Monthly Archives: June 2012

Musings on Collaboration and Friendship by Deborah Bryan

I am honored and excited to introduce my dear friend Deborah Bryan, the author of The Monster’s Daughter and Memos from Your Closet Monster, as our guest today. What first struck me about Deb (besides the swell name of her Facebook page) was her keen intelligence, strong conscience and grace, and I think my first impression was dead-to-rights accurate.

In December, 2011, Deb and I first started writing these notes, or epistles, back and forth to one another, beginning a correspondence that has covered almost every subject imaginable.  Often we talk about writing and the projects we’re either working on or dreaming about starting. If I am struggling with a blog post, a scene, or even the concept for a new book, I can bounce all of my ideas off Deb. I value Deb’s input into my creative process so much that in a couple of weeks, I will be sending Deb Draft Two of my upcoming novel, Ripple, for her review and commentary.

Deb and I talk about far more than work. Often, we talk about philosophy, politics, social reform, parenting, psychology and personal issues in our  lives. I’ve laughed, cried and even argued with Deb. Whether I am confused, amused or feeling abused, I can call or write Deb, and I always smile when I see her name in my in-box or hear her voice on the telephone.

I hope that Deb and I will continue to talk, work and laugh together for many years to come. I cannot emphasize enough how gifted she is or how much I value her friendship. Her latest book is a must-buy, and it is available through Amazon on the attached link: Memos from your Closet Monster.

Without further ado, I introduce Deb Bryan:

Conversations with good friends don’t really end and begin so much as they continue in different times and places.

El and I hold conversations across a half-dozen forums, frequently seeming to leave one conversation behind in favor of a new one elsewhere. While it might seem this way, it’s not the truth; we are always engaged in conversation, and it’s always coherent between us, no matter how it might seem from the outside.

A couple of months ago, I emailed El to let her know that I was stressed out, and why. She wrote back almost immediately in an email to which I did not reply.

The next morning, however, I awakened to a short, sweet personal message on Facebook asking me to consider taking a new approach to my writing. El knew I’d been slowly working through edits on the second book in my YA Glass Ball trilogy. Although she loved its opening book, The Monster’s Daughter, she wasn’t convinced that it was what I needed to be working on right now. In a couple of short sentences, she explained what she felt I should be working on, and why.

As I read her so-short email, my entire perspective changed.

I tabled editing my trilogy’s second novel and considered what I might write, were I to follow El’s suggestion. Inspiration didn’t strike immediately, but I did let El know that she’d reoriented my entire perspective with her email.

The Monster’s Daughter, Book 1 in the trilogy

A couple of days later, I found my new project. I wouldn’t even have been looking for that project, but for an early morning email from a friend who not only felt certain things, but took the time out to express them. Like that she believed in me, more than I believed in myself.

I started working on that new project immediately but slowly. As I worked on it, I wondered, “Is writing this enough, or is there something else I need to be doing?” El is constantly thinking not only about the words she’s shaping, but about other projects and ways for allowing her words to shine in new ways and places. I wanted to try thinking a little more like her—not just pushing out word after word, but looking at everything from another angle altogether.

This exercise led me to ask myself why some of my best blogs shouldn’t be aggregated into an ebook, thus enabling them to reach a whole new audience from the one they had previously reached.

I emailed El to ask her opinion.

There were many steps between that and last week’s publication of my new ebook, Memos from Your Closet Monster. El was involved in each of them.

More than that, she was the inspiration for them. Thanks to both her offered perspective and her encouragement, a book that included but was more than the sum total of some of my most powerful blogs came into existence.

Every day, as I work on my new project, I say thanks for El and friends everywhere who inspire their friends to think in different ways. To see themselves through their friends’ eyes.

I may never yet have met El in person, but she has taught me best of all that in-person meeting isn’t required for someone to reach straight into the heart of another’s life and change it, for the better, forever.

 

© 2012 by E. L. Farris and Deborah Bryan




Dream Big: Ripple, Marathons and Swimming the English Channel

Hello my friends!  I apologize I have been so quiet, but I have been on a furious editing pace, trying to get Draft 2 of Ripple done by the end of June.  Ripple is more than 450 pages long, or 122,000 words, and I started draft two June 1st . . . so you get the idea.

I had a hard week, to be honest.  Some difficult things went down, and I felt like hell on Friday.  Pure hell.  Instead of surrendering to the fit of melancholy, I took my three kids to the pool and swam a quick 800 meters during break, and this got me thinking.  Before my accident in 2009, I was swimming two to three miles a day, and daydreaming about swimming the five miles across the Chesapeake Bay.  The bay, however, is not enough.  I want to swim across the English Channel.

Now, I get these bright ideas often, and my husband replies the same way each time.  He gets a gleam in his eye and his mouth turns up in one of his trademark half-smiles.  And then he replies, “Sounds great, Cutie,” or something sweet like that, and I grin at him.  That is how we ran two marathons together in 2011.  This is how my man and I roll.  And it might be what I love about him the most: I come up with some crazy adventure, some faraway dream, and he figures out how we can make it come true.

This is how I keep my “black dog,” as Winston Churchill called his depression, at bay.  I dream.  I dream big.  And with that dream, that goal in mind, I begin to work toward it, and with my energy focused on the future, my present troubles weigh on me less.

I don’t know when I will swim the English Channel, but it reminds me of the challenges I have both created and am overcoming in the process of writing Ripple.  This is not an easy first novel by any stretch of the imagination.  For one thing, a lot of characters live in its pages.  In addition, these characters move and interact at an increasing gallop throughout its pages and the topics addressed are weighty and emotion-packed. 

I wanted to share with you what the editing process looks like.  For your amusement, what follows is Draft 2, Page 1 of Ripple.  As you will see from the excerpt of Draft 1, page 1 of Ripple, almost nothing carried over from the first draft.

Draft 2:

“The trial is in a week, Ashtray,” thundered Helen Thompson, slamming the glass door shut so hard the frame shimmered and vibrated.  The young associate nicknamed “Ashtray,” from Baker, Pitts, Kenzey & Moore scurried out of the hotel’s conference room as Helen’s words echoed into the corridor behind him.  “I needed the witness list two hours ago!  If you can’t get it to me in the next fifteen minutes, you might as well grab a cab to the airport and catch the redeye back to D.C.”

Helen glowered, imperious, her auburn hair and bellowing tone resembling Queen Elizabeth I.  If Queen Elizabeth could make a man move before finishing a sentence, Helen could make him run.

Her eyes cut a slow arc around the conference room, searching for anyone who was not meeting her expectations.  One hand still on the gold-plated door handle, Helen made eye contact with a bemused, dark-haired senior associate named Carl Hansen, who had worked with Helen for enough years to shrug off her frequent explosions.

Helen waved her hand.  “Seriously, I don’t give a shit what’s going on in his personal life.  These pimple-faced recent graduates don’t pull their weight.”  Helen stomped from one end of the room to another, her 5’6” frame appearing much taller because of her ramrod posture, black custom suit and Manolo Blahniks heels.  A senior partner at one of the top law firms in the country, Helen stood astride the legal profession.  She did not suffer fools and within that category remained all recent law school graduates until they proved their mettle with years of hard-nosed toil.

        As you will see, not much of Draft 1 remained after my writing partner, Renée Schuls-Jacobson and I redlined it.  And for your amusement, I attach a picture I found on Facebook that channels Helen Thompson’s personality.  The only difference is the hair color of the speaker.

Image courtesy of https://www.facebook.com/rhrealitycheck

Draft 1:

“Ms. Thompson?”  Helen held up one hand impatiently and continued upbraiding her youngest associate, Alex Peterson.  “Seriously, Alex, I need that witness list and I needed it a half-hour ago.  I don’t give a shit what’s going on in your personal life.  Get me that fucking list NOW!”  The second-year associate jumped up from the conference room table, his shirt untucked from his suit pants, tie askew, and almost careened into the hotel employee who stood at attention with a phone in his hand.  “Excuse me Ms. Thompson for the interruption, but the Judge’s clerk phoned and asked to speak directly to you.”

“Hmm, the judge’s clerk huh,” Helen muttered.  “We don’t usually get calls from chambers.  Are you sure you got that right?”  The employee nodded politely and Helen thought about the studied good manners of all the employees at this swanky Chicago hotel and wondered if they went home at night and told their families what assholes the attorneys from her crack legal team were.

Inwardly she chuckled and realized she didn’t care.  At $500 a night, they can get it together to call us “Ma’am” and “Sir” and even open the doors for us.  It’s all covered in the rate.  “Yes Ma’am.  The clerk gave me the direct line for what he called, um,” he glanced at his notepad and continued, “Judge’s Chambers, U.S. District Court, Northern District of California.”  Helen’s eyes opened a little wider and she nodded and Carl Min, her crack senior associate, “Right, thank you so much.  I suppose that phone is for me?”  Helen strode across the room and pivoted, one hand gesturing as the other reached out for the phone.  “Yes Ma’am,” the employee replied, and with one hand one the door handle, waited for Helen to take hold of the phone before he let go and unobtrusively left the room as quietly as he had entered it.

Dreams, big dreams, take time and work and pain to bring to fruition.  Like running a marathon or swimming across the English Channel, there is nothing easy about editing Ripple.  And yet I am having the time of my life.

© 2012 E. L. Farris

 

 

 




Unmarked Gay Graves: Persecution and Death by Hatred

I looked up when I heard the angry tone.  I searched the faces in the crowded classroom.

Who was she talking to?  Why are they staring at me?

The more she said, the more they stared at me.  Like a confused, sleeping child hunting for a lamp in the dark of night, I looked for someone’s hand to grab but the only thing I could find was my desk, so I held on so tight my fingers hurt.  I was twelve years old and this white-haired, plum little old art teacher, with words stark like winter sunshine on a ski slope, screeched, “Why must you act like such a dyke?  You should be ashamed of yourself, wearing boy’s clothing.”

On the outside, I appeared calm and collected but I was dying inside.

Years later, my brother’s voice startled me.  “E!  Mom needs to talk to you!!”  Setting my copy of The Fountainhead down, I took a deep breath and tried to loosen my right shoulder.  It was tight from all the pitches I had thrown that morning.  Each summer day between my senior year and first year of college, I threw 150-200 pitches, lifted weights for an hour, and ran at least three miles.  I had a crush on Jon and a best friend named Tracy and we were inseparable—closer than I’d ever been to any of my friends.

Too close, apparently.

I opened my parents’ white bedroom door and tripped on a stray piece of loose carpet in their otherwise pristine room.  My parents sat on fabric-covered bedside chairs and I wondered what I had done wrong because Mom’s brow was furrowed and Dad’s mouth was tight and he was glaring, not leering, at me.  They assured me that “I needed help,” and that they wanted to help me because no one should be condemned to a “homosexual life sentence.”

I still didn’t understand what they meant until she held up my once-gay uncle’s letter as if channeling Senator McCarthy when he brandished his infamous list of Communists.  This uncle of mine had undergone a spiritual awakening.  He had seen the light and stopped his sinful fornication with other men, and ever since, he spent his days searching for other gays to save.

In his mind, I was yet one more gay in need of salvation.  You know, because I dressed in jeans and white athletic t-shirts and didn’t wear makeup and wasn’t screwing some guy . . . and had a best friend that I hugged and even held a lot . . . surely, he reasoned, they reasoned, I needed help.  Because I was gay and all.  So my parents read his letter and asked all of these questions and told me I was going to hell and their words poured over me like cascading water falling fast, so fast, over rocks in a waterfall and I was falling, falling . . .

falling.

On the outside, I appeared calm and collected but I was dying inside.

So I grabbed the keys to my Subaru, and my journal that my mom has since hidden from me, and I drove down I-71 toward Pennsylvania, playing chicken with the guard rails for hours and hours.  I wasn’t sure.  I wasn’t sure.  Was I going to hell?  Did they know something I didn’t?  I had never had sex with a man; then again, I knew what it felt like to be turned on and boys, not girls, got me going that way.  I pulled over and wrote in my journal that I wanted to die, and then I kept moving west on my drive of death until the rain poured down so hard I couldn’t see.  And then I chose to keep living and figuring all of this shit out and I gripped the wheel and made it home and once home, I drunk whatever I could find that night until the pain . . .

receded.

A few days ago, the phone rang and I answered it on the second ring.

“El?”  She whispered, her voice ragged and ravaged by grief.

“Yes?  It’s me.  Talk to me.”

For a moment she cried too hard to speak.  I knew what it was about.  Someone we both know said that gays are sinners, destined for hell’s fires.

With my left hand, I swung my strawberry blonde hair out of my eyes and pressed the receiver into my right ear, and I waited.

Trevor Project at LA Gay Pride Parade

Photo Credit Karen Kartjen.

“God loves me!”

“I know, hun.”

“GOD LOVES ME!! He loves me!”

“I know.  I know He does.”  I repeated the same words and felt her grief in my cold heart.

“Enough!  Enough! How many more children need to die?”  She was howling, like an animal wounded and left to die, and I held still, very still, trying to breathe, and listen, and find the right words.  We both know the statistics: four out of five teenagers who commit suicide have been bullied on account of their sexual orientation.

I nodded and mumbled something useless.

“How can he say I am a sinner?”  I pictured her tear-rimmed, blue eyes with dark rings circling them and her own hand gripping the phone, and my mind danced between knowing and not knowing how to comfort her.

“How can he say God doesn’t love me?  HE MADE ME!!  He knew me before He made me!”  I could barely understand her because she was sobbing so hard.

“I know.  I love you.  I know.  I know.”  I said the same words over and over, as if I was hugging her and patting her back.  I felt so fucking useless.  “I am so sorry,” I added, as I sunk into my rocking chair, my throat gripped by her grief and my own pain.

On the outside, I appeared calm and collected but I was dying inside.

There are many ways to die.  A piece of me felt broken and grief-stricken as I sat there in my rocking chair, wishing I could hold my dear, precious friend, as she wept at the persecution she and so many others face.  This inward death is my marker for each gay child who dies when the vocal violence of human hatred drives her to choose too soon her own death.

The death I almost chose.




Rebel Thriver Workshop: Stop Being Self-Destructive

This week, I have led a Rebel Thriver Workshop to help other women stop being self-destructive, in word, deed or thought. The workshop is based on a book by Rick Hanson, Just One Thing–Developing A Buddha Brain One Simple Practice at a Time. I recommend that you purchase this book and work through the exercises in it. With the help of Rick Hanson’s writing, I achieved some important breakthroughs in my own therapy.

Cognitive Behavorial Therapy

No one knows exactly how the brain works. But we know a few things. If we change the way our minds work, our brain changes too. What you think and feel; the things that you think about; and, how you react to the world around you changes your brain’s actual structure. The busy regions get more blood flow. Inactive neural connections wither away, while the ones you exercise grow stronger.  In other words, the active synapses, or connections between neurons, once fired together, get wired together. Use it or lose it, so to speak.

This is the essence of cognitive behavioral therapy: if train your mind, you change your brain. Once you change your brain, you can change your behavior more easily. In other words, when you practice positive behaviors, these behaviors become easier and more automatic to replicate, especially when you are under stress. It’s a lot like military training: when the bombs and bullets start flying, the marines fall back on their training, and that is what this workshop is all about: getting the training.

Be on Your own Side

This first lesson is simple.  Be on your own side. Are you groaning? It’s easy to be on someone else’s side, isn’t it? But are you on your own side? We’re raised to think we don’t count as much as others. Friends, we cannot keep waiting for someone to take up our own cause. Maybe you’ve been kicked or knocked upside the head whenever you stood up for yourself; maybe you believe you don’t deserve to be valued or happy.

We cannot change what happened to us when we were young. But we can control how we treat ourselves today.

Consider what it feels like when you are a good friend to someone else. Ask yourself if you’re that kind of friend to yourself? Are you too hard on yourself? When someone mistreats you, do you only make a halfhearted effort to protect yourself?

The next time you face a situation that makes you feel self-critical, frustrated with yourself, guilty, lacking power or control, ask yourself if you are on your own side.  To put it another way, are you looking out for your own best interests?

Then feel like you’re with someone who loves and cares about you. Bring to mind the feeling of comfort that gives you. Remember what it feels like to be on someone’s side: a child, or a dear friend. Let these feelings fill you.

Now: imagine that you have the same feelings, the same physical stance, the same thoughts—while caring for yourself. Pay attention to what this feels like: encourage the good feelings, and if you sense any resistance, try to let it go or push back against it with light and love.

Keep asking yourself: am I on my side? And if I were on my side, what would I feel and do here? Then, to the best of your ability, DO IT.

Self-Forgiveness

For me, part of the key to ending self-destructive thoughts and actions was forgiving myself for all the times I wanted to take my own life and for all the times I either hurt myself or spoke hateful things about myself. You see, the guilt for what I did to myself compounded my problems. I would feel bad, really bad about what I’d done, and then want to punish myself for it.

One day, I realized that I needed to break the chain of guilt, judgment and self-destruction. Whatever I did was done. And in order to stop mistreating myself, I needed to let go of all of the pain and guilt and anger I felt toward or about the way I had acted in the past.

What is done is done. We are more than our past. We are the ones who create and drive our future. We need to let go of the mistakes we made. Don’t judge it. Don’t condemn it. It just is. Let it go, as you would let go of an illness, a spoiled apple, or a passing mood.

In order to love yourself, you need to do one thing, and one thing only: start loving. And the first step to loving yourself is forgiveness.

I want you to say it out loud. “I forgive myself.” And if you want to add a few things that you forgive, go ahead.

I will start. I forgive myself for wanting to end my life. I forgive myself for hurting myself. And I forgive myself for treating myself like a second class citizen.

And then: I let it go. I let it go.

Self-Compassion

It’s easy to feel it for others, isn’t it? Your child runs to you crying after a bad day at school; a dear friend finds out that her mom faces a cancer that is chewing up her last reserves; or even a perfect stranger on TV sobs when they lose their house to a flood. Compassion exists in our natures. We evolved and developed compassion because we need it to nurture our children and build communities.

But without nurturing, too many of us lack the ability to feel compassion for ourselves. We’re perfectionists. We’re our worst haters and our worst critics. And this lack of compassion for self is the very seed that eggs us on to hurt ourselves.

Next time you make a mistake, or you feel intense pain or sadness, bring to mind what a dear friend would feel for you. Envision their facial expressions; their gestures; the love in their eyes. Let your body receive this compassion.

Then, imagine a child or a dear friend is in pain–the sort of pain you are in right now. Bring to mind the compassion you would feel for them. Let these feelings fill your heart. Extend those feelings toward that person, as if touching them from afar with light and love.

Now, seize hold of this compassion, and turn it inward. Go ahead. You do it with your anger and even hatred without hesitation. Now I want you to take this love–and send it into every cell in your body. And then I want you to whisper something kind.

 

Pick a kind phrase.

“May I feel better.”

“I am so sorry for my loss.”

“I love me so much.”

“May this pain pass.”

“May I walk with light and love.”

 Peace be with you. And as one of my friends always says, “keep on shining.” Rolling Stones with Bonnie Raitt: “Shine A Light”




How I Became A Rebel Thriver

I used to be my worst enemy.  In word or in deed I sabotaged myself.  I have written in here of self-hurting; of my inner-editor-hater; of suicidal ideation; of self-abnegation and even self-hatred.  Rather than repeat the sad refrains that used to replay over and over again in my mind like a bad pop lyric, I am here to tell you today how I stopped these self-destructive behaviors and became a Rebel Thriver.  I tell this story in the hopes that it helps one of you.

My therapist squinted at her notepad and flipped the page over as I explained a few things I like about myself.  She waited for me to stop talking and then she smiled.

“Did you hear that?”

“What?”

“You just said that you like a few things about yourself.”  The corners of her mouth turned up and then I then I found that I was grinning this silly, child-like grin.

“I did, didn’t I?”

“You said, and I quote, ‘I am of great value.’”  She looked me in the eye and I looked away, blushing.  Then she added, “So next week, whenever you can, I want you to practice saying that whenever you feel like hurting yourself or whenever you feel bad about yourself.”

Before I left her office, she made me say, “I am of great value” a few times.  I felt like Helen Keller, learning a new language.  The words felt funny on my tongue.  And something in my heart felt warm.  I blushed each time I said it, and yet it also felt good.  Really good.

The week kicked along, and things at home didn’t go so well.  Sometimes, when I felt like hell, I managed to choke out the words, “I am of great value,” but more often than not, I fell back into my tired pattern of thinking that I hated myself, or even feeling that the world would be better off without me.  I reread that sentence and cringe; I hope you don’t judge me for it, but it’s the truth and that’s what I tell when I write.

At one point, I even called my therapist, desperate and forlorn, and she took a tough love stance with me.  She told me to wait until I saw her in a couple of days, and until then, to keep trying, and when that failed, to pray.

A few days later, I sat on her tan sofa.  She sized me up, and nodded.  She nods a lot.  It’s a mannerism or early Parkinson’s.  Then she said, “Tough week?”

After I told her just how tough it was, she put her notepad down.  “Okay.  Let’s try something different.  It’s Lent.  So I am going to ask you to do something for the rest of Lent.”

I gulped.  I hadn’t done anything for Lent.  As a lapsed Catholic and mediocre Methodist, I almost never do.  But I trust my therapist.  “Okay.  Okay.  What.”

“No thoughts of suicide.”

“For all of Lent?”  I waited for her to nod.  And then I added, “I can do that and I can do one better.  No self-destructive thoughts period.”  I grinned.  The cocky, athletic, high-achiever side of me was engaged.  It was a challenge.  And I was eager to show that I could meet it.

About ten minutes into my first day, I heard a thought and it wasn’t a good one.  I swayed, and felt it pressing in on me.  I had screwed up and gotten annoyed with one of my children.  I almost went on to growl, “I am a shitty mom.  Because I am a shitty mom, I am not worthy.  I hate myself . . . “  But I did not.  With an uncertain smile, I whispered, “I have great value; I mean, I am of great value.”

In another 10 minutes, I had to push away another negative thought.  And then another.  And another.  By 10 a.m., I was exhausted.  Utterly drained.  I could not keep mumbling, “I am of great value” every few minutes.  It just didn’t seem like enough.

The darkness encroached.  I wanted to lie down and rest, which is what I used to do when I felt suicidal.  I would lie face down on my floor and lie on my hands.  This time, I tumbled out of my chair and looked out the window.  The sun blazed through the trees and shone in my eyes.  And it gave me an idea: turn the light on the darkness.

I spent the entire day, eyes tracking sunbeams, and turning the light on the darkness that raged inside me.  Forgive me if this sounds weird, but I am making an objective report: I felt like I was battling demons.  And finally I held a weapon strong enough to defeat the depredations they had wrought upon me all of these years: light.

I imagined that a bright light filled me.  And rather than turn it on each demon, or each hurtful thought, I filled myself with light.  And the light circled and branched out inside me, like an unquenchable torch.  And nothing could extinguish it.

Hours later, I staggered downstairs, still lit inside, but finally able to walk and talk to my family.  Months later, when darkness encroaches, I seek the light and I turn it on.  Let it shine.

How do you deal with negative and/or self-destructive thoughts?  Have you come up with any effective strategies, and if so, would you like to share them?




Farewell Frank: Arranging Colored Pencils

Hey, Frank.

You’ve been gone for less than a day now.  All day long, I’ve been turning my thoughts and feelings over and over again, as if they were colored pencils that if arranged just right, could lead me to some clarity.  I’ve gotten nowhere.  I’m in pain.  That’s your damn legacy.

I barely knew you and I didn’t feel comfortable around you.  The first time I met you in our online group, it was after someone told me you scared them.  See, I’m an admin, so I am responsible for fixing things that don’t go well.  I was on-call that night.  You screamed, “Fuck you!!!”  So I cautioned you against cussing at people.  It was what I had to do, Frank.

Guilty?  I twirled my guilt around and knew it was not true, but I felt it all day nonetheless.  I know I did the right thing, but no one knows that I walked away after that because your darkness scared me.  Sickened me.  When I saw your name pop up, I felt like a black widow was about to bite me, so I ran.  I ran.

Sad?  I felt like crying all day, so that means I feel sad, I suppose, but the tears are frozen.

Tempted to hurt myself?  Of course.  When someone takes their life, it feels familiar, like the smell of a cigarette wafting through the summer air, and I would reach for it, until I remember that I am stronger than that.  It’s not simple though.  At one point today, I tried to tell my husband how much I was hurting, but he had a really bad day today too, and for an instant, the pain roared so loud that I felt like the only way I could make it stop was to hurt myself.  It was too loud, and I needed peace.

I did not.  I will not Frank.  I reject your death as a beacon or a guidepost.  When the pain and the guilt and the sadness sing too dissonant of a melody inside me, I search for the brightest light I can find, and I murmur a prayer, the Lord’s Prayer, and I pray, Frank, I pray that He will watch over me.  And he does.

Angry?  All day.  We only knew you for a little while.  Do you know what your daughter said to us?  When one of us told her that you said you loved your daughter?  You know what she said Frank?  “No, he meant his real daughter.  She was very important to him.  I’m just his stepdaughter.”  Right.  So you couldn’t treat the people you left behind with compassion the last time you spoke to them or about them.

I am not supposed to write this note.  I’m supposed to rise above it and express my condolences to your family, but I can’t do that.  I can’t be the responsible one tonight.  I lost my chance to be responsible when I walked past my computer at 1:36 a.m. last night, and because my hands were shaking from my seizure medications, I did not check in one last time to see if you were okay.  Instead, I crawled into bed.

I don’t know where you are or even what form you take.  Is your soul somewhere better, with a cold breeze blowing in from the trees overlooking a dark blue lake?  Is it floating, higher and higher, like an out-of-control balloon released from a small child’s hand?  Or did your troubled soul pass into an empty space, caught between being and not being, swirling, lost and still searching for a place to land?

I have no answers tonight Frank.  My mind is no closer to finding a point to all of this than you were to finding peace of mind.   I suppose we all must say farewell one day.

To those of you who read this, I pray that your final day does not come for a long time.  I pray that when you must go, you fight like hell right up until the final moment, but that when you take your final breath, you breathe in hope for something better.

Fare thee well Frank.  Fare thee well.




Synergies in Social Networking: WANATribe

Happy Sunday! I’ve had a busy week and I would apologize for only posting one blog entry but I suspect that you might be thanking me for not adding more items to your in-box. Several creative projects filled my time last week.  First, draft 2 of Ripple progresses.  To kick off Draft 2, I switched Chapter 4, my weakest chapter, with Chapter 2. Then I gutted it, and as petulant as I felt about tearing down the foundations, the end product pleases me.

In the new chapter 2, I introduce one of my main characters, Helen Thompson. She is a fun character to write:

“Holy fucking Christ,” thundered the voice as the glass door slammed shut, narrowly missing the young associate who scurried out of the hotel’s conference room.   Her voice echoed into the corridor behind him.

“I needed the witness list two hours ago!  The trial is in a week, Ashtray!  If you can’t get it to me in the next fifteen minutes, you might as well grab a fucking cab to the airport and catch the red eye back to D.C.”

Helen Thompson glowered around the room, imperious, her orange hair and bellowing tone resembling Queen Elizabeth I.  If Queen Elizabeth could make a man move before finishing a sentence, Helen could make him run.

In addition to rebuilding the opening chapters of Ripple, I became a part of an organization called Rebel Thriver. The concept behind Rebel Thriver is to thrive, rather than survive, despite your circumstances, and this reflects the theme of Ripple.  Helen, her daughter Phoebe, and Helen’s attorney Cassandra will push through great difficulties and by the end of the novel, they will have laid the foundations for a healthy and happy (albeit imperfect and uncertain) future.  I am proud of Helen, Phoebe and Cassandra, just as I am proud to be a part of Rebel Thriver.

Another topic, the business opportunities presented by the missteps of Facebook, dovetails nicely with Kristen Lamb’s new social media site: WANATribe.  I wrote about Facebook’s IPO a few weeks ago, and explained how Facebook’s need to maximize its stock price would lead to an increased advertising presence that would affect those of us with fan pages.  Little did I know how soon this would come to pass, or how deleterious of an effect it would have on my business model for Running from Hell with El.

Photo Credit Forbes

Facebook has always been free, and it has developed its revenue stream by seeking advertisers.  At $3 billion a year, their revenues come nowhere close to justifying their current stock price.  Facebook has never charged its 900 million users a fee to post status updates, but now it is.

What this means is that posts made by my Page, with its 5,500 fans, no longer reach the majority of those fans.  When I post something, Facebook limits my reach to 10-15% of the fan base I worked so hard to build.  My audience has been decimated, as has been the fan base of all Pages.  To reach 100% of my fans, I would have to pay $300 per each post.

Don’t get me wrong: Facebook is within its legal rights.  They own the website.  If they want to charge users, we may choose to pay or to find another social website.  Small businesses, artists, writers, creative people and charitable institutions cannot afford to use Facebook as a means of reaching an audience anymore.

That is where WANATribe fits into the picture.  Created by Kristen Lamb under the auspices of WANA International as a modern version of the old-fashioned salon, WANATribe brings together creative people from all disciplines in a collaborative social media network.  Graphic artists will meet writers.  Architects can talk with and be influenced by interior decorators.  Fiction writers will find playwrights and screenwriters. The salon known as WANATribe will provide fuel for synergistic artistic interaction.

How does this relate to Facebook?  Like all massive corporations, Facebook has lost sight of its initial mission: to unite friends via a free network.  It is never wise for a business to start charging for services it once gave away.  WANATribe for now is a niche for creative people but as it grows, so too can grow its user base.

Please stay tuned for future developments.  I should state for the record that I am not an official spokesperson for WANATribe.  I am, however, an enthusiastic ambassador for this exciting new network.

What are your thoughts about Facebook?  What would you like to see in a social media network?




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