Month: September 2012

(Wo)Man Behind The Curtain

Veiled Turkish Woman (1878)

Veiled Turkish Woman (1878) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Recently I’ve had a couple of excellent conversations about writing , and a couple more specifically looking at the border between truth and fiction.

Pablo Picasso said art is the lie that tells the truth.  Sounds right to me. Sounds true to a lot of writers. Off the top of my head, I can think of at least two books on writing that have a spinoff of that phrase in the title.

If the goal of fiction is to have the reader suspend disbelief, there has to be enough the reader can understand and relate to in order to do so. In walks truth.  How much? That’s the $60 question, isn’t it? Personally, I think that’s where the lesson from Greek dramas walks in, it’s all about moderation. Enough reality to make the work relatable, enough fiction to make it an enjoyable read.

Unless, of course, you’re writing a roman a clef (a tell all, a “novel” that shares actual people or events overlaid with a thin veil of fiction). Most of these are interesting only because the protagonist or main event is extraordinary.  I don’t know about you, but I can’t think of any event or time period in my life that was so exciting, I could carry a reader through four or five hundred manuscript pages with my daily happenings. Certainly not more than one manuscript, and as a writer, I don’t want to stop at one.


Popcorn (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When I was a kid and went to the movies, I would get a popcorn, heavily salted, and a box of Sno-Caps (nonpareils). I would proceed to dump the chocolates into the popcorn, and shake them up.  I think writing is that treat.  Popcorn is the kernels of truth, chocolate the fiction. Closing your eyes and taking a handful of fiction, mostly chocolate, with varying bursts of salted corn breaking through. Enough to enrich the experience, but not so much that the reader risks cracking a tooth on an unpopped kernel. Blogging, for me, is the opposite; mostly popcorn, just enough chocolate sprinkled in to make it interesting to someone besides myself.  Yanno, all six of my readers.

I think this is the real difference between genre fiction, mainstream or contemporary, and literary fiction. Genre having the most chocolate, the balance shifting as you get into longer and or headier novels.

Our tastes change as we age and mature, tastes change with different eras. Classics are classics because there’s enough truth within them to be timeless, but the fiction they’re dressed in might not be accepted in today’s market. Or tomorrow’s.

I wonder what Ernest Hemingway would make of The Real Housewives. How thick do you like your veil of fiction; gauze, lace, brocade?

It takes a huge loom and two people running it...

It takes a huge loom and two people running it to weave these fabric patterns. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Splitting Hairs


I need a haircut. In my mind, I look like this:


Nichols as Lieutenant Uhura.

Nichols as Lieutenant Uhura. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

But the mirror shows more like this:


The famous tongue image

The famous tongue image (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’ve been thinking (read, moaning and groaning to Husband) I need a haircut for about a month now.  I know it’s true, because when I walked into Mother-In-Law’s apartment yesterday afternoon, she asked if Flower Child had done my hair for me.


I like to look presentable but I run into several obstacles.  1) I hate looking in the mirror.  Truly, I’d rather have the Evil Queen’s mirror (Snow White) than the bitch harping on me from mine.

2) I don’t enjoy going for haircuts, or anything else that involves strangers touching me.  Yes, I’m uptight. Accept it, I have.


3) The ever-looming budget.  I can get my hair cut next week, but that means I have to skip Friday Night Madness this week.  Not a tragedy or a hardship, but a bummer.  Even in my broke and Fringe life, I recognize this as a first world obstacle.


4) I haven’t had a haircut in five years that wasn’t interrupted by the school nurse, calling to tell me Flower Child was sick or seizing or both.  I haven’t received a phone call from the nurse yet this year, I’d like to stretch this as long as I can.


I don’t dye my hair, it’s salt and pepper and yes, I like it this way. But thanks for giving your best guesstimate on how much younger I’d look and you’d feel if I dyed it. I spend about two weeks googling hairstyles for gray hair before I go.  Why? I see the same three images, regardless of year, season, or current styles.


English: Actress Jamie Lee Curtis autographs h...

English: Actress Jamie Lee Curtis autographs her books for children in Building 150 at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii, April 1, 2010. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Paula Deen holds court

Paula Deen holds court (Photo credit: Bristol Motor Speedway & Dragway)










Cruella (Photo credit: KerriNikolePhotography)

Ok, I made up the Cruella one, Emmylou Harris is usually the third photo to pop up. Maybe I should go for Cruella this year.  It might just satisfy Mirror.



A Sign

French Press Frieling Ultimo

French Press Frieling Ultimo (Photo credit: doubleshot_cz)

This morning, I made coffee using a new French press and an incredible private blend of coffee; both gifted to me yesterday by a friend. I don’t own an American coffee maker. The first time in many years I’ve made coffee using anything other than my old and trusted stovetop espresso maker. Like so many others, coffee is the start to my day. Don’t even say good morning to me until I’ve got the first cup in hand. God forbid the beasts are off schedule and need to be walked before the second. I like the ritual of making that morning pot. I’m not a coffee connoisseur, but I have specific likes and dislikes; the brown dishwater served in most diners is unpalatable.

Sitting here with my second cup, realizing just how long it’s been since I used a French press, and why it feels like the second part of a sign.

English: Divided Road sign used in Australia. ...

English: Divided Road sign used in Australia. Used when road divides to two. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The first part of the sign came last night, in a conversation with another friend.  She’s having some health issues, female troubles for polite company. Brought me back almost 20 years, when I hemorrhaged two weeks after the birth of my first son.  For anyone who’s never had or witnessed this special experience, there’s no mistaking it. A good thing, because there’s a very, very short window of opportunity to call 911 before you lose consciousness.

I was making an evening pot of coffee with my then loved French Press when I began to hemorrhage. Certainly, depressing the plunger didn’t cause it, but in my overactive mind, there’s such ritual in using a press, the events became connected.

Pretty deep in my universe, to have two moments in one day directly connected to one significant event that took place so long ago. Not a repressed memory, not a hidden memory, but surely not something I think about during morning coffee. Blog? Check. Shower? Check. Walk Dogs? Check. Meds for Flower Child? Check. Hemorrhage? Umm, no.

So, what’s the sign I’m blathering about? In my last post, I wrote about feeling torn as to which WIP (work in progress) I should be tackling.  Well, boys and girls, in the first chapter of the hybrid, I used my  experience of hemorrhaging.  I’m not running out to get my tarot cards read, but I have relatives who “read” coffee grinds.  I think I can read the bottom of this cup myself.

Tell My Fortune

Tell My Fortune (Photo credit: Caro’s Lines)

Make Up Yer Mind, Lady!

Isaac Asimov Hails a Cab

Isaac Asimov Hails a Cab (Photo credit: zzazazz)

It’s said that Isaac Asimov would work on several manuscripts at once, leaving different typewriters set up around his apartment, and when he got stuck or tired of working on one, he would get up and switch to a different typewriter, different manuscript. True? I don’t know, but it does make for great writers’ folklore.

I am no Isaac Asimov. In fact, for someone with such a rich fantasy life I feel the need to write it down, I’m shockingly linear. No, I’m not one of those writers with a spreadsheet and 135 page outline before I begin the first draft, but I do start at the beginning. After the first scene I write the second scene, and so on. Sure I go back and edit; change things, delete things, add a layer throughout the manuscript, but I have never written an entire scene or chapter with the idea of “I’ll know where it goes/decide where it belongs later on.”  Maybe it’s a product of not working from a detailed outline, what I write today determines what I write tomorrow, and I can only work on one project at a time. The exception is this blog.  Yes, it’s writing, works the fine motor skills and powers of description, but apart from moments of creative license (mostly to protect the innocent), it isn’t what I think of when I feel that flash of panic and excitement looking at the blinking cursor.

The one way my writing doesn’t follow the straight and narrow path is genre. I’ve been thinking about this a lot recently. I write short lit fic pieces, shorter than the average short story but not short shorts. I write full length manuscripts that are somewhere between lit fic and women’s fiction (so, mainstream?). And I write romance. “Write the book of your heart!”  Well, my heart is fickle. I enjoy writing all three.

Description unavailable

Description unavailable (Photo credit: dno1967b)

Yeah yeah, insert heaving bosom and throbbing manhood cracks here. True, the cover art isn’t much better than it used to be, and the titles haven’t changed with the times, but the content has. Romance has always and will always equal a happy ending, but how you get there reflects the times. And the publishing house. There’s something fun, something…satisfying in writing within the closer boundaries and confines of romance.

You know how there are some people in your life where when, how, and the time period you met them in have as much to do with the development of your relationship as who they are?  The characters who begin to take shape in my mind, filling in and fleshing out as they “walk around” and interact other characters, are much like those real life relationships.  I’m all about characters, but some make sense in a short story, some in a romance, while others belong in longer mainstream manuscripts.

I don’t switch from one to the other in the same day, week, or month, but I do have two partial manuscripts right now; one romance, the other my as yet undefined for the shelves hybrid. I feel ready to get back to one of them, but I’m not sure which one.  This is the first time I’ve been faced with this, I’ve always known when it was time for me to work in each genre. Maybe I’m just procrastinating, throwing up a mental road block so I don’t get back to work. The hybrid needs some serious revisions, tearing apart and reconstructing before I can go forward.  Freaking out my little linear mind.

Whatever the reason is, I don’t like it.  I have periods where I write, and periods where I don’t, but this feeling of being stuck is less productive than either one.  Do you stick to one genre when you’re reading? How about my writing readers? Are you a circular writer or linear? One genre or multiple?

linear vs circular systems

linear vs circular systems (Photo credit: petercircles)

Where’s My Union Rep?

Women corset workers on strike walk down the s...

Women corset workers on strike walk down the street wearing undergarments (Photo credit: Kheel Center, Cornell University)

I’m going to join the ladies in the photo above and go on strike. Mrs Fringe needs a day off! I’m also going to digress for a moment.

In looking for an old photo of women on strike, I noticed something interesting. The women are smiling in these photos. Not so in photos of men on strike. Why?  Is it so ingrained in women to smile and be polite, even when making a political statement and fighting for a living wage? Or did the photographers give women an alert and admonission, “Smile pretty for the camera!” that wasn’t offered to men? I can see it now, “Oh yeah, this is important, we’re gonna to a big story on you, front page. What’s that you say, your sister lost three fingers in the industrial sewing machine cause she worked 27 days in a row? C’mon girls, you have to smile, nobody’s gonna look at a photo of a bunch of sourpusses.” Then again, I have a vivid imagination, and my observation could mean nothing more than smiling women are the photos that caught my eye.

I like my coffee analogue, like my photography

I like my coffee analogue, like my photography (Photo credit: futurowoman)

But mostly, my imagination has been taking me back to my youth, when a day off meant a day of nothing. Not a day of less, but a day where I could stay in my pjs, lie in bed and read all day, my biggest energy expenditure when I got up to make coffee. It isn’t a mystery why I can’t do this anymore. I live in the city with two dogs, they need to be walked three times a day.  I have people, little and big, brought to life and brought into my life by choice, who depend on me for household supplies, clean laundry, meds, food, chaperoning, homework help, and a clean toilet.

Fatigue and I went out for Friday Night Madness this week. Due to life, we had missed the past few Fridays.  He has arranged his finances so he’ll be able to take a few months off from his day job, beginning next month. This will mean tightening his already tight budget to a stranglehold. But I get it; he’s going to rest, regroup, and use the time to work on his art.  I’m almost envious. Almost, because even my vivid imagination can’t quite imagine being in a position to do this.

One of the “tells” in writing as to whether or not a piece was written by a man or woman has to do with qualifiers. Women tend to write the way they speak; lots of almosts, quites, somewhats, sort-ofs, tend-tos,in-my-opinions. Many of us live that way, too.  Almost a day off, not quite a day off, somewhat of a day off, sort of keeping it a light day.

Sunday, not a day off, not a day of rest, but I’m going to try to keep this to a day of less. How about you? Do you get days that are truly off?

Dear Peeple In Charge,

English: Quill pen

English: Quill pen (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This is the salutation on the letter Flower Child began working on last night.

During dinner, Husband, Flower Child and I had a lovely, meandering conversation. Her mind makes some interesting connections, and when I’ve got the luxury of time, I like to follow. In order to make a connection, she speaks aloud, touching on every detail of every thing she can remember hearing/seeing that somehow reminds her of what came before.

The maze of Longleat House

The maze of Longleat House (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Without this process, her mind stalls, and she can’t follow or remember. We began discussing Greek goddesses, which jumped to eating habits  in history, Pa Ingalls curing meat, the gold accents on her Cleo de Nile doll, why organic fruits and vegetables taste better but cost more, why she had to eat some soup and not just the coconut chips garnishing it, and why everyone should help each other.

Somehow it made sense to tell Husband and Flower Child about a scene I passed when I was on my way to the hospital the other morning. There was a man standing outside a coffee shop where I got off the bus, panhandling. A familiar scene to me, there didn’t seem to be anything remarkable.  No aggression, no singing, no yelling, no horrendous odors, no aggression. An older, elegantly dressed and coiffed woman about ten steps ahead of me. Her nose turned up so high if I had been standing next to her I could have checked for polyps. She turned to another man walking by her, “No one ever gives money to those people, do they? I hope not.” Obviously not a New Yorker.

Not much of a story, more of a moment. But I turned to Flower Child, and saw her eyes watering and lip quivering, “What’s wrong? Come here.” She pressed into my hug.

“That’s terrible.”

Yes, yes it is. I told her no one person can help everyone, or fix these things, but if everyone does what they can; even it’s limited to contributing one can of food to a food drive, it can make a difference.

She isn’t all that clear on the distinction between city and state, state and country, country and continent, principal and president–but she’s writing a letter to the people in charge, because it’s wrong to ignore people who are hungry.

Man Child and Nerd Child also care about others, volunteer time and give what they can. Community service means more than a line on a college resume.

The other day I was telling friends a story from my childhood. My mother would send me with a lunch every day. I wasn’t much on eating three meals a day, and I rarely got “good” sandwiches. These were the days when you heard a lot about the starving children in Biafra. On the way to school, I passed a mailbox. Each day, I would drop my brown bag into it. Unless the sandwich was olive loaf, in which case I kept it. That poor mailman, his bag must have smelled permanently like bologna. My friends’ immediate thoughts were what a caring child I was.  Not so much. More like practical. “They” were hungry, I wasn’t, and would have gotten into trouble if I brought the sandwich back home. If anyone used the term win/win back then it would have applied.

I’m a lucky mama. My children have compassion, good souls.


Campbell's Soup Cans by Andy Warhol, 1962. Dis...

Campbell’s Soup Cans by Andy Warhol, 1962. Displayed in Museum of Modern Art in New York. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Mrs Fringe Leaves a Calling Card

English: Turkish ladies visiting- types and co...

English: Turkish ladies visiting- types and costumes. (1899) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I will be working on the unpaid nursing gig I’ve been telling you about. So while I’m tweaking my sloppy hospital corners…

One of my posts is being syndicated today at Backspace to Bookbinding, An Editing Mom’s Vantage Point on Language, Literature, and Writing for the Web. Kendall Hoover shares an editor’s take addressing online writing tips, book recommendations and  reviews, and the business end of online writing–I highly recommend following along.

click on the link above and add Backspace to Bookbinding to your blogroll. Well-Written-Wednesday is one of several established features.

Thanks, Kendall!

Hmm, I think I need a cyber calling card for when I go visiting like this…

Score: Life- 80932, Mrs Fringe-1

This is what I want to do today:


DSC_1878 (Photo credit: Lannuit)

This is what I will do today:

NYC: 8th avenue windows through a bus window

NYC: 8th avenue windows through a bus window (Photo credit: Susan NYC)

Not the Chinese food part, the waiting for and riding the bus in the rain part.

Husband is doing much better, still in the hospital but I expect he’ll be able to come home today. For the record, I called it. Cardiac cath done and stent placed yesterday. When I left him last night, he was feeling much better. Between massive quantities of blood thinners and the new stent, a little more rest once he’s home, he should be a supercharged Husband by Friday.  Unfortunate, because I’m so tired I was seriously tempted to shove him out of his massaging hospital bed last night, and get some sleep for myself.  Those beds aren’t cushy, but they’re pretty comfortable, you don’t even need any quarters to get the magic fingers to start.

I spent a good chunk of yesterday in the waiting room next to the Cath lab.  Went downstairs to the cafeteria for a cup of tea and a snack, got all excited because they actually had dill pickle chips. My favorite!  After the first hour, the couple sitting next to the one outlet in the room left, so I was able to settle in and charge my phone. I didn’t have my laptop with me, but I had remembered a book and my iPod, so I had something to do.  What I didn’t have was what I needed–earplugs.  People, hospital waiting room does not mean party room.  If you’ve got company to sit and play the waiting game with you, great. But oh. my. God. There was one group of women who literally didn’t stop yakking and laughing over each other for a second.  There have been times that I’ve sat in waiting rooms by myself, and times that I’ve had company. It’s nice to have company, it can be nerve wracking to sit there–especially once you’re an hour past the estimated wait time. Shut the fuck up!  I thought I showed remarkable restraint when I didn’t get up and shove my now empty pickle chip bag into the open maw of the loudest one.

Description unavailable

Description unavailable (Photo credit: the real janelle)

I’m not going to think about the laundry that’s piled up, the cleaning that needs to be done, the aortic stenosis they saw during the cath yesterday (yanno, by the valve already replaced once), or the look on Flower Child’s face just now as I told her we have to get and go again today. Still no earplugs, but my blinders are on, and I’m doing what I need to do.

They Say It’s Your Birthday

A birthday cake

A birthday cake (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Some birthday surprises are so sweet, so wonderful, they are the cake and the candles all in one. Like my reefing friends letting me know they ordered a new bluetooth for me, to replace the one Little Dumb Dog ate.

Some birthday surprises are more like the dirty plate that was tucked behind the couch and forgotten, discovered after the residual icing has hardened, with a fuzzy layer of mold connecting it to a cushion. Husband gave me a perfect card this morning, beautiful and encouraging without being sappy, funny comments that make sense to us penned in. Then he told me he was having chest pains, radiating down his left arm with intermittent lightheadedness thrown in.

For the record, I will be voting for the New York politician who declares parade paths that block the way to several major hospitals are henceforth banned and illegal.

So, Mrs Fringe spent her 40,001st birthday in the emergency room with Husband. He’s still there, being admitted; I had to come home to take care of Flower Child, who had been left with my in-laws. Damn these laws of science, that don’t allow me to literally be in two places at once.

Galt School of Nursing Practical Training

Galt School of Nursing Practical Training (Photo credit: Galt Museum & Archives on The Commons)

I am not a doctor, nor do I play one on tv, but I have a lot of experience sitting in ERs, ICUs, CICUs, PICUs, and EMUs. So, based on prior experiences, preliminary tests, symptoms, medical history, conversation with the ER doc, and hours spent watching House, I predict a cardiac catheterization and subsequent stent (angioplasty), followed by amazing recovery.  Have I ever mentioned Husband’s lineage traces directly to Superman?  It’s true, both Husband and Father-In-Law are walking miracles. Truth, even the surgeons say so, and most surgeons I’ve come across are happy to take credit for the Resurrection.

This sucks. Could be much worse, but it still sucks. I HATED leaving Husband by himself. Doctors and hospitals are often wonderful and appreciated. I’m as comfortable in them as a non-medical professional can be(provided I’m not the patient). I can even tell you which roach coaches parked in front have the best coffee for several of the “biggest” hospitals. But they’re still scary.

Life happens. Every day, good and bad, life happens.  If you’ve become a Fringie follower, lurker, or even stumbled across this while googling how to trim the fringe on the blanket you’ve been crocheting, feel free to join me in sending some good thoughts into the universe for Husband, a prayer, and maybe, once Flower Child is in bed and I’m drinking my fiftieth cup of tea, a heartfelt “FUCK!”

A mug of tea

A mug of tea (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


That Lady Has A Biiiig Belly

If you’re a parent, this is a familiar moment. In the elevator, sixteen years ago, no mistaking it was heard by the “lady” in question. Children make observations. Out loud. Sometimes, really loud. I have a friend who used to call these moments “beyond embarrassing.” True, but these are also necessary, so we can teach our children about courtesy, manners, and develop their filters.

Lady Victoria Marjorie Harriet Manners (1883–1...

Lady Victoria Marjorie Harriet Manners (1883–1946), wife of Charles Paget, 6th Marquess of Anglesey (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I am no Miss Manners, nor do I long for the days of yesteryear when everyone filtered everything and a mention of indigestion caused a nervous titter among those seated at the dinner table. But basic courtesy, stopping to think about what how a comment might be received before letting it pass your lips–or fingers, I’m all for it.

I’m pretty sure each generation tweaks what they consider appropriate in polite company. Ok. I’m a product of my generation; I love jeans, casual conversations, political debates, no holds barred comics, and colorful language.  I’m also pretty sure I could raise my blood pressure and feel myself turn bright red if I began to catalogue all the times I’ve put my foot in my mouth. I don’t see these things as the antithesis to courtesy and civility.

But Houston, I do believe we, as a generation, have a problem.

rocket crash

rocket crash (Photo credit: shellorz)

There seems to be a collective loss of our filter. Keyboard warriors are running amok on our internet forums, Facebook, and the comment section of every cyberboard I visit.

The internet has become a huge part of how we connect and communicate with each other.  As I’ve said previously, I love the internet, the ways it has opened my mind and my world, the friends it has brought me. I think it’s made me a more thoughtful person. Maybe because I’m a writer, but the need to think about how each comment will be read and interpreted has been front and center in my mind from the very first forum I participated in. Am I always successful at making myself understood, and avoiding bruised feelings? No, but I try, and I’m aware. Emoticons are helpful, but they don’t take the place of real life facial expressions, body language, and tonal inflections.

Yesterday, I was following a political discussion on Facebook. We all know those can get acrimonious. But this discussion turned a bit frightening. A not so vague  threat was made.  This is an extreme example, but not uncommon enough, either. In this day and age, predatory behavior  feels more threatening than ever, because the magical internets can make someone three thousand miles away uncomfortably close, and bring them to your door with a few clicks. Not just figuratively, but literally, because it’s all to easy for someone with malicious intentions to find out where you live,work, etc. Without hesitation, this conversation, and this person, raised the hairs on my neck more than the the guy I saw growling to himself as he systematically rooted through the garbage bags when I was walking the beasts last night.

Google, and you’ll find countless quotes on civility, manners, basic courtesies, and the importance of these to a successful society. My question is this; am I just old, noting a societal shift into more casual behaviors and speech patterns becoming acceptable, thinking this represents more than it does? Or are we truly losing our filter, losing our ability to care about someone else’s feelings more than our own need to project our opinions and thoughts?

Chicken Little (2005 film)

Chicken Little (2005 film) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)