Wednesday, March 31, 2010

My Alter-Ego Nancy Drew

I read all of the mysteries when I was a girl. Before the boy-craziness struck. There were other mysteries that took me over then.
This past week or so I've been sleuthing my way through old bank statements figuring out what all of the deposits were composed of. Bonus checks? Straight salary?  Mr. Ex and that money that we still need to divide.
I have one bank account figured out and am waiting for the other bank to get back to me. "Are you being audited?" the young woman asked. They look so grown up those bank vice-presidents in their business attire.
"Divorce," I said.
"I'm so, so sorry," she said.

What I Hear at Night When I am Alone

I live very near the 110 Freeway, but there's an incredible lay of the land here that emanates silence. I hear nothing most nights when I sit quietly and listen. If my dogs cough from their allergies, I give them a pill and it's back to silence. They clatter in and out of their dog door from time to time, but I hear no traffic, no hissing of automatic sprinklers, no helicopters, no barking, no mating racoons, no sirens, no screeching tires. It doesn't seem right. I like city life. The countryside frightens me with its vast silence. This is the quietest place I've ever lived in the L.A. area. I long for the sound of another person breathing.

photo credit:

My Novel

I've been working steadily on my novel. This week my protagonist pushed her husband into their swimming pool and that felt goooood. Then things got tough for her. A breakdown of sorts. It was hard to write it. Today she is using her talents. But she's still in a lot of trouble.
I respect the process of writing immensely. I don't really understand it. It's a bit frightening at times. I've been working on this book for a few years. (Sporadically, at first). I'm in the second draft now. The first draft was written before Mr. Ex broke up our marriage. And now things are getting weird. I wrote scenes back then where the protagonist was packing up her house and moving out. Her husband was more or less kicking her out-- forcing her to go, and now I'm wondering what my sub-conscious was saying to me and how I knew it.

photo credit: lawofabundant

Saturday, March 27, 2010

I have a life

I have a life--a writing life, and it goes like this:
Alarm. 5:45 a.m.
Feed cats, walk dogs, clean up after dogs, give out pet meds, feed dogs. Then I take my yogurt and coffee to my desk and write. Another alarm goes off at 8:15. On Monday, Wednesday and Fridays I go exercise. After exercise I write some more. Except Wednesdays when I have a volunteer job at 1:00. On Tuesdays and Thursdays I just write. Right now I am working on my novel with the goal of finishing it by July. This is the 2nd draft. It's better than the first draft. My dogs sit by me while I work.  

 Layla in the bed. Lola under the desk.

Noonish I eat--usually at my desk. Then I shift gears. I read or send stuff out or look for places to send stuff out and read about the business of writing.
Another alarm. 4:30. I walk the dogs. More meds. I have a snack. Mondays through Thursdays I exercise. (There's a very fat person waiting to burst out of me & and I fight her) Then I come home and shower--or not. By now it's 8:15. I might have a certain lovely man spending the which case I'm likely to ignore the morning alarm and stay in bed a while longer.
It's a nice life.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Ka-Ching!! Then...

In a surprise move right down to the wire before the contempt of court order was to be filed, my attorney received the check from Mr. Ex. So a very large sum of unpaid attorney's fees have been dispensed with. Unfortunately, not quite all & the fees continue to mount as we go forward trying to get Mr. Ex to sign off on the division of our joint assets.

photo credit:

Friday, March 19, 2010

The Check at the End of the Rainbow

So...... for months my attorney has been trying to wring a sizable chunk of money out of Mr. Ex. The court ordered Mr. Ex to fork over said hunk of green back in October of '08. That's right. Bush was  president. The polar ice caps were bigger then. John Edwards was still a respectable guy, and I still had some faith that the end was in sight. The absence of the funds went unnoticed for a bit--quite a while to be exact because whenever a bill from my attorney arrived in the mail, I promptly paid it. Then as my ability to fork over large sums of money waned, I went back through my box of invoices. Voila!
The quest to get Mr. Ex to pay up began--oh, I don't know--some time at the end of '09, and then around the last week of January or the beginning of February, I actually succeeded in speaking to Mr. Ex on the phone. He told me he was nearly certain he'd paid it, but he was requesting bank statements from his bank (the last living human under age 60 who doesn't  do online banking?) BUT if he hadn't paid it, he would put a check in the mail, pronto!
So.....a couple of days ago, my attorney let Mr. Ex's attorney know that contempt of court proceedings would be initiated. Supposedly, the check is in the mail.
Bets, anyone?

Photo Credit:

Monday, March 15, 2010


A wonderful writer, my friend Elizabeth Aquino, is the guest blogger at the very fine literary magazine The Mom Egg. Check it out.
Elizabeth also has a wonderful blog of her own.
Sometime in May I will have a piece coming out in The Mom Egg, too.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

"If you want to be me, be me. And if you want to be you, be you..."

I legally changed my name in July of '08. The name change came with the final decree of divorce. Then came implementing that change. An endless litany of dentist, doctors, hairdresser, chiropractor, credit card companies, friends, etc. etc. I never got around to Amazon. Mr. Ex & I used the same Amazon account when we were together, and even after the split when I changed the password and entered my new credit card numbers for one-click shopping, I let the masquerade continue. "Hello, Mr. Ex," it would say as soon as I went to the site. It annoyed me. "Hello Barnes & Noble" I'd mutter--or "Hi there, Borders." But I thought it would be complicated to change it & I didn't want to lose whatever might be stored in my history.
Until.....last night when I bought a Kindle. I've been dreaming of a Kindle since I first heard about them & I finally took the leap. This morning I got the confirmation email and went to my Kindle page on Amazon to see that my  Kindle was called "Mr. Ex's" Kindle. 
Not anymore.
It's easy. Go to the settings page and change your name. Anyone could do it. It seems to me that as far as Amazon cares, the name on the account could be Paris France or Bimbo Dumas--or Dante or Homer.  Indulge your fantasies.

Title from Cat Stevens' lyrics from his song "If You Want to Sing Out."

Friday, March 12, 2010

Stunned by Elephants

I love being stunned by good writing. Sometimes the stunning hurts a little, but it's a good hurt.

photo credit:

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Channeling Imelda

What if I've wronged Mr. Ex? What if he  wasn't stalking my blog after all? Maybe the new wife was the blog stalker. What if she still has access through a friend who is a blogger? I should post something that interests her--hmmm. Home wrecking? Older men? Couture clothing? I know! Shoes.

The Rules

No, not the rules for dating or divorce. Elmore Leonard's Rules for Writing. I'm so fucking sick of Mr. Ex that I wish we were both in an Elmore Leornard novel so foul play could occur.
Anyway to hell with divorce. Yay for writing.

1 Never open a book with weather. If it's only to create atmosphere, and not a charac ter's reaction to the weather, you don't want to go on too long. The reader is apt to leaf ahead look ing for people. There are exceptions. If you happen to be Barry Lopez, who has more ways than an Eskimo to describe ice and snow in his book Arctic Dreams, you can do all the weather reporting you want.
2 Avoid prologues: they can be annoying, especially a prologue following an introduction that comes after a foreword. But these are ordinarily found in non-fiction. A prologue in a novel is backstory, and you can drop it in anywhere you want. There is a prologue in John Steinbeck's Sweet Thursday, but it's OK because a character in the book makes the point of what my rules are all about. He says: "I like a lot of talk in a book and I don't like to have nobody tell me what the guy that's talking looks like. I want to figure out what he looks like from the way he talks."
3 Never use a verb other than "said" to carry dialogue. The line of dialogue belongs to the character; the verb is the writer sticking his nose in. But "said" is far less intrusive than "grumbled", "gasped", "cautioned", "lied". I once noticed Mary McCarthy ending a line of dialogue with "she asseverated" and had to stop reading and go to the dictionary.
4 Never use an adverb to modify the verb "said" . . . he admonished gravely. To use an adverb this way (or almost any way) is a mortal sin. The writer is now exposing himself in earnest, using a word that distracts and can interrupt the rhythm of the exchange. I have a character in one of my books tell how she used to write historical romances "full of rape and adverbs".
5 Keep your exclamation points under control. You are allowed no more than two or three per 100,000 words of prose. If you have the knack of playing with exclaimers the way Tom Wolfe does, you can throw them in by the handful.
6 Never use the words "suddenly" or "all hell broke loose". This rule doesn't require an explanation. I have noticed that writers who use "suddenly" tend to exercise less control in the application of exclamation points.
7 Use regional dialect, patois, sparingly. Once you start spelling words in dialogue phonetically and loading the page with apos trophes, you won't be able to stop. Notice the way Annie Proulx captures the flavour of Wyoming voices in her book of short stories Close Range.
8 Avoid detailed descriptions of characters, which Steinbeck covered. In Ernest Hemingway's "Hills Like White Elephants", what do the "Ameri can and the girl with him" look like? "She had taken off her hat and put it on the table." That's the only reference to a physical description in the story.
9 Don't go into great detail describing places and things, unless you're Margaret Atwood and can paint scenes with language. You don't want descriptions that bring the action, the flow of the story, to a standstill.
10 Try to leave out the part that readers tend to skip. Think of what you skip reading a novel: thick paragraphs of prose you can see have too many words in them.
My most important rule is one that sums up the 10: if it sounds like writing, I rewrite it.
Thanks to my friend and teacher Barbara Abercrombie for posting this on her blog.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

A Drink in the Land of the Parched.

Rejection has been the lay of the land lately. Not personally, but in my writing life. "Thank you very much...but no." Which is kind of personal. Mostly my way of dealing with this is to go wholeheartedly into the disappointment and then forget about it as best I can. So I was really thrilled when I got a "We are very pleased to let you know...." email the other morning. I have a short piece that's been accepted to the Mom Egg literary journal & it will be coming out in May. I wrote this piece in May of 2009 while I was taking a writing/hiking trip in Greece. I'm going on that trip with AstraGreece again this spring. This year we will go to the island of Naxos. There are words taking shape inside me right now that will emerge there. I can't wait to meet them.
I believe there are still one or two spaces available.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Jury Duty, Salmon, & Saints

I'm on jury duty this week and had to report to the criminal courthouse for a morning of waiting  to be put on a jury or released. It was a beautiful spring day in downtown L.A. Blue sky and clouds like cream puffs with only the hint of a threat of more rain.
I figured since I had to step onto Mr. Ex's turf, I might as well jump in with both feet, so I walked up the hill to the Our Lady of the Angels Cathedral cafeteria for lunch. Mr. Ex was (maybe still is despite his transgressions) a practicing Catholic and often went to Mass at the Cathedral during the week. If he's still in the habit, and  I ran into him there, I thought it might give him a jolt, and maybe a miracle would come barreling down from the heavens, and he might be inspired to wrap up our division of joint assets. That didn't happen, but I did enjoy my smoked salmon salad.
Or would have enjoyed my smoked salmon if the cafeteria wasn't laid out like like a circuit box. I hate cafeterias. They all seem to suffer from the same lack of planning. I had to get a tray from the hot food line, traverse the maze of tables to a cooler that held the salads, to another cooler that held the water, then back across the room to pay, then back across the tangle of people waiting in line for the hot food and the line of people waiting for  the cashier in order  to fill the paper cup that the cashier gave me for my coffee. The "silverware" and the napkins were around the corner from the coffee, and then it was necessary to snake back through the people and the chairs and the tables to the door that opened onto the patio. Isn't there some brilliant autistic person who could come up with a universal template for a cafeteria layout and do for frustrated diners what Temple Grandin has done for cows?
And maybe this cafeteria savant could explain that plastic is over and that even recycled paper cups probably put more strain on the environment than reusable ceramic cups.
Visiting the Cathedral made me less cranky. I love its modern vibe and the beautiful art. It strikes me as a more feminine place than most churches. I especially love how "Our Lady" looks like a modern woman. I love the crescent moon at her feet and that when you exit the Cathedral, what you see from the back side of that sculture looks like a full moon--golden and floating above you, but not all that far out of reach.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

How I Spent My Friday Night

Most of the Friday nights that I'm in L.A. are spent that way. Friday night is not a night that the man who loves me and I are likely to get together. He spends all week working and dealing with people-- people who are real people. I spend all week with the people in my head who are make-believe people--characters in my novel, and when Friday night rolls around---well, he and I are just not on the same page at all.
Which should be fine if I were rational about the whole thing. But I'm not.
In high school, Friday night was date night. In college, it was party night. When I worked in a factory all day Friday was cause for jubilation because it was the end of a miserable fucking week, and we all knew we had two whole days when we wouldn't be breathing in toxic paint and getting metal splinters in our fingers. People raved about how they were going to get crazy drunk that night or get laid or both. When I was a waitress, I hauled around 50 lb. trays of surf'n turf platters on Friday nights which meant I was too tired to care what I did after work. When I was an actress Friday nights were fabulous. Work and friends and fun rolled up into one tidy package with some applause thrown in as a bonus. Friday nights during the last twenty-some years of my marriage were dismal. A vigil waiting for sound of the garage door opening--the signal that my husband was finally home. So now, I'm finding it hard  to get out of that groove. I'm still waiting. For something....a date or a party or too much to drink.
I have a perfect view into two of my neighbors' kitchens as I come down the steps to my back door. Last night when I returned from walking my dogs, there were the neighbors' windows lit up like movie screens. In kitchen #1 was a couple. He had a big pot of something in his hands, and she was sprinkling salt into bowl at the kitchen island. She was smiling and talking, and he was nodding. Kitchen number two was a party. Six or eight people milling around the table and the bar, pulling things out of the fridge. More talking and smiling. And laughing. Which made me all sad and sorry for myself.
After I got done crying, I was stupid and crazy for a few more minutes and still fixated on all the fun in those two kitchens. So I tried to take a picture of the happy people because it was really beautiful---the light, the dishes, the food. There were even flowers on the counter in kitchen #2. But what I got was a photo of mostly darkness with a shadowy reflection of a woman holding a camera.

I took a pro-active stance against my Friday night doldrums some weeks ago. I signed up to be a volunteer usher at the Pasadena Playhouse, but they've closed their doors due to financial difficulties. So after my wallowing subsided last night (during which time I begged my dog Layla to please, please just turn into a person) I got on the Internet again. Pickings are slim for Friday night volunteer jobs. The Pasadena Humane Society isn't accepting applications until April--and I doubt there are things to do there on Friday night--unless dogs really do play poker.  Huntington Hospital (hospitals never close, right?) isn't accepting applications until March 15th. The Downtown Women's Center might have something, but I would have had to RSVP for today's orientation by March 1st. Nothing at the San Gabriel Playhouse. Union Station Homeless Services prepares only breakfast and lunch. I'm going to try some of the smaller theaters. But it's pretty clear that I need to keep applying for writers' residencies. Staying home for weeks at a time is likely to make me try to pull a William Wegman. And a person can't go around dressing up their dogs unless they have some talent as a photographer.

Photo Credit:  
This is a photographer with talent.

Thursday, March 4, 2010


I live in a townhouse with 2 large dogs and 2 geriatric cats. One of the cats is so reclusive that she spends most of her life in under the sink in my powder room. I've humored her. She has a litter box in her little cabinet and a bed. Which means there really isn't room for food and water if we're going to be sanitary about the operation. So the food and water are crammed into a little corner next to the toilet. Fine. Except one of the dogs likes to pilfer the cat food. It's not good for the dog--or the cat, who really doesn't have the oomph to complain. So I invented a little pet management device.
The idea was to allow the door to the bathroom to open only wide enough for a cat. The offending dog is easily intimidated, so I felt certain she wouldn't try to squeeze her awkward 55-lb. body through the narrow opening. The trouble is that my invention is constructed of elastic headbands. Elastic. 
So tonight I went off to my jazzercise class, and when I came back, I found  the bathroom door closed and the cat food-scarfing dog trapped inside.
Poor thing.
I understand that feeling. If I could chew through something to finish up this divorce, I would.

Paranoia Will Destroy Ya

Or maybe preserve you.
I like my blog. It's helped me hack a path through my grief. I didn't expect Mr. Ex to read it. So when he accused me of disparagement, I was a bit taken aback. I made the blog private, but I still worried he'd get some IT guy at his Big Fat Law Firm to hack into it and make it disappear.
So I did a Blog2Print book. Now I have a hard copy. It's pretty cool. It's even formatted to include an introduction.
Maybe I'll change my name again. Hire body guards. Move to another state.

If a Body Meet a Body.....

Here's what Holden Caufield has to say about lawyers:
Lawyers are all right , I guess--but it doesn't appeal to me. I mean they're all right if they go around saving innocent guys' lives all the time, and like that, but you don't DO that kind of stuff if you're a lawyer. All you do is make a lot of dough and play golf and play bridge and buy cars and drink Martinis and look like a hot-shot. And besides. Even if you DID go around saving guys' lives and all, how would you know if you did it because you really WANTED to save guys' lives, or because what you REALLY wanted to do was be a terrific lawyer, with everybody slapping you on the back and congratulating you in court when the goddam trial was over, the reporter and everybody, the way it is in the dirty movies? How would you know you weren't being a phony? The trouble is you WOULDN'T.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Ontological Boy

I visited my grandchildren this past weekend, and the youngest, a boy of four, seems to be a budding philosopher. "Hello Jake Skywalker," I said as we sat at the kitchen table with a box full of Star Wars toys. I had Obi-Wan  Kenobi in my hand, and I wiggled the plastic figure  around and made him talk with a deep voice. My grandson laughed and told me his full name. "Not Skywalker," he said. And then he went on. "Luke Skywalker is fake. I'm real. Obi-Wan Kenobi is fake. You're real."
Later on in life he may find out that some "real" people are actually fake. But for now nobody's pulling the wool over this boy's eyes.

Photo Credit: Wikipedia