So You Want to be a Writer

I was at a bar one night and ran into a woman I used to date over fifteen years ago. In our exchange of pleasantries, my being a writer came up and immediately my ex grabbed my arm and exclaimed to me with vigor how she is planning on writing her autobiography because she’s led a very interesting life, and all of her friends tell her she just has to write a book.

I told her I was sure she had many great stories to tell, and I wouldn’t be surprised if they could fill a book, but I asked if she’d had any training in writing. The uncertain look on her face answered my question. She hadn’t studied writing in any way past a classroom in high school, but figured since she had a story to tell (most people who are alive have a story to tell. It’s called life.) and knew how to write in complete sentences, she could write a book.

I didn’t roll my eyes in front of her. I’m not that rude. But I did suggest to her that if she was serious about writing her book, she should enroll in a writing course at her local college. Three months before I contracted my first book, Her Name, I had taken a writing course at my local college and it helped me more than I imagined one class would. I was lucky to have had some terrific writers in my class who gave me incredible notes on my story, which I still possess over five years later.

After I published my second book, Loving Again, I enrolled in another writing course at the same college. It was during that course that my third book, A Penny on the Tracks, was contracted. I value all of the critiques of my work by my peers and instructors because they have helped me become a better writer.

But as a writer, I have to put in the work, and it bothers me to no end when people think they can just pick up a pen and start writing the masterpiece that is their life without studying the craft.

I’m writing my current book in a point-of-view I’ve never attempted — subjective omniscient.  My former books were written in first-person and third-person limited. This is completely new to me. I feel like I’m starting all over again as a writer, and that isn’t such a bad feeling. I may enroll in another writing course. I need the guidance my fellow writers have given me on my previous works for the story I am writing now.

The writing community is tremendously supportive.

I thank all the writers who share their time and their knowledge to inspire and encourage those aspiring to write.

 

 

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Photo courtesy of Freedigitalphotos.net

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Penny on the Tracks

Last November, I published my book, A Penny on the Tracks. It is a YA book based loosely on my childhood friendship with my best friend. I wrote this story in college. At the time, it was written as a short story and was titled The Hideout. The finished product hardly resembles anything of the original.

In fact, the college version of A Penny on the Tracks was so bad that when I reread it nearly fifteen years ago, my first instinct was to throw it away, but the writer in me remembered the agonizing hours I put into the piece, so I stuffed it in an overfilled drawer of mostly unfinished old works and left it there.

About three years ago, for whatever reason, I searched that overfilled drawer for that story and this time when I reread the piece I didn’t want to toss it into a fire. This time I saw potential. Although I ended up rewriting almost the entire thing, the core of the story has stayed the same — two friends sharing their childhood together while dealing with personal tragedy.

The importance of friendship is prevalent in this story, and I’m proud of the way A Penny on the Tracks has turned out. I’m proud that I not only finished the story, but a publisher liked it enough to contract it. I’m hoping the same thing will happen with the story I am currently writing tentatively called Annabel. 

This is another awfully-written college short story and was titled The Attic. This piece was also stuffed in that same overfilled drawer and for some reason I also fished this story out and decided to salvage it with a rewrite. I’m over two hundred pages in and am still unsure about an ending, but I have some ideas. With A Penny I always knew how the story was going to end, and of course knowing the direction you’re writing to makes writing a story so much easier, but I do have a knack of making life harder for myself. Why should writing be any different?

The story of A Penny on the Tracks deals with friendship, coming out, and tragedy.  A girl names Lyssa and her best friend Abbey discover a hideout near the train tracks and spend the summer before sixth grade hanging out and finding freedom from issues at home. Their childhood innocence shatters when the hideout becomes the scene of a tragic death.

Here is an excerpt from A Penny on the Tracks:

I JERKED FROM my sleep while the phone was still buzzing its first high-piercing ring. I glanced at the clock on the nightstand. It read 4:17 a.m. I knew something was wrong.

The second ring was abruptly broken up, and my mother’s muffled voice carried into my room. I was already sitting upright in my bed when my bedroom door squeaked open, and my mother’s slight figure appeared as a shadow near my door.

“Lyssa? You up?” she asked.

“What’s wrong?” My voice was no louder than a whisper.

My mother made her way into the dark room. I couldn’t make out the expression on her face, but her movement was stiff and hesitant. 

She turned on the lamp and sat down beside me. Her face was pale and she let out short, shallow breaths. It seemed difficult for her to look me in the eyes.

“What is it?” I asked. “What’s happened?”

My mother looked at me with pain in her eyes. “Lyssa . . .” She smoothed her hand gently across my arm. “Abbey’s dead.”

I took in her words without an ounce of denial. The reality of what my mother had told me was instant.

My best friend was dead.

 

 

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A Penny on the Tracks

 

 

 

 

Guru Aid is a Scam

Over the holiday season I purchased a new laptop and bought a year’s subscription to McAfee for my online security. For a reason that isn’t significant, I needed to contact the  company so I googled McAfee Security and called the first number that popped up. Big mistake. I should have looked more closely because I would have seen the number was actually for a third-party company called Guru Aid that handles support for McAfee. The name was connected to this company, but they aren’t McAfee.

There was nothing off about the call as it started. Ten minutes into the call I believed I was still speaking to a McAfee representative. He assured me he could help me with the problem I was experiencing. He took me to a website where I relinquished control of my monitor to him. I watched as my mouse moved across the screen dictated by the man over the phone. He went into my computer and talked me through what he was doing while telling me all of things that were wrong with my computer. He asked me in a concerned voice how old my computer was, as though expecting me to say an amount of years worrisome enough that he could blame all my woes on my “old” computer.

When I replied that my computer was only a couple weeks old, he explained quickly that even new computers can have problems. I was very concerned. How could my new computer have so many problems? Thinking I was still talking to a legitimate company, I asked the rep if I should call HP, the maker of my computer. Maybe I have a defective computer. His voice raised slightly when he said, “What can they do? I can fix this.”

He put me on hold and a different man came on. He confirmed that my computer was in bad shape. He could fix it and the cost would be $149.99. This gave me pause.  I told the man I was going to call HP. He became very upset, very quickly. I knew then I wasn’t dealing with McAfee. He said, like the previous rep, that HP could do nothing for me. I then said I had to talk to my husband, (I don’t have a husband. I’m a lesbian, but I was desperate for an out) and see what he saws. The man yelled. “What can your husband do to help? I can fix this!”

When I still said no, he offered to decrease the price to $99.99. I told him no, and then he questioned very angrily why when money was brought up I resisted right away. He apparently thought I was easy prey and was irate that he wasn’t going to get his easy paycheck. I hung up upset at this experience, and remembered that I’d had a similar experience when calling Norton Security a couple years ago. They also charged me $149.95 to fix the problem I was having. It never occurred to me I wasn’t speaking directly to Norton. I didn’t pay them then, like I didn’t now, and I remember that rep raising his voice at me in anger. I hung up thinking that Norton representatives were assholes.

I googled McAfee again to see how I had  made the mistake and called the wrong company. GuruAid popped up first and had the McAfee name linked to it. They are apparently allowed to provide technical support to Norton and McAfee customers, and probably other companies too. I called McAfee to tell them my experience and to make sure they knew that a company associating itself with them was trying to scam their customers. I also wanted to confirm that my computer didn’t have any of the threatening problems Guru Aid tried to convince me they had. The rep confirmed that everything was running smoothly and the original problem I’d had was taken care of.

The rep was very apologetic and he seemed to know of Guru Aid pretty well, and all he told me was next time to be sure it was actually McAfee that I call. I hung up disappointed that companies would knowingly allow third-parties to use their name while trying to scam their customers.

In the end, we need to protect ourselves. Even though Guru Aid didn’t scam a penny from me, I’m pissed they had the opportunity to try. I went on Twitter to see if they had an account, and they do, @guruaid. I sent them a couple tweets to let them know what I thought of them. I wasn’t expecting a response.

I checked to see if there were any tweets from other people about this scam of a company and there were. Last April a man tweeted that his mother had Norton as her online security and thought she was calling Norton when she really called Guru Aid and they charged her $300 for what he believed was a scam. People tweeted at him confirming to the man that it was.

This company is known by some as a scam, but unfortunately not by enough. More people are going to get scammed by companies like this. Computers have become a lifeline for a lot of us, and when they no longer work some will do anything to get it fixed. And these fraudulent companies know that.

The only way we can try to beat them is to spread the word. This blog is my attempt to help people not get scammed. Guru Aid is a scam. Make sure you know the company you are calling. They purposely make it confusing.

 

 

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Photo courtesy of Freedigitalphotos.net

Merry Christmas

It’s Christmas Eve Eve, and I’m watching Love Actually for actually the twelfth time this month. Every time it’s on, I gotta watch it. And it’s on a lot.

Tonight’s a quiet night. As I write this my favorite furry friend is lying beside me on the couch, all cuddled up in a blanket. I bought him a birthday cake today because it will be eight years on Dec 26 that I made the best decision of my life and went to Animal Control and brought this baby home with me. I’ve designated Dec 26 as his birthday. I was told when I got him that he was two years old, so that means my boy has hit the double-digits.

Phil is the first dog I’ve had since our family dog passed away when I was a teenager. I can’t believe I let so much time pass before getting another dog. It’s hard to remember my life before him. It must have been so empty without a dog, and I didn’t even know it. I’ve been grateful for him ever since.

This is my Christmas post and I don’t want to be too melancholy, but I’ve spent the last 24 hours reflecting on some horrible tragedies that have recently happened. I woke up this morning to the news that a tsunami in India had killed over two hundred people. This after going to bed reading about the brutal murders of two Scandinavian tourists women in Morocco.

It’s enough to make one wonder how there could be a God that allows suffering like this to happen in the world. I know that’s a sacrilegious thing to say two days before the celebration of the birth of Jesus, but I can’t honestly say I don’t have my doubts.

For now I’m going to cuddle up with my dog while I acknowledge that though this may be the season of joy and the time to be merry, there are people all over the world struggling right now with grief or loneliness or a loss of a loved one. Maybe that loss was so recent and unexpected that there are wrapped presents under the tree for that loved on who is no longer here. What do they do with those presents and how do they carry on? As they hold that unopened present will they remember when they bought the gift and the anticipation they felt at watching the expression on their loved one’s face as they open the gift they’re sure they’ll love?

These are depressing sentiments. I know. But these are the thoughts that cloud my mind when tragedies happen so close to the  holidays.

I hope all of those people struggling find peace.

Merry Christmas, and give your dog a hug if you have one. They love that.

 

 

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Another Year Gone

The end of another year is only weeks away. What have you done with your time? Isn’t that the burning question we ask ourselves as we reflect on the year passed, while remembering our new year resolutions from almost a year ago and cringe as we measure ourselves up to those ambitious start-of-the-year goals?

Maybe not everyone is cringing. Maybe some, or most, accomplished everything they set out to do this year. But maybe some, or most, haven’t. Either way, the good news is another year is about to begin. If you’ve achieved all your goals then it’s time to make new ones. And if you haven’t achieved your goals then you have another new year to resolve to do everything you failed to do this year.

Isn’t it great the way the calendar works?

But no judgments passed. Life is tough and unpredictable. I think it was Jon Bon Jovi who said “have a plan, but write it in pencil.”

I personally don’t make crazy, unattainable new year resolutions, unless you consider resolving to read 52 books in a year crazy and unattainable, then yes, yes I do. Although I didn’t come close to reaching that goal this year, it will still be on my list for next year. I am determined.

I also didn’t achieve my goal of finishing the book I’m currently writing. I’ve made strides but still don’t have an ending, and it’s hard to finish a book without an ending. Sometimes I wish words would just write themselves.

I joined a gym in October. I beat the new year rush. Ha. No, I just really like to walk, and I knew it’d be getting too cold to walk outside for very long. So I joined a gym. Something I haven’t done in over ten years because I had a treadmill, but it broke.

In the two months that I’ve been going to the gym I’ve found there are two kinds of people in this world. No, not the fit and unfit, but those who wipe down a machine after use and those who keep their sweat marks there for the next person to enjoy. UGH. Don’t be that person. Wipe down your machine after use.

I am curious how much more crowded the gym will be come January 1 when all those newly promised resolutions of getting in shape bring droves of new people through the doors and how long it will be before those ambitious new members start to disappear. Hmmm.

But I don’t feel I’ll have a problem sticking to a gym routine as long as I stay healthy and don’t over do it. (I have a condition).  What I  do anticipate I’ll have a problem with is sticking to my meditation routine.

I wasn’t very consistent with my resolution this year to meditate at least fifteen minutes a day, every day, and this bothers me even more than not reading 52 books or finishing my novel because I know at least I put the effort into the latter two, but I got lazy with my meditation practice. I’ve been off and on with it for years. Sitting alone with yourself and your mind for even as short of a time as fifteen minutes can be a struggle, but like last year, I am going to resolve to do it once again.

What are your resolutions and will you stick to them?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Vegan Thanksgiving

This year for Thanksgiving I am forgoing my usual vegetarian turkey roast from Quorn for a homemade vegan roast I saw on YouTube. There is nothing wrong with the Quorn meatless turkey other than it is made with milk and eggs, two ingredients I am trying dutifully to keep off my plate.

Since most of the pre-made vegan Thanksgiving turkeys out on the market have gluten in it, I am left with making my own “meat” this year.  I searched YouTube for vegan thanksgiving meals, aiming for the ones that didn’t include any gluten ingredients and found one that looked delicious and seemed pretty easy to make.

I usually like to do a practice run with new recipes before I make them for special occasions, but since I’ll probably be the only person eating my vegan dishes (no one else has expressed an eager wiliness to eat my vegan roast made of lentils and mushrooms), so I’m okay if things don’t come out perfectly.

If you’re interested in this dish, I’m posting the video below. The only thing I will need to alter is instead of layers of puff pastry, I had to buy a gluten-free pie crust mix. Hopefully it is just as delicious.

 

 

There are three other vegan dishes I’m making – garlic mashed potatoes, stuffing, and mac-n-cheese. The mashed potatoes and stuffing don’t taste too different from their non-vegan counterparts. With regards to the stuffing, I have to substitute for gluten-free and egg-free bread, which I found at Aldi. And for the potatoes, I bought unsweetened Almond milk and vegan butter. I may throw in some nutritional yeast otherwise known as, nooch, for the vegans out there down with the lingo.

I had found a good garlic mashed recipe on YouTube about a year ago. It’s a dual recipe that includes a lentil loaf. I have made the loaf many times, and my non-vegan family members love it. I would make the loaf tomorrow, but I’m kind of sick of it because I make it so much.  I want this meal to be food I don’t eat very often. My sister always takes home the leftovers for “meatloaf” sandwiches the next day, so she may be disappointed.

Sorry sista, next time.

Here is the recipe I am going to use for the garlic mashed potatoes, but you should really give the lentil loaf a try too.

 

My mom makes my gluten-free stuffing for me, so I don’t have a recipe. I think it’s the same as she makes for the regular, she just uses my bread, and it is delicious.

I’ve tried many different vegan mac n cheese recipes, but the one I am sharing is probably the best, but it will take some trial and error for you to figure what’s best for your taste buds. This recipe calls for cashews, but I don’t have any on hand and really don’t feel like going to the store to get some, so I will be making this dish without the nuts, but it should taste just as good.

The other thing I will be doing differently is baking this dish at the end after adding a package of dairy-free cheese to the top. I bought a package of Daiya shredded cheese. I am picky about the way I cook this cheese. I feel it tastes best when it is cooked slightly longer than it states. This goes for the Daiya frozen pizzas, too. I cook those for 17-18 minutes instead of the 10-15 minutes recommended. To me, the cheese consistency is better when cooked longer.

So I’ll put a package of cheese on top the macaroni and bake it at 400 degrees for maybe twenty minutes or so. I’ll keep an eye on it until I see the cheese at the texture I like.

Here is the recipe for the mac n cheese.

 

I was going to make vegan gluten-free brownies for dessert, but instead, decided on buying a Daiya dairy-free chocolate cheesecake. I’ve had their cheesecakes before, and they are delicious.

 

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There it is.  My Thanksgiving feast. No living beings were harmed or tortured for me to enjoy a nice meal, and for that, I am sure the animals are THANKFUL.

 

Happy Thanksgiving!

Make This Madness Stop…Vote!

Tomorrow is election night. Even if you aren’t part of the Resistance that’s been waiting two years for this day, it’d be hard not to know election day is coming with all the political ads on TV, signs along the roads, and campaign robocalls and text messages inundating your phone, as they are mine. But I don’t complain as my mother does. I understand this is how it goes, and I appreciate the people who give their time to support the candidate they truly believe exemplifies their values and will be the best representation for their community.

I wrote postcards for the party I support and hope to win. As a lesbian with a serious pre-existing condition, it should be no surprise which party I want to take over Congress. One party is currently in court suing the government over the protections for people with pre-existing conditions, claiming the mandate that no insurance company may deny or charge higher premiums to people who are sick, is unconstitutional (I bet Trump doesn’t know how to spell that word).

 I’ll give you a hint as to which party is doing this….It’s the Republicans. 

Also, what should be no surprise to any gay person, the administration is doing nothing to protect the gay community.  On the campaign trail, Trump promised to be the community’s greatest ally while he held up a rainbow flag. I didn’t buy it, but some gay people did as they cheered him on with their Gays For Trump cardboard signs. Even while choosing anti-gay Mike Pence as his running mate, some gays still believed he’d have their backs.   Not sure what they were drinking, but it must have been as strong as jet fuel.

I’m voting against the Republican party for many reasons, but the main one is because this country needs a political party that will check Donald Trump’s dictatorship ways. He truly wants to be a dictator and sees himself as above the law. He once said he could shoot someone on 6th Avenue and get away with it. If the Republicans are his jury, then yes, Donald Trump will get away with it.

Please don’t let Donald Trump get away with it.

Vote Blue.

 

GOP Out

 

Don't Boo