About Me

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Hello! I'm a writer from central New York who has bipolar disorder. Among other topics, I write about mental illness and writing. I have short stories published in Lynx Eye, Lost Coast Review, The Outrider Review, Sliver of Stone Magazine, The Mondegreen, The Linnet's Wings, Cobalt Review, Breath & Shadow, The Round Up, Postscripts to Darkness, Masque & Spectacle, and several other journals. I have essays about mental illness in The Ram Boutique and Amygdala Literary Magazine, and an essay in Parts Unbound: Narratives of Mental Illness & Health, a book that was published by Lime Hawk Literary Arts Collective. In December of 2016, The Mondegreen nominated my story "Santa Lucia" for a Pushcart Prize. I've written a novel entitled Purple Loosestrife and a novel entitled Hoping It Might Be So, both of which I am submitting to agents and publishers. I'm working on a novel called Dark and Bright as well as a book called Violets Are Blue: Essays About My Bipolar Life. I have a B.A. in English from SUNY Buffalo and an M.A. in English from SUNY College at Brockport. I hope you enjoy your visit to my blog!

Monday, December 24, 2012

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas, all you beautiful people who read my blog! I appreciate you so much and I'm so grateful for all that 2012 brought me.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Writing is Rewriting

We writers have heard it so many times, "Writing is rewriting." And it is. My literary novel, Purple Loosestrife, is finished. At this moment, it has twenty-two chapters and a beginning, middle, and end. I have written it. There. But since writing is rewriting, I've been working on it like crazy lately. There are a few larger changes that I want to make to a few chapters, then there are smaller edits, and tweaking, and proofing--all the stuff that makes up "rewriting".

I let the novel sit for a time so that I could come back to it and see it with fresh eyes. I believe this is always a good idea with any piece of writing. Even with my flash fiction, I set it aside for at least a few days so that when I look at it again, I might see things I didn't see before--not just errors, but good things, bad things, things I want to enhance, things I want to downplay... whatever the case may be.

So I came back to my novel a couple of months ago with fresh eyes, and I'm now fixing what needs to be fixed and polishing what needs to be polished. I'm preparing Purple Loosestrife for 2013 when I will begin sending it out to agents. This is my goal. I hope to be getting it out there by March at the latest. Until then, I will continue my rewriting process. I really do love it. If I didn't, I wouldn't be a writer. There's nothing quite like printing out a freshly edited and proofed chapter and putting it in my big green binder, which is where I keep the hard copy of my book. The big green binder that's full of all my hard work!

Monday, November 19, 2012

Haversville, New York

Many of my stories as well as my literary novel have something in common: the fictional town of Haversville, New York. There is no Haversville in reality--it's purely a place from my imagination. It sits on the edge of Seneca Lake in New York state's gorgeous Finger Lakes region that spans across western to central New York. The beauty of the area is breathtaking, and my town is just as breathtaking as any that are real towns.

In my literary novel, Purple Loosestife, my main characters Spencer MacGowan and Vincent Ravenaugh live in Haversville. Across town is the Haver Corners Bed and Breakfast, where Lee Mullens of "Honeymoon" winds up meeting Sanders Hamilton. In "Arthur Cleary", who lives on the outskirts of town, the inn he mentions to Jake McAdams is one and the same as the inn run by Sanders Hamilton from "Honeymoon". Another literary story of mine takes place in Haversville: "Shadow People". I have another work in progress that will take place in Haversville as well: my literary story "James".

I have maps drawn of Haversville, lists of businesses that exist there, and have even placed St. Padre Pio College, a fictional small liberal arts college, there. Haversville has become very real to me, and it's become something of my "home base". I've written stories that take place in Rochester, New York (my home city); Westchester County, New York; and intentionally unnamed places, representative of anywhere. But I so often come back to Haversville. There are so many stories in a single town.

I think it's good to have a "home base". Of course, it's not for everyone. Many people like to write stories and novels that take place all over the world (and even beyond!). But if you plan to write stories in a small town or city, consider using the same town or city from story to story. You'll really get attached to the place and come to know it as if you've lived there. And in a way, you have!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Story Availability

My stories "Honeymoon" and "Arthur Cleary" are not only available at Musa Publishing and on Amazon, but also at OmniLit and on Barnes and Noble. Just click on the links I've provided here to find the stories.

Monday, November 12, 2012

A Beautiful Sadness

On an episode of South Park, Leopold "Butters" Stotch says the following:

"I'm sad, but at the same time, I'm really happy that something could make me feel that sad. It's like it makes me feel alive, you know? It makes me feel human. The only way I can feel this sad now is if I felt something really good before, so I have to take the bad with the good. So I guess what I'm really feeling is like a beautiful sadness." ~Leopold "Butters" Stotch, South Park


This is one of the nicest things I've ever heard. Seriously. It seems weird coming from South Park and all, but it resonates with me. As a bipolar person, I sometimes feel sad for no particular reason, but the sadness makes me think about the happiness I feel otherwise, and I appreciate the happiness all the more. My sad times are being well controlled by medication and therapy, so I don't want anyone to think I go around feeling sad often. But sometimes I do feel sad, and this quote just sums up perfectly what I feel. When I feel well and happy, it's all the better and richer and more fulfilling than you can imagine. It comes from a beautiful sadness. Looking at life this way helps me a great deal to accept the condition of being bipolar.


Of course, I have to write about this in the memoir I'm working on about my experiences with bipolar disorder. The memoir is still very slow going--it's difficult to write--but it's cathartic and satisfying when I get bits of it written. I'm writing it mostly for myself, but I'm also hoping that it will be of a high enough quality to perchance get published so that it can educate, enlighten, and help remove the stigma associated with mental illness.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Why My Master's Thesis Matters to Me

From 1991 to 1993, I attended the State University of New York College at Brockport for graduate school. I earned my master of arts degree in English in August of 1993. My master's thesis is entitled Weasels and Angels: Rhetorical and Communicative Strength and Weakness and Selected Women of the Canterbury Tales. Obviously it's about Geoffrey Chaucer's Canterbury Tales. It concentrates on six tales in particular and six women within those tales.

Of course, my thesis matters to me because it was hard work and I accomplished it. I put a lot of time, research, and effort into it and am proud of it to this day. However, it holds importance to me in another way as well. It was 82 pages long, and up to that point in time, it was the longest work I had ever written. It showed me that I was capable of writing long works, that I had a novel or two or more within me. And indeed, I was right.

I've finished a draft of a literary novel called Purple Loosestrife. I'm currently editing and tweaking it and preparing for it to hopefully go out into the world. Without having written my thesis, would I have been able to have written and finished this novel? Perhaps, but I know that writing my thesis taught me a lot about discipline and perseverance. So I'm grateful for having written my thesis, not just for the work itself, but for the work within me that it helped develop and bring out.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Arthur Cleary and His Secret!

Arthur Cleary is hiding something. What is it and what can be done about it? If you're up for some paranormal romance, please do purchase my story, "Arthur Cleary". It's available through Musa Publishing, Amazon, and a few other outlets.

Darkness Falls Early

Well, now that we've set the clocks back an hour, it's not even 5 p.m. in central New York and it's already getting dark. It's dusk, one of my favorite times of day. I don't mind the early darkness for a few months. It doesn't last year round, and while it's here, there's a chance to be cozy inside, or to take a brisk walk outside, or simply to enjoy the atmosphere of winter coming on. It also gives me an impetus to write more because there's less to do outside and less daylight to do it in. So Happy Daylight Savings Time, everyone!

Friday, November 2, 2012

Release of "Arthur Cleary"

My short story "Arthur Cleary" has been released today by Musa Publishing in their Erato (LGBT) imprint! It's available on Amazon and at Musa Publishing. Please do check it out and find out what secret Arthur Cleary is keeping. I had a lot fun writing it and hope you'll have fun reading it.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Killing My Darlings

I've killed some of my darlings in my novel, and I think it will be better for it. When you go back into a finished draft, you usually have to kill some darlings to really make the writing effective.

I often think of "my darlings" as baby chicks. I just can't help it! Naturally, it's hard to kill them (my written darlings, I mean), just as it would be horrible to kill baby chicks, but it's something that just must be done during the editing process. Thank God I'm only killing baby chicks figuratively because obviously I could never do it for real. Still, I just imagine those extra phrases and passages and sections that I may love but that are ultimately unnecessary as baby chicks. My darlings.

I think this image is rather gruesome and that it might be a good idea to think of "my darlings" as something other than baby chicks, but I just can't get the image out of my mind. Oh, well. Maybe it will help if I write a horror story and have to kill some darlings in that.

Inspiration from the Colder Weather

I don't believe in waiting for inspiration in order to write. I believe that a writer has to write all the time, as much as possible, even when it feels as though there's no inspiration to be had. Sure, I might generate stuff that I end up sticking in a drawer, but I might also generate just what I need, and I will definitely move ahead on projects. And the thing to remember is, even if I write what I think is awful, I can go back and work on it, revise it, edit it, and make it into what I want. For as all writers know (or should know), writing is rewriting.

This all said, I do believe that a writer can find inspiration as an impetus to get moving. I often find inspiration in the weather. Today in central New York, for example, it's pouring out, and not only are raindrops falling, but colorful leaves are falling as well. It's truly a beautiful day. It makes me want to write because it feels so cozy inside, and I almost feel as though I'm "curled up" with my laptop the way one curls up with a good book. It's a day for tea or hot cocoa, perhaps soup, a warm cat or two beside me, pillows and blankets surrounding me as I write while sitting on my couch.

And then there's winter, the season loathed and dreaded by so many central New Yorkers. It's long and very snowy (except for the strange winter we had last year), but it's cozy to me, much like fall. I happen to love winter. It demands tea, hot cocoa, and soup, and curling up warmly with my laptop. I love a day in winter when I have nothing else to do but write. I love when it's as silent inside as it is outside--the only sound being the clicking of my keyboard.


So waiting for inspiration is not something I recommend, but looking for inspiration... definitely! And look for it in the weather. It's not only a perfect day when it's 80 degrees and sunny... it might be a perfect day today.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Prioritizing

I find prioritizing to be so very hard to do. I have so many things I'm working on, so many things I want to do... how do I organize them into some sort of order and coherency?

First of all, there's my literary novel, Purple Loosestrife, that I'm editing, proofing, tweaking, and doing a little reorganizing on. This is very important to me since I want to start sending it out. But I get sidetracked by stories I'm writing or working on editing. There's "James", "The Pattersons", "Carlsbad Caverns", and even "The Tiger Earring", which I may not dump but rather revise and finish.

Then there's my memoir about my life with bipolar disorder. This is slow-going, understandably I think, because I'm dealing with many different emotions and memories while I'm writing it. But I do want to write and finish it.

So how do I make it all work together? Aaaahhhh! I feel I'm being torn in different directions and need a plan. Perhaps I should make one: days and times when I work on certain projects. That might help and keep me from just bouncing around from piece to piece. I'll have to think more about this. I'll keep you, my readers, updated on my progress. And I will finish my works in progress! This I am determined to do.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Look for "Arthur Cleary" on November 2nd!

My next short story with Musa Publishing in their Erato (GLBT) imprint is "Arthur Cleary". It's coming out on November 2nd. Here's the tagline:

Past and present meet. Can one man find the redemption that will free him while another man finds true and lasting happiness?

"Arthur Cleary" is a paranormal romance that takes place in New York's gorgeous Finger Lakes region where I was born and raised. Who is Arthur Cleary, a man living in a beautiful lakeside Victorian home, and what is his shocking secret? Find out in November!

Friday, October 5, 2012

"Arthur Cleary" Coming Out in November!

I hope it's okay to show the final cover art for my story, "Arthur Cleary", that's coming out on November 2nd. I'm excited and I love the cover!

Please note the blog hop information in the blog post directly below this one and hop away! You have the chance to win a Kindle Fire and other great prizes!

On October 7th, I'm going to give away a free copy of my story "Honeymoon" to a winner chosen at random who has commented on my blog hop post entry. So leave a comment in the post directly below this one to be eligible for this prize. I hope you will enjoy reading "Honeymoon" as much as I enjoyed writing it!

Sunday, September 30, 2012

My Experiences with Musa Publishing... A Blog Hop Post!

I've been having an excellent experience with Musa Publishing, the publisher of my stories "Honeymoon" (out now, and also available on Amazon) and "Arthur Cleary" (to be released on November 2nd). My editor, Megan Embry, has been great, as have the others at Musa with whom I've had the pleasure of working. My stories are in Musa's Erato (GLBT) imprint.

A brief summary of "Honeymoon" follows:

Can two men drawn together by past and present events find love when and where they least expect it?

And here's a little of what the story is about:

Unable to forget a secret of his past, Lee Mullens arrives at the Haver Corners Inn on his wedding day, alone. Guilt-ridden and confused, he retreats to their planned honeymoon location only to meet the attractive Sanders Hamilton.

Sanders feels the pull to his melancholy guest, and sets out to befriend the young man. But what grows between them is so much more than friendship…despite the fact that Sanders runs the inn with his wife.

Can Lee and Sanders overcome the conflicts in their lives and find their way to each other?
 
I enjoyed writing "Honeymoon" and creating the main characters, Lee Mullens and Sanders Hamilton, and the secondary characters, Rochelle Hamilton and Brian. I hope those who have already read "Honeymoon" have enjoyed it! It was not only fun to write, but the editing process went along smoothly and pleasantly. I love the cover art for the story, so a big thank you for that goes out to cover artist Kelly Shorten.

I have recommended to some of my excellent writer friends that they submit work to Musa Publishing, and I've told many reader friends to check out the site and look for works that they might like to read. Each of Musa's imprints is named after one of the Muses, and there's definitely something for everybody: romance, mystery, paranormal, speculative fiction, GLBT, young adult, etc.

For those of you interested in GLBT romance, whether you've read it before or would like to read it for the first time, please check out "Honeymoon". I hope that you'll be pleased with what you find!

Note that this is a blog hop post. It's here to celebrate the first anniversary of Musa Publishing. In that celebratory spirit, I'm giving away one free copy of my story "Honeymoon"! All you have to do is sign up to follow my blog and leave a comment about this post. By October 7th, I'll choose a winner and give you your free copy of "Honeymoon"! Thanks!

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Hitting on the Right Word

I love when I'm writing or editing and hit on just the right word for a sentence. Today I hit on the word "opulent" to describe an ornate fireplace, and I felt ridiculously good about it. I'm not saying it's brilliant or even remarkable, but it just felt to me as though it worked, and that felt good. I hope my editor and readers will agree!

It can be tough to find the right words overall, but sometimes especially tough to find a single right word. It's as if a sentence is stuck in a rut and you need a word to give it more punch, but you can't quite find it. Often, it's on the tip of your brain, but you just can't quite access it.

I use a thesaurus sparingly, and often just to get an idea of some other words that are synonyms for my word. The thesaurus gets my brain moving. I use it sparingly because I think when a writer relies on it too much, the writing shows that and runs the risk of becoming purple prose. Finding a different word all the time--what might be perceived as a new and exciting word--can be a dangerous proposition. First of all, that new and exciting word might not have exactly the meaning you intend (the English language is filled with many shades of meaning), or it might just come off as pretentious. So my advice is not to get addicted to the thesaurus, but to use it as one of many resources.

Sometimes free writing can bring to mind the word you're looking for. Or just daydreaming and letting your mind wander through forests of words until you discover the right one. And sometimes, you've got to set the work aside, and when you pick it up again, the word will come to you. And when it does, it's usually very much worth it. And it will leave you feeling ridiculously good. Another piece of advice I can give is to read a novel, a poem, or a nonfiction piece when you're looking for a word. You might come upon it, or else it will just come to you while you're reading something that you really admire that's written excellently.

Whatever you do, I wish you great words in the right places! And I wish you good feelings about what you write, whatever it might be.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Higgs Boson Maybe

To the tune of "Call Me Maybe":

Hey, you just found me,
And this is crazy,
'Cause did you find me?
Higgs Boson maybe.

For all my science geek readers!

Sunday, September 23, 2012

From the End to the Beginning...

My novel, Purple Loosestrife, is finished, but I'm still editing it. Mainly, I need to go back to the beginning to be sure that it fits with the end--to see that all the threads weave through properly and tie up at the end. I also want to have the early chapters really shine in the event that someone should want to see a partial (or full, for that matter) manuscript.

Writing never feels like it's done. I could keep editing and editing this novel, but eventually, I've got to start sending it out into the world. That said, even with my published work, I still look at it with a discerning and critical eye and think, "Oh, I could have done that better..." or "That word just doesn't fit very well there..." It's a never-ending process, but eventually you have to let works live and breathe on their own. It's like giving birth--a baby can only be in a womb for a certain amount of time, and then the time comes for it to enter the world.

So I'll start to seriously work on my early chapters, and then all my chapters again, and get this novel into the sort of shape I want it to be in as I send queries out about it to agents/editors/publishers. It's a somewhat intimidating and scary prospect--scarier, in my opinion, than sending out short fiction. But it has to be done. I didn't write this novel only to have it sit in a binder in my study!

Friday, September 21, 2012

My Own Pictures or Public Domain

I feel a need to let it be known that the pictures I use in my blog are either my own or public domain.

Meditation, Memory, and Writing

I started meditating several years ago and I've gotten to be pretty good at getting into the zone. I do mindful meditation because I find it impossible to turn off my brain and not let thoughts come in. So I let the thoughts come, but I think of them as a river flowing by--just thoughts moving along, no judgment about them, no angst, no concern. It's also like watching clouds drift through a blue sky with each cloud being a thought. It works for me, and I highly recommend learning about mindful meditation for anyone who can't turn his or her brain off completely but who would like to delve into meditation.


Recently I've developed the ability to "regress" while I'm meditating. I have an excellent memory (not to brag, but it's something of which I'm proud) and I can recall past events vividly and in great detail. So what I do while I'm meditating is tell myself to "go back" and concentrate on an event from the past. It can be anything--from a time when I was four and vividly recall pretending to make a chocolate cake for my mom and sister to eat, to a time in a college classroom, to something that may have happened fairly recently which I wish to recall and "relive". I can smell smells, see the events, hear sounds, feel the way I felt when the event took place, even taste something I may have eaten. It's quite an exciting experience, and it leaves me feeling relaxed, fulfilled, and happy.

It also leaves me ready to write. I'm calm and in touch after meditating, and if I've practiced this "regression", I feel that my imagination has come fully to attention and ideas are coming at me quickly. I don't necessarily write about the times I've regressed to. I may work on a current short story or my novel in progress, but whatever the case, I feel awake and alive and open.

So if you're interested in meditation, I recommend that you learn more about it and try it out. I can't offer any book titles or websites that have helped me specifically--I'm pretty much self-taught, plus I did take a brief course in mindfulness which included mindful meditation. But I'm sure there are good books and websites out there. A search on Amazon might be helpful, or just a Google or Bing search. Give it a try if you feel it might help you! It might not just help your writing, but you're whole sense of well-being. That's what it definitely does for me, and I'm grateful for it.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

My Very Earliest Work

I wrote my first story, "Gregory the Giraffe", when I was four years old. It was written entirely in pictures, but I can still tell you what it was about. A giraffe named Gregory falls in love with another giraffe, but then breaks his leg. He's laid up in bed in a cast and can't see his beloved. But once he gets better, he gives her a huge diamond ring, and the two live happily ever after.

I wrote another notable book when I was seven. It was called "How to Be Healthy", and it was an instruction manual on how to keep from being maimed or killed. (I was a rather strange child.)

I wrote a lot of poetry as a kid, too. One poem that stands out in my memory was about finding happiness by flying to the sun, and then losing that happiness when realizing that one can't fly to the sun and is really all alone. Kind of existential for a little kid.

My first published short story came along in 2005. It's called "Lonesome Tonight", and I've posted it on this site. It's from a now defunct journal called Lynx Eye and isn't available anywhere on the web, so I've made it available in this blog. Just search on "Lonesome Tonight" and you'll find it. I'd be happy to have anyone who's interested read it!

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Amazon!

I've got a couple of my stories available on Amazon... Please click here to see them. Yay!

"Friday"

My literary short story "Friday" is ready for reading in Cobalt Review, Issue #5, Fall 2012. You can read it by clicking here. I'm excited about this story and hope you will enjoy it! It's a weird one--flash fiction, of which I'm so fond, and surreal and absurdist. You may never look at a Winnebago the same way again!

Monday, August 27, 2012

Sunflowers

Enjoy! No specific reason for this picture. Just a picture of some beautiful sunflowers that I took during my week spent in the Berkshires in Massachusetts.

So Happy About "Honeymoon"

So happy that my story "Honeymoon" has been published by Musa/Erato! Please check it out when you have a chance. Click here to find it. Thanks!






















































































Friday, August 17, 2012

"Honeymoon"

Today's the big day of the release of my story "Honeymoon" by Musa Publishing in their Erato (GLBT) imprint! Please click here for the link that will let you buy my story for your computer (in .pdf file format) or your e-reader (various formats).

I so hope people enjoy it! I enjoyed writing it and creating the characters Lee Mullens and Sanders Hamilton. I also enjoyed placing the story in my fictional town of Haversville, which is where my as-yet-unpublished novel Purple Loosestrife takes place (it's still in the editing stages). In fact, the main characters in Purple Loosestrife don't live very far away from the Haver Corners Inn!

Happy reading to those of you who buy "Honeymoon". And happy reading today in general. It's always a good day to read!

Thursday, August 16, 2012

"Ribs"

Just found out this afternoon that my short story "Ribs" has been accepted for publication by the literary journal Breath and Shadow. It will be coming out in the winter of 2013. I'm excited!

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Flash Fiction

I love writing flash fiction, and I love reading it as well. The first story I ever published, "Lonesome Tonight", was a flash fiction piece. It was published in a now defunct journal called Lynx Eye. Since then, I've had another flash fiction piece published: "Mr. Gribbles Eats a Beetle" was published in Literary Brushstrokes. "Vladimir Lenin Grown Weary" and "Friday", two more flash fiction works, are forthcoming in, respectively, Dinosaur Bees and Cobalt Review.

Writing flash fiction is an exercise in brevity and using language economically yet effectively. Even if I write something that on the surface is funny, I still want it to resonate with the reader. I want to make a reader think, because even my funny pieces have (I hope) a point to make. For example, I just started working on a new flash fiction story called "Tom Cruise Goes to Target". The title alone, in my opinion, is funny, and there's humor in the piece, but I hope to make a larger point. It doesn't necessarily have to be anything extremely deep and profound, just something provocative and interesting beyond the chuckle.

I'm still working on "James", which is not flash fiction. "James" will be a longer piece, though I'm not yet sure how long. I have to keep telling it to see where it will go. I love the writing process.

Friday, August 10, 2012

A TwitFic for Today

I've mentioned and explained my TwitFics or brief Twitter fictions before. If you click on "TwitFics" or "Twitter", you should find that information. Meanwhile, here's an ominous TwitFic for today (no special reason for posting it today, just felt like it!):

The cockroaches began speaking to each other in a foreign insect language. They knew something that we would have to wait to find out.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Christmas Will Come in Time...

It comes in December, but in the stores, it seems to come right after Halloween--in some cases, even before Halloween. I love Christmas, but I also love fall--September, October, November--and I love Halloween and Thanksgiving. I like to celebrate all of these separately, not in a big jumble that seems to have the sole task of leading us right up to Christmas.

I like Christmas to come after Thanksgiving. I admit, I tend to start decorating the day after Thanksgiving when it's still November which might be a little too early for some people, but at least Thanksgiving has happened.

These are just some of my random thoughts about the upcoming seasons. Not really anything to do with writing here yet, so let me throw in that I'm working on a new short story entitled "James". It features thirty-year-old James, his supposedly dead mother, and his mother's lover, a Brazilian magician named Raul. It will be a bit strange as so many of my stories are. I intend to play with the dynamics between these three characters. And it isn't going to be happening at Christmas time!

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Submitting Short Works

It can be a little scary and hard to submit short works to literary journals when you're just starting to do so. But it's so worth it when you get an acceptance among all the rejections you're sure to get as well. Rejections are part of writing. Everybody gets them because, let's face it, not everything can be published everywhere, and sometimes a piece needs more work before it's ready to go off into the world. Occasionally, an editor will let you know why your work has been rejected, and you can use this as a learning experience. It's free advice from an expert, so use it! But not all rejections let you know why you've been rejected. You're sure to get a lot of form e-mails (or letters if they're doing it old school); the journal you've submitted to might just not have the time to give everyone a reason and advice.

The bottom line, in my opinion, is that you need persistence, patience, and a thick skin. You can't take rejections personally. You have to move on from them and keep submitting. A creative writing professor I had in graduate school suggested that we submit and forget it. I keep a binder of what I've submitted to where, but then after I submit, I truly put it out of my mind until I hear something one way or the other. And then, upon forgetting about it, I keep submitting. You've got to move forward. You'll never get published if you don't send anything out.

I've been trying to get members of my writers group, the CNY Creative Writers Cafe, to submit more work. We have some very good writers who should try to get their stories out there. Many of our members are submitting and getting published. It's very exciting! So take the plunge if you're a writer and you haven't submitted anything yet!

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

An Update on My Memoir

I'm still working slowly but surely on my memoir about my experiences with bipolar disorder. It's difficult to write--not just about the rough times, but about the good times as well. Generally speaking, I've been having good times for about the past seven or eight years. I'm compliant (in other words, I take my meds as I'm supposed to). I have an excellent doctor and support system in my family and friends. And I have a wonderful husband and son who "get me" more than any other people in the world and always help to keep me balanced.

It's obvious why it's difficult to write about the rough times, but as I said, writing about the good times can be just as hard. I think it's because those of us with bipolar disorder are constantly working to stay balanced and avoid triggers that might cause depression or mania. So even when times are good, it can be difficult to convey to someone who's not in "the tribe" the challenges of everyday life. We have to learn to live and cope in certain ways through cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT) as well as other skills that we have developed along the way on our journey through this illness.

All this said, I'm glad that I'm "coming out" with this memoir, and even just with writing about it here. A big part of my goal in writing it is to educate and enlighten people about bipolar disorder and mental illness in general. I want to help remove the stigma of mental illness and demonstrate through my own example that we can be capable, productive, successful members of society. I also want to show that having a mental illness means that you have a brain disorder. The brain is an organ and a system in the body just like any other, so having a mental illness isn't all that different from having diabetes or multiple sclerosis or any other chronic condition that affects an organ or a system in the body. Mental illness isn't a character flaw. It's a medical illness involving one's biochemistry.

So this is my update on my memoir and some of the issues I wish to address within it. The writing is slow going, as one might expect, but it's fulfilling, cathartic, and therapeutic. I'm writing it for myself, but I'm also hoping that it might one day serve to do just as I've said above: educate and enlighten and erase the stigma.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Starting a Short Story

When I start a short story, I tend not to start at the beginning. I usually get an idea, a phrase, a scrap of dialogue, an image, etc. in my mind, and I start writing about it. I find this to be a much better way to start than to "begin at the beginning". So typically, my stories start somewhere in the middle, or even close to the start, but the actual start as well as the ending come after I've written a bit of the middle.

Sometimes I do start with the ending. I'll know what I want to say--what I want to close with--so I'll write that down and than essentially work backwards from there. But even that is not a steady progression. I'll write bits and pieces of the story and put them all together when I'm forming a first draft.

My recommendation to anyone who's starting to write a short story is to try not to start at the beginning. Sometimes when a writer does so, she or he can get so caught up in it "sounding just right" that writer's block might set in and the writer feels that he or she can't move forward.

I'm sure, however, that there are people who write short stories from the beginning, move to the middle, and then write the ending very successfully--especially if you really know what you want to do or if you've got the story outlined prior to starting. I'm just saying that, in my own experience, I find it easier to write in bits and pieces and then put it all together at the end when I'm ready to form it into some sort of coherent full draft.

In summary, I think it's good to keep in mind that you don't have to start at the beginning. It can be tough to do so, so if you're having trouble with it, try jumping right into the middle! It might help the process to work much better for you.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Dreaming, Meditating, and Writing

I had a wonderful dream last night about a piece of flash fiction I was going to write. It was a great idea, and in the dream, I loved it. Upon waking up, however, I couldn't remember what the flash fiction was. I remember that it involved a fire truck and a balloon, but that's it. I wish I could remember it because I really do think it was a good idea--not one of those things that's only good in the world of the dream.

I sometimes dream about things that I later write, or dream about writing I'm currently doing. While writing my novel, I would dream of scenes and especially conversations between my characters. Sometimes they'd be disjointed and strange, but other times, I'd have breakthroughs in my sleep and get through a scene that I was having trouble with in the waking world. Other times, I'd just see and talk to my characters, and it helped me to get to know them better.

I believe that you can attempt to "direct" your dreams towards your writing. If you go to sleep with a question about something you're writing, or a scene in your mind, I do believe that you can find the answer or finish the scene while you're asleep. Of course, I don't think this always works, but it's occasionally worked for me. I also think that this doesn't work for everybody. If you're someone who doesn't remember his or her dreams, then it probably won't work. But if you dream the way I do--every night and very vividly--then it may just work.

Another thing I do is meditate about my writing. I got into meditation several years ago, and while I'm no expert, I do pretty well with getting into a "zone". I meditate about my writing by thinking of it when I'm starting to meditate and then keeping it on my mind during the meditation session. I do mindful meditation--in other words, I don't attempt to clear my mind of all thoughts; rather, I let thoughts drift through my mind, so it's okay to let thoughts about my writing drift by. I try not to let any one thought linger for very long. Instead, I let the thoughts move through my mind in the hope that, when I write, I'll write better stuff. I'm not sure exactly how this works--I guess that while meditating, I become more familiar with what I'm working on and hence do a better job when forming it into something coherent.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Michael Canavan's Publication

My dear friend and critique partner, Michael Canavan, is getting his story "Two of Us" published in the September issue of Literary Brushstrokes. Michael is an excellent writer and one of the hardest working writers I know. He puts his heart and soul into his work. In addition to this being an accomplishment for Michael, it's also yet another publication for the CNY Creative Writers Cafe, the best critique group on the planet.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Nukes

I have an intense interest in science in general, physics more specifically, and subatomic physics even more so. That said, I'm interested in nuclear weapons because of the science behind them. Don't get me wrong: I don't like nukes and I wish they were never invented. The world would be a better place without them. But since they already exist, I feel I can have this interest in their science.

I'm currently writing a short story called "The Adirondack Room"--a surreal, absurdist little tale. The interesting thing about this tale is that it began with a challenge that my critique partner, Michael Canavan, and I gave each other. I wrote about this challenge a number of entries ago. We were to write coming-of-age stories. Mine morphed into something very different, and I believe you have to let stories do this--you have to follow them where they want to go, and often it's in an entirely different direction than what you set out for. Anyhow, this story involves nukes in parts of it, and I wrote one passage I particularly enjoyed writing. Here it is at this point in time:


They’re still testing nukes in Nevada, and no one in the general public knows about it but me. I see them when I close my eyes: the mushroom cloud fiery red and orange, rising up, billowing out; the grey stem, the circle of ash and smoke around it; the shocking formation of a crater in the desert; lizards, birds, insects, and snakes gone—no remains; scrub bushes and tumbleweeds blown into the center of the whirlpool of toxic air; the rush, the wind, the silent radiation moving out at a speed I can’t fathom; the fallout forming quickly, ready to snow down as it rides through the atmosphere—an evil thing, an innocent thing, and finally, truthfully, an indifferent thing.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

"Honeymoon", Etc.

Here is the final cover for my short story "Honeymoon" which will be released on August 17th, 2012, by Musa Publishing in their Erato (GLBT) imprint. I love the cover and I'm very excited about its upcoming release!

I've been working with an editor for the first time ever, and she's been so wonderful and helpful. Doing my edits has been a terrific experience.

It's funny how the more edits I do, the more I feel like I could do, but such is the nature of writing. I don't think writers ever truly feel that their pieces--whether novels, stories, essays, poems, etc.--are finished!

In addition to this news, I'd like to report that my story "Shadow People" is now appearing in The Linnet's Wings. And my story "Mr. Gribbles Eats a Beetle" is now appearing in Literary Brushstrokes. Both journals are also available for sale in hard copy form on their respective websites, which you will find by clicking on the story links.


Monday, June 25, 2012

A Poem by Stephen Crane and Memoir Writing

This is one of my favorite poems. It's by Stephen Crane:

Many red devils ran from my heart
And out upon the page.
They were so tiny
The pen could mash them.
And many struggled in the ink.
It was strange 
To write in this red muck
Of things from my heart.

This makes me think of the difficulty of writing a memoir, which I am in the process of doing. It does feel as though I'm writing in red muck of things from my heart. I'm writing about my experiences with bipolar disorder, and while for the past several years, I've been doing very well, there were some dark times in the past that are very difficult to write about.

So how do you approach such things in a memoir? For me, I just free write and get it all out onto the page. I often do this free writing by hand and type it up later. There's something about the connection among hand, pen, and paper that helps me to fully explain and explore. When I then get this "red muck" typed up, I go over it and edit it--make it coherent, organize it, put it into the form of a readable narrative of my experiences. This is what I would recommend to anyone writing a memoir.

Another thing I do is write out of order. I find that I can't start with, say, 1995, and then write up to the present. I might arrange the memoir that way in the end, but while writing it, it's easier to jump around and write about whatever is on my mind at a given time. I also recommend this approach to others. Of course, it can depend on what sort of mood you're in. If I'm feeling a bit down, I don't want to write about darker things, so I might write about more recent years and some of my triumphs over the disorder. Whereas if I'm feeling good and happy, I might tackle some of the darker things because they won't be as likely to get me down and they won't be as hard to write about.

I find that writing a memoir is much more difficult than writing a novel. I got the rough draft of my novel, Purple Loosestrife, done in a few months, and I pretty much wrote it linearly. Not so with the memoir. I've got about four chapters of it written, and these have taken me about as long as did the writing of the whole rough draft of my novel. So to write a memoir, especially one which contains emotionally charged material, I recommend having a lot of patience and perseverance.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

"Friday"

My short story "Friday" has been accepted for publication by Cobalt Review!  It will be released in their September issue.  I'm very excited!

Monday, June 18, 2012

Ordering Literary Brushstrokes

My short story, "Mr. Gribbles Eats a Beetle", appears in the journal Literary Brushstrokes.  You can order either a hard copy or a digital copy of the journal by clicking here.  (If you order a hard copy, the digital copy comes along with it for free.)  I'm not making any money from the sale of this journal.  I'm just putting this out there so that people can read my story!  If you decide to order the journal, happy reading!

Saturday, June 16, 2012

"Mr. Gribbles Eats a Beetle"

My short story, "Mr. Gribbles Eats a Beetle" is available to read on line at Literary Brushstrokes.  Just click on the "Literary Brushstrokes" link to go there.  A print version of the journal will be available later in the summer!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

A Bittersweet Taste of the Uncanny Valley

This is a photograph of Repliee, a Japanese android.  She's very beautiful and quite amazing, if you Google or YouTube footage of her moving and speaking.  This is the sweet part.  The bitter part is the uncanny valley.  Look at her eyes and her mouth.  Something is just... off.  She's a little scary, though she's not meant to be scary at all.  She looks so close to being an actual human being, and yet she's not.  She's a bit, well, disturbing.  Androids have been compared to reanimated corpses.  Imagine the look of an embalmed corpse, and then look at Repliee.  The skin, the overall "look", the something that's ineffable but key to being an actual living, healthy human... the spark of life, perhaps, whatever it is.  It isn't there in an embalmed corpse, nor is it there in Repliee.  And yet she's extraordinary.

The Uncanny Valley

In 1970, Japanese robotics professor Masahiro Mori coined the term "the uncanny valley".  The uncanny valley hypothesis maintains that as a robot becomes more human-like in appearance, a human being's emotional response to that robot will become more and more empathic and positive, until a point is reached beyond which a human being's response rapidly becomes one of revulsion.  When demonstrated on a graph, the area of revulsion in the response of a human being to an "almost human" entity is called "the uncanny valley".  Because the response dips from highly positive down to highly negative, the graph contains a "valley"--the uncanny valley.

The uncanny valley hypothesis has fascinated me for years.  Robots, androids, computer-generated humans (i.e., in movies and video games), mannequins, dolls--all can fall into the uncanny valley depending on how close, but not yet close enough, they are to human beings.  Because of this fascination, I have written two short stories that, in roundabout ways, deal with the uncanny valley--a futuristic story called "Carlsbad Caverns" and a Cold War era story called "The Pattersons".

I'm still working on "Carlsbad Caverns", whereas I've sent "The Pattersons" to several journals and have received rejections in return.  I think I'd like to take a new look at "The Pattersons" and tweak some things about the story, hence making it a work in progress as well.  I'd like to get these stories finished and out there for anyone who enjoys subjects dealing with the uncanny valley as much as I do.


Friday, June 8, 2012

First Ever Edits

I've gotten my first edits for my short story "Honeymoon" from Megan Embry, my editor at Musa Publishing/Erato (GLBT) imprint.  This is the first time I've ever worked with an editor on edits I need to make, so it's pretty exciting.  My other short stories that are being published this summer ("Vladimir Lenin Grown Weary", "Mr. Gribbles Eats a Beetle", and "Shadow People") will be published as I've submitted them.  But Musa treats everything, including short stories, like books.  I'll even get covers for "Honeymoon" and "Arthur Cleary", my other short story that's to be published by Musa/Erato in November.  It's neat to be experiencing how the whole process works.

"Honeymoon" is due to be released in August of 2012.  I can hardly wait to see it in its finished form!

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Publication Again!

I just found out that my story "Shadow People" has been accepted for publication in the Irish literary journal The Linnet's Wings.  I'm so excited!  It's due to be released this summer of 2012.

Matthew McConaughey's Older Brother


Below is a silly poem I wrote called "Matthew McConaughey's Older Brother":
 
Matthew McConaughey has three brothers,
The oldest one is named Carruthers.
Pale and plain with a balding pate,
Patient with Matt when he shows up late.

He wears a t-shirt on the beach,
Six-pack abs are out of reach.
Matt plays bongos in the nude,
Drinks his beer, calls everyone "dude".

Tan and smiling, there is Matt.
Who's that hiding in the baseball hat?
In the background stands Carruthers,
The flabbiest of the McConaughey brothers.

An accountant by day with a quiet wife,
He lives an ordinary life.
No fan sites, no starring roles;
On Tuesday nights, he likes to bowl.

Monday, June 4, 2012

A Few Tips About Creating Characters

A few tips about creating characters that happen to work for me (not an exhaustive list--just a few things off the top of my head):

  • Give your characters birthdays.
  • Write notes or passages about their childhoods, even if they won't appear in the story or novel.
  • Think about their ideas on faith, the existence of God, and the afterlife, even if these aspects of the characters won't appear in the story or novel.
  • Think of what book(s) they're reading at the time of the story or novel--again, this need not appear in the story or novel, but it can give you an idea about the personalities of your characters.
  • Think about their political views.
  • Ask yourself, what are my characters' favorite foods?

Again, this is not an exhaustive list--these are just a few of the things I think about when I'm creating characters.  I want to know my characters very well, including things about them that may never appear in the work itself.  I think that knowing things such as these helps to make them multidimensional on the page.  For example, if I know that a given character is a liberal Democrat who's agnostic, these aspects of him may not appear in the work, but they may affect how he reacts in a given situation.  If my character loves seafood and is reading The Grapes of Wrath at the time that I'm telling her story, this will help me know her better.  These aspects of her may be irrelevant to her story, but I believe that my knowledge of them will show in the work.

Happy writing!


Friday, June 1, 2012

Changing Goals

A few weeks ago, I posted about a writing challenge my critique partner Michael Canavan and I gave each other.  We were both supposed to write a coming of age story.  Well, we've both gotten away from that goal, but I think that's okay.  Michael has moved on to a new story idea that struck him that he really wants to write, and my coming of age story has morphed into the story of a man and a woman over the span of over two and a half decades.  My story is entitled "The Tiger Earring", and I'm having a lot of trouble writing it.  I'm hoping that blogging about it, and remembering my original goal with Michael, will help me get through a rough draft that I can then work on revising.  And I hope that Michael will have good fortune writing his new story idea.

I think that sometimes setting a certain goal and then having it morph into something different is not only okay, but beneficial.  The original goal gets you thinking and writing, and then letting it go where it wants to can turn it into something better than what you originally thought you'd write.  In my case, I just have to keep moving forward.  There will be a certain coming of age element in my story, but it's gone beyond that into something more... I don't even know exactly what!  This is why I'm having trouble writing it.  I think I have to get my brain wrapped around a theme and then take it from there.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Drawing from the Past

I've heard it said to write what you know.  I both agree and disagree with this statement.  I agree in the sense that when we write what we know, we're in familiar territory which brings veracity to what we're writing.  But I disagree because writers have imaginations that can create whole worlds, beings, and events that don't actually exist.  But what I want to talk about a little bit here is writing what you know.

I'm working on a memoir about my experiences with bipolar disorder, and it can be both easy and difficult.  It's easy when I'm writing on a more technical, clinical level; it's difficult when I'm delving into experiences I've had, many of them unpleasant to say the least.  Drawing from the past is an interesting endeavor.  There's material like crazy.  There's so much from which to draw.  But choosing what to draw from is complicated.  I don't want my memoir to be an exercise in wallowing in self-pity, nor do I want it to be maudlin and melodramatic.  I want it to be honest, educational, enlightening, and accurate.  So to draw from the past, I have to pick and choose the right events, emotions, and information to succeed with my goal.  It's not easy, but I intend to give it my best try!

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Alphabet Poem


I wrote the poem below as an exercise.  Each line had to start with the next letter of the alphabet, so if you look down at the first letters of each line, you'll be able to read the entire alphabet in order.

"To a Former Lover in the Present Moment"
By Emily Glossner Johnson

Aside from your silence,
Beside my crystal memories of
Cool September days,
Do you ever remember?
"Emily, forget them!
Forget what they say!
Go with your heart."
How inelegant your words, and yet
I believed you
Just as you believed in me.

Know this:
Love will haunt you;
Memories run strong and deep, but
No, I no longer love you,
Or wish to return to your shelf,
Put there for safe keeping.

Quiet your mind.
Rest easy in your
Silence.
Today I just happen to feel free.

Underneath the
Violet-shadowed pines,
Would you ever go there again?
X-ray my soul,
Your ground
Zero girl.

On a Roll!

Just found out this morning that I'm getting my short story "Vladimir Lenin Grown Weary" published in the summer issue of the journal Dinosaur Bees!  I'm having a very good weekend!

Saturday, May 26, 2012

A New Publication!

I just found out today that my story "Mr. Gribbles Eats a Beetle" is going to be published in the June issue of a journal called Literary Brushstrokes.  "Mr. Gribbles Eats a Beetle" is one of my favorite stories, and I want to thank my cat Gretchen for inspiring it.  The story will be published online and in print.  I'll post more information about how to get it when I know more!

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Writing Challenge

My close friend and critique partner, Michael Canavan, and I have challenged each other to write coming of age stories.  These will be our next stories and we will likely have them critiqued by our writers group, the CNY Creative Writers Cafe.  It's an interesting challenge about an interesting theme.  I've gotten started on my story but so for haven't liked what I've come up with. I need to keep forging ahead!

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Upcoming Musa/Erato Publications

I have two stories that will be coming out this summer and fall with Musa Publishing in their Erato (GLBT) imprint.  I've written in this blog about both of these stories, and now I have dates for both of their releases.  "Honeymoon" has a release date of August 17, 2012, and "Arthur Cleary" has a release date of November 2, 2012.  Suffice it to say, I'm very excited about all of this!

Both of these stories are gay romances.  "Honeymoon" is a contemporary romance, and "Arthur Cleary" is a paranormal romance.  I want to thank my characters--Lee Mullens, Sanders Hamilton, Jake McAdams, and Arthur Cleary--for bringing these stories to life.  I realize that we writers give life to our characters, but it is a good character who gives life to a story.  And somehow a good character seems an entity unto himself or herself.  When I feel I've created a character who works well, it's as if I haven't done it all myself--it's as if the character himself or herself had a hand in it.  It's difficult to describe what I mean, but anyone who's a writer surely knows what I'm talking about.  There's just something magical about the creative process--something ineffable.  All that said, I'm looking forward to having readers get to know my characters and their stories come August and November!

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

"Lonesome Tonight"

My first published short story, "Lonesome Tonight", appeared in the fall of 2005 in Lynx Eye, Volume XII, Nos. 3 & 4.  Lynx Eye is now defunct, and the issue in which my story appeared is not available on Amazon or anywhere else on the Internet, as far as I've been able to tell.  Thus, I've decided to post my story here on my blog.  So here for your reading pleasure (I hope!) is "Lonesome Tonight":

              Mr. Presley enjoys bacon and eats it often.  He gets up in the night to eat bacon, fries it in a large cast iron frying pan that has cooked bacon so many times, the congealed fat has become part of its tough black surface, a semi-slick rink of fragrant grease that sizzles and bubbles to life on the gas range.
              Lopita wears pink and yellow.  Her long black braid is a rope that swings away from her slender back.  On Tuesdays and Fridays, it is Lopita's job to put away the groceries:  eggs and milk, great cottony loaves of bread, molasses, lard, thick yellow bricks of cheese.  Today she works alone.  Miss Nicholson has gone to the hardware store herself, though Lopita offered to go.
            "SeƱorita Lopita," Mr. Presley says when he comes into the kitchen.
            "Hello, sir," Lopita says.
            "Say, is Miss Nicholson around and about?"
            "No, sir.  She is gone to buy mousetraps--"  Lopita stands very still while Mr. Presley rummages through the refrigerator.
            "Lopita bonita, a pretty, pretty lady," he says.  He peeks around the refrigerator door and beams at Lopita.  "I've got a star with your name on it.  I've got a Buick built for two."
            Lopita doesn't want to be famous, doesn't sing or dance, has no American plan.  Every morning she wears a brown dress to Mass and dreams of home.  "It is time for you to go from San Felipe," her great-grandmother told her.  Abuela spoke low and gummed sprigs of cilantro.  She kept dozens of mice in baskets and ceramic bowls and read the piles of tiny shits as one reads tea leaves.  "But you must go," Abuela continued, her voice rising.  "One day it will rain unlike anything before, the rain of a broken heart, of a lonesome eye unable to see."
            Manoj spreads mulch in the yard over the waxy stems of transplanted bulbs bulging from the ground like something that is almost obscene.  He works shirtless, his brown back curving over the earth, determined.  For lunch, he will stop and rest in the shade and eat strands of chicken stained red by acrid spices, a dish his mother in Calcutta used to prepare for him that he has offered to share with Lopita twice before, a small taste, a stringy clump.  Lopita declined each of his offers, yet both times Manoj held the meat out to her a moment past thinking that perhaps she might have been inclined to change her mind.
            Manoj stands upright as Lopita approaches.  "I buried a dead mouse," he says, gesturing to an unremarkable place on the lawn.  "Miss Nicholson found it in the pantry.  She said, put it in the incinerator, but here in the ground it will feed the grasses."
            Lopita nods.  She has come to the garden with her clippers and small metal bucket to cut fresh blazing stars.  The smell of bacon wafts out to her from the house, and the hairs on the back of her neck stand up.  There's something wrong this August in Memphis, organic butting up against inorganic with a sweet floury fullness and a weight of ozone and airborne lead.
            Mr. Presley enjoys peanut butter and bacon sandwiches on bread spread thick with butter and thoroughly fried in a crackling brown soup of bacon fat.  In Miss Nicholson's absence, or at night, on so very many nights, he prepares his own sandwiches, the kitchen walls anointed with the pork sweat and peanut oils until they glow in the electric light.
            When Lopita returns to the kitchen, Mr. Presley salutes her with the sandwich he's holding in his bloated fingers.  "Kingdom come, chica," he says.  In one moment, his face shines like a boiled dumpling, but then it is more like a moon coming too close, the balance of days and tides, of push and pull, askew.
            "Kingdom come," Mr. Presley says to the sandwich, peering at it closely.  Lopita's face burns; she rushes out of the room.  It's the last time she will see Mr. Presley alive.
            The ground buckles under Manoj with the force of the explosion.  He drops his rake, staggers back, then lurches forward to the house.
            What he finds in the kitchen, what he sees and smells--he will see it, smell it, remember it for the rest of his days, but he will never be certain if he can believe it, or believe that Lopita is running towards him through what moments before was a corridor--Lopita nearly stumbling in a sudden rain and hale, greasy pellets clumping around them and on their hair and skin and eyes.
            "The mister!  The mister, he has exploded!"
            In the silence of the days that follow, they are made to leave.  A bus travels from Memphis to Des Moines, another to Louisville, another to Atlanta, and Cleveland, South Bend, Sarasota, Houston.  Lopita wears grey amidst the landscape, the cityscape, the buildings, cars, faces, clouds and blue, somewhere, anywhere.  A breeze blows a newspaper along the ground past Lopita, headlines blurred, but Lopita knows what the newspapers say.