For the Love of Science and the Quest-Happy Birthday, Rosalyn Yalow!

Happy Birthday, Rosalyn Yalow!

Rosalyn Yalow

There was an old-fashioned hutch in my third grade classroom and its shelves were filled with books.  Although my mother was always generous in buying me books (I posted a bit about that here), borrowing from my classroom library was a special treat and we were allowed to take home whatever we liked.  I loved that library – and the ability it afforded me to linger over stories outside of school.

Most of the books that I borrowed were biographies: Clara Barton, Thomas Alva Edison, Helen Keller and many more.  Each hardcover book featured a remarkable life of quests, challenges, set-backs, and accomplishments.  And, although I didn’t realize it at the time, each biography that I selected included some nuggets of “science” that I would later use.

I hope that there are hutches and bookcases that exist in today’s classroom, and, if there are, that a biography of Rosalyn Yalow will be found there for kids to borrow and savor.

Rosalyn Yalow won a Nobel Prize in “Physiology or Medicine” in 1977 for her (co) work on developing radioimmunoassay (RIA) used to detect hormone, vitamin, etc. levels that were too small for prior detection methods. Her work was instrumental in understanding Type 2 diabetes.

She and her fellow winners refused to patent the process, although they realized they could be come wealthy as a result, because she firmly believed that the RIA process should be widely used to benefit all.

Unlike Barton or Keller, Yalow had a robust family life as an adult.  She was married (to the same guy she married in 1943, until his death in 1992), had nice kids, was undeterred by discrimination against her because of her religion or her gender. (See Upon graduation from Hunter in physics, she could obtain a SECRETARIAL position with a biochemist at Columbia’s medical school – ON THE CONDITION THAT SHE MASTER STENOGRAPHY!  She stayed at that job as long as she had to (a few months.) Nevertheless, she persisted.

Rosalyn Yalow is one of my heroes.

I met her when I was a university student and she had already won the Nobel Prize. She was a warm and lovely presence, encouraging all in a love of science.

Happy Birthday, dear Rosalyn Yalow!

For the Love of Great Writing – Happy Birthday, Louisa May Alcott!

Louisa May Alcott, born 11.29.1832

If you didn’t look at her year of birth, you could tell the story of Louisa May Alcott as the story of a present-day author:  Before her Little Women success, Alcott produced numerous melodramatic works of fiction, many of which were turned into plays (works with titles like Pauline’s Passion and Punishment).

She didn’t particularly like what she had written – she did it strictly for the money.  When Alcott’s Little Women was published, she built on its commercial and critical acclaim by turning into a series (Little Men and Jo’s Boys).

Sometimes, Alcott fictionalized her real life experiences in her writings.  Hospital Sketches was based on her experiences as a volunteer nurse during the American Civil War.  Little Women was based on her immediate family.  Her works showed that women – even little ones – were capable, independent, interesting, resilient human beings.

On one of my mother’s and my jaunts to Doubleday Bookstore (it no longer exists; I wrote about the store here), she bought me Little Women.  My mom gave me a choice between two or three novels, but the paper jacket of LW sported a beautiful pastel drawing of Jo, Meg, Beth, and Amy March – so that was a no-brainer.  It was a thick book, full of merriment, sisterly rivalries (I’m an only child so this was particularly fascinating to me), one of the girls getting published (Jo, of course), one of the girls going to Paris to study art (despite the family’s poverty), the girls staging little plays in their home (I did that with my friends), falling in love and spurning advances, the backdrop of the Civil War, parties, and personal service to others.  I devoured it.

Thank you, Louisa May Alcott, and Happy 184th Birthday!



Love of Humanity, Writing, and Espresso

Espresso Gone - Oh no! (1)

This has been a magnificent and hard-working day.

Magnificent: The weather is perfect for the New York City Marathon.  I have a great view of the Marathon.  The City is in good cheer.  My family understands that I have several writing projects and I’m working on them.

Hard-working:  Wait – “projects” makes them sound like hobbies with which I tinker.  No!  I have a writing assignment with an imminent deadline, the daily NaNoWriMo word production, and, of course, the blog-every-day-in-November challenge of NaBloPoMo.  I’d love to start with my NaBloPoMo writing first – about the beauty and significance of the New York City Marathon – with pictures!  But that will have to wait.

Meanwhile, I made a pot of espresso and drank the whole thing!  More?  Sure, I could make more, but it would be wrong.



Romancing the NaNoWriMo Win Hailey wins NaNoWriMo 2014. This is the certificate.

55,142 Words Later

For our first assignment in law school, even before any class had convened, we were to read an article that appeared to be written in English – with a soupçon of Latin thrown in for good measure.  We all knew, for example, what the word “summary” meant.  Heck, in high school and/or college, most of us had probably bought summaries of, say, novels in which we should have luxuriated, but had only two nights to master.  Similarly, “judgment” was quite familiar to all of us.  But, and some of you are probably way ahead of me here, put them both together, and “summary judgment” is, at best, a distant cousin in meaning to it’s commonly used components.

Because I know some of you will not sleep unless you know the definition of “summary judgment,” a workable definition is this: it is a court’s judgment for one party and against the other party where there is no dispute between the parties as to material fact regarding the dispute or a portion of the dispute.  That raises the issue of “what is a material fact,” which leads me back to the article.

As I recall, the article’s author taunted us misguided, over-confident, know-it-all, former skim-the-assignment-and-regurgitate-it-on-the-test kids to persevere even in the face of having to redefine reality.  Words we thought we knew had strange meanings and were combined oddly.  It sounded like English, but, then again, it didn’t.  Towards the end of the piece, the author noted that we had probably skipped over dozens of words and phrases in order to complete the reading instead of dutifully looking everything up.  Yup.  Guilty as charged.

Eventually, and this means, for me, a few years later, all of those words were part of my everyday lexicon.  I didn’t skip any of those semi-English, sometimes Latin phrases; I scoured prior legal opinions and statutes for them.  And, in using them, I had lost that “new driver” feeling.

One of the Latin phrases in the article was res ipsa loquitur – meaning: the thing speaks for itself.  It’s often used when referring to negligence cases, and – –

OK, I’ll stop with the Intro to Law class.

In my small section in law school, there was a woman who married our Contracts professor after our first year.  Inside her wedding band, he had the jeweler inscribe, “res ipsa.”  Her finger was too small for the “loquitur” and it didn’t matter.  For a bunch of tough, analytical curs, we were all swoony over the romantic symbolism.  We’d pass her in the hallway sometimes and greet her with an admiring “Res ipsa, baby!

Which brings me to NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month).  Late yesterday, I made it to 55,142 words of my romance quartet.  I haven’t fully digested the experience.  I’m going to let the manuscript rest, like yeast dough, for a few days before I edit, rearrange, add to, and punch it down.  In the midst of writing 50,000+ words on one story line, several others invaded my imagination.  I jotted them down, and refocused.

On the NaNoWriMo website, if you are a registered user (it’s free, and I am), you have the ability to upload your daily word count, and then to upload your novel (it is immediately scrambled and deleted) to have that count validated.  You are sent a link to the NaNo staff cheering you with congratulations – it is awesome.  Then, you are provided with a link to your completion certificate.  Mine is above.

This win was a huge experience and maybe I’ll write more about it later.  In the meanwhile, as per my completion certificate, above, res ipsa, baby.

Romancing the Ingredients

Thanksgiving is getting very real, People!  Or at least People of the United States!  There’s a feast of food and family ahead, and planning must happen!

I should be pumping out words for National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), but Thanksgiving can no longer be ignored.

Our plans are up in the air.  We have two possible locations (home or at a beloved relative’s house) and I haven’t committed to a protein yet.  For years, I did a port-glazed goose, and it was well-received.  Better than well-received.  Moaned-over – in a good way.  Then, three years ago, a family member complained (the nerve!) that we shouldn’t do goose again because there were no leftovers!

That, in fact, was the point: a succulent feast-protein with nothing annoying to pack up shortly after one is happily stuffed; no nasty dry left overs to face for days after The Day.

One of us will not eat the nationally worshipped Thanksgiving protein, turkey.

I’m jiggy with another poultry, although she-who-will-not-eat-turkey also will not eat duck.  Another contender is a baked salmon.  I make a really good baked salmon.  Really.  My kids call it “Fish Heaven.”  So that.  Or, or, I am flirting with a sole in white wine, lemon and butter sauce.  Must look up a good recipe – or twenty – to ignore.

So, protein to be determined.

And, just as I am thinking of all the elements of a good feast, the nagging thought that I really should be writing intrudes.

Those who raise the issue of “balance,” shall be exiled.  Go.  Away.  (But if you are a reader here, come back!  Just kidding!)

One element of Thanksgiving is non-negotiable for my immediate family: homemade crème fraîche.

Crème fraîche is a sour cream-like concoction, a cultured heavy cream.  If it’s done right, it’s thicker than pouring cream and a little bit thinner than traditional American sour cream.  It’s not hard to make; it just takes time.

Martha Stewart, in her seminal work, Entertaining, lists only two ingredients: heavy cream and buttermilk.  The second year that I made crème fraîche, it didn’t firm up in the refrigerator overnight.  Scarred by that experience, I modified the recipe and have ever after added a dollop of whole-milk yogurt.  Purists might be horrified, but adding culture is adding culture.

Therefore, henceforth, let crème fraîche be made as follows:

In a hinged mason jar, pour ~

2 cups of pure heavy cream that is NOT ultra-pasteurized, nor has any other ingredients (I used the Meadowbrook Farm brand in the glass bottle)

¼ cup of cultured buttermilk (I used the Friendship brand)

1/8 cup of whole milk, Greek-style yogurt (I used Fagé)

• Mix the ingredients well (I use a fork).  Leave the hinged lid ajar (there’s a joke to be made here about a lid being a jar; go ahead – knock yourself out. Then, send it to me).  The friendly bacteria that will firm up the cream needs air to grow.

• Next, place the jar in a room temperature place for 6-12 hours (typically, overnight).  Room temperature is warmer than a space in which you need two sweaters to survive.  It is cooler than a space in which you can only survive, sweat-laden despite multiple floor or ceiling fans, wearing a tank top and shorts.  Depending on your metabolism.  That is to say, between about 72 to 77 degrees Fahrenheit.

• After the 6-12 hours, hinge the jar shut and place it in the refrigerator for 12 to 24 hours (24 is better) before using.

In years gone by, I’ve made a sweet potato potage into which, at serving time, I swirl some of the crème fraîche and, for the grown ups, a swirl of port.  Salt for all.

On the other hand, with NaNoWriMo and National Blog Posting Month (NaBloPoMo) upon me, crème fraîche may be plopped upon salmon or yams or some-such.  With salt.  All good.

Compromises must be made.  But not for my Love U heroine.  She’s a young woman of principle.  She hasn’t had to compromise much, yet.  All she demands is that I get back to putting words to her story.

Romancing the Jump

Today marks a special milestone.

Today, I made the jump.

What jump?  The word count jump.

I made the word count jump.

Yesterday in NaNoWriMo land, Day 20, I should have completed 20 Days X 1667 words per day, for a total of 33,340 novel words.

For every registered writer who enters their daily word count, your dashboard on the official site shows you your words plotted against the total expected words so far in a nifty little graph.  From the start of NaNoWriMo until yesterday, the bars that represented my word count did not meet the ascending line that represented the target.

This is to say that, yesterday, my total was 31,028.

Today, I put my head down and barreled through.  It’s Day 21.  The target is 35,007 total novel words.   And my total is <drumroll> 36,195.  My word count bar is above the goal line for today.  <hooting around, flapping wings – – but quietly so as not to wake the kids>

We can talk about whether or not there is any real world significance to the actual number of words in a novel or the worthiness of keeping a steady level of productivity another day.  Today, I made the jump.  : )

Romancing the Voice

There’s a conundrum about blogging every day that is not true about writing a bit of one’s novel every day.

Whether you are a pantser (writing your novel without a pre-crafted plan or outline, by the seat of your pants), or a plotter, every time you write a bit of your novel, you are advancing the cause of finishing a unified work.  No one need ever see the work, and it is likely that your novel will undergo several revisions before anyone but your inner circle gets a look-see.  The idea of National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) is to encourage a daily habit of writing, quiet one’s inner critic, and give writers a community of support, encouragement, and accountability – or not (there’s a lot of flexibility here).  I’d wager that most works will go unseen by the public.

Blogging in a monthly writing challenge such as National Blog Posting Month (NaBloPoMo) is a different story.  You’re out there, baby, posting whatever, because you said you would rather than because you have something to say.  We probably all have lots to say and are too shy and/or self-critical.  For those of us with self-imposed blogging rules (we’re only going to blog on a certain topic, we’re never going to blog about our kids/ work/hobbies/health, etc.) there’s an extra pressure to tell a readable, relevant, enjoyable story. Readers are a precious commodity and we really, really want you to stay and visit with us.  Want a piece of pie?  Some coffee with that?

NaBloPoMo aims to lessen that inner voice that holds us back – as well as to connect us with our larger communities.  Still, in my mind, I am hearing the theme song from an old TV show, Mr. Ed.  Mr. Ed, for all of you who are too young or had no access to American TV of the 1960s, was a horse who could talk.   Generally speaking, he only spoke with his owner (who sometimes tried to have his equine friend convey his super-intelligent ideas to humans other than the owner).  It’s Day 20 in writing challenge land and I’m a little jealous of a horse who, according to the theme song, “never speaks unless he has something to say.”

See what you think:

The Romance of Recognition


This evening, after a full day including a meeting that ended at 7 P.M. (!), then getting dinner together for my fam (because platters of food in the refrigerator and wads of take-out menus apparently only prompt, “Hey, what’s for dinner?”), pumping out some words for my romance novel series for NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), and then checking email (Hello, email, I missed you!) before I hid sat down to blog as part of NaBloPoMo (National Blog Posting Month), I received this from prolific blogger extraordinaire, Blogging & Social Media editor as well as Health editor at, and author of several must-read books:

I’ll be adding your post on NaBloPoMo vs NaNoWriMo ( as a featured member post in the Blogging and Social Media topic on, on 11/14/14.

 Squee squee squee!!!

It’s so perfect that my post on writers needing feedback and recognition gave me a little bit of feedback and recognition.

Thank you, Melissa!  And I’ll be trying to figure out the whole social media piece as per your recommendations.

Romance Reading

My mom didn’t ban romance reading – neither books nor comics — when I was a kid.  She was much too smart for that.  Instead, I had access to my parents’ bookshelves (Freud on Wit and Humor was memorable), my mom read age-appropriate stories to me (in “voices” – heaven!), she read grown-up appropriate works to me (selections from the then current Best American Short Stories and the like), and she supplied heaps of appropriate books for me to read on my own.  I devoured biographies of Clara Barton, Helen Keller, and Thomas Alva Edison, “realistic” adventure fiction such as Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh, classics such as Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women and Little Men, a pale tooled leather tome entitled Wonder Tales of Old Japan, and Danny Kaye’s Around the World Story Book.

There was a huge Doubleday bookstore on the west side of Fifth Avenue between 56th and 57th Streets.  My mother and I would make our pilgrimages to buy books there – the children’s section was in the back on the left.

To satisfy our more lowbrow tastes, we went to our neighborhood newspaper and magazine store, Epstein’s.  It doesn’t exist anymore.  Where Epstein’s once stood, on the southwest corner of Madison Avenue and 93rd Street, is now an upscale restaurant, Le Paris Bistrot Français.,+New+York,+NY+10128/@40.7851417,-73.9556874,3a,60y,303h,90t/data=!3m4!1e1!3m2!1sKag6EdvVxkfXMUNfRDTpMw!2e0!4m2!3m1!1s0x89c258a3d0753de9:0x2a1ddb0d22b80fdc!6m1!1e1

Le Paris Bistrot Français is on the right.

No matter.  Back then, Epstein’s was a tiny Wonderland for me.  There were zillions of comic books from which to choose – all just inside the door to the right.  My mom must have steered me towards the relatively innocent Archie series while she browsed fashion magazines or bought The New York Times.  She never bought gossip magazines – she told me they were hurtful and untrue.

Actually, the gossip magazine discussion often seguéd into a discussion of McCarthyism, blacklists, and how the beneficent power of The Press can be corrupted if we, The People, are not vigilant.  Then, I was taught never to sign a petition for anything because the header information on the petition, the very words that induced one to sign the thing in the first place, could be, and sometimes were, easily removed and different material could be substituted (before scanners and home computers, mind you) so that your name could be used to support a Communist cause.  And then you might never get a job.

But I digress.

Romance paperbacks and comics, with their melodramatic covers, were looked down upon in my home.

And so I read mom-approved works ~ until my one encounter with a romance comic book.  For purists and comic book devotees, it could have been True Romance or perhaps Secret Hearts.  Or one of their close relatives.

Across the hall from our apartment, two girls, P and K, and their mom moved in.  P was about two years older than me, and K was two years older than P.  That made K unreachably cool.  K had little use for P, but she taught me how to draw a cardigan.  P and I often played together, tumbling in and out of each other’s apartments.

One day, when I was across the hall, waiting for P and K to finish getting ready so that we could go out, my eyes fell upon the not-explicitly forbidden bounty, a romance comic book.  A Benday-dotted young teenage girl with a blonde ponytail and Capri pants was sitting in a tree looking down upon the slightly older (not creepy older) handsome boy-next-door.  It’s possible his name was Brad.  He was passing by in a convertible with a raven-haired beauty.  Our Benday-dotted heroine was desperately in love with Brad, but he barely knew she was alive.  Oh, the heartache!

Once in a while, if she mustered enough courage to greet him, he’d wave, “Hi, kiddo,” (or so I remember).  From her window, or from behind a fence, she watched as he squired around one after the other of sophisticated teen beauties.  You knew they were sophisticated by their coiffures, shoulder-exposing dresses, and thick eyelashes.

Then, he went off to war.  She grew into a late-teen Benday-dotted beauty, and she always thought of Brad, no matter what she was doing or whom she was with.

This wasn’t an actual specimen from that comic, but it is evocative of the genre:

And then ~ Brad returned home!  He was a changed man, and not for the better.  He sported a head bandage and used crutches.  He was no longer carefree.  There was no longer a bevy of beauties around him.  I don’t think Brad could drive anymore.  Somehow, I think our Benday-blondie offered to help him – or maybe his mother welcomed her to help him.  Brad didn’t quite remember Our Girl.  Oh, Brad!  Oh, the heartache!

The bittersweet end (and, spoiler alert if you ever find this comic from the 1960s) is that he fell in love with her, and she remained in love with him, even though the comic book made it quite plain that she would be doing some serious caregiving in the happily-ever-after.

My first and only romance comic – and pretty heady stuff for a kid.  I think I read the whole thing standing up near K and P’s dining table right inside their front door.  It was an oh-no-he-didn’t/oh-no-she-didn’t page-turner.  Then, P and K were ready and we went out to play.

I didn’t hide this reading experience from my mother, but I never thought to discuss it with her, either.  We had bigger fish to fry when I allotted more time to Archie than I did to my summer reading one year.  That resulted in a comic book ban altogether.  It was back to Esther Forbes’ Johnny Tremain and Louise Andrews Kent’s He Went With Marco Polo: A Story of Venice and Cathay.

It wasn’t long after that that artist Roy Lichtenstein appeared to burst on the art scene, recontextualizing the art of comic romances, stripping them of their extended narrative, but preserving their intensity of emotion.  My parents were big fans of the work of Lichtenstein; I am, too.

Abruzzo’s original art (left) upon which Lichtenstein’s pop art interpretation was based (right).

My parents and I, however, did not delve into the merits of the original works, not the art nor the stories, that inspired Lichtenstein. I’m sorry, now, that we never discussed Lichtenstein’s source material, or my reading of it, on its own merits.

I would love to have known what my mom thought about true romance.

Romancing Your Writing Space

Before this National November Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) began, I enrolled in Beth and Ezra Barany’s “30-Day Challenge to Preparing Your Novel for NaNoWriMo” program. In one session, we were asked to describe our ideal writing place.

I came up with a lovely ~ imaginary ~ work space, influenced by Frank Lloyd Wright

Frank Lloyd Desk on HaileyReede.comI’d like the work surface to be a bit longer than the one in this photo, please, with lots of pencil cups and a way for my laptop’s power cord to be hidden. Maybe a little more window along the new, longer desk, as well. And a fireplace. And it should be in a turret attached to our apartment – accessible to my family, but not quite convenient for them.

What I have found, however, is that I am writing more by hand than by laptop, and transcribing my words later. I use a 6” X 9.5” spiral bound notebook for all kinds of notes and To Do lists.

It wasn’t until I read Joan Didion’s The Year of Magical Thinking that I took seriously the snippets of fiction that would come to me; I have made certain to write them down as close to their appearance to me as I can. Didion describes how her husband, the late John Gregory Dunne, had used 3” X 6” note cards, printed with his name, to capture thoughts that might otherwise evaporate. She carried a small notebook. Didion reported that her husband had warned her that the “ability to make a note when something came to mind was the difference between being able to write and not being able to write.”

I agree. But what is one to do when one has a rambunctious, engaging family that wants your attention now, please? Here’s my I-am-woman-hear-me-roar solution: use snippets of time that otherwise go unnoticed and/or hide. I can jot down notes in the waiting room at the pediatrician’s office, or standing on line at the grocery store, or waiting for something to simmer in my kitchen. I can steal time away from the world at a Starbucks and, as I write, enter The Zone that is very productive. I confess, not only do I have pencils, pens, and markers in the kitchen cabinet where we used to keep the baby food, but I also have supplies in my bathroom. [Hey, Mom? Are you in there? Can I come in? Can I show you something? Will you be out soon?]

The Writer’s Zone is in my head for now. Turret to follow.

Romancing Day 6 of NaNoWriMo

Do you love books?  I hope you do – especially if you are reading blog posts about National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo).

There are a million ways to prep for NaNoWriMo and stay within the contest rules.  Some folks prepare for NaNoWriMo by creating detailed character biographies, complex world models, and flawless timelines in October.  These are all useful.  But when the Day 6 going gets tough, the tough search through their libraries for help.

This is to say that, so far, I love The Indie Author Power Pack, a (currently) $0.99 trio of helpful tomes by Sean Platt and Johnny B. Truant (co-authors of Write, Publish, Repeat), Joanna Penn (author of How to Market a Book), and David Gaughran (author of Let’s Get Digital).  If you are aiming for your 1,667 words per day, leave Penn’s and Gaughran’s works for December 1, when NaNoWriMo is over.  Instead, do a deep dive into WPR. Their sections on writing “beats” and figuring out the expectation of your reader center me. from

Platt, Truant, and their partner David Wright produced a 75,000+ word novel in 30 days with the whole world (potentially) watching as part of a Kickstarter campaign.  Fiction Unboxed was funded quickly.  They began with no idea of their story, characters, or setting and had a marketable work up and running by day 30.

It gives one hope.

Backing-up Romance

For all those participating in both National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) and National Blog Posting Month (NaBloPoMo), this chapter is for you.

She ran her fingers over the scar on back of his muscular index finger….

 Nah.  Backspace, backspace, backspace, backspace.

“What’s this,” she whispered as she stroked the calcified scar on his muscular left index finger….

It was Day 5 of NaNoWriMo and Belleluluflower had her doubts.  Was her romance novel on the right track?  Could she finish it?  Should she finish it?  Wouldn’t it be more productive to produce a non-fiction manual that would be Good for the World?  She activated her screensaver, slipped into her flats, and headed out.

“I did this crazy thing,” she said to Coach, “I signed up for not only NaNoWriMo, but also, NaBloPoMo –”

Coach’s eyes widened.  She noticed.  “So, wait.  I know that’s crazy.  But I’m wondering if I should set this aside altogether and go back to my non-fiction.”

The coach took a deep breath.  “Belleluluflower,” he closed his eyes, “Whenever there is extra stress in your life, you dream up new projects.” Belleluluflower looked sheepish.

“No, no, Belleluluflower,” Coach comforted, “Having so many ideas is a good thing.  Make a list, jot them in a notebook, create a special document.  But Finish This Novel.”

“Really?” she said. “I think that you might be the only one who believes in my novel –”

Coach smiled enigmatically.

“Except for my BFF in California; she likes my novel, too,” she finished.

“There is joy in finishing.  There is fear of rejection in finishing.  But you must enter the realm of Project Finished to move beyond….”

On the walk home from Coach, Belleluluflower called her BFF.

“Listen, BFF,” she said over the crackly transcontinental transmission, “What should I do?  Maybe we could write a Great Legal Treatise together?  Or I could go back to my Good for the World solo project?”

“No!” crackled the bestie, “You must [crackle crackle] finish your [crackle] novel because [crackle] and I want to read all of it as soon as you finish!”

That was enough for Belleluluflower.  The Universe was telling her, through the availability of Coach and BFF, to get back to work.  She fumbled in her cross-body bag and retrieved her key a half block away from her apartment door, ready for her slender, but muscular, fingers to pounce upon the keyboard.

At her dining table, Belleluluflower’s laptop awaited.  She hit a key, and the interchanging beach scenes faded away, revealing her manuscript on the screen.

First her eyes, then her slender left index finger traced the calcified scar along his thumb.  He flexed his hand lazily, as a lion stretches its paw.  Then, suddenly, his muscular fingers entrapped her wrist.  He pulled her close and she could smell his salty – –


The screen went back.  No.  Really.  My laptop went black.  And, despite some prescient warnings on the NaNoWriMo website about having one’s work backed up, mine, alas was not.

Was this A Sign from the Universe to stop?  Or a swift Universe kick in the keister to own my project.  I choose the latter and embrace my resilience.  I found another computer, and, tomorrow, will see the good folks at Tekserve.

Let this be a warning!  Back up your work!

The Romance of Feedback: NaBloPoMo versus NaNoWriMo

I once had lunch with a writer, someone I knew well from high school, who had brought her play for me to read – in front of her.  The play was cleverly written; it was a roman à clef – or, perhaps more properly, une pièce de theatre à clef.  It was about office politics that she had experienced and there was a vampire replete with cape and the other accoutrements of vampiredom.

Every time I laughed or my eyes popped, she’d grab the manuscript away from me and say, “Where are you?  What did you just read?”

This lunch took place at a time when the internet seemed like a private communication system between MIT and a few other, select, research universities.  In-person was it, baby, for immediate feedback on your work.

Writers need feedback.

It’s easier today.  Now, we email and blog.

With that in mind, I have begun the first three days of November writing for NaBloPoMo first, and avoiding NaNoWriMo until I could delay no further.  The results speak for themselves:


This leads me to the work of University of Pennsylvania research psychologist Angela Duckworth.  Duckworth is associated with studies on “grit,” that is, persistence and passion for long term goals.  An individual’s high “grit” factor correlates with success and leadership.  Says Duckworth and her coauthors:

We define grit as perseverance and passion for long-term goals.
Grit entails working strenuously toward challenges, maintaining effort and interest over years despite failure, adversity, and plateaus in progress.  The gritty individual approaches achievement as a marathon; his or her advantage is stamina.  Whereas disappointment or boredom signals to others that it is time to change trajectory and cut losses, the gritty individual stays the course.

 Marathon?  Check.  Stamina?  Check.  Disappointment leading to change in trajectory.  Hmmmm.  I’d like to ask Angela about this one.  Isn’t an essential element of learning the ability of an individual, whether rat or human, to modify or change behavior in response to feedback?  Is that not a definition of “change in trajectory?”  My NaNoWriMo word-count stats were, well, disappointing if my goal is the community-unifying 50K – although I am on track to finish 16,000 words (my individual goal) well before the end of the month.

I think I’m going to define myself right back in the game – while modifying my strategy to begin tomorrow with my novel (NaNoWriMo), and blog (NaBloPoMo) after.  What about you?

The New York City Marathon Is Not Like Writing Romance

In New York City today, we held the New York City Marathon.  The Marathon is a glorious thing, the amalgam of thousands of stories, the many personal triumphs, and, I hope, only a few disappointments.  The Marathon lends itself to all kinds of analogizing to writing and, in particular to NaNoWriMo.  There’s preparation, practice, repetitive training, even, possibly healthy eating, pushing oneself to one’s limit and beyond, and persistence.  As I watched the runners, however,


I was struck with how linear their progress was, and how non-linear mine seems to be.

A few nights ago, as I was driving to my son’s school for a grade-wide presentation, a whole chunk of a story came to me – the premise, the dialogue, the obstacle.  It’s as if the Heavens were dictating.  I even remembered enough of it to write it down after the drive, after the school meeting.  And, of course, it is not part of the novel on which I am working for National Novel Writing Month.  Still, it is progress, even if it is not linear.

The Romance of NaNoWriMo and NaBloPoMo

There is an amalgam of optimism and insanity in signing up for National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) and National Blog Posting Month (NaBloPoMo).  Both are month-long self-challenges that could, possibly, cause a writer to form a Good Habit: writing every day.

Preparation for NaNoWriMo and NaBloPoMo 2014 begins with a list for Hailey Reede.

I slipped into my first NaNoWriMo challenge a few days ago, after a great, overdue discussion with a friend.  She’s doing it.  “Why not you?” she queried.  And, as if in a dream, I found myself on the NaNoWriMo website entering my information.  Fifty-thousand words by the end of November 30th is the goal of NaNoWriMo.  Just before November began, I tweeted (and doesn’t that make me sound like a social media savant), my first real tweet: Like waking up in Vegas and finding oneself married to a stranger, I find that I have signed up for my first NaNoWriMo.  (No, no!  Not that I have done that!  It’s just that I have a vivid imagination.)

In the spirit of in for a penny, in for a pound, I signed up for blogging everyday this month as well.  This seems like a natural pairing: enter the mysterious productivity zone, and then report about it to the world.  Of course, no one need see a writer’s wretched 50,000 words – the idea is to produce a draft without criticism or self-criticism.  A blog post, however, by its very nature, yearns to be seen.

As for insanity, there’s making a commitment to writing amidst the growing demands of the holiday season, as well as the usual (and sometimes unusual) family (and sometimes work) stuff.  There’s the sword of Damocles  – the threat of feeling “cut down” if one does not achieve the glory of 50,000 words.

Fifty thousand words is at the low end of most novels’ word counts.   That’s 1,667 words to write per day in November if you are including all weekends and Thanksgiving.  Would it comfort you to know that Animal Farm comes in at a mere 29,966 words?  Or that Harlequin seeks only 30,000 words for it’s erotic romance line?  Or that Indie author Hugh Howey successfully markets both his longer works (such as Sand at 252 pages/87,832 words) and his shorter works (such as Glitch, at 15 pages/4,884 words).  Jasinda Wilder’s Big Girls Do It Better (Book 1), is an appetizer sized 32 pages, but her break-out hit, Falling Into You is 369 pages.  Does size matter?  Really?

For my four-part series, I wasn’t aiming as high as a cumulative 50K.  Sixteen thousand would have been fine for me.  And so, on this Day 1, my own tiny struggle is: Am I aiming for the NaNoWriMo completion badge of 50,000 words – and can I make it, or will I feel grateful to have steadily produced whatever it takes to finish this work?

Set the technicalities aside for now.  This beginning is a cautiously happy one.  I shall push forward with a story I believe in and in the company of virtual and actual thousands.  For this little while, writing need not seem lonely – – and I just might end up with a completed four-part work.

[cross-posted at]

The Romance of Beginning College

It’s nearing the end of August and, all over the United States, kids are going off to college. Some of them, like my friend PJ’s daughter, as well as my heroine Cara, are entering college for the first time. Someday, sooner than I’d like to acknowledge, I may be sending my own chickadees off to a palace of higher education.

How do we advise them? What did our parent teach us about surviving and thriving at college?

PJ told me that she spent last week, before the big drop-off, pouring out wisdom. I am eager to know what she shared.

As for me, I was the beneficiary of all kinds of accumulated learning well before my move-in date. My mom gave me a set of four beautiful patchwork placemats and a small set of Revere cookware copper-bottomed pots and pans for the dinner parties I surely would host. I would know no hunger – they gave me dishes, utensils, a two-plate electric burner, and a toaster oven. I actually did have a few dinner parties in my college years – two of them involved placemats. One night as a freshman, a friend of mine, a guy from my high school, and I tried to make a cream sauce for chicken, which we were cooking in my other saucepot. We knew nothing about cream sauces. Finally, my friend went down the hall to call my mom for guidance. (Yes, it was before cell phones.) He came back to me triumphant, crowing, “Keep the heat on, Hailey! We are reducing our sauce!”

My dad advised me not to set up housekeeping with anybody so that I could achieve academic greatness.

My mom told me to decide how far I wanted to go before I embarked on a date so that I would not have any later regrets of being swept away in a moment of passion. She shared with me the wisdom her father gave her when she entered college: You marry a different guy at 15 (her age when she began her freshman year), than you do at 20, than you do at 23 (the age when she married my dad).

There’s a crazy yearning that happens when August means the beginning of a new school. We yearn for the security of the known – the past, and we dream of adventures to come. And we think we can go back, if we need to.

In the first of my soon-to-be-released four-part novel series, Love U: At First, Cara has received plenty of parental advice that she weighs as events unfold. I hope you’ll come on the journey with Cara and me.

(Start at minute 1:16 if you want to skip right to the music)

Romance, Writing, and Pulling the Trigger

Some writing days, I feel like Indiana Jones trying to get to the point in the most direct way possible.  Indy runs.  He hides.  He darts through the marketplace.  I tiptoe, I hide, I dart through the kitchen on my way to my laptop.  (Shhhhh, kids, not time to get up yet….)

Indiana Jones is confronted by a wily, gifted swordsman.  Shall he engage blade-for-blade?  I am confronted by indecision: I know where my scene is headed, but have several openings duking it out in my head.

[SPOILER ALERT: If you have not seen Raiders of the Lost Ark (really?  How come?), you intend to see it, and you prefer the thrill of the new rather than the joy of recognition for one, tiny, 26-second scene, bookmark this page, stop reading, and move along to my next blog post.  Remember to come back after you’ve seen the movie though, ok?]

Indy doesn’t allow himself to become mesmerized by the fancy bladesmanship of the would-be assailant.  Noooo!

Blam!  Indy pulls out his gun and shoots his attacker.  (No matter what your position on guns, gun ownership, and gun use is, put it aside for a moment – we’re talking fiction here.)   I take a deep breath and Blam!  I’ve commited to my scene-opener – same rush of adrenaline, same sensation of satisfaction, same matter-of-fact push to get to the point of the scene.

This is to say that I plunged in to write a hot scene first, and the story is falling around it.

Now, I shall fire-up my screensaver and tiptoe back to the kitchen to make five breakfasts (no cereal here) and two lunches.

Clean Laundry and Hot Romance?

Dang, that Jasinda Wilder can write!  (Yes, I know that Jack and Jasinda write together, but the cover gives credit to Jasinda, so I’m going with that.)

I did a deep dive into Jasinda’s early works – as per the publication schedule on  She writes about women who inhabit the world of what is plausible.  A woman flees from an unfaithful husband and oppressive marriage to a small town (The Preacher’s Son: Unbound).  A woman who is confident that she can take care of herself feels vulnerable when she doubts that a man can love her plus-sized self (Big Girls Do it Better).  A faithful, naïve young wife finds her husband in bed with a woman she knows (Delilah’s Diary: A Sexy Journey).

Then, Jasinda has her leading ladies embark on a journey of joyous sexual self-expression (you knew that from the cover art, right?), explicitly written, while finding True Love.  Don’t overlook the explicit part – Jasinda gets it right.  There’s steam, there’s spice, and it adds up to a compelling, don’t-want-to-put-it-down read.  They are enormously fun to devour (adults only).

The author spins her tales over several books in each series.  In fact, between August 29, and November 20, 2012, Jasinda (and Jack?) birthed ELEVEN hot romance novellas, all in either a Preachers, Big Girls, or Diary series.

With this modus operandi and their impressive publication release schedule, Jasinda and Jack were able to make their mortgage payments and save their home.

How do they do it?  They have five little ones.  End of August is back-to-school.  There’s everyday meals and homework.  There’s Halloween (must be huge when multiplied by five) and then there’s the mother of all female-work holidays: Thanksgiving.  Yet, Jasinda and Jack said that they stayed holed-up in their clean, toyless, finished basement – the size of a mansion by New York City standards – taking few breaks, unswerving in their devotion to create and publish – dare I call it? – product.

Who’s covering the kids, making sure everyone is wearing clean clothes, and bringing in the groceries?  And can they come visit me?

And in the beginning… There Was Jasinda Wilder

We graduated from law school with high hopes.  PJ moved to the left coast, both of us went on to clerk for judges, wrote some very fine law – if I must say so myself (and I must) – and then [cue screeching needle sound] each of us underwent much treatment to have kids (what a coincidence!), she in California, and me in New York, New Jersey and Chicago.  This endeavor slowed down each of our legal careers in a way that was not reflected in our husbands’ career paths – those went along just fine.  Around that time, during our many phone conversations, PJ and I compared notes about our lives and the cases that had come before our judges.  “You can’t make this stuff up!” we would always conclude.

During some chat about the legal predicament of someone PJ knew, we concluded that, if we just twisted the facts this way and that, and threw in some pop-culture elements, why, we’d have a mighty fine screenplay.  To us, a mighty fine screenplay that we would sell to someone meant instant “coolness” and universal acceptance.  Writers love acceptance.  We opined about the color of dresses we would wear to the Oscars™ (I believe navy taffeta was mentioned) and if we could top Sally Field’s “You really, really like me!” for our acceptance speeches.

Of course, never being gals to remain satisfied with the easy way out, we endeavored to write two screenplays concurrently – a thriller and a romance.   Our goal, as I remember it, was to write something we would want to see on a date night – if we ever had a date night with our husbands again.

PJ’s baby arrived eleven months before my two made their appearances, and no baby took a nap at the same time – across four time zones.  You can see where this is headed, right?  We spun lots of bits of great stories, but didn’t, well, have not yet, finished a work (but they’re really great, believe me!).  PJ wrote regularly for her newspaper, joined a writers’ group and won awards for short fiction, and I did quite a bit of ghostwriting.

Life happens, which is to say, while our “babies” were growing gloriously into full-fledged children, they incurred, by golly, expenses!  In the ensuing years, if you throw in a couple of illnesses the treatment for which insurance does not pay (this predates The Affordable Healthcare Act), some other catastrophes, and the economic collapse of 2008, our catch-as-catch-can phone calls took on a wistful “how do we get back in the game because the proverbial wolf is at the door,” feel.

Until June 18, 2013.

On June 18, PJ called me.

“Hailey!” PJ said, barely suppressing a happy squeal, “Did you see the report on CBS about the writers?”

I had not.

PJ recounted for me the now-famous tale of a midwest couple, parents of five little children, the youngest of whom became ill right before they lost their jobs, who generated enough income from their steamy romance writings that, the very first month, they were able to pay their mortgage.  Subsequently, they have continued to publish, and their income has topped $100,000 per month.

This is a video of the couple, Jack and Jasinda Wilder’s, experience in self-publishing:

(If clicking the video doesn’t work, try clicking here.)

“Hailey,” my BFF PJ exclaimed, “This is for you!  Your circumstances are dire!  Why don’t you write your way out?”

So I’m writing and researching (can’t stop that lawyer training).

I hope you’ll visit often and linger, leave comments, and take the journey with me here to see what comes of this.  Readers are why writers write – I appreciate your stopping by.