Archive | February 2015

Character Study: Ty Hadley

I am dedicating a series of blog posts to the main characters of my novels “These Foolish Things” and “At Last.” Today’s focus is our leading man, Tyrone Hadley.

Cards on the table: the physical description of Tyrone Hadley (did I give him a middle name? I don’t think so) begins with one George Clooney.


WHEN there is a movie, version, I think he’s got a little too much snow on the roof, but back in 2000, he was fine by me.

Yup. That’s me.
The Tyrone came from a remark his aunt, Rosemary Clooney, made the first time People made him Sexiest Man Alive. I think she said, “Who knew he was going to grow up to be Tyrone Power?”

People have been naming their kids after their favorite celebrities, so why not have Ty’s mother name him after her favorite movie star?

Casting now (unless Clooney dies his hair):

Michael Fassbender

Hugh Jackman

Henry Cavill.
(Two X Men and Superman. Time to lay off the superhero movies)

I wanted to create a love story that I could see myself living. The characters had to be engaging, had to be flawed in ways, but realistic. Granted, maybe not people you’d meet everyday, but not impossible to find.

I also mentioned in yesterday’s post that I’d read “Gone With the Wind,” “Pride and Prejudice,” “Jane Eyre,” and “Wuthering Heights.” Besides concluding that the Brontes were nuts, the men in these books impressed me with their intelligence, passion, and strength (they had the rich and handsome thing going, too) However, all four had one thing in common:
Rhett Butler: asshole (but one you could count on). There was kindness and generosity in him, but he was sharp enough to see his way to turning a profit out of the Civil War and did so without compunction.
Fitzwilliam Darcy: asshole (but he gets off his high horse after encountering Lizzie Bennett. There’s some dumbass out there trying to link Christian Grey to Mr. Darcy. Oh, HELL NO). “Maybe it’s that I find it hard to forgive the follies or vices of others or their offenses against me. My good opinion, once lost, is gone forever.” Oh yeah, let’s party with this guy,
Edward Rochester: bigamist asshole. Yes, he got saddled with a mentally ill wife, but in his own words, he “meant to be a bigamist” when his wedding to Jane was stopped. Of course, he paid for it in the end after said lunatic wife burned down the house (she died, so he could marry Jane without being a bigamist)
Heathcliff: asshole, and a scary vengeful one at that. I never really like him, but then, the Brontes had some screws loose.

I digress, but these fictional men have held up as romantic ideals since their stories were published.

“As Good As It Gets” came out in 1997 and Jack Nicholson’s character (a romance novel author. And asshole) had the most memorable line,”You make me want to be a better man” it’s a good line. And that’s what I wanted; a couple who,brought out the best in each other.

Ty Hadley is a driven successful man in his early forties. He had a tough childhood because his father was a driven workaholic stockbroker who neglected his family in favor of his career, he would try to buy forgiveness from Ty’s mom by buying her expensive gifts, but she left him (and Ty) when Ty was in his teens. His father remained bitter about it the rest of his life, which wasn’t long. Mr. Hadley died the day Ty graduated from high school.

Ty is an attorney specializing in class action cases. He’s at the top of his game and as much of a workaholic as his old man was. There is an obnoxious saying in the legal community, “the law is a jealous mistress.” While graduates of the top law schools can step into six figure jobs right away, they’re spending upwards of 90 hours per week to earn it.

His job is his life and has been. He doesn’t have relationships because he doesn’t want the time and energy drain he believes them to be. The women in his life are bed mates for when he needs them, he doesn’t have any real friendships; just the younger, hungrier attorneys at his firm who see him as a role model and the king to be pushed off the hill. Ty spends his time fighting like hell to stay on top of that hill. And he succeeds, but at a greats cost.

I am a lawyer (non-practicing). Substance abuse, including alcohol, is prevalent in the legal community. I could see that some of my classmates had a head start on alcoholism while we were in school. There is alcoholism on both sides of my family tree. I know what it’s like to live your life walking on eggshells. Like I said yesterday, this is something I can describe.

The stereotype for a love story is one of rescue. However, it’s not always the woman who needs to be rescued…or the man who does the rescuing.

Character Study: Liz Gardner

If you’re reading this blog, you should be aware that the title, “These Foolish Things,” is the title of my first published novel. Part of the function of this blog is shameless self-promotion for said book and its sequel, “At Last.” ( I like old classic songs. Deal with it). And, well, any other books coming down the pike. I have a small fan base (I would like to say rabid, but they are, for the most part, very polite. Unless you smack talk a Boston team). I am thinking that perhaps, if you should be reading this blog, I may be able to pique your interest in my books by talking more in depth about the characters, the inspiration behind things. If not, I practice my writing, I have something appropriate for the Twitter co-promotion group I belong to, and I’m no worse off than I was before I typed this.

Let’s start with our heroine, Elizabeth Gardner.

A local blogger/reviewer (Deliza’s Dirty Dramas review)) has suggested that Liz should be played by Laura Linney in a movie.


When I wrote the book back in 2001, I was thinking more Julianne Moore:


Or Cate Blanchett:


A little background (and I’m probably repeating myself): in my teens, I read Harlequin Romances and Barbara Cartland and Regency romances until they came out my ears. They were all the impossibly gorgeous heroines, handsome, dashing, wealthy heroes there to rescue them. Or whatever. (with the historic novels, I was more interested in the descriptions of dresses, which, if you saw me and heard what some folks have to say about my wardrobe, is kind of a head-scratcher. I read Vogue, but don’t have the body or budget for the wardrobe. And stilettos are out. My right knee and frequent ankle twists say so).

As I got older, I read “Gone With the Wind,” “Jane Eyre,” “Wuthering Heights,” and “Pride and Prejudice.” My idea of ideals changed. While the heroes of these books were take charge kind of guys, the heroines weren’t sitting around waiting to be rescued, even if they were in trouble, I liked that. And the stars of these classics were not perfect. (Physically attractive, but the emphasis was on their internals: passion, intelligence, courage. The things that don’t fade)

Jump forward to 2000: I’m no longer a twenty something who thinks her life is going to be fantastic and is relatively pretty.


That was me at 20. Relatively pretty.

At 39, I was heavier, had been through a lot of life, and was no longer confident that I would find a significant other. I had had friends tell me that they had family members fall in love and marry for the first time in their forties. I didn’t see those stories being shown in the media. I didn’t see women like me; older, wiser, more self-possessed who were capable of rescuing themselves, if necessary.

I was also telling myself that if I wanted to be a best selling author, I needed to actually, I don’t know, write something.

Enter Elizabeth Gardner. The last name (as stated in previous posts) came from a town in Massachusetts.. Elizabeth? I like the name. I’m a British history buff and a fan of Queen Elizabeth I. I like the name and it’s variations (Isabelle, Isabella, Betsy, Beth). Was I thinking of Elizabeth Bennett? Perhaps on a subconscious level. Her middle name is Duer and for the life of me, I cannot remember where that came from. Sorry.

Liz is NOT me. I gave her some of my physical characteristics (blonde hair, blue eyes. I like having blonde hair and blue eyes). She’s nowhere near as heavy as I am. I wanted someone who wasn’t a heart-stopping lay gorgeous specimen and someone who was more of an undiscovered jewel. I wanted her to have the determination, wit, and heart of my heroines from the classics.

I gave her some of my life experiences because I remembered them well enough to describe them (strained relationship with parents, struggling with the bar exam, no real love life, but hopeful while being wary). I was a decent batter for my company softball team. After freshman year of high school, I have never been part of an athletic team; I gave up on myself in Algebra, my GPA was below the school’s minimum for extra-cirricular activities, so…

As for breast cancer: from 1997 to 2006, I did some pretty good fund raising for Making Strides Against Breast Cancer (American Cancer Society), the Massachusetts chapter. I raised somewhere in the neighborhood of $10,000 all told.

Liz is a breast cancer survivor. I am not. I have friends who have gone through the disease at various ages, including as young as thirty, and have had treatments ranging from chemo taking care of everything to mastectomy + chemo + years of terror waiting for it to come back.

I wanted to create a heroine with whom women “of a certain age” could identify. Someone whom a reader would want as a friend or co-worker.

There are fashions and trends in romance literature: vampires yielded to kinky billionaires who have now yielded to time travel (“Outlander’s” success has spawned imitators) and motorcycle gangs (“Sons of Anarchy has inspired a lot of of fan fiction). Not passing judgment on the writing. They’re all escapist in that the average reader is unlikely to encounter those kinds of characters.

Who knows? If enough folks like Liz, maybe I’ll start a new trend.

“Baldie Chronicles” Sample



Why me?

Elizabeth Gardner was sitting in Dr. Keiller’s office wondering what it was that had brought her to an oncologist.
The mammogram tech had muttered something about “calcifications” and taken extra views of Liz’s left breast. Dr. Chevalier, the radiologist had said something about a “definite mass” and referred her to Dr. Keiller for a biopsy.
Liz started a bit. “Excuse me?”
Dr. Keiller smiled. “It’s okay,” she said. “A lot of patients have a hard time focusing once they’re in here. Tell me about your mother.”
“Um, she died six months ago. Lung cancer.”
Liz nodded. “Pack a day. Marlboro Reds.”
Dr. Keiller made a note. “Did she quit?”
“Not even with an oxygen tank.”
“Gone 5 years. Car accident.”
“And you?”
“Me? I’m still here.” Liz joked. The doctor barely smiled. Okay, not time for humor. “I’ve never smoked. Up until a couple of years ago, my co-workers were allowed to smoke at their desks, but I never did.” Sensing the next questions. “Look, I’m not much of a drinker and I don’t do drugs.” She gestured at her rounded body. “My thing is food.”
“How about your grandmothers? Aunts?”
“No. No breast cancer there.” Bitterness and spite that went to the bone, perhaps, but not cancer. “One grandmother died of kidney failure and the other one had heart trouble.” Like no heart, Liz thought.
“You brought up food. High fat diet? There are studies linking it to cancer.”
“Doctor, truthfully, there may be studies that link too many orgasms to cancer. I eat a lot. Probably more junk than I should.” Liz was having a hard time holding onto her cool. “If this IS cancer, is dieting going to reverse it?”
“Probably not. The studies aren’t complete.”
“So, where do we stand?” Where do I stand?
Dr. Keiller flipped a page in her appointment book. “Next Tuesday, I have an opening at 1 PM.”
“I’ll take it.” The doctor wrote out a card with the information. Liz shook her hand and left.
As she walked back to her car, Liz’s brain kept circling back to the conversation. Breast cancer. Maybe yes, maybe no, but…
I don’t need this; I really don’t, thought Liz as she climbed into her car. She tried to focus on navigating the twisting streets of the North Shore, but part of her mind was replaying the last 6 months in her head.
First, her mom had died after a long bout with lung cancer. Liz remembered the oxygen tank, the endless drifts of used Kleenex (some spattered with blood), the pills. She remembered pulling her mother off the kitchen floor one night because Delia had been sneaking out to the garage for a smoke and was too weak to make it. The first home health aide had stolen money and a credit card. Liz had found out the second one used to go out to meet her boyfriend in the middle of her shift. After that, Liz had pulled strings to get Delia checked into the local hospice. They’d made a point of telling Liz what a difficult patient she’d been while talking about the generous donations the families of other patients, nicer patients had made.
About 2 months after her mother’s death, Liz’s old faithful orange cat, Brubeck, had died. He’d seen her through high school, college, law school at night, heartbreak and been a huggable furry rock in her life. Millie Wentworth had offered to get her a kitten right away, but Liz had refused. You can’t replace such a good friend; Brube deserved to be missed and mourned.
Liz also found out she’d flunked the bar exam for the second time. By one point. One lousy, rotten, stinking point. And Brubeck wasn’t there to let her cry into his fur.
Now this.
With any luck, the mass would be a cyst. And she’d promise her doctor that she’d cut down out coffee, chocolate, anything with caffeine. And she’d promise to lose weight and exercise at the same time.
At a stoplight, Liz thought, with any luck, it would be a cyst but luck hadn’t been part of her life for a while.
She pulled into her driveway, turned off the engine and sat for a minute. In hindsight, she was glad that she’d decided to pass on her third attempt at the bar for now. She would have really waffled it.
As she unlocked her back door and entered the kitchen, Liz noticed the dirty dishes in the sink and a loaf of bread left open on the counter.
No answer. Liz could hear muffled music. Morgan was probably in her room with the TV on. Before heading upstairs, she loaded the dishwasher, put away the bread and wiped down the counters. Morgan was not very conscientious.
As Liz walked through the living room, she noticed the phone was off the hook. That meant one thing: Sean was here. Ducky.
Liz was just about to knock on Morgan’s door when the music paused and she heard Morgan moan loudly and a man’s rhythmic grunting. She also caught a faint whiff of pot smoke coming from under the door. Lovely. Well, that explained the mess in the kitchen. Morgan’s boyfriend was a moocher, a stoner and spoiled rotten by his well-to-do parents. He always seemed to turn up after Liz had gone grocery shopping. Morgan never had any real food of her own; she seemed to live on boxed macaroni and cheese, takeout pizza (with leftovers staying in the fridge until Liz threw them out) and Diet Coke. Despite Liz carefully explaining that she wasn’t shopping for the entire household, a lot of food disappeared each week. And it had become necessary for Liz to hide the liquor.
The music stopped and was replaced by muffled conversation. Liz crossed her arms and leaned on the wall. She had a pretty good idea of what was coming next.
The door opened a crack and the talk became clearer. “C’mon, Baby, just cook up that beautiful steak. You always make me work up a sweat, you bad girl.” Liz heard what sounded like a slap, probably on Morgan’s ass. “She won’t miss it. It’s not like she’s going to starve anytime soon.”
As they emerged from the room, Morgan was saying, “We’ve gotta get rid of the pot smell because…”
“She doesn’t allow it in the house,” finished Liz. Morgan and Sean stopped dead in their tracks. “It’s in your lease. No illegal drugs.” She had meant to talk about her upcoming biopsy with Morgan, but this wasn’t the moment.
There was silence for a minute. Liz stared calmly at the pair who began to fidget.
Sean spoke first, “Look, it’s just some pot.”
Liz didn’t move. “I don’t care. It’s illegal. I don’t want it in my house.”
Morgan got defensive. “You have booze.”
“I don’t get to hold onto it very long, do I, Sean?” Liz answered sharply. He looked uncomfortable. She continued, “If this was 1930, I wouldn’t have booze in the house.” Liz was exasperated. “Morgan, this isn’t the first time we’ve had this discussion.”
Morgan shifted on her feet. “I know and we weren’t gonna smoke, but Sean was telling me about this new strain and it’s primo bud and, well, he was showing me and the next thing you know…” she shrugged, caught Sean’s eye and giggled. He pinched her ass which made her giggle even more.
“I don’t care if it’s smoked, raw, rolled in cornflakes, dipped in chocolate or the Breakfast of Champions…”
“Oh hey, this one is called ‘Breakfast of Champions,” James interjected.
Liz gave him a look and he shut up. “Do not bring it into my house in any form.” Liz looked at both of them. “Is that clear?” Morgan looked sulky.
“And Sean?” He looked at Liz.
“That ‘beautiful steak’ is earmarked for something else. You have a job. Buy your own damned food; I’m sick of feeding you. Starting right now, unless you buy it, you don’t eat it. And since Morgan hasn’t gone grocery shopping, I guess you two are leaving to find something to eat.”
Sean looked shame-faced and mumbled something about being broke from buying weed. Liz made a mock sympathetic face. “And…what a surprise…here you are with the munchies. How could you have known?” She turned to Morgan, “So it’s going to be a bag of Cheetos from Cumbie’s. Sounds perfect.” As she turned towards her own room, Morgan took a last shot.
“God, why are you such an uptight bitch?”
Liz turned and looked at her. “It’s an ugly job, but someone’s gotta do it.” She walked away from the pair and shut the door behind her. She thought she heard, “Hippo” come from the other side of the door.
Liz pulled on her favorite old sweats and padded downstairs. She needed Millie. And she needed nachos. As the chips and cheese bubbled away in the microwave, Liz dialed Millie’s number. Millie answered as the microwave dinged its end signal.
“Hey, what’s up?” Millie asked.
Liz dumped salsa on the plateful. No mystery why she wasn’t a slender reed. She dug in. “Might have a problem.”
“Only one?” Liz could hear the sound of Millie struggling with a zipper on her end. “I could make out a list for you.”
“Starting with my lousy taste in friends. Har dee har har. No, this is serious. Focus.”
“I can’t stop for too long. Getting ready for a date.” Millie was breathing heavily.
“Oh, yeah? Do I know him?”
“I doubt it. His name is John; he’s in the DA’s office. We got each other’s coffee at Dunks the other day and there was an argument and he said he thought I was cute and…”
Liz snorted. “Really? Are you sure it wasn’t more like he got your coffee and you clobbered him with your briefcase? I’ve seen you before you’ve had your morning coffee. It’s not pleasant.” She crunched on a loaded chip. “Thank God I don’t have to do that nonsense anymore.”
She heard Millie mutter, “Yeah, right.” Millie was not a fan of Brad, Liz’s boyfriend.
“Stop crunching in my ear. We’re going out. What’s the problem?”
Liz told her about the mammogram and upcoming biopsy. She heard Millie’s activity stop.
“Liz, what do you think?”
“I don’t know what to think. Biopsy’s not until next week and I have to keep going until then.”
“Do you want me to cancel and come over there?” She would have.
“No. You go bamboozle this guy into thinking you’re wonderful and tell me what lies I’ll need to swear to later.” Liz hung up the phone and finished her nachos. As she rinsed off the plate and loaded it into the dishwasher, Liz thought about her life and where she stood.
35 years old, parents gone, no siblings, cousins she didn’t see often (and didn’t really want to, either) and she had people calling her “Hippo” behind her back. People who were living under her roof mostly because she didn’t want to be alone.
Liz made her way to her living room and sofa. She hugged a pillow to her chest. It wasn’t warm and purring like Brubeck had been, but it would have to do. She drew herself into a ball around the pillow and closed her eyes.
35 years old and never really lived, she thought. I’ve existed.
She buried her face in the pillow for a minute, trying to pretend it could purr.


Maybe It’s Time

I’m not a cryer. I did plenty of it growing up; falls off bikes and monkey bars, losing pets, angry tears, getting reamed out by my father (my mother believed in “Wait til your father comes home.”), getting hit by my father, losing grandparents.

That was…forty years ago. The last time I really cried was about 10 years ago. It was when I took my cats samba, Cookie, and George to the Ventura County Animal Shelter to surrender them because I had no job, was losing my home, had no food for them, no money to buy them their food or medicine. They knew something was up because they all cried on the way over. Even Cookie, my Blue Point Himalayan who was a trooper.

The black and white cat in the picture is Toulouse who had died two years earlier.

For the past ten years, I have experienced an unstable life. In that time, I have not had a home in my name; no lease, no mortgage. I have lived in hotels, corporate housing, camped, been in a homeless shelter for a couple of months, rented a room (and got booted from it about a year ago) , and for the past year, been couch surfing (going from one friend’s house until the welcome wears out, then on to another home. This is what you do when you don’t have the money or credit to rent an apartment or get a room even in a fleabag hotel).

I haven’t cried.

In addition, i haven’t had enough of a job to support myself since November 2013. I worked at a lousy job test-driving cars. It was lousy because the cars were “modified” to allow the engineers to install their testing gear and they disconnected a lot of safety gear. The drivers would report issues that didn’t get fixed. The hours were irregular; only one pay period was for two solid weeks, and the pay, though above minimum wage, was t enough to support myself even if I had worked a full 40 hours per week. Right now, I’m unemployed. No; I am not drawing unemployment. The why is none of your Damned business.

I still haven’t cried.

What isn’t in my car is in a storage unit and I am struggling to keep up the payments. This includes things like my bed (which the crazy ex-roommate wanted to keep in lieu of rent that was not 30 days overdue when she told me to get out by the 16th. When I said she couldn’t have it, her response was “Fick you.” Long fake fingernails and accurate typing on an iPhone are mutually exclusive). I’ve been living out of a suitcase.

I still haven’t cried.

Both of my parents have died since 2011; my father to Alzheimer’s (it scared the shit out of me to see him in the early to mid stages) and my mother to liver cancer. I didn’t get to say goodbye to either. I couldn’t afford the airfare for Dad’s and none of my siblings told me about Mom. Her wish? Theirs? I don’t know.

0 tears shed. I don’t have the time or the space necessary to indulge.

My books, though they do sell and do get good reviews (the only bad one I’ve seen was from someone who mistook it “These Foolish Things” for a book of the same title by Deborah Moggach (Ms, Moggach? I got the copyright back in 2001). However, they have not yet found their audience. The next two stories I have “bookend” the two published stories, but my laptop dies, so it’s been composition books and a ballpoint pen. As you know, I didn’t get to the Deep In the Heart author event.

Still haven’t cried.

I don’t cry like this:


It’s more like this:


Or this:


Complete with snot bubbles. I sob and scare every animal within 5 miles. Humans can’t handle it (if I cried in front of my old man, he’d get even angrier, tell me to “knock it off” because they were “crocodile tears” because if I was really that upset, I wouldn’t have done whatever in the first place)

Maybe it’s time. I need another place to live, I need income. I need them quickly.

imageThis is Rev. Michael Bernard Beckwith. If you’ve seen “The Secret,” you recognize him, his church is the Agape Center in Los Angeles and part of their ministry is. Prayer Ministry. You can reach them at 310-348-1270, I called them. We talked about my predicament, the fact that I feel like I’ve had it, my fears. All of it. I told her of trying to make sense of my situation in terms of a task to complete or a lesson to learn. I mentioned that I don’t cry. She said, “Maybe it’s time.”

Maybe that’s the lesson, the task. Right now, while I have a safe space, cry. Bury my face in a blanket and sob.

It’s time to release the toxic emotions and memories I’ve been keeping inside.