Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Sometimes

Dear Son,

Sometimes I forget where we started.

Sometimes I forget how far you've come.

Sometimes I forget what a long road it has been.

Sometimes I forget how hard it is for you to express your thoughts.

Sometimes I forget how hard things must be for you.

Sometimes I forget that things are hard because you are still smiling.

Sometimes I forget that you are aware of some of your differences.

Sometimes I forget that you are oblivious to some of your differences.

Sometimes I forget that you are autistic.

Sometimes I forget that you are only ten years old.

Sometimes I forget that you need time to play and be yourself.

Sometimes I forget that you are not doing things on purpose to annoy me.

Sometimes I forget that you need time to yourself.

Sometimes I forget that you don't understand how to ask for help.

Sometimes I forget how frustrating it must be for you to be a square peg.

Sometimes I forget that the world doesn't always make sense to you.

Sometimes I forget that you have difficulty tuning out things that are distracting.

Sometimes I forget that I never thought you would speak.

Sometimes I forget that I thought I would never hear you say, "I love you, Mom."



But I will never, ever forget what a blessing and a joy you are and how much I love you.


Friday, October 17, 2014

Guest Blog Take Over: Jayne Denker on Marsden, Continuity and Swearing. (Or something like that)

Today, Biel Blather is being taken over by fellow writer and all-around funny gal, Jayne Denker. She's here to talk about her book, Down on Love, which is on sale this month.


(Blog) Tour of Marsden, Day 5
In Which Your Tour Guide Swears a Lot; Or, Continuity’s a Bitch

Hey campers. Are you still on the bus? We’re headed for Marsden, NY, the fictional small town in the heart of the Catskills that features in my rom com, Down on Love. If I sound a little subdued today, it’s because I have a raging headache, so if we could all play quietly as we roll along, that’d be great, mkay?



What’s bugging me, you ask? I mean, sure, I was mighty perky on the first four days of the tour (see the full list of stops at my blog, http://jaynedenker.com), but today I have one heck of a hangover. No, not that kind. A continuity hangover. I’ll try to explain; I just need a little pick-me-up first. Are you going to finish that coffee?

Okay, see, continuity is like air—you only notice it when it’s missing. When we’re watching a movie, we happily buy into it until we notice that Pretty Woman’s breakfast changes from a croissant to a bagel to a croissant in a single scene. That’s a continuity problem, and when we see one, our brains go “gack!” Well, try creating an entire town—and a population for that entire town—without any foreknowledge that you’re going to have to go back to it and write more...and try to make it all consistent!

When I was writing Down on Love, I wasn’t planning on making the first in a small-town romcom series. But my editor asked if I wanted to keep going with more books set in Marsden, and who was I to say no? I wrote the second book, Picture This, which came out in July, and now I’m working on the third, Lucky for You, which should publish in late spring or early summer next year. Although all the books take place in Marsden, they’re only loosely connected and can be read as standalones if that’s more your thing.

Now, Marsden is a great place to be. I’m having a blast “living” there as I write my books. Heck, I wish my real village was as interesting and fun as this place! But there’s no denying there are challenges when you write a series—the continuity kind.

I’m talking keeping the characters consistent, recalling all their quirks and idiosyncrasies, keeping all their interrelations intact (always fun, especially when you have connections, friendships, and feuds going back generations). Checking ages and making sure they mesh is a big issue.

And then there’s geography: Marsden has a vibrant, busy Main Street, filled with shops, art galleries, restaurants, and other businesses.

Result: major continuity hangover. And lots of swearing. LOTS.

But it’s okay. I have skillz. I’m a little OCD. I could figure this out and make sure that all the details in my second and third books matched what I wrote off the cuff in my first. I took a page from television and created a “bible” with all the facts I had about Marsden. I made character lists, with names, occupations, ages, and relationships.

I even went full-on Tolkien and drew a map of the town and its surrounding areas, mainly because there are so many shops and restaurants and offices on Main Street, I wanted to make sure I knew what was abutting what and who was across the street from whom. I had to make sure I didn’t inadvertently move the shops around, or have a character cross the street to a store or the bank that I’d actually mentioned was several blocks away in a previous book.

Questions I had to address beyond Main Street: How long does it take to walk from George’s sister’s house to, say, the hardware store? And what places would she pass along the way? What sidestreet is the gym on? How about the music store? Also, how far away is Whalen, the dicey neighboring town? What’s between Marsden and Whalen? What’s in the strip malls outside of town? Where’s the park? And where the heck is this elusive Chicken Shack fast food restaurant, anyway?

Phew, right? But I have to say, it’s pretty fun creating a whole town from the ground up, complete with history dating back to the 1800s to the present, a million characters, etc. And somehow I get the feeling that this imaginary town carries on even when I’m not looking. So if you hear me swearing and/or groaning in pain, don’t worry—I’ll recover.

If you want to check out the village of Marsden, stay on the bus—this blog tour continues next week (Monday, October 20), stopping at my buddy and fellow author Glynis Astie’s blog (www.GlynisAstie.com), where we’ll learn more about the Catskills, Marsden’s general location. Plus an excerpt!

You can also dive into Marsden right now, if you like—pick up Down on Love, on sale for only 99 cents (!) for the entire month of October, all e-formats.



Thanks for stopping by, and hope to see you next week!


Sounds good, right? That's because it is! I've read both Marsden books, Down on Love and Picture This. And I know the third one's in the works because (tee hee) I have insider knowledge of it.

Here's where you can find Down on Love. Seriously--don't miss it!





GOOGLE PLAY: http://bit.ly/1x7If17

Wanna know a little more about Jayne?

Jayne Denker divides her time between working hard to bring the funny in her romantic comedies and raising a young son who's way too clever for his own good. She lives in a small village in western New York that is in no way, shape, or form related to the small village in her Marsden novels Down on Love and Picture This. When she's not hard at work on another novel, the social media addict can usually be found frittering away startling amounts of time on Facebook (Jayne Denker Author) and Twitter (@JDenkerAuthor). She’d like to say she updates her Web site, http://jaynedenker.com, quite often, but most of the time when it crosses her mind, she shouts “Can’t you see I’m writing?!” and puts it off till another day.





Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Immortal Words

I should be writing. I guess I am, this blog. That is not what I should be writing. I should be writing my next novel. I'm in the home stretch, the last 25%. I need to buckle down and finish it.

But, for the second time this week, I find myself watching movies on TV rather than writing. (Seriously, when people ask me how I find the time to write and I tell them I stopped watching TV, I'm not kidding. I really should turn the TV off right now.)

Two days ago, I watched Gone With The Wind. Well, part one anyway. I fell asleep during the intermission. It was 11:30 p.m. and need to get up at 6, so that was probably a good thing. Tonight, I'm watching The Silence of the Lambs. And I've discovered a common theme.

And now you're all scratching your heads trying to figure out what that theme can possibly be. I'll give you a hint. It's why I should be writing right now. Books.

Gone With The Wind is my favorite book. I remember how disappointed I was when I saw the movie after reading the book. However, it's been a while since I've read it or seen the movie. Watching it the other night, the dialogue gripped me. I remembered why I loved the story and am desperate to find the time to read it again.

I read and reread The Silence of the Lambs while in high school. I did my senior paper on it. I think I thought I was being cool and edgy. Watching the movie, I remember how consumed I was with both Red Dragon (the first Hannibal Lecter book) and The Silence of the Lambs.

Both Oscar winning movies with Oscar winning performances. Both based on books that changed me in some way and have stayed with me all this time (my definition of a 5-star book). Both paperbacks still sit in my bookcase and will never leave. My copy of GWTW is actually my mother's from when she was in high school and has fallen apart.

I just wish I could write a piece of literature that stays with someone for twenty years. Seventy-five years even.

It won't get done if I'm blogging here, so I'll just leave you with this.


Saturday, September 27, 2014

Hocus, Pocus, You Must FOCUS

There is an ongoing battle in my house right now between my children and myself. I'm trying my damndest to make my little people into responsible adults someday. I see that as the end goal. Things are not going so well these days.

School is in full swing, which means we're running a lot of the time. I actually keep the kids' extracurricular activities low in comparison, so it is not as bad as other families have. However, each one of my kids is having difficulty getting done what needs to be done. I am forever telling the kids what the plans are for the next day, what the plans are for the day, what time we're leaving, etc, etc, etc. The kids are preset for what we have to do and when we have to do it.

But then everything falls apart somehow. It is the givens, the constants that my kids can't keep up with. Like changing underwear, brushing teeth, eating breakfast. These are things that happen EVERY.SINGLE.DAY. and somehow my kids can't seem to do them without me asking, telling and then screaming at them. We're in a vicious cycle and I don't know how to get out of it.

It's only going to get worse when I start my new job this week and I'll no longer be here in the morning to put them on the bus. They are going to have to figure out what to wear, remember to change underwear and socks, brush teeth, brush hair, go to the bathroom (seriously, why do they not just do that?!?!?), pack snacks and lunches, eat, make sure their bags are packed, and dress appropriately for the weather. Writing it down, it sounds like a lot for a ten and seven year old, but these are the rote things we do every day. And these are the things that the kids don't do without excessive prompting.

My son has ADD. I get that. He's medicated on school days (another thing to remember!) but not on weekends. I can tell the difference. However, sometimes I think that we've provided him with a crutch to use and now he doesn't even have to try to remember things. He can remember something I said when he was four (we would go on a cruise), but can't remember that I told him to wear shorts because the temperature will be in the high 70's today. I will tell him specifically to do something and then he forgets and it becomes a big crisis. One in which I'm left scrambling to pick up the pieces (like when he leaves his current project in my car and he was planning on working on it when he was at his grandparents'.) Mistakes happen, I know. But sometimes I feel like he doesn't even try to be responsible for himself.

And my daughter is really giving me (us) a hard time right now. Her attention is so bad at home. I've sent an email to the teacher to ask how she is at school because I'm so concerned. But with her, it is hard to tell if she cannot stay focused long enough to follow directions or if she just doesn't give a shit. I think it is the latter. She's very strong willed and thinks she knows it all. As such, she feels she doesn't need to listen most of the time. We're having epic battles. She's seven. I don't know what I'm going to do with her.

I know my stress levels are through the roof because of a lot of reasons, but the new job is high on that list. I'll be working five days a week for the first time since I had kids. I don't know how that balance is going to work out. I need the kids to step up a little and it seems they're regressing. My son was almost hit by a car this morning as he ran recklessly through the parking lot at church. Every week, I tell him not to run and to pay attention and he just doesn't listen. He's generally not a super-impulsive kid, so I know he can control it. He's ten. I've been warning him not to run through parking lots for over eight years now. Why doesn't he get it? Will this experience be enough for him to remember the next time?

I know I need to let the kids' inattention and unwillingness to focus have consequences so they learn from their mistakes. I know that in the long run, this is how they will learn. On the other hand, I'm the one who has to deal with the fallout of their mistakes. Writing it down, I can see I need to let them fail. I am deluding myself into thinking that all of my harping will help them change their behavior. Obviously it hasn't worked so far.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Farewell

When my husband and I bought our house eleven years ago, it was surrounded by trees. Many of the houses on our street had trees or shrubs blocking the front view of the house, since we live on a very busy main road. Our first summer, we took down those trees, giving us view to the street and neighbors. And it is because of this view that I am so sad.

We have a neighbor across the street who has been an inspiration to us. When we first used to see him out (which was all the time), we referred to him as "Old Dude." Because he was. He was in his mid-eighties when we moved in. This guy was a dynamo--outside, working on his yard all the time. He has every gadget known to man, including an ATV and little lawnmower tractor that he would use to tool around his yard in. Over the years, we watched him take down trees, smoke out moths, trim shrubs, all from his ATV. Seeing him get out of the car to get his mail, we understood why. The years had not been kind to his back and standing up straight was a thing of the past.

Still, he kept at it and kept active. That was his motto, "Keep on movin'."We watched him plow his driveway in the winter with the plow attached to the front of his SUV. His yard is meticulously manicured. Every so often, when we were outside, he would drive his ATV over to our house to visit. He and my husband hit it off. Both engineers, they had a lot in common. He grew up in a house around the corner from the house I grew up in and his nephew lives just down the street from my parents. We learned his name and were on more than one occasion, were the recipients of spoils from his garden.

He would come and go several times a day. If he saw us out, he would wave. His wife passed away a few years ago, but still he kept trucking on. Soon, a lawn service came to mow the lawn on a regular basis (and then, after they left, he would be out "fixing" things). A plow came in the winter.

Then, last fall, I noticed that the cars were not coming and going. There never seemed to be lights on in the house. A snow fell and it was not immediately plowed. I said to my husband, "I think something has happened to him." I watched the house for a few days, and was delighted when I saw a vehicle pull up. I went over and rang the bell. It was our neighbor's niece. When I introduced myself, she asked if I wanted to come in to visit with him. Relief flooded through me and I spent at least an hour visiting with him. He had indeed been ill and in and out of the hospital.

Winter turned into Spring, which turned into Summer. And he was still at it, driving to and from his house several times a day (I always wondered where he went). That day in July, when my husband and I were in the car accident right in front of our house, he was outside and saw the whole thing. We talked to him, assuring him we were all right. After the police left, my husband stayed outside with him for close to an hour chatting about work.

Yesterday was the perfect early Fall day. A great day to be outside. I saw him outside tooling around on his ATV, which always made me smile. More than once, my husband and I have said that we wish we can be like him when we get old. In his nineties, still sharp as a tack, living at home, very active.

This morning, the lawn people came and treated his lawn for weeds. Then I saw his niece pull in. Shortly thereafter, two police cars showed up. Followed by the paramedics and then an ambulance. I knew as soon as the police cars showed up what it meant. The ambulance came and left, no sirens blaring. The family has arrived, and now the hearse is there.

I'm terribly sad at the moment. I know I shouldn't be. I barely knew him afterall. He was in his mid-nineties and most likely passed away in his sleep. Who can ask for a better way to go? In my head I keep saying, "But I saw him outside yesterday!"

Farewell Mr. Marchand. You were a good man, a good neighbor and kept a beautiful lawn. We will miss you.

Finding the Balance

Like pretty much every other mother right now, I'm digging my way out of the trenches. School has started. Yipee! Crap!

I love this time of year. I dread this time of year.

Three weeks into school, we're now in full swing. Dance lessons. Cub scouts. Girl scouts. Music lessons. Soccer. Religion. Not to mention school. And homework. Always the homework. I feel like every moment of my kids' day is scheduled. And while it keeps us running, I hate it. I hate when my ten year-old literally begs me for ten more minutes at night so he can play. I know he needs his sleep but he needs his play as well.

Fifth grade is serious business. They're changing classes and are responsible for managing all their materials, moving from class to class. It's a hard adjustment for most of the kids, and then add on ADD on top of it. Throw into the mix consequences for missed homework (read: detention) and stress is at an all time high.

Here's the breakdown of our afternoons: The kids get off the bus around 4 p.m. My son cannot work all day at school and then come in and do homework. We figured that out years ago. The kids get a snack and can relax, watch TV or play for a little while. Homework gets started at 5 p.m. We used to do dinner around 5:30-5:45, but I'm finally realizing that the kids aren't hungry quite yet (due to the snack, which they need). It takes my son about an hour to an hour and a half every night to do his homework. He plays an instrument, so he has to practice 30 minutes. He has to read for 20 minutes. When you add up the time, including dinner it is three hours. Bedtime for him is 8:30. That gives him 90 minutes (on a non-shower, no activity night) to play, relax, talk. To be a kid. On shower nights, it is about 60 minutes (he takes looooong showers).

Last week, we had a cub scout hike that was smack dab in the middle of homework time. He had to finish homework after, during his TV/relaxing time and then shower in the morning. This change to the routine stressed him out and he kept saying that we should not have done the hike (even though it is the type of thing he totally loves).

My second grader is the social butterfly who does dance and scouts and soccer and is still begging for playdates. She has boundless energy and a willfulness that may just break me (don't tell her I said that). Last year, we battled over homework and reading. This year, so far (fingers crossed), she's motivated and committed and she finds herself wanting to be loud and boisterous because her homework is done while her brother is still trying to focus.

We're all tired. For me, it's going to get worse as I go back to work next week. The papers have already started to pour in and clutter the kitchen. We're doing our best to keep on top of that so that it is not another thing to throw us out of balance.

We run a pretty structured ship around here. It is what my kids need (and myself as well) to be successful. With the hubs and I passing like ships in the night as we shuttle the kids from one thing to another, we have to have good communication and set expectations. Sometimes things fall through the cracks and it throws our balance out of whack. But we just hop back on the ball and keep going.


(Note: this is not me. Sometimes, I can carry plates without dropping them. That is all.)

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Play List for I'm Still Here

I listened to a LOT of music when I was writing I'm Still Here. Sometimes, I can't listen to music when I'm writing, but this story required me to. I can't explain why, just something about the feeling of it. As I was writing, songs would catch my ear and I would include them on my playlist for the book. Every so often, I would hear a song while in my car and have to say the name over and over until I could stop and write it down in my notebook so that I could remember to include it on the playlist.

Here are the songs that made the playlist. A lot of them set the tone for Esther's past relationship with her twin sister Aster. Some of the songs go directly with a scene in the book--try and see if you can figure out which!

·   
Carry On by Fun.

When this song came out, it made me think of an acquaintance who had gone missing and was later found to have committed suicide. I could not fathom why she would make the choices she made and this song always made me think of her and that she could have found the strength to carry on. Her story was the inspiration for Aster.


Paradise by the Dashboard Lights by Meatloaf


Don't Mess Around with Jim by Jim Croce


Mad World by Alex Parks


Gravity by Sara Bareilles


Here Comes the Sun by The Beatles


Roar by Katy Perry


Hands by Jewel


Otherside by Red Hot Chili Peppers


Be Ok by Ingrid Michaelson


Say Something by A Great Big World ft. Christina Aguilera


Crazy by Gnarls Barkley


Breathe (2 am) by Anna Nalick


I Won't Give Up by Jason Mraz


Heart of Glass by Blondie


Broken by Jack Johnson


Tomorrow (Annie Soundtrack)


Break Stuff by Limp Bizkit
(Warning, this is the uncensored version with lots of bad language)


Won't Stop by One Republic


It's Alright by Big Head Todd and the Monsters



I hope you all enjoy this musical journey that accompanies Esther during her time in I'm Still Here. Guess what? This is only list one of two. Stay tuned for another play list coming soon!



I'm Still Here is available on Amazon, Barnes& Noble, Kobo, iTunes and Smashwords!