The Walls Can Talk

Do you ever get that weird feeling that the universe is trying to tell you something? That fate is giving you a gentle nudge in a specific direction for reasons you don’t understand?

If so, have I got a story for you!

If not, well, it’s entirely possible that I am the only person who has ever felt this way, but it certainly wouldn’t be the first time I’ve been delusional about things.

Let me give a little background information to set this up.

I grew up in a suburb of Kalamazoo, Michigan, but my father’s four sisters owned a cottage on the shore of Lake Michigan in the little touristy town of South Haven. I spent every summer of my childhood at that cottage and eventually ended up living in an even smaller town somewhere in between Kalamazoo and South Haven.

South Haven has always been important to me, as has the Big Lake. Lake Michigan. Mishigami, the Ojibwa word for “large lake.”

Despite my love of water, however, I was never really allowed to go out on the big lake in any boats. My aunts and Dad had some very strict rules about boating since their own brothers were killed in a tragic boating accident in 1954. Totally understandable, but understanding it didn’t do anything to stop my curiosity about boats, especially when it came to the subject of Great Lakes shipwrecks.

Stay with me here. I’ll get to my point eventually.

I first learned about the Eastland disaster when I was in college. Not only did it have connections with my little town of South Haven, it was a fascinating, horrifying tragedy that should be more famous. Everyone should know about it, but very few people actually do.

The Eastland was a steamship designed specifically to accommodate South Haven’s shallow harbor, and was launched in 1903. Its owners originally chose to name it the City of South Haven, but that name was taken by another ship launched a few months earlier.  Thus, it was renamed  the Eastland and began its nautical life shrouded in superstition because sailors believe it is bad luck to rename a ship.

After a long run of bad luck and near-misses as it changed ownership over the years, the Eastland became a passenger ship with a reputation for being unstable and prone to listing. On July 24, 1915, it lived up to its reputation by rolling over on its side while still tied to the dock in Chicago with over 2500 passengers on board.

844 of those passengers died. That’s the most lives lost in any single vessel disaster on any of the Great Lakes.  70% of the victims were aged twenty-five or younger. Twenty-two entire families were completely wiped out.

And yet …. very few people have ever heard of the Eastland. I wanted to understand why.

I’ve studied and researched the Eastland off and on over the years. Someday, I kept telling myself, I’m going to write a historical fiction set around the story of the tragedy.  But, as anyone who’s read my blog probably knows by now, I’m pretty easily distracted. For a lot of years, I didn’t write anything at all, much less any kind of fiction about the Eastland.

A few years ago, the museum in South Haven had an Eastland exhibit. I went to see it, of course. I listened to a lecture about it as well.

Cool. Totally fascinating. I got excited about it again.

Oooh, look, something shiny!

I worked front desk at a hotel in South Haven for few years. One busy summer night, I saw a couple of men lugging cameras and video equipment as they checked in with the other desk clerk. When I asked her about it later, she told me they were in town to do some interviews for a documentary they were making about “some big boat that tipped over a Chicago a long time ago.”

Holy crap.

I may or may not have broken a few rules about guest confidentiality that evening, but I ended up having a very nice chat with Chuck Coppola, who was in town to interview author Michael McCarthy about his book Ashes Under Water: The SS Eastland and the Shipwreck That Shook America. 

Mr. Coppola, by the way, is a very kind man who shared his knowledge and encouraged me to write my historical fiction. He even told me I could use his name as a reference if I ever wanted to contact Mr. McCarthy for more information. For the record, I haven’t done so yet. That’s just too scary at this point.

More shiny things happened. I wrote other books. Researched the Eastland some more but never quite figured out what story I wanted to tell about it. Moved a few times, settled into my old house, started a renovation.

Okay, this is where it gets weird.

I’ve gone through five contractors and learned a lot of strange things about my house. Found an old bamboo pole, some broken china, a dipstick, and a mummified bat inside the walls when the old lath and plaster came down. Yesterday, though, my contractor found a real treasure.

Tucked neatly inside the walls of my future office was a folded brochure for the City of South Haven and Petoskey for the summer of 1917. Two years after the Eastland disaster.

1917 was the last year the City of South Haven would sail as a passenger ship on the Great Lakes.  In April of 1918, it was purchased by the U.S. Navy.

That’s a pretty narrow window, right? The shipwreck I’ve studied so diligently over the years happened in 1915, and the flyer for its competition from 1917 somehow ended up inside the plaster walls of the house I am renovating in 2020.

What are the odds?

As I carefully looked through the old pages, the pictures and descriptions attacked my brain. That’s the only way I can describe it. By the time I went to bed last night, I knew my characters and their stories. I’ve got it. It’s in there.

I don’t want to jinx it by saying any more about it just yet. I don’t want to mess with fate, or the universe, or my 54 year-old brain that tends to forget things. I just want to write it down before I see anything shiny.

And yeah, have I got a story for you.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Preview: The Wheels Fell Off My Wagon

Finally! I have a publication date for The Wheels Fell Off My Wagon!

August 26th is the big day. Sorry to keep you all waiting, but that date is sort of special to my family and it feels like the perfect day for this particular book to be released. To give you a little taste of it, I’m sharing a look at the first chapter. Please, let me know what you think!

The Wheels Fell Off My Wagon

It began, as so many catastrophes in my life do, with a plan. It was a good plan. A solid plan. It was one of those plans that I actually put a lot of effort into organizing right down to the final detail.  But because it involved my two oldest children, me, and my genetic inability to complete anything according to plan, it all fell apart with astonishing speed.

“We’re going to fingerpaint today,” I told my husband as he left for work.

“That’ll turn out well,” he snorted.

“Oh, ye of little faith,” I said airily. 

When he returned home later that day, he walked into chaos. Our daughter was using the dog’s tail to paint the walls green while the cat happily rubbed his wet blue coat against the living room furniture. Our son was wailing at the top of his lungs, most likely due to the paint-covered finger wedged firmly in his left nostril, apparently stuck in the process of trying to reach an itch on his frontal lobe. 

I wasn’t paying attention to any of the uproar because I was tearing apart the medicine cabinet in search of Benadryl as I struggled to come to terms with the horrifying realization that I had not, in fact, outgrown my childhood allergy to the dye pigments in certain types of paints. 

Our fingerpaints, for example. 

I was covered in hives. My eyes and throat were in a race to find out which could swell shut faster, and my tongue was roughly the size of a small Buick. 

“So,” the Big Guy ventured, after observing the chaos for a moment, “At what point –exactly — did the wheels fall off the wagon?”

In other words, at what point did I completely lose control of the situation?

During the course of our near quarter-century together, he asked that question a lot. So did I, actually. It sometimes seemed as though nothing in our lives was ever going to go according to plan. From our honeymoon–which included an outhouse museum and an encounter with an angry dog in a random Wisconsin parking lot–to the day we decided to end our marriage, our entire relationship was little more than a series of wheels falling off an ever-increasing stream of metaphorical wagons. 

Our house, to keep the metaphor going, was basically a hundred year-old, two-story wagon that shed wheels at an alarming rate. 

Buying the ramshackle old farmhouse seemed like a good idea. We had a plan, man. A good plan. A solid plan. The Big Guy had grown up on a farm and dreamed of owning land, while I was a romantic idiot with a fantasy of someday buying and renovating an old house; the dilapidated home on forty acres of wooded land less than fifteen minutes from the lakeshore seemed like it was the perfect thing to bring both our dreams to life. And the price was right. The realtor even told us that we were basically paying for the land and getting the house for free.

We should have known by then to pay attention when people said things like that.

We signed the papers in March and took possession of the house in May, shortly before our wedding. We planned on taking a few weeks to clean and organize, maybe start a few repairs, and then move in immediately following the honeymoon. Once again, we had a plan. A good plan. A solid plan. Right up until the wheels fell off the wagon.

Our plan didn’t  include Floyd.

Floyd was a former owner of the house who had somehow managed to move back into the downstairs bedroom somewhere between the time the family put the house on the market and the time we took ownership. Some people find hidden treasures or lost bits of history in their old homes, but not us. No, our home came with its very own old man. 

Floyd’s family kept insisting that they had a mobile home all ready for him on his son Mark’s property just around the corner. The problem, however, was that no one knew where Mark was. 

“We can’t find Mark,” they kept telling us. “He travels for work sometimes.”

“What kind of work does he do? How long is he usually gone when he travels? Can’t Floyd stay with one of you?” we wondered. 

“We can’t find Mark,” they repeated. 

And that’s how we ended up as homeless newlyweds making mortgage payments on a house we couldn’t live in. We finally decided that Floyd needed to go, with or without Mark’s help, so we contacted both a lawyer and Social Services to step in. At which point, we discovered that roughly 80% of the people on our street were related to Floyd — and Mark, apparently — and we had just pissed off every single one of them. 

Except Mark. We couldn’t find him in time to piss him off before moving in. 

The first thing we did when we moved in was tear off the nasty old plywood countertops in the kitchen. The cabinets, we soon discovered, were held together by nothing more than those nasty old plywood countertops, so they promptly collapsed. And as we hauled the remnants of the cabinets away from the walls, we made a shocking discovery. 

Bones.

Lots of bones.

“Oh, my God,” I gasped. “We just found Mark.”

“Those are chicken bones, Amy.”

“No, they’re Mark.”

“Only if Mark was a chicken.”

“So, did he sacrifice chickens in the kitchen or something? Oh, God, maybe Mark practiced some kind of Satanic rituals here.”

“Or maybe he was just really lazy about throwing away his garbage,” my husband suggested. “Look, there’s pork chop bones in there too. And beer tabs. And I think that’s a tampon.”

“Mark is a woman?”

He rubbed his face. “Is this what I have to look forward to being married to you? Conversations like this?”

“Pretty much, yeah.”

“Joy.”

Once we’d disposed of Mark’s chicken bones and tampons, we thought we had survived the worst the old house could throw at us. We were wrong. We were so, so wrong. 

As the weather warmed up, a horrible smell emanating from the crawlspace led to the discovery of a rotted pipe under the house. A pipe that led from the toilet to the septic tank. Well, in theory, anyway. In reality, we learned that several years’ worth of sewage hadn’t quite made it all the way to said septic tank. 

“I wanna sell the house,” I told my husband when he came out of the crawlspace in his shit-encrusted coveralls.

“I can fix this,” he said. 

“We can live with my aunts. Or my sister. My sister is nice.”

“I can fix it,” he insisted. “I’ll need you to wash my coveralls, though.”

“I’d rather burn them.”

“It’s just a little shit, Amy. I’ve dealt with worse. I’m a maintenance man, remember?”

“It’s still shit,” I told him. “Other people’s shit. Shit is shit, Ken.”

“Can you please stop saying ‘shit’?”

That was only the beginning of a downward spiral that involved a leaky roof, collapsed ceilings, a bat infestation, and so very much more. Meanwhile, I lost my job shortly after our entire savings were wiped out thanks to the IRS and Ken’s first wife. I got pregnant. His truck got repossessed. I got pregnant again. We totalled my little car. We had another baby ten years after the first two, and then I crushed my neck and shattered my spine  in a freak car accident. One expensive development after another, and our dream of renovating the house soon turned into a nightmare of quick fixes and patch-up jobs that barely kept the house from falling in around us. 

We struggled just as much to keep our marriage from collapsing as well. Quick fixes and patch-up jobs don’t work as well on people, however, and the Big Guy and I drifted. He fell in love with someone else, and I spent money we didn’t have on things we didn’t need. We both screwed up. There was no villain, no “bad guy” in our situation, except maybe the house. 

God, I hated that house. 

When we agreed to split up, I let him keep the house. We owed more than it was worth at that point. Besides, it was his dream house. His acreage. His barn with the “man cave.”  I didn’t want any of it. I was overjoyed to drive away from it the last time. I may or may not have flipped it off a few times as I drove past on my way to and from work over the next few years. 

We never got around to actually getting a divorce. There was really no need to, since we finally figured out how to get along with each other once we stopped living together. So when he died suddenly four years after our split, I was still on the deed and the mortgage. 

That is how I became the sole owner of a hundred year-old, two-story metaphorical wagon that I hated with every ounce of my being.

And that, folks, is when the wheels really fell off my wagon.

 

A duty to act…or not?

I do my best to steer clear of politics here at A Goode One. But this…this isn’t a political issue. This is so much more.

Don of All Trades is one of my favorite blogs, written by a police officer. He’s occasionally funny, often irreverent, and always — ALWAYS– able to get right to the heart of the matter.

don of all trades

When I used to teach law at the police academy, one of the subjects that always stirred some lively debate was that of criminal liability and, in particular, how that relates to any duty we as citizens and the class as future police officers, owe to others.

As a general rule, we don’t owe other people any duty to act on their behalf, even in an emergency, and this includes police officers.

In other words, doing nothing isn’t against the law unless there’s a statute or relationship in law that requires one to act on behalf of another.

An example of a statute making the failure to do something illegal would be something like one that makes failing to pay (failing to act) your taxes or licensing your car illegal.

A relationship in law that would punish a failure to act would include a parent/child relationship. Failing to feed or…

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Weekend Coffee Share: Rosie

If we were having coffee, I’d have to give it to you in a travel mug with a lid because my new puppy has developed a taste for coffee and all cups of java in my home must be served with a lid for the foreseeable future. She’s already shown a talent for knocking a full steaming mug out of my hands while trying to plunge her entire face into its depths. Obviously, the lid is to protect my puppy from burning her sweet little face.

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Also, it’s coffee. She’s already robbed me of roughly half of every meal I’ve tried to eat in the past six weeks. She’s destroyed my favorite Ryka sandals and three pair of my son’s  basketball shoes, not to mention the impressive amount of blood she’s taken from my hands, arms and ankles. I’ve got to draw the line somewhere, and I’m drawing that line right around my bright pink travel mug filled with strong coffee and a generous dollop of hazelnut creamer. 

My coffee is the one thing this little demon is not going to take from me.  

I may be exaggerating just a bit. Not by much, though. While Rosie is not a vicious animal, she is playful and energetic, and I am discovering that I was woefully unprepared to be a single parent to an eight week old Husky puppy. 

That’s right; I brought home a Husky, despite my experience with my late husband’s Husky, Razz, who sank his teeth into my arm the first time we met and decided that I was quite tasty. “Never get a Husky,” the Big Guy used to say, “They’re hard-headed, even more stubborn than you.”

I really need to start listening when people say things like that. 

My high school mascot was a Husky. Our rivals were the Mustangs, and we used to shout things like “Huskies eat horsemeat!” at them during football games. It’s been more than 30 years since I graduated, but I still think of myself as a Husky. Proud and strong, a Husky to my dying day. 

My college mascot was a beaver, but I really can’t envision any circumstance in which I’d declare myself to be a beaver, proud and strong, a beaver to my dying day. 

At any rate, I promised my kids we’d get a new puppy when our Heeler died last May at the ripe old age of twelve. We checked out shelters and searched for just the right animal: a puppy who would grow up to be a member of our family. A protector and a friend. A smart, loyal, loving animal who would respect  us and learn to get along well with our three cats. 

Instead, we got Rosie. 

One of the Amish families in our neighborhood had a hand-lettered sign by the road that said “SPITZ PUPPIES.” I turned in on impulse, and a young man led my son and me down a trail into the woods, where a tiny kennel was nearly overflowing with dogs of all sizes and ages. Too many dogs and puppies. My heart broke for them; I wanted to take all of them home with me, right then and there. 

He scooped up one tiny, shivering bundle of black and white fur and placed her in my arms. She immediately burrowed in under my chin, making all kinds of little quivery puppy noises. My heart melted on the spot. It was love at first cuddle.

But I had one concern. “She looks like a Husky,” I said.

“Her mother is half Husky,” our guide admitted. “Father is Eskimo Spitz, mother is Spitz and Husky. Mostly Spitz, though.”

“I’m not sure if we should get a Husky,” I told my son. The puppy licked the underside of my chin and promptly fell asleep.

Obviously, I had no choice. “She’s just so sweet,” I sighed. Surely her sweet, calm nature came from the Spitz part of her. Her Husky nature couldn’t be that strong, right?

Well, the little con artist waited three days before showing us her true nature. She’s clearly a Husky/Spitz/Tasmanian Devil mix. She’s a whirling, bouncing, hyperactive ball of demonic energy. She never stops moving or chewing. This morning, for example, she managed to destroy an entire package of wooden clothespins while I was in the shower. 

In the shower, folks. I didn’t even wash my hair or shave my legs! I wasn’t in there for more than a few minutes. I don’t even know where she found an entire package of clothespins. I looked for those things all freaking summer and couldn’t find them, but the demon found and destroyed them in the amount of time it took me to take a very quick shower. 

She chews everything. My days have become an endless cycle of chasing Rosie and hollering at her to give me whatever personal possession or nasty bit of garbage she happens to have in her mouth. The neighbors are starting to give me strange looks every time I dash outside after her, yelping things like, “Gimme the tampon, Rosie!”

She redeemed herself a tiny bit last night, however. While we were outside for her last potty break before bed, I heard the unmistakable sound of coyotes in the woods behind the house. I stepped back toward the door, tugging on Rosie’s leash to get her to hurry up. 

Rosie was no longer interested in going to the bathroom. She stood at high alert between me and the woods, baring her teeth and growling. Growling soon changed to angry barking. In that instant, my hyperactive little demon-dog transformed into a twelve pound ball of pure rage.

It was adorable. 

I doubt if she could have protected me from anything more ferocious than a rampaging chipmunk, but it’s the thought that counts, right?

My week was actually pretty eventful; I have a lot more going on in my life than just a battle of wills with a demonic puppy, but she’s sort of front and center in my attention at the moment.  But enough about Rosie and me: How was your week? Coffee’s nice and hot, so grab a travel mug and pull up a chair and tell me all about it.

Love or Money

Several years ago, I was faced with a difficult decision of whether or not to accept a new job that didn’t exactly line up with some of my beliefs and ethics.  We were struggling for money and the pay offered by the new employer was great. Beyond great, actually. Sort of an answer to our prayers.

But something about it didn’t feel right.

I asked my then-husband what he thought. “They aren’t breaking any laws,” I told him. “Technically, they aren’t really doing anything wrong. Would it be wrong to work for them?”

“If you have to ask that question, then you already know the answer,” he said.

We may be divorced now, but I’ll always be the first to admit that he can be a very wise man. I turned down the job offer and we went back to struggling financially and cursing my minimum-wage job. But I’ve never regretted that decision.

Recently, I’ve been thinking a lot about his words of wisdom because of something going on in the writing community. Specifically, within the self-publishing area of the writing community.

Before I dive into that, I want to explain to some of my non-writer friends out there that most writers engage in a never-ending debate about “writing for love” versus “writing for money.”  Those in the “love” camp are the kind of artistes who can be heard saying things like, “I write what I love, what’s in my heart, and if no one ever reads it … well, at least I’ll die knowing I was true to myself.”

Those in the “money” camp are quick to counter with, “I want to earn a living with this, no matter what it takes.”

For the record, I’ve always considered myself pretty firmly lodged halfway between the two camps, where I want to write what I love, but I also really want to make a living with it. I’ve never believed the two are mutually exclusive, and so I’ve been bumping along with a sale here and an award there, just hoping to earn a little more than I spend each month on marketing. Hoping that soon, I’m finally going to write that book that pushes me up to the next level.

In the meantime, I fritter away far too much time at a place called KBoards Writers’ Cafe. It’s a forum where my fellow writers gather to share ideas about writing and publishing. Most of the authors there are way out of my league; they are the type of professionals who have reached a level I don’t even dare dream of. And yet the majority of them are the type of professionals who are also willing to share a little of what they’ve learned, constantly reaching out to offer advice and guidance to piddly little nobodies like me.

In recent days, there have been some really eye-opening conversations at the ol’ Writers’ Cafe. And I’ve come away feeling depressed, overwhelmed, and … well, doomed to obscurity.

A man came into the forum and freely admitted that he publishes under a number of pen names and uses ghostwriters to churn out multiple books each month. Okay, nothing too bad so far. I find it a bit distasteful, but not horrible.

But the kicker is that he uses female pen-names and then pretends to be a woman in order to connect with his female readers. On a personal level. As in, discussing things like sex, orgasms, virginity, etc. with his fans, encouraging them to open up because he is, after all, one of them. Just one of the girls.

Under another pen name, he pretends to be a gay man so fans of his homosexual romances will trust him and chat with him.

Under yet another, he is a black woman gleaning information from trusting readers who enjoy his multicultural novels.

The list goes on and on. And although the majority of KBoards authors were quick to denounce him, a significant number stepped up to say that they see nothing wrong with what he is doing. After all, they argued, he’s not breaking any laws. He’s not hurting anyone. Besides, his readers and fans should know better than to share personal information with someone on the internet, right?

He’s successful, and isn’t that all that matters?

Well, yeah, but …

It’s paying off for him, and for others like him, to the tune of thousands of dollars. Tens of thousands. Hundreds of thousands, if he is to be believed. He and his group of friends have books that dominate the bestseller lists, so obviously it’s working.

I’ve learned a lot since I started self-publishing four years ago, but I think these past few days have been the most educational of all. His posts have inspired some intense discussions that have left my mind reeling. In addition to his creepy deception (yup, I’m gonna go there and call it creepy), he’s also shared information about  buying circles and mega-marketing groups that work together to push each other’s books up the charts by throwing huge sums of money around in order make even more money.

In the debate between writing for love or writing for money, these people are leaving the “love” writers in the dust.

It’s becoming clear to me that one little ol’ writer, sitting at my computer in a tiny town in Michigan, is never going to be able to compete with that.

I’ve got to admit, I haven’t done much writing over the past few days.  I’ve been terribly discouraged, and I’ve wondered if maybe I’ve just been fooling myself this whole time. Yeah, I thought about giving up.

And then I thought about that age-old debate between writing for love versus writing for money, and I realized that I’m no longer lodged halfway between the two camps. I finally know what kind of writer I am: I write for love. Plain and simple.

I write because I want to tell stories and entertain people. I write because I’ve always written; I write because I’m a writer. It’s not who I am. It’s what I am.

I write because I’m not happy if I don’t write.

I’m not giving up; I’m just shifting my goals a little bit. Changing my focus. I’ll keep on writing my books — and enjoying myself — and I’ll keep publishing them because it’s fun. It makes me happy, and it makes a little bit of money. And I accept that it’s probably never going to earn me a fortune.

I’m okay with that now.

Because, basically, it all comes down to this: If I think about being the other kind of writer, a writer like the man who challenged my viewpoint this week, I’d have to ask myself, “Is it really wrong?”

And if I have to ask that question, I already know the answer.

 

 

 

Finally!

Well, after an unexpected delay that I still don’t understand, My Mirror Lies to Me is finally available on Amazon — only nine days later than the date I had promised. Better late than never, right?

Just to give you a little taste, I’m sharing a small sample of my new book. If you enjoy the sample, you can read the rest through Kindle Unlimited or buy it here for only $2.99.

My Mirror Lies to Me

My Aunt Marian always told people that when I was a small child I would wake up from naps, blink a few times, and say, “…and, um–” before launching into a story of some sort.

I’ve always been a talker. A storyteller. Most of my stories are true, or at the very least possess a small kernel of truth somewhere in either the exposition or fine details. What can I say? I like to make people smile. Maybe even make them laugh out loud. If I can make them laugh so hard they pee, that’s just a bonus.

“Amy stories” have prompted a lot of eye-rolling and grimacing over the years, along with polite suggestions that I write them down in a book someday. Suggestions which, let’s be honest, are less about encouraging me to share my tales than about asking me to please, for the love of God, shut up for five minutes.

“I know, Mom,” my kids will groan. “You’ve told this one, like, a thousand times.”

“Is this another one about your aunts? Yes, I’ve heard them all before,” a more polite co-worker might say. “You should really write a book, you know.”

I used to get embarrassed or offended when people said things like that. Now? Now, I just nod and smile and probably tell yet another story, perhaps about a time when I embarrassed myself by talking too much.

Like the time my soft-spoken, very intelligent sister took me to hear one of her favorite authors speak. She is the quintessential big sister, one of the most organized and efficient people I have ever met. On that particular night, she took care of everything, from getting the tickets to arranging a babysitter to driving us to the theater. In return, she asked for only one thing from me.

“Please let me go ahead of you in the line to meet him,” she asked. “Let me talk to him first and get his autograph. Please?”

Of course I agreed. In spirit, anyway. But as my sister, she should have known she was asking the impossible.

Several moments later, we stood at the table, looking down at David Sedaris. And let me just say here that he was an amiable gentleman who seemed to go out of his way to greet his fans in a friendly, conversational manner. He was all about putting us at ease. Just a very normal, ordinary, approachable man.

And luck was on our side that night. Out of all the people in that line, he turned to my sister with a very simple question.

“Where’s a good place around here to go for breakfast?”

She knew the answer. She knew that town inside and out, was familiar with most of the businesses. It was her job to know the answers to questions like that as part of her daily 9-5. She was perhaps the single best person in that room that he could have chosen for that question.

And what did she do?

She went full goldfish on him.

She blinked. She opened her mouth and closed it. And again. She gaped at him and blinked some more.

“Maybe a Denny’s?” he ventured.

Now, I’m told that I behaved in a perfectly composed and normal manner after that, but that’s not how I remember it. I remember shoving my dog-eared copy of Me Talk Pretty One Day in front of him and babbling something about never looking at Great Danes the same way again.

My sister says he laughed. If there’s any truth to that, then I can die happily any time now, content in the knowledge that I once made David Sedaris laugh.

Have you ever shaken up a bottle of Diet Coke and then released the built-up pressure? That’s exactly what happens to my words when I try to hold them inside and behave myself. And it’s what happened that night, standing in front of David Sedaris.

The dam burst. I babbled. I giggled. I chattered like an idiot. Once I start, I don’t have an “off” switch.

Of course, Mr. Sedaris was very gracious about it. I can only assume someone got him some food at some point after we left. I’ll never know for sure, because my sister and I turned and fled, laughing like idiots.

That’s what My Mirror Lies to Me is all about: Finding the “funny” in an otherwise mortifying moment. Looking at myself and seeing only the best that I have to offer to the world. Instead of seeing a double chin or close-set eyes and a mouth that runs too much, I want to see a woman who is capable of always looking for the good where others see flaws.

If I’ve learned anything about life, it’s that it’s too short to waste time dwelling on the negative stuff. I always want to look past the lies my mirror tells me. I want to enjoy telling “Amy stories” that make people laugh. If I can make a few people pee or spray coffee out their noses, then I’ve done my job.

And David Sedaris, if you ever happen to read this book, the Kalamazoo Denny’s is on Cork Street, just off Sprinkle Road near I-94. Tell them A.J. and the Goldfish sent you.

 

 

 

Updates

Well, summer is almost over and it feels as though I’ve accomplished nothing. I’ve barely blogged at all, and my son and I never managed to make it to the zoo this summer. I only went swimming once, which is really unusual for me.

My older kids are heading back to college in a few days, while my youngest is preparing himself for the fourth grade. He’s worried because some of his best friends are going to be in the other fourth grade classroom, but he’s also happy that he got the teacher he had hoped for. And he’s also thrilled because he knows that fourth graders at his school get to go on the school’s most talked-about field trip in the spring: a day at the dunes in Saugatuck.

As for me, I made the monumental mistake of trying to work on two books simultaneously over the summer. Both are nearly complete and almost on schedule for their planned release dates at the end of September, but I never ever want to do this to myself again. Sure, My Mirror Lies to Me has been fun to write, and Love, Charlotte has veered off in directions I never anticipated, but my brain feels slightly fried.

However, I did manage to accomplish a few things this summer that had nothing to do with those two books, and I want to bring everyone up to date.

First of all, I want to let all of you know that Her House Divided is now available on Audible.com as an audiobook. I was lucky enough to be able to work with Wendy Almeida, who does a fabulous job of bringing my story to life in ways I couldn’t have imagined. Audible offers a free trial of their service, including a credit to read any book of your choice at no cost. To learn more about Audible, click here.

This summer, I also combined the three books in my Beach Haven series (plus the short prequel) into a single volume at a money-saving cost of only $5.99.

And of course, as I mentioned before, I also took time this summer to revamp and re-release Have a Goode One as Faster Than a Whippoorwill’s Ass, and I’ve been very happy with the results of that. If you enjoyed that book, I’m sure you’ll get a kick out of My Mirror Lies to Me when it is released next month.

In short, it’s been a very busy summer here in Michigan, and I hope you’ll all forgive me for letting things slide on my blog for the past few months. I promise lots of good things coming in the near future!

Until then, I wish everyone a very happy autumn with a smooth and calm back-to-school time.

 

Paperback Writer

I wrote this post almost five years ago, but I’ve been thinking about it a lot lately because of some rather heated discussions taking place in a writing forum. I want to share it again because I am STILL proud to be a Romance writer.

A Goode One

Is it a bad thing to admit that I write romance novels?

I’ve read the classics.  I majored in English and have studied the works of everyone from Aristophanes to Baudelaire to Whitman and Tennyson.  I struggled through Hardy and Lawrence and earned a grudging respect for Hawthorne’s ability to fill multiple pages with one endless sentence that somehow remained grammatically correct (see how I did that?).  I can discuss Twain and Poe the way some people talk about this week’s bargains at Wal-Mart.

But sometimes . . .  I just want to feel good.

Romance novels are all about the guaranteed happy ending.  Real life can be a little short on those. Romance in the real world is less about roses and moonlit escapades, and more about figuring out whose turn it is to pick up the kids after school.  Real life marriages deal with adultery and abuse, debt and…

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Trying Something New

Those of you  who have been following my blog for a while are probably aware of the struggle I have had with insecurity when it comes to showing pictures of myself. I am overweight and over fifty and would never have won a beauty contest even on my best days. And when you add in the fact that I am not even the slightest bit photogenic, I’m one of those people who would be a lot more comfortable using a picture of my cat as a profile picture.

It was a huge step for me to post my first selfie here a few years ago. And other than one slightly batty piece of fruitcake with over-the-top negative reaction, the response has been overwhelmingly positive.

Since then, I’ve gotten more comfortable about sharing pictures of myself. I still think my smile makes me look like a serial killer in pictures, but I guess I can learn to live with that. I can color the gray hairs and layer on the makeup to hid the wrinkles, but I have yet to discover a filter that shaves off eighty pounds or gives me better cleavage.

I am, however, working on what I call the Popeye chapter of my life. It’s the chapter where I look at myself, shrug, and say “I  yam what I yam.”

Of course, the thought of yams makes me hungry for sweet potato fries, which tempts me to make a run to Red’s Drive-in in Paw Paw for a double olive burger to go with the fries. And suddenly I am reminded of just why I have to worry about the extra eighty pounds (not to mention acne at the ripe old age of fifty-one).

It’s life, guys. It is what it is. Like my mom used to say, there are better ways to go through life than to be dragged, kicking and screaming.

At any rate, I am slowly working up the nerve to do a video blog post someday. Eventually. Maybe to celebrate my 55th birthday. My older children both shook their heads and said, “no, Mother,” when I suggested it, but I rarely listen to their suggestions.

If I did listen to my daughter’s suggestions, I probably wouldn’t have worn the lavender t-shirt with the silver butterfly on the boobs that makes it look like I’m wearing a bustier. Pictures of me in that shirt should be in the back pages of Glamour magazine with a black bar across my eyes and a caption that says “Fashion DON’T.”

But I’m going to take a leap and put myself out there in a video this coming weekend. Sort of. I have decided to do a Facebook Live Q&A on Sunday, April 30, at 1 p.m. EST to help celebrate the release of my newest book. I don’t know if it will do anything for sales and I strongly doubt I’ll get enough viewers to even mildly dent the internet, but I think it will be fun.

I’ve got lots of coffee on hand for before, and lots of wine for after. If it doesn’t go well, I may hit some of the wine during.

I even did a little test run with Facebook Live last weekend to see how it works. For the record, I was wearing the lavender butterfly/bustier shirt that day, which is how I figured out how awful it is.  Check it out here.

So please stop by this coming Sunday and ask any questions you might have about my books or my blog, or even about those fabulous double olive burgers and sweet potato fries at Red’s Drive-In. Anyone who comments will be entered into a random drawing to win a free digital copy of Victoria’s Promise.

Click on the link below for more information. I hope to see you then!

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Facebook Live Q&A with A.J. Goode, April 30 2017 at 1:00 p.m. EST