When Words Are a Rollercoaster Ride



October 2018  

When Words Are a Rollercoaster Ride

As writers, words are our stock and trade. We play with them like cards—shuffling, dealing, discarding, picking up, pairing, and, finally, laying them down. We know the power of words to build up, tease, comfort, or destroy. But, kill?

I recently read a dystopian, speculative fiction novel that almost defies description. Goodreads calls Lexicon by Max Barry “A brilliant thriller that connects very modern questions of privacy, identity, and the rising obsession of data collection to centuries-old ideas about the power of language and coercion.” I would consider such a concept difficult to convey, especially with a changing timeline. In his own words, Barry explains how he wrestled with it:

“…I straightened out the timeline, moving scenes to where they made the most sense from a story point of view, rather than the dictates of an alternating chapter structure. That sounds neat and tidy, like you can click and drag a scene from one place to another and it will snap into the right place, but the reality is more like operating on someone who has their big toe growing out of their forehead. It’s messy, is what I’m saying. You create a lot of ragged edges. There may be some crying involved.”

Rave reviews testify to his persistence and genius in getting it perfect. Reading it was an emotional roller coaster that blew apart my neurotransmitters and left me gasping for air. And the ending? I never saw it coming. I rarely recommend a book, but thought I’d start with one that gives a whole new meaning to the power of words and takes it to the nth degree.

Thanks for walking through the corridor with me.








The Summer of the Exploding Toilet


May – September 2018

The  Year My Toilet Exploded

In George Stewart’s dystopian sci-fi novel “Earth Abides,” the years following the initial plague that wiped out most of the earth’s population were not numbered in years, but in terms of what occurred. One of the years was the “year of the rats.” I don’t even want to go there. Yet, that’s how I recall the summer of 2018 – as the year my toilet exploded.

The sound of rushing water, followed by sewage spewing in every direction, followed by a few chosen expletives from my son. It sounds a simple thing, but it proved overwhelming. First, three plumbers appeared, assured me insurance would cover it (WRONG), and quoted me an astronomical price quickly multiplied by three – the same number of plumbers who rushed us out of our home, sealed our life in cardboard boxes, and hung heavy plastic everywhere like it was an ebola ward.

Everyone denied responsibility, and if you, dear reader, have ever dealt with contractors, you know what ensued. Eventually, the guilty culprits who knicked my sewer line were revealed, but I recovered maybe one-third of what it cost me.  Restoration and replacing two bathrooms, two bedrooms, and a hallway took until early fall. With my life in boxes and my finances demolished, I found I had no desire to do anything, even write.

I’ve learned when people are overwhelmed by a tragedy, they go through a grieving period similar to a divorce, even if no one has passed away. I only know that I slept and stared out the window at the trees and wondered if my life would ever be the same.  Lethargy eventually gave way to reading. I found escape in a good murder mystery.  In time, I reread a few books on writing. Slowly, I made my way back to the world.

Stress did a number on my body and mind, but I no longer take each day for granted. I thank God no one was hurt by toxic waste, and I genuinely appreciate my new commode. I’ll be going through boxes for months, but I think this is a good time to downsize, to get my life in order, to get rid of excess, to finally finish things – like those three novels and two short stories I started in another life before my toilet exploded. We move forward, doing what we can for today and embracing a hope for tomorrow. Someday I’ll look back with wonder on the year my novel was published.

Thanks for walking through the corridor with me.