Wednesday, May 31, 2006

A Book Experiment - The Results

Well, well, well, wasn't that interesting. In just about every single response (see comments in the last post), it was the characterization that held the reader's interest rather than the plot itself.

This little experiment was conducted because I wanted to see from a reader's standpoint what kind of book stood out as being memorable. Even if the plot literally sucks, if the characters can pull it off, you've still got a winner on your hands. Interesting.

So, when writing your books, concentrate more on developing your characters. While I feel that plot is important, of course, it's those characters that are the main deal.

I've started on a new book and I'm going to take this information to heart and concentrate more on making my characters carry the story. I'm going to breath life into them to the point where the reader doesn't even care about the plot, they just want to read about what's going on with the characters. If I can pull this off, then maybe I'll have a winner on my hands.

Oh, I believe in this story already. I think this makes my third completed manuscript. Wait, no, my fourth. While writing my other books, I concentrated too much on the plots, and didn't realize that it's the characters I should have concentrated more on. But, I know now. And, you know, it takes a lot of heat off the writing process. I love to delve into the characters, but I always have this plot thing going on in my mind, trying to figure out what I want my characters to do that correlates with where the plot was going. Now I know it's the other way around. Revolve the plot around the characters instead and watch the story unfold. I have a funny feeling that the plot will somehow write itself.

Take this story I'm writing right now. It revolves around two main characters who go back to earth as angels. They both have conflicts they need to resolve and while there is a plot of course, it's all about them and the characters that pop up while they're there. You almost don't even realize there's a plot because you are concentrating on these characters and where their adventures go. They could go to Timbuctoo for all you care, because it's not where they go or what they do while they're there, it's about their inner and outer conflicts and how they accomplish what they were sent out to do. It's all about THEM. I'm only at 100 pages, almost half way there, but so far, this book is about characterization, so maybe, just maybe, I'm on track. This experiment was mainly to help me see where I should devote my time, but hopefully, it'll help you, too. So, characterization wins!

Thursday, May 25, 2006

A Book Experiment - Please Vote!

I am doing a little experiment. I got this idea over on my dear friend Kathy Holmes' blog where she was discussing characterization vs. plot in what makes a book good.

Okay, what I'd like you to do is this. Tell me about the last book you read that really held her interest and whether it was the characterization or the plot that made that book one you just couldn't put down and one that you would always remember. It could be a book you've just read or a book you read a long time ago that just stuck with you and you couldn't forget.

Do this in the comment section. When I get enough votes, I'm going to post the results and what they mean from a promoting perspective. I know, I know, just humor me. I've got a point and I believe it's a point that will help you when writing your own book.

The only rule is that you can't say both. It has to be one or the other.

Okay? So, ready, set, go!

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

TWL Author Talks - Jessica Faust - Day 2

As soon as Jessica Faust leaves the TWL Author Talks group, I'll get back to my utterly mundane life experiences, but there are a few points she made today that I really want to keep track of and for those who read this blog, they might help you, too, if ever you decide to write a book and decide you'd like a literary agent to represent you. Which I do and which I'd give up my 2.5 children for. PSYCHE! Now, don't get your danders up. I seriously love my 2.5 children, and this is simply how determined I am to get one. Let's see...book deal...children...book deal...children...hard toss-up.

As you know, Jessica Faust of Bookends Literary Agency has graced my group, TWL Author Talks, with her presence and incredible wisdom on the world of being a literary agent.

I know her work is hard. I can't imagine the power of sitting behind a desk and giving the nod or the Miss Snark curse on every single manuscript that comes into her office. Can you imagine the power? I experienced this power when I was compiling my anthology, Romancing the Soul, and I have to tell you, it was very very very hard to email some of the writers and tell them it didn't fit. I'm not a Miss Snark at all. But, in some cases, you have to be and that makes the job of a literary agent even harder.

So, having Jessica come into my group despite all the manuscripts she has to read, and give her incredible wisdom on different aspects of the literary agent submission process, I feel I owe her my utmost respects.

With that said, let's get into a question I asked in the group.

It's a really interesting question and is concerning how important it is for an author, when submitting to an agent or publisher, to prove they have the right stuff in the promotion department. I mean, what about those writers who don't have any experience in that area? Is it the kiss of death?

Well, here's my question:

"Jessica, honestly, how important is it to you, as the agent, to find
someone who is great at promoting? Say for example, there are thousands of
manuscripts coming to your desk every day...all of them equal as far as being
the next best thing...would you tend to go with those who have a track record
for promoting? I mean, do you actually go, "Wow...this author has done a
tremendous job at promoting his or her articles/other books/etc., I'm going to
give him/her a chance" as opposed to someone else who had a manuscript that was
just as good but didn't have a track record in promoting?"

Her answer reaffirmed my suspicions...

"When it comes to fiction the promotion helps, but it really is about the
work--the writing, characters, plot, etc. With non-narrative nonfiction however
the promotion is at least 60% of what sells the book and is very, very
important. "

So, if you are a fiction author, then it helps, but is not as important as it would be with the non-fiction non-narrative author. In my case, I'm both, but the one book I am seriously seeking representation is a non-narrative non-fiction about relationships, the soul mate relationship in particular. If you will remember, yesterday she said that they were still hot as long as they were fun, had a good hook and was something very different.

Now, I've learned that with this particular book, promotion is over half of what sells the book. I'm figuring that in my query if I include the fact that I have been featured on certain radio programs and I do write a relationship column focusing on soul mates, plus I have an e-class where I teach people about the soul mate relationship, and the fact that I offer a free advice service for anyone who wish to ask me a question about the soul mate relationship, then this will help?

Who knows, but it's really a viable option when I revamp my query. Actually, I do mention the radio gigs and that I use this to promote my books, but maybe I should also include the e-class (which is rather new) and the advice columns/service. Hadn't thought of that.

Oh, another interesting thing she said was that in your query, make it sound like the back cover of the book instead of a formal letter.

This is interesting because I tried something different when querying my hen lit. I honestly did write the query just like I imagined the back cover to be. With the exception of one agent, all the rest of the agents requested a partial. I knew I was on to something when this happened.

However, after I sent the partials, and they turned me down, I tried to rethink the whole process and started rewriting the book, not once, not twice, but five separate versions until I got to the point where I didn't know which one I liked better, so I set it aside and started on another book. However, the mistake I made was revamping my query letter to make it sound more formal and guess what. The agents I queried with this query letter turned me down flat.

Is there a lesson to be learned here?

Sure, there is. And I'm learning every day. As I'm thoroughly enjoying this new book I'm in the middle of writing - a paranormal comedy - it's hard to stop, but I'm going to find the time to turn the query back into the original query and start anew.

Writing is tough. Submitting to agents and publishers is even tougher, but when we finally find out what it is we're supposed to do, maybe then we can achieve success. Thanks to Jessica, and the other agents who are going to grace us with their presence, too, in the upcoming months, writers can now learn what is expected of them, do it and find out getting that contract really isn't as hard as they think if they use a little common sense, stick to their guns, persevere, and not give up on the dream.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Jessica Faust at TWL Author Talks This Week!

Sorry I haven't blogged for days, but between trying to get some more writing done on my paranormal comedy (yes, a new book!), I'm moderating TWL Author Talks which is hosting the wonderful Jessica Faust of Bookends Literary Agency. If you would like to join (she's going to be here all week to field questions), go to http://groups.yahoo.com/group/TWLAuthorTalks/ and I'll let you in.

It's been an amazing talk so far. I asked her about the future of chick/hen lit, paranormal comedy and non-fiction relationship books as that's what I've been writing, and this is what she said:

"Houses are cutting back on chick lit. Ultimately when it first became
popular everyone--authors and publishers--jumped on the bandwagon and flooded
the market. Now it's only natural that the "strong will survive" and houses need
to cut back and move on to the next thing.

A lot of publishers are buying light paranormal, there are a lot out there
now. So yes, they are buying.

Relationship books--a platform is key and it sounds like there's one there,
but it's also important that the book itself have a fun and interesting hook,
something very different."

Ahh...so what they say about chick lit is true. Doesn't matter. I still love'em.

As for the paranormal comedy, I was delighted to hear they are buying. However, did you see what else she said? "There are a lot out there now." And she also said "light paranormal." Well, I consider mine light, not dark at all, quite the opposite, so that's good. BTW, I'm a third into it and it's a lot of fun to write...I don't think I've ever had so much fun putting a story together even though I suck majorly at fiction.

Nonfiction seems to be my niche, now let's just see if the agents/publishers think I have a fun and interesting hook. I don't really think it's a "fun" hook, maybe interesting, but not quirky, more down to earth. Wonder if down to earth is good enough?

Ah, only time will tell.

It's been interesting having Jessica explain what's going on--sort of like an insider's view of the whole scheme of things. She'll be here all week so if you would like to join the group, the link's above and I look forward to seeing you there!

Friday, May 19, 2006

Is He My Soul Mate...Or Not?

I finally just put up an article on my website that I wrote for last month's column called "Is He My Soul Mate...Or Not?" if you'd like to take a peek. It's just so purty!

Click here!

Monday, May 15, 2006

News from Buena Vista Library & LA Times!

I am just jumping up and down for joy….if you’ve been following…I will be returning to my old homeplace, Burbank, California, the end of September to find out just why I have this spiritual need to return and guess what I got in my email box yesterday.

A letter from the librarian at Buena Vista Branch Library in Burbank, California, telling me that she will gladly accept my book as a donation. Oh man, it was wonderful hearing from her. This is what she wrote:


Dear Ms. Thompson,

I was forwarded your email about donating a copy of
your book, “Romancing the Soul” to the Buena Vista branch of the Burbank
library. We would love to have a copy of it.

I am sure that you will be
pleased when you visit as to what’s become of the Lincoln School site. The Buena
Vista Library is a very beautiful and popular branch library that gets close to
50,000 visitors every month. I would be happy to give you a tour of the
facility. A special part of our library is that we have obtained copies of
pictures of “old Burbank” from the Burbank Historical Society and reproduced
them in sepia tones and have them on display. Across from my office is a picture
of your Lincoln School.

Please send a copy of the book to the address
below, and please contact me when you are in town on your visit.

Sincerely,

Christine Rodriguez
Supervising Librarian, Buena
Vista Library

Now, is that cool or what? Not only are they placing my book within their library system, but I will be leaving behind a piece of myself when I have to leave and go back to Virginia. This is just so unfreakingbelievable.

But, wait, it gets better….

Someone from the LA Times has agreed to an interview! Can we say oh my god I’m going to faint? Freaking LA Times! Do you realize how huge that is?

You gotta admit, though, it makes for one fantastic human interest story. Author Travels 3,000 Miles to Hand-Deliver Book to Hometown Library. Hey, I might set a new world’s record on that one. Anyone have the number of Guiness Book of World Records? Talk about walking a mile for a Camel, how about traveling 3,000 miles for a chance to leave your legacy at your own stomping grounds you thought you’d never ever see the rest of your life? Unfreakingbelievable.

The Soul Mate Queen's Magical World of Soul Mates

Ahhh...yes, I have another blog. That title up there is the name and the address is www.soulmatequeen.blogspot.com where I will be hosting interviews from relationship experts all over the country. Cool, huh? Not only that, I was frustrated with my other relationship advice blog at www.soulmateadvice.blogspot.com when the right sidebar wouldn't come back up no matter what I did, but this new blog is going to be waaaay better! So, hop on over and say howdie and tell'em the soul mate queen sentcha. ;o)

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Latest News from Boomer Chick

Just a note to my subscribers using the Bloglet subscriber service...I'm taking it off and have added a new subscription service, Bloarithm.com, which is 100% more dependable. I've just become aware that not only me, but there are others out there who are reporting their subscribers aren't getting their updates. So, I've eliminated Bloglet and this should be the last update you receive from me (if you even get it) using that system. I'm sorry for this inconvenience, but if you signed up using the old system, it's defunct, and you'll have to sign up with my new service at the right to receive any future updates. Again, my apologies for this inconvenience.

Another thing...I'm the proud mama of another blog, The Soul Mate Queen's Wonderful World of Soul Mates (www.soulmatequeen.blogspot.com) and I'd love it if you went over and gave me a howdie. It's new and there's still more to get up there, but it should all be up and running soon. My old blog, www.soulmateadvice.blogspot.com was frustrating me as the links, so forth, weren't appearing at the top of the page like they should be and were all the way at the bottom. Hence, my new blog. Frustrations over.

Also, if there are any relationship experts or columnists who would like to be interviewed for the new blog, drop me a line at soulmateexpert (at) yahoo.com.

Thanks and I hope everyone had a wonderful Mother's Day!

Thank You, Mother, for Letting Me Do It My Way

I'm about to do the unthinkable. I volunteered to work today. I know, send the little guys in the white coats and nets out to get me.

BF and I had planned a trip to Ocean City, but it's still too early in the season to really enjoy it, plus, his boss asked him to work four hours this morning, so I said, what the hey, I'll just go in to work being as they forgot to schedule someone in my place (I had asked for the day off and got it).

It's going to be a laid back day anyway.

Most restaurants are busy today on account of it being Mother's Day and all, but not the one I work at. I'd really rather not mention where because I don't want all you psycho people hunting me down wanting my autograph, so let's just say it's not your Ruby Tuesdays or Texas Steak House.

I've been there for ten years (this year is my anniversary date and I think I get a sticker from the company for it...wahoo) and I'm too old to change now. Boomer chicks may have what it takes, but sometimes we forgot what it took to get there.

I'm blogging today just before I go to work, but there's a point to this blog post.

No matter how old you are, most mothers are still working and even some are supporting their grown children. To them, I give my accolades and highest respects.

I am one of them.

But, soon, my daughter will be out of nursing school and will be able to support my sorry lazy a** so I'm counting the days.

I love my daughter. She and I have been through a lot in all her almost 28 years and finally she's about to find out who she is and what she wants. I didn't find that out until I was in my forties, so she's way ahead of the game.

My daughter has a lot going for her, but one thing right now is that she's strapped for cash. Working one day and going to school the rest isn't going to pay for much, but it didn't stop her from buying a card and putting a ten bucker in so I could get my prayer plant I was talking about getting. Never mind the fact that either her father or I are going to have to pay her truck payment. Ah well...it's the thought that counts.

But, I don't mind because I'm helping her achieve her goals and I only wish I had had someone help me achieve mine, you know?

My mother died when I was nineteen years old, one month after getting married. She missed the birth of my daughter and then the birth of my son. She missed being able to support my sorry a** when I was struggling trying to put food on the table after my marriage crumbled. She missed my daughter growing up, taking dance lessons, making the only sixth grader in the whole school to get on the cheerleading squad. She missed my first book sale, my first booksigning, my first interview on the radio. She missed seeing her daughter find herself and know what she wanted and striving to get there.

But, you know, I really don't think she did miss all that because I feel that Mother was right there with me all along, cheering me on, giving me the strength I needed to find my place in the world. And, I've found it. At fifty-something years old, I have found it. All on my own.

So, while I mourned my mother's death, and still do, I thank her for giving me the chance to do it "my way." It has made me a stronger person inside and out and I feel that whatever life has in store for me here on out, I can handle it. I would have rather had my mother with me all along, while I was struggling, not knowing who to turn to for help, but since it just wasn't meant to be, I at least can say that because I did not have anyone to fall on, and had to do it my way, and learn from doing it my way, I'm a stronger person spiritually and mentally.

Happy Mother's Day, Mother, and may the angels and you have a heluva party to celebrate mothers everywhere.

Happy Mother's Day everyone!

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Happy Mother's Day


To all the mothers out there in blogland...the young, the old, the tired, the worn-out, the frustrated, and the weary...just remember...there's nothing so wonderful, exciting, memorable, exhilarating and fulfilling as watching your little ones grow up and...

SUPPORT YOU FOR ONCE...

Happy Mother's Day everyone!

Thursday, May 11, 2006

The Games People Play

Quite by accident, I found a cool new game that I think you're going to enjoy. It came to me after getting out of bed, trudging into the utility room to start my laundry before I had to go to work at 4.

Here's a little background...

Character A is a hard working woman, pays 75% of the bills so Character B & Character C can have a roof over their heads and a bed to sleep in. Genuinely wonderful person—a little psycho perhaps—who would give the shirt off her back to her family; in fact, she does. Also acts as a referee and an intermediary between the conflicts of Character A & Character B as they play….

The Game of Who Can Get One Over on the Other One

How it’s played…

Character B buys fabric softener and hides it in Character A’s dresser so Character C won’t use it. The reason for his selfishness is because Character B feels Character C should pay more bills around here and going to nursing school full-time and working as a waitress one or two nights a week to pay her truck payment and insurance isn’t cutting it. Character B feels slighted because he feels that Character C is taking advantage of Character A who just happens to be Character C’s mother.

Character A goes into her dresser and finds said item, fabric softener. She knows who put it there (Character B so Character C won’t use it). Infuriated (and because she loves her darling Character C and feels she’s struggling enough), she pulls said item, fabric softener out of her dresser and puts it in the utility room where it can be shared and where it rightfully belongs.

Character A wakes up and begins to clean house before she goes to her tiresome job (remember she’s the main breadwinner, maid, cook, cleaner-upper, dog walker, dog feeder, dog cleaner-upper, referee and intermediary) and starts in with the laundry when she discovers said item, fabric softener is not in said position on the dryer and is not anywhere in sight.

Character A figures a) character B found said item and moved it to another hiding place, b) character C found said item and thought she had bought it and hid it in her room from character B (it’s happened before) or c) it grew wings and took off by itself.

Your mission is to help Character A decide her next step:

1) Look all over the house until she finds said item.

2) Tell Character B to move out until he can prove he is a grown up man and will be able to stop playing childish games with Character C.

3) Tell Character C to quite nursing and find a job that will be able to pay for her own fabric softener.

4) Admit defeat and fun away to a deserted island and leave Character B & C to fend for themselves.

5) All of the above.

Which should she choose?

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

California Dreamin' - Pt. 4 - Glucose Intolerant, Anyone?

Forty-five long years later, I still can remember not having any remorse for leaving the Virginia, the place in which I was born and spent the first part of my childhood and then my teens and beyond. I know why there was no remorse. Even though I was technically a local, theoretically I wasn’t. I was far removed. My home was in California. This I knew the moment I stepped foot in the soil.

Was it the fact that my mother’s enthusiasm and happiness were contagious? Was it because I finally had a real family again complete with mother and father? Was it…was it…the fact that California was talking to my spirit, just like soul mates do, trying to relay the message that there is a connection?

Although this was my first trip to California and I was only seven, it was as if I belonged. It felt right.

The last entry in my California Dreamin’ blog series had my family and I traveling across the Chesapeake Bay Bridge/Tunnel and about to embark on a seven-day arduous trip across country to Fort Ord, California, where my new step-father was employed. We were to live on base for awhile, until we moved on to Burbank, but I’m getting ahead of my story.

I still haven’t figured out which route we took as I haven’t gotten up with my aunt who might know, but for the story’s sake, we’ll just carry on from here…

My new father, who insisted on my sister and I calling him “Daddy,” was full of surprises. I really owe him a lot for taking me to my new homeland and showing me a piece of myself that I would find out more about many years later. If it weren’t for him, I wouldn’t know what the craving to visit California was all about. Now I know and for that, I thank him.

He was from Rhode Island. I have no idea how my mother and he met, only they did so in Norfolk, Virginia. I guess that’s a love/hate story I’ll never find out about. As my mother has left this earthly plane, I can only rely on the sparse memories that jump in my head as they please.

The only known person on his side of the family that I ever had contact with was his mother, who still resided in Rhode Island. She sent me birthday presents every year, although I hardly knew the woman. She was rotund, but sweet as they came. Anyone to accept someone else’s family and even give presents to them was okay in my book.
Other than that, I don’t recollect any of his family.

We had been on the road only a day or two when we pulled into a restaurant by the side of the road to get some breakfast. Maybe we had been traveling all night and that attributed to my step-father’s sour mood. Or, maybe the reality of a family package deal was already starting getting to him, who knows, but I saw another side of him that I wished not to remember.

I remember ordering sunny side up eggs and bacon. But, Bob – er Daddy – ordered me milk to go along with it. I told him I didn’t like milk. I learned years and years later that I was glucose intolerant. I’m not even sure they heard of the word back in the early sixties; or at least, I hadn’t, and it was obvious my step-father hadn’t either.

The milk sat on the table untouched. I couldn’t even bare to look at it.

“Drink your milk,” Bob said.

I stared at the cup, then to my mother and aunt, praying they would help me out of this.

“Drink your milk!” he demanded.

“Bob,” my aunt said, “she doesn’t like milk. Besides, we’re traveling. Don’t you think it would upset her stomach?”

He wasn’t listening. “She’s skinnier than a rail, Caroline. She needs her milk. Now, Dotti, drink it.”

Tears welled in my eyes. I was super sensitive anyway. Mother was sitting there with her head down, avoiding my glaring, teary eyes. Guess it had to do with something about honoring thy husband or something, but she was of no help. I could tell my aunt wanted to pulverize him for making such a big deal out of this, but she felt it wasn’t in her place to tell him what to do, I guess.

I caught my step-father’s glaring stare out of the corner of my eye and I figured I really needed to at least try to drink the milk. My stomach already started heaving when I picked the glass up and took a wee sip.

And I puked all over the table.

My aunt laughed about it later, saying she was damn glad I did it so that he would realize he was wrong all along.

Of course, he was enraged. I don’t remember too much after that except for crying and belching and having to listen to one of many arguments between my mother and him.

I will say this, though. He never told me to drink another glass of milk again.

Monday, May 08, 2006

On the Street Where I (used to) Live

What a wonderful development that popped up this morning!

I've gotten in touch with a Greg Bowman from the City of Burbank who is helping me dig up some information about a school I attended in the early sixties called Abraham Lincoln High School.

To back up, with the exception of a school I attended briefly at Fort Ord, this one school was the only school I attended while living in Burbank. Such memories that school brings to mind! I remember walking to and from school each and every morning. And at lunchtime for an hour. Man, they can't even do that anymore! Walks are spiritual in themselves as you're always thinking and pondering over life's problems, so you can imagine why this particular walk was so important to me. And what is more important, I feel the need to take that same walk. If I can retrace my steps, I can find the location of my two homes I lived while attending Abraham Lincoln School.

I am just so psyched about all of this and want to remember all the vital information, so I'm going to blog about my findings this morning.

So, Greg Bowman from the City of Burbank emails me with somewhat bad news (so he thinks) that the school was demolished and in its place is a library - the Buena Vista Library. Well, hell, I'M AN AUTHOR! Oh man, this is just so freaking ironic! Anyway, here's what Greg had to tell me about it...

Dear Ms. Thompson,

First, let me thank you for your inquiry and for noting that you were
impacted in a profound way by your attendance at Lincoln Elementary
School. It is often difficult to revisit a previous place and experience
the same impressions as in the past. Having said this, the Abraham Lincoln
school was closed in the late 1980's due to a significant decline in enrollment,
and then became the administration center for the Burbank schools. The
school facilities were transformed into offices and the playgrounds were
converted into parking lots. The former school site served the district
until 2001, when the property was sold to the City of Burbank.

Now, on the former school site sits the elegant new Buena Vista Library
surrounded by the Lincoln Park. Yes, the school is no longer, but has been
replaced with a much needed branch library. You will no doubt find other
such surprises in Burbank. For example, the aged Burbank High School was
completely replaced with a stunning new structure, and John Burroughs High
School underwent a complete renovation. I'm sure that the spirit of the
Burbank community has survived all of these changes. I occasionally hear
some nostalgic comments about the past, but for the most part, the community is
pleased with the changes which I believe are commonly viewed as necessary
improvements to the quality of life. Again, thank you for contacting
us.

Warmest regards,Greg Bowman, Ed.D.Superintendent

Is that the most coolest information? So, I check out the library's site and oh man it's beautiful. Then I got to thinking about something. I'm an author with a book...hmmm...so I emailed them, telling them briefly why I need to come to California and would they be interested in a donation of one of my books. I haven't heard back from them, but I'll keep you posted.

Now, here's the interesting part. There was a map on the library's website. I clicked on it and omg...a few streets away, I saw it. Elm Street. The street where I last lived! I had lived on another street, across some highway from St. Joseph's Hospital (anyone been there?) and I'm presuming it's Buena Vista Street as it leads right into the library and on my walks back and forth from school, I didn't take any turns. I remember I had to cross a big highway and then continue on, but that's about all I remember. Omg...that was the same street I walked when I heard about John F. Kennedy's assassination. My girlfriend, Marge?, and I walked in silence. They had let school out early for the day. What a terrible time and it's as if I'm reliving it right now. But, here's something else that just jolted my memory...the day JFK got shot, I didn't walk to either of these houses, but instead, an apartment complex...so that makes 3 places I lived while in Burbank. We're getting there...the memory clicks in every now and then.

This is simply amazing. If I could get to that library, and walk the same steps, being as the streets are still named the same, I can visit where I used to live. Isn't that freaking incredible? I know the houses or the apartment complex won't probably still be there, but the land will and that's good enough for me. I want to become that child of seven again. I want to find my home again. I want to feel the emotions as I stand there and remember a time when my childhood was taken away from me and I had to move to Virginia to live with a grandmother.

It's sad really. But I need closures.

I'm thinking about just flying to Burbank instead of Vegas and then just driving a rental to Vegas to see the casinos and all that, but make Burbank my main stop. Still thinking.

BF isn't going to like it, but this is my journey. He can make his journey some other time, but this is all about me this time. I need this. Before I die, I need to go back and find out what it is I'm looking for. I'll keep you informed..isn't this fun?

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Plentyoffish.com is PLAGIARIZING My Work!

I don't know how many times this is going to happen before I explode! Another one of my articles have been used without giving me credit and the most explosive thing about it is, some guy is crediting himself with writing it! I am sooooooooooooooooooooooooo mad. Can we say PLAGIARISM?????????????

Jesus God Almighty! So, I have all my articles in Google Alerts and this one came in tonight and, of course, I check it out to see if my name has been credited to the piece as it's happened before, and whammo...there it is on a dating forum where you have to fill out your personal information just to log into the damn forum!

I have the link...it's http://forums.plentyoffish.com/datingPosts4033266.aspx#4059316. This is an outrage! The guy's name is Jilian ... here's his profile.. http://www.plentyoffish.com/member95492.htm.

This is an open letter to Jilian who is posted on the right:

Dear Jilian,

I'm not sure what high horse you're on, but you have successfully stolen my article and credited it to yourself! What kind of a human being are you? What woman/man/horse in their right mind would want someone like you? A thief? All you had to do was credit the article with my name attached, but nooooooooooooooo, that would be too easy, you think? No wonder you're a part of a dating site, you can't get dates all by yourself, can you? I am outraged and I am posting the link to the article in question plus your profile link for everyone to see what a low-life you are. I hope one day you'll be able to write something as good as me (snort), but I highly doubt it. What goes around, comes around, Jilian. Be a man and write something that you can give your own name to and not something I use toilet paper for.

Have a good day, Jilian, and I hope your conscience is listening.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Off the Beaten Path for a Minute

I've hit a snag.

Before I can continue my story, I need to know 100% which route our family took to travel from Virginia to California in 1961. Did we go south like I thought or did we go north which would explain stopping in Boy's Town in Nebraska? I need to get this accurate.

I've googled my little brain off for two days trying to find a 1961 map of Virginia. Nothing concrete came up. I thought that if I just could see the map laid out, it would jostle the ol' memory and I could figure out which route it was. It's so hard to remember one week out of almost 52 years of living, but I'm determined.

I found someone on the Internet yesterday that sold map scans and asked him if he had a 1961 map there that could help, explaining my situation. So, he sent me two. One of Virginia in 1961 and one of the area I would have been entering in California to head on to Fort Ord in 1961.

I've been trying to figure them out and while they are very helpful, I'm still confused. It looks to me like we might have taken Rt. 58, but then again, did my step-father go north and take another route? Or, veer further south?

This is driving me crazy and I don't know why I'm obsessing so. I've started this and I'm not going to do this half-assed. I want to retrace the entire trip and if I keep at it, I'll be able to figure this out. It's a mission that needs completing and I'd like to have this much completed before I head out west in September.

Oh, did I tell you we've made up our minds and are going to go ahead and book for September? The heat won't be as bad and hopefully it'll be less congested, too.

But, you know what, I love traveling. When I say "it's in my blood," this is the reason. This trip that I'm going to retake, the one I'm writing about, is the reason.

As a matter of fact, this house I'm living in right now, I've lived here longer than anywhere my whole life. Ten looooong years in the same house. Amazing. I think when you get older, you don't have the strength to find another one when the present one will do just fine.

Only, the present one isn't doing just fine. It's getting too run down and I'm afraid I'm going to have to find another place soon. The worse thing about it is that it's across the street from a chicken rendering plant and situated dab smack in front of the only highway on the whole Eastern Shore. I can hear the traffic out my window. I especially hate the boom, boom, boom coming from some worker across the street at the rendering plant who've we complained about and does no good. Why do young people have to have "systems"?

So, anyway, I'm not-so-young and restless. I can't wait until September.

Oh, I have a question....is there anyone reading this blog that went to Abraham Lincoln Elementary School in the early sixties? What became of that? I've been really trying to get some information on it and am coming up with practically zilch. I think it's been torn down, but not sure. Thanks...and anyone who grew up in Burbank in the early sixties, I'd love to hear from you. My email address is thewriterslife (at) yahoo.com.

Thank you!

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

California Dreamin' - Pt. 3 - The Last Ferry Ride



Saying good-bye to my grandmother and aunt was perhaps the saddest thing I’d ever encountered in all my seven years – with the exception of my grandfather’s death, of course – but as life can’t be measured in what ifs, it was imperative we make this long journey to see what surprises life had in store for us.

We all had our reasons.

My new step-father insisted I call him Daddy, so Daddy it was. I didn’t care. It actually could work in my favor when I met new friends and introduced him. I really couldn’t introduce him as Bob. While he technically and biologically wasn’t my real father, it would have been okay, but this was a new beginning for me and part of the bargain was that I got a father out of the deal. So, Daddy it was.

Bob, I mean Daddy, had dark black hair that was cut so short, you could feel the prickles sticking up if you ran your hand across the top of his head. I don’t remember what he looked like before the Army recruiting office shaved his head, but I’ll always remember that crew-cut. Fit him to a T.

He was Army material. I didn’t find out just how Army material he was until we progressed further into our journey, but take my word for it, when my mother and aunt nicknamed him “Hitler” behind his back, they meant every word of it. But, that’s further along in the story.

My mother was the typical star-struck movie star wannabe. I knew why she married Bob…er…Daddy. It was her ticket to stardom, leaving the sticks, where until the day she died, hated with a passion. Not even leaving her mother and sister behind would have stopped this woman from climbing to her dreams.

I always thought Mother was a dead-ringer for Marilyn Monroe. She had the hair, the style, the pout, the sex appeal. If anyone had more ambition to be a movie star, it was she. And she fully executed her plan to become one, dragging me along with her, which also will come later in the story.

My aunt was crazy. Crazier than a looney-tune. I loved her, though, especially for the really neat presents she gave on birthdays and Christmas. Now there was a woman that would always be #1 in my book. One thing that really irked me was that she didn’t think twice about reprimanding me like she was my mother or something. But, I loved her and up until the day she died three years ago, I never stopped loving her.

My sister was but three and barely knew what was going on. I remember her sleeping most of the way. I don’t really remember much fighting at all. Give me time; I’m sure I’ll remember and if we didn’t then, we sure made up for it later.

I always blamed the fact that she had a different father than I did and that was the reason we were so different. Different isn’t even touching it. While I had blonde hair that cascaded down my back in curls, she had the reddest hair you’d ever seen. Kinky red hair. Which she hated the rest of her life.

We were a strange family indeed, but we loved each other. No matter what happened later, we still loved each other.

Since none of us had our licenses, Daddy was the driver. Another power position in the family. And he used this power whenever he could.

It took a couple hours to drive from Exmore to Cape Charles where we were to pick up the ferry to take us to Norfolk. The ferry stopped running a couple years after we made this journey and I am so thankful I got a chance to experience it. That was before they constructed the Chesapeake Bay-Bridge Tunnel, a massive bit of construction overtop the Chesapeake Bay. Where it would take hours to cross from the Shore to Norfolk, it would only take a half hour by car.

The Chesapeake Bay-Bridge Tunnel opened on April 15, 1964, and cost in the area of $200,000,000 to construct. This was big money back then, too. It did save time to cross the bay to get to the rest of Virginia if you were going that way, but that ferry was neat to ride on—except for the fact I spent most of the time in the john throwing up—while it was still in operation.

We began our journey by ferry by pulling up and paying the lady at the window (I had to scrunch down real low so they wouldn’t see me and I could get in free—another one of my Daddy’s ideas to save money perhaps), then drive the car into the bottom part of the boat. At least, that’s the way I remember because once we got out, we climbed up.

I don’t think there was ever any child in the whole universe who had thrown up so much on that ferry as I did. I couldn’t wait for it to end. I did manage to stay up on board a little while, just long enough to get some Pepsi before I had to go throw up again. I slept in the car most of the way after that.

I remember some kind of argument, but I don’t know what it was all about. I think it was over my sister, but my memory isn’t kicking in. This was the first time I realized my step-father had a temper, but it sure wasn’t the last.

Monday, May 01, 2006

California Dreamin' - Pt. 2 - My Humble Beginnings


The family I was born into was a proud southern Baptist family. While we didn’t have much to eat on the table, I really don’t remember actually being poor. Looking back, I knew we were, but as a child, I really didn’t think about it.

I’ve written many stories about my life growing up, so I won’t bore you with what’s already been said. Instead, I’ll start at the beginning of my journey to my new homeland, California, which this blog series is all about.

It takes a lot to remember back forty-five years ago, but I’ll try. It’s very important that I do remember for the sake of finding out why my spirit and soul is telling me to go back.

I’m thinking this is a sign of old age. Never in all my life have I wanted to accomplish things so strongly. Passing fancies was all it was during my youth; unbridled obsessions are what they are today. I just go with the flow.

Around the time that my mother announced I was to have a new step-father, she also announced we were moving. Double whammy. Actually, triple whammy, as I was about to leave someone very dear to me, my grandmother, who was to stay behind on the Eastern Shore of Virginia.

The Eastern Shore of Virginia is a peninsula surrounded on both sides by huge bodies of water. To the left, if looking at it on a map, is the Chesapeake Bay and to the right, the Atlantic Ocean.

While it was the poorest section of Virginia, it was rich in any kind of water sports you could imagine. I never really saw much of the water sports as a child and that is probably why to this day I can’t swim. I’m not sure why this was; perhaps, everyone was too busy or I have forgotten the reason.

However, we did eat great things coming out of the water—drum, flounder and the famous Chesapeake Blue Crab. Actually, I never ate the crabs, but many people did and thought they were a delicacy. We ate things mainly that friends or relatives gave us and there was many a time they would show up with fresh fish that my mother or grandmother cleaned and fried up fresh.

For entertainment, I played with the neighbor’s children next door. One of our favorite games was putting a penny on the railroad track that ran near our back door to see it flatten. They were supposed to be good luck charms and we’d carry them around forever. Or, at least, until we lost them.

I do remember playing with my dolls in the backyard while my mother and aunts, Caroline and Junie, suntanned. Oh, how glamorous they looked, I thought, and I couldn’t wait until I filled out and could have all the boys in the neighborhood staring at me, too.

Junie was only twelve years older than I, and I loved to go up to her bedroom and listen to her play her Elvis and Chubby Checker records on her Victrola. A Victrola—if I have it spelled right (seems the spell-check is having a fit)—was a record player. I’m not sure why it was even called that.

I do remember a tree swing out in the front yard. I loved to jump in it and watch the traffic as it zoomed by on Main Street which went right by our front door.

My grandfather made it for me, as he made it no secret that I was the apple of his eye.

When I was four, my grandfather had an accident. I was running through the house as children are apt to do and scuffled up a rug that was in the middle of the floor. He walked through the room, slipped, and died of a coronary.

I remember my aunts and mother taking me into the kitchen and giving me some new toys I’d never seen (as it was the first week of December, I figured it to be early Christmas gifts) to distract me.

I remember even thinking then that I killed my grandfather. I never got over it. My grandmother, mother and aunts, all reassured me that it was just his time to go.

After my grandfather died, my grandmother was never the same. I guess she also worried about how the bills were going to be paid as she had three almost-grown daughters and a grandchild to take care of, so she moved briefly to Norfolk, Virginia, to study nursing, and we went with her.

Memories of this are vague, but it was during this time when my mother announced I was to have a new step-daddy.

I never had a daddy, much less a step-daddy, and being as my beloved grandfather had passed away, I remember feeling elated. Now I would be like all the other kids and have a daddy, too.

My grandmother got her LPN certificate and moved back to the Eastern Shore and into the same house we all left. This house was actually my grand-grand-parents house. It had a tin roof and lots of space to run and hide in. It was haunted, though, and I found myself sleeping in between my grandmother and grandfather when he was still alive, A LOT.

My sister had come along just before this new step-daddy entered the picture, but the baby wasn’t his. Actually, no one knew whose it was as my mother kept it a tight secret.

However, I do remember someone in my past that could have been her father. In Norfolk. I don’t even know why I know this, but I do. Funny the things you think you have forgotten comes back to you in spurts.

After my mother married my new step-father, she announced we were moving. Again. To a state far, far away and the name of it was California. She said this is where the movie stars lived.

Although I was just seven, I knew all about movie stars. They were the people on the black-and-white TV that sat in the living room with the tin foil-covered rabbit ears.

Although it sounded like fun, I had reservations about leaving my grandmother. I’m not even sure why she didn’t go with us. Perhaps my aunt, Junie, was still in school.

But, my other aunt, Caroline (who I called Sissy), did go with us.

On the day that we were to leave, everyone was crying and carrying about. My new step-father, who I was instructed to call Daddy, was trying to hurry us and I didn’t want to let go of my grandmother, no matter how much in a hurry he was.

I wish I could remember what kind of car it was. The one aunt that did go with us died three years ago, but, Junie, the aunt that is still living (my mother has passed, also) might be able to remember.

I’m also not sure what time of year it was except it wasn’t cold out. I’m thinking late summer, but I’ll have to get up with my aunt about that.

So, this gives you a little background on what was going on in my life prior to leaving for California. I was seven and my sister, Vee, was only three. Very young, but I do recollect quite a few memories as I will post in upcoming blog posts.