Will “American Dirt” Crumble into a “Million Little Pieces”?

What about Bolton’s Memoir – will it ever see the light of day? The fate of his book is in the hands of the White House. 

Photo by James Frid on Pexels.com

Whatever happens to these books, there certainly has been a lot of buzz surrounding their release.

What about the biggest PR myth of all? “There’s no such thing as bad publicity.”  I wonder how much Author Jeanine Cummins or former National Security Advisor John Bolton are enjoying their publicity. Hey, whatever happened to James Frey? Oh wait, I see they turned “A Million Little Pieces” into  a movie. I can just see it now. “American Dirt” starring Brad Pitt and Nicole Kidman – oh wait, she’s Australian.

Photo by Scott Webb on Pexels.com

And now I wonder is “Curse of the Ninth” cursed not to have gotten this sort of buzz? It will just have to thrive on its own merits. Oh, and what about my novel “Agave Blues,” inspired by my family’s immigrant experience, so of course it’s filled with magic realism and I’m a real half-Mexican, to boot!

LOVE TRIANGLE, A CONTEST OF WILLS

Oh what a tangled web! This is the first in a series of newspaper articles that spread like wildfire across the country from San Bernardino to Boston between the period October, 1930 to April, 1934. These articles are what helped me shape the story Curse of the Ninth available now for presale.

            “First wife asserts that the beneficiary of his will, the second Mrs. Marnier (name has been changed) alienated Dr. Marnier’s affections from his first wife and family; and that further, the Las Vegas Nevada Divorce which he obtained from his first wife before marrying the second Mrs. was irregular.

            The late optometrist is asserted to have obtained the Las Vegas divorce in September of 1917. He married his second wife in October of the same year ( his death came 13 years later).            

The first Mrs. charges that the will beneficiary, a well-known musician at the time the doctor married her, “induced her husband to bequest the bulk of his estate to her.”

Oh, Phoebe Mae, will I finally uncover the truth?

EXPECTING

GLENDALE, CA, 1930 – After thirteen years of wedded bliss, shortly before his demise and the birth of Charley, Doc and Phoebe pose for the camera in front of the home he built for her. Curse of the Ninth

Phoebe Mae

Did this sweet Phoebe Mae belong to “a fantastical religious cult, one of the causes of Doc’s infatuation” with her, as his ex-wife would later testify in court? Would his life be forever cursed the moment he first heard the young piano teacher play? Curse of the Ninth

EXTRA, EXTRA! READ ALL ABOUT IT! Did He Fall or Was He Pushed?

Excerpt from Curse of the Ninth:

GLENDALE, September, 1930: The year after the fall of Wall Street – The Stock Market Crash 1929.

“Dr. Belyea, who attended me, stated my ‘skull was fractured, three vertebrae were broken and the fall had cut a bad gash in the victim’s scalp.'” 

“Well, I certainly was the victim, but this was no accident. I must admit, dying wasn’t that painful, but it wasn’t quick either. Most agonizing were the memories I’d relive before exhaling my last breath. 

“I’m not proud of what I’d have to do. While exacting revenge had not been the goal, and it wouldn’t be sweet, staying connected to the love of my life, my darling, would be close to divine.”

Holiday Guests or As 2019 Swirls Down the Drain

My New Years’ Resolution is to get a second bathroom before the next holiday season!

photography of waterfalls between trees
Photo by Rifqi Ramadhan on Pexels.com
 
Sneaking in a moment for ourselves,
What could be more metaphorical
Than the overflowed tub
Or the near-severed thumb?
Bath water cascades over the rim
Blood dances onto the new parquet
To fraternize with the warm water
Oozing under the brand new floorboards.
Achilles-deep we stand in the flood
The jetsam and flotsam of our year.
Bone-weary, we don’t overreact
This shit happens, we still have our health.
All I had wanted was a moment
For Calgon to please take me away
All he’d asked was a minute to shave
Before the next bathroom squatter.

CURSE OF THE NINTH

My book cover is here! My book cover is here!
After all these years, my book can finally sing out loud!
I have nothing but songs of praise for the staff over at #WiDo Publishing, a home for my book and a place that’s made me feel like family. More details to come.CurseofTheNinth_CVR_LRG.jpg

The Russians are Coming! The Russians are Coming!

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Growing up in the 60’s, every time I heard a plane fly over, I cowered. Had the Russians finally crossed into our skies? My paranoia soared. Was this the first time I’d heard some fake news.

The Russians are Coming! ” is a phrase from 1949 attributed to United States Secretary of Defense James Forrestal who added, “The Russians are Coming! They’re right around. I’ve seen Russian soldiers.” Forrestal allegedly uttered those words while suffering from mental illness, not long before “allegedly” falling out a 16thstory window of the Bethesda Naval hospital.

The nations nerves were just as mentally frazzled for over a decade.

And then in 1966, as the anti-communism crusade subsided in the early 1960s, the Hollywood blacklist was slowly discontinued and Norman Jewison put out the comedy “The Russians are Coming! The Russians are Coming!” starring Carl Reiner, Eva Marie Saint, Alan Arkin and Brian Keith. But to a kid growing up with a father who’d already put the fear of the Russians (and the Japanese) into me , there was nothing funny about this Russian proclamation. The phrase only added to my anxiety.

My generation had grownup hiding under tiny wooden desks. I remember my Girl Scout leader’s family had an underground bomb shelter, a bunker to hunker down in, but they lived across the boulevard. I’d never make it in he event of a nuclear attack.

Bunker
A 1950’s Family Fallout Shelter – (Smithsonian)

“These apocalypse-ready rooms were engineered to fit cozily beneath lawns and patio furniture, and their sales fueled a cottage industry catering to the midcentury Boy Scout mentality. The Federal Civil Defense Administration (later the Office of Civil Defense), which was formed in 1950 to prepare civilians for nuclear attack, dispersed information for a mostly suburban audience (it was assumed cities would be toast), initially emphasizing evacuation before settling on fallout shelters as a viable recourse for survival.

In a letter published in the September 1961 issue of Life magazine, President Kennedy even urged Americans to install personal fallout shelters.” Rian Dundon, 2017 Medium (For more photos, check out https://timeline.com/pictures-nuclear-fallout-shelters-e524e17bce14— 

I also remember being terrified when the Emergency Broadcast System would interrupt my Bugs Bunny cartoons. After the shrill, heart-stopping warning, the announcer would conclude with “This is only a test.”

EBSBut, the initial scripted announcement was: “We interrupt this program. This is a national emergency. The President of the United States or his designated representative will appear shortly over the Emergency Broadcast System.”

When I was a teenager, I became a born-again-Christian, eagerly anticipating the second coming of Christ that was talked about in the Bible. But more ominous was my fear of the Armageddon described in the Book of Revelations. I feared the bear as described in  Daniel 7:5. I feared the Russia (Gog) described in Ezekiel chapter 38 — “And it shall come to pass at the same time when Gog (Russia) shall come against the land of Israel, saith the Lord God, that My fury shall come up in My face — ”

But even though I’d been saved, how was I to survive a nuclear attack? Where were all the modern-day bomb shelters? And what about all the Jews and the Australian pygmies who hadn’t yet been reached by missionaries to hear the word of the Lord. And what about my loved ones who’d not yet been saved?

By 1991, the Wall came down, the iron curtain was lifted and the Cold War came to an end.  Disappearance of superpower tensions and the prospect of nuclear escalation greatly diminished. And as time slipped by, as if we’d swallowed some sort of anti-anxiety pill, numbness, apathy and complacency seemed to seep into our blood stream.

Russian bear
Photo from Discovery World

And so now Russia — long described as the  bear of the north —  is coming out of hibernation. She is awakening and hungry to devour much flesh as predicted by the Prophet Daniel. And now, as tensions between Washington, Moscow, and even Beijing have heated up, those concerns have resurfaced.

Just yesterday, Reuters reported that at a news conference when asked about the reports that Turkish F-16 warplanes flew over the country’s capital Ankara on Monday to test its new Russian S-400 system, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo replied, “Yes it is concerning.”

Oh Lord, help us now!

WARNING! The following is FAKE NEWS, but could be used for later. Listen at your own risk.     https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8lHMYCPlT_Q

Did My Poem Influence Costner’s Career?

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A writer posted this morning she didn’t write poetry. Hopefully, at the very least, she reads it.

A few years ago as I was working on my novel “Curse of the Ninth” (coming soon! WiDo Publishing) I was taking a class with Liz Gonzales “Writing as a Witness to Life” when she suggested I take a poetry class to help me. “Poetry Noir” – perfect, my novel is noirish — was being offered at the time by Suzanne Lummis. I signed up.

During the first class, my first poetry class ever, Lummis asked us to name poets we were familiar with.

“Shakespeare,” I answered, already sensing I was in the wrong class.

“Listen sister,” she might have responded. “There’ve been a lot of poets since old Bill.”

My mind was blank. Sure I’d read plenty of poets and since I was 13, I’d even written some bad, sad rhymey stuff. I wondered if there was still time to get my money back, still time to take the beginner poetry class.

Years after Lummis’ class and even with a couple of published poems under my belt, I’m still mostly a fan of the art, but I prefer fiction novel writing for which I earned a writers’ certificate from UCLA. And then shortly after receiving my certificate, my mother sent me a poem I’d written as a freshman in college.  How/why she still had it I have no idea other than she kept everything, every note, letter, story, post card, report card, etc. (was she my biggest fan?) So now I had proof I’d written poetry. Holding the yellowed, 3-holed piece of paper with my Catholic school-girl penmanship conjured a memory of the evening I performed my first reading on stage at a banquet held at the Fullerton Holiday Inn before a room full of Delta Chi frat boys during their initiation ceremony.

As a little sister, a GDI (god dammed independent) to the frat house, I dressed in a flowery, purple kimono over a long, lavender jersey maxi dress, I wore my hair up with a couple of plastic ivory chopsticks pierced through a pun (hey, it was a style). During dessert, I took to the stage to read my opus – really more of a roast of the misogynistic frat house. I was nervous but thanks to some smuggled-in pink André Cold Duck and the low lighting, I couldn’t focus on my audience, consisting of at least 100 frat boys, girlfriends, sorority sisters, pledges and their parents. Standing up there, I felt like the frat’s whistleblower. I got a load of laughs, like you might during a hazing.

After the reading, a young, shy frat boy named Kevin Costner walked up to me. “That was so good!” He just kept gazing at me like I was some sort of star – like I was Madonna, like he was a bigger fan than my mother. Had I known how big a star he’d go on to be, I’d have been even more honored.

As yesteryear slips by, I know what my writing has done for me and my hope is that it will inspire others. I’d like to think my frat poem was what inspired Kevin to take the stage that next year when he took up acting. I’d like to think I had something to do with “Field of Dreams” or “Dances With Wolves.” Oh, it’s so nice perchance to dream, to create, to write stories — whether to rhyme or not, that is the question.  (I can hear Lummis now. This could be a poem!)

ANGELS GATE

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Los Angeles Harbor’s Angels Gate Lighthouse 

 

 

 

 

I used to look for signs, beg for signs. I talked to the moon, the stars, the setting sun. I looked for green flashes on the horizon. I listened to cooing doves, watched lingering hummingbirds, marveled at dancing dolphins. Looked for all of life’s metaphors.

When I hear that during surgery a cancer cell is found in my husband’s throat, I feel like I’ve gone blind. My world spins faster and as I try to hang on, I start to pull out my eyebrows. And then when I make the mistake of Googling to find it’s the deadliest kind of all, my mind goes to the end of the rainbow of hope’s spectrum. I become paralyzed. My thoughts wrap around the axle in my head so tight that I’m immobilized.  Stay in the moment, all we have is now, don’t get ahead of yourself, I repeat, but all I can imagine is the worst. I need more time with this man, my captain, my soulmate! I try to reel myself back in but that little fish sloshing around in my noggin squirms away.  I can pray, ask for a miracle, but suddenly even the idea of looking for a sign seems like hogwash.

Two of my of my greatest character defects are that I worry and that I like to take control, so after daily haranguing of the UCLA radiology department, Abel got us (I use us/we because my husband Jeff and I are suddenly one person) in on Friday for a PET scan (four days earlier than scheduled. I couldn’t imagine having any eyebrows left had I waited until after the Memorial holiday weekend.) After the PET scan, we leave feeling like we’ve done all we can. As first mate, I’ve done all I can do. I feel I can finally turn things over. Jeff says, he’d already turned things over from the beginning. As a retired Coast Guard Veteran with 31 years of service, I suppose he’s better at this life or death stuff than I am. Now we just have to wait.

They say when you get busy you get better.  “Do some writing,” a friend suggests. I know she’s right, but the idea of writing about what’s going on seems so cliché, like I’m taking advantage of this real-life, real-time writing opportunity. But isn’t that what all writers look for – these sorts of tear-jerking, gut-wrenching stories? I don’t wanna.

Instead, I turn to some editing for my upcoming novel (is this a good place to plug it?) and my editor has highlighted the overuse of phrases like “It’s going to be all right. Everything is going to be all right. Will everything be all right? It’s going to be okay. You’re going to be fine. He’s going to be all right.” Is my novel speaking to me? Do I dare take this as a sign?

It isn’t until until Monday night as I lay in my husband’s arms that I ask if I can share something with him. I hadn’t wanted to worry him about my worrying – as if he couldn’t tell. I hadn’t wanted to say anything except that I love him so, so much. “I just want you to know that I’m not afraid anymore. I have hope. I truly believe everything is going to be all right. Everything is going to be fine.” “Good,” he says. “That makes me feel better. Now try to sleep.” I know he’s more concerned about me than anything.

So how have I come to feel this peace – this hope? Exhaustion? (We had the grandkids over the Memorial weekend.) Drugs? (I’ve been taking Xanax at night. I’d called in for a prescription for anti-depressants, but it would take too long to go into effect. So Xanax.) The peace I’ve begun to feel I suppose comes over time. The love, prayers and support of family and friends lift me up.  My friend with cancer knows the walk. One step at a time, she says. Do the next indicated thing.

So back to signs and slogans. Stay busy. We wake up to a 5:30 alarm and then Uber to Newport to bring a client’s 66-foot yacht back home to Marina Del Rey. Semper paratus-style, we are prepared with our Starbucks and breakfast sandwiches (we plan to be home for lunch), boat fueled, etc. It’s a gorgeous, sunny day as we cruise at 20 knots up the coast. Sipping on our cooled coffee, we notice we’ve missed the doctor’s call. We try him back and the nurse confirms that the results of Friday’s PET scan are in and that Doc will call by the end of the day. Not soon enough! I ask the nurse to please have him paged. We wait. I stick my head up to kiss the sun.

Just off the coast of Long Beach, the motion is very relaxing. So peaceful, I curl up and start to doze when all of a sudden an alarm sounds. I think nothing of it because this stupid boat always has alarms going off. Quietly and calmly my husband asks me to take the wheel so that he can go down to the engine room to check things out. “Sure,” I respond without even whining about the interruption of my nap.

At the helm, I see all the little flashing red lights. Jeff returns to the flybridge and, again calmly, announces the bilge is flooding and taking on water. He tells me to steer the yacht toward the harbor and then he grabs the radio. “Coast Guard Sector Los Angeles, this is the Yacht Anonymous,” he says into the mic. Adrenaline now rushes through my body. Portside, dolphins are dancing and flipping. They cross our bow toward starboard and as we slow, they surround us, wanting to play in our wake. Now is not the time to play! In the meanwhile, Jeff and the Coast Guard Command Center are communicating back and forth. Jeff hands me the radio and tells me to standby as he goes back down to assess things. The Coastie asks questions and wants confirmation. I can’t understand the codes, besides I forget which button to push. I remain silent.  Jeff comes back up to cut an engine. We then limp into the harbor and within moments we’re surrounded by rescue units from the Coast Guard Station Los Angeles and a Long Beach Life Guard rescue boat. IMG_6343

A lifeguard comes aboard to see if he can help. He gives Jeff a hose clamp that’s too big, but Jeff – masterful at taking control — is still able to make repairs and then determines we can get back on one engine. A couple of Coasties do a routine boarding and Jeff shares his info. They thank him for his service before escorting us through Angels’ Gate back into the ocean where we chug home at 8 knots on one engine. It takes an extra 4 bumpy hours to get home, but we have no other plans for the day, other than to hurry up and wait for the doc to call.

 

I’m finally getting that nap in when Jeff yells, “whale,” and sure enough crossing our bow is a whale — unusual for this time of year.  Another sign? I wonder, hoping it isn’t like a black cat or some bad omen. And then more dolphins frolic around our boat as we slow down to play with them.

Finally, we make it to the safety of homeport. We dock the boat and our supernatural fix-it-guy arrives to do his magic. The boat will be ready to sail again before the next adventure.

So has this all been one big sign? Is Jeff like a boat that won’t sink? Are we just cruising along peacefully, semper paratus, responding calm as we can to life’s alarms? Are the dolphins like angels reminding us to take time out to play? The safe harbor is like the hospital, the rescue units are the doctors and nurses taking care of us. And then to be escorted out of Angels’ Gate back into the ocean – is that a sign that God’s not ready for us yet? We’ve limped back on one engine. All we needed was one — just took it a little slower. Making it back to safe harbor is like coming home to take care of the next indicated thing. I dare to hope this is like one giant metaphor, mixed or otherwise!

In the meanwhile, it’s close to 5:00 p.m., and still no call from the doctor. We phone the office which is now closed. But even after no news (no news is good news, right?), I’m able to go to sleep with no medication — my third drug-free night except for the wine on Memorial Day. So the peace must come in knowing there’s still hope. I’ve had signs.  There’s still time for God to reverse things or clear things up, or for the doctors to realize they made mistakes or they just don’t have the answers, or it’s a miracle, everything is clean and clear and there’s nothing left for them to do but keep doing check ups. As I’m saying this, I feel my Doubting Thomas stomach twist a little (TMI, I’ve had diarrhea.)

It’s now the next day at 9:20 a.m., and still no call from the doc. I feel a pinch in my gut. I can’t imagine how busy the doctor must be. I can’t imagine why he hasn’t called. I can only hope they didn’t find anything else and there’s no urgency in getting ahold of us.  Is the doctor treating this like some sort of Triage – placing the more important cases at the forefront? Why the hell had I pushed for an earlier PET scan only to get the news around the same time, after all? More will be revealed. All in God’s time, not yours.

So it’s business as usual. Keep busy. Wait for the delivery of a new stove and dishwasher. Do some writing, pay some bills, go for a walk. 11:00 a.m., the phone rings. It’s the delivery guy. Damn it! It’s 2:30 and still no call from Doc. Don’t waste your time being angry, a friend says. Finally, Mama calls the doctor and the doctor’s assistant says, “He’s in clinic.” “That’s what you said yesterday.” “Yesterday, he had surgery.” “He never called us back.” “He’ll call by the end of the day.” “When’s the end of his day?” “ 5:00.” “Fine.” I try not to lose my serenity.

Five o’clock comes and goes. Next indicated thing.  Since it’s 5:00, it must be Happy Hour somewhere. Jeff opens a bottle of wine and we step out into a lovely evening on the porch. We toast to our love, our life forever more. The phone rings, the texts beep, emails buzz — all from anxious loved ones. But no doctor’s call.

Finally at 6:30, the phone sounds again and this time we can see on the screen it’s him. I set down my glass and wrap my trembling arms around my husband. He puts Doc on speaker and all I can hear is that they didn’t find anything else. Several radiologists studied the scan and determined there’s no more cancer and there’s no need to do anything else and I thank him and the tears roll down my cheeks and I feel like I’ve just won the lottery!

Hallelujah and we’re ready for the next adventure! Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead! I still have more chapters to write! While I’ve never taken this wonderful life for granted, I am even more grateful than ever and will continue to cherish every moment of our voyage together across this giant ocean called life until the time (at least many, many years from now) we’re escorted back through the Angels’ Gate.

Oh, and by the way I Googled the symbolism of the whale. Whales are associated with things such as knowledge of life and death. Whales seen swimming are a sign of good luck for many peoples (beached whales, not so good).

And then, as far as metaphors go, one of the greatest metaphors in literature was the whale in Moby Dick, a representation of God and his tremendous power.  Hoorah!

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