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, 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!

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Happy New Year!

Happy and Blessed New Year to all my readers! I'm so grateful for you. May 2014 be a fabulous year for you all.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

These Are Not New Year's Resolutions!

There are things I want to do in 2014, but I dislike calling them resolutions. All too often, resolutions don't seem to get finished. But I want to finish what I plan to do.

First off, I have to continue to send out my novel to agents and publishers much more frequently.

Second, I want to continue writing and publishing short stories.

Third, I want to continue work on my memoir, which is slow going, but worth it.

Fourth, I want to get myself into great physical shape. This doesn't really have to do with writing directly, but indirectly, it has an effect. The endorphins I get from exercise help me with the energy I need to submit and write. Plus, I've just gotten out of shape and that isn't healthy, so I have to make changes. Just today, I joined Planet Fitness and worked out. I discovered just how far I have to go, but I'm going to keep forging ahead. It's so good for my body as well as my mind, especially my bipolar mind.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Resources for Naming Characters

I love coming up with names for my characters. Often, names just come to me. They sound and feel right for the character who's in my head. For example, in my novel Purple Loosestrife, the three main characters are Spencer MacGowan, Vincent Ravenaugh, and Edith Leonard. These names just came to me as I planned the novel. Sometimes I come up with names that amuse me, such as Bobby Bouillon in my short story "A Good Boy's Tale" (The Round Up Writer's Zine, Volume 1-1, September 2013), or Mr. Gribbles in "Mr. Gribbles Eats a Beetle" (Literary Brushstrokes, Volume 1, Number 1, June 2012).

I like names to sound real--unless, of course, a story is surreal or humorous or offbeat and a name needs to reflect that. But otherwise, I strive to create names that could be those of people the reader knows--names that sound as though they've come from real life. When I can't just come up with such names, I find a few resources to be very helpful.

First of all, there's the website Behind the Name. One can find first names and surnames on this site along with a bit of etymology and history of the names. It's fun just to browse on this site, and it's useful if you're stuck and really need help coming up with the right names.

Another resource is within the Official Social Security Website. When you first go to the names page, you'll see the most popular baby names for the year, but if you scroll down, you'll find that you can search for names by decade, state, and other criteria. This means that if you have a character who was born in 1934, you can find an apt and realistic name for her. Or if you want a name to fit the state the character is from, you can search for that as well. You can also search for the top five names for the past one hundred years. Again, it's fun to browse, and it's very helpful as well.

Finally, I have a baby names book that I sometimes use. This is very good for finding first names, but it can be helpful for finding surnames as well. There are first names that are also surnames; sometimes you'll come across a name that just sounds right as a surname. I recommend a baby names book to all writers. 

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Writing with Cats

What can I say about writing with cats? Do they help me out? No. Do they give me ideas? Not really, except in the case of my short story "Mr. Gribbles Eats a Beetle" (published in Literary Brushstrokes, Volume 1, Number 1, June 2012). Aside from that, what do they do for me regarding my writing? Well, I guess they inspire me with their devotion and dedication to, well, being cats. A cat is firmly and happily a cat, and I like to be firmly and happily a writer.

My cats are William (the black cat) and Gretchen (the grey tiger). They're both rescue cats and a delight to have as part of our family. They're often near me when I'm writing, and they're excellent little writing companions.


Monday, November 18, 2013

The Davids

I'm still working on my story "Five Men Named David" though I think I may change the title to "Five Boys Named David" since I refer to all the Davids as boys throughout the story. It's an interesting story. It takes place in the dorm complex that I lived in at the State University of New York at Buffalo, though I've renamed it and changed a few things. It also takes place on the night in October of 1986 when the New York Mets won the World Series. This works its way into the story.

It's an odd, kind of convoluted story and I don't know if it's going to work or not. But I like the idea of using the same name five times and turning the "rule" that you don't use the same or similar names on its head. We'll see what comes of it.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Publication of "The Escape"

I just got word last night that my short story "The Escape" is going to be published in the winter 2014 issue of Lost Coast Review. I'm excited! This is a story I really like. It's the one with the Brazilian magician named Raul in it. And at the end, it features a chair, but in what capacity? You'll have to read the story to find out.

The journal will be available in mid-January online and on Amazon in paperback and for Kindle.

Monday, October 14, 2013

The Horror, the Horror...

I want to write a post in appreciation of horror. I love horror. I have ever since I was a little kid. Of course, as a kid, I didn't watch horror movies, but I read kids' books dealing with all things supernatural. And now, as an adult, I read a lot of horror and watch all sorts of horror movies.

My favorite horror novels are Stephen King's The Stand, Shirley Jackson's The Haunting of Hill House, Ira Levin's Rosemary's Baby, and Mary Shelley's Frankenstein. I love reading short horror stories as well. I love Richard Matheson, and I just started reading Ramsey Campbell, whom I'm really enjoying. And of course I adore Edgar Allan Poe. I also enjoy reading nonfiction about the supernatural.

As far as movies go, it's hard to pick favorites because I'll watch just about anything horror, and even if a movie is bad, I'll often still like it. But among my favorites are the following (in alphabetical order): 

An American Werewolf in London (the ultimate in horror comedy)
The Bad Seed
Burnt Offerings (a made-for-TV movie that's excellent)
Carnival of Souls (a wonderful 1960s cult classic, surreal and very spooky)
Dawn of the Dead (2004 remake)
The Day After (not technically horror, but on my list because it scares the shit out of me so much that it hurts to watch it)
The Descent (the spelunking scenes alone would be terrifying enough, but then there are the horrifying mutant humans)
The Evil Dead  
The Exorcist
Halloween  
I Am Legend (most scary: not what you see, but what you hear at nightfall, and the idea of having to hide in silence so that they won't find you)
Insidious
Night of the Living Dead  
A Nightmare on Elm Street
The Omen
The Others (not only very scary, but a gorgeous movie)
Poltergeist (still scares me every time, and I can practically recite it)
Psycho
The Ring (the best of the Japanese horror remakes in my opinion)
Rosemary's Baby
Shaun of the Dead (more comedy than horror, but still on my list)
The Shining (Stanley Kubrick's version, another scary but also gorgeous movie)
The Silence of the Lambs
The Sixth Sense
The Stand (actually a made-for-TV miniseries that's excellent)

I'm sure I've probably forgotten some, but this is a pretty good list, I think. 

In addition to reading and watching horror, I also decorate with horror. There's a picture here of my horror shelf and a picture above of a plaque that I recently got. These are not Halloween decorations but things I keep around all year.

Do I write horror? Not in particular. I write some creepy stories, but they aren't exactly horror. Could I write horror? I think so. Perhaps I'll give it a go with one of my next stories. And if I do, I'll be sure to post in this blog about how it's going.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Five Men Named David?

I'm thinking that the story I just started that takes place in the 1980s should be called "Five Men Named David" and be about, you got it, five men named David. It might be flash fiction--I'm not sure yet. It's very short right now because I just started it, but so far I've only introduced two of the Davids, so it could get longer. It'll be an odd one, but that should be no surprise to anyone who's read my writing (the stranger stuff, that is).

I'm still working on "The Affair". I've already let it sit and stew once, and now that I've made changes, I'm not sure if I should let it sit and stew again, or submit it to my writers group for critique. I'm leaning towards getting it critiqued and getting some feedback. I highly recommend letting a work sit and stew for at least a couple of days, but it gets to the point at which you want others to see it so you can get a feel for how it's going.

I have submitted for critique to my writers group a memoir piece called "Manic Summer". As with all my memoir pieces, this one was difficult to write and I'm eager to know what my writers group thinks of it. The problem for me with writing about my bipolar disorder is that I want to convey things clearly that weren't very clear at the time. It's hard to do. It's also difficult to revisit certain periods in my life, but I do find it therapeutic and cathartic, and if this memoir goes somewhere someday, I will be happy if it helps even one person with a mental illness feel better about what he or she is going through.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

New Stories in the Works

I've been reworking a story I wrote a few months ago called "The Affair". It's kind of a dysfunctional suburbia sort of tale. I've changed it quite a bit from its original version, which I found to be a bit implausible. My main character needed stronger motivation for why he does what he does.

I've also started a new story that I think may be flash fiction (though maybe not) that doesn't have a title yet. It features a character named John-From-Staten-Island and takes place in the 1980s. I mention John-From-Staten-Island because he's the first character I've created in the story, and the story starts with him playing "White Lines" by Grand Master Flash. I think this one is going to be fun to write!

Emil Eckhardt and the Top of the Flagpole

I posted a little while back about my Great-Great-Uncle Emil. Now I have an Uncle Emil story to tell.

Uncle Emil was an atheist. On his property, he had a flagpole that flew the American flag. There was a ball at the top of the flagpole that was silver. He told my mother, who was a child at the time, and the rest of the family that when he died, if there turned out to be a God, he would come back and paint the ball at the top of the flagpole gold.

Uncle Emil died in 1957. His cottage on Honeoye Lake was sold. One day, my mother and her family got a notion to drive by and look at the cottage... and the top of the flagpole. Instead of the silver it used to be, the ball on the top was gold.

To this day, there is no explanation for this. Did Uncle Emil indeed come back to convey the existence of God? I don't know, but it certainly makes for a good story. It's become part of my family's lore.

And now the old flagpole and the ball on top of it has become part of my family. My Uncle Bob, who has a cottage on Honeoye Lake, recently went over to Uncle Emil's cottage. It looks very different today; obviously the owners over the years since 1957 have changed it, updated it, reconstructed it. But sure enough, the flagpole with the gold ball on top was still on the property. My uncle told the current owner the story about Uncle Emil. Upon hearing it, the man told my uncle that he could have the flagpole.

The flagpole is rusty and the gold ball is chipped, but the flagpole and that gold ball are back in my family. I saw the gold ball not too long ago and thought about Uncle Emil and his promise to come back if there was a God. Do I believe it? I don't know, but it gives me pause.

What I'm Currently Reading...

A few months have passed since I posted about my current reading material so I thought I'd share. I'm reading Daphne du Maurier's My Cousin Rachel, Jack Kerouac's On the Road, and Stephen King's On Writing. All are very good. I don't usually read two novels at a time, but I've made an exception for now. I'll read several nonfiction books at a time, however.

I just finished Michio Kaku's Physics of the Future and thoroughly enjoyed it. It's an excellent book by an excellent writer. I highly recommend it to anyone. It isn't really all about physics. It touches on all science. Kaku theorizes about the changes that will take place between now and the year 2100. It's all based on the direction science is going presently, so Kaku's ideas seem quite plausible. He ends with a chapter about a day in the life of 2100, which is fascinating as well as a lot of fun. It's January 1, 2100, and he goes through the day of a typical man. I very much enjoyed this chapter. I loved the entire book, and I believe any reader, and especially any lover of science, would, too.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Family Sherlock, a Genealogy Business

My sister, Jennifer van Edig, is a professional genealogist who runs a genealogy business called Family Sherlock. In addition to her website, she also has a blog called The Casebook of Family Sherlock. Jenny is a talented and expert genealogist. I highly recommend her services to readers of my blog, especially those of you who are writers. Your past can be an excellent place to find stories to tell. Jenny has done extensive genealogical research on our family and has found characters, charlatans, heroes, swindlers, hard workers, and skeletons in closets. It's fascinating! And it definitely gives me food for thought as a writer.

So check out Family Sherlock and consider my sister's services! You never know what you might find out, and again, if you're a writer, you might find material for some wonderful stories to tell.

Uncle Emil

Stories about my Great-Great-Uncle Emil are family lore on my mother's side of my family. He was a character, and my mom tells stories about how he lived in a cottage year-round on Honeoye Lake (one of New York's gorgeous Finger Lakes) and how much the family adored him. He died when my mother was still a child, but her memories of him are clear and strong and she gets a good feeling whenever she's at Honeoye Lake because it brings Uncle Emil back to her. His cottage was called the Iris and he had hundreds of irises planted all around on his property. Now my uncle, my mother's brother, has a cottage on Honeoye Lake that he named the Iris II.

Until very recently, Uncle Emil was buried in Mount Hope Cemetery in Rochester, New York, in an unmarked grave. My mother, her three sisters, her brother, and her cousin got together and bought a gravestone for him. I have a picture of it here. Note that it has irises on it.

Of course, I didn't know Uncle Emil--only through stories is he someone to me. But I'm glad he's no longer in an unmarked grave. But while he has this memorial now in Mount Hope Cemetery, he really lives on at Honeoye Lake. This post is just a little piece about one of my ancestors. I feel it's important to connect with one's ancestors. I'd like to think that, someday, my descendants will connect with me.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Things Catholic

I visited an antique shop with my sister in Canandaigua, New York, over the weekend. There I bought an antique holy water font that I'm pretty sure is made of lead. Here's a picture of it.

I love Catholic iconography. I collect crucifixes and holy cards. My favorite and most valued crucifix is pictured here. It's an antique--a family heirloom from Sicily that I inherited from my paternal grandmother. I believe it belonged to her father at one time.

The holy water font stirs my imagination. I wonder how many hands have reached into it, whose hands those were, what stories the people with those hands could tell.

Two of the stories I'm currently working on, "The Infant of Prague" and "Santa Lucia", involve things Catholic. I'm fascinated not only by Catholic iconography, but by Catholic legends, stories, and saints. I'm glad I can draw upon my Catholic background to create fiction.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

"A Good Boy's Tale"

The September issue of The Round Up Writer's Zine has been released and my story, "A Good Boy's Tale", appears in it! I hope you will take a moment to read and hopefully enjoy this story. It's flash fiction, so it's a quick read.

I very much enjoyed writing this story. It all came to me quickly once I had established the character of Bobby Bouillon in my mind. He poured out onto the page, and with the addition of Kip, a story was born.

Meanwhile, I've made a lot of progress on "The Infant of Prague" and "Santa Lucia". My Catholic obsession! Just yesterday at an antique store in Canandaigua, New York, I bought an antique metal holy water font with a little crucifx on it. I'm so excited about this purchase and it goes well with my crucifix collection. I love Catholic iconography, which should be obvious once I finish and hopefully publish "The Infant of Prague" and "Santa Lucia".

Sunday, August 18, 2013

The Bane of My Existence

Okay, maybe I'm exaggerating a little bit, but the story I'm working on, "The Infant of Prague", feels as though it's become the bane of my existence. I wrote a draft of it but it felt very incomplete. More needed to happen. So now I'm rewriting it and adding more, but I don't feel that I've really gotten to the crux of the story.

When I write something, whether a story, chapter, piece of memoir, or poem, I feel that I have to "get inside" of it. I imagine the piece to be like a big circle with a tiny hole that I have to find and climb through to get inside the work. Well, that hasn't happened yet with "The Infant of Prague". I haven't gotten inside of it. I feel I'm close, but I'm still working to determine the purpose of the story and the central ideas that I'm trying to convey. Not that a story needs an earth-shattering theme and purpose every time, but it at least needs to know why it exists. And I need to know why it exists.

I will keep on working because I think I have some good things in the story; I just don't know when it's going to be done. Meanwhile, I take time off and work on another story, "Santa Lucia". It feels as though I'm getting close to the crux of this one. I know where I'm going, and so I work on "Santa Lucia" when I get too frustrated by "The Infant of Prague".

On a different note, I'm getting excited about the appearance of my story "A Good Boy's Tale" in The Round-Up Writers Zine in September! I like "A Good Boy's Tale". It gives me a chuckle, and I hope it will do the same for its readers.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Getting Distracted... Perhaps a Good Thing

As I've written here before, I'm presently working on a short story called "The Infant of Prague". But I've come to an impasse and gotten distracted. I got an idea yesterday and have started another new story called "Santa Lucia". It's so far taken me deep within the Internet world of Roman Catholic websites, and shown me that you can indeed buy formaldehyde on line (but not on the Roman Catholic websites).

I don't think that getting distracted when one story or work isn't flowing as well as you'd like it to is such a bad thing. I've back-burnered "The Infant of Prague" to allow it to simmer and form into something better, and meanwhile, I'm working on "Santa Lucia". I think this will be good for both stories.

So for all your writers out there, don't be bothered when you get distracted. It might be the best thing that can happen to your work at that given time. Sometimes you have to step away from one project, embark on another, and then return to the other project with a fresh mind. That's what I'm trying to accomplish at present.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Accepting Submissions!

The Round Up Writer's Zine is accepting submissions! Go for it!

This is the fine publication that's publishing my story "A Good Boy's Tale". They say on their website: "We are actively seeking a diverse body of work, from short stories, both fiction and nonfiction, poetry, quirky essays and personal musings. We would like our submissions to be laced in humor or darkness, or both. If it is snarky or laden in sarcasm, bring it on. Most importantly, we like pieces that are edgy and/or possibly offensive." If you've written a piece that fits this description, then consider submitting. Remember, you'll never get published if you don't submit!

Friday, July 5, 2013

"Hamper"

Here's a weird little two-line poem I wrote:

For sale: Used hamper, $6.00 or best offer. Pink plastic weave with plastic daisies.
Minor wear and a few stains. Available immediately.

I think it's too short and too odd to ever be published anywhere, so I'm "publishing" it here on my blog. This is kind of in the category of "Matthew McConaughey's Older Brother", which is a rhyming poem that I don't think would ever get published. It's funny and fun and all, but it just isn't "in". So I "published" that one on this blog as well. Feel free to look it up. It's in the "Labels" list as "Matthew McConaughey's Older Brother".

I've actually never had any poetry published, but then I've barely submitted any anywhere. A few poems here and there, but I feel I need to brush up on poetry and develop what I write more. This is why I'm currently reading about poetry. I see myself primarily and overwhelmingly as a fiction (and I suppose memoir) writer, and secondarily as a poet, but I love and enjoy poetry very much and would be thrilled to get some published someday.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

My Swimming Pool

My swimming pool is surrounded by several big trees, so in the fall, many leaves fall onto the pool cover. We have a leaf net, and it works fairly well, but still there are many leaves on the cover when we remove it in the summer, and even though we pull the cover off as carefully yet as quickly as possible, where do many of those leaves end up? In the pool.

So we're in the process right now of vacuuming, vacuuming, vacuuming, all to chlorinate yet again once we remove this debris.

It all reminds me a bit of the story I'm working on at present, "The Infant of Prague". I feel like there's debris I have to remove, and then I have to "chlorinate" to make it just right. I seem to be having as hard a time with this story as I am with our pool. Well, really I'm not having that hard of a time with the pool--I know it will come together well. And I know this as well about my story. It's just the process that can be tedious and make me feel impatient.

On a different note, I just started reading Daphne du Maurier's novel My Cousin Rachel. I love the lush prose and the trajectory the story is already taking. I loved Rebecca, and I think I'm going to love this novel, too. It's so nice when the day is done to get comfortable in bed and read this novel. Or one of the other books I'm reading. I have three in process right now.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Rainy Days in Summer

There's so much to do in the summer when it's not raining... gardening, yard work, swimming in my pool. It takes some time away from writing and reading, but still I try to do both everyday, and I'm usually successful. I definitely read everyday because, if nothing else, I always read before I go to sleep at night. Longer periods of writing, however, work better on rainy days.

I have a fairly big yard with many gardens. The people who lived in our house before us landscaped extensively, so there's a lot to do all spring, summer, and fall. I was planting petunias and impatiens today when it started pouring. So now I'm inside until it stops, which I hope it will, but it's a good time to work on my latest story, "The Infant of Prague".

So if you're a writer, take advantage of rainy days and get some writing in. As for me, my flowers will be waiting when the sun comes back out, but meanwhile, I can write.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Another Acceptance!

I found out yesterday that "A Good Boy's Tale" has been accepted for publication by The Round Up Writer's Zine. I think this story really fits what they're looking for, and obviously they thought so, too! The story will be coming out in September. This is my tenth short story publication. I'm so happy to be in the double digits.

Now I just have to keep sending out queries for my novel, Purple Loosestrife. I've got it out at about four places, but I need to send many, many more queries. And I'll keep writing and submitting short stories. I may have the next one ready to go within the next several weeks. This is the one I'm working on now called "The Infant of Prague". I'm really enjoying writing it, but it needs more work. Ah, revision seems to be never ending!

Friday, June 14, 2013

What I'm Currently Reading...

A post about my current reads...

In fiction, I'm reading When She Woke by Hillary Jordan. I'm really enjoying this novel and finding it to be very well done. It draws heavily on Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter and reminds me of Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale. It's set in a dystopian future, and I love books about dystopian futures. They're up there with apocalyptic or post-apocalyptic literature (yes, I have somewhat grim tastes at times in fiction).

In nonfiction, I'm reading Mary Oliver's A Poetry Handbook: A Prose Guide to Understanding and Writing Poetry. I'm brushing up on my poetry knowledge with this. It's been a while since I've done any reading about poetry. I've read poetry recently, but I really need to read more, especially after reading this handy little guide. And I'd like to write some more poetry--something I haven't done in a while.

Also in nonfiction is Michio Kaku's Physics of the Future. This is a fascinating read. Such intriguing and compelling thoughts and theories about where we'll be up to the year 2100. It really gets my imagination going.

One thing I'd like to mention is that I'm reading these three books in hard copy. Yes, I have a Kindle Fire, and I read many books on it, but I still love hard copy books. I think there can be a nice balance between hard copy books and e-books.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Stories Being Absorbed into Other Stories

I think that my troublesome story, "Glory Be", is going to be absorbed into my story "The Infant of Prague", or at least aspects of it will be absorbed. I don't know if there will end up being a story entitled "Glory Be". I'm finding that characters from "Glory Be" want to migrate over to "The Infant of Prague", and I'm disinclined to stop them. When this sort of thing happens--when characters seem to have minds of their own and want to do their own thing--I find it best to go with it. Maybe "Glory Be" was just the seed for "The Infant of Prague", which is fine and even good for what I hope will be an effective story. So I'm going to keep working on "The Infant of Prague" and let those new characters come in. They're more than welcome.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Current Work

I'm currently working on two stories--one that's going well, and the other that isn't. I think I should stick with the one that isn't going very well and see what I can make of it. It's called "Glory Be" and I just can't seem to find its heart.

The other story that I'm working on is called "The Infant of Prague". My Catholic upbringing is giving me a bit of Catholic guilt about this story since the replica of the Infant of Prague in the story isn't portrayed in the best of light. But I hope the story will be funny, spooky, and weird. That's what I'm going for.

Stories that don't come easily are tough to deal with, but I believe in sticking with them. I find that, sometimes, they turn into completely different stories, the seed of which was in the original story. So if I can find that seed, maybe I'll have something I'll be happy with.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

"The Pattersons"

I recently had my short story "The Pattersons" accepted for publication by the anthology Postscripts to Darkness. My story will be in Volume 5 in the spring of 2014.

Postscripts to Darkness Volume 3 is available now, and Volume 4 will be available in fall of 2013. Check it out, especially if you enjoy weird, marvelous, uncanny, or horrific fiction!

Check out this fabulous publication by clicking here!

Friday, May 10, 2013

Favorite Flowers

Among my favorite flowers are lilacs, lily of the valley, peonies, and wild violets. I am deeply inspired by flowers and blessed to have all but peonies growing in my yard. But I will change this--I plan to look for peonies to plant this year.

I have purple lilacs on my kitchen table right now.

I don't bring lily of the valley into my house because I have a cat who might try to eat it and it's poisonous (at least it is to humans, but I'm not going to take any chances).
Peonies are so lush and gorgeous. They make me think of frosting. I'm determined to get some for my yard this year.
Wild violets grow all over my yard. I guess they could be considered weeds since they just pop up on their own, but I absolutely adore them.

I think of other flowers that could be placed in the "my favorite flowers" category, but these ones rank at the top of the list.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Chocolate!

I can't imagine writing without the reward of chocolate! To keep from binging, I often have little chocolates around the house. You can eat one such small chocolate, a Hershey's Kiss for example, and keep the calories down while still getting that chocolate fix. Not that I don't binge on occasion... How can one help oneself? But I recommend to writers who love chocolate to keep a little around and use it as a reward for a good session of writing. Or as a prompt to start writing. Or for any other reason at all!

Monday, May 6, 2013

A New Story and Current Work

I wrote the story "Granddaughter" and am now awaiting its review by my writers group. Once I get their feedback and sage advice, I can make any changes I feel it needs and then begin submitting it to journals.

I have begun work on a new short story that is as yet untitled. It involves a 174-year-old woman, a college kid who drives an ice cream truck, and a man who may or may not be Jesus (it's not a Christian story, however). This mysterious Jesus goes by the name Kevin. The story is coming along well so far. It'll be another weird one like so many that I write.

I'm a bit distracted from my writing by the beautiful spring weather we've been having here in central New York. I've been doing extra tasks--specifically, gardening. It takes a little time away from writing, but I manage to get work in, and I think a lot about my writing while I'm doing a task such as gardening.

Today I finished Thich Nhat Hanh's book Being Peace. It's a lovely book, and it taught me more about mindfulness and mindful meditation, which I try to do daily. It helps to keep my bipolar brain calm and balanced, and it helps keep me as organized as I can be as I try to keep my days mindful. Once again, I recommend meditation to writers... and to anybody really. It's a great practice to learn and do. In fact, I've gotten to the point at which I can't imagine not doing it. It's helped me tremendously and I know it helps my writing.

Speaking of my bipolar brain, I'm still struggling to work on my memoir about my bipolar disorder and it continues to go along slowly. It's just hard to delve in and work on it for long periods of time. It seems I have to be in the right state of mind. But I will carry on and try to complete it.


Friday, May 3, 2013

The CNY Creative Writers Cafe

My writers group, the CNY Creative Writers Cafe, of which I am the Organizer (with three fabulous Assistant Organizers, including my critique partner, Michael Canavan), just had its 200th meeting! And we turned five on April 13, 2013! Quite the milestones, and it's thanks to the wonderful people who make up the group.

The group started in 2008 as the Maxwell Writers Group because it met at a library called the Maxwell Memorial Library. Soon we stopped meeting at this and other libraries (not enough time to meet) and started meeting at the Wegmans Market Cafe. Wegmans is the most wonderful regional grocery store on earth and we are blessed to be near its epicenter of Rochester, New York. Many Wegmans stores have Market Cafes and they're perfect for writers groups meetings. We have all the time we need, plus any food and beverages our hearts could desire (Wegmans contains many in-store eateries, a coffee shop, and a bakery to boggle the mind). We changed our name shortly after we began meeting at Wegmans (The "CNY" stands for central New York).

We currently have 48 members, though fortunately not all of them attend meetings at the same time. Our meetings recently have been fairly large--maybe 12 to 19 people. It's a little cumbersome to critique the works on the agenda, but we manage and I think we do quite well.

The CNY Creative Writers Cafe is a fantastic group that I'm so honored to be a part of. The members have helped me a lot with my writing, and I hope I have returned the favor.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Cruel April?

On this, the last day of April, I need to post the following quote:

"April is the cruellest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain." ~T.S. Eliot

April has not been cruel to me fortunately. It's been a cold and wintry month in upstate New York, despite it being technically spring. But I haven't minded this because May is on its way.

There's an ineffable sense of memory and desire that I feel in April. I don't know what it is, but at this time of year, I feel a yearning for something I can't quite name. It eludes me, but it isn't disheartening. I can explain it no more than this.


April is the cruellest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain. - See more at: http://www.poets.org/viewmedia.php/prmMID/18993#sthash.8MAeBWlt.dpuf
April is the cruellest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain. - See more at: http://www.poets.org/viewmedia.php/prmMID/18993#sthash.8MAeBWlt.dpuf

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

New Work

I've written a story called "Granddaughter" which is in the working draft stage. I like it, but I feel it needs more to it plus a stronger ending. I also recently wrote part of a chapter of my memoir about life with bipolar disorder. That was hard to do, and it's in the very rough draft stage. The memoir is going along so slowly. Revisiting certain times in my life is not easy, but I find that writing about them is therapeutic and cathartic. However, I don't want this memoir to be just my own therapy. I'd like to think that it might reach a broader audience that it can enlighten, educate, and entertain. I have no idea when it will be done, though.

I find that when writing about difficult subjects, it helps to take frequent short breaks and do something fun while on those breaks. Maybe just watch a funny video on YouTube, or read a bit of a funny and/or lighthearted book. It's important for me to do these things so that I can stay balanced and not get so much into the moment I'm writing about that I trigger bad stuff (depression, hypomania, mania). I know what my limits are fortunately, and I work within them--most of the time. I can't say it goes along perfectly, but I try.

Meanwhile, I've got several stories out there submitted to journals, and I continue to submit queries about my novel. I just submit and forget about it until I hear something. This was some good advice given to me by my graduate school creative writing professor. He said to submit, forget it, and move on. Then when you get a rejection, you get a rejection, and you continue to move on. But when you get an acceptance, you're thrilled and you can celebrate the achievement!

Thursday, April 18, 2013

A Vacation from Writing

I recently spent ten days in Hawaii and, during that time, I took a vacation from writing. I missed it very much! That said, I think it's good every now and then to take a writing vacation because, let's face it, we writers, even when on a writing vacation, are still writing. We're just doing it in our minds. I've had new ideas come to me and solutions to problems with pieces of writing already written. It was good.

A writing vacation, in my opinion, is also rejuvenating and helps to bring new energy to projects both new and in progress. It's nothing I'd do often, but every now and then, it's nice.

I've missed my writers group, the CNY Creative Writers Cafe, very much, and I feel a renewed appreciation for the wonderful members of this group. I meet with them tonight and even have a story up for critique. I'm really looking forward to the meeting.


Tuesday, April 2, 2013

April Snow

It's snowing today in Syracuse, New York, and we've got about four to five inches on the ground in my suburb! Ah, central New York and lake effect snow...

It's a good day to write, though I have some cleaning and laundry to do. I usually do chores first during the day so that sitting down to write is a reward for getting tasks I have to do out of the way. Of course, one can write while the laundry is going on. I just hate having to get up and fold clothes when I'm in the zone! One can write in one's head while doing chores such as cleaning. I think about my writing and mull over ideas and/or problems that I want to solve. It's a great way to pass the time while cleaning, and it helps to get the actual writing going. So really having to do chores isn't that bad for a writer. You can still get "writing" done in your mind.

As far as snow in April goes, I don't find it as inspiring as snow in December or January. I love winter and snow, but the operative word in this sentence is winter. Spring should be what inspires at this time of the year!

Friday, March 29, 2013

What I'm Currently Reading...

I realize that as a writer, it might be interesting to share what I'm reading. I tend to have many (too many) books going at once. I try to stick with one nonfiction book and one fiction book at a time, but I always seem to start and read more books than that.

Such is the case now. I'm reading the nonfiction books Visit Sunny Chernobyl and Other Adventures in the World's Most Polluted Places by Andrew Blackwell, Break the Bipolar Cycle: A Day-by-Day Guide to Living with Bipolar Disorder by Elizabeth Brondolo, Ph.D. and Xavier Amador, Ph.D., Spent: Break the Buying Obsession and Discover Your True Worth by Sally Palaian, Ph. D., and A Morning Cup of Yoga by Jane Goad Trechsel. In fiction, I'm reading The Night Strangers by Chris Bohjalian.

I'm not the fastest reader, so this list might take me a little while to get through. I'm not a very slow reader, either, but I certainly don't speed read or skim. I read like the English major and English graduate student that I was--like I'm later going to have to write an essay about what I'm reading. But I have great recall of what I've read, and I feel I get incredibly immersed in the books I read. I'd rather read carefully and remember and truly appreciate what I've read than zip through and hardly remember anything.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Great Review and Two Rejections

I got a great review of "Arthur Cleary" today. Please feel free to read it by clicking here. It makes me happy! It offsets the two short story rejections I got today. Ah, well. That's all part of the process.

It would be great to have more people read "Arthur Cleary". You can get it on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Musa Publishing's website, OmniLit, and Rainbow eBooks. You can get my other short story "Honeymoon" at all these places as well. And on Amazon, you can get my short story "Shadow People".  "Shadow People" originally appeared in the literary journal The Linnet's Wings.

Friday, March 22, 2013

"Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again..."

When I sleep, I'm a very active dreamer (I'm an active dreamer when I'm awake as well, but that's for another post!). I have random dreams... some good, some wonderful, some neutral, some nightmarish. But I also have recurring dreams and places that I visit frequently in dreams that don't exist in the waking world.

I call the place I visit most often simply "my house". It's a large Victorian house with an attic, a basement, a huge porch, and many, many rooms. I'm always discovering new rooms. Sometimes, dreams about my house can be disturbing. For example, I'm terrified of the attic and have yet to go into it in a dream, yet sometimes I'll catch a glimpse of it through an open doorway and become very afraid. There's something up there that's horrifying--I don't know what it is--but I clearly don't yet want to find out. Maybe someday, in some dream, I will.

I often dream about my writing. I've come up with characters, character traits, plots, and dialogue when dreaming. I can even "make" myself dream of things I'm writing about and writing problems I want to solve if I think about the things before I fall asleep.

I dream just about every night--or I should say I remember my dreams from just about every night (everyone dreams... it's just a question of whether or not you remember them upon waking). I love my dream world. I'm sometimes plagued by nightmares, but it's worth it if it means I get to have the good and productive dreams I have, too.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Some Old "New" Stories

Going through my files today, I found and printed out two stories I'd like to continue work on: "Under the Bookcase" and "The Pattersons".

"Under the Bookcase" isn't that old of a story. I wrote it last year and have been letting it sit on the back burner to simmer for a while. I think this is always a good idea, a good thing to do. When you let a story sit for a while, you go back to it with fresh eyes and may see things that need to be changed or edited or tweaked in some fashion.

I wrote "The Pattersons" quite a while ago (a few years ago), and now I want to revisit it and see if there are ways in which I might tweak it and prepare it for submission to journals. This is a Twilight Zone-esque story. I may want to look into journals that publish speculative fiction and science fiction and submit it to some of them.

I'm glad I've let these stories sit and wait for a while, and I highly recommend it to any writer. When you've let a story sit for a while, your first time reading through it again is almost like reading someone else's work. This is good. It allows you to see things you may not have caught when you were closer to it.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Happy Spring!

It's the first day of spring, and here in Syracuse, New York, it's snowing! But this is to be expected in central New York.

I'm excited about this spring because I'm moving ahead with some important goals. First of all, I've started submitting my novel, Purple Loosestrife, to agents and publishers. It's an arduous and often quite disheartening process, but no one is going to come knocking on my door asking me if I've written a novel, so it's up to me to get it out there and see where it goes.

I'm also continuing to write and submit short stories for possible publication. I've got a few out there right now that I'm waiting to hear about.

And then there's my next novel, which I'm going to start planning and writing this year. I know the general plot and feel slightly familiar with the two main characters. I have to do some significant research for this novel into drugs and drug addiction, so that will take some time. I also have to get to know the characters much better so that I can flesh out their story in notes and then begin writing it. I'm excited about this novel! I think it's going to be challenging yet very fulfilling to write.

Further, I have to continue to work on my memoir about my experiences with bipolar disorder. This is tough going, and it's not moving along quickly, but I want to be like the little engine that could and keep chugging along on it. It's cathartic and satisfying to get it out, albeit hard, and I don't know where it will go when it's finished. Publication would be great, but even if I just write if for myself and those close to me, I'll feel happy.

Finally, I have a novella idea floating around in my head that I think I should write. It shouldn't take too long to do, and once it's done, I'll have to see where it goes as far as possible publication.

I'm in a good place right now to dig into my goals. I'm just coming out of a bipolar mixed episode that I (and my doctor) believe was related to some changes in my meds. But with further tweaking of my meds, I'm feeling a lot better. I'm feeling ready and able to take on what I want to do.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

New Titles

I've changed the title of my short story "James" to "The Escape". I think it works better. And I've changed the title of my flash fiction "Bobby Bouillon" to "A Good Boy's Tale", because it really is a somewhat Chaucerian tale.

Why change titles? I don't know... sometimes a new title will just come to me and sound and mostly feel better. Often the new title better reflects what happens in the story, or better conveys what kind of story it is.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Title Change

I've changed the title of my flash fiction story "Bobby Bouillon" to "A Good Boy's Tale". It was pointed out to me by one of my readers--a Professor of English Emeritus with a Ph.D. in English and Linguistics (who also happens to be my dad)--that the story is somewhat Chaucerian. I agree, and since I did my master's thesis on Chaucer's Canterbury Tales, it seemed fitting that I should name my story something in keeping with its Chaucerian form.

The tale is about Kip, a good boy who falls under the influence of a boy named Bobby Bouillon. I intend to have it critiqued by my writers group and then look for good places to submit it to.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Productivity

I've been productive in the past few days. I have written "Chapter 18: Plain Land" and inserted it into the middle of my novel, Purple Loosestrife. I have written a longer short story called "The Affair" and a flash fiction story called "Billy Bouillon". All this while struggling with my mood and mental state, both of which were down.

I'm typically a productive person, but I feel especially happy about it when I'm struggling to stay balanced. It can be hard, but writing can be one of the best things I can do.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Writing Through Depression

I'm just coming out of a bipolar depressive episode, and I was able to write through it. This isn't surprising to me because writing is a form of escape for me when I'm feeling depressed. I actually wrote a new short story called "The Affair", and a new chapter to insert into the middle of my novel, all while suffering depression.

There are physical symptoms that come along with depression in addition to the mental ones. One of the ways in which I experience it is that I feel leaden and immobile. It's immensely difficult to move around and get things done--even things as mindless as laundry or as insignificant as washing dishes. But since writing is a sedentary activity (except for when I pace!), I can do it when I'm feeling really low. It takes me away from how I'm feeling.

What is the nature of my writing when I'm depressed? Well, it can be a bit dark. "The Affair" is not a happy story. However, the chapter I wrote, which is entitled "Plain Land", is more hopeful and happy compared to other parts of my novel (which is overall a somewhat dark piece of work since untreated mental illness is a major theme of it).

I'm coming out of the episode now, and I've uploaded "The Affair" to be critiqued by my writers group, the CNY Creative Writers Cafe, plus I've had my parents and Michael Canavan, my critique partner, read it. So far the response is quite positive. As far as the chapter goes, I think it works. I believe it helps to develop the characters more and provides a bit more magical realism to the novel (which contains magical realism).

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

"The Tiger Earring"

I finished a draft of my story "The Tiger Earring" today. I call it a draft and not a final draft because I find it hard to ever consider a piece of my writing to be a final draft. I guess that once a story is published, then that's the final draft, but until then, I always feel that I could do more. What, I don't necessarily know, so I figure the story must be in pretty good shape, but I don't think that we writers ever have a sense of closure.

I have so far had my mom and my friend and fellow writer Kerry Miskovic read the story. Both of them loved it. Their kind and insightful words about it have made me feel very good.

I have put this story in the queue of submissions of the CNY Creative Writers Cafe so that it can be critiqued by the group. Once I get feedback from them and perhaps tweak the story a bit, I will send it out into the world for possible publication.

This story was interesting to write--an experiment really--because I told it in reverse. It starts in September of 2067 and ends in January of 1985. But despite incorporating the future into it, it's definitely not a science fiction story. I just needed to look ahead to the future of my character, and so to 2067 I went. It's a wistful, rather melancholy story, and my two "so far" readers found it very moving. It even made my mom want to cry. I love making my readers want to cry! I feel somehow that I've done my job well.


What Is a Brain Zap?

I've had people ask me what a brain zap is (see my February 25th post for some information about brain zaps in general). Well, a brain zap is very difficult to describe. They've happened to me with the antidepressant Effexor. At times when I had forgotten to take the medication in the morning, or when I'm going off it as I am currently, I've gotten brain zaps as one side effect of withdrawal.

Zaps tends to occur when I turn my head or move around, but they can also happen randomly when I'm just sitting still. A zap is sort of a noise inside my head that sounds metallic, but also a feeling of a surge of some sort going through my head. It's so hard to describe as you can probably tell from my word choices here. The noise sounds kind of like "ch-chunk"--like a piece of metal shifting. And with that shifting, I feel something akin to a shock traveling from one side of my head to the other. Zaps don't hurt, though--they just feel weird, and they can have a lingering effect of making me dizzy.

I'm currently off of Effexor because I've switched to Wellbutrin. I just stopped Effexor entirely after tapering off it (under my psychiatrist's care) for the past several months. I've switched because of some negative side effects I was having with Effexor that I don't have with Wellbutrin. Since I'm just off the Effexor, I'm experiencing withdrawal symptoms, which include brain zaps, dizziness, headache, vague nausea, and tingling in my face and limbs.

I expect that these withdrawal symptoms will last for at least a few days, but the good thing about withdrawal is that it only lessens with the passage of time. Whatever the case may be, finding the right meds is integral to controlling an illness such as bipolar I disorder, which is what I have. I was diagnosed nearly eighteen years ago, and my meds still need tweaking at times. For anyone out there with mental illness, keep your chin up, take your meds, and always strive to find the right combination of meds to control your disorder. The meds I take now are Wellbutrin, Abilify, Lamictal, and Clonazepam. They're working, and I hope they'll work for a long while.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Brain Zaps

Ever have them? If you have, then you know exactly what I'm talking about. They're a symptom of withdrawal from certain antidepressants--in my case, Effexor. I've recently switched to Wellbutrin for my antidepressant, and I've been gradually going off my previous antidepressant, Effexor (under my doctor's care). Well, I'm at the point of being off of it altogether, and it's not pleasant. This is my first day without it.

I'm writing this post for anyone who would like to read it, but especially for those with mental illness who have suffered through withdrawal from medication--or any negative side effects of psychotropic drugs, for that matter. It's hard, but it's worth it in the end to find the right meds. I was diagnosed with bipolar I disorder nearly eighteen years ago, and I'm still switching meds sometimes to find just the right mix and balance. So for those of you out there and in the tribe, stick with it, take your meds, listen to your doctor. And be persistent about feeling well and finding the right meds.

I have been able to write today despite my unpleasant withdrawal feelings. In fact, writing has helped to take my mind off of how I feel. So if you're going through something like this, find something that you love to do and indulge in it. Unless you love riding roller coasters. No, I wouldn't recommend that. That would not be good.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

LinkedIn

For anyone interested, I can also be found on LinkedIn by clicking here. My LinkedIn profile is essentially an online resume.

Monday, February 11, 2013

The Importance of Exercise

Exercise is very important to me for my mental well-being. Of course, it's also of great importance for my physical well-being, but my mental state benefits greatly from it and I'd be less mentally healthy without it.

My exercise of choice is running. The picture to the right is of me crossing the finish line of a YMCA-sponsored 5K that I did in the Rochester, New York area. I love to run, but recently I've had to walk due to some problems with my thyroid. I have hypothyroidism and I'm in the midst of getting my medication to the right dosage so that I have the energy to run again. It really sucks, not having the energy to run, but I know I'll get back there.

Running, for me, is not only mentally and physically healthy, but a chance to think about my writing. When I run, I get into a kind of meditative state. In this state, ideas often come to me, or I work though problematic ideas. It's pretty awesome. I can do this when I walk, too, or engage in other exercise (swimming, for example, which I really enjoy). I think it's running that gets me into the most meditative state, however.

I'm not suggesting that every writer who reads this take up running. It's not for everybody. Some people just plain hate it, while others may have physical issues which prevent them from being able to run. However, I do suggest taking up some form of exercise if you don't exercise already. It's amazing how much it can both clear your head and fill it with ideas at the same time. And the endorphin rush you get at the end of a good workout is amazing. It makes me want to write and create and be productive in any capacity.

Friday, February 8, 2013

My Current Quotation

I presently have as my quotation at the top of my page 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


Yes, this is from South Park, and it moves me every time I watch the episode in which Butters says it. I should make it clear that I'm not really sad at this moment, nor do I foresee being sad in the near future, but this quote about "a beautiful sadness" sums up the way bipolar disorder can often be, or the way life in general can be. We have to take the good with the bad, and the bad can show us how good the good really is.

For writers, it goes along with the submission process. You're going to get rejections, and those feel bad, but that one acceptance among a few rejections can make you so happy that you see that it's all worth it. So a rejection can really be seen as a beautiful sadness, because an acceptance may have already come for another work, or may be just around the corner.