NEW ENGLAND SCBWI SPRING CONFERENCE 2014

Create Bravely: Make Your Mark

Part1

What an amazing experience!! I have so much to tell that I thought it best to break this blog into two parts.

I left my house at 5:30 a.m. Okay, that’s NOT the amazing part since I’m not really a get-up-at-the-crack-of-friggin-dawn kind of girl!

The conference began with a welcome from the conference organizer, Kristin Carlson Asselin, author of Any Way You Slice It. Thank you Kris!! You did an awesome job!

Kristin said, “You have to be brave to get through the process.” So true.www.kristineasselin.com

Then they picked names for a door prize drawing…And I won this book!!

IMG_0709

The first keynote speaker was Peter H. Reynolds, author of Dot and Ish. Both of these wonderful picture books are about encouragement.

Peter said, “We get magnificence from just a little encouragement.”

IMG_0673

Both books illustrate this message beautifully for children. He also spoke about what’s going on in our schools, how art is the first thing to get cut when budgets are decided.

“Get rid of tests that stifle creative teachers from teaching creatively. This age of testing keeps teachers from actually getting to know their students which would enable a teacher to teach more individually.” Totally agree Peter!!

Art and creative writing teaches our students to expand their minds. Teaching to the test teaches our students to limit themselves to learn just what they need to know for the test. Common Core assumes that we are all the same and should all learn the same thing at the same time. Not true. We are not the same. Even identical twins, who may look the same, have a different voice, different interests, different abilities. We are all wonderfully unique. And that’s all I have to say about that…for now.

My first workshop of the day was Perfecting Your Pitch with The Book Doctors, http://www.theBookDoctors.com, a.k.a. Arielle Eckstut & David Henry Sterry, authors of The Essential Guide to Getting Your Book Published.

IMG_0711

I LOVED these two! They were hilarious and super informative. They asked, “What is your book about? The answer is your pitch.” They explained how sometimes the only opportunity you get is to give an elevator pitch. An elevator pitch is over in a flash, the same amount of time that it would take an elevator to get from one floor to the next.

Then there’s the long pitch, which is funny because it’s over in under a minute, two hundred and fifty words. That’s it. The people that we are pitching to, read/hear pitches all day long; be ready at any time to give your pitch. And it better be badass. Practice it out loud. If it sounds stupid or confusing to you – you who wrote the book – imagine how it will sound to a stranger.

David said, “Back story does not belong in your pitch.” He also said, “Show don’t tell. Don’t tell me it’s funny, make me laugh. Don’t tell me it’s sad, make me cry.”

Then there was a discussion on finding comp titles. That’s where you find something already out on the shelves that’s similar to your books. “Find out who the author’s agent is and query them. BUT, don’t pick a book that’s too famous. Pick something that’s like your book, has done well, but not so commercially known. This shows you know the industry.”

Great advice!IMG_0682

 

My second workshop was a Writing Intensive on Character Development with Aubrey Poole, Associate Editor, Sourcebooks Jabberwocky and Fire. http://www.sourcebooks.com

IMG_0685

Aubrey talked about using an ISTP (Introverted Sensing Thinking Judging) for character development. This relates to characters that have introverted sensing with extraverted thinking. She spoke passionately about Sherlock Holmes as an example of this type of character. She REALLY likes Sherlock! Me to Aubrey!!

Aubrey also said, “Characters shouldn’t be the same at the end of a story as they were at the beginning. They have to go through change.” Some questions to ask yourself when you’re working on your plot:

What does your main character want?
What is the price he/she will pay for it?
How will he/she achieve this?
What will he/she sacrifice?

Verythought-provoking indeed.

The Crystal Kite Award was given to Jo Knowles for, See You At Harry’s.

IMG_0691

This woman’s speech made me cry. She was so gracious and genuinely touched to receive such an amazing award. She spoke about knowing what it’s like to be an unknown author, conference attendee. She encouraged those of us who have not been published yet to persevere and stick with the SCBWI. Congrats Jo! And thank you for the words of encouragement. I truly appreciate them!

My next workshop was, Write What You Don’t Know; A Workshop on Fleeing Your Comfort Zone with Kendra Levin, Senior Editor, Viking Children’s Books, http://www.KendraCoaching.com, and Julie Berry, @julieberrybooks, http://www.julieberrybooks.com, author of All The Truth That’s In Me. AMAZING book! This workshop was two hours of frickin’-awesomeness!!

IMG_0695

This very hands-on workshop is the second workshop of Kendra’s I’ve had the pleasure of attending and the first of Julie’s.

One of the exercises we did was to write a conversation between two of our character’s where the main character learns something they didn’t know. After that we described the secondary character; looks, personality, feelings. Then we did the same exercise but made all the characteristics of secondary character the complete opposite. My opposite secondary character was very dark and angry. I kinda liked him that way! LOL!

We talked about what we already know about our own comfort zone.
What POV do you prefer? What kind of voice do you like to use? What kind of stories do you write; contemporary, fantasy, horror, sci-fi. Julie said, “If you always write in first person ( I ) try to write in third person (he, she, it). Or try second person (you). Pushing your boundaries makes you a better writer.”

The next writing intensive we did was to show your character discovering their true calling. I LOVED this one! I got a whole scene out of it.

Some of the books they recommended were, Fiction Writer’s Workshop by Josip Novakovich, Creating Fiction by Julie Checkaway and The Art Of Fiction by John Gardner.

I would love to do another workshop with these two ladies!

Now after all that you would think the day would be done. NO!

The Industry Professional Panel on Publishing In and Out of New York featured:
Kathleen Rushall of Marsal Lyon Literary Agency, LLC.  http://www.marsallyonliteraryagency.com

Mandy Hubbard of D4EO http://www.d4eoliteraryagency.com
Emily Mitchell of Wernick & Pratt Agency  http://www.wernickpratt.com
Sara Crowe of Harvey Klinger, Inc.  http://www.harveyklinger.com

All of the agents agreed that you do not have to be in NY to get published. Here are some words of wisdom from the panel.

“The writing sells the book. Write a good book and you will get an agent interested in working with you.” Mandy Hubbard

“Don’t give up. Perseverance pays off.” Kathleen Rushall

“Having an agent will not solve all of your problems. You will still have a lot of work to do.” Emily Mitchell

“Just because one of us passes on your book doesn’t mean it won’t sell. It just means it wasn’t right for us.” Sara Crowe

Phew! It was a jammed packed day, that for me, ended with a hot fudge sundae in my room 😉 Some of my fellow writers attended the poetry slam and others went to the peer critiques that evening. Day 1 of the New England SCBWI was well worth every penny!

IMG_0697 2

Day 2 coming soon!!

Peace party people 🙂

Advertisements

Bullies. Mean Girls. Anger. Let it Go

Happy Hump-ish day! HA! Yeah, I probably can’t get away with that. I know I said Wednesday is my blog day, but believe me, you did NOT want to hear what I had to say on Wednesday. It would have been a lot of F-bombs and A-holes.  So… let’s dive right in. *adjusts bathing cap…3 steps…leap*

I was the victim of adult bullying Tuesday night. And ya know what? It still feels really bad.https://i1.wp.com/upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/d/d6/Taunting_0001.jpg

This is what happened. I needed to get my son to lacrosse. I needed to get him there on time because I got him there late on Saturday and he got yelled at even though it was my fault. I felt like shit. But I worked all day on Tuesday and I needed to go home to give the crazy dog his medicine so he could stop being so crazy and my mother-in-law is in re-hab for a knee replacement and I promised I would go to the library to get her Florence Henderson’s autobiography. Don’t judge. That’s what she likes to read. As a fiction writer it makes me a little nuts that she only reads about real stuff. Go figure.

Anyway. So I’m late. Again. I’ve got my son in the car giving me the worried eyes, the tension neck rub and the pained look. The look that says, “mom you’re screwing up again!” The look that kicks you right in the low belly and cuts you off at the knees. File:Anxiety.gif

I drive a little faster, not crazy fast, but a little faster. There is a big SUV in front of me going 5 miles below the speed limit. I’m checking my clock. Another two minutes ticks by. My son’s leg bobs up and down at warp speed. Panic tightens my chest painfully. I’m a little closer to the SUV than I normally would be. Everything in me is screaming, GET OUT OF MY WAY! No such luck. It takes every turn I need to take. Now my left leg is bobbing too.File:Nervous.gif

Oh, and as an added point of stress, I need to get my son to the field and get back to the house to take my daughter to an appointment, I’m just getting over the shingles so I’m not quite myself but still trying to do all the things myself needs to do, my mom is not well AND Ididn’t get picked for #PitchMadness.  So there’s that. *sigh*

The SUV is going to the same place I am but it takes the first turn into the parking lot. It pretty much comes to a stop as it’s making this turn. I look around it. No cars are coming. I go around and head into a different entrance. I park in a space and tell my son, RUN! Which he does. I’m catching my breath as I watch him get to his teammates when someone bangs their keys on my window so hard I duck because I thought the glass was going to shatter. I turn and the woman, who I happen to know, points a finger at me and yells, “I thought that was you.”

Now, because I know her, I roll down my window realizing she was the SUV in front of me, and start to say, “oh hey, I’m so sorry but-”

“You were right up my ass the whole way, Jeannie! What’s wrong with you? Right up my ass!!”

My mouth is stuck open in mid-sentence. She continues to walk away from me but mutters something, referencing a situation where her child was bullying my child, “It brings to mind bullying,” she spits out in a way that says she’s been waiting for the opportunity to say this to me. At first I don’t understand what the two things have to do with each other and then it dawns on me. They don’t have anything to do with each other. She’s got a problem with me because her child was bullying my child and was called into the principal. I had been backing out of my space. I pulled back in. Steam is shooting out of my head cartoon style. I’ve been known to have a bit of a hot temper. *family snickers in the back ground* My heritage is half Irish, half German, and, yeah, you get the picture.

File:Flag of Ireland and Germany.png

But I don’t get out screaming because I’m not thirteen any more and I’ve learned to contain it. Shaking yes. Screaming…not yet. I wait at her car. The muttering occurred as she was walking away from me, which, BTW, I friggin hate! If you have something to say, say it to my face so I have a chance to respond. Oh, and I’m gonna respond. You can bet your big fat left toe, I’m gonna respond. While I wait, I call my husband. Why? Because he’s my best friend and if anyone can calm me down, preferably before I get myself arrested, he can. And he does. He also confirms that there is a bigger problem going on.

While I’m on the phone with him, this woman goes over to two other women, who are now all staring at me because she’s got arms flailing and fingers pointing as she is talking to them. Grab your pitchforks and torches! Get her! Is what I hear in my head.

File:Angry mob of four.jpg

There’s arm crossing and head shaking and I feel like I’m back in high school. Ironically, I’m standing in the parking lot of MY high school. I continue to wait. There’s more pointing. Now there’s a cop she’s telling her tale of woe to, who is also looking at me and I’m thinking, oh just shoot me now and put me out of my misery. But he doesn’t come over so maybe he thinks she’s crazy too.

I text my daughter we are going to be late for our appointment because there is no way in hell I am leaving with out talking to this woman. She sees me waiting but continues to rile up her “gang”. At this point I don’t know if she’s trying to wait me out or if she’s on a power trip, but frig it, I’m emotionally all-in now, there’s no turning back.

Finally, she comes to her car, because, well she has to if she wants to leave. I approach her and say, “Hey, so and so, I’m sorry if you felt I was too close to you and if I made you uncomfortable.” While I’m saying this she’s shouting about how I was “right on her ass” and some other crap about being on some committee, and blah, blah. I cut in, “Well like I said, I’m sorry about that, but there’s obviously a bigger issue here since you brought up the bullying, which clearly refers to the bus incident. So if you have a problem with me, I’d like to talk about it.”

Her: “I have no problem. You were on MY ASS! This close to me!”*fingers in my face to indicate the fictitious distance I was from her bumper*…BARK BARK BARK BARK!” because that’s basically what it sounds like now. So I put my hands up in front of me and lean back in a, woe, back-it-down-a-notch-sweetheart motion, and say, “Did you not hear the first thing I said when I came over? That I was sorry?”

Her: “Yeah!”

Me: “But you’re still shouting.”

Her: “I’m not shouting. This is my normal voice!”File:Scream crosathorian.jpg

Me: My eyebrows take flight up to my hairline. “Really? cause it sounds like shouting to me. I mean, if you feel the need, go ahead, but my driving and bullying don’t have anything to do with each other so there’s obviously another problem here.”

Her: “I’m on the committee for the safe zone! And I’m working with the police. And you were right on my ass!”

I’m not sure what to say to the “right on my ass” comment anymore so I just say, “Ahh..okay.” My staying calm made her outburst look even more ridiculous.

Her: “I’m late, I have to go.” And she storms to her car.

Me: “Okay,” I say as she goes. Mind you I’m still facing her. “But if you have a problem with me or the situation that happened on the bus, I’m available to talk about it.”

I turn to go to my car and as she’s getting in her car she mutters a bunch of crap at the BACK of my head! UGH!! Motherfrickafrackasaskasass!!!

File:Gnome-face-angry.svg

Wednesday. I wish I could say the next day I was fine and WHAT EVER, with a big finger W, but I wasn’t. It really bothered me that she besmirched my reputation, to two women that I don’t know, and possibly a cop, and there was nothing I could do about it. I hated being pointed at and God-only-knows what was being said about me. It made me feel powerless. That feeling sucks. Really bad.

File:Lilyu - sad.svg

On any given day, I have a full time job four days a week, I have a second full time job as a writer, I am me, I’m a wife, a mother, a daughter, a sister, a friend, a teacher, a cook, a housekeeper, a crazy-dog tamer because I’m the only one the little bastard doesn’t bite, the laundry chick and the list goes on and on. But hey, everyone is busy, that’s just life, it’s not an excuse. I’m not asking for special treatment but a little empathy would be great. And it’s not like I’m a constant screw up. For the most part I run a tight ship, even as I’m tap dancing a hundred miles an hour. But, admittedly, I am the occasional screw up.

Not gonna lie, when I began to write this blog in my head I planned to M-F that woman all over the page. But in the same way that I wanted her to think about what might be going on with me, stand in my shoes for a moment, I started to think what might be going on with her. Maybe her day sucked so bad that she was just looking for someplace to unload her emotions and I happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. Or maybe she’s just one of those holier-than-thou mean girls. I really don’t know. But what I do know is that being mad at her was friggin’ up my mojo. I don’t have time for that (see list above).  I don’t have time for high school nonsense or mean girls.

Forgive and forget? Come on now, I’m not a saint. And did I mention the hot temper? But letting it go for my own good? Yeah, I can definitely do that.

What bag a crap are you hangin’ onto that’s messin’ up your mojo?

PEACE. Keep it and keep your mojo in tact!

images http://commons.wikimedia.org/

SCBWI 2014 NYC Conference… Oh Yeah!

Hello my friends! Last weekend I went to SCBWI 2014 conference, a first for me. It promised to be a spectacular weekend and – hot damn – it totally lived up to my expectations! My journey…

IMG_0435

I started the weekend in one of my favorite t-shirts, which, if you can believe it, caused me some trouble.  My dear friend and roomy for the weekend, Kimberly Sabatini, YA author of  Touching The Surface, @KimSabatini, and I got down to the City Friday night and after three tries we finally got a room with two beds! I’m not sure why they were trying to get Kim and I to sleep together, but we weren’t havin’ it!

IMG_0420

We met a bunch of Kim’s friends, all awesome people, that I now get to call my friends too, Score! I ate a twenty dollar burger and had a fourteen dollar glass of wine. I know, right! But hey, it’s NYC, and I saved up for this event.  After a few hours of getting to know everyone it was time to call it a night. This is where the t-shirt comes in. We’re on our way to the elevators, chattin’ like girls do, when this guy shoulders checks me off my feet into a column! Totally not kidding. So I yell, “Woe, buddy!” Not gonna lie, I would normally have yelled some other things, but I didn’t want to give the wrong impression to my new friends. Well, this guy was drunk off his arse.  The dialog from here went like this:

“Fuckin’ woe yourself honey!” Girlfriend drags drunk by the hand. I stand with mouth hanging open and respond, “What is  wrong with you?”

Now, trying to question a drunk is like trying to wrestle a pig. It just gets ugly.

“Fuck you!” Hand gestures went with this riveting bit. “What’s wrong with you? I’ll fuck you up!” Yeah, he was proficient in his use of the “F”word. Right there in the Hyatt. I mean it’s not like we were in a HoJo. Anyway, I had to respond, I just couldn’t help it.   “Really dude? You’re gonna throw down with a girl? Really?”

“That’s right! I’ll throw down with a girl. Come on. Right now. Bring it!” Girlfriend is still dragging fool…it’s a big lobby. I shook my head in disbelief to which another round of “F”words came. And here’s the part where the shirt comes in…”Fuck you. Go back to fuckin’ England!”

Now, although I love England, I’m from Connecticut. You may have heard of it. It’s a state here in the USA…ASSHOLE.

Then the conference begins!  This is Tomie dePaola and Lin Oliver signing their book, Little Poems for Tiny Ears for me. Lin was kinda runnin’ things up on stage along with Stephen Mooser, who I don’t have a picture of 😦 IMG_0434

The first keynote speaker was author Jack Gantos…LOVE him!  IMG_0423 This is him signing his book for me, Dead End In Norvelt. He was hilariously entertaining. One of the things he said was, “To be a great writer, you have to be a great reader.” He also said, “Whatever you write, not everyone will share the same experiences but we all share the same emotions. You have to reach people on an emotional level with the characters you write about. People have to care about what happens to them. At the end of the story you have to solve the problem and bring in empathy.” Did I mention I love him? Onward to:

A panel on the future of authorship.

Abbi Glines, author, got turned down fifty-five times. She self-published five books before she got an agent. She attributes social media to her success, and she is super successful! (and very sweet)

Jean Feiwel, SVP Publishing Director Macmillan Children’s Books, said, “Distopian and Paranormal genres are NOT waning.”  I was super excited to hear that, since one of my manuscripts is a Contemporary Paranormal!

Paul Aiken, Executive Director, The Author’s Guild, said “Be really careful when you’re paying for editing. Look for proof that the editor has succeeded at it.” He also said, “We’ve lost 60-70% of shelf space for books. The opportunity is still there, but we have to adapt.” He was speaking of ebooks and other electronic avenues.

After that I was off to my breakout workshop; “Getting and Working With an Agent” led by Dan Lazar, Agent Writers House.

IMG_0387

That’s me and Dan. Okay, so I look a little stiff, but I didn’t want to go grabbin’ Dan, all creepy-stranger-like! I just met the guy five seconds before the photo. Dan had the whole room laughing, it was a ball! He spoke about the query letter, one page, written in the writer’s voice, not the voice of the main character. He also named a few pet peeves:

Do not address: To whom it may concern. Agents are real people.

Be specific, not vague.

There is no “fiction novel”, just novel.

Then he read a really funny query letter which made him ask the author to send the manuscript. Now, the funny part is that the letter used a few F-bombs. I thought an older woman sitting in front of me was going to have a heart attack and I can only imagine how many queries Dan has gotten this week peppered with the “F” word! I will not stoop to such fucking levels when I submit to him.

My afternoon breakout workshop; Writing Paranormal, Sci Fi and Thrillers, was with Kate Sullivan, Editor, Little, Brown Books.

IMG_0389

Kate said that Genre Fiction is all about strong pacing and tension. She also echoed what Jack Gantos said, “The reader has to identify with your characters.” She went over world building, languages of your characters, and NOT dumping large sections of information in dialog. Kate was very cool and knew her stuff. I also just read she’s going to be at the New England SCBWI coming up in May for anyone who didn’t get a chance to hear her.

The afternoon keynote speakers were Elizabeth Wein, author, on Authorial Responsibility. She spoke about taking responsibility for your own actions and conducting yourself with grace.

Then one of my favorite talks; Banning Books: Where Do We Stand?IMG_0408

An amazing panel, Joan Bertin, Exec. Director, National Coalation against Censorship; Ellen Hopkins, Author, Susanna Reich, Chair, Children’s and Young Adult Book Committee, Pen American Center. These ladies were fab-u-lous! This is my opinion, and I guess I stand in good company with these women, banning books is WRONG! Books, like the ones Ellen Hopkins writes, deal with tough contemporary issues. Not every kid has a fairytale life. She writes about addiction and abuse. I wish we didn’t need books like these, but we do. There are kids suffering in situations and it’s good for them to see they are not alone and there is a way out. As a writer, a parent, and a teacher, I feel that books with strong topics gives us a chance to open up a dialog about tough issues with young people. Ignorance does not equal innocence. We can only learn by what we know. We can only teach by what we can show. And words, even unpleasant ones, paint that picture in which to teach from.

Me and Ellen Hopkins. I admire her so much!

IMG_0426

After that it was off to dinner…mashed potato bar! Sorry I don’t have a photo, but take my word, it was too cool!

On the last day of the conference I had the immense pleasure of hearing the lovely Kate Massner. Her soul came sparkling through her words that dripped with encouragement and brought me to tears. She was funny and humble, smooth and eloquent and…OH MY GOD! KATE MESSNER!!

Me and Kate with her new book, Wake Up Missing. I Stood on line for a half hour to shake this woman’s hand and I would have stood for two hours!IMG_0431

Alright, a little star struck by this literary giant, but who wouldn’t be? In her speech she talked about failure. Just what every aspiring author wants to hear, right? HA! But it was exactly what I needed to hear. I have patience for everyone else but me. I strive to hit perfection coming out of the gate. I guess that’s not a terrible thing, but it’s not realistic, especially as a writer. Kate said, “We learn by failing. You have to fail before you succeed. Be okay with imperfection. Good ideas come when we show up to do our work.” Thomas Edison said, “Many of life’s failures are people who didn’t know how close they were to success before giving up.”  She ended with, “Make mistakes, learn from them. Be courageous. Be brave. Don’t be afraid to fail. Fail fast, fail often…in your first drafts and revisions, everyone doesn’t have to watch you fail, but in failing you will succeed!”

After Kate we had a panel of artists moderated by Arthur Levine, Vice President and Publisher of Arthur A. Levine Books, an Imprint of Scholastic Inc….also the dude who edited the Harry Potter books. Literary Royalty.  IMG_0429 This is Marla Frazee, Illustrator of God got a dog, that’s my copy she’s signing 🙂

The last keynote speaker was to be Sharon Draper, Author. But she could not make it so Nikki Grimes took her place. WOW. Nikki Grimes is a word ninja. A verse lyricist. An amazing story teller. I was not familiar with her work but I am now! I ran out of money at the conference book store so as soon as I got home, I purchased Planet Middle School, her newest book. IMG_0422 She spoke about her work not being a black thing, or a white or Asian thing, but a human thing. I love that. I believe that. I want my work to reach all people, race, gender, religion. I want my work to be a human thing. She said, “Just keep writing, you’ll figure it out. You won’t always know where your story is going. It’s okay. Just keep writing.”  The other advice I took to heart was, “When you have a great idea, don’t write it until you’re able, equipped, good enough to do it justice. Take the time to write your classic well.”  She was speaking of her book, Bronx Mascaraed. She had the idea long before she actually wrote it, until she was good enough. It’s hard to hold yourself back, believe me, I know. But, all through the conference I heard, send only your best work. Do a hundred drafts before you submit, more if needed. Polish that manuscript until it shines. Until it’s a work you can be proud of.

This was an amazing experience. I came home and wrote eight pages of a new chapter book! Talk about inspiration. If you are a children’s writer, picture books, chapter books, MG, YA, NA, join SCBWI. I have never met a more encouraging group of people in my life. I was an interior designer for almost twenty years, yes I started when I was five but that’s not the point! The point is, I’ve never met another community of professionals so willing to help each other succeed. I’m so grateful to be a part of it. I aspire to be one of these greats I saw at this conference.

Till next time my brothers and sistas, PEACE…

Except for the F-bombing pusher in the lobby. Note:  Real men don’t push, hit, or abuse women. You made yourself look stupid and I used your drunken behavior as writing material, a punch line. Thank you. We writer’s love fools like you.

 

Done with Snow? Nervous/Excited about NYC SCBWI Conference? How about a Laugh just for fun!

Hi all. Frickin’ snow. ‘Nuff said. SCBWI NYC Conference *squeee*…Holy Cow, my first!! So excited. So nervous, but that’s just how I roll. I figured out, approaching this conference, that I could use my flaws to help me. There is so much going on in my life and with people I care about that my nuttiness went into overdrive this week. Then yesterday, instead fighting it, I dove in, over the mountains of fear, past the sea of nervousness, through the vise grip of anxiety, above the clouds of perceived impending rejection to a place where I could breathe… and think…and write. I wrote this Adult Contemporary Fiction about a year ago but put it aside for the YA Paranormal Contemporary I’m just now querying. This is exactly what I needed…to laugh out loud! I hope it makes you LOL too…  PEACE OUT!

BODY BAGS/ ADULT CONTEMPORARY/HUMOROUS

CHAPTER 1

     As the rain pelted my face, I wondered why I took this job. Oh, now I remember, because I wanna eat and have somewhere to live. No work equaled no food, no apartment, no cable, no phone, no gas, no nada. I sat with my back against the second floor as lightning cut across the sky and thunder shook my perch on the porch roof. It’s August in Cos Cob, a small town in Connecticut. It had been 98 degrees today, humid to the point of not being able to breathe in the shade, and my long auburn curly hair was showing every bit of it, in frizzy protest. Purple bloated clouds churned in the sky as a storm rolled in and darkness settled quickly around me. When I arrived, I had climbed a tree that overhung the back porch roof and waited in a tight squat position for about an hour for my mark, a cheating husband. My ass was throbbing and my left foot fell asleep about twenty minutes ago.
Dressed in an army green rain poncho I gathered up my bag loaded with my camera, recorder, pepper spray, and stun gun, tucking it underneath me to keep it dry. The camera had night vision capability and the recorder could pick up a dog fart a mile away. The other stuff I kept just in case. Just in case the person I was watching got a hold of me and decided he didn’t want to fess up to what I captured on tape or camera. I’m not a hero or a cop. I’m a private investigator with long legs that I use to run like the wind when necessary. The stun gun or spray would give me a chance to run like hell and call the cops, the real heroes. I had no idea that I would ever be a private investigator. Not to take anything away from the cops, hell I come from a long list of them, but my heroes growing up were Walt Disney, father Mac at our family parish, and whoever wrote the song “Tomorrow” from Little Orphan Annie. Walt Disney created Tinker Bell and I wanted to fly. That put Walt at the top of my list, plain and simple. Unfortunately when I tried to fly off a swing set at age five I broke my arm. I didn’t hold that against good old Walt, but it did put the ki-bosh on the whole flying thing. Father Mac, a Catholic priest, taught me that all Catholics have a get out of jail free card called ‘reconciliation’. Basically whatever you do wrong during the week can be swept away at confession on Saturday afternoon. Of course the catch is you have to be really sorry, and I always am, burdened with a conscience the size of Texas and a strong aversion to the fires of hell. Then there’s the guy who wrote the song ‘Tomorrow’, well that was pretty much my motto, what ever happens today, as crappy as it may be, the sun will come out tomorrow. Now, I’ll be the first to admit that doesn’t always happen, because, shit happens, but I’m always hopeful. Most days I’m just a private investigator trying to be like Walt Disney, spreading smiles everywhere, but usually ending up in confession prayin’ for another tomorrow.
A crack of lightening lit the sky and the rain came down harder. I pulled back trying to become one with the siding and get some cover from the gutter above. The wife on this particular case had contacted my boss, Josephine Carlucci, owner of Carlucci Investigations, last week to set this up. Being a PI was not my life’s ambition. After high school I took some classes at a community college and bounced around in a few dead end jobs not really knowing what I wanted to do with my life. Seriously, who the hell knows at eighteen what they wanna do? So, at twenty-six I sort of fell into private investigating. Jo was hiring, I needed money, and it seemed like a good fit. Jo’s in her forties, five-feet tall, two hundred pounds of robust woman, with a lot of black curly hair and a Minnie Mouse voice. She carries a .38 revolver in her purse that she’s not afraid to use. She’s a pretty good shot, too, unlike myself who carries a .22 handgun and is not so great a shot. If I’m shooting at you, I’ll be aiming for your leg, but more than likely it’s gonna end up in your ass. If you happen to be unlucky enough to be facing me instead of running away, well, you could probably kiss your balls goodbye. I’m working on my marksmanship. I carry a .22 because I don’t actually want to kill anyone, I don’t need your dead soul friggin’ up my karma – thank you very much- but wounding I’m okay with. I’m still not very good at this PI thing but what I don’t have in experience I make up for with common sense and my mother’s temper. The rest? I’m learning as I go and hopefully I won’t get killed in the process.
I checked my watch. One hour and forty-five minutes waiting for this douchbag like a jackass in the rain. PJ Benedillo, the husband in question, was possibly doin’ the neighbor, a college senior with a great body and, if she was doing anything with PJ, not too many smarts. He of course denied any thing was going on, he’d been down this road a bunch of times before. I went to school with most of the people in Cos Cob, including PJ and his wife Nelly who are two years older than me. Nelly’s a simple, no frills kind of gal. Back in the day she was prom-queen beautiful; now, not so much. Not that she was ugly, she looked beaten down, a little overweight, wore no make-up, and hid behind shoulder length blondish brown hair. Everyone knows her husband’s a cheat, but she needs proof. Glad that she finally asked, I jumped at the chance to show her what scum PJ is. Another burst of thunder exploded in the sky and shook my heart in my chest.
“Oh the hell with this.”
I inched up the screen to an open window behind me and climbed in. Nelly had told her husband she had to go away over night for work. She was actually with Jo at the office waiting to hear from me. I was soaked, a puddle instantly formed at my feet as I closed the screen. I pulled off my hood, hefted my bag on my shoulder and started to walk down the hallway looking for the stairs down to the first floor, my sneakers squishing as I went. Soft moaning came from someplace in front of me. Damn, how’d I miss them coming in? Cool. Not cool that PJ was the scumbag I thought him to be, but maybe tonight wasn’t a waste of time after all and the sooner Nelly knew the quicker she could kick his ass to the curb and get on with her life. Quietly, I located my camera and looped it over my head. Next I turned on the recorder inside my bag. The house was pitch black. Looking out the front windows I could see all the houses and streetlights were dark. Power outage. The night vision camera looked like binoculars and helped me find my way. I followed the noises that now sounded more like stifled whimpering. A new feeling of apprehension prickled and settled at the back of my neck. My instincts, my ‘oh no you fuckin don’t’ attitude, told me something was wrong. A man’s voice, I recognized as PJ’s, started to get louder. It was coming from my right, the door ajar about an inch.
“Look, I’m going to take the gag off, but no more yelling. Okay?”
I waited holding my breath. Next I heard a woman; a very pissed off woman on the verge of hysteria.
“You mother fucker! Untie me right fucking now!!”
PJ made a tsking sound and continued in a condescending voice.
“Now look here, you’re in no position to be making demands. You can’t tease me like that and then change your mind.”
“The hell I can’t! I never promised you anything! You said you were taking me to dinner. Dinner!” She spit the words out angrily but her voice shook with fear. The thunder crashed and rain hammered against the windows masking the sound of my opening the door a little more. A dim battery-operated lantern was set on the dresser. A young woman was tied to the four-poster bed in only her black bra and underwear. She had a bruise on her left cheek and her eyes were red, brimming with tears yet to fall. I backed up a bit and sent a text to Jo, 911-0. 911 Was for help; the zero meant come in quietly. I didn’t want to spook PJ with sirens blaring and have this situation get any worse. PJ had obviously lost his friggin’ mind. This wasn’t just cheating. I moved back into position at the door and clicked a few pictures.
“You knew this was going to happen between us-
“No I didn’t, you fucking pervert!”
“-you were sending me all the signs, wearing short shorts and low cut tops.”
“That’s not an invitation, you asshole!”
“Then when you stopped at my table last week…
“I was just trying to be friendly, nut bag!”
“-well then I knew you wanted it too,” PJ moaned.
Oh, yeah, PJ had definitely left the reservation and was currently residing in crazy-town. As he paced back and forth at the foot of the bed I realized he was standing in black tight underwear with the words ‘THE MAN’ written in white across his ass. I almost laughed. He was a little pudgy guy with way too much hair, especially by his crotch. The hair escaped in puffs out the leg holes and over the top of the waistband. Vomit came up the back of my throat. He took a few steps towards the bed and I hoped like hell Jo was on the way with the boys in blue. I opened the door a little more and took a few pictures for the cops and Nelly.
“Now look, this can be easy or it can be hard.” He took a moment to stroke himself at the word hard.
Eewah! A shiver of disgust rolled up from my toes and I swallow back the bile that rose in my throat again.
“The choice is yours. But this is gonna happen,” he moaned in a low rasp that was meant to be seductive but sounded just creepy as all hell. The next thing I knew I got a face full of ass as PJ bent at the waist and slid his underwear off to the floor. He straightened and stood with his feet braced apart and his hands on his hips. It was the weirdest thing. He had absolutely no hair on his back or butt. He definitely waxed back there. I took more pictures, afraid no one would believe me.
“I’ll call the cops you freakin sicko!”
“Ahem,” I cleared my throat from where I stood. “That won’t be necessary, they’re on the way,” I said and opened the door the rest of the way. “You probably should get dressed, PJ.”
He turned around to face me. “Oh, hi Jessica, how are you?” He said like he wasn’t standing there bare ass with a woman tied up behind him. Koo-koo! I tried so hard not to look but I couldn’t help it. In the middle of his wild afro-like pubic bush was a tiny uncircumcised penis that looked like a thumb. I squeezed my eyes tight trying to remove the image. Oh, God! It was seared into my brain; I’ll be scared for life.
“Now isn’t really a good time. My girl and I were in the middle of making love.”
“Oh make me gag! That is sooo not what’s going on, lady,” the neighbor said to me.
“Yeah, I know, just sit tight,” I said back to her around PJ’s shoulder.
“Jessica, I don’t know what you think you heard but I can assure you this was a consensual adult act.”
“Bullshit!! You hit me and tied me up!!”
“Come on now, it was just a little foreplay and you loved it.”
Woe. Could he be any crazier?
“PJ?” A small uncertain voice came from behind me.
“Sweet heart! This slut took total advantage of me,” he pointed an accusing finger.
I could not believe the balls on this guy, nor could I see them for that matter.
“Oh puleeze! Will someone untie me?”
“Oh yeah, sorry,” I said and walked over to the bed. I dropped my bag at the foot of the bed and started undoing knots tied with panty hose that held her captive.
“How could you?” Nelly said in a small defeated voice and sank to the floor at PJ’s feet.
“Baby, I promise it’s not what you think,” he said bending at the waist putting a hand on her shoulder. Ugh, again I got an eyeful of some crap I did not want to see. Ever.
“Yes it is, Mrs. Benedillo, he’s a total perv!!”
“Shut up, you whore!” PJ, still naked, took an authoritative stance and tried to explain.
Jo yelled from down stairs, “Cops are on the way, Hun.”
“Good to know, thanks, Jo,” I yelled back and continued untying.
“Now this is ridiculous,” PJ started to say, his hands back on his hips. “Involving the police is totally unnecessary. It’s just all a big misunder eeek!” PJ jerked around, screamed in a high pitch voice, his eyes rolled to the back of his head and down he went in a loud thump on the hardwood floor. I froze. With her hands free, the girl went to the task of freeing her ankles. Nelly stood with my stun gun still in her hands and looked down at the crumpled pile that was her piece of shit husband.
“I’m sorry, what did you say, dear, I couldn’t hear you past all the lies!!” Nelly screamed and she zapped him again right in the crop, which caught on fire revealing he had balls under there after all. His nuts instantly swelled to the size of grapefruits and the fire singed itself out. The room smelt of burnt hair and ball sack. Ugh.
“Oh yeah! Now that’s what I’m talkin’ about!” The young woman leapt from the bed. “You piece of shit! I hope you like it up the ass in prison!” She yelled and kicked him on her way past, grabbing her clothes off the floor and running out the door. I took the stun gun from Nelly.
“I’ve been so stupid,” she said her eyes filling with shameful tears.
“Not stupid, maybe just a little blind.”
She took a deep breath. “Well no more. That ends today.” She brushed the front of her dress off and headed out the door to join the others down stairs.
I’m Jessica Marco, and that right there, is a typical Wednesday night in my life as of late.

Toxins Kill Everything

Toxic: Poisonous

Toxic chemicals ( Draino, Rat Poisin) when ingested will kill you.

Toxic Gas (Carbon Monoxide) when breathed will kill you.

Toxic Material (Acid) will kill you when handled improperly.

We know these things and most of us will take precautions not to end up dead. You bastards slipping it to people because they cheated on you or whatever… my advice is simple. Success and happiness are the best revenge, your soul stays intact and you don’t have to go to jail. Jail is bad. Living is good. Go get some “revenge”.

But what about the toxins that mascaraed as medicine; prescription pills, street drugs, and booze? I include street drugs and booze because that’s self medicating. It’s so easy to get lured into “feeling better or good”. Who doesn’t want to feel good, right? But at what cost?

Philip Seymour Hoffman, God rest his soul, died too soon at age 46. I look at this brilliant actor and think how could he let this happen to himself? From the outside he seemed to have everything, a loving family, three beautiful children, a successful career gaining him oodles of money and yet he’s gone now like so many before him. I guess he was far from having a charmed life with demons only he knew. I pray for his family and the long hard road ahead of them.

Addiction shows no prejudice. The lure of “feeling good” does not take age, race, gender, religion, financial status or geographic location into consideration and once it’s got you, it is a fierce lover, driving itself into and in between everything in your life. It may start off slowly or full blown but the end result is the same. Death to everything.

Death to the life absorbed with it and death to all the lives connected to the addict in some shape or form. The addict thinks of only one thing: the next fix. The people around the addict have many thoughts mostly in the form of worry, sadness, anger, and helplessness.

“Cut all toxic people out of your life.”

I’ve heard this, hell I’ve said this, but it’s not so easy if the toxic person is a family member. “You should cut him or her off, tough love style.” It sounds so easy but to actually slam the door, figuratively or literally, in the face of a loved one is far from easy. Some people would argue cutting off their own arm would be easier. So what do you do?

Talk to the person? You’ve done that like a million times giving ultimatums and pleading speeches.

Intervention? You’ve done that too and maybe it even resulted in a period of sobriety…until sobriety slips away and the ugly clawed monster of addiction is back.

For the people who are stuck watching the addict go down, because there is no up in addiction, it is horrendous, and that description doesn’t even begin to do it justice. It is days and nights filled with frustration, anger and an impending funeral.

For the addict? It’s a lonely, secretive, horrible life intertwined with a vicious beast that has its teeth clenched around their neck waiting to deliver the final blow. Sounds like fun, right?

Of course, these are not the people who get help. These are not the people who claw their way back to life. Because, thank God, or whoever you believe in, that those people do exist. But the ADDICT has to WANT to do this. The people on the sidelines, no matter how much they want to FIX it, and I totally get it, I’m a fixer, a doer, but the ADDICT has to want it.

The other kind of people are the lost ones, the ones who were gone years before you actually attended the funeral. The addicts, that for what ever reason, chose to stay sick. And then there are the people connected to them like a root to a tree, who were forced into a life of addiction even though they were not the addict and it was never their choice. It sucks on both sides of that fence. No one wins in that life.

Don’t ever give up on your loved ones but you don’t have to end up in the ground next to them. Realize that you only have control over yourself, you can ONLY change you. Set up boundaries and protect yourself. Learn how to handle the toxic addict properly. Seek advice from professionals; counselors and doctors. Be very careful in your own life. Pain that equals pain pills, booze or street drugs can very easily turn into addiction.  Peace my friends.

This poem is for a lost one.

I’ll Miss You

I miss the person you used to be, the one who loved life so much.
I miss the person who kissed all the boo-boos away.
I miss the person who made scrambled eggs and toast for anyone who was sick.
I miss the person who was strong and protective.
I miss the person who helped make me what I am today.

I’ll miss you when you’re gone.

I’ll miss the conversations that we have.
I’ll miss my children never really knowing the real you.
I’ll miss your laugh.
I’ll miss the support shown brightly in your eyes.
I’ll miss your fingers gently playing with my hair.
I’ll miss the fights that only you and I have.
I’ll miss the cups of coffee that we share.

I’ll miss you when you’re gone.

I’ll miss your voice on the phone, but never in the morning.
I’ll miss your pretend stories to the kids.
I’ll miss your outrageous outfits, gold shoes and all.

I’ll miss you when you’re gone.

I’m angry that you’ll leave me too soon.
I’m disappointed in myself that I can’t make you stay.
I’m sad that there won’t ever be an intervention that will work.
I’m sorry that you won’t change.
I’m sorry for the pain that brought you to this place and then stole your will to come back.
I wish I could help you but this is not up to me.
I will never give up on you but I will protect myself and mine.
I love you so much, and I’ll miss you, with all my heart, when you’re gone.

ANGRY SNOW DAYS TURNED INTO GEMS

So far this week, in my neck of the woods up North, we’ve had two snow storms that closed our schools and some businesses. I am NOT a huge fan of winter. Okay, that’s an understatement, I actually think winter sucks the big one. I’m okay with snow November and December but then, enough already, it’s just not cute after that. If I was an adjuster (character from my book who controls the weather in the fifth dimension) I would keep it seventy-five and sunny, rain when necessary. Unfortunately my book is fiction and I have no such dial. *sigh*

After pissing and moaning, much to my family’s dismay, I closed myself in my office and decided to get some writing done. I accomplished soooo much in these last few days, I can’t even believe it! I’ve been dreading writing a synopsis for the book I’m querying to agents. I found some great help at publishingcrawl.com, a synopsis guide written by Susan Dennard. It was just what I needed! THANK YOU!!  All my writing people out there know only too well about the synopsis and how much it sucks! After that I finished researching the agents I’m interested in and compiled my list.

Then I started thinking. This crappy weather enabled me to get a bunch of work done that otherwise I would still be laboring over, stealing an hour here and an hour there. And if I had just looked at my situation from a positive point of view I wouldn’t have wasted any time being angry. I think that happens a lot to us, that maybe we’re put in a negative situation but for a positive reason. And if you’re like me, if you don’t look for it, you’ll miss it. I’m glad I didn’t just sit on the sofa eating chips all day, cause that’s where I was headed! (Probably still gonna do a bit of that *hehehe*)

What negative situation are looking at from the wrong angle? Could it actually be for a positive outcome?

Until next time…PEACE my fellow humans!