One of the things I've been stressing about lately as a writer (other than wondering how bad my writing really is) is that my story isn't original.  I mean, I'm writing about a serial killer.  That's about as cliché as it gets.  Hannibal Lecter, Dexter, plus the hundreds of famous real-life monsters... what do I have to say about serial killers that hasn't already been said a million times?

The answer is, nothing.

Is there such a thing as a truly original idea?  Humans have been telling stories since the beginning of our existence.  What could any fiction writer today think up that hasn't already been thought of by someone else?

I try to read widely, and whether what I'm reading is suspense, horror, mainstream, young adult, romance, or fantasy, common threads always seem to prevail throughout.  For example, the Twilight series is about vampires, but remove the vampire element and you basically have a romance/coming-of-age story about the shy new girl who falls in love with the untouchable hot guy.  The vampires just make things more interesting... not that there's anything original about vampires, either.

Joseph Finder is one of my favorite authors.  He writes corporate thrillers, but if I'm being totally honest, I know that if you changed the lowly cube rat vs. the evil CEO (a common theme in Finder's novels) to the lowly law associate vs. the evil senior partner, you'd have John Grisham.  But so what?  It works.  When I buy a new Joseph Finder book, I know what I'm in for, and I'm okay with that.  Same with Jeffrey Deaver (who writes the Lincoln Rhyme books) and, yes, even the great Stephen King.

I guess ultimately I'm trying to convince myself that it's okay for my ideas to not be completely original.   I can probably get away with it – most writers do, after all – as long as my writing's fresh and I tell my story in a unique way.

But then, how do make my writing fresh?

I don’t know.

Great.  Now I have something else to stress about.

When I grow up

Last weekend I had the opportunity to reconnect with a couple of long-lost friends via Facebook.  I found myself typing the requisite 100-word summary of what I've been up to the past decade and, of course, both messages ended with something like, "I'm working on my second novel..."

For many long-lost friends – regardless of when we last spoke – this is a total shock.  "You're writing a book?" they say. "How'd that happen? I thought you wanted to be a..."

Their surprised reactions are my own fault.  They're right to be shocked.  I hardly told anyone I wanted to write.  There were many things I wanted to be when I grew up, and though 'writer' was always part of that list, I never made that one public.

For instance, when I was really little, I wanted to be a singer (everybody did in my family – it's tradition) and at age four, I was the top draw at family parties.

At six, I desperately wanted to be a tap dancer.  (I got piano and tennis lessons instead. Hmph.)

When I was seven, I wanted to be Miss Universe.  I practiced my pageant walk on the coffee table in my mother high's heels, my parents cheering me on as I waved and recited my victory speech.

I wanted to be a neuro surgeon when I was eight.  I didn't really know what "neuro" meant, but I knew that when I said it, grown-ups would nod approvingly and say, "Good for you."

For about a month at the age of nine, I thought it would be cool to be a nurse in some exotic war tending to wounded but very handsome soldiers.

Then at ten I wanted to be a concert pianist, at eleven a tennis player, and at twelve a marine biologist.

And then in no particular order I wanted to be a doctor, a dancer, a lawyer, an "entrepreneur" (again, not knowing what the word meant but finding approval in the adult world when I said it), and a songwriter.

For all of ninth grade, I wanted to publish my own fashion and beauty magazine.  This one I actually thought about rather seriously.  My childhood best friend, Annie, was going to be my publishing partner, and we were going to call it Charisma.  I can't remember why I picked that name.  I'm guessing it was another word I thought was cool, and I suppose Annie did, too, since she never tried to change it.

Then I wanted to be a lawyer again.  I think the lawyer thing stuck because it was a profession that sounded interesting and again, got me that adult approval.  I even majored in Political Science for a while thinking it would be a good background for law school.

But my point is, depending on when I last talked to each of my long-lost friends, they all remember me wanting to grow up and be something different.

And almost nobody remembers that I ever wanted to be a writer.  How could they?  It was always there, a huge part of me, but I never really told anyone.

For the first thirty-three years of my life, I was a closet writer.  I have boxes of short stories, poems, and unfinished novels from age five and up that nobody knows about.  I was very secretive about it.  Why?  I guess because writing was always the thing that meant the most to me, the thing I was never really okay with putting out there, because it was the thing I knew would break my heart if it never happened.

And I still feel that way.  The difference is, I now have the courage to talk about it.

Talking about writing makes me accountable to it.  This blog, for instance, is my way of throwing it out there and demanding that you witness my journey, whether I succeed or fail.  It's me reminding you to say to me, "How's the book going?" or "What are you working on?", which forces me to have an answer ready.  Plus it's a daily reminder that even though I'm not published, I am what I always wanted to be when I grew up... a writer.

So what did you want to be when you grew up?  And are you there yet?

We are family

A dear family member passed away last night and I'll be flying home to Toronto this Thursday.  I actually had the trip planned in advance, but changed my flight to extend my visit in light of what's happened.  So there may be sporadic blog posting over the next couple of weeks.

I realized today how much I miss my family.   Life in Seattle is great, but I doubt it'll ever truly feel like home.   My heart's in Toronto, and I want to make the most of my time there since I only visit twice a year.  All writing is officially on pause from May 28th until I get back on June 6th.  If I write during that time, then great, but if I don't, who gives a shit.

See, I'm doing much better with prioritizing.

I do have some writing news to share (no, I'm not getting published), but I'll save it for another time when my energy level is better and I can give it the proper excitement it deserves.


My cousin Melanie has a blog.  She's been pregnant forever and is getting very close to popping.  Follow her adventures here:  Learning Motherhood 101.

A word of warning:  She's funnier than me.  And I'm pretty goddamned funny.


Hi Readers!  I did a quick edit, added an ending, and am pleased to present the story WE wrote.  Can I say, this is the hardest thing I've ever had to edit... I am not an editor.  Thanks to all who had the guts to participate.  Your imaginations are just as I suspected – amazing!  Enjoy.

And happy Memorial Day weekend!   Back on Tuesday!

* * *

by Jenny's blog readers

Mitch Warren had an itch on a body part he couldn't scratch while standing on a busy downtown street.  Ducking into an alleyway, he stood beside a sleeping homeless man and reached into his jeans.  He scratched contentedly for a minute until a woman with flaming red hair stopped right in front of him with a look of interest, then disgust.  Mitch blushed and quickly pulled his hand from his pants.

Maybe too quickly.  His stainless steel watch band nicked a small piece of tender flesh, and he screamed like a little girl at the exact same moment he realized the redhead was Judy.

Judy and Mitch had been work associates for a while but had never dated and barely talked, though he'd always wished they would.  Mitch could see the fear and pity in her green eyes after his high pitched scream.

Standing up straight, he struggled to keep his face composed despite the tears in his eyes.  "Hi, Judy.  So, umm, you move?  I mean, that is, I never see you near this bus stop in the mornings."

Judy's face was a portrait of loathing and she looked at him like he was a worm.  Mitch knew his foolish office antics could be unbearable but the way she was glaring at him now made him feel like a child.  Despite what she was probably thinking, this was not a sexual cry for help tucked away in a disgusting alley with dirty men.

Judy stared at him and he felt his face quiver.

"Yes, Mitch, I did move.  I had to move, for your information.  I moved because you were freaking out the little old ladies that lived in my apartment building by always following me home.  The co-op kicked me out.  Apparently they don't like their residents having friends who always have their hands down their pants.  Whatever that itch is, you really have to get it checked out."

A blush crept from his neck to his ears.  "You know exactly why I'm itchy."

"Hey, we all used the cream.  It's not our fault it didn't work for you."

She turned and walked away.  Not wanting the conversation to end – this was the most they'd spoken in the two years they'd been working for the same government agency – he stepped over the homeless man and followed her.

"Judy, wait!  I have to tell you something.   It's more than just an itch.  I have to tell you why I left the agency."

"Tell it someone who gives a damn," Judy said, flouncing off, her red hair shimmering in the bright summer sun.

"But it's important," he bleated, hobbling after her.  "You may be in danger."

"God, you're impossible, Mitch.  You think I don't know why you left?"  She looked at him with pity, and he thought he saw a little guilt in her eyes.  He knew she'd been involved in his dismissal.

The expression on her face hurt him.

"Please."  He touched her arm with the same hand that had been in his pants a minute before and she grimaced.  "What they told you, it's not true.  You need to hear it from me."

Judy's green eyes flashed.  "Tell me now."

He glanced up and down the alleyway.  The homeless man mumbled something in his sleep.  "Not here, not now.  Meet me tomorrow morning at High Park, by the pond.  I'll explain everything."

She sighed.  "Fine.  But you'd better realize this changes nothing between us.

* * *

The next morning she was waiting for him on a rickety park bench, watching the geese float around in the calm water.

"Judy," he said, coming up behind her.  "Thanks for meeting me.  I wasn't sure you would."

"I wasn't sure, either."  She turned around and frowned at him, eyeing his hands.  Mitch had jammed them in his pockets, but it's like she knew he desperately wanted to scratch himself.   "So what's up?  Make it quick."

He took a seat beside her and she moved away slightly.  "Remember the homeless man in the alley?"

She raised a perfectly sculpted eyebrow.

"Well, forget homeless," he said, looking around.  "Think CIA.  Jesus, they're everywhere."

Judy's face was skeptical.  "And just why are they following you?'

"It's this."  Mitch reached into his pants.

Judy stood up so fast the goose loitering nearest them flapped its wings in surprise.  "You shit!  I'm outta here."

He yanked his hand out of his pants.  "Judy, no!  It's not what you think!"

But she was already gone.  He slumped back into the park bench and the goose squawked at him.  He resisted the urge to kick it.

A movement caught his eye, and suddenly he was aware he was being photographed.  Through the trees he thought he saw a man in a sleek black suit.  A blue light was blinking in his hands.  Was it the camera?  His mind flew back to the homeless man in the alley.  The blue light – he'd seen it there, too.

He tried to process this as he stood, but the sidewalk was wobbly beneath his feet.  Before Mitch knew what was happening, he was crawling on the cold ground toward the man in the black suit as all of his clothes disengaged from his body.  Someone or something was controlling him.

The breeze felt good on his naked body.  He felt the wind lick over his chest, his legs, and then his bare, but shapely, ass.  The park was eerily quiet.

Black Suit smiled smugly when he crawled closer, speaking to someone Mitch couldn't see.  "I told you he'd be easy to get.   A wimp."  The man paused, listening, fingering his nose stud and Mitch realized that the small diamond chip was really a cell phone.  "Keep on as planned.  Of course, if we could get the broad that would be even better.  I'll try after I put him on immobilization for six hours.  Start counting those big bucks, baby.  We're on a home run.  Fucking A, I'm going to get laid tonight when this is all over.  And nobody cheap this time.  Last skank gave me crabs."  He laughed, still fiddling with the stud.

"Judy... where's Judy?"  Mitch gasped, writhing naked at Black Suit's feet in the cold morning grass.

"Shut up, I'm on the phone," the man said.  "Want to meet me later?" he said again into his nasal bud.  "I'm buying."

"Do you know who you're working for?" Mitch whispered, reaching out and clawing the man's ankle.  He could no longer feel his legs.

Black Suit looked down at him and grinned.  "Do you?"

It was the last thing Mitch heard before the world went black.

* * *

He woke up in what seemed like minutes to find himself lying on a cold metal table, arms and legs strapped down and his itch more unbearable than ever.  On the steel table beside, rows of surgical instruments were laid out neatly.  The walls were mint green but he couldn't make out much else.  The strong, hot lights above him were almost blinding.  An operating room?

The door swung open and Elvis Presley, complete with sideburns, a white leather suit, and blue suede shoes strode in.  The light bounced off the shiny rhinestones bedazzled onto his collar.

Mitch gasped.  "I thought you were dead."

"Do I look dead?" Elvis answered.  "No, I just put that story out all those years ago.  Wanted to switch from rock 'n' roll to brain surgery."

Mitch swallowed hard. He was either dreaming or in a drug-induced haze.  His focus swooshed in an out, sliding from a blurry blot that sounded like Elvis Presley to a clear picture of a magenta man that looked and sounded like the King himself.  He blinked, trying to minimize the starburst in his vision from the bright lights.

A voice, familiar somehow, leaked from what looked like a crack of a door that broke up the perfect sea of white-on-white.  Mitch tried swivelling his head in the direction of the voice, but couldn't.  He gave up after a few seconds. Staring out of the corner of his refocusing eyes made him even more woozy.

Naked, laying on the cold metal table, the walls expand and collapsed.  He was like a particle floating inside a lung.

He forced himself to focus.   If I could just get my left hand free, I could scratch my damned dick.

It was hard to believe that after all this, he was still itchy.  Unlike with the others, his itch had never gone away.  The cream had worked for Judy, but it helped that she didn't remember.  Neither did the others.  Everyone's memory had been erased before they'd been returned, and they'd been implanted with some stupid memory about a work retreat, a weekend spent camping in the woods where they'd all contacted poison ivy.

If only they knew the truth.  The implantation hadn't worked on Mitch.  He remembered everything.  The fear seared his belly like a fireplace poker because he knew what was coming.

Elvis Presley wasn't really Elvis Presley.  Black sideburns, an uncanny resemblance and a white outfit, yes, but it wasn't Elvis.  The realization saddened Mitch, because if this wasn't Elvis, then Mitch wasn't dead.   He was hereAgain.

The scalpel touched his stomach and he screamed.

Elvis-who-wasn't-Elvis sighed and moved the scalpel away.  "Again with the screaming?  Will I need ear plugs?"

"Fuck you. Just kill me already, motherfucker," Mitch said, tears running down his temples.

The man smoothed down a greasy sideburn, his mouth pressed into a thin line.  "You don't think we've been trying?  It never takes.  It would seem you're the man who can't die."  A smile played on his liver lips.  "Too bad you're not the man who can't feel pain."

The scalpel entered Mitch's belly and a skinny trail of red followed the sharp metal.  Mitch's eyes rolled back in pain, and the harder he tried to stifle his screams the louder they got.

"Why are you doing this?"

Pseudo Elvis smiled.  "God told me too.  When the Good Lord talked to me on that old toilet, you remember, the press was all over it.  God said to me, 'Elvis, go forth and help the damned and heathen and especially those who dick scratch to find the road to the great guitar in the sky.'"  He looking down at Mitch, still cutting.  "And I said, 'Of course, Lord.'  Then he zapped me through Duke med school, I did my residency at Vanderbilt, and here I am.  Sending the chicks back to the Good Lord."

It suddenly occurred to Mitch that he couldn't feel the pain in his belly even though he saw Elvis's scalpel continue to slice layer after layer.   "Hey, dude," Mitch said, drunkenly elated at the lack of pain.   "I don't feel a thing, man."

Elvis's mouth pressed into an even thinner line.  "Bullshit.  You're in agony.  Shut up."

In response, Mitch began to whistle Great Balls of Fire.

"That's not an Elvis song," Elvis-who-wasn't-Elvis said, cross.

"I know," Mitch answered dreamily.  He looked over and saw the belts tying him down were unhooked.  The Good Lord's doing?  He sat upright, surprising Elvis, and sucker punched him before the man could say another word.  The scalpel clattered to the floor.

He opened the door to the operating room and peeked out.   He was in a hospital, as he suspected.  A nurse sitting at her station looked up, and he winked at her.  She looked back at her computer screen as if she didn't see him.

Standing right in front of her, Mitch pulled on his dick and did an exploratory scratch.

Her eyes looked right through him, blank.  No reaction.

Mitch walked past the nurse's station, copping two stale doughnuts and piling them into his mouth. He ducked into the staff locker room to look for something to put on.  A not-too-horrible suit – jacket and slacks only – was hanging on a coat hook inside and he donned the clothes quickly.

Back out in the hallway, he smiled as the nurse grabbed her heart.  Now this was something you didn't see every day – a suit with no body strolling through the main lobby.

Once outside in the fresh hair, his thoughts turned to Judy.  His stomach growled as he passed a hot dog vendor and he stopped to stick a sausage into a bun.  The kid manning the stand screamed and took off running.

Mitch started whistling again as he dumped ketchup and mustard onto his sausage.   First Ghost Riders in the Sky and then Amazing Grace.

"Mitch," a calm voice said from behind.

He took a bite of his hot dog and turned.   Judy stood only inches away.  He held out his food to her.  "I love you.  Want a hot dog?"  His cheeks felt moist and he realized he was crying.

Judy ignored his declaration of love and fixed herself a hot dog with the her usual precision.   A moment later, she turned to him.  His armpits tingled with sweat.

She took a bite of her sausage.  "Eat up.  We don't have much time."

"You can see me?  For real?"  Relief flooded through Mitch's invisible body.

"Of course I can see you," she said, irritated.  She handed him the rest of her hot dog.  "Hurry up.  We've got to get moving."

"Where are we going?" he asked, secretly wondering why she hadn't reacted to his 'I love you'.

Judy smiled and Mitch realized then that he'd never seen Judy so clearly.  He'd always thought she was pretty, and maybe it was the way the sun was catching her face right this moment, but he'd never laid eyes on anyone so beautiful.  Her copper hair fanned around her shoulders and her large jade eyes sparkled under perfectly tweezed brows.   She took his breath away.

"Where are we going?" Mitch asked after he found his voice.

She tossed her hair and started walking.  "The ceremony, of course."  She laughed.  "You've suffered enough.  Now you can be one of us."

"What ceremony?  Wait," he said, touching her arm.  "I'm not sure I want this."

Judy turned and her eyes blazed.  "What you want has nothing to do with it.  You've been chosen.  Hold on tight to me now.  We're going up."

Mitch looked down, no longer feeling the pavement as they began to float upwards, slowly at first, and then with more speed.  He clutched her hand, embarrassed by his fear.  The city spread out beneath them.  "My God," he breathed.

Judy's feet dangled in the air next to his.   "Here, take this."   Before he could protest she pushed a small aqua pill into Mitch's mouth.  His fear and trepidation disappeared in an instant.  This was actually fun.

"Judy, I love you," he said again, pulling her closer to him.  "Tell me.   Is the ceremony our wedding?"

Her lips pressed together and Mitch saw that she didn't like the question.   She took another tablet out of her pocket, large and gold and black like a stone, and handed it to him.

He obediently swallowed.  The pill caught in his throat and it took a few seconds for him to choke it down.  The feeling of peacefulness increased.

"The ceremony is all that counts, Judy.  I know that.  We need as many people as possible if this crazy world is going to be fixed."  He spoke the words even though they didn't seem to make sense and Judy rewarded him with a smile.

They began their descent, landing moments later in a huge field filled with thousands of people.   On the top of a huge flat rock, a very old and wise-looking man was speaking.

"Congratulations my children," the old man said, his voice deep and commanding.  His white hair danced in the breeze.  "You are chosen.  We are chosen.  Tomorrow you will begin classes, but for now, eat.  And dance!"

Food was everywhere and raucous music resounded throughout the field.  Following the crowd to the buffet table, Mitch fixed himself a steak sandwich.   He stood back, observing the celebratory crowd, contentedly chewed the tasty steak and drinking a liquid he couldn't quite identify.

It was completely dark when he started to feel sleepy, and as his eyes closed he could feel people moving around him.  New clothes were being slipped over his body and he heard himself sigh, a feeling of superiority sweeping through him.  He was a special person, wasn't he?  He would be taught to fly.  He'd persuade Judy to marry him and they'd start a family.  He loved her so much.  He drifted off to sleep, only vaguely hearing the little feet coming into the room by his bed.  A scented paper covered his nose.

"Yes. I think I can do that," he said to one in particular.  Then he laughed.  Life was wonderful when you could feel yourself morphing into something much more powerful than you ever imagined.

Mitch opened his eyes.  His brain was fogged and it took a moment for his surroundings to become clear.  As the room came into focus, a wave of heartache rolled over him.

What kind of shit was I smoking last night to have a dream like that?

None of it had been real.   Judy had died a few years ago in a terrible car accident.  She'd been on her way to see Mitch and he'd never gotten the chance to tell her how he felt.  He'd lived with this anguish for years, hoping if he smoked enough weed the dreams would stop, but lately they'd gotten worse.

Feeling stiff all over, he got out of bed and headed to the bathroom.  He turned on the shower to let the water warm up, then grabbed his toothbrush and twisted the faucet open.  He was afraid to look at his reflection because he knew his face would be puffy and his eyes would be bloodshot.  He way overdid it last night.

Squeezing a generous amount of toothpaste onto his brush, Mitch finally looked into the small bathroom mirror.

And screamed.

Judy stared back at him through the fogging glass, her green eyes narrow and accusing.   His toothbrush falling into the sink, Mitch looked down and saw his stomach open neatly from sternum to belly button, just the way Elvis had cut him.  He watched his blood drip onto the white tile.

The world disappeared.

* * *

The homeless man watched as the white dude in the black suit with the unfortunate Elvis sideburns snored peacefully beside him in the stink of the alleyway, muttering incoherently.

What the fuck was up with these guys?  They came to this part of town, they bought their weed, they smoked up and then they passed out.  They could never handle their shit.  Mind you, Romeo was puttin' a little extra something in the weed lately, and whatever it was, it was makin' all the vanilla dudes flip out.

Whistling Amazing Grace, the homeless man searched through the white dude's wallet.  The driver's license said Mitch Warren.  White dude name if there ever was one.   Pulling out a dollar bill, he pressed it to the man's nose, wondering if Mitch would wake up.  He didn't. Good.

Searching Mitch's pants with dirty hands, the homeless man knew the stash had to be somewhere on the white dude.  He could almost taste it now.  First the smell, then the burn at the back of the throat – Romeo made good shit.  Pricey shit.

His crusty fingers brushed over Mitch's crotch lightly.  A white hand slapped his away.

"Stop," the white dude mumbled.   "Itchy."

It's May! What are you reading?

Quick reminder:  Last day to add a segment to our story.  I'm trying to wind it down so if you have an idea for the ending, write it!

I want to know what everyone's reading.  I'm always looking for book recommendations, especially ones that are outside my favorite genre.

I'll always keep you updated on what I'm reading because I'm sure your inquiring minds want to know.  Right now, it's Jonathan Kellerman's The Silent Partner, an oldie but goody, one of the earlier books in his Alex Delaware series.  He published it back in '89 and I decided to read it again because I just finished his latest book, Bones.  I was curious to see whether his writing style has changed in the past twenty years, and yeah, has it ever!  He was much, much wordier two decades ago.  And I didn't mind it. 

So please share.  What are you reading right now?  What have you read recently?  And would you recommend it?

Wake up call

Writing about writing is exhausting. I kid you not.  Every night as I think up a new blog post, I find myself stressing about my sentence structure, my grammar, my style of prose.  Because as a writer writing about writing, I really can't make mistakes, can I?  This blog reflects on me, and the last thing I want anyone to think is that I'm a bad writer.

At the moment I belong to two writing groups – well, critique groups, really, since that's the purpose of why the groups exist – and between them and this blog, I'm finding I have less and less energy for my Current Major Project.  Otherwise known as my novel, which is what I consider to be my "real" writing.

Because no, I don't consider this blog real writing. I know some bloggers do, and of course I totally respect that, but for me, this blog is my rant space, a safe haven to talk about my obsession with writing and books.  And it's a welcome change from writing fiction.  But I'm noticing that it's beginning to take up more energy than I want it to, and it hit me the other day that if I'm not actually writing fiction – every day – then I'll have absolutely nothing to blog about.

I don't want to be Jenny the Blogger.  I want to be Jenny the Novelist.

So that's all I wanted to say today.  Book first, blog second, and so if you're wondering where I am on weekends (when I don't blog) and the odd weekday that I don't post (which actually hasn't happened yet), know that I'm working.  And possibly hermitting (which is a word my writing buddy Greg and I made up today).  Because someday, I'd really like to see my name in print.   Even if the advance is only $5,000.

Which would translate to about $2.75 an hour if I keep putting in the hours I do and finish this book by August, which would be the one-year mark.

Good GOD, that's depressing. I made more than that babysitting... when I was twelve.

And by the way, it's time to start heading towards some kind of ending for the short story we're writing.  Click here to write your segment!  You know want to.  Deadline is Thursday at 9pm EST.

Hold me, thrill me, kiss me

What's your poison?

Come on, I know you have one... a favorite genre, that is.  You might like to consider yourself widely read and open to any story, but deep down you have a certain section in the bookstore that you always wander into.  And the reason I know this is because when you contributed a segment to our Friday challenge story (three days left, people!), you put in the element you probably like seeing in the books you read.  Already our growing story has romantic suspense, humor, urban fantasy, science fiction, and whatever category the CIA fits into.  Which I'm guessing would be thrillers.

Speaking of thrillers, that's my favorite genre.  While I do love Stephen King (especially his early horror work), as a whole, I love thrillers.  Any kind of thriller.  John Grisham was my first love (legal thrillers), Joseph Finder is my new love (corporate thrillers), Dan Brown seems to have the market cornered on religious and techno thrillers, while James Rollins (a real-life veterinarian) writes the coolest adventure thrillers.  David Baldacci writes political thrillers, and Robert Ludlum's Jason Bourne starred in my favorite spy thrillers.

Then, of course, there are the serial killer/detective series thrillers, like James Patterson's Alex Cross series and Jeffrey Deaver's Lincoln Rhyme series.

And of course, the late great Michael Crichton, whose thrillers were always about all the things that can go wrong when you mess with science.

When done well, a good thriller will grab me from the first page, excite me, and leave me wanting more.

Now you tell.  What kind of books rock your world?  Horror?  Science fiction?  Chick lit? Romance?  Urban fantasy?  Historical?  Suspense?  Mystery?  Paranormal?   Or some weird combination like historical romantic horror?  (Yes, that actually does exist. See the New York Times bestseller Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Jane Austen & Seth Grahame-Smith.)

So, what's your favorite genre?

The power of love

Before you read today's post, did you challenge yourself?  Five more days to keep the story going!  And can I just say, I love where it's going. :)

Oh, and I almost forgot:  Happy Victoria Day, Canada!

Now for today's thoughts...

I can't think of anything I love more than shopping for a new book.  Nothing makes me happier than walking into a bookstore and wandering the aisles, looking for the newest title from a favorite author, checking out what's recommended by the bookseller, picking up books with artsy covers and turning them over to see if the blurb on the back has anything provocative to say.  While I don't mind ordering books online through Amazon and Barnes & Noble, there is sheer pleasure to be had in walking into a brick-and-mortar store full of books.  Because a store full of books smells like a store full of books, and that, my friend, is the best smell in the world.

I was in Portland, Oregon last week and finally had the pleasure and privilege of visiting the world's largest bookstore for new and used books.  It's called Powell's Books, and from the outside, it doesn't look like much.   But on the inside... oh my word.  Taking up an entire city block, the store is four floors of nothing but books, books, books.  Used mixed in with new.  Impeccably organized.  A store map with sections labeled Rose Room, Blue Room, Orange Room, etc., with everything contained in those rooms meticulously categorized.  The clerks were grungy and some kind of look half-stoned, but they knew instantly where everything was without having to check the computer.  Customers ranged from little kids to homeless people to scholars to tourists.  No attitudes, no snobbery, no literary elitism.  Just hundreds of aisles of worlds within worlds, waiting to be discovered by book-lovers from every walk of life.

I didn't know where to begin.  It was an assault on the senses.

I don't often get a chance to visit used bookstores. I normally don't buy used – I try really hard to support the publishing industry by buying new, because the more books publishers sell, the more money they have to invest in unknown writers like me (yes, it's always about me in the end, isn't it).  But sometimes, there are books you just can't find brand new.  And this is when I give myself permission to buy a book that once belonged to someone else, thereby shutting out the shrieking, horrified voice of my mother that says, "What are you doing!  You know that people read their books while sitting on the toilet, don't you?  Hoy!  Don't buy used!"

After two hours (about as long as I willing to torture Steve), I left with a massive bag filled with about twenty books ranging in price from $1.95 to $9.95.  The more expensive the book, the newer it was.  All told, I spent less than $75.  Most of them were young adult and children's books, ones I used to own but that somehow got lost along the way.  And, as I'm trying to widen my reading scope, I bought my first women's erotica and my first paranormal romance.  he clerk didn't bat an eyelash when she rang up The Sexual Life of Catherine M right after Ramona & Beezus.  If I had purchased this combination at Barnes & Noble, I would have gotten very strange looks.  Hell, two weekends ago, the gay clerk at B&N made a sarcastic comment when I bought a book on gardening.  So what?  A girl with a perfect manicure can't buy a book on gardening?  I wear gloves!

But at a store like Powell's, the clerks don't judge.   Because frankly, they don't give a shit.  They're just happy their customers love books as much as they do.

And I do.  I do I do I do.

Friday Challenge: Let's write a story!

All right, party peeps.  I've been getting some great support and feedback for this little blog, and for that I am so grateful.  You might not always care about what I have to say, but you care about me, and that means a lot.  So thank you for daring to check in every day to find out what I'm up to.

Today is Friday and Fridays are fun!  So if you're reading this, know that I fully expect you to participate in my Friday challenge!  Don't worry, it's not hard like last week's.   (And Mel wins since she's the only one who participated!  Way to go, Smelly!)


We're going to write a story.  TOGETHER.

I'll start us off.  I'll write a few sentences, leaving the last sentence UNFINISHED.  Then YOU will finish my sentence, adding another one or two of your own in the Comments section (or three or four or five, depending how creative you feel), making sure to leave your last sentence UNFINISHED.

And so it goes.

You can contribute as many times as you want – in fact, I encourage you to pop back here every day with crazy plot twists to keep it going! I'll contribute at least once a day as well to make sure we're going in some kind of general direction, but I really hope my regular readers (all 12 of you, ha!) will participate daily.  Then next Friday, I'll write the ending (if we don't have one already), do a quick edit, and post a polished version of the entire story for everyone to enjoy.

I'm eager to see what kind of cool adventure we as a group can cook up over the course of, say, a whole week.  So come on, don't let me down.  Let your imagination run wild and let the story go wherever it takes you.  Be funny, be dirty, be depressing, be uplifting.  The story is whatever you want it to be.  Swearing and sex are both fine if you think it serves the story.  Unleash your inner writer.  You have one, trust me.

Know that I am NOT not checking for grammar or spelling or perfect prose (that's my job, not yours). This is all for fun! I'm dying to know what's lurking in your imaginations. I had 80 hits on my blog last week so I'm expecting at least 80 parts to this tale. And yes, you may post anonymously if that makes you feel more comfortable – I'll leave that up to you.

Okay, so here's how the story starts.  I'll decide on a title next Friday.

Mitch Warren had an itch on a body part he couldn't scratch while standing on a busy downtown street.  Ducking into an alleyway, he stood beside a sleeping homeless man and reached into his jeans.  He scratched contentedly for a minute until a woman with flaming red hair...

You can't hurry love

I attended my first webinar this morning.  This must mean I'm officially down with technology, ya dig?  Mind you, I can't seem to figure out Mafia Wars on Facebook, so I still have a long way to go.

The webinar was called "How To Land A Literary Agent", and it was presented by Chuck Sambuchino.  I really hadn't heard much about him, but I get emails from Writer's Market and Writer's Digest (online and print periodicals that have all sorts of useful info for the aspiring-to-be-published). Chuck is the editor of Guide to Literary Agents and The Screenwriter & Playwright's Market, and he's also working on his own novel.  The seminar was full of information.  He went over the best ways to find the right agent for your work, the ingredients of a good query letter, and the importance of having a logline (a one-sentence description of your novel so that when someone asks you what's it about, you can answer quickly and easily).  These were the highlights, but of course there was a lot more.

Ultimately, though, I'd have to say I didn't learn anything new.  Which is good and bad.  Bad because the webinar was $99, which could have been a really nice steak dinner for two; but good because it means I've done my homework and have realistic expectations about what searching for an agent will entail.   I'm relieved to know there were no surprises, and that all the helpful guides and websites he plugged are already ones I've bookmarked. I think anyone who's taken the time to do their own research (as I've been doing, for the past two years now) would already know most of the info that this webinar had to offer, but it would be a good place to start for any writer who's just beginning to think about publishing and wondering what to do.

Well, maybe there was one surprise.  Chuck said that there are only 1,300 literary agents WORLDWIDE.  Jumping Jehosophat!  Can that number be right? I always knew the odds weren't in my favor, but 1,300 agents?  Total?  There are a probably a million writers out there!

But before I get discouraged, I have to constantly remind myself that I wouldn't do this if I didn't love it.  Nobody in their right mind would.   Writing fiction is HARD. And time-consuming.  As of last week, I've been working on this second novel for just over 9 months.  Straight.  If I was pregnant, I'd have given birth by now.

Gee.  That really puts it into perspective.  If the only the gestational period for a book was as predictable.

But Chuck did say one thing that really resonated: You can't rush it.  You want to write a good book and land an agent and go on to publishing success?  You have to give the time it deserves and be patient – because it takes as long as it takes.

Little Red Riding Hood

There's something called "suspension of disbelief", and then there's just the stupid, crazy storylines that authors try to pull off.  Fiction doesn't work if it's not believable.  The lies have to appear true.

At this point, I don't know whether what I'm writing is believable or not – I don't know whether readers will buy that my main character gets involved with someone who's very, very bad (see my teaser for CREEP here).  Am I suspending disbelief or am I just trying to pull something off that's totally idiotic?

I remember reading Little Red Riding Hood when I was a kid, and the book had pictures, and right there in full color was the wolf.  He'd just eaten poor old Granny and was now wearing the old lady's clothes and beckoning to the little granddaughter to come closer.  I don't remember the exact exchange, but it goes something like this:

RED:   Oh my, Granny, what big ears you have!  (She steps closer, observing Granny curiously.)

WOLF:  The better to hear you with, my dear.

RED:  Oh my, Granny, what big eyes you have!  (Stepping closer still...)

WOLF:   The better to see you with, my dear.

RED:  Oh my, Granny, what big teeth you have!   (She's right in Granny's face... did she not see that Granny has a muzzle and is all covered in FUR!?)

WOLF:  The better to EAT you with, my dear!

And so the little red-cloaked twit gets eaten.  As she should.  Because she's a stupid, stupid little girl and she didn't see what the rest of us all did.  And yeah, I know the moral of the story is supposed to be that kids need to be careful around strangers, blah blah blah, but as a kid I always hated Red and was thrilled that she got swallowed whole.   She had it coming for being such a nitwit.

So is my main character stupid?  I certainly didn't write her that way, but who knows how the story's going to come out?

Ultimately, I guess as a writer I can make up anything I want... but whether you believe me or not is all in the execution.


Psst.  Come closer.   I have a secret to tell you.

I think mean thoughts.

And not just the regular, run-of-the-mill mean thoughts that most people have (like when you secretly think your friend shouldn't wear that tight sweater because it makes her look pregnant... and she's not).  No, I'm talking about really, really mean thoughts.

The other day, Steve and I were having dinner at our favorite Mexican restaurant in downtown Seattle.  The waitress was annoyingly cheerful and perhaps a little too attentive. I suddenly found myself wondering,  What if in the middle of her description of the different desserts, I suddenly reached up and punched her in the nose, hard?  Would her eyes water?  How long would it take for her face to change from surprise to fury?

When Steve asked me what I was thinking about, I calmly answered, "My hair."  This is one of my standard answers for when I'm thinking sick thoughts I don't want him to know about.  Other answers that work well are: "The stickiness of my lip gloss" and "What do you think of turquoise as an accent color for the living room?"  Any one of these will prompt Steve to change the subject, immediately.  Which means my dark little scary thoughts can stay mine.

For my job at the University of Waterloo a couple of years ago, I used to commute from Cambridge every day.  It was about 30 kilometers each way, mostly highway driving, and in the mornings and afternoons I had ample time to think about stuff.  Like for instance, that cute guy in the black BMW who's coming up fast in the passing lane – what if I cut him off without warning?  He'd veer off the 401 for sure.  How many times would his car roll in the grass before it stopped?

There were lots of Canada geese on UW's campus grounds and they used to shit all over the pathways leading from the parking lot to the building where I worked (goose poo is the one thing about Canada I do not miss).  Some days there was so much shit it was like navigating a mine field. And every once in a while, an ornery three-foot-tall goose would get in my way, squawking at me belligerently, trying to get me to drop my coffee.  On more mornings than I'd like to admit, I'd imagine what it would feel like to put down my coffee, wrap my hands around it's skinny little feathered neck, and twist.

Never in a million years would I ever act on any of these dark, awful thoughts, but I do think them.  All the time.  So I write about them instead.  Writing for me is a way to exercise my demons, to act out my fantasies, and to imagine the What Ifs.

If I didn't have this outlet, imagine the criminal I'd be.

The mango tree

I eat mangoes maniacally when I'm writing.  This is no exaggeration.  I can go through a half a bag of Philippine Dried Mangoes from Costco (the bag must weigh about 2 lbs) in one writing session.

I'm convinced they're the source of all my power.

I suppose it could be worse – I could be chomping on M&Ms or ketchup chips (if I could get ketchup chips here in the States, which I can't, which is probably a good thing), but nope, I eat mangoes.  So okay, they're filled with preservatives and sugar, and my mom once told me that in the Philippines they stomp these mango slices into submission using their BARE FEET before they're dried, but somehow none of this dissuades me from consuming copious amounts of this wonderful, chewy delight.

I did try to give up my precious mangoes at one point.  I'd started to wonder if they were contributing to my growing ass (which doesn't need to get bigger, thank you), so I put the mangoes on my bookshelf in an effort to reduce the temptation.  Here's a picture of my office – can you spot the mangoes?

But relocating my mangoes backfired.  Even if I only did move them three feet away.  Because one day last fall, as I was blushing my way through a sex scene, I automatically reached for my mangoes only to realize they weren't in their usual spot (right beside me, between my laptop and my printer).  Desperately needing some chewiness in my mouth to get through the graphic descriptions I was trying to write, I looked up and saw them sitting innocently on my damn bookshelf.  So of course I got up, got the bag, opened it, and indulged.

And by the time I sat back down at my desk again, I'd lost my train of thought completely.

Never again.   Dried mangoes for Jenny = spinach for Popeye.  Why mess with a good thing?

So my ass gets bigger.  I'm married and that's what stretchy pants are for.

Friday Challenge: My favorite things

Pure Friday silliness... and at the bottom, my first blog challenge!

Sing it with me now!   Don't try and pretend you don't know the tune.

My Favorite Things

Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens
Stainless steel kettles and fingerless mittens
Amazon packages tied up with string
These are a few of my favorite things!

Yellow peonies and long-legged poodles
Peanut-less Thai food and Cantonese noodles
Checking my phone when my BlackBerry pings
These are a few of my favorite things!

Thunderstorms lighting the sky with its flashes
DiorShow mascara that curls my eyelashes
Murderous musings from one Stephen King
These are a few of my favorite things!

UFC fights!
Garlic hot wings!
Movies starring Brad...
I simply remember my favorite things
And then I don't feel... so bad!

Your challenge, should you choose to accept it, is to write your own version of My Favorite Things in the comments below.  Let's see what you come up with!

Happy Friday!  :)

There's a hole in my bucket

I stepped into a massive, stinky plot hole this past week.  Yes, PLOT hole.  Why was it stinky?  Because inside the plot hole was a giant pile of CRAP.

I don't outline before I write, which means I'm always in danger of messing up my story.  I like to think of myself as a shoot-from-the-hip kind of writer (can you picture me in a cowboy hat and a hip holster?  Yeah, didn't think so), but trust me when I say I miss more than I hit.  In fact, I often shoot my eye out.

As I was revising chapter fourteen last Thursday night, it suddenly occurred to me that a very minor character who's introduced in chapter five has inside knowledge of a very major character... which basically blows my story's twist to smithereens midway through the novel.  Yes, I did say smithereens.  Think Gatling gun.

To top it all off, I had house guests over the weekend – my good friend from British Columbia and her beautiful little 2-year-old daughter were here.  I hadn't seen either of them in over a year and was thrilled they'd come to hang out with me.  And yet here I was, well after midnight with the whole house asleep, stressing over the fact that my book was shot to hell because of a freakin' minor character starring in freakin' stupid subplot that ties into the main storyline just enough to ruin everything.  And the more I tried to fix it, the more the story unraveled.  It was like a pulling a loose thread from a knit sweater.

So, I did the only thing I could. I killed her (my character, not my friend.)  And then spent the next seven days climbing out of the hole I'd dug myself into, doing damage control.

I'm finally back on track now, and I hope to God there are no more holes to fall in.  You can be sure I'll be watching my step.

Guest Blogger: Erika Perez

Erika, I hope you don't mind, but your comment from It's the end of the world as we know it is too good for me to not make you a guest blogger.

Readers, meet my cousin Erika. She's 19. And she might just kick my ass in this blogging thing (we gots some good writin' genes in my family, yo!). Here's what she wrote:

You're a regular perezhilton (that guy has made me so proud to be a Perez... I've simply given up trying to give him up.  His site is "magically delicious" and I don't care if it represents everything wrong with pop culture today. "It's part of a good breakfast!"). Your mom told me about your recent blogging so tonight I'm reading all of your entries. In the future when you're a New York Times Bestselling Author, this will be slangily referred to as a Jenny-Pestano-Hillier-a-thon (or something more clever - your name is hard to mess around with). The way you write is kind of captivating because it's very reader-friendly and relatable, but not so relatable that you know what's coming next and don't feel compelled to keep reading.

ANYWAY, as far as I'm concerned, horror novels are only useful if you're terribly happy and looking for a quick way to put you into a frightened and depressed mood. While it's true that getting your arm ripped off by a scary-ass clown hiding in a storm drain is probably worse than anything that would happen to me on even the shittiest of days, I'm all about the atmosphere when it comes to comfort books. I like to revel in my interpretation of the world the author has created. It's not so much flowery adjectives or lengthy descriptions that create this world for me, but the attitudes of the characters - the degree of hope and optimism they possess, and the style in which the author writes. When I'm feeling down I like friendly writing that makes me feel like the author is sitting at the front of a third-grade classroom and telling his or her story aloud. There has to be a certain detachment between the author's voice and what's going on in the story so that it doesn't get too overwhelmingly depressing. What can I say? I'm too sensitive. It's fine if bad things happen to the characters, but I want the author to have some consideration for my feelings. I don't like books that are mean to me.

This said, it's not hard to fathom that all my comfort books would all be from the Young Readers section. Well, they are. They include the Harry Potter series (of course), "Awake and Dreaming" (a book by Kit Pearson about a lonely girl who dreams of being part of a big, perfect family), The Berenstein Bears "Big Chapter Books" (classic), "Maniac Magee" by Jerry Spinelli (about a simple-minded yet extraordinary orphan on the run who settles in a town divided by racism), and the "Booky" Trilogy (first-hand tales about a girl growing up in Toronto at the heart of the 1930's Depression).

I can't say that these are still my favourite books of all time (though they once were). I've since found that often times the best, most thought-provoking and fascinatingly wonderful books are the ones that pull on your heartstrings and fill you with anguish. But when I want comfort, all I want to know is the latest heist Fred and George are pulling at Hogwarts, or how Brother and Sister Bear solved a spooky mystery in Bear Country.

That's just me.

So Jenny, I'll keep reading your blog and will continue to anxiously await the time when I can read one of your books (even if it ruins my day because it's about addiction-ridden people are have affairs and getting murdered).

And if you're wondering, here is a list of my favourite books in no particular order:

The Kite Runner
The Diviners
The Alchemist
She's Come Undone
Change of Heart
The Glass Castle
A Thousand Splendid Suns
The Da Vinci Code
The Thunderbolt Kid
The Memory Keeper's Daughter

Yeah, it's not a very interesting list. Mostly stuff you can find on the "Heather's Pick" list at Chapters or in Oprah's Book Club. I hate bad reads so when I'm choosing a book I like to go with the odds.

For the record, Erika, I like to go with the odds, too. Books cost money and take time to read... so I'll take the sure bets any day.

And God willing, maybe some day one of my books will be a "Heather's Pick". I have no idea who Heather is, but she clearly wields incredible power over the patrons of Chapters if the very sight of her sticker on a book can convince you to buy something. I'm thinking I should start sending her muffins – can't hurt, right?

Where the sidewalk ends

Did you read a lot when you were a kid?

I did.  When I was a kid, books rocked my world.  I could read all day, every day.  My book collection was impressive, if I do say so myself.  I had everything from Mother Goose and Winnie the Pooh, to Mr. Muggs and Mr. Men, to Beverly Cleary, Nancy Drew, Choose Your Own Adventures, Judy Blume, and Sweet Valley High.

I read and re-read books until they fell apart, and would often buy new copies with my allowance.  I was chronically late returning the books I borrowed from the library – not because I was lazy or forgetful, but because I couldn't imagine giving back the worlds I'd just experienced.  I had four tall bookshelves in my bedroom, and they were triple-packed with nothing but books.

I had an eight o'clock bedtime up until I was thirteen (and one of these days I need to ask my mom why!), but I never minded because bedtime meant reading.  Nothing beat getting into bed and snuggling under the covers with a book.  Just by turning a page, I was sucked into a Wrinkle in Time, stepping through a closet to Narnia, and finding out Where the Sidewalk Ends.

Even now, reading takes me out of my life, shuts up the noises and earworms in my head, and gives me a chance to be somewhere else.  And yes, my favorite time of day is still bedtime, when I get to crack open a book and escape the chaos of real life.

I have seven nieces and nephews, and so far, I can't tell if any of them are into reading. The last time I gave my nephews books for Christmas (Curious George), they were discarded like the "piece of crap present" my nephew Sean informed me they were. I was shocked.  I mean, CURIOUS GEORGE, people!  He lives with the Man with the Yellow Hat!  In one book, he gets sent to the store with a note around his furry little neck, but gets into trouble along the way because he's a curious little monkey!

I guess things are different now.  Maybe I'm old school, but it's as if kids are thinking, Why read the book when next year, it'll be made into a movie?

Please tell me my perception is wrong.  It would make me feel a lot better.

And to my pregnant cousin Mel, who reads my blog faithfully, be forewarned that your child is getting lots and lots of books from Auntie Jenny.

Don't worry, they won't be the ones I write.  :)

Two faces have I

Almost everyone I know is on Facebook.  And thank God for that.  Facebook, for me, is the easiest way to connect with the people I love, especially now that I live in Seattle and 95% of my friends and family are back home in the greater Toronto area.

Thanks to Facebook, I regularly get to see pictures of my friends' vacations, their kids' birthday parties, and their home renovations.  Thanks to status updates, I know who can't sleep, who's tired from their workout, and who's had too much to drink.  I can poke you and be poked back.  I can make a funny comment about somewhere you've been even though I wasn't there.

Anytime I feel like it, I can poke my head into your life and find out what you're up to... without even having to ask.

In other words, it's not natural.  Because what we choose to show people on Facebook isn't exactly real. Instead, it's the best, most airbrushed, most edited version of ourselves.  YOU, my Facebook friend, will never let me see how bloated you were today, how messy your house is, and how your fine lines are finally turning into wrinkles.  In turn, I'd rather die than show you my double chin, how frizzy my hair gets on a humid day, and what I look like without mascara.  Not happening.

And, like I said, not natural.

As a fiction writer, being on Facebook is sort of like writing a novel... I'm only ever going to show you what I want to you see.  There are no candid photos.   Everything about my story is carefully orchestrated in advance, even though things may appear to be spontaneous and authentic.

On Facebook, I have just over two hundred "friends" (a very modest number in the world of online social networking), and because of this, I'm hyper aware of everything I post.  I write bubbly wall messages that are way more enthusiastic than I really feel.  I post status updates that are funny, melodramatic, ponderous, or vague, depending on how I want you to react.  And if I write something and there's a typo, I go back and edit it, because God forbid you think I can't spell.

It's not much different when I write.  As a novelist, I take what I know and I twist it to fit the story.  I alter reality.  Then I re-write the story as many times as it takes to get it perfect.  Same as I do on Facebook.

But do you know what fiction writing is?  Webster's defines fiction as something invented by the imagination or feigned.

Feigned.  Yes.  That's the perfect word.

So I ask you this:   Is your Facebook account an accurate depiction of your life?

I know mine isn't.  But I also know that I don’t it want it be.  Because the edited version you get to see of me there is just so much prettier... and in the end, don't we all just want to look pretty?

Dream weaver

I feel stupid when I tell people I'm a writer.

You know when you're getting to know somebody new?  There are basically TWO standard getting-to-know-you questions that people always ask:

Where are you from?


What do you do?

A typical getting-to-know-you exchange goes pretty much like this:

Stranger:   So where are you from?

Me:  I live in Seattle, but I'm Canadian.

Stranger:  Oh?   What brings you to the States?

Me:  My husband's job.

Stranger:  What does he do?

Me:  He's a district sales manager for a health sciences company.

Stranger:  And what do you do?

... And here's where I choke.

For some reason I can't just say "I'm a writer" with confidence.  Even though I am.   I'm not a wanna-be. I'm not "aspiring".  Which, by the way, is a word I completely detest – I write every goddamned day, there's nothing "aspiring" about it... aspiring to be published, certainly, but I'm not an aspiring writer.  But I digress.  Getting back to the exchange:

Me:   I'm a writer. (Clear throat, avert eyes, swallow painfully.)

Stranger:  Are you published?

... And, of course, the answer is no.

And this is when something happens to the stranger's eyes.  They either narrow in suspicion, or widen in confusion, but ultimately the person looks at me like I'm full of shit.  He doesn't say it, but I can hear the voice in his head going, "But how can you say you're a writer if you're not published?"

Every single day, it's a struggle to remind myself that I write because I want to, because it's something I enjoy, and because it's something I feel is worthy of my time when I could totally be doing other things.  I want the validation of being published, yes, but the bottom line is, I wouldn't do this if I didn't enjoy it.  And I do enjoy it.  Seeing a story emerge on a blank page where no words previously existed, creating characters that say and do the most unexpected things... it's exhilarating.

And pretty much impossible to explain to a stranger who doesn’t believe I do what I say I do because I have no hard copy proof.

I know this is my own neurosis.  I know that.  I just wish, sometimes, that I could answer the question differently.

Stranger:  And what do you do?

Me:  I'm a writer.  I've published twenty bestsellers and my latest book was made into a movie starring Angelina Jolie.  I co-wrote the screenplay.   Angie's a really sweet person.  She doesn't mind that Brad flirts with me.

Stranger:  Wow!  So this book I'm reading was really written by you?  (Holds up my latest book, in hardcover, no less.)

Me:  Yes.  Would you like me to sign it?  I brought my sparkly pen.


One can dream.