Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Why a Man Should Never Marry a Writer


I’ve got nothing written for my critique group in the morning.


It’s late. You’re tired. You should have thought of that earlier.

I did. I thought and thought and thought.  Nothing came to me.

Something always comes; you know that. You must have given up too easily.

No. I really tried. I thought about an argument between two people on a long car ride.

That sounds like it has possibilities.

It turned out to be not so funny.

Arguments aren’ t supposed to be funny.

Well I don’t want to write a disturbing argument. The group already thinks I’m a bit heavy-handed.

You are just making excuses. What about an altercation between a mother and child?

Sounds boring.

Okay.  How about a husband and wife who don’t agree on how to spend their money?

Too close to home.

How about a husband and wife who don’t agree on what to eat for dinner? That could be funny. A food fight?

Been there, wasn’t funny. Limited dialog possibilities.

Or a husband who dotes on his dog and a wife who thinks the dog is spoiled?

Is the dog spoiled?

How would I know?

Say the dog is spoiled, the wife is right, and the husband doesn’t see it. Is he stupid?

He’s imaginary. He could be stupid. Or brilliant—just susceptible to dogs.

How old is he?

The dog?

No. The man.

Who cares? Forty?

Then he’s probably at work all day. Maybe the wife is spoiling the dog.

Maybe she’s at work all day, too, and the dog is pissing on the floor because he’s been locked up. How the hell do I know? It’s your story.

But you seem to know more about these people than I do. Are these people you are familiar with?

These are figments of the imagination! Shadows, whispers.

Shhh. I just heard the wife whispering to me.

Thank God. Go with that.

She’s saying that she doesn’t lock the dog up all lay. He has a doggy door but he won’t use it because he’s spoiled.

Look, I’m losing my patience and my mind, Can’t you make up a simple story about a damn dog and his master?

Why does it have to be a master? What about a mistress?

It has to be a master because when he gets through spoiling the dog he’s going to tie up the wife, wrap her with duct tape, and set the house on fire.  Look. You’re hopeless. Forget the damn story. Just go to your group and tell them you didn’t have any ideas.

They will blackball me.


The Wife (wandering away):

Hmmmm. Duct tape and a mistress.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Mega Millions: It's a Tricky Game

Yesterday I invested $2 in the futures of my husband and me, our children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren.

Bob and I had teased each other about what we would do with the money. At one point I said, “You realize, if a we win a lot of money it could ruin our life.” He said, “Maybe. But you’re going to go anyway, so it might as well be in a nice coffin.” I love his attitude.

A woman who was standing in front of me in line for the tickets pulled $1 and $5 bills out of various pockets and made many, many stacks of quarters on the counter. She bought 72 tickets. I hope she won something. If not, I hope the $72 was not from her grocery fund. A young man who had just bought a ticket turned to those of us still standing in line, held up his ticket, waving it madly. He smiled and said, “This is the one!” I could see in his eyes that he believed it.

With the ticket in my pocket, I was so wound up in the possibility of being a multi-millionairess that, when I went to the shopping mall later, I was thinking, “I could buy EVERYthing.” With that in mind I looked and looked and looked for something that would really thrill me. There was nothing. Not even the diamonds. Not even the $700 handbags.

Never before had I realized how rich I am.

I have enough food, a nice home, a loving family, friends, shoes for most occasions, more jewelry than I will ever wear, transportation, more entertainment than I have time for, a dog, a computer. And some days I even have faith. (I find that difficult to maintain with all the hurt we humans afflict on one another.)

The only two things I regret about not winning are not being able to help our extended family and not being able to donate millions to charities, especially to the care of children. However, probably the winners are at least as generous as I would have been, so that part may be taken care of anyway.

It seems uncanny to me that so many of us believe we might be the lucky one. If we could believe, with that much enthusiasm, that we might succeed in whatever endeavor we choose, or that we might thrive without the approval of others, the momentum might propel each of us to unexpected results.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Once a Bookworm Always a Bookworm

I am a bookworm in a library at the moment. It’s a good life. Lots of food, warm environment, and since I glow in the dark there is no electricity required for my reading. When all there is in life is books, one’s choices are unlimited. After eight months of study, I’m prepared to gain a doctorate in physics should I ever have a chance to take the tests.

I haven’t always been a bookworm. I’ve tried other lives with much less success.

I must have pleased the Eye in the Sky in a past life because I have been granted great powers. I can change my shape, but with two limitations: What ever shape I am, I have no arms, and I must glow in the dark. When I was a rock star I had artificial arms put on my body. That worked well because all I had to do was let my wooden arms fall down the front of my body and wiggle my hips. Though I had all the women any man could ask for, my relationships did not last. The glow-in-the-dark thing. I lit up a room like it was the 4th of July and New Years Eve in one.
I tried being a rabbit for a while. Their arms don’t do much. Help with balance at the most. And everyone likes rabbits. However, it turns out coyotes hunt them at night. I can’t say that one of these grey/brown carnivores tracked me down. He simply woke from an evening nap and there I was! Glowingly, I hopped and hopped until my back legs gave out. Just before the coyote clamped his jaws on my neck I said the magic words to Eye in the Sky. “Yoo-hoo! Change-up!” My mind raced. Where do coyotes never go? Then it hit me: INTO BOOK STORES! “Bookworm! Bookworm!” I gasped, and landed just inside the cover of a novel, Claire Walker, about a female alcoholic. Claire is a wonderful character. You'll like her and be rooting for her for 285 pages.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

The Other Woman

When my writing muse went on holiday, I took to watercolors in hopes that painting would jump-start my creative circulation. My daughter, who had been doing botanical art, sent me about $400 worth of watercolors and paper, so I contacted a local college, Yavapai, in hopes of enrolling in a watercolor class. Alas, that required first taking a beginning drawing class. So, after a semester of drawing and one of painting, I was on my own with minimum basic knowlege. What happened is that I have less passion for painting than for writing, but I've fallen in love with color. In less than a second, with no effort, you can swipe bright red paint on pure white paper and make a statement. Not a deep statement, not necessarily an engaging statement, but it does say, "Look at me." The difficulty in writing is that you cannot say, "Look at me," so easily. One can look at a painting and either desire it or not; the gratification or disappointment is instant. On the other hand it may take you an hour to know whether or not you like a particular book. And that will be more than an hour after you have paid for it. If I were an unfaithful man, writing would be my wife and painting would be my mistress. My guilty pleasure, someone I visited when I had the time, but not the meaningful love of my life. I like to paint, but I need to write. So, come back from holiday Ms. Muse!!

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Designer Drugs and Our Kids

I am a CASA volunteer in Arizona. CASA stands for Court Appointed Special Advocate. We volunteers advocate, in court, for children in foster care. As a result of being a CASA, I am invited to join in any number of presentations that have to do with the well-being of young children and teens.

This morning, November 10, 2011, I attended a presentation by MATFORCE. This organization works alongside law enforcement and social workers to address drug problems with our children. I urge every parent and grandparent to put matforce.org on your list of favorite websites and go to it regularly to keep up with the most current information on drugs that are available to our kids.

Let me share a few of the shocking insights I learned this morning:

- One of the presenters had never heard about Krokodil until he was researching for his talk today. Yet a member of the audience said he has heard that term in a rap song. Remember, the kids are ‘way ahead of us.

- A member of the audience said she had been talking to a class of 5th graders and every one of them had heard about Bath Salts. A young man in our meeting spoke up. This very morning, his eleven-year-old brother is in the hospital because of Bath Salts. (Look it up.)

Dragonfly was mentioned. White Ivory was mentioned. They are not what you expect.

These, and dozens more, innocuously-named products are sold in delightful, highly colored, plastic packages about 3x4 inches. They look innocent, with bright colors and cheerful designs. They are most often found in convenience stores, truck stops and smoke shops. They are labeled, “Not for Human Consumption,” and the only people who believe that are adults. The minute one of these products is declared ‘illegal’ the manufacturers change out the illegal ingredient and substitute another, and it goes back on the shelf. Many of these manufacturers are in Europe and Asia. The products are available on the internet.

You may also see small jars for sale. They contain what looks dry grass. They are also labeled ‘Not for Human Consumption.” In fact, the contents have been sprayed with highly toxic and hallucinatory substances to give a strong high when smoked. That is, maybe you guessed it, Spice.

The police don’t have enough eyes, so what can I do besides being vigilant?
1)      Go to matforce.org regularly and keep up to date.
2)      This one is entirely my own idea. It was not presented during the program. When I see a suspicious package being sold over the counter I will ask what it is. If I don’t get a clear answer, I’ll buy one and take it to the police department.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

The Good News, The Bad News

Naiveté is a fancy word for not knowing what the heck you are doing.

After self-publishing my first book I thought I would take it to local independent bookstores and put it on consignment. A self-published book, unless you order 5,000 or more copies, is fairly expensive, so on the way to the bookstore I decided what the dealer could probably price the book at, and the minimum amount of money the dealer would likely want to receive at the time of sale. The outcome of that rumination made me see that I would make very little money. However, I decided that I would go ahead just to see my book on a shelf. If it sold, so much the better.

The dealer was very happy to take a few copies. He slapped a form on the counter in front of me and said, “Fill this out.” Turns out, the dealer’s rumination did not match my own. Who would have thought I’d be on the short end of a 60/40 split? However, now on the spot, I filled out the form and signed it.

My husband was waiting for me in the truck.
I climbed inside and said, “Well, there’s good news, and there’s bad news.”
“What’s the good news?”
“He took three books.”
“What’s the bad news?”
“For every one he sells I will lose two dollars.”
My husband is not loose with any two dollars; he was for me going back inside the store. I prevailed, however. I’m not pride-full, but I do have a smidgeon of it.

When my small check came it was quite a thrill to know that three people in our smallish community were reading my book.

And I still get small checks. I expect Preston and Child would rip these checks in half and light their cigars with them. I expect Elizabeth George would mark them, Return to Sender. Probably Toni Morrison would turn them over and jot down notes for her next poem. It’s likely that they would inspire Ian McEwan to dash off a 200-page missile about disappointment. And Heaven (in the case, heaven) only knows what Joyce Carol Oates would do with them. She is capable of absolutely anything.

I cash them.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Facts Will Free Up Your Fiction

Every author has heard the words, “How did you come up with the story?” The favorite of my novels, The Filigree Cross; The Salvation of Larry Broadfellow, came to me while channel surfing in bed one evening. On screen, a televangelist was beckoning listeners to open their purse strings so that Heaven would open to them. Though he said all the right words, he was clearly bored with the message and distracted by the fit of his coat, pulling at the collar. I went to sleep thinking about the dressing-down he might get once the ministry’s PR people saw his performance. So I had my protagonist, the failed televangelist, Larry Broadfellow.

Once I started learning more about Larry I realized he was an orphan. This stumped me. I said to my husband, “I don’t know anything about orphans; I don’t think I’ve ever known one, but my character is an orphan.” My husband, not being a fiction writer, said, “Well, give him parents.” That could not work. Larry was a loner, and alone, in every sense of the word, and I could not make him otherwise.

I went ahead with the story, still worried about the orphan situation.

I was a Canadian citizen at the time and all aliens were required to get new green cards since there was so much counterfeiting of cards happening. (One of the many immigration agents I met in the four years it took me to get a new card, told me that the government had passed the law but had not hired any extra people to deal with it.) I was sitting in a huge ‘holding cell’ in downtown Phoenix with several hundred others waiting for my number to come up, so that, once again, I could have a futile conversation with an agent. The gentleman sitting beside me began a conversation. People usually are interested in talking about writing, and he asked me about my book. I told him my orphan dilemma. The Lord had time for me that day, even if the Immigration Department had very little. The gentleman next to me had grown up in an orphanage in Minnesota many years ago, an orphanage which was also a farm. He told me everything I could ever want to know about that life.

I used very little of that information in my story since it was a small part of the book, but from that day on my story almost wrote itself. Larry Broadfellow was now full-blown in my head. I now knew how he became an orphan, all about his childhood, how he was almost adopted, what happened to him when he left the orphanage at age eighteen – none of which was the gentleman’s story. It was my knowing the facts that led to freeing up the fiction.

The Filigree Cross; The Salvation of Larry Broadfellow was a finalist in the Southwest Writers novel competition that year. You can learn more about this book and three of my others on my website, http://www.marlenebaird.com/.