The Novel: New Year, New Project

I didn’t choose a New Year’s resolution, but a resolution chose me. I’m coauthoring a YA novel. This is an unexpected turn brought about in part by reading No Country for Old Men and by a personal and highly controversial project Ironman was working on. No, none of that is supposed to make sense to you. Perhaps I’ll explain someday if this novel is successful and I end up on a book tour.

To get in the right head space for writing for this audience, I spent some time looking back through my senior yearbook. I’m not in the yearbook as much as I was in previous years because I only went to school a half day that year. I was all about making money at my awesome Burger King job, hanging out with my college-age friends, and being done with Alden once and for all. But, I still had friends in school and they left some entertaining and often cryptic messages on the pages of that yearbook. Continue reading →

Life of a Rabbit, Revisited

On a very special day in second grade, an unexpected visitor came to our classroom and told us about his farm and the undoubtedly adorable little white rabbits he had for sale. I had to have one. After a serious discussion, which I barely comprehended, about the responsibility of owning a pet, my dad drove me to the farm that weekend. The rabbits were darling. I selected the whitest of white rabbits with the pinkest of pink noses and named him Snowball. It seemed the best possible name for such a rabbit.

Working side-by-side, my dad and I built a little hutch for Snowball that leaned up against the east side of the garage, protected from the wind and other horrors of the Buffalo, New York climate. The thought of my little rabbit living outside all alone saddened me. We also bought a harness and leash for him so he and I could hop and frolic together all over our lawn. Having a little creature all my own thrilled me. We also, foolishly, built a play area for Snowball out of chicken wire so he would have more room to kick out his bunny legs untethered to my overexcited eight-year-old self. I thought my bunny must be so excited about his new life. Continue reading →

Say What? Edition 5: What Not To Say

Don’t say donzerlyThe Christmas season, which thankfully is over, always reminds me of my first neologism. While I never flubbed these lyrics from what is probably the most sung song in the country, I did spend a good portion of my childhood wondering what wilkenspire was, as in “Later on wilkenspire. As we dream by the fire.”


Don’t say in order to.  Or should you? In my day job, I often have to decide whether to use “to” or “in order to.” The more succinct version generally suffices, but I sometimes opt for the longer because somehow it seems to provide clarity, though I could never articulate exactly why or how. Then I stumbled across this on the Write the Docs Slack.

I need John to answer the question. (He has to do it. No one else can.)
I need John in order to answer the question. (I need something from him so that I can answer the question myself.)

Ah, sweet relief. Continue reading →

The End of Year Book Report (#3)

July through December 2017


Title: Four Seasons in Rome

Author: Anthony Doerr

Date Finished: 7/23

Finished: Yes

Format: Hard cover

Ranking Out of 10: 9

Notes: Ah, so beautiful. Every sentence of this book was lovely.  It’s a memoir of the author’s year in Rome while writing a novel, just after his wife gave birth to twins. I am not at all interested in children or parenting, yet even though the children are featured prominently in this story, I loved it and felt I could relate. That’s how well it was written. I was immersed in he and his wife’s experiences as foreigners trying to make Italy their home. And Doerr’s use of words made me pause many, many times to consider my own feelings or form elaborate mental images of what he was seeing.



Title: Hillbilly Elegy

Author: JD Vance

Date Finished: 7/25

Finished: Yes

Format: Audio

Ranking Out of 10: 8

Notes: This was worth the wait in the library queue. This book is a unique look at the experiences of someone growing up poor in America, someone who should have been a failure and made nothing of himself. What makes it unique are the takeaways, what the author attributes to his ultimate success in life. So many decisions, big and small, combined with circumstance. His honest yet non-judgmental look at everyone around him is refreshing and valuable too. It’s a good sociological exploration of Appalachia written in a relatable and ingestible way.

Continue reading →

Sanctuary 2.0: It’s Never Too Late

I could have called this post Christmas miracles, but that would be hyperbolic and hokey. I mean, it’s not like I found a Daisy Red Ryder BB Gun under my non-existent Christmas tree this morning. However, two unexpected events at the Little House on the Prairie have really made this month even lovelier than planned.

You can teach an old dog new tricks. (Unknown, modified)

Trotsky Bear—my jealous, protective, and vicious beast—has been spending a lot of time with another dog lately and hasn’t mauled him yet. In fact, they play together. Play! Trotsky doesn’t play with other dogs. At the off-leash park, he prefers to spend his time sniffing around the perimeter, and if another dog invades his space for more than 20 seconds, Trotsky usually starts to growl. But he and Stuff are almost buds. They stay in separate rooms most of the time, thanks to a chair-icade we’ve constructed, but walk together twice a day and enjoying chasing each other around and tumbling on the ground. At least once a day, they lounge several feet from each other, but only when Stuff is firmly rooted to the sofa, behind protective human arms and legs, just in case. A massive cuddle pile on the bed together will likely prove too much too soon for this visit, but there’s hope for a lasting doggie friendship here.   Continue reading →

You Are Who You Are

I didn’t make any resolutions for 2017 (other than my Year of Austerity project, which I’d say was about 85 percent successful and has already been extended into year two) but the one goal that is always in the back of my mind is to write more and potentially make something of myself as a creative writer someday. Like tens of thousands of other wannabe writers out there, I have a gut feeling that I could be a very successful writer, but I’m not putting in the effort required to make that happen. However, over the last few years, I have been increasing the amount of writing I do, and 2017 turned out to be a quite prolific year. Here are my writing accomplishments that I feel proud of. Continue reading →

Flash Fiction: Danielle (Version 2)

Danielle dabbed her nose with the powder puff one last time and then stared at herself in the mirror. Every stroke of cosmetic and wisp of hair was expertly applied or fixed, thanks to many hours of practice and guidance from the pleasant accent of Laurraine, the former French model turned YouTube guru. A dark brown mascara lengthened her lashes, clump free. A light pink blush gave her whole face a healthy glow. A modest shade of lipstick made her thin lips stand out just the appropriate amount for an office environment, although if she wanted them to stay that way she would have to be more attentive to her habit of licking them. Her hair was pulled back into a ponytail, as it always was, except today it was higher up, on the crown of her head, and a small section was wrapped around the elastic to hide it and give the look a professional polish. She wore a sweater dress with a turtle neck, a fashion choice with a practical purpose.

That was it. She glanced at the clock. Right on time for the final preparation. She spun to the side and leaned down to take the suede heels out from beneath her vanity. They weren’t new – they were hand-me-downs from another internet mentor, Erica, who Danielle had met in a chat room and connected with immediately. Danielle had been practicing for the last few months with a pair of pumps she had bought from a thrift store, the only place she felt comfortable making such a purchase, but when the timeless soft, camel-brown heels arrived unexpectedly in the mail last week, she knew she couldn’t wear anything else for her first day. Those shoes were experienced at guiding women through this major life change. They had been a gift to Erica from her mentor, and now Erica was passing them on to her. Danielle believed that Erica had her new life all figured out. She had gone through the same fears and derision, both from those who couldn’t, or wouldn’t, understand and from self-inflicted means. She had come out on top, happy, as Danielle believed she would be from this day forward.  Continue reading →

Flash Fiction: Danielle (Version 1)

Danielle dabbed her nose with the powder puff one last time and then stared at herself in the mirror. Everything was just as she had practiced one hundred times in the safety of her own bathroom, with extensive guidance from Miss Julie Rocket on YouTube. Her mascara doubled her lashes, without clumps. Her blush and highlighter made the apples of her cheeks shiny and bright and bubbly, even when her perfectly lined and glossed lips were not stretched into a full and genuine smile, though she expected they would be this whole night, despite her nerves. Her hair rose almost a foot off the crown of her head in a beehive any 1950s housewife would be envious of, and was anchored by an entire packet’s worth of bobby pins. A scarf printed with little anchors was prettily tied around her neck, a display of false modesty with a more practical purpose.

That was it. She was ready for her moment, except for one last thing. She swiveled her knees to the side of her chair and leaned down to take the clear lucite platform heels out from beneath the vanity. They weren’t new; they were hand-me-downs from Susabelle, who had been a mentor to Danielle during these last few months. Danielle had practiced at home with a different pair, but for her debut, she needed to wear these. These heels were experienced, not only on the stage but also in guiding the wearer through such an important transformation. Susabelle was such a professional that it was impossible to believe she had ever been anyone else, but she had, just like Danielle. She had gone through the same fears and the same derision, both self-inflicted and from those who couldn’t, or wouldn’t, understand. But she had emerged from those initial dark months beautiful, successful, and happy, as Danielle believed she would be from this night forward.    Continue reading →

Brother Knows Best

Or at least my brother may have a better memory for the geographical history of our family vacations than I do. When I went to Idaho over the July 4th holiday, I believed that I had stepped foot into the one state I had never been to. But that might not have been true. While I was in Kansas last week for Thanksgiving, my brother and I were discussing the places we had been to in the Kansas City area as children…which according to him, were none. I distinctly remember being in Missouri and visiting the Jesse James house, but my brother says that never happened. According to him, we visited a bank in Minnesota that James had robbed.

Then I thought about it some more and realized yes, it’s quite possible that I never did make it to the Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, and Arkansas quartet. Well, shoot. But if that’s true, at least Kansas and Missouri are now knocked off the list for real.

And I mean, I’ve really done Kansas. All the way from the border with Colorado 424 miles across I-70 to Kansas City and back. I left the Wednesday before Thanksgiving and took two days for the eastbound trip. My plan was to stop and see all the kitsch sites along the way, because there are many: a giant Van Gogh painting, truckhenge, world’s largest collection of the smallest versions of the largest things…need I go on? A collection of Americana perfect for the ultimate Heartland road trip. Continue reading →