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I might be a Scandal fan . . . or maybe not.

Okay friends – I’ve been writing non-stop forever so I don’t want to talk about writing. Let’s talk about TV instead.

I am a TV snob. I admit it. I watched every episode of all ten years

Photo courtesy of ABC

Photo courtesy of ABC

of Buffy the Vampire Slayer (oh – the genius of Whedon) and gave up TV for an entire year after it went off because nothing was good enough – I kid you not.

I give a show three episodes to grab me or they lose me forever. And if you piss me off with a stupid move in Season 7 (like say . . . Bones?)

***beginning of rant****

I mean really? I stay with you through 6 seasons of “will they/won’t they” . . . I CRY with Boothe when Bones says she can’t love him on the 100th episode . . . and you fast forward over the summer and rob me of all the pleasure of seeing them get together and drop right into a full-blown relationship with a baby on the way? Bones . . . you are dead to me . . .

****end of rant****

So, I am am not an easy TV viewer to woo.

I recently watched the first season of Scandal on Netflix and I thought it had some really great parts. Olivia Pope is an amazing female character – strong but flawed- and the cast of characters (her Gladiators) are all damaged people with hidden pasts. And Tony Goldwyn . . . I have loved him since he played the villain in “Ghost”.

I LOVE the fact that the main couple is interracial. It’s. About. Time.

The political intrigue of the show doesn’t appeal at all. I live near DC and politics are tedious and not my idea of entertainment but I do love the twists and turns. I kept watching past episode three but I have to admit that my mind was wandering and I was resisting the urge to fast forward during episodes 6 & 7.

So, right now I’ve tagged Season Two for placement in my queue and I’m going to give it three more episodes.

So die-hard Gladiators – tell me why you think I should keep watching?


Robin Mermaid

Kicking off the Most Wonderful Time of the Year-Mermaid Style!

Life has been a little hectic for me lately. Back-to-back book deadlines and edits and promo and . . . well, I was little burnt out. So, the Main Man and I decided to shake things up this Thanksgiving and forego the larger family gatherings and opt for a smaller, vacation with the kiddos. The destination?  No brainer!

New York City!!!

You see, we had promised Little Man and Lulu a trip this summer but . . .you know the summer gets away from you. We never went and the kids were disappointed. So, three weeks before Turkey Day we started making plans and it all came together just perfectly.

We treated the kids to their first train ride and took it straight into Penn Station. They were beyond excited and we only had one minor hiccup while waiting for a taxi to the hotel – the Hustler Club van went by with a HUGE ad with some chicks fake double-D’s on it and  . . . well, you can imagine the questions.  The Main Man got to handle that one. ; )

While there we were total tourists. We went to the Central Park Zoo and climbed the big boulders all around the lawns and splurged on a carriage ride.  We watched the parade and had Thanksgiving dinner at Rockefeller Center.




No trip to NYC is complete without taking in a show or two.  We went to see Mary Poppins and the Rockettes. Both were spectacular -shocker- and the kids eyes were bugging out the whole time.  When Mary Poppins “flew” across the theater and ended up right in front of Lulu, I thought she was going to come out of her seat with excitement.









And, none of you who know me will be surprised that I was in the city less than hour and I ran right into the Naked Cowboy. Yep, a city of all those people and I find the hot guy dancing in his tighty-whities. He’s done pretty well for a guy who prances around in his undies. He’s a franchise now and has a “cast” of Naked Cowboys and if you want him to marry you in Times Square – he can do it!  $400 and you can be joined forever with your sweetie by the Reverend Naked Cowboy . . . seriously, I couldn’t make this stuff up.

We had a blast and the whole time my Plotmonkeys were running around my head with ideas.  I jotted down tons of notes and took lots of pics for future reference.

Good times.

The city was dressed for Christmas and it put me in the mood for my fave season. Are you in the spirit yet? How are you ringing in the Holiday season?


Hurricane Irene–Foe or Friend

Many of us are on the alert today about the incoming Hurricane Irene along the east coast of the United States.  She looks like she can be a doozie so please, heed all warnings posted by the authorities in your area, keep track of the weather stations and The Weather Channel and stay safe.  I need all my friends out there for inspiration, motivation and just to be there–always!

Here are a few things you will want to be aware of if you aren’t already prepared:

  • Water, non-perishable foods, batteries for flashlights/radio, candles, matches/lighters too.
  • A full tank of gas in your vehicle (no electricity–no gas pumps) same with ATM’s–get cash out now.
  • Pets–make sure you have 3 days supply of food/water, any meds–baggies for dogs/litter and litter box for cat, carriers and leashes, tags and papers for shots/etc.
  • Have a copy of your homeowners/renters insurance for possible damage after storm.
  • Also, have your safe/family documents in a safe place.
  • Don’t forget to stow/tie down items in your yard that could cause a hazard in high winds.
  • Writers–don’t forget to back up all of your files of your WIP’s and important research files to something portable.  Keep it on you if possible or in a safe place.
  • Remember during emergency situations–try to stay off your phones as lines (even cell lines) will get bogged down.  Use only for emergencies or make the calls quick (just to let family know you are okay).
  • Oh, and just for the heck of it (or the need) don’t forget the box of chocolates–the good kind you’ve been craving but didn’t think you needed them–this is the time for them. 🙂

If I’ve forgotten anything, please feel free to post as a comment. But these are the ‘foe’ issues I associate with the incoming storm.

Now for the ‘friendly’ issues–if you can see them as such:

Hurricane Irene gives us the potential to take a breath from our harried days perhaps.  For some at least, unless you are emergency responders and to you–I give you all the love in the world–you are the true heroes!  But if we can step back and look at this situation in a different light–it may just be kind of neat:

  • No electricity?  Candle light time.  Get out the family board games, a few non-perishable snack items and sit around the dining room table and have some quality family time.
  • Been wanting to get to your ‘to read pile’?  What better time?  No electricity–hold up at home–snuggle under a blanket and start the next one in the pile.
  • No computer?  Get out the old spiral notebook–start that next best seller.  You have the ‘dark and stormy night’ already to go. 🙂
  • Sit and catch up on quality time.  Find out how DH has been doing lately.  (Rekindle the flame that the hustle and bustle of keeping up with technology and time has taken you away from.)  Re-connect with your kids–what better time to stop for a cuddle and make memories they will be able to tell their kids.

What are some of your ideas to do during a “dark and stormy night”?

Stay safe and hugs to all !


If Voice Found, Please Return to Rightful Owner

Here, voicey  voicey.  Come out, come out wherever you are.  Dang blast it.  I’ve lost it again.  My dratted voice.  Not the one I use to issue dictates to errant children, ultimatums to disobedient husbands or false sincerity to overbearing bosses.  Definitely not that one.  The voice I lost, or maybe never had at all, is that mellifluous fingerprint-like identification of that quality only the best writers can convey.  It’s like a lineup or a taste test.  If I had a slew of books, covers, bios and dedications ripped away, with only my eyes as the guideposts, I can tell you which writer wrote which book.  You know exactly what I’m talking about.  It’s that voice, takes you by the lapels and yanks you into whatever or wherever it wishes you to go.  That’s the voice I’m looking for.. and the one I still can’t find.

That’s not to say I don’t hear voices.  Oh, believe me, I do.  My voice hearing ability can rival all the faces of Eve.   The problem is, as I struggle to find my voice, all the other ones drown it out.  My voice finding process goes something like this: 

10:30 pm.  I’m at the computer, trying to find my voice, when I hear another one,  “Mama, I want you to buy me these shoes when I get to be your age.. you know, when I’m 68.”  How nice, I’ve aged over three decades in under a minute.  The 4-year-old owner of that voice shows me a pair of 5-inch platforms I once bought for a Halloween party and shoved to the back of the closet.  How did she ever find them?  I assure her that of course, I will buy them for her, while silently mouthing over my dead body.  She happily totters off to bed..  for the 14thtime that night.   I close my eyes and try to feel the characters, whose emotions I’m trying to convey on a page.  Is the message coming through?  Do I even know what I want to get across?  As I try to answer those questions, I hear another voice, “Aaaaaiiiiiiiwwwaaaaa… babababababababab…  phluuuuuuuuu.”  I look at the video monitor and see the 8-month-old trying to tear apart his bed.  For the past few months, it appears he has been finding his voice too, although it sounds more like a mating call since all the neighborhood cats congregate under his window.  He’s not crying so I still sit at my computer.   Now I’m just trying to remember what I was even thinking about before.  I look back at the monitor and see he’s trying to eat the blanket with his one shiny new tooth. 

6:43 am

I’m on the Metro, paper and pencil in hand.  I have 23 minutes to find my voice before I enter the “corporate world.”  I close my eyes, in hopes of hearing it, that stupid, annoying, all important voice I’m trying to find.  Instead, an unfamiliar voice blasts through the intercom:  “The next stop is Dupont Circle.  The train will be moving shortly.  Sorry for the inconvenience, especially for the one car that has no air conditioning.”  Now I don’t even remember what it was I was thinking about.

11:45 am

I’m in my office.  The meeting is done, another brilliant use of my time (and everyone else’s).  I open up my notebook and stare at whatever it was I wrote last.  Suddenly, an inspiration strikes me, I begin to write.  The words are a melody flowing from my head.  A few sentences and I can barely keep up with my thoughts.  I feel my blood pumping, I’m exhilarated.. and then I hear it.. “Um, I wanted to talk about the meeting.  Do you have a few minutes?”  I placate my boss and just as I sit down, a gaggle of co-workers come in and we commence discussions about.. you guessed it, the meeting.

And so it goes on, and on.  Somewhere in the midst of bathroom breaks, I take a moment to think about my writing.  What works (very little), what doesn’t (almost everything).  I think about my favorite writers and try to reconstruct what quality their writing possesses that makes me want to beg for an introduction.  And amidst it all, I hear the silent but deafening voices in my own head.

 “C’mon fat ass, the Stairmaster won’t climb itself.  I need to call my cousin.  Did I remember to brush my hair?  The presentation isn’t done yet.  I need to write that dreaded synopsis.  Am I happy?  Where are my daughter’s ballet shoes?  I have to buy my mom a card.  You’re an illiterate foreigner, stop trying to pretend to be a writer.”

On the way back home, I sit in what seems like the same non air conditioned Metro car, thinking about how little I was able to accomplish.  Most importantly, I still couldn’t find my voice.  The thought is very depressing.  Right now, finding my voice is all consuming.

I get back and home and the cycle starts all over.  I hear the kids, “Mama, mama, mama… bllaaaaaa….aaaiiiii… wwwhhhhaaaaaa.”  I hear my husband, “… and then we have to prune the tree.  I went to Target and bought more formula.  Let me tell you about my day at work…”   I don’t tune out.  I’ve learned to listen as the kids are getting fed, I’m cleaning up the kitchen and trying to herd the cattle for the bedtime/bathtime route.  As he passes me in the hallway upstairs, he gives me a lopsided smile and I hear his voice in my ear, “Maybe after the kids are asleep…” his voice trails off and somehow, despite all the voices, my heart skips a beat.

 All around me, it’s quieter now.  And then I start to hear them.  Not my voice, but the voice of the characters.  They want to be let out.  I walk up the darkened stairs and they are louder, more demanding.  I make it to the landing and I can really hear them, juxtaposed against the silence of the house.  There’s still an hour before midnight, if I write for just a bit, I can still get six hours of sleep, provided the kids don’t wake in the middle of the night.  I stand in the darkened hallway, the voices are calling me to write.  I look toward the bedroom and see a sliver of light underneath the door.  I turn to look at the computer room and it is dark.  I shift my head from side to side.  The voices inside my head are now screaming, begging to let them out.  I almost turn toward the computer room and then an image pops into my head.  I see my husband as he walks into my hospital room, his eyes are red but dry.  I’m still groggy from the anesthesia but he sits at my head and smoothes my hair.  He rests his forehead on mine and I feel something wet hit my cheek.  “I promise you,” he whispers, “this is the last baby we send up to the Heavens.”  I snap back to our darkened hallway.  The voices are still ringing in my ears.  I take one last look toward the computer room and with wistful smile head toward the bedroom.   If I do have a voice, it will still be there in the morning.

At Least I Have Choices

Choice is a concept that is scary and liberating all at the same time. I find, as I sit to write another manuscript, I am sometimes frozen by having choices. The choice to use whatever word I want, to depict whatever emotion I wish, to whatever characters I create. But choice also gives way to fear: what if I use the wrong word, the wrong description, the wrong simile? This conundrum of choice reminded me of my decision to pursue another Masters degree, this time in something other than finance or economics. This was my essay that helped garner an admission and I find it more relevant than ever, now that I have forced myself to sit down at yet another book.

I knew if I focused my gaze on the greasy Kalashnikov slung across his back, I could disassociate myself from the rough hands that were fumbling my threadbare coat. The solider who was rifling through my pockets was looking for money, gold, diamonds or whatever other treasures he was instructed to unearth. Unable to find anything of value, he grunted and pushed me away from him and toward the turnstiles. Using as much force as my seven-year-old body contained, I shoved past the metal gates and ran as fast as I could toward my parents. With a sigh of relief, they grabbed my hands and we quickly headed toward the waiting staircase. As we sat on the tarmac, I knew what my parents were thinking. Finally, we had done it. We had crossed the Iron Curtain.

The first seven years of my life were spent living in a “A Room and a Half.” My room, my parents’ room, the living room and the dining room were all the same room. It’s no irony that the words “privacy” and “fun” have no direct Russian translation. My memories of life in Communist Russia are an intricate patchwork of fear, nostalgia, paranoia, oppressiveness, entrapment and constant longing. The longing was like a grumbling stomach that quietly but incessantly begs for food. Technically, we had almost enough to survive: enough potatoes, enough cabbage. But somehow, it was never enough. The first word I learned in English was orange. Not the color, but the fruit. That’s because I had only read about the sticky nectar of that forbidden delicacy in books and longed to try it. It was only when we came to American, that for the first time, at the ripe old age of eight, I was lucky enough to taste a slice of heaven.

These days, few can imagine there was a point in my life, when I was bewildered by things such as Crayons, peanut butter, fitted sheets, shampoo, shorts, bananas, pizza and bowling. On the surface, other than somewhat Slavic looking features and a misspelled name, I’m as American as any of my colleagues. But my veneer of Americanism is very thin. Beneath the surface, I am still a myriad of fear and longing, so similar to the seven-year-old child I supposedly left behind. Like a mewling kitten trying in desperation to push through a closed door on a cold winter night, I am in constant longing to accomplish the next thing in life. It’s the combination of that longing and fear that contributed to my incessant hunger for accomplishment. Writing had always been a part of my life. I can’t live without it. But it was always done in secret. A furtive undertaking used as a tool to express all my pent up anguish that is in such contradiction to the serenity I portray on the surface.

So now what? Now, I am done. Literally. Although literally, I hope I am just beginning. The advanced degree has been earned, the “real” job is taking off and the children have been birthed. Now it is my turn. I spent many years trying to stifle my longing for writing. But like rising dough escaping from a bowl, the longing to write has once again begun a drumbeat in my ear. And now, it’s hard to ignore. Fear was always the cold water that suffused my longing to write. You’re not a writer. Your missives are a joke, are thoughts that would permeate my existence. After all, I am a product of my environment; Russia’s brilliant method of encouragement through belittling and degradation in order to inspire a fighting spirit. But maybe finally it has worked. I operate in an environment where it’s either or. I’m either talented or I am a worthless nobody. I am either as good as some of my favorite writers or I am a useless statistician, relegated to live in the underbelly of financial analysis. But maybe it doesn’t have to be so black and white. As I remember the greasy Kalashnikov on the back of that solider, I’m also struck with an inspirational thought. If I was lucky enough to escape from behind the Iron Curtain, maybe I am strong enough to break down whatever self-imposed curtains I created in my mind. After all, what’s the worst that can happen? At least I am still free.

Who Needs Best Friends?

Whether it’s in real life or found on the big screen or between the pages of a favorite book, we need best friends.

Anyone who’s been through either good or difficult times can appreciate the steadfast friend who remains at your side.

As a writer, I can’t imagine having a main character without the benefit of a best friend.  Sometimes they provide comic relief or that voice of reason.  Whether that best friend is quirky, serious or just sweetly loyal, I love best friends!  Love, love, love ‘em!

Where would Lucy be without her Ethel?  Probably not in as much trouble, but, come on, where’s the fun in that?  Can you even picture Fred Flinstone without Barney Rubble?  Or Spongebob without Patrick. 

There are, of course, the stories with best friends that have you reaching for your tissue box.  Beaches.  Bridge to Terabithia.  My Girl.  Fried Green Tomatoes.  Charlotte’s Web.  Those are the stories that make you want a best friend just like the one you read or saw—even though the outcome of that friendship may be about loss and pain and learning to go on without them. 

Mohammed Ali once said, “Friendship is the hardest thing in the world to explain.  It’s not something you learn in school.  But if you haven’t learned the meaning of friendship, you really haven’t learned anything.”  So, so true.  We usually do learn the important lessons from our friends because they’re the sounding board for our hair-brained ideas, and if we’re lucky, they’ll manage to talk us out of them!  From the crib to nursing home, we depend on our friends.  No pun intended on the Depends.  Well, now there is…

What does friendship mean to you?  As a person?  As a writer?  What are the qualities that a best friend has to have as a supporting character in a book?  For me, they have to have a strong sense of loyalty and acceptance.  You can tell a lot about people by their best friends.  In some ways, they help define us.  They help us to understand ourselves, and, sometimes to accept ourselves—faults and all. 

Many times best friends come together because they have so much in common.  Others join forces because they’re so different and can somehow, someway balance out each other’s weaknesses and complement their strengths. 

Writers are an amazing group of friends when they finally meet.  Who else can fully appreciate the need to talk to imaginary people?  Who else can understand the mad scramble for a pen and paper while driving because you just thought of an amazing idea?  Who else can sympathize with you as you hit a bump in the publishing road?  No one else gets why a rejection letter from a complete stranger can feel like someone close to you just broke your heart.

Within the past year, I was lucky enough to become part of several amazing groups of writers.  My Unsinkable Sisters (and one lone brother) from the 2010 Golden Heart Finalists.  My MargaRITA sisters, the YA finalists from that same group.  RWA and the smaller chapters—WRW and YARWA.  And, now, my very own Waterworld Mermaids, who recently joined forces as first-timers at our local conference. 

When you think of best friends in books, movies or real life, who comes to mind?  Who inspires you?  Oprah and Gayle?  Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer?  Laverne and Shirley?  And, when you write those secondary characters—best friends for your hero or heroine—what character traits do they have to have? 

I’ll end with an anonymous quote I once read:  “A friend is someone who knows the song in your heart and can sing it back to you when you have forgotten the words.”

So, when life kicks you in the butt or things don’t seem to be going your way, make sure you have the friend who will remind you not to forget your dreams and the songs in your heart.  Someone who will pick you up, dust you off, and then give you another swift kick in that same butt—but in a good way.