 2013. It is currently available for preorder at a discount until April 6th. Visit:
7. How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
It took a year and a few months. I worked on the chapters one at a time because each major character has a standalone episode. They all had to interconnect and share a common history, but their events didn’t happen simultaneously. The time-related details made me a little crazy. I’m all about the words—not the numbers.
8. What other book or stories would you compare this story to within the genre?
            Though my content and style is not the same, I would point toward Girlchild byTupelo Hassman and This is How You Lose Her by Junot Diaz because both books are very episodic. Neither of those have long, sweeping, complex, plot-driven narratives. They are character-driven works that expose events that either cut to the quick or shave off the protective layers we try to maintain. Also, whenever I read J. California Cooper, I am pulled into her “come on in and sit down while I tell you what happened” style. I aspire to have that kind of accessibility.
9. Who or what inspired you to write this book or story?
            I have lived a textured life. I was born in Brooklyn, NY. When I was about a year old, I began spending a large part of my time in the South with my grandparents and young aunts and uncle, and the rest of the time in Brooklyn with my mother. I was always missing whomever I had left behind. Then my grandparents died when I was still young—and grief became a huge part of my life. I acted out a lot during my adolescence, and I don’t think anybody even realized it as such, and never put two and two together. But years later, as I navigated love relationships and defined who I was within my family, emotions linked to my youth permeated my expectations, fears, and preferences.
            Once I recognized the impact of my past painful events on my adult relationships, I saw similar patterns in the lives of those around me. I noticed that most people weren’t attributing their unhappiness or chronic stress or low-grade depression to anything other than their current lack of or desire for something. They think the problem is an insensitive partner, poorly-behaved children, a cramped house, an incompatible job, etc. I believe the real culprits are the underlying “ideas” about life we learned from our experiences. Unless we are very introspective, we basically fall victim to a syndrome that I will call constructing an issue-driven life.
I decided to use Sophia’s abandonment of her children to illustrate how an event affects the choices and outlook of the adult children years later. We are on the outside looking in as they navigate their lives with a skewed psyche. I believe the characters embody guilt, fear, suspicion, martyrdom, vanity, and deception. Many readers will connect with these emotions. This is why I wrote the book—so readers see how problematic responses to situations and circumstances stem from places inside us. As we begin to see this, we connect with the level of control we actually have over our responses and well-being as life happens. We can start living more purposefully—instead of being on automatic.
10. What else about the book or story might pique the reader’s interest?
            Life is complicated and sometimes hard, but we need to learn our lessons and keep moving. The dilemmas faced by characters in Salt in the Sugar Bowl suggest lessons that can be helpful for our own journeys—including:
q       Be yourself! If you want a life that actually works for you, you have to show up for that life as yourself. Forget the media images and think about what an authentic life looks like. Be who you are, right now.
q       Make choices you can live with! When you are lucky enough to have a choice, stay conscious as you make it. There are a limited number of choices you get to make in life. There are some decisions that anchor you so deeply into what you don’t want that there is nothing but hell to pay afterwards.
q       You are as prepared to survive hardships and emergencies as you believe you are!
q       Know that there is often a difference between the truth and what you’ve been taught to believe.
q       Take off the blinders of the past, and you will find more options than you ever imagined existed.

Order Salt in the Sugar Bowl during the preorder period!

Check out the following Next Best Thing authors on Wednesday, January 30th as they answer the 10 questions.

Raina Leon writes about Boogey Man Dawn coming in April from Salmon Poetry. Her poetry collection explores the impact of manipulation of children, the brutality of stifling innocence, with moments of hope for the future.

Nadira Angail answers questions about her book Still Learning that chronicles the lives of four Muslim American, twenty-something friends as they deal with trials of love and identity.

Silas Shah answers questions about Philosophy of Time: “…not a book about prison, because we’re all doing time.”

I'm missing an author, but I will add one as soon as I find one!

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Toxic reactions in relationships

The other day I was waiting at a stoplight and looked over at a woman in the car next to me who was irate She was screaming and cursing at the top of her lungs and pounding on the steering wheel. Veins were bulging. She looked like she had lost her mind. Her energy was so charged with anger that I had to turn away because my own heart started to race.

I realized that her reaction to the person on the other end of the line was probably doing as much or more harm to her than what she was actually angry about. She looked like she was minutes away from a stroke or heart attack, and when the light changed, she screeched off-- passing all the other cars and swerving. Her anger episode was a disaster in the making. Two days ago I saw another woman in a car next to me in a similar situation. Again I had to turn away.

If I, as an onlooker, can feel the negativity of her anger in my body, imagine what is happening to the two people engaged in the drama. I have been that person more than a couple of times in my life. But now, there is no way on God's earth I'm putting myself in that kind of jeopardy. If anybody in my life generates that kind of out of control, blue in the face, crazy mad reaction, it's time to go, or hang up, or disengage. Butting heads until the metaphorical blood is streaming down your face is poison. Such reactions lace our blood with levels of hormones that are absolutely poisonous. Whether we're dealing with a lover or friend, or family member, or a bill collector-- remember that the more worked up you get, the more you hurt yourself.

Whatever happens in our lives has happened. The part that we have the most control over is how we react and deal with it. My cousin gave me a quote the other day. What somebody does to you is their karma. How you react is your karma.

If we're human, we've been screaming mad in our lives, but there are some questions that I think are worth asking ourselves:

Is whatever you're angry about worth bursting a blood vessel?
Are you the toxic influence who makes somebody lose control and become a screaming banshee?
Are you aware of the people in your life who do you more harm than good?
How do you bring yourself back to sanity when your blood is boiling?

Tell me what you think.....

Heads Up Readers!
My novella, Salt in the Sugar Bowl is now available for preorder from Main Street Rag Publishing Company! Read excerpts and preorder on

It's now $6.50 plus S/H (compared to $12 plus S/H after April 9th)

Friday, January 11, 2013

Slow recovery of an introvert destroyed by the holiday frenzy

I am an introvert. The holiday season DESTROYS me. God almighty, it's supposed to be the season of all kinds of wonderful cheer and all that, but I swear it takes everything out of me. I am just now peeking out from under all the food and lights and feverish nonstop activity. All that giving and celebrating and merry-making takes the front seat, and real life hangs in the shadows waiting to overwhelm me when it's all over. For those of you who have the same experience that I do, this is what brought me back:

- talking as little as possible because sometimes words are like a buzzing in the brain. Be quiet. Let others talk . And more importantly, don't think too much about what they're saying. Your nervous system can't handle it.
- vegging out in front of the TV for a couple of movies. I'm not a TV watcher, but a good movie takes me into a zone where my body melts into the sofa and I start to recuperate
- losing myself in music so my brain stops thinking about how much stuff I have to get done
- going to bed really early-- like 8 o'clock. (If you have little ones, put them to bed early as well, so you can have some me time.)

If you think of other things, please add them. I'm feeling much better now, but it was tough going for a few days. I feel like I'm starting my life over again.

Happy New Year!

Heads Up Readers!
My novella, Salt in the Sugar Bowl is available from Main Street Rag Publishing Company! Preorder on

It's now $10 plus S/H