Monthly Archives: September 2011

The Name Game

What’s in a name?  Apparently quite a lot.  Recently, I received editorial comments from my agent regarding my novel, GAME ON.  Lots of work yet to be done, but the most painful comment:  Change the names of my two main characters.

WHAT?!  Is she kidding?

This is my first fictional work and these characters lived in my head for a year before they even made it to the page.  They’ve been with me for nearly four years. Change their names?!  Why I couldn’t possibly.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t point out here that one of my talented critique partners, another regular blogger on this site, pointed out months—okay, maybe years—earlier that my hero and heroine both had the same initials, therefore I should really change their names before submitting.  Then, as is now, my reaction was no freaking way! That’d be like changing the names of my own two kids.

Enter my oh-so-adorable teenage daughter, delivering words of wisdom complete with an expertly executed eye roll: “Get a grip, Mom.  They’re just words on a page.  If you want to get the book published, change ‘em.”

Out of the mouths of babes, right?  Or in my case, an insensitive 13-year-old.

To Google I went.

My agent questioned the identity of one of my secondary characters, too, asking whether the name, popular today, was prevalent fifty years ago when this character would have been born.  Sure enough, one quick search and I discovered the name wasn’t even on the list of the 1,000 most popular names during that timeframe.  Yeah, that’s why she’s earning money in this business and I’m, well, not.  Okay, so the names will be changed to protect the manuscript—most of them anyway.  🙂

While I was researching names, I needed a diversion to dull the pain, so I had a little fun Googling my own first name.  Of Irish and Gaelic origin, Tracy means “warlike”.  Hmmm.  I think my redheaded self will just leave it at that.

As I suspected, Tracy was one of the ten most popular names for girls born in the early 1960’s.   Look around you, most of the Tracy’s you probably know, be they “y”s , “ey”s, or “i”s, are all probably straddling age 50.  When my children were young, we lived in a neighborhood of 350 families and a whopping five mom’s were named Tracy.  It was a rarity for me to be around so many women with the same name.  My brother married a Tracy, but she’s of the “ey” variety.  (We love her anyway!)  But, I challenge you to find a person under the age of 25 with the name.  Hey, if you’re reading this and you’re expecting, what about Tracy for your unborn child’s name?  Warlike isn’t too bad.  Just don’t ask my husband, okay?

How about you? Have you checked out the history of your own name?  Any you’d like to suggest for my main characters?

Who stole my neck?

Yanno…I remember being in my twenties, all full of vigor and energy, tight and toned and absolutely sure of myself.  Positive that growing older was just a state of mind, and that I’d always look like that. 

I have a picture somewhere of me acting goofy with my best friend, and I was wearing a little half shirt and a pair of button down levis…remember button downs?  More importantly, remember the little half shirts? 

I was so cut and flat-abbed, with not an ounce of fat.  And honestly thought that was reality.   (cue hysterical laughter here)

Now, at forty-four, I look back at that version of me and think oh Lord, if I only knew about the aliens that were coming.  The ones that sneak in and pump fat under your skin, weave spells that make your muscles weak and wimpy, give your upper arms wings, and make your boobs fall down. 

And something else.  Something new.  Something just in the last two months.

Someone did something to my neck.

I remember my mother’s neck when she got old.  I remember playing with my GRANDmother’s neck when I was real little.  You could move it from one side to the other and it would stay there, in the little grooves it made, because the elasticity was gone.  I remember thinking it was cool.

Yeah…I’m rethinking that now.  Because suddenly while getting ready one morning, I turned a certain angle to fix my hair.  And I saw it.  The little grooves.  They…stayed there.  I froze and stared and it was gone.  I tried to replicate the angle, but nothing.  So I thought it was something I imagined. 

Then a couple of days later, there it was again.  And so on and so on, and now that I’m looking for it, I see it more and more.  That little spot that stays there.  That doesn’t move when I do.  Or DOES move when I don’t want it to.  It’s like it has become it’s own entity.  And I just want to know…

Who gave who permission to steal my neck and replace it with this thing?


My First Book Signing!

As an indie author and a debut one at that, the first book signing is a MAJOR event.  By my standards, anyway.  Not knowing what to expect, I went in full board prepared for everything and anything.  I mean, I had a drawing for a free copy of my next novel LUST ON THE ROCKS, a drawing for a child’s garden bag stocked full with garden tools, gloves, seed saving packets and recipe card (rosemary lemonade), plus business cards, stock piles of my current novel…

You name it, I had it.  Everything.  And I had a great support staff behind me who created a wonderful ambiance within the small gift store, served raspberry lemonade and pastries—generally sold my book for me!  Especially one very special lady by the name of Susan.  Without her, none of this would have come to pass and for that, I am forever grateful.  It was a fantastic turnout!

While I didn’t break any sales records I did experience the incredible joy of meeting readers who came specifically to see me.  Do not underestimate the joy factor here because as an author, I don’t exist without readers.  Sure I can write to my heart’s content but with no one to read my books, how far will I go?

About as far as the kitchen counter.  My daughter will read my books, I’m sure of it.  After all, they were written with her mind!  And if she doesn’t?  Well, I’ve enjoyed the process, each and every minute.  Remember:  this is the job where I can say “I can’t believe I get paid to do this!”

It’s that pleasant.  That rewarding.  That fulfilling.  So my book signing went well and I’m extremely appreciative to all who stopped by.  Loretta won the copy of my next novel and Manya won the kids’ garden bag — congratulations to them both!  And wanna know something really cool?

Miss America’s Teen stopped by to say hello.  Yep!  This beauty was gracious and sweet and stood by my side for pictures.  🙂  Helps that she’s the daughter of a friend of mine, good friends with my younger sister and of course one of my children’s favorite babysitters — she and her gorgeous sister.  Thank you, Elizabeth and Mary Katharine Fechtel!

It’s funny how life catches us by the shoulders, stops us in place and says, “Pssst… I want you to meet someone.” 

Prior to these young ladies, I must confess, I was no fan of beauty pageants.  Thought they sent the wrong message to our young girls.  But after meeting these two and their parents–particularly their mother—I learned a lesson.  While I cannot speak for the adult pageants, the training and preparation these girls go through is tough, from learning how to interview, ask questions, present and conduct themselves to demonstrate talent in their chosen field, ie. dance, music, etc. Plus they receive scholarships and once-in-a-lifetime experiences!

Now I don’t know about you, but I get nervous when it’s interview time!  Not these girls.  Their self-composure is incredible, not to mention they’re just plain good and decent people.  And while they’re too young for me to hand them my novels (adults only, please), their support is appreciated! 🙂  As is Peggy’s, the owner of the store hosting my book signing (shown above).

Phenomenal Phriday Phood

Living in California, we are lucky to have an enormous Mexican influence on the culture of all those living within this huge state.  One very obvious way the Mexican culture has impacted us is in the form of the food we eat.

I grew up going to the Acapulco Restaurant in Alameda and one of the staples of my vegetarian diet is the quesadilla.  It can be a great source of protein for those of us who don’t eat meat and I’d like to share with a way to integrate this wonderfully versatile staple into your diet.

First you buy tortillas (corn or flour) at your local supermarket.

Then you shred your favorite cheese on top (I use either Monterey Jack or Sharp Cheddar.  My husband uses Jalapeno Jack.)

Then you take a can of kidney beans or garbanzo beans or actually anything you want (I’ve used Spanish rice or edamame or even popcorn) and sprinkle that over the top of the cheese.

You can either fold it over or leave it open-faced (which would constitute a tostada) and put it in the frying pan.  (I don’t fry mine but rather heat it up slowly until the cheese melts).

EAT!  Combining the cheese with the beans and/or rice forms a complete protein and the variations are endless.


Tales From The Family Crypt

When my family gets together, the house is filled with laughter and joy and stories from our past. There’s one particular story which refuses to stay buried. It’s a tale of siblings at their worst and goes something like this:

First, let me introduce the characters in my tale: one very cool sixteen year older brother, fourteen year old Me who could’ve starred in Toby Keith’s song I Wanna Talk About Me, our eleven year old sister who would do anything her older siblings told her to do, and our four year old baby sister, who within the space of one minute could go from cute and cuddly to whiney and annoying as only a four year old child can do.

On a summer day off from school, with our parents away shopping, we played baseball in the backyard. Our baby sister was determined to join in but of course we wouldn’t let her. After much whining and begging, she finally threatened to run away.

With cruel glee, we grabbed mom’s kerchief, filled it with food, found an old broom handle and fashioned a hobo stick. We stuck one end of the stick in our sister’s chubby little hand, threw the other end over her shoulder, then shooshed her out the back gate.

Mad as can be, she stomped up the alley while we laughed and jeered and urged her on. But as she trudged further and further from home, her anger faded and doubts set in. Reaching the end of the alley, she had to make a decision – turn left or right. Continue on or stop.

She stopped. Nearly a full block away from the people she depended on the most, she stood with the hobo stick over her shoulder, alone and sobbing while we laughed at her. Eventually we took pity and brought her home but I think of that little girl now, scared to be so far from home, pushed away by the people she loved most.

Although it’s many years later, we still talk about this childhood moment and remember the laughter mixed with the cruelty. Our baby sister, who now has babies of her own, takes the teasing with grace and a smile – and gives us a jab or two back. Yet she holds no grudges … or perhaps she’s just biding her time, waiting for the perfect opportunity to get even with her much older siblings, waiting until we’re in her care and too old to defend ourselves. Yeah, that’s the scenario I imagine, when that little girl finally has the opportunity for some payback.

What was the meanest thing you ever did to your sibling(s)? Or if you were nicer than my siblings and me, then feel free to share your favourite childhood stories from your family crypt.

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