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The Rock Star World of a Writer (Not!)

My daughter's sick day supplies

I’m a capable woman who spent fourteen years as an independent adult before getting married. I entered into my marriage with my own power drill, mortgage, and system for organizing my book collection. We are an evolved family: my husband does the laundry, I order take-out for dinner, and the kids are learning how to…
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Deb Susan’s Obligatory Coffee Post

Technically, the topic is guilty pleasures, but when it comes to THINGS I WILL NOT SURRENDER no matter how good or bad they may be for me, Coffee heads the list (at least where inanimate objects are concerned). Latte

Calling me a “coffee drinker” seriously underestimates the situation. I drink, on average 12-14 8-oz cups per day. No, that’s not an exaggeration. I drink the coffee, in part, to control a benign familial tremor (more on this, and the doctor who suggested it, here). The caffeine itself no longer has a noticeable impact – but I’ve definitely developed an appreciation for various roasts and flavors.

I also have guilty pleasures where coffee’s concerned. Two of them, to be precise.

The first is whole-bean, dark roast Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee. Given the cost (especially for the peaberry type) it definitely qualifies as a guilty pleasure.

The second, though more affordable, is guiltier from a calorie-intake perspective: Gingerbread lattes. If I had to be stuck on a desert island with only one beverage option, it would probably have to be the gingerbread latte. I’ll drink it at any time of year, in any temperature, any place.

I even bought a bottle of  gingerbread syrup from the sirens so I could keep the joy around my house all year.

“Coffee” might seem like a funny choice for a guilty pleasure, especially considering how often I drink it and how much I drink. But I really do enjoy every cup, and the fact that I do buy micro roasts and Kona beans makes my morning “cup of Joe” my favorite guilty pleasure.

What about you? Coffee or tea? Have you got any special leaves or beans you particularly enjoy? (If we’re talking tea, I’m partial to white jasmine pearls or loose leaf white, though my son prefers Early Grey.) Tell me about your beverage of choice in the comments!

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Smug Resolutions by Deb Danielle Younge-Ullman

New Year’s resolutions frighten me. They have a habit of getting broken, thus undermining my belief that I can achieve legitimate, important goals and generally leaving me a self-pitying mess.

But this year, I’m going to keep my New Year’s resolutions. I’m going to keep them with ease and sit back with a smile as those around me fall off their various wagons, plunge into self-hatred, depression and all-encompassing bitterness for which the only seeming remedy is to vow again next year and somehow hope to succeed.

From whence comes this smugness, you ask?

Well of course, I have a plan. Check out my resolutions and you’ll see what I mean…

This year I vow NOT to:

– bungee-jump, drive race cars, rock climb, helicopter ski, barefoot water ski, (regular water skiing is fine) surf or jump out of airplanes (with parachutes or otherwise) engage in any sport where I could get seriously hurt by a ball

– take up any other dangerous sports or hobbies not mentioned above (Like the the protagonist in Falling Under, I find more than enough danger in simply waking up in the morning. Though some might feel the need to challenge their fears by taking up some variety of death-defying hobbies, I do not.)

I also vow NOT to:

– give up chocolate, coffee or dessert

– go on any kind of “cleanse” especially the ones that require one to eat hideous combinations of garlic, chili peppers, lemon juice and bitter greens. (I’m also not doing the one with Epsom salt that’s supposed to draw out little blue and green colored “stones” from your kidneys that you then have the joy of seeing floating in the toilet.)

I vow not to eat green peppers or squiggly chicken or any chicken I can’t see (like in a sandwich–I’ll eat it, but only if I’ve been able to inspect it for squiggles first.)

You see what the plan is yet? That’s right: I’m not going to change. It’s all about vows I can’t help keeping.

Oh yeah, one more: I resolve NOT to take my Christmas tree down the day after New Years (Ha! I already achieved that one; see how tricky I am?!)

Happy New Year and may you keep your resolutions!

Deb Danielle
fallingunder-1.jpg

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Mia in the Middle by Deb Mia

ispc049009.jpgMiddles are tough. To start off, my middle is currently much too wide, the result of too much chocolate and caffeine this past month as I finished THE ALOHA DIARIES. I just didn’t think that a few extra bites of chocolate, McDonald’s, potato chips and all sorts of junk that seemed to call to me would matter in the end. I was wrong.

To go off topic here for a minute, why is it that the anxiety to meet a deadline is met in part by all this emotional eating? It’s probably just a chick thing, too, which is even more infuriating. I’ve been tracking the progress of novel #2 by word count (which means nothing and everything), but maybe I should have charted my weight instead. I honestly think I am about 10 pounds over where I was when I started at the beginning of May. That’s, what, two months? Egads.

Here are my comfort foods, which I know probably doesn’t even technically qualify as “food.” But short of putting them in my acknowledgments, they did help me cross the finish line and therefore deserve some mention. Here they are, in no particular order:

  • Chocolate, pretty much in any form, although Reese’s Peanut Butter cups managed to rise to the top of the list
  • Kona coffee (I actually don’t drink coffee all that often, but I certainly made up for these past two months)
  • Potato chips
  • Doritos (original – none of that ranch flavor or anything else will do)
  • Cheese puffs (from the health food store and Cheetos)
  • Spam musubi(I know – there’s really nothing more to say about this one)
  • Powdered donuts (I think I even did a post on this)
  • McDonald’s Happy Meals (hamburger)

Of course I did manage to have three (okay, two) square meals a day and got my fruits and vegetables (occasionally) so it wasn’t like I was gorging on this stuff 24/7. But I’d be kidding if I didn’t say they didn’t have a place in my diet these past few weeks.

What do you eat when you’re in deadline mode?

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Me, Myself and Kate by Deb Jennifer

I’m one of those readers always looking for parallels between protagonists and the writers who create them.  The extent to which writers use autobiographical information (or not) interests me.  I know writers who take the “write what you know” advice to the extreme and write themselves into the story in a way that almost borders on memoir.  I’m not saying this doesn’t make for great fiction: it often does. 

Here’s my deal… I spent a lot of years writing poetry.  My style was very narrative, very autobiographical, “confession” style poems.   A lot of it was pretty dark stuff.   And very self centered.  I was mining the most difficult periods of my own life for material, going back and reliving them, and doing my best to turn these moments into art. 

So when I turned to fiction, the last thing I wanted to do was write about myself.  I found it incredibly freeing to just make stuff up.  To leave myself behind and enter this whole other world where anything goes.   I was sick to death of the me, me, me world that had been my poetry.  I wanted to inhabit someone else’s nightmares, broken love affairs and strange afflictions.

The protagonist of Promise Not To Tell, Kate Cypher, is clearly not me.   I’m not a school nurse.  I didn’t grow up on a commune.  My best friend wasn’t murdered.  There are a few things Kate and I do have in common: we’re ex-smokers who occasionally relapse; we need coffee to function; we have what some would consider a slightly dark sense of humor; we’re close in age (though back when I started the first draft of this book, 41 seemed old and far away — now it’s not nearly so far.); we are both haunted, one way or another, by our childhoods.

But the ways we differ outnumber our similarities: Other than the occasional cigarette and glass of bourbon, Kate is a bit of a health nut—she watches what she eats and jogs.  I, on the other hand, am eating homemade chocolate truffles as I write this post and the only exercise I’ve gotten so far today is chasing my daughter through the grocery store.   She’s straight, I’m a lesbian.  But perhaps the biggest difference between the two of us, the one crucial to Kate’s story, is that she is a natural born skeptic.  Me, I consult a pendulum and Ouija board when making major life decisions.  When Kate is confronted with the possibility that her best friend, who was brutally murdered in childhood, has come back as a vengeful little girl ghost, Kate refuses to believe.  She lives in a carefully ordered world of science and reason.  If something goes bump in the night, it’s no doubt a branch on the window, not a visit from the other side.   She is constantly finding rational explanations for things.

Me, I want the not so rational ones.  If I hear a bump in the night, I immediately start wondering which terrible thing it could be: ghost, demon or serial killer? 

Kate, with her logical problem-solving, makes a reliable narrator.   I, on the other hand, am not so reliable.   Kate is a skeptic.  A scientist.  I am a flake.  If it had been me in her shoes, I would have been having séances, pulling out the Ouija board, trying to make peace with the spirit world.  And you know what?  To make matters worse, the Kate-as-Jennifer character probably would have mined the whole experience for a poem or two.  Egad!

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“The Time Has Come,” The Wall Man Said by Deb Jennifer

This past week, instead of writing, I’ve been dealing with contractors — the retaining wall beside our house has fallen in and our roof is leaking.   The guy building our new wall — and it is a beautiful wall — is fascinated with the fact that I’m a writer.   He says he wants to write a book.  Instead of working on my new book, I stand out in the cold and listen to the Wall Man tell me all about the book he would write if only he were a writer.  He tells me about the snow sculptures he makes to raise money for charity and how he once experienced a true miracle. Continue reading