Posted tagged ‘nice’

False Trade

September 7, 2014


False Trade

Who will live in yesterday
slipping on the faux sleeve of tomorrow?
That us that can’t say yes, today,
to a present not pressed through the narrow–
the narrow I of our needling, my friend,
as we wheedle a bargain with sorrow,
our right-now breath lent to some other time,
time we pretend can be borrowed–


Here are 55 of the somewhat examined for Mama Zen’s flash 55 on With Real Toads. (I’ve edited a couple of times since first posting–agh!)

Also, some news–my new (and only adult) novel, Nice, is out at last in print on Amazon.

PP Native Cover_4696546_Front Cover

The Kindle version should be also out very soon, if not tonight, tomorrow.  It will only be 99 cents, so I hope you can get it!   (I think a kindle version can be downloaded to a computer. )

And if any one is feeling especially kindly, I would be very grateful if you could read it and review it!

I will say more about the book in a future post, but I’ve gotten a bit tired waiting for the kindle version to make an announcement so am taking advantage of today!


PS – Kindle version is out now.  Here’s the link.






“Nice” Blurb – Plea for Help

August 16, 2014

PP Native Cover_4696546_Front Cover


As some of you may know, I have been working in an increasingly desultory fashion on the publication of a new novel, called Nice. (I say, “increasingly desultory” as it has become harder to work on this project the closer it is to completion.)

Unlike my first published novel, Nose Dive, which is a comical young adult mystery (and a lot of fun!), this is a serious novel, with an intense and, I hope, emotionally affecting, story.  It is about child sexual abuse; it represents years of work.

I think it really is a good novel, though I’ve worked on it so long it is hard for me to still look at it.  I am super happy with the cover picture, which I did myself.

Here’s my quandary–the sales information!  The little blurb that goes on Amazon and elsewhere!  This kind of thing is so darn hard for me that I  can hardly squeeze something out.

So what I am asking for–I don’t know–ideas==approval==is the below horribly embarrassing?


It is summer, 1968–Martin Luther King Jr. shot in April, Bobby Kennedy in June–“what in the world is happening to this country?” Americans wonder. 

It is summer, 1968, the civil rights movement in turmoil, the Vietnam War escalating, but Les, a ten year old suburban girl, has been trained to be nice.

Her teenage brother, Arne, on the other hand, aims for rebellion.

But they are kids, it is summer, it is 1968, and what they both truly want–aside from world peace–is to be a little more cool.

Then a distant relative visits, a cool cat, rebel of sorts, childhood favorite. 

“What in the world is happening?” Les wonders, as the unthinkable does.  

“What in the world is happening?” Arne wonders, as his sister changes, as he too is faced with a darker picture of growing up–

Their story traverses the landscape of country, family, heart.

Since posting – B. Young made some very useful suggestions and here’s a whole other approach:

Nice is a story of child sexual abuse and its aftermath.  It takes place in the summer of 1968, the U.S. reeling from the April assassination of Martin Luther King Jr., the June assassination of Bobby Kennedy, the escalating Vietnam War.  It is told from the points of view of a ten year old girl and her teenage brother, each separately finding a voice in the face of personal and political disillusionment.  


Better?  Too terse?  (I was going to add in here a very horrible joke, but cannot in the face of the terrible loss of Robin Williams this week.)

Any ideas?  Should it be more direct?  Less direct?  Should I just press approve/publish!?

The book will be issued by my own imprint, by the way, which is BackStroke Books, and when I do press publish, it will be available on Kindle and in paper.  I will let you know when.  I am aiming for cheap pricing so I do hope you’ll be able to read.

Update from Train/Novel

May 13, 2014


I am right now sitting on a train going backwards. This is not the same as sitting backwards on a train going forwards–that is, upon a back-facing seat.

This is sitting on a train that is, as it were, backtracking.

In this case, although we have all paid a substantial premium to take a train that is supposed to be faster and more reliable than the other trains on this line (in other words, we are on the Acela); we are hampered by an engine malfunction and are undergoing some kind of backwards maneuver to allow the back (functioning) locomotive to take over for the front (problematic) locomotive.

Ah. And now, we are stopped–with a dirt and gravel slide out one window and a stone wall on the other.

It reminds me today of noveling–i.e. trying to finalize and publish a novel.

Those who follow this blog may wonder–oh yeah, wasn’t she talking about that months ago?

Oh great. So, now we are moving backwards again–past cheery penguins and a worried polar bear painted on the side of a parking lot–they have big black gaps in their middles where the walls break to ventilate exhaust.

As in, yes, I was talking about this months ago.

The conductor, by the way, said that this delay would take about ten minutes, but it feels like at least fifteen. The good news is that we are moving quite quickly now; unfortunately, all passengers agree that we are still heading in the wrong direction.

So, about that novel.

Finalizing, publishing, seems to be one of those things ready any minute now, only not. This is my fault. Small corrections take an unduly long time as I just can’t bear to attend to them. (And also because I always sense that I should instead be doing major corrections.) I feel as if I’ve lost all sense of discrimination about the stupid thing–i.e. is something boring? Flowing? Awkward? Good?

By the way–we have been going backwards now for about twenty minutes and really fast too. (Since when do train conductors feel that they have to live out my metaphors!)

One of my problems now is deciding about the formatting. The paragraphs look way too tightly spaced on the page. I feel like I can hardly read them. On the other hand, when I pull books off the shelf and look at them, they seem to have similar tight spacing. Have I never noticed this before in books off the shelf?

By the way, it turns out — all passengers now agree–that we have NOT been going backwards for this last speedy half hour.

On the other hand, the train will be about an hour late.

Above is the picture I did for the novel’s cover. (All rights reserved.) I’ll save posting the actual cover till it’s ready. Any day/week/month now! (Ha!)

Update on Noveling – Pitch

March 23, 2014


It is March 23.  The fields are icy; where there is no crust of snow there is glazed mud.  In between slips and slides–I ran into a tree yesterday trying to cross-country ski–(ouch! said bleeding shin–trees are hard!)–I am also trying to publish a novel.

It is difficult.  First, it’s a difficult novel.  (In other words, I’m not even sure IF I like it.)  This makes it extremely hard to foist off on others.

Secondly, I genuinely have plenty of other stuff to do.

Which means I give all that other stuff priority!

And yet…and yet… I know if I let too much time go by, I really will not be able to stand to look at this novel for a few more years–

Also, I would like to be able to start writing poetry again.

And so… and so… in a fit of nerves and depression, I uploaded the novel today.  Meaning I submitted for self-publication.  Meaning that I’ll probably have to edit one more time when I get the proofs, but I am nearly there.


I also went through a bunch of extremely musty old magazines that I have from the 1960s (and have been storing in boxes outside)  to try to begin putting together a cover.  (Yes, I know I could get people with actual knowledge of these things to  design it!)

In the meantime, although I’m not sure why–given that it embarrasses me so much, given that it truly mortifies me–I set forth below the “pitch” for the novel that I wrote and that just passed the first round of the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Contest.  (The book is called “Nice.”) :

It is summer, 1968, and Les has been trained to be nice.  

When she was really little, they played the Star Spangled Banner in movie theaters before the show; she could feel her chest ripple just like the flag on the screen.

But it is summer, 1968–Martin Luther King Jr. shot in April and now Bobby Kennedy.    

“What in the world is happening to this country?” her mother says as they stay up after the shooting, watching the TV people try to decide whether he’ll have brain damage.  

Les wonders what she, a kid, a girl, can do about any of it.  Other than hold firm to the idea that people are good, that if everyone would just be nice enough, they could impart some of that niceness to others–

Though, in the meantime, she would also like to be just a little more cool–

Then Duke comes to visit, a cool cat, a natural charmer, and something happens to Les that is not nice– 

Who can she tell?  How, afterwards, can she un-tell them? 

Her older brother, Arne, lives his own side of the story that summer as he tries angrily, in the midst of suburban family life and the escalating Vietnam War, to become a young man. 

But “what in the world is happening?” he wonders as his sister changes, his sister who has always been the nice one–

Their story traverses the landscape of country, family, heart.


Thank God, I don’t think the pitch counts for anything but getting into the second round!  And I have no expectations of the contest.  And the book is not written like the pitch!  And I don’t think that was even the final pitch as I edited it on the website!

I think I am posting this to keep up my commitment!  Thanks for your kindness!

Niceness – Writing – “Oh Plunge Your Hands In Water”

August 19, 2009

I was thinking today about women from my generation–I don’t quite want to confess what generation that is, let’s just say that we are just old enough to actually remember when President Kennedy was shot–and the internal pressure many of us feel to be “nice.”

We are sometimes accused these days of being overly nice, or artificial or precious in our niceness, or just plain mamby-pamby.   This really is maddening.  Some of us are still too well-trained to get openly mad about these  unfair characterizations, but they are still upsetting.

This piece  deals with that issue indirectly.   It was actually a writing exercise, written with my writing buddy, in a ten or fifteen minute session based on the phrase “Plunge Your Hands in Water” from the poem “As I Walked Out One Evening,” By W.H. Auden.

(The Auden poem is simply wonderful.    Here’s a link to an online copy:

The piece has been slightly edited since the original exercise, but it really still is an exercise.   (Sorry.)

(Final point re my Blocking Writer’s Block series – a line from a poem can be a great starting point for a writing exercise.   While your exercise may be quite different from the poem, your work will may still get some depth from such an elevated jumping off point.)

“Plunge Your Hands in Water”   – W.H. Auden

At my elementary school cafeteria, the tiles were blue green grey and the trash cans were an amalgam of ketchup and fishstick skins and small red milk cartons usually half full.  The women were large and wore white stiff dresses like nurses.  They served the food in surgically cut portions on brown cafeteria trays, which were topped with mauve or yellow plates, the colors of everything an illustration of the word “faded.”  Their big rounded hair curved around their heads like the double breast that curved from their fronts, the hips from their sides.  It was good food–we all knew that–good meaning solid.  No one used the word nutrition much back then; what we knew was meat and starch, ketchup and pickle.

We sat at long tables, whose benches folded out;  the tables were cleaned with vinegar water and the whole placed smelled of the Golgotha Christ, his side or head or thirst, a reminder that we were all there, undeservedly, to be saved.

We were supposed to sit still but I dreamt that everyone ran from gorillas who chased us from spot to spot–through the lunch line, inbetween the line and the tables, then from the tables to the garbage cans.  They were big furry gorillas who ran on two legs, their forearms outstretched as they chased, while we ran, ran to do what we were supposed to do, and then sat where we were supposed to.

It was an old-fashioned school;  ice cream did not appear for some years.  When it did, all hell broke loose.  No one would eat anything else and Scott entertained us all with taking the chocolate coating from his ice cream bar and spreading ketchup and mustard on the vanilla ice cream, then re-anointing it with its chocolate sheathe.  The girls squealed in horror, the boys howled and scowled, as he took a big smiling bite, the ketchup/mustard smearing his lips with variegated orange like a fire-eater’s.   The girls pretended to bend over in nausea, and Scott looked like he felt incredibly cool for a time, though he was a troubled boy, a sad boy, a boy on whom I felt somehow that belts had been used, and who, in first grade, sometimes peed in the little classroom bathroom with the door open.   I felt it my duty to always smile at him, and he, in turn, sent me a letter covered in huge slanted writing I LOVE YOU.

I felt sadder than ever for Scott watching him eat that ice cream, thinking of his open-doored pee, and kept my head down, only looking up with the corners of my eyes, and even then trying to focus on the gorillas, the chase, and the fact that if I sat exactly where I was supposed to, they wouldn’t be able to get me, and maybe not anyone, no matter how they circled.