Archive | September 2013

Advice? You Want My Advice?

No, seriously: someone left me a comment (and I accidentally deleted it. I cannot apologize enough) who asked me what advice I would give a “newbie.”

Really? You’re asking me? Wow. Usually, I get “shut the hell up.”

diana nyad

Let’s go to my girl, Diana Nyad.

Over 35 years, she has tried to swim from Cuba to Florida. She has been defeated by seasickness, jellyfish, and tides in the past.

Not this time. She made it. No shark cage.

never give up

There’s the biggest, baddest best piece of advice I have to offer.


dory just keep

Just Keep Swimming video

They were amused over at Diana Nyad’s Facebook page when I posted that video on there.

In my case, I wrote my book 12 years ago. I sent it out to 20 publishers and literary agents. All passed. I went back, rewrote a few things, deleted a few more, resubmitted, got rejected some more. BUT, the speed of technology change that makes your nifty swell smartphone obsolete as soon as you sign the two-year contract worked in my favor: e-books were invented. Print on demand got affordable (actually FREE if you don’t buy all the add-ons). Amazon started to court independent authors with Create Space.  Facebook, Goodreads,  and Twitter were invented so that an author could get the word out about a book without requiring a publishing house’s help in marketing (BTW, I have an ace up my sleeve in terms of an outstanding design team for things like cover art, promotional materials and even re-arranging my business cards with an annoyed sigh. Cover art grabs, Newbie. If you have a high school or college nearby with a graphic arts program, they may be able to help you out for low or no price) . I’ve even done a book signing: I rented space at an art gallery. I picked up a Square credit card reader for my smartphone so that I can take card payments (and the fact that I could prompted some impulse buys). These advances have made it possible for an independent little team (I have an editor,  a business advisor, and a legal/design team) to publish books. I kept swimming.


aka “See Rule Number One”

So why did you sit down with an idea, copious amounts of coffee (or Diet Coke. Or Red Bull), and perhaps a pad full of scribbled notes? Why did you stay up waaaaay past your bedtime because you had to “get this down because they’re talking to me and I don’t want to forget this” (When characters start doing and saying things without your authorization, you are on the right track, my friend)? Why do you periodically get up, walk around and talk to yourself because you’re trying out dialogue (Yes, I do this)?

When I find myself thinking “Aw, Man, this is just too hard” I remember that Jane Austen, the Brontes, and Tolstoy didn’t have typewriters, let alone  a laptop, Word, and a backspace key (my favorite friggin’ key. Delete, delete, delete). Hell, Tolstoy wrote War and Peace in longhand and that thing’s the size of… War and Peace. He was an obsessive re-writer and I’ve heard that his editor had to engage in tug of war to get his manuscripts from him. Nine drafts. Of War and Peace. And I want to whine over 100,000 words. I’ll shut up.

write for yourself

You are your first audience. Eventually, if you please that audience, others will join it.

Don’t worry about what’s selling, what other people might think; that’s how we start getting cookie cutter culture. Harry Potter was rejected all over Creation but once he was a hit, then we got wizards and extraordinary teens doing supernatural things (like Percy Jackson or the Mortal Instruments gang). “Twilight” hit and we now find our culture up to our necks in vampires. Your story about a hedgehog that becomes Donald Trump’s hairpiece could be the cause of another cultural fad.

TR on critics

I’ve found a lot of critics who will happily tell you what to do and how to do it (and especially what you’re doing wrong), but lack the sand to undertake your project themselves.

(Mamas: time to cover your kids’ eyes. yeah sure, like they’re reading this)

Fuck ’em. I’m part of the Author’s Forum on Goodreads and someone posted the topic “Why Do We Write?” I forget what I wrote. I know in one response, I quoted the following:

why i write

Someone decided he didn’t like my answer and replied with “Why not write for God’s glory?”

Newbie, should your story about the ambitious hedgehog run into similar critics, cordially invite them to “write your own damned story.” Do it with a smile.

The bottom line, Newbie?

1) Never give up

2)Write to please yourself

3) Be fearless

4) Never give up

And one of my favorite all-time quotes from Henry David Thoreau:


I wish you the very best. Now, go write.

The “String Along” Theory

Physics has the String Theory:

string theory

Well, that’s not quite it.

string theory

That’s more like it. In a nutshell, Any of various theories in physics hypothesizing that space-time has more than four dimensions, and that some of the dimensions are exceedingly small and stringlike in shape.

In interpersonal relationships, there is the “String  Along” Theory or how users and controllers keep their hold on people.

“If you’ll ___________ for me, I’ll ____________ for you.”  The reciprocal ___________ doesn’t happen.

“Yeah, honest, anytime you want to go, just say the word. Oh. No not that weekend. Or that one. You know, let me get back to you.”

“You get this one, I’ll get the next time.” Yet, the next time comes around and….”Oh, hey, can you get this one?” and we hop right back on the Merry-Go-Round.

gullibility test

More than a few people will size us up along these lines.

You know a least a few of these people. I’ll cal them the Big Talkers and Slow Walkers (not in the “Walking Dead” sense. Can NOT watch that show. Nope, nope, nope). Promises made and never kept. They get what they want. Sometimes, you never hear from them again (depends on whether they will want something more down the line).  And the times when you need a favor…nowhere to be found.

Another term: User.

Got a friend or an ex-friend who makes tons of promises and never keeps them? (If you want to be a little more optimistic, this is “operational truth” – they meant it at the time they said it. The pessimistic version? Manipulation, lying. Shitweasel) Does he/she first approach you with flattery, tons of attention, gifts, wine and dine, even. Then, the control begins to set in. The flattery gives way to lies. The attention to criticism, The gifts and  wining and dining? “Why don’t you pick up the tab? Well, look at all I did/spend for you.” In some situations, when the lying and manipulation start to fail, assault and battery take over. Yes. I have described domestic abuse.  “Don’t make me do this to you.”

Oh, right: They’re made of Teflon. Anything that happens to them, any hurt (emotional, financial) done to another person is always, always, always “not their fault.” Whether a lie or self-delusion doesn’t matter.  Here’s a warming sign: if you’re listening to someone talk about interpersonal difficulties and that person is NEVER at fault or the other side of the dispute is always an asshole; there is an attempted manipulation in progress. Time for your shark repellent. Your sympathy is being pulled at to pull you into line. You have been chosen as the next victim.


A friend was describing a run-in she’d had with a Big Talker/Slow Walker. The Big Talker/Slow Walker used a tale of woe to lure in her prey; illness, family issues, financial woes prior bad treatment by friends; none of it her fault. Being a kindly soul, she offered emotional support, comfort, more than a few dinners paid for.

Then, things started to shift. If the two “friends” went somewhere together, the BT/SW claimed she’d get car sick if she wasn’t driving. And she was an aggressive, angry, frightening driver. Instead of “Come With,” the trip turned into whatever the BT/SW wanted it to be. She also used the “no escape” situation to reel off a list of criticisms. And when told to “knock it off,” responded with “I’ll just leave you out here.”

My friend hadn’t gotten a pedicure in a while because her cash flow was tight and she had higher priorities. The BT/SW kept offering to give my friend a pedicure, which seemed creepy and weird. However, my friend realized that the BT/SW didn’t have a foot fetish so much as she didn’t like the way my friend’s feet looked with the aged and chipped nail polish.  Control.

For a proposed party that had nothing to do with the BT/SW, my friend had an idea of what she wanted. The BT/SW began to plan a menu and games and shitload of stuff the woman whose party it was DIDN’T FUCKING WANT. BT/SW got pissy and sulky. By the way, all the promised food that was going to be prepared? Never happened. Partly because there was a falling out before the party, but the BT/SW had no intention of following through. She just made the promises.

Of course, the aforementioned falling out is now fodder for the “woe is me” story used to hook the next victim. And BT/SW has the lines in the water.

The commodity desired by the BT/SW in the previous example was control. (She has a network going and as I’m hearing second-hand, it’s beginning to blow up on her. Why? People are smartening up and getting tired of her shit).

If you suspect you’re on the losing end of a user relationship, test it. When the big promises are made, call the bluff. “I can get you into _____ any time you want.” Set a date. If you’ve been paying for shared activities, keep your wallet in your pocket when the bill comes. When the take of woe is being told in a one-sided fashion, start challenging details. If you KNOW you’re being fed a heaping spoonful of bullshit, expose it.

penguin friends

Deeds, not words.

I have a group of friends who have helped me out tremendously, sometimes just by listening. I have helped them out with listening, moving, making/bringing food to an event, waited in a hospital while they had surgery, helped talk them down from an agitated state, even emergency baby-sitting (ONCE). Who steps up in your life? Who DO you (not would you, but DO you) step up for? THOSE are your friends, not the BT/SWs who vanish when there’s the slightest problem or when there’s heavy lifting to be done (literally and figuratively).

move body


Let Me Do This My Way

My mother died on September 8, 2013. Even if you know the whole story, let me give you the three crucial words: My. Mother. Died.

There are some out in the world who are going to be tempted to jump on me because the relationship has been fractured for the past few years (and if you don’t already know why, you don’t get to hear the story. Sorry, but that’s just the way it is) and they want to censor/silence me.  To them: Fuck you. She was my mother. I get to mourn and express myself in my own way. If you don’t like it, go see a therapist. And if you don’t like that answer: fuck yourself, you sniveling narcissist who probably needs a therapist AND medication.

My mother was Priscilla Tillson Thatcher. She was an Aries, a Mayflower descendant, Red Sox fan (who held a grudge against her husband for ‘disappearing” a Ted Williams autograph she got at Edaville Railroad as a child), Massachusetts native, married for 55 years to Clifford R. Thatcher, Jr., mother of 4 children (And her favorite expressions were “Insanity is hereditary. You get it from your kids.” and “I wish the Pill was retroactive”) grandmother of 5 (she liked them better. She didn’t have to raise them), an artist, a fan of cashews, the combination of chocolate and raspberry, cashews, macadamias, pecan (pe-CAHNS), NO black olives, apples and cheddar cheese as a snack, carousel horses, black licorice, cashews , and one of Robert Redford’s biggest fans, and loved garbanzo beans, orange cats, “The King and I”, “The Way We Were,” the Beatles, and Frank Sinatra (I heard “September Song” until I was damned near suicidal when I was 6. I later gave her the CD with the stipulation, “Do not EVER play this in my presence”). When making spaghetti sauce, the two of us would hover over the garlic press and inhale like a couple of cokeheads getting a fix. She hated winter (it’s where I learned it) and once the kids were out of the house, would flee to warmer climates from November until it was safe to come back (after Mother’s Day).

Mom and Me, 1988

This is the 2 of us in 1988. I’m on the left.

If you’ve read These Foolish Things, she is not Delia. NO. Delia was a helluva lot colder towards her only child. I was one of four.

Understand: when I was little (we’re talking pre-school), she was my best friend. I remember holding our cat, Ralph (who objected because I clocked him with a hairbrush when I was 18 months old. I do not remember this incident) and having her sketch a picture. I vaguely remember seeing the sketch years ago but not since. She may have destroyed it.

For her love of carousel horses, I made this for Christmas one year:

Carousel crosstitch

That’s about 4 months worth of work and includes cat fur from Vicki, my Seal Point Himalayan, who insisted on being on my shoulder while I stitched.

Vicki Pillow Princess

Vicki. She liked Vicki.

shell crosstitch by SPT

That’s my Dad, Clifford R. Thatcher, Jr. I’m like  him. It was something she noted when I exasperated her. “You’re just like your father!”( And that’s a bad thing? BTW, I GOT Dwight Evans’ autograph for her – had to help him spell “Priscilla”- instead of making a Ted Williams disappear. Take that, DAD!)

When the MFA (Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, for those who don’t recognize the initials) had a special exhibition of Winslow Homer, I made her talk to me about those pictures. She studied him and John Singer Sargent as an art student at the Massachusetts School of Art. I do not remember her replies, but while the other members of the party drifted off, I got a guided tour from someone who knew the work intimately.

I have been to two games between the Red Sox and the Yankees (both at Fenway). At one of them (1985-1986), she was yelling at Dave Winfield so loudly, he heard her. We are Red Sox.

I do not have pictures available for this post of our miniature Schnauzers. There is a picture of Mom, 7 months pregnant, with Lily, the puppy my dad had to have, in her lap.  The expression on her face is “Yup. Gonna have to kill him.” Lily’s son, Max, was Mom’s biggest fan.


I’m happy to think this is happening with Max. It’s been 29 years.

She used to look at him and say, “You are my favorite baby. You are the best child I ever raised.” Meanwhile, his actual mother would be sitting in an armchair that she’d conned me out of with a “WTF? That was ME giving birth to him and 6 siblings in the kitchen, not you.”

She had a remarkable sense of humor that would manifest itself in memorable ways. A Christmas gift of a back saver shovel (funky design that shifted the effort) was disguised as a reindeer with wrapping paper tubes for legs. One year,  I gave my brother-in-law, Mike (now ex-brother-in-law) a Costco bottle of pepperoncini one year. With a pink pillow case, she helped me turn it into a pig. One Christmas, my father was given a Christmas gift and a card with instructions to “Open first.” The card read something like, “The answer is: In here.” Dad opened the present (a shoebox) and found it filled with inexpensive flashlights. In the bottom of the shoebox, she’d written, “Jesus Christ, Priscilla! Where in hell are all the goddamn flashlights?”

From her, I learned about Charlotte’s Web, A Girl of the Limberlost, John Singer Sargent, an appreciation of birds (especially wading birds like herons and egrets), and John Michener.

I also learned about loyalty and its potential costs (Again, if you don’t already know the story, tough). You know how kryptonite is toxic to Superman? Little itty bitty piece of his home planet can kill him? Same deal here. The distance was necessary or else I’d be 400 lbs. and/or dead by my own hand. Those with great potential expect it to be realized in others.

Parents and sister

Both parents and one sister in better times.

When my dad retired from the bank to devote his energy to law, she taught herself how to use a computer (this was a woman who had had us call to make dentist appointments and do “professional/business” kinds of phone calls as we grew up). She got to be good enough to work as a legal secretary for Dad.

She is out of her distress and reunited with her husband, her brother and parents, various dogs and cats that loved her throughout her life. After a lengthy drought, she got to see the Red Sox win two World Series championships. She painted pictures not only of children, but grandchildren, Vermont, doorways, sunsets, boats, whatever caught her eye. Her work was sold in art galleries and one painting of fishing boats in North Carolina was made into a lithograph.

Priscilla Thatcher was an artist, a Red Sox fan, a Parrothead, a conservative, a daughter, a sister, a mother, (and you can add “in-law” to all of those).

And now she’s gone.

Scenes From a Book Signing

2013-09-07 18.02.57


The display…

2013-09-07 18.16.30

Not all attendees were human.

2013-09-07 18.16.38

Polly want an autograph?

2013-09-07 18.02.48

Look! I’m signing a book! That I sold! (Maverick, the scarlet macaw, didn’t buy it)


Yup, that’s me. And my book!

So, the first book signing was a success. I will let you know as soon as the next one is scheduled. OR…if you’re in Southern California (Ventura, Los Angeles, Orange, San Bernardino, San Diego, Riverside counties), you can host a book signing party at your home. Hostess gets an autographed copy, we have a meet & greet, maybe a little wine, maybe some cheese. Fun!

I really did it. I wrote a book all the way through (I have a collection of “stubs” in storage). I got it published. Via either e-book or paperback, it’s been distributed to over 1,200 people. It’s getting reviews (not by book critics yet, but people I’ve never met have weighed in on it). I had a book signing and sold copies to total strangers (I’m not much of a salesperson. I deeply dislike getting pressured when I’m shopping and I try to do unto others, you know?).

And this is just the the beginning…