The Journey to Love

skandosina

“This is love: to fly toward a secret sky, to cause a hundred veils to fall each moment. First to let go of life. Finally, to take a step without feet.” ~ Rumi

 

“Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow.” ~ Melody Beattie

 

“Beauty without Grace, is the hook without the bait. ” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

 

“The world breaks everyone, and afterward, some are strong at the broken places.” ~ Ernest Hemingway

 

“Forgiveness is not always easy. At times, it feels more painful than the wound we suffered, to forgive the one that inflicted it. And yet, there is no peace without forgiveness.” ~ Marianne Williamson

 

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Please note my new yoga teaching schedule changes:

Mondays:
* 6 a.m. 1 HR Hot Yoga, Beyond Bikram Hermosa Beach
* 4:15 p.m. Yin/Yang (part restorative, part balance/ Iyengar, non-heated, all levels, seniors encouraged. Malaga Cove, Rancho Palos Verdes (dm me if interested)
* 6:15 p.m. Pre-natal Torrance Memorial Medical Center, near ER. (dm me if interested, recurring 8 week series, however, drop-in upon request.)

Tuesdays:
6:30 p.m. 1 HR Hot Yoga, Beyond Bikram Hermosa Beach

Please check BeyondBikram.com schedule, as I sub many Wed. & Fri. 6 a.m. classes, as well as weekend. Wed. – Friday are now committed writing days for me.

Have a blessed week,

Laura xo

 

Giving Birth with a Baby in the Playpen

I’m having another baby!

Yup. I’m writing another novel. And it feels like I’m seven months pregnant while taking care of a toddler who is scooting every which way dangerously while learning to walk. My novel Between Thoughts of You is currently with a publisher and an agent (who are both considering it). I’ve worked so hard on it between December and March, re-editing the manuscript after so much input received from writers, publishing house editors, and agents at The New York Pitch. (I’ve been to a few writers’s conferences, but attending the Algonkian is like garnering a PhD in publishing in five days. It is that intense,  informative, and humbling. Advice from Paula Munier  was just brilliant.)

 

So, while Between Thoughts of You is with an agent and a publisher, I just can’t sit around getting into fear and anxiety over whether a Big 5 pub will pick it up or not. So I’m writing again. My next book is nothing like my previous three. It is written in the first person. It is a double psychological mystery with twists and turns until a surprising convergence at its end. It contains elements of the metaphysical, but they are not sensed until the later half of the book. The basis for Orbiting Jupiter is how sudden trauma and grief can alter the brain in significant ways—sometimes projecting us into other dimensions. By that I mean, something miraculous can be birthed from being blindsided, if you allow it. The blunt knowledge that NOTHING in your life is as you thought it was, or as it was taught to you—can explosively open up your mind to possibilities never considered.

Said in another way: When no one in your life is as they portray themselves to be, how do you then navigate previous rules for trust and engagement? Maybe what we see and hear and touch is no longer an accurate portrayal of reality.  Maybe there are different elemental laws of physics, like an internal compass tapping into an invisible source, to steer you onto your true path. What is there to lose? When clergy, parents, friends, lovers, co-workers, etc… betray, violently pursue their greed, wield control at any expense, criticize those who dare to be different, worship wealth—and are still considered the gold standard for ethics and morality within society—what kind of society is that? When a person crashes into the dust of that harsh ‘reality,’ if they don’t fall prey to drugs and alcohol, other worlds can slowly begin to surface. Surprising psychic doors can open, shifting awareness. Visions into other eras, distant dimensions, alternate lives—can emerge.

 

If a person is discovered in this expansive state of consciousness, that western medicine and science can’t explain, he may be placed under psychiatric care. His state of mind, or explained experiences, may be defined under the umbrella of exhaustion, mental collapse or psychotic episodes. I’m fascinated by documented stories where people suddenly remember a stranger’s life with utter clarity, as if it had been their own. There are cases of amnesia after extreme stress, that compellingly show how a traumatized mind alters in order to enter into a less stressed, livable state. I’m just as intrigued by stories of children of abusive parents, or within violent foster homes, who develop telepathic abilities, or empathic skills to alert them about their care-givers next moves—like Darwinian traits sharpened or re-engaged to help them survive dangers at home.

 

I love this phase of writing. I don’t love the phase of pitching, marketing, and stressing about getting published. It’s part of the process, so all my author friends tell me. But I prefer this one. The one of creating, researching, writing the story. I do hope that Between Thoughts of You, my previous novel, gets picked up, develops legs and runs. But until then, I’ll complete Orbiting Jupiter. 

 

The idea of self-publishing keeps getting presented to me, however, I’ll put that on a shelf for now. It’s an over-whelming concept for me that sucks all the creativity out of my soul. I don’t see how I can keep writing and creating if I’m over-seeing printing, marketing, self-promotion, distribution, sales, etc. while also being a present full-time single mom who has other jobs to pay the rent. Right? So I’ve decided to finish this next novel before entertaining the self-publishing prospect. For now, I’ll keep creating and will see where it takes me. It’s the only reality that fits my life.

 

Have a beautiful day.

 

Laura x

 

 

Yoga + Meditation + Gratitude = Longer, Healthier Life.

Pulse

 

Here is my latest cover article for Pulse Magazine. I write for a lot of magazines, so why am I posting this one on my blog? Because it is for a traditional hospital publication. It reiterates what I’ve known for a long time. There is now NO doubt that yoga, meditation and a gratitude practice lengthens life, improves health, boosts mental outlook, and reduces pain and the intensity of disease. I love when I get the chance to write, research, and interview experts on topics I’m passionate about. I began doing yoga and meditating more than 10 years ago due to a bad back, a nasty divorce, and the stress of rearing a baby and a young son solo. The journey has helped me battle auto-immune disease and dark moments. I have taken multiple yoga trainings and now teach, while also free-lance writing. My life is more positive. I feel joy on the daily. I am more patient and more present with my boys. And I see how much yoga has helped my yoga students who are in pain from cancer or arthritis or injuries.

Now physicians and scientists in the West confirm what I have felt and seen through many studies conducted at Harvard, the Centers for Disease Control, UCLA and elsewhere. Some studies showed how meditation and a gratitude practice helped to reduce cancer tumors and/ or the intensity of pain and side-effects from cancer treatments such as chemo or radiation. Other studies showed an increase in memory from meditation. Others showed how meditation, especially, increased the capacity for joy and reduced depression.

 

One day I envision an America where therapeutic yoga and meditation classes will be a standard benefit offered within corporations and covered by medical insurance policies. Lowering stress means reducing toxic cortisol and glucagon hormones within the body. It is widely accepted within western medicine that cancer grows within acidic environments. It is also known that a flush in cortisol, (that happens when individuals are stressed or anxious or angry) causes the gut to not thoroughly digest vitamins and nutrients correctly. This flush of cortisol also tightens connective tissue which reduces the flow of our lymph system and makes us more vulnerable to the flu. Stress also increases inflammation, ramps up blood pressure, creates tension headaches, muscle spasms and even increases the chance of stroke and heart beat irregularity. Taking preventative care of ourselves ought to be a primary concern—and not just for the privileged and wealthy in this country. I’m glad to know that yoga and meditation is now taught at reduced rates in hospitals (where I also teach) and community centers, as yoga studios can charge high rates. Most yoga studios, however, will also offer low-fee community classes once a week, which I highly encourage people to try.

Here’s to a low stress and blessed week.

Namaste ~

Laura

 

A Writer’s Space to Breathe, Create, Inspire & Elevate Consciousness

 

This was my home office in London when I was a Parenting editor working remotely for a San Francisco-based publishing house. I was the first editor there, so helped shape the entire webzine, then became the parenting and pregnancy editor. I was also freelancing for other magazines and newspapers. All I know is this: I produced here. I was inspired here. One of my New York colleagues said she didn’t know how I managed to edit nearly 15 freelancers and columnists, write my own articles, do research, read books to review, attend meetings remotely at various times of the day and night and find time to raise my son and freelance for others. But I did. And it seemed effortless. My days flew by. I was in the zone. The vista, over-looking our garden in Notting Hill, didn’t hurt. I’d see pigeons on the trees, neighbors walking dogs, and sometimes, in winter, without the abundance of leaves on the 200-year-old tress, I’d even see the London Wheel. During times of writers block, I’d just stare out the window and after a bit, (now I know I was meditating) it would elevate my consciousness, spark ideas, and lift my thinking to what is possible—and not that of anxiety and fears.

This office space, married with my strict daily routine, fostered the ability to crank out deadline after deadline. Since I’ve moved to Los Angeles, had a baby, got divorced shortly after, I’ve struggled with both my office space and a daily routine. I no longer have a dedicated office space, as I live in a small beach cottage, so the desk is in the den. I still freelance for magazines, companies, and publishing houses. I’ve written two novels. I’m not insane. I’m doing okay. But I haven’t had that dreamy office space and I struggle with a strict daily routine. I’m trying to re-create it as best as I can. But I tend to write in my bed, here. I like the privacy and being away from a frisky kitty, but it’s a horrible place to write! I have papers strewn everywhere. There is no white board or desk calendar. The den desk in Los Angeles is tight and I have to deal with my boys and my hyper kitten. I spent quite a bit of money to turn my one-car garage into an office, but it has termites and black widows and is scary. It’s not my perfect space. Yet, how much does it really matter? Didn’t I create from coffee shops and libraries when in New York?

 

While feeling frustrated about the situation, I recently re-read Bird by Bird, by Anne Lamott and The War of Art, by Steven Pressfield (These are must reads if you are a writer!) Both authors have amazing advice. Anne is humorous and I adore her candor and wit. Steven gives staggeringly revealing advice about the physics of fear. With that said, both agree writers over think it. We just need to write, wherever we can, every day. Yup. Create that daily habit and, as Steven said: “Put your ass where your heart wants to be.”

“If you want to write, plant your backside in front of the typewriter. Don’t get up from the chair, no matter how many brilliantly-plausible reasons your Resistance-churning brain presents to you. Sooner or later your fingers will settle onto the keys. Not long after that, I promise, the goddess will slip invisibly but powerfully into the room. That’s the trick. There’s nothing more to it.”

Although I miss having a designated office to write in, I will get my ass in the chair, not write in bed. (Even on days when I have autoimmune flare-ups). And, I will imagine that I am still a full-time editor at a publishing house, on daily deadlines, only taking breaks for the occasional yoga class that I teach or for a beach walk to garner inspiration from the Pacific.

I may no longer have the vista across London, but I can create that space in my mind— that feeling of expansion—and give thanks for this moment, this reality that flows with my words as I channel gratitude, guides, characters, universal angst onto the keys and into my next novel. And it all starts with simply putting my ass in the chair.

L xo

Embracing the Divine Feminine within a #metoo & Hookup World

athena

Can we as women embrace the divine feminine within, while also demand to be taken seriously as an intellectual equal of strength and character? Most of my female friends will say, “Hell yes.” But I’m not so sure that my male friends will agree (amongst each other). A woman in a bikini who looks sexy, is also a person who may write articles for the New York Times, or creates legal briefs, or who rocks a baby to sleep. She is a person of infinite depth and has found a way to embrace her health, vitality and beauty, without negating her intellect, strength, and roles within family and society. It’s a delicate balancing act. Just because we want to be taken seriously, doesn’t mean we have to hide our beauty. It is not our fault that desire creates a beast within some men. That’s like saying a girl deserved to be raped if she wore a short skirt. Yet, somehow, I still feel that it is our duty, as women, not to feed that beast and to refrain from behavior that spurs affairs and/or abuse.

 

I’ve been thinking a lot about this. It is wonderful to feel sexy, healthy, vital, energetic—at any age. I also know that whenever I post a picture in a sexy yoga pose, the men who ‘like’ the picture aren’t necessarily reading the Rumi quote or noting my yoga class schedule below it. Right? Women feed into the objectification that is rampant. We do. But that doesn’t mean we deserve to be lied to, cheated on, manipulated, or God forbid, drugged and date-raped. There’s a huge leap in the male thinking brain from: she’s hot, to: I can, and am entitled, to use her as a physical toy and throw her away after. A good friend of mine told me yesterday that her first date after her divorce resulted in being rooffied. She woke up in her ‘date’s bed, not remembering a thing. She had only had one glass of wine at the restaurant. LORD. She’s in her fifties. This sort of thing happened a lot during my college years and my graduate school years in New York. I heard stories from friends often and I once ended up in the hospital after someone roofied me. Luckily, I wasn’t raped, but I passed out, hit my head in a restaurant bathroom and the cops were called.

I am taking a big sigh as I write this.

Have we not evolved?

I want my nieces to grow up into strong, self-confident, independent women who unabashedly embrace their sense of beauty and vitality. Just because many men want to hook up and treat beautiful women like objects, doesn’t mean we have to hide and cover up either. We just need to be smart, stay alert, and not drink during first dates or put ourselves knowingly into harms way. (See my interview  with Pat Allen, relationship expert, best-selling author of Getting to I DO and expert on Millionaire Matchmaker)

 

Pat, who was actually my therapist during my ex-husband’s affair, has been saying for years, what DeVon Franklin re-iterates in his new book The Truth About Men. That is, that men are not wired for monogamy. They have a lust problem. Not all men cheat, clearly, but all wrestle with desire, even when in love with their wives. Their lust struggle doesn’t go away. DeVon refers to male lust as “the Dog.” And in his book, lust is about power, as much as it is about female conquest. If a man can commit to his profession full-heartedly, he can commit to a woman and family, he explains. Society and the lack of good male or father figure role models, makes is easy for successful men, especially, to not look in the mirror and to continue to indulge the dog, even within committed relationships. An interesting side-note, men who cheat, according to DeVon, are those who were abandoned by fathers or had poor relationships with fathers. Women who cheat, however, typically have put up with too much abuse or neglect and leave a relationship. Men who cheat, are often not in bad relationships at all. Hmmm…So how, as women, do we navigate that one or the fear that it instills when we begin a new relationship?

 

Well, I don’t have an answer. I do know that really good men cheat and feel horrible about it after. But it breaks my heart when women, who have been cheated on, or lied to, ghosted, or made to feel lesser than by a man in their life, take it personally, by thinking they somehow aren’t worthy, deserving, or sexy, etc. And some men, justifying their bad treatment of women, can say horrible things. I know. I heard them, to the point that I believed that I wasn’t sexy or beautiful during my divorce. Yoga and my yoga trainings saved me and helped me to embrace my physicality as well as my spirituality and get back into my writing. I shifted gears and stopped worrying about what was said or done. I’ve since let that shit go. I don’t need to prove anything, but I do want to feel good for myself and remain vital, healthy, so I can be a strong single mom for my boys.

I adore Reese Witherspoon, my fellow southerner, who is strong, and beautiful and calls into question just what a powerful businesswoman is supposed to look like. When I was in college I heard a lot folks saying I was the character from Legally Blond. I covered the legal beat at the Red and Black newspaper at the University of Georgia. I was in a sorority, had long blond hair, wore make up, yet still wrote essays and interviewed supreme court judges for public radio and slept on the streets with the homeless during campaigns to effect change. Why not? What rules in society exist that stipulates that in order to be strong, intelligent and successful as a woman, you can’t wear sundresses, or make up? Or be sexy, and spiritual for that matter. Honestly.

This is what I want to say to my adorable nieces, and to my boys who I pray grow into men of character: respect the light within each person you encounter. If you treat others with dignity—and that means yourself as well—you will hopefully, never be in a situation that makes you feel less then, entitled to take advantage, or used. Communicate honestly, girls, by asking the man in your life what his intentions are. Don’t assume he’s committed. Don’t drink too much and put yourself into sticky situations where others can gain control. And, boys, if you see or hear something, like a fraternity brother bragging about date raping, or drugging a girl, stand up, like a man with character, and turn him in or challenge him. Think of your beautiful cousins and the daughters you may have one day. And don’t drink too much, as that can entitle the dog to bark, as DeVon says.

Friends, chime in. What are your thoughts?

Love & Light,
Laura x

Yoga for Writers Workshops

 

Forgive the ‘you knows’! Clearly, this was a one take job, lol. I’m a writer for a reason. I’ll need to practice before public speaking! California writers, for more information about my yoga for writers workshops held monthly, please send me a note. In these workshops, we do not read from our material, nor do we critique each other’s work. We start with a 30 minute gentle, non-heated flow that incorporates kundalini, hatha, breath work—all at a beginner level—designed to let go of fear and to level our energies so we can talk together more productively. We can then share tips regarding pitch letters, queries, proposals, synopsis writing, contests, agent responses (or rejections, part of life) and strategies to find time to write every day—especially important for those of us who have children and busy day jobs. We come together for support. IF two people connect and want to review each others writing, they can swap emails after. Workshop costs cover the rental fee for the studio, btw, so typically $15/each. Email me for more information: laura.roe.stevens@gmail.com.

 

Have a blessed day! Laura

Jodi Picoult’s Occult Mystery

Occult: adj: “of involving, or relating to supernatural, mystical, or magical powers or phenomena.”

 

Jodi Picoult’s 23rd novel Leaving Time, is surprisingly so much more than a moving saga about grief, loss of a mother, and the wonderful world of elephants. I just finished reading this nearly over-whelming book, even as her next block buster debut’s this week. Leaving Time has haunted me for a week since I completed it. Not just because it confirms what I’ve always considered: that elephants live more dignified, loving lives within families who protect and support one another. Or that love lasts beyond time and space, so when we lose someone we love, the love survives. But what intrigues me most, as a writer, is how Jodi interweaved the occult within the fabric of this mystery in a way that slips the unassuming reader—the reader who would not normally read a book with paranormal aspects—into the thick of the drama. Not until the very end do we learn that two of the main characters are, in fact, dead and were the entire manuscript. We are left questioning the dimension in which they lived, one where the dead continue living a bustling life which contains a world with school, family, binging, boozy nights, dating, money problems, work issues, rent to be paid, etc. It’s a dimension where it’s possible they (and everyone within it) don’t realize they are dead, and they don’t have all the answers, nor the ability to find the people they love. The notion that we die and all the answers are revealed, is turned on its head. The common held belief that our dead loved ones are a thought away, is also dismissed, as 13-year-old Jenna, the main character, searches for her mother Alice Metcalf, a scientist who studies elephant behavior. Jenna hires a broke, formerly-famous psychic named Serenity, and a washed-up, pessimistic, alcoholic detective, Virgil, to help her find Alice. In the end, we learn that Virgil and Jenna are both dead (as well as everyone else they connected with, such as Jenna’s grandmother, a policeman, a lab assistant). Yet, they all seemed to lead vibrant lives with other people in them, bars to go to, cars to drive, policemen to talk with, school teachers, clients, landlords, etc. But apparently their world must lie on another plane of reality, like fine line of ice below the surface of our perception, that somehow, Serenity can see. But even Serenity doesn’t realize Jenna and Virgil aren’t alive, until the very end.

 

Most of Jodi’s interviews about Leaving Time concern the plight of elephants, how they grieve, and how wonderful a metaphor their ability to grieve, is, to her then first empty nest at home. She doesn’t say what motivated her to create such a walloping metaphysical surprise at the end. Stories of the elephants are woven into the book via Alice Metcalf’s notes, that Jenna reads. Alice is a researcher who has lived in Africa, as well as on a New England sanctuary with her husband and then three-year-old daughter Jenna, when she disappeared after a tragic accident leaving one person dead and one mentally insane. Jenna, who was three at the time of the accident, can’t remember what happened and had to be raised by her stoic grandmother. This story alone, is compelling enough to be a best-seller with all the ups and downs of who actually got killed and who slipped away and why. And the glimpse into the world of the elephants and how they are tragically being hurt by poachers, is critical for the world to understand. See this video for example.

What I find ultimately puzzling, is how Jodi manages to pull together so many subplots and themes into one novel, without losing me at any turn. She tackles the occult and afterlife, the plight of elephants, a murder, mental illness, spousal abuse, infidelity, suicide, mother-daughter and grandmother friction, the struggle to follow ones dreams as a mother, and a daughter’s unfailing love for her mother, and the huge emotional and unbearable loss a child endures when a parent abandons them.

It’s a beautiful novel. It’s powerful. It’s unlike any other I have read. Jodi Picoult is only getting better with each novel. You need to read it.

And with a side note to my fellow writers, isn’t it remarkable to think that Jodi Picoult, New York Times best selling author (whose last nine novels debuted number one on this prestigious list) was rejected by 100 agents before one believed in her?

Keep going my friends. And read her book for inspiration!

Kitty CRAZY!

GreeceJames

This picture is what started it all. Last summer, my James fell in love with a calico cat who visited us in our barn in Greece during my yoga & writers retreat. She chased grasshoppers and shooed away spiders and bees and purred and snuggled and was just adorable. But what I failed to realize, is that she was a cat, not a calico kitten. So…seeing that my son was in need of more unconditional love around the house after our move, I adopted a calico kitten that looks much like our beloved Greek cat. A yoga student, who had seen this picture, called me and proclaimed it was destiny, we had to have this look-a-like kitten. While my boys were with their dad this August, I adopted this little one. But the stars weren’t exactly aligned with this one. Just my luck. Who knew something so cute could end up more like the bunny from hell in Monty Python?!

kitty

Don’t let her cuteness fool you. Sweet, adorable Tabitha, my crazed arch-nemesis! Notice her collar? She’s had this for three weeks due to an infected paw that won’t heal. This hyper diaper high energy gal climbs window screens, tearing them and re-infecting her paw, even after two shots of antibiotics, one round of pills and three different lotion medications. She’s managed to find ways to rip mattresses open from underneath, climbing up inside them and clawing at the coils. A master of untangling woven baskets, and a natural at flying directly up to the top of our refrigerator, only to fly out across our kitchen, as if by hang-glider, landing anywhere: on a lit stove burner, countertops with bowls of prepared food, you name it, she lands on it. Yup, she’s certifiable. And it’s not like she doesn’t have toys. So many, my den resembles a pet shop. But she prefers ‘other’ ways to get her energy out. Like tackling and scratching my ankles the moment I walk into my house—biting my calves deeply as I try to shake her off. In rare sleepy moments where she resembles past kittens of mine who like to snuggle, if I make the mistake of picking her up, she often bites my cheek or chin, so deeply, a few of my students wondered if I had had surgery for skin cancer. I’m not kidding.

For the love of my son, I mentally tell myself: “it’s only a flesh wound.” My youngest adores her. Tabitha sleeps in his bunk bed and even when she scratches or bites him, James still loves her and reminds everyone that she doesn’t mean it, it’s just instinctual. Well, I grew up with cats and I know for a fact that not all kittens are like this. But I just nod to him and wonder what I did to adopt a crazed animal like this who injects stress and frustration and high frequency energy into my house. During the day when I write, I lock myself into my room, not allowing her in, and lock all the bedroom doors and bathroom door so she can’t reek havoc.

Just when I’ve had it and am considering giving this expensive kitten away (four visits to the vet already for her damn paw!) James crept up behind me last week, put him arms around my waist and said: “Thank you SO much for Tabitha! She’s the best gift I’ve ever received. I just love her.”

Geez, well I can’t give the devil cat away now, can I? So, what can I do? Every time I scoop her poop or swat her away from our dinner table, after she’s thrust a dirty paw into my meal, I bite my lip and swallow down the strong urge to pick this little urchin up and throw her into the next door neighbor’s yard with a doberman pincher. Lets just pray that I make it sanely to next year, when the Vet insists that she’ll finally “chill out.”

Sigh. What I do for my children.

Creating Powerful Characters

So I’m writing my next novel right now. And it’s what agents would call plot heavy. Anyone who loves a good mystery or action story, doesn’t mind that. Yet all the agents I’ve been talking with say they are seeking that magical character.

“I want to connect deeply with the main characters,” one said. Another said, when describing why she turned down a well-written manuscript: “I loved the detail and plot, but I just didn’t bond with the main characters like I wanted to.”

So, what makes people bond/connect with main characters? Think about the characters that you have fallen in love with over the years. What was it about them? Why did you keep reading and then miss them after the novel was over? I’m on a journey to discover what makes us bond with a character. As I was listening to my 16-year-old get ready for school at 6 a.m. this morning, it dawned on me: we all want to hang out with someone who makes us laugh, is entertaining, lightens us up, yet is still tackling major life issues. My 16-year-old, who happens to be sick, still woke up, like he always does, humming. He puts on a playlist, of a lot of 70s music, country, rap, 80s, you name it, and jammed as he prepared for another day. He always has a girl friend offer to pick him up and take him to school. Why? Because he’s the kind of guy who will make you laugh, says insightful things, is smart without being snarky or stuck up and is charming. He’s the kind of guy that will start your day off well and who puts you in a better frame of mind. And he’s constantly joking around, giving ridiculous birthday gifts to friends, like a bidet (french water spout toilet seat) that he gave to a friend who is anal and part Japanese (as Japanese love bidets). He’s silly, yet insanely smart, confident: plays violin and soccer and could care less what ‘hip’ kids think of that. And he’s stylish in his own way, not following surfer trends here in Southern California, but more dapper, like a Londoner or New Yorker. He stands out. Yet he misses his dad insanely and doesn’t understand why he left nine years ago or why his dad lives abroad and chooses to be out of touch, not engaged in William’s day-to-day life. Yet William chooses to be happy, while also not partying or throwing himself into drugs or alcohol, as he’s determined to get a scholarship to college. Maybe, just maybe, my son would make for a great main character—someone the reader would want to pick up and have ride with them on their way to work, so to speak.

I’m re-reading Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird, such a great writing advice book that is insanely funny and helping me to not take my writing life, and the tedious task of getting published traditionally, so seriously. She compared the creation of a good character to that of picking a good friend. With good friends, you’d “ride with them to the dump just to be with them.” Boring friends, on the other hand, (I’m paraphrasing here) could offer to take you to a show and a five-star restaurant, and you’d rather stay home and wash your cat.

And that’s it. Plot really doesn’t matter so much, which is putting me in a quandary with Orbiting Jupiter, my next novel. It is a mystery and is plot heavy and I’m not sure my main character is someone I would ride to the dump with, just to keep talking to. I mean, she’s going through a lot and is on the verge of a nervous breakdown that any woman who has been cheated on repeatedly can relate with. She’s also lovable and kind and artistic, but these are attributes that feel like labels on a name tag. I mean, can she make me laugh? Does she laugh at herself? Is there some quality about her that is so priceless and unique that her friends would be shattered by a life without her? If I’m honest, not yet. She needs to marinate more.

With the development of compelling characters, Anne Lamott says to look at the closest people in your life, or the ones that draw you in, and observe what it is about them that attracts you or is lovable. For me, someone has to make me laugh, help me not take myself so seriously, (while also not poo-pooing my feelings). A person who is tackling their own demons with dignity, or who, upon closer inspection, is more conscious and aware then people would assume, as he/she is humble and not self righteous, pious, or one of those over-the-top spiritual people who seem like they are trying to impersonate Buddha or Jesus himself.

It’s laughter and the ability to be aware and conscious, yet also see through bullshit that usually pulls me in. I once had a lover look at my new tattoo, for instance, and ask what it meant (It’s Japanese). I said “Don’t give up on Life” in a serious, quiet voice. He replied, “It probably means ‘I shop at Vons’ but you just don’t know it.” I laughed so hard at myself afterwards and wanted to see him again. See what I mean?

My sister Sarah is another person that I love with an intensity that I can’t explain rationally. She is insanely lovable to many people, yet can’t see her own light as she battles many demons. I used to wonder why she always attracts men like flies to honey (I know, a competitive little sister thought) but even now, at 53, she has 25-year-olds asking her out! She always has, even when she finds herself in the darkest of places. I think it’s because of her raw honestly, combined with an ability to laugh at herself and others—and her surprising kindness, that can make a person stop and fall to their knees feeling unworthy or ashamed of their own selfishness. With half moon dimples, crystal blue eyes, a horsish, rough chuckle that erupts into a brook that bubbles over, Sarah is just plain fun to be around. She is humming, singing all the time, even when sad, usually Janis Joplin or older country that only she can land perfectly. She also creates art that is breathtaking with sea shells or tiles, like tile sunflowers that somehow seem to move in the light. And when she’s not laughing, or singing at a club with either or the two bands she is in, or playing piano or creating art, she’s able to listen to a friend in need and convince them to back off the mental ledge they are getting ready to jump off of. Sarah is someone people trust—she sees issues with clarity, calls people on their shit in a funny way, and then will be there for any of her friends anytime. She’s just plain fun to be around. I recently heard her answer her phone, laugh to a young man who comes to her shows, and say: “I’m onto you buddy. Listen, you just want what you want when you want it and are trying to make me feel like I’m lucky to have you because I’m older. But you’re the one calling me. Hey, you want to hear a line from the song I’m writing?”

Once when I was with her, on a particularly hard day, (as she is struggling financially and recovering from addiction and depression), she walked up to a homeless woman who had two children beside her and gave this woman a big hug. “You needed that didn’t you?” she said laughing and looking directly into her eyes before giving this woman $5. Sarah bent down and looked at the art the children were making and asked what they were drawing and if they needed more crayons.

As we walked back to the car Sarah said, “I fucking hate people who walk by homeless women like they are lazy or don’t exist. How can people be so cold?”

That’s Sarah. And that’s why the more you get to know her, the more you want to know her, as she inspires you to be more compassionate, thoughtful, creative, and to be honest about your own bullshit and to laugh a little about it. She’s one of the best people I know on this Earth. If she doesn’t succeed in fighting her demons a part of me will die. And that’s the truth.

None of my characters are as compelling as Sarah or William. I’m not planning on putting them into my novels, but they serve as examples of people/characters readers would follow anywhere—even to the dump.

Now Lucy, my main character of Orbiting Jupiter, the novel I’m working on, is not quite there. I’m on the fence about her, which has me stuck in the process of continuing with the novel. Lucy needs to percolate more. I need to see more of what makes her tick and why I should give a shit that her husband cheated. Sorrow and pain and sympathy aren’t enough reasons to fall in love with a person. And maybe that’s why Lucy snaps and takes on another persona? Her alter ego is someone who can make any man stand up, pay attention, laugh and fawn after. I just need to be sure I can captivate the readers long enough with Lucy, until she turns into the more provocative and entertaining Jupiter. There are a lot of pages to read before she makes this transition, and if readers don’t like Lucy, they won’t want to trudge along with her, even throughout the gorgeous backdrop of Hawaii.

So I’m going back to the drawing board, back to the beginning, to discover and develop any qualities in Lucy that would make her feel like the type of friend I would feel lucky to follow anywhere.

Fellow writers, any of you go through this? I’m on the verge of starting this novel over, or throwing it out! I won’t trash it just yet, but am on the verge, lol.

 

 

The Light We Lost: Cosmic Connection? Or Addiction?

The Light We Lost is a must read for all my girlfriends—single or married. Please, all of you, read this book. Jill Santopolo dives into the age-old question: “Why do I love him so much?” She explores why a woman could love one man passionately, insanely, recklessly—and continue to think of him for more than a decade—granting second chances, friendship and compassion—when he had the potential to crush her. Even after he had left her, broke her heart, called only when depressed, and behaved selfishly for years—she always allowed him back in. WHY?

I adore The Light We Lost for so many reasons. Jill is honest in how she portrays Lucy’s weakness for Gabe, who had, and would always, put his needs before hers—whether that be his career or his work out. Even when they lived together, he had major issues. He was secretive to the point of finding a job and arranging to move without telling her; flirty with other women; and not attentive to her feelings when at parties. He was confusing. Gabe proclaimed Lucy was his light, his muse and professed an undying love for her—yet Lucy never met his mother, whom he adored. You get the idea. But Lucy loved Gabe with an unapologetic intensity that she couldn’t control. She loved him more and more over the years—even while married to her stable, successful, happy and loving husband, whose only real crimes seemed to be planning trips to Paris and buying a dog and a beach house, all as surprises for her. 

One could argue that Jill Santopolo’s debut novel romanticized the obsession many women have with the lovable, yet commitment phobic, unobtainable guy. Others may think she romanticized a woman’s longing for heat, lust, good sex with a bad boy, or an exciting and intriguing man. (Gabe took photos for the Associated Press in war regions.) But that’s not a comprehensive answer. I think Lucy’s inability to let Gabe go was rooted deeply in her need not to become her mother and to be seen, heard and respected. Gabe had his faults, but he also listened to, and encouraged Lucy, in all her dreams and career aspirations. Lucy’s husband Darren referred to her career as “cute” and asked for her to stay home with their baby instead of going back to work, using manipulative phrases like: “Don’t you want to stay home? Who else would take as good care of her?” Gabe would never do that, she had mused. Yet Gabe would also be gone for months on end while on the front lines in wars. He wasn’t the logical man to have a child with. And Lucy knew this. Yet she always picked up the phone when he called, even on her wedding day. She became intimate emotionally within the first breath, focussing on whatever His emergency was, whatever His pain was. She raced to see him whenever he was back in New York, even after she was married. It was a risky choice that put the intimacy with her husband at risk.

This book will snare you in, dear girlfriends, from the moment she and Gabe discuss their dreams during their first college date on 9-11. As you read how interested Gabe is in her need to make a difference, to help children all over the world, you’ll wish you had a man like him to talk with. The scenes of him reading her scripts, or helping her form ideas for her children’s TV show, will make you jealous. He cared, and was involved, committed to supporting her success. He was into her: her dreams, her ideas, her thoughts. The two inspired each other to be more, and to keep striving to make a difference. That’s heady stuff. As life chugs along with adulting choices that often require compromises, many women, especially moms, get lost. Lucy wanted to keep that determined, savvy, creative part of herself that Gabe always saw. She missed being able to talk with him about new show ideas. Her husband didn’t care about her job at all.

The fact that Gabe was also hot, romantic, overly sexual, unavailable for long-term commitments, yet still needed her, and her alone, during every crisis—was like crack to Lucy. Add the detail that Gabe was a wounded soul from an abusive father, and now you’ve combined crack with heroine for just about any woman.

This book will help you, my girlfriends, see your own obsessions, co-dependent tendencies and any man who became like a drug for you. I doubt there are real Gabes on this planet—yet there are men who have some of his alluring qualities: the artist; the romantic; the compassionate; the wounded; the leaver, the commitment phobic, yet emotionally intimate; the secretive; the dynamic; the listener; the supporter; the sexual dynamo; the wanderer; the brave; the Shakespeare quoter, you get the idea. He had so many hooks for Lucy, but think back and notice which similar hook was within the one you couldn’t say no to. The one you betrayed your self respect for by taking back again and again due to your irrational love that you    just    could    NOT      LET      GO.

Maybe you’re still fighting the temptation? Maybe he’s the one you could take back again, because you just don’t understand why you love him so. Even after he has hurt you time and time again and shown an inability to respect, love or be available for you, a part of you wants him back, right? It’s not explainable. The idea of never smelling him again or hearing the sound of his whisper in your ear, or his hand on your low back is excruciating, isn’t it? Maybe it’s romantic. Maybe he’s your soul mate or husband from another life time. I’m sure you think the connection is cosmic.

But maybe, just maybe, he’s an addiction.

Read her book, girlfriends. And tell me what you came up with! 🙂

L. xo