Thursday, November 29, 2012

The Distance

Was it ever so evil, creep like ivy
Toe hold on the stronger half of nature's dichotomy
Beating back a path through nothing more than pure insistence
Until here becomes the distance
That is from a lovely song by the Indigo Girls called 'Leeds' and it has been looping on my internal soundtrack all morning.  All I can see is distance today because my fearful voices have been doing most of the talking so far.  They say very demoralizing things, but I can't just ignore them out of hand because they occasionally make valid points and I try not to lie to myself overly much.

We all have an assortment of fearful voices, for many people it's the only voice, and they are constantly telling us that we are unworthy, untalented, unlovable and foolish.  Today my persistent fear that my book is not at all good is shouting down all my feeble arguments to the contrary.  I know I'm not alone, anyone who creates something that depends on the affection of strangers to succeed fears that their product will be found unworthy.

That fear motivates some to improve their offering, but it pushes most into abandoning their creation altogether.  I have been shouting down that fearful voice since the very first sentence in The Last Prospector, the one that kept skeptically asking why I thought this was useful expenditure of my time.  It hounds me still, whispering that I am just a joke trying to pass off some scibblings as literature, that I have lofty pretensions that my talents cannot support.

Today it is very difficult not to listen, I have received almost no feedback from the people who have read The Last Prospector and that silence is louder than my fearful voice.  Is it good?  Is it bad?  Or worse, is it boring?  I don't know and that ignorance is a weight that is getting heavier to support every day.

This is not like cooking, my one native marketable skill.  I've always known how to cook, that I can cook better than most and am extremely critical of my own food.  But there's never been a voice telling me that I can't cook, that my flavors are dull or that everyone else is better at it than me.  Even my culinary disasters, which are extensive, never brought out that fear.  I just embraced those disasters as valuable learning experiences and did better next time.

If I had written a book about food or cooking, I most likely would not be suffering from too many fearful voices.  The kitchen is my safe place, any kitchen, it's where I run when things become difficult.  In fact, I have left this post three times so far to go and tend to culinary projects instead of fully confronting this obstacle.

Just writing about these fears is a breakthrough, I tend to project an air of confidence and do not like others to see the true depth of my well of self-doubt.  It's not fraudulent confidence, for the most part, I grew up having to rely on me, to give myself pep talks and tell myself that I am capable of greatness and it's all worked pretty well.

So I don't listen exclusively to my fearful voices, there are loving voices too, adventurous voices and exuberant ones that deserve equal time.  The good voices are what keep me going, keep me sending queries to bloggers despite the fact that I haven't received one single reply of any kind yet and keep me from retreating.

But today, all I see is the nothing, the distance that I still have to travel, as I fight the impulse to go back into the kitchen.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Internet Algebra

I suck at algebra, let's get that right out of the way, it tormented me in both high school and college to the point of tears and truancy.  None of it sticks in my head for long, unlike the two million offhand witticisms of The Simpsons that seem to always be at the ready.  No, I never 'learned' algebra, just copied and pasted enough info to my inner clipboard to get a passing grade and get the hell out.  In fact, the only time algebra ever made sense to me was in culinary school and we had to determine how much of a fresh fish was actually edible so we could cost it out.  It was a brief, shining moment of AHA that I shall always remember.  And then promptly forgot, sigh.

The reason I'm bringing up the ugly topic of higher math is because I am gamely trying to make my blog look nicer.  I'm sure many of you are wondering how hard that actually is, it certainly sounds simple enough and there are ample blogs out there to demonstrate that it can be done.  Baby steps have been taken, obviously, and my little home on the web already looks nicer.  But computer stuff is as foreign to my thought processes as algebra and, just like those damned equations, my personal version of dyslexia kicks in so all I see are masses of wriggling symbols.

I trade in words, those come as easily to me as breath, so sitting down to knock out a blog post or a chapter is always the easy part.  Actually, I'm probably a content seeker's wet dream and am available for outside gigs, just give me a topic and I'll have some lucid words for ya in an hour or so.

Did you see what I just did up there?

Oh yes, in an effort to get out of writing about internet algebra, I have just solicited other writing work.

Hmmm, well the phone did not ring, so back to business.

This post is about three things:

  1. Explanation of why the blog looks so plain
  2. Promise to continue improving
  3. Desperate plea for help and/or feedback

I am open to suggestions, comments and even humorous derision about the look of The Light Stealers Song. To prove that I am serious, I am starting another blog (Clyde thinks I'm crazy) for fun.  This one is called Spoon! and that's where all of my golden culinary tidbits will be posted.  My hope is, that between the two blogs, I will actually be able to store some internet memory on my hard drive and stop flailing like a toddler in mud.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Online Shopping

DO NOT BE ALARMED!  This is not an ad, you will not find the best deal on the latest 'last' wrench that you will ever have to buy or 30% off any item in the entire blog.  I did not diligently spend the last few months compiling a list of the best interweb retailers complete with coupons and driving directions.

So you can rest easy for the remainder of this post.

Personally, I can not understand why people stampede to an event known as 'Black' anything.  It was only very recently that I became aware that the phrase Black Friday was meant to imply something good - I was stunned.  The vocabulary of American descriptions have offerings ranging from Black Tuesday when the market crashed in the 20's, Black Sunday a movie about terrorism at the Superbowl and the Black Dahlia who was a homicidal villainess.  So the logic of this shopping event escapes me.

But, no matter, I am immersed in a shopping expedition of a very different kind.  I've written a book!  You may have heard already, but The Last Prospector is available RIGHT NOW on and I would love it if more people knew that little tidbit.  To that end, I'm trying to set up my first virtual book tour and am scouring the net for good blogs to approach.

A virtual tour is very much like a physical one in many ways, or so I've read.  Instead of traveling in the real world from location to location, I will be traveling to different blogs who will tell their readers about my book via articles and contests.  Like just about everything else worth doing in this world, it looks a lot easier on paper.

Not that long ago, Clyde took me to Broderick for a drink so I would take a tiny break from stressing.  He's a clever guy and knows that some alcohol and truly amazing french fries can cure a multitude of mental illnesses.  Somewhere mid-Banh Mi fries (crazy but delicious), I confessed that if I had known how vast the world I was stepping into would be, I might have chickened out before I even wrote the first chapter.

But it is far to late too back out now, I love my story and I know that others will love it too.  I refuse to be that woman who decides that she doesn't really want to be a mother while in the delivery room AND, out of respect to Joel McHale, I'm also not birthing up a toilet baby.  Nope, Prospector deserves so much better than that, so this mother will keep pushing until my baby is fully in the world.

But blog shopping only sounds easy because there are as many blogs out there as dust bunnies (I'm obsessed with dust bunnies and am convinced that they target me).  Out of every hundred that I look at, only one will meet enough of my criteria for me to send a query.  The blog needs to be current with a large audience that would have some interest in my story, so blogs about MMA, car repair and steam punk are out.

But that leaves a lot of open territory because the series speaks to many niche markets.  Obviously, there are people who love fantasy stories and I'm researching those blogs, but I'm also trying to reach out to people who love cats, food, Doctor Who, Star Trek, Springsteen and reality television.  Heck, even Kansas City Chief fans, if there are any left, because there is an homage to vintage Chiefs in the first book -- that's a Valentine to Clyde, I hate sports.

So, while I would much rather be writing book four because writing is the easy and fun part, this intrepid lady is diving back into the blog pool.  It's time to wade through all the cute girls posting pix of their newest thrift shop finds and endless adorable grandchildren until I find that perfect blog.  Then all I have to do is find ten more after that and I'll be in business.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Impact Craters

I think about the moon quite a bit, it's our constant sentinel of ever-changing moods but only one face, which is an honesty that is rarely found.  What are the most profound and beautiful to me are the craters that fill the surface of the moon, because the craters are an unflinching testament to the harshness of life.  Our moon stoically takes each hit, large and small, without complaint as her visage is shaped and re-shaped according to the flotsam of space.

The moon doesn't try to hide her wounds, that's a vanity for lesser creatures; instead they are all displayed with naked vulnerability to those who are unafraid to look.  And we who look are inspired to know that it is our impact craters that make us beautiful, not an unblemished surface at all.  Time and space are relentlessly re-shaping our visages and I bear my scars proudly like the moon taught me, because they are the story of my survival.

This is all on my mind today because of the large response to my two previous posts about Charles Howard. First I'd like to say that I am both humbled and gratified by all the people who read my story and shared it with others, so a big thank you all.  The second thing I'm wrestling with is the true depth of CH's crater on my soul because, as I previously wrote, the experience of having my faith rewarded changed me in unexpected ways.

I would love to say that I'm at peace with the whole situation, and I am for the most part, but I still wonder very often just where Cheech was for two years.  I worry that he charmed some other family into loving him and now they are left wondering about his fate like I was, and I don't wish that on anyone.  But mostly I wonder about the why of it all;  why did he leave?  Why did he come back?

The answers will most likely never be revealed, but my questioning of it all isn't likely to stop.  I think it is that obsessive questioning that drives my entire series of books and it is almost laughably ironic that Prospector isn't the sort of the person that wonders about the why of things.  He moves almost completely on instinct and trusts his inner voice implicitly without once ever asking that little voice how it knows.  That was not a conscious decision on my part, I've written already about the experience of characters creating themselves and that is just who Prospector is.

It's also been mentioned before that I was unaware of Prospector's affection for cats in general, and it is a love affair that has carried through the rest of the series.  The cats are an integral part of my story, now that I look back at the three and a half books that are written, the series is not about cats at all, but they are always there.

So, is my crater cat-shaped or something else?  I do not know, but those are two more question for me to ask.

Monday, November 19, 2012

St. Valentine's Day Massacre

Yesterday I began the story of Charles Howard, the miracle cat who defied all the odds to find his way back home.  It is with much sadness that I now finish his story, because we did not have too much time together after his return.

CH and I were reunited at the very end of the summer of 2011, it was late in the afternoon and I can still remember the exact color of the sky that day.  I remember how cool the concrete of George's front porch felt on the backs of my legs as I sat there and held him and can still see my blooming roses in vivid yellow that were across the street.  Mostly, I remember the texture of Chuckie's fur as I buried my face in it and thanked every deity I could think of for his safe return.

Perhaps that was the day that everything changed for me, the day that I realized that miracles really can happen, I'm not really sure.  What I do know for sure is that getting CH back made up for every crappy, disappointing Christmas and every unanswered prayer, well almost all of the unanswered prayers anyway.  I've always been an optimist, you see, but that optimism dimmed appreciably after our daughter died and it took one goofy, fuzzy orange cat to restore my faith in life.

CH fell back into his old routine fairly quickly, reclaiming all of his favorite napping spots and squeezing his body up between my legs and the cabinetry while I prepared his food.  He would put his front paws on the edge of the counter top and push backwards against me while looking up so that I would put down the food and give him a vigorous head scruffing before he ate.  And he talked, he meowed and chatted with me all the time, I think he was telling me some of his road stories and of the kind people he met on his journey.

But mostly, Cheech just chilled out around the house.  He still did some hunting and even brought in a live mouse so that he would have a fun toy, a classic Charles Howard maneuver that took us almost two hours to get the mouse out from behind the vitrine.  One clear night in January, he killed a scrub jay and spent the better part of the night arranging his kill on the front walk so that my husband would see it clearly upon his return home.  Clyde was duly impressed with offering, btw, stopping to congratulate the mighty hunter who was lounging smugly nearby.

February 13th was the last day I saw Charles Howard alive, I had already started writing The Last Prospector and it was one of those startlingly beautiful, clear valley days.  My best friend called to tell me about a family emergency and that she was on her way to my house to spend the night before departing to Hawaii.  CH didn't come in for dinner that night, I called and called for him, told myself that he was being scarce because we had company, but I knew down deep that he wouldn't be coming home again.

The next morning, we had a bit of time before I drove Tina to San Francisco, so we walked all around the neighborhood calling for Cheech.  I was still pretending there was hope, I did not want my miracle to be over so soon.  It was Valentine's Day, late in the afternoon and I had stopped at Popeye's on the way back from the airport for some romantic chicken dinner.  I got out of the car, yelling out into the air to CH that I brought him something tasty and saw my next door neighbor Nat walking sadly out of her house towards me.

Sam across the street had found a dead fuzzy orange and white cat in her backyard that morning, she put him into a covered box and waited for me to come home.  Things are kind of a blur after that, I remember looking in the box and seeing those achingly familiar strips and breaking down in tears on Sam's driveway and I remember the feeling of my heart slipping loose of it's moorings in my chest.  I remember how quiet the house was, how alone I felt and the gush of tears that flowed out of me as Blue looked into the box and saw his dead brother with that look of confusion in his eyes.

The thing is that on the 13th, I was writing the chapter entitled 'Invisible Bridge, Invisible Lance', the part of Prospector's story about his beloved cat and how she died.  It was unfinished when Tina called and I had dropped everything to be with her, so I had been thinking about that chapter on the drive back from SF.  I didn't know what else to do with my grief, so I sat down and began to write.  Prospector's grief about Willow is actually my mourning for Charles Howard, my way of keeping him alive in some small way, because that little cat gave me something that was bigger than the sky.

CH restored my belief in the possibilities of life and even his death can not diminish that.  Technically, he was not the impetus for my story, but the entire series is an homage to listening to that little voice inside yourself, the one that always tells you the truth despite what the facts would have you believe.  I believed in my little voice, I had faith and that faith was rewarded.  I take a lot of comfort knowing that Charles Howard ended his life knowing where his home was, knowing that he was loved and wanted.  I got the ultimate gift of knowledge, I could have spent my life only guessing and worrying about Chachi's fate, but I was blessed enough to be the one to bury his body.

That is the official end of the story of Charles Howard, fuzz man extraordinaire, but no story truly has a fixed ending.  There is no telling now of the ultimate impact he had on my life and I can only wonder about the other lives he touched while he traveled.  I might never know those kind people who fed CH or gave him a warm place to sleep while he was away, but I am desperately grateful to them anyway.  I can only say here thank you, thank you, thank you because every one of you contributed to my miracle.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

The C.H. Thing

This is the C.H. in question, our departed cat Charles Howard in all his splendor.  I cannot stop thinking about him, even though he died in February, but not in some obsessed, crazy cat lady way.  Actually, I do believe that Chachi was the largest impetus for writing this book, so I could work out the crazy events and make some sort of logical sense of it all.

Perhaps a little back story is in order, Charles Howard came to us while we owned the cafe.  One of my fave customers and amazingly big-hearted animal lover, Patty (she can be found in book one as Pate Ganje, the mount dealer), asked to put up a flier on our bulletin board.  She was trying to find homes for some kittens and I, out of nowhere, said that I wanted a cat.

I'm not sure what insanity prompted me to say that, it's not that I don't like cats, I love 'em and have had many fine felines in my life.  But we were such a busy family, the deli took almost all of our time and we had a relatively young pit bull who was trampling roughshod over us at home.  But it popped out of my mouth anyway and Patty went right to work.  I tried to backpedal, truly I was worried about giving another pet quality attention time AND Blue the pit bull is described best in one word -- heedless.  I was afraid that Blue would smash a kitten out of pure reckless abandon, no malice at all, that dog just don't care where he puts his paws.

Patty heard my concerns and the kittens were put aside for a bit, "I have another cat," she said, "he's six months and a good hunter."  Now, you must understand that our daughter worked at the cafe with us and heard the exchange, she loves cats so I had gotten her hopes up.  And Patty's hopes were up too, and I couldn't disappoint them both, plus I did want a cat, so I hoped that Clyde would be on board with yet another impulsive decision made by moi.

Clyde was cool with it and the cat formerly known as Tiger joined our family, he gave the dog a claw to the snout by way of hello and proceeded to take over.  Cheech (all my pets have at least 1,000 nicknames) was a superb hunter, he ran a tight ship that included all the neighbors and was invited in to their homes when direct pest control was needed.  Like most cats, CH liked to bring in his kills to display to my husband and I'm still finding the odd finch feather around my house.  But he was a loving little Fuzz Man as well and was especially partial to stretching out in the sun to get his fat belly stroked as he purred and rolled back and forth.

Charles Howard disappeared one spring night, our daughter was the last to see him and we spent months searching for our wayward boy.  We put up fliers, knocked on all the doors in the neighborhood, went to all the local shelters regularly and checked the websites several times a day for pictures of cats that had been impounded.  I kept hoping though, even as the days became weeks and then months, I just knew in my heart that Chucky would be back someday.

I did not keep that sentiment to myself, just like Lt. Saavik, self-expression is not one of my problems.  I don't know how I knew, but I did, so when people suggested that I get another cat, I would look at them like they were crazy and ask how Charlie would feel when he got back and found a replacement.  No, no.  I did not want a new cat, I wanted my cat back home; end of discussion.  I never stopped looking either, even in the most ridiculous and improbable locations, my eyes were always peeled for a fuzzy orange and white cat.

It took almost two years of looking, waiting, asking the Universal Order for some grace and many, many tears until I saw my ChaCha again.  But it happened, just like I knew it would, he turned up across the street and I recognized his voice.  My heart was pounding in my chest as I went up George's walkway to the porch ringed by shrubs and peered around.  IT WAS CHARLES!!!!!!!  I saw those familiar stripes on his head and the cream colored 'eyeliner' around his green eyes, my knees gave out as I grabbed on and just sat on George's porch rocking my cat back and forth.

At first, Chach didn't seem to recognize me, I could see the confusion plainly in his eyes.  But I could also see that he was working it all out, he didn't fight me as I scooped him up and took him into the house.  I watched the light in his eyes slowly get brighter as he realized that he was finally home and I all wanted to do was scream with joy.  But I stayed cool, I didn't want to traumatize him after all.  Charlie looked well, not too skinny and no wounds, and I remember the exact moment that the cat's memories all unlocked.  It was his Helen Keller moment and I was Annie Sullivan signing out water into his paw, I can't begin to describe the emotions I felt.  Such happiness is rare in life, but it is an indelible memory on my soul now, and Blue's too.  I've never before or since seen that dog be as kind and gentle as he was when I finally let him out of the bedroom to see the cat.

As I watched Blue delicately sniffing Charles Howard, gently wagging his tail in a way that I'd never seen before, I knew that my family was truly reunited.  We had been given a miracle, a truly spectacular one because life gives you many things and takes many things, but almost never gives back exactly what was taken.  But he was back and I rejoiced every day, I told him often how much I had missed him and joyfully groused as he got back to his old routine of entitlement.  Charles didn't wander off too much, he stayed close to home and was a billion times more affectionate than he had been.  He preferred to snuggle on Clyde's warm, stable lap and play endlessly with his new laser pointer.

I wish my Chachi's story ended there, but most stories don't have a fixed ending.  Tomorrow I will continue this post and tell about what happened after.  But for today, let us end on a miracle.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Absolute Zero

So I wrote a book!  I know that's not new news, but it's not old news either and I don't intend to stop harping on this subject.  In fact, it's only going to get louder and it is not unlike all of my younger facebook friends who post endless photos of their new babies.  The Last Prospector (available right now at is my new baby and I want the world to know him.

Of course, I had no idea that actually writing the book was the easy part.  All the plotting and planning, creating and describing was the fun part, everything after is work, Work, WORK.  My background is in food, primarily creating it but I'm pretty good at most of the hospitality industry stuff (except for knife skills which have always been crap, I'm really great at not slicing myself open though).  All of my prior publishing 'experience' was writing menus and taking them to the printer, so I did not go into this with a clear idea of all that it entailed.

But The Last Prospector is published now and now, the work just gets harder because I am one little voice in a sea of shouters all trying to get your attention.  I am not well versed in marketing, actually I can probably only sing along with the chorus, but I do what I can do.

That's me with my stylish new Nine West handbag yesterday in downtown Sacramento being one of THOSE people, oh yes.  Putting them on windshields was not my first choice, but few people that I asked would actually take my flier despite my friendly demeanor and Cheshire Cat T-shirt.  At least it was a lovely day, so Clyde and I still enjoyed ourselves despite that jerk who made a rude face when I asked him if he wanted a flier, you can just say no rude sir because that face didn't need any extra uglifying.  If you don't mind my saying so in print.

We started out on the far side of Cap Park where the parking was free.  I briefly considered taping fliers to squirrels but didn't think the Scotch tape would hold long.

Our destination was Cathedral Square on K Street, the ice rink is open and I had the crazy notion that it would be teeming with people.  I keep forgetting that the K Street Mall is downtown though and then I keep forgetting that downtown Sacramento is irrelevant on the weekends.  Clyde and I did take note of the fact that the upper mall is much nicer than last time we were there, lots of new nightclubs and bars, but few actual people.  Plan B struck me as we were walking back to the park past a small parking lot, I started stuffing them into windshield wipers (very carefully though, so I didn't set off any obnoxious alarms).  It was better than nothing, in my view.

Outside the mall, people were much nicer and a couple of them took my fliers with actual smiles and well wishes of support.  Thank you kind people!  Since it was Veteran's Day, we stopped to listen to a speech at the Mexican-American Veterans Memorial and gave silent thanks to all the men and women who have served our country so that I could have the freedom to walk around speaking my mind.

After plastering every car window around the park, we were out of fliers and headed back home to West Sacramento (unofficial city motto:  Hey we're not the state capital but we're 10 minutes closer to San Francisco!).  We saw this guy just after we crossed the Tower Bridge to the Yolo side and I wish we could have gotten a better pic, but I loved his bike and you can see a small portion of the tall purple cycling machine.

So that was the first official chronicle of my adventures in marketing.  If nothing else, it was a lovely date for Clyde and me, but I sure hope that at least one flier found welcoming eyes.  Please take note that my blog is now 5x more bloggy, now that I've figured out how to add photos.  Thanks for reading and if you have any wickedly clever ideas about how to market the book, please send them on.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

About The Author

As much as I love talking about the book, I am going to veer off for a bit and try to write out a few meaningful things about myself.  This is my blog after all and I am obnoxiously self-centered enough to think that a few people will be interested down the road.  Although you really should check out The Last Prospector because it's a great story and it's only 99 cents for the download at, how can you pass that up?

Anyway, who am I?  Such a great question that I ask myself almost incessantly because the answer changes more frequently than my dog's moods.  There was a race of beings on Babylon 5 called Vorlons who kept asking the same two questions over and over:  who are you and why are you here?  I think those might be the  two most important questions in all of creation.  I don't think that creation is a random accident, we are here for a reason and those two questions are that reason.  Every person asks themselves those things and the struggle to find the answers is the purpose of life, the quest to know one's self is more important than any other knowledge.

Of course there are other things to know that have tremendous value and many other good questions to ask, but those two questions are my central nervous system and I could not function without them.  So I always question everything, I have always questioned everything and will continue to do so.  All that interrogation can be wearing on my loved ones and puts many people off, for some reason many people seem to like not knowing stuff and don't appreciate it when you make them think.  After a while, some of those unappreciative sorts do come to realize that I am asking questions only to get answers and most assuredly not digging up ammunition because I'm out to get them.

I'm not out to get very many people, so you 99.999% of the world's population can rest easy.  I'm on your side and I am not looking to attack you, I just want to know stuff just to know it.

On the topic of my axes to grind, there is but one entity and that would be the owner and management of the 455 building.  Their willful and deliberate murder of my cafe is something I will not ever forgive nor forget and I would happily watch them burn, although I would never set the fire.  I believe in karmic reward and and have enough faith in the long game to know that they will suffer greatly for killing my dreams and gutting my family.  I did hear that one of them died and it was painful, for which I gave thanks, no lie.

I'm not heartless, but I loved the Cafe 455 like no other thing that I've ever done and I was the very best version of me for the five years that we fed downtown Sacramento.  The aftermath of losing the cafe was as devastating to me as the death of our oldest child.  The pain and shock were almost exactly the same and my grief over the loss of our business opened up all those dark places where I pushed my sorrow over Brianne away for so long.

Bri was only twelve when she died suddenly and with no warning of a brain aneurysm.  I did not know what to do with all that anguish so I concentrated on making sure that our two younger children understood that their lives were not over.  It was imperative to me that Brianne's death not be in vain, that our family not shut down as if nothing else mattered.  It all mattered more after her death somehow, it was important to honor her life by living ours as well as possible, to find meaning on her behalf and in her name.

Pain is the best of teachers though, we humans can be numbskulls and usually learn best the lessons delivered with a firm whack instead of a warm squeeze.  I haven't learned all my lessons well but I keep trying because I am not content to rest on what I think I know.  One of the things I still haven't figured out is knowing when to shut up, apparently there's a line somewheres, but I can never see it.

On that note, I'll shut it for now.

But I'll be back like an unanswered question soon enough.