Thursday, December 30, 2010

Her Jane, Me Writing

Today I'm just going to send you over to my friend Jane's blog "Me Jane", because frankly, it's just brilliant (but be're going to laugh but you're going to cry). And also because I'm busy with some re-writes on my book proposal (per my agent! Did I mention the memoir has an agent??). I'm off for the next 5 days and planning to sink into the writing (and maybe a few home projects...but mostly, I'm all about the writing...okay, and some reading, but then it's the writing...I mean, I'll have to walk Seamus of course, but then, I'm all about writing; it's unfortunate I seem to have a cold coming on, but I'll power through it and write. Yep, that's me. Writer. Serious, serious, writer.)

And in honor of my five days of writing, and my friend Jane's brilliant blogging, here's a photo of me (right), Jane (left) and our other writing buddy Lori (middle, obviously) at the Maui Writer's Retreat circa 2004. Ah, those were the days...

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Something to Celebrate

Two years ago today my (now former) primary care physician called to tell me my mammogram was "highly suspicious of malignancy." Of course, he didn't call me in the morning. He called me at 3:45 pm and he told me I needed to get to a surgeon right away and I should call the next day. You know, on Christmas Eve. And so began my breast cancer journey. Five years ago today Seamus was having his second chemotherapy appointment. Of course, he kicked cancer's butt (which, as you will recall was literally trying to kick his butt--because, um, that's where his tumor was located).

This photo was taken on December 26, 2008 (I'm just beginning my cancer odyssey and Seamus is a 3 year survivor):
And here's this years photo...

I think we've recovered nicely, don't you? I'm a month away from "2 Year Survivor" status and Seamus is a 5 Year Survivor (and hey, that's 35 people years).

Merry Christmas! (And Cheers!)

Friday, December 10, 2010

It's Not Just Kids He Terrifies

So, we took Seamus to see Santa. (I know what you're thinking. Here's my excuse: It's a fundraiser for the Mary S. Roberts Pet Adoption Center.) Seamus is nothing if not expressive. Here is how it went:

("Are you fookin' kiddin' me? Who is dis guy?")

("I will not put up with this. Dis is bullsh*t. Seriously.")

("Mom, you are completely fookin' humiliating me. A scarf? Where da hell is dad??")

("Are you seeing this?? Dude is tryin' ta kill me!! He's choking me!! I want my lawyer!!!")

("Fine. One pose. But just one.")

("And then I'm fookin' out of here. Seriously. Take me home. To steak. Steak and toast. Now.")

Here's wishing a Merry Christmas and a Happy Home for the Holidays for all the gorgeous animals at the Mary S. Roberts Pet Adoption Center!! We did this for you.  (And Seamus is almost over it.)

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Not Fair at All

This has been a difficult couple of weeks. [Be warned: not much any humor in this post.]

By now we've all heard that Elizabeth Edwards died from cancer today. It's not like I knew her, but I'm saddened by her death and by her obituaries that focus on her asshole jerk of a husband and all his betrayals. She seemed like a very decent, intelligent person, and it bothers me to no end that cancer doesn't really care about that. Her passing and the news coverage of it is just one more reason that I have been unable to put cancer, and more to the point, the possibility of a recurrence of cancer, out of my mind of late. Elizabeth Edwards death today brings me back to the vent.

I haven't been able to blog lately for a lot of reasons, but mostly because I don't really know what to say. I still don't. Cancer has been omnipresent of late and I may well have lost my sense of humor about it.

In the past two weeks we have once again been dealing with cancer in our family. My beautiful sister-in-law (my brother's wife) lost her father to throat cancer just before Thanksgiving. He was 63 years old and his diagnosis was shocking and his battle was very short. My sister-in-law lost her mother to breast cancer 11 years ago on December 14th at the age of 52. I remember being at her mom's funeral on December 23rd, the year after my father's wife died on that same day.  It's just not fair. Cancer never is.   I think of my niece who has a grandmother, a grandfather and an aunt who've all had cancer and what this might mean for her future (and I hope it means early screening, extra attention and vigilance...but mostly I hope for a cure before any of that matters)

And very recently, with seemingly no warning, Chris's aunt has been diagnosed with Stage IV metastasized breast cancer, with a pretty grim diagnosis. I've been helping her on the legal side of things (the "get your affairs in order" side of things) and Chris spent several hours with her at the hospital today. I can't help but think that she's probably had cancer for far longer than I have (or did? what's the proper word here...we don't know) but for some reason hers wasn't caught, but mine was. Or was it?

I think about these people, these cancers, and I think about my blogging friends battling various stages of cancer, and another business colleague who recently went to a hospital to say goodbye to a friend of hers whose breast cancer has recurred and was nearing the end of her battle, and I think about my new "virtual" friends recently diagnosed with breast cancer and in touch because they found my blog and reached out for support, and I think...F*CK CANCER.  I wish I could be more articulate than that, but no...F*CK CANCER.   And I think about the possibility of a recurrence of my own cancer and I just want to say that again. F*CK CANCER.

Usually my logical mind takes charge and so yeah, I can figure out that none of us knows how long we have or if cancer will strike or strike a second time and that I'm maybe no more likely to die of cancer than anyone else despite my recent encounters, because the thing is...none of us knows.... but also, I can't stop thinking about cancer right now.And the possibility of recurrence.

Have I mentioned how much I dislike this time of year? There is a lot of good stuff going on in my life right now, but at the moment, today, I can't seem to focus on that. Because life is just not fair. Not fair at all.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Butterflies and Book Deals

Seamus is on his way to being famous...(and also practicing his "I want to be alone" pose).

The title is a bit of a cheat. Twice, actually. I don't have a book deal yet--but as I mentioned I have "officially" signed with a super fantastic literary agent who will be representing my memoir and taking it out to publishers. And I promised details, which I will now share. (Programming note: if you are one of the blog readers who is a writer yourself, you are already familiar with this process and you may just want to skip down to the end...and then leave your comments telling me where I got it all wrong.) When I've told some of my family and friends my news I've been met with cheers and...confusion, especially when they ask when they can buy the book and I have to explain, well, uh, it will have to find a publisher first.  Understandable confusion since most non-writer folks don't really know about literary agents and just think "book deal."

Here's the deal--to get a book published with a publishing house of repute (whether little, medium or big), these days one must have a literary agent. You cannot simple call up Random House and tell them you've got the next bestseller--you're the next Jonathan Franzen Clancy Irving King Rowling.  Nor can you mail them your novel and then sit waiting for the money to pour in. (Please watch this funny clip and know it's all true). No, you need a literary agent. The literary agent can get to editors at the publishing houses and get them to consider buying your book. No agent, no book deal, pretty much. So it's a first--and major--step, after of course you've done the required writing work.

Literary agents get 100s (maybe more) of requests --known as "query letters"-- every month from aspiring authors pimping their writings. With a novel a writer must finish the book (or, um, in the case of my earlier novel, finish it repeatedly, and then again and then start again) before seeking a literary agent. With non-fiction, it's a slightly different route. With non-fiction the writer puts together a book proposal, which Chris has described as a "business plan for a book" and that's pretty accurate. A memoir is non-fiction so it falls in the latter category, except with some agents who still want a finished manuscript and a book proposal. I've been working on the actual memoir all year. I started working on the proposal in August (remember that North Carolina trip--yep, all book proposal) and finished it in mid-September, including sample chapters and an outline of the full memoir.

Then I spent several weeks researching agents. If you are ever in this position, let me highly recommend a site called This site not only let me research the agents and find out all sorts of valuable information (who represents what kind of books, what other authors an agent represents, how to contact them, how long they usually take to respond, if they respond...) but also let me track the status of the various queries. That might not sound all that complicated, but it is--considering that a writer doesn't get to just send 2 or 3 queries and wham! there's the agent begging for the book. It takes many, many queries. 100s sometimes (there are 1000s of agents--some better than others of course). Then, with my list of 250 possible agents selected and ranked on a scale of 1 to 10 (1 being a dream agent and 10 being a good agent that was a fit with this type of memoir), I turned to writing the query letter.

Again, harder than you think.  A query letter is one page that describes the book, sells it with a "hook," and also explains why you are the best if not the only person to write this particular book. Phew. This stuff is work, people.

Finally, on September 29th, I began the process of sending out the query letters (and sometimes the proposal itself, or sample pages, depending on each agent's preferences) to a select number of agents (not all 250--that would be crazy!!). I got a good response almost immediately! The "good response" was 11 agents asking to see the full proposal. Trust me, that's a good response. I sent the proposals as the requests came and then returned to writing the memoir (okay, well, first launched into a "what was I thinking? I can't do this! I can't write! panic which all writers are familiar with).

By November 16th (trust me, that's speedy!) I had offers of representation (yes, plural!!) and got to begin the happy task of "checking references"--which is a fancy way of saying I called and spoke with some of the authors represented by the agents who'd offered to represent me. As a lifelong reading geek, that was beyond thrilling. Then, last Wednesday I signed with a category 1 dream agent--Sarah Jane Freymann of the Sarah Jane Freymann Literary Agency. I'm thrilled. I've loved my conversations with her and her thoughts on shaping the memoir. This weekend I've written 11 new pages and am highly motivated to write more and more and more. (I'm sure this is a honeymoon stage; I'd like to enjoy it anyway.)

The plan at this point is that she will get back to me with her notes on the proposal and how to make it as marketable as possible. I'll spend December revising the proposal and after the first of the year she'll be taking it out to the editors looking for that magical book deal. Which means, there won't be news of a book deal until February or March--and that's if I'm really, really lucky (or really, really good ;-)  ).  In the meantime, I'm just going to bask in this little glow right now and keep my head down working on the  actual writing. Not a bad way to spend the holidays.

Seamus has of course demanded his own agent. He's not sure I'll fight for enough toast residuals in his contract so he'll need his own representation. We're in negotiations now.You can see the hardline position he's taken in the photo.

Oh, and the butterflies in the title? Well, I could cheat and tell you it was in reference to the butterflies in my stomach when the agents called, but I'm not really a butterfly kinda gal. No, it was a bald faced cheat--because the blog post with the most hits, consistently, in the history of the blog was the one titled Butterflies and Blogs, and, um...I wanted a lot of hits again as I brag about getting an agent. Believe me, when the book gets published the blog posts will all be "Butterflies, Unicorns and Free Sex."

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Best Thanksgiving Ever!!

The big news is........ I have an agent for The Dog Lived memoir version!!! Woo Hooo!!
More details later, but suffice it to say I'm very happy and looking forward to getting this memoir as perfect as it can be. I will be represented by Sarah Jane Freymann of the Sarah Jane Freymann Literary Agency, (in New York City--which just feels so literary!).

Happy Thanksgiving to all!!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010


Also known as "Paso Robles, Part II."

Yeah, I's taken me awhile to get this posted. Well, all I can say at this point is that it's been a really, really busy week or so as both a lawyer and a writer. I will have very exciting writer news to share very soon (lawyers aren't really allowed to share their news..oh, and it's rarely exciting to non-lawyers)! In the meantime though, I wanted to share a bit more about my Paso Robles week of wine and writing. I mentioned our neighbors in PR. They were awesome. So cute. So well behaved. Perfect in every way. Allow me to introduce you to a few of them:

This is Clover (so named because he has a brown clover-shaped marking in the fur around his butt). He lives at Venteux Winery. (Let me also highly recommend their Hospice du Bone wine...mmmmmm).
This is El Cid from Ambyth Winery (he's a golden-doodle!). Simply adorable. Also, I'm going to recommend the Ambyth Rosada Rose...and just going to this absolutely spectacular vineyard. The views are incredible. The wine is delicious and if you are as lucky as we were, the caretaker Gustavo and his lovely wife just make a deliriously fabulous shrimp Veracruz and chips and guacamole (she put cucumber in the guac! never hear of that but it was fabulous!).
This is El Cid's pal at Ambyth whose name is momentarily escaping me. But he ran way out ahead around the entire vineyard leading the way as Gustavo drove Chris and me around in the Polaris for a tour...wineglasses in hand.

This was our next door neighbor for the week. Never did catch her name; she mostly kept to herself.
This is Cabernet. He lives at Eberle Winery with his less-willing-to-be-photographed sister, Roussanne.
I did not catch these girls names either, but clearly they were having their own girls' weekend.  We'll just call them Lori, Jane and Teresa. (The photo is taken from the car, through the windshield while we waited for them to cross).

Bartender Zachery. Cute waiters are also part of the native wildlife of Paso Robles. (And Zachery was an English major in college. Mild swooning.)

T (heart) PR.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Come Along With Me

I'm on vacation this week. And if you are thinking "Hey, weren't you just in a beach house in North Carolina for a week of writing and relaxing?", well, congratulations to you. You are absolutely correct. But really, that was last August. And it went so well that Lori and I, along with another writer friend Jane (for two days anyway) decided it was worth repeating. Only this time instead of the beach we're in a great little house in Paso Robles, California. Conveniently located in the midst of Central California's wine country. A little writing, a little wine, a little more writing, a little's all working out great.

I'm still busy with The Dog Lived (and So Will I) memoir version and have thus far completed the second draft of the first half (Seamus's story, in essence). I'm now on to my own story. It's an interesting process and I'm actually learning a lot about my own journey. I'm re-reading some of my old blog posts to remember where I was and what it was like during certain stages. Today I'll be writing about the MRI and how it was to let friends and family know about my diagnosis. If you'd like to follow along, in the memoir I'm pretty much at the stage discussed in THIS blog post. (yep, click on "this"--er, the earlier one, in caps--and you can go back in time with me). But if you'd just as soon follow along on my vacation, I offer you this:

My cute home for this week.
And it's fall here. This is just not something we have in Southern California (of course, it's also been in the 80's here all, um, "fall" is still a relative term).
There was a late harvest this year due to the cool summer, so the vines are actually a bit lush for this time of the year. (No lush jokes! None!)
The wineries are also pretty spectacular. (This is Robert Hall; it was closed when we got there, but the grounds were so beautiful we walked around for a bit.)
Starr Ranch Vineyard.

DuBost Winery Vineyard.
This bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon came from that vineyard right behind me. And then he came home with me. Along with a few of his friends--like Ms. Rose', and Ms. Viognier.

In the next day or so I will share with you photos of some of our neighbors on this vacation. Really. They're cute.

In the meantime, Cheers!

(Neither Lori nor I know what's up with our hair. I'm guessing it was windy. At any rate, we're in Vina Robles winery and we'd like to thank Martin for a wonderful tasting and some of the best double cream bleu cheese I've ever tasted. Paradise Bleu I believe it was.)

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Weighty Matters

 All appears good on the check-up front. We'll know in a week when the four vials of my blood they took have been appropriately screened, tested and magnified (or whatever it is they do with all that blood o' mine).

My visit to Dr. Glaspy for my one-year and 6 months post-chemo (or one-year three months post all treatments) check-up went just about as I expected with one exception.

I mentioned the lingering issues which either occured during chemo and never went away or have cropped up since chemo and my body does not seem to be clearing up by itself. In no particular order those are:

1) my eyelashes continue to grow in and then fall out. Every few months (like now) I end up with three or four long normal eyelashes and then stubble for the rest. And mascara looks ridiculous. The horned-eyelid effect is not a good one.

2) my digestive system has never returned to normal. Enough said.

3) I have to cough and clear my throat for anywhere from 5 to 20 minutes after eating anything.

4) the right breast (the formally "afflicted" one) seems to have a certain unnatural firmness (right, I know...not supposed to be something one would complain about...unless one was a panicky former breast cancer patient).

5) I still have sleep issues (insomnia and night sweats).

Now, none of these things are problems that cause me pain or worry or really even are things I think much about. But, this far out from treatment I figured I'd ask if these were now just a permanent part of me or if there was anything I could do about any of the above. And for item #1 I asked about a prescription for Lashtisse (or whatever that is Brooke Shields does the eyelash super-growth commercials for). I also asked about seeing a nutritionist and/or ear, nose & throat specialist.

Dr. Glaspy gave me that patient, indulgent smile of his along with the Lashtisse prescription (clearly, he is not a believer! But also, I think he may think eyelash growth is a silly concern. He may have a point). Then he said....he said...cough, cough...he....said.....(with the exception of #4 which is the result of the radiation)......cough....he said....

"I'm willing to bet that all of these issues would clear up if you lost some weight."


Wow. again.

Now, it's not like I haven't noticed I've gained weight. According to my chart, I've gained 12 lbs since the cancer odyssey began. And I've gained 30 since Chris and I began dating (as has Chris; we're sure this is pure coincidence).  But I've never in my life been overweight or had to watch what I ate. Not rail thin, but not overweight. And I eat (and drink) like a teenage boy. And I don't exercise. At all. Huh. Who knew that was all going to catch up with me one day?? And now is that one day. I'm telling myself that I'll take walks while I'm in Paso Robles next week and when I return I will join the gym and talk to a nutritionist. Assuming I can roll myself off this couch and get myself all washed up with that rag I've got tied to the end of a stick for bathing purposes now.

Then we left Dr. Glaspy, went on over to the (totally healthy, dietetic, nutritional) Cheese Shop of Beverly Hills. $200 later (including purchases for friends) we went to our usual "no cancer anymore" dinner celebration with the good and great Dr. Karam. See photo above for his hair growth (the curls are coming back) and mine (the curls are going away!). And photo below for how Chris's massive head of hair is doing (he's due for a cut, but the nurse drawing my blood was loving his great hair and complimented him on maybe he won't cut it just yet).

Much to our surprise we later ran into Emily, Chris's BFF from high school, and Emily's former roomie Hillary. The amazing coincidence here is that the first time we met Dr. Karam was of course January 8, 2009-- my first appointment after the "highly suspicious of malignancy phone call. That night after my appointment we went out to dinner with Emily (and some random never seen again guy--by us; but Emily has dumped him too) and another friend of Chris's, Ashley. So last night, the other friend role was played by Hillary (second from right) and the random guy role was played by Shawn (second from left)--one of the owner's of The Yard where we ate. And hey, anybody recognize the not-so-random guy in this next photo?

Chef CJ --fan favorite from Top Chef Season 2. He's the chef at The Yard and joined us for a bit. Obviously he was just trying to show me how tall and thin is done. Apparently, it can be done. Huh. Something to think about....while I finish off these cheese and crackers and sip some more wine.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Checking In and Up

Time has a way of flying by. I've heard that somewhere.

So, it's been one year and 3 months since I finished up all breast cancer treatments. And we know what that's the quarterly visit to UCLA Medical Center! I go tomorrow to see Dr. Glaspy, my oncologist, for a check-up. And then of course we'll be seeing the good and great Dr. Karam for dinner which is more like a check-in. If you are wondering what the difference is, the obvious one is that I have my top on for one of those events. And there is food at only one of those events.

Although for the most part I've moved on to not even thinking about the breast cancer, it's inevitable that when I get close to the check-up appointment time I start paying too much attention to too many things. If my back or ankle hurt, instead of old age I (momentarily) think bone cancer? And lately anytime I eat anything I have to spend twenty minutes coughing and clearing my throat. And instead of thinking "allergies," I think throat cancer??  So I will be happy to go see Dr. Glaspy, have him say "all looks good" (and typically when I tell him my weird "symptoms" he smiles patiently and gives me the logical answer-- you know, like "old age" and "allergies.") Then I can return to forgetting about BC. Except for the fact that it is breast cancer awareness month. Hard to miss all that pink.

I did check my own blog here to remind myself where I was this time last year (this time 2 years ago, I was oblivious to the whole cancer thing!). And ironically, since it was then my first post-treatment quarterly oncology check-up--I was in pretty much the same situation (just with less hair). I was trying to think of myself as "any other dog" (a la Seamus). Hmmm...maybe I'm not progressing as much as I thought.

Ah well. Stay tuned. I'll report back in on the check-up and dinner with the good and great doctor. Perhaps we'll even get an updated photo on my hair status and his (he had shaved off all those gorgeous curls, so he's got some hair growing-out to do as well!). Oh, and you she see the massive head of hair Chris is sporting once again. Right, hair growth. Now that's going to be exciting....

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Breast Cancer Bloggers

Check out the Woman's article on breast cancer just might see someone you know. (Right, I wrote a piece for it. You are so clever to figure that out!). And the interesting part is I "know" two of the other bloggers--through their blogs. Apparently, it's a small BC Blog world.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Of Books & Beagles (No Boobies…yet)

Last April I met author Reed Farrel Coleman at the LA Times Festival of Books. He was able to help mutual friend and author Sara Henry (Sara in Vermont blog) pick me out of a crowd (before that we'd only met "virtually" through our blogs). And now I'm thrilled to be participating in the blog tour for his new book, Innocent Monster. Especially because the book involves wine…and a beagle. Here's some official stuff about the book and then we'll get to the really meaty stuff…you know, my questions:

About the book:

"Sashi Bluntstone, the 11-year-old Next New Thing on the New York art scene, has been abducted, and Moe Prager—former NYPD cop and former PI—is asked by his estranged daughter, Sarah, to join the search. He expects only tragedy; Sashi has already been missing for three weeks, and he hasn't been a PI for seven years. Now a well-to-do wine merchant, Moe agrees, primarily to attempt to restore his relationship with Sarah." – from Booklist

And now for my hard-hitting questions for a hard-boiled p.i. writing kinda guy:

1) Let's get the obvious stuff out of the way. Tell us what's hot in wine right now. Kidding! But what wine do you suggest readers indulge in when they first sit down with Innocent Monster? And how about when they finish it? (Obviously this book is worth two bottles, no?)

I'm all about reds and so is Moe. In fact, reds are allegorical for the books and the series: very complex, about different flavors and sensations at different points of the drinking experience, changeable. I would suggest three wines for Innocent Monster. I would begin with a South African Shiraz, transition to an old vine California Zinfandel, and finish with an aged French Cabernet.   

2) Where does your wine knowledge come from? My significant other, a wine guy himself, says you know your stuff.

I worked for a French transport firm for five years in the 80s and got a rudimentary wine education. They were big on office celebrations which meant lots of Champagne. I'm a dry, yeasty Champagne, not lemony kinda guy. My older brother David, the model for Moe's brother Aaron, has long been an oenophile and has a sommelier's certificate. He's the source of most of the details about wine in the book. I know the basics, but he knows the specifics. Now my oldest brother Jules has gotten into wine in a big way. Half the emails I get are from We're allreds guys, but Jules and David do white too.      

3) I assume you do not feel compelled to kill people or solve mysteries during book signings and conferences, but do you feel obligated to be drinking wine? (This would be such a fantastic excuse for constant imbibing that I'm really hoping for an affirmative answer here!)

One never needs feel the obligation. Drinking red wine is my default setting. I like the occasional beer or gin and tonic, but these days it's all about the red wine. Plus, at conferences, drinking can get a little ridiculous and with a glass of red in your hand you can stretch a glass out for a long time but still enjoy it. Try that with a beer. Doesn't work. I didn't even need your prompting to say that red wine drinking is just the perfect drink at conferences, conventions, and book events.  

4) A beagle or two makes an appearance in Innocent Monster (and surprisingly, not as the title character). When did you first realize they are in fact the greatest dog ever?

My closest and dearest friend Ellen, a school librarian, always hated dogs. I mean HATED dogs. So when she decided to get a beagle, I knew they were magical and mythical creatures. And the beagle she got, Olivia, is just the coolest dog. She loves her Uncle Reed to no end and howls for me when she hears my car pull up to the house and makes me pet her, which I would do without prompting anyway, for 15 minutes before she calms down. She even smiles at me. Olivia is the model for the dogs in the book and she did in fact eat all of Ellen's family's Hanukah gelt (chocolates shaped like coins and wrapped in gold foil). God, she was really sick for days.

5) Do you think that the beagle will take over all future novels and suddenly you'll be the beagle mystery king giving the cat mystery genre queens a run for their money? Beagles have that sort of mind-bending power, you know.

Hey, if there are cat and dog detectives already, why not have a beagle be the Sherlock Holmes of animal detectives?

6) You've covered wine and beagles in a book - which pretty much covers the three most important things in my life. Do you think you can get breast cancer into your next novel and confirm that you are in fact stalking my life for writing inspiration?

Read the next Moe book, Hurt
Machine and see if I don't surprise you.


Obviously we can expect to see Reed back on this blog. I'm thinking Moe is one of the 2,000 men a year diagnosed with breast cancer. (Hey, at least it's fictional!) And here's a bit more about Reed. Please note that among his awards is the "Shamus Award" (and for today, he gets the "Seamus award"). But the most important part about him is that he would be eternally grateful if you now went and bought his book (or really, all of them). You can do that on the link right below.

About the author:

Reed Farrel Coleman has been called a hard-boiled poet by NPR's Maureen Corrigan and the noir poet laureate in the Huffington Press. He's published eleven novels—two under his pen name Tony Spinosa—in three series, and the stand-alone Tower co-written with award-winning Irish author Ken Bruen. Reed has won the Shamus Award for Best Novel of the Year three times, won the Barry and Anthony, and twice been nominated for the Edgar. He is a co-editor of The Lineup and was the editor of the anthology Hard Boiled Brooklyn. The former executive VP of Mystery Writers of America, Reed is an adjunct professor at Hofstra University. You can reach Reed on his website, Facebook, or Twitter.

Innocent Monster 

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Angels in My Life

Based on that title, you're expecting a mushy post, aren't you? Really?

It's like you don't even know me.

I mean the Anaheim Angels. Okay, right the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (but that's just so stupid; the Angels and Disneyland are NOT in Los Angeles. Sorry. Pet peeve on the loose).

The Angels have played a special part in my and Chris's (epic!) love story. Our first date was at an Angels game (June 12, 2004); we've managed a Angels game every year since (preferably in the Diamond Club. Ahem.), even last year post-chemo but in the midst of radiation we spent our anniversary at the Angels game (see photo to right: fake hair; fake eyelashes; real smiles).

But recently, we had the ultimate Angels experience. Well, ultimate in a year when they weren't going to see any post-season play (which is a nice way of saying they sucked).

We were guests of Bank of America in a Dugout Suite. Which is...Sweet!!! Check out these seats!! It's like he was pitching to us.

(real hair; real eyelashes; real happiness...and yeah, that sky's real too. We're standing, but our seats are right there. Right. There. Awesomeness.)
Dessert cart inside the suite. Oh. My. Gawd. Yeah, I went for that red velvet cake you see in the upper right. Did I mention the bar in the suite? Yep, that too. But back to the game...
Ok, so I had to use my zoom lens on this one, but still...I'm loving this shot. I may have a sports photographer career in my future. Or some next life. Truly an amazing experience to view the game this close up. It reminded me of the first time I sat really close up at a ballet. I was forth row center--close enough to hear the ballerinas grunt (occasionally), see their muscles quiver, and ...get sprayed with sweat following some otherwise spectacular spins. At this Angels game the crack of the bat was much louder, we could hear the players talking (and yelling), we could hear the umpire's calls clearly and even heard him "caution" the Oakland A's players who were getting a little, well, rude about his calls. We could even get dusty from the field.
This shot was taken before the game started (and it was hot out, so most folks are inside the suite...where the bar and the food were), but gives you an idea just how cool our seats were.

Yep. Loving those Angels in my life.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

The Month of Pink

Happy October. And you know what that means. We are of course launched into Breast Cancer Awareness month. The Pink Ribbon Place kicked it off on Thursday night (September 30th--we were getting a jump on things) with a candlelight vigil. I did a brief M.C. stint for the event but mostly I enjoyed meeting and talking with the other survivors--including a young woman who was diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 26. She was pregnant with her fourth child and her husband had been injured and was unemployed when she was diagnosed. She is in remission now, but tragically the baby, who was born healthy, died just a few weeks ago. I can't imagine the strength she has. She was there to speak to the crowd about her journey and how the Pink Ribbon Place helped her through (she had no insurance and couldn't get any health care providers to pay attention to her at first because she was "too young" for breast cancer.) Her three daughters played with Seamus, so he did his part too. An inspiring evening. And for the month of  October the lights on top of City Hall in Riverside will shine pink, to remind us all.

It's also been an exciting few weeks around our house. First, the Women of Achievement Luncheon (see post below), then some exciting news on the memoir agent search (not sharing yet...too soon!) and then an article came out in Inland Empire magazine featuring Seamus & me both as part of the "12 Local Survivors Tell Their Stories." (my picture even made the "table of contents"!!; that's it over to the right only it's not that blurry in the magazine).
I'm not too sure those links are all that useful (you may have to search through the online version of the magazine to find us (I'm on the page next to Ellen DeGeneres! Right after the article on Reese Witherspoon!  I'm like a Z-list celebrity! ;-) ). If I could post the article here, I would of course.

It's the month to wear pink, think pink, drink pink, your local breast cancer resource center!  Such as...The Pink Ribbon Place.  I'm just sayin'....

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Women of Achievement

Yeah, the title kinda cracks me up, but they really did give me such an award. Not just me, there were six of us. And there we are in the first photo (L to R: Barbara Purvis, Colette Lee, Debra Murphy, Colleen Walker, Yours Truly, and Betty "Bets" Folsom). The luncheon was very nice and my friends and family turned out in all their glory (two full tables of 'em!).

So rather than bore you with what I said and what was said about me (the others were fascinating of course...surely they have their own blogs?), I'll just show you some of the great photos my personal paparazzi (Mike Easley of Vital Excess) captured.

Here's me with my dad and step-mom (and she won the beautiful nautilus shell necklace in the raffle!).

 And here's me with my mom and Chris. We were almost ready for that photo. (Yes, right, my height comes from my dad. And a killer pair of Cole Haan Nike Air heels!)

And now that's me with Chris and Chris's mom Trudi (No idea where Chris's height comes from; I'm just glad he has it.)

Michelle Pierce (my awesome assistant) and Laureen Pittman (my unparalleled paralegal). (Oh, and they're not that tall; I bent down!)

Me on "the big screen" during the luncheon. Thankfully, from my vantage point on the stage, I really couldn't see this. Because I don't think seeing oneself on a screen that large could be a good thing. Unless you're Julia Roberts. Which I am decidedly not.

Here's me making faces. Oh, and giving my "acceptance" speech. There were laughs (intended) and tears (not at all intended!).

On stage with Collette and Debra (the banner is the YWCA logo--and part of what we were honored for).

And last, but certainly not least, here are the wonderful Women of Table 17 who nominated me. I'm proud to have such an esteemed group appreciate my work for Alternatives to Domestic Violence, The Mary S. Roberts Pet Adoption Center, and, of course, The Inland Agency's "The Pink Ribbon Place."

So there you have it. A great day. And this also gives the much anticipated update on what my post-chemo hair looks like now. Yeah, I lightened it.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

A Dog's Life

I've been busy writing...just not the blog (a week? Seriously? And I thought I'd be doing so much better). I am completely absorbed with writing The Dog Lived (and So Will I) memoir and it's pretty much all I'm thinking about. I believe I finally have the book proposal done. For those of you not familiar with the world of non-fiction book wanna-be publishing, let me explain.

When one writes fiction, as I had been doing (spectacularly unsuccessfully, but joyfully...usually) the book needs to be finished, polished, finished again, rewritten, polished more, finished and then rewritten again (or is that just me?) before one even thinks about bothering the first 50 or 60 agents of the eventual 200+ agents one will need to bother before maybe, possibly, one agent responds and says "okay, I'm taking pity on you. Thanks for the letter, go ahead and send me 10 more pages." Then, assuming the agent likes that and eventually likes the other 250+ pages and agrees to represent you, that whole process is followed again while the agent tries to find a publisher for the book. These numbers aren't really even exaggerated.

With non-fiction, I have now learned (having paid not much attention to it previously) the process is different. So while I've been diligently working away on the actual writing of the actual memoir itself,  I have also been spending enormous amounts of time researching and writing the book proposal. Basically that's a 50 page document that a) describes the memoir and the story being told, b) describes why I'm not only the perfect person to write it but quite possibly the only person, c) reviews competitive/ complementary books already out there and why this one would be better...or at least different, and d) provides a chapter by chapter summary. Oh, and then attachs a sample chapter. Boat. Loads. O' work.  And I'm thoroughly enjoying it. To the point of distraction. (Day job? What? Clients need their documents? Really? Now? Huh, what did you say honey? I missed that...I was writing.)

My writers groups (yeah, I have two of them) have declared the proposal ready to go. I believe the proposal is ready to go. I believe the intro and first chapter (as well as a few other chapters) are ready to go. Something in the back of my brain is telling me that the second chapter is not right. It's a great chapter...but it may belong in another book. Ugh. So I'm going to have to deal with that.

I've also been researching agents who might possibly be interested in such a book. In essence I research for an agent looking for memoir, pets, cancer/ health, and humor...and there are a lot of them. Then I broadened it by eliminating "pets" (even though this is as much a dog memoir as a breast cancer memoir). I'm about 3/4 of the way through researching a list of....411 agents. Wow. Who knew? And won't it be embarrassing if all 411 aren't interested? And you know I'll share that embarrassment right here with all of you.  My biggest obstacle, but one I think I've overcome, is that I don't want anyone for one moment to groan "oh jeez, another downer  cancer book." Because it's so not that.

I've also been reading stacks of books. I read a lot of breast cancer memoirs when I was going through treatment (favorites were "Cancer Vixen"  and "Five Lessons I Didn't Learn from Breast Cancer (and One  Big One I Did)" . So now I've moved on to Dog Memoirs. Okay, I admit...I love dogs but I never used to read dog books. Because the dogs usually die!! I can't handle that. But in the interest of "my art" I'm reading them. And yes, I read (and sobbed over) Marley & Me. I'm moving on to Fixing Freddie (about a badly behaved beagle!). Oh, and I also finished, and really enjoyed, An Eagle Named Freedom (man saves eagle; eagle helps man through his cancer journey!)

I'm enjoying the process and learning a lot. And much to my surprise writing the memoir is helping me realize a few things and process even more of the cancer odyssey Seamus and I both went on. Oh, and it's also making me realize just how lucky that dog is. (And me too. ;-)  )

I'll keep you posted on the progress. And when I get a few pics, I'll tell you about the Women of Achievement Luncheon too. It's been a busy week!