You Scratch My Back

Today I join the other female bloggers who are sharing their experiences of unwanted sexual attention. Instead of going through the long history, starting in early elementary school when a neighborhood boy tried to hold me down and kiss me – an incident which affected my entire childhood, I’m only going to talk about one situation.

In the summer of 1991 I’d left college and moved in with some friends I met through my job as a security agent at Washington Dulles International Airport. I was nineteen years old, five foot tall with an attractive figure from swimming for hours each day, and very naive.

Along with my roommates, the job introduced me to new situations and allowed face-to-face meetings with celebrities like Raymond Burr and Sinbad. Unfortunately, it also put me in harm’s way.


One afternoon I clocked in and took over for the person manning the metal detector door so they could go home. Some time after a passenger came through and, as he bent to collect his keys, change, cigarette lighter, and any other loose, metal objects, I saw something hanging from his key ring. Per protocol at the time, I leaned toward him and asked if I could take a look at it.

“It’s mace, see!” Came his smartass reply, and he proceeded to spray me in the face with whatever the container held.

My posture and the position of his arm aligned in such a way that my glasses did little to protect my eyes. A severe burning sensation overtook any ability to see and I cried out to my coworkers. By the time they realized what happened, the passenger was long gone.

They called the head supervisor from his office and he insisted on driving me to the emergency room, about twenty minutes away, in his personal vehicle. Surrounded by fire departments staffed by volunteers, and originally hailing from a rural area in the same situation, his logic made sense.

Why wait for volunteers to answer the fire call, travel to the firehouse, staff the ambulance, and drive to the airport, when his car was parked just outside? Besides, if I went to the hospital by ambulance someone would have to provide transportation for me to get back to work – and my roommates were all working.


This was the man who interviewed me for my job at the airport. He was tall and brawny with broad shoulders, a small head, and black hair cropped in the style of my eighth grade math teacher. He also led all the company’s training classes for that particular airport. He was both well-liked and well-respected by all my coworkers, both male and female. I had no reason not to trust him. I had no qualms about getting in a car with him.

The ride to the hospital was uneventful. Once there, the emergency room staff flushed my eyes, gave me some drops to take home, and warned me about signs to look for that might warrant a return trip. After I promised to follow up with my family eye doctor, my supervisor and I were in the car again, headed back to the airport.

The drive back seemed to take longer. There was no need to rush, he assured me, because the emergency had passed. We could take our time and enjoy a leisurely drive. Besides, I was still on the clock and the longer it took him to drive back, the less I’d have to work for the day.

He asked me questions about where I was from, my family, where I went to school, what I studied, and did I have a boyfriend. It seemed like friendly conversation and I rattled off answers without a second thought – Harpers Ferry, two parents and three siblings, Shepherd, graphic design, and no – my college boyfriend and I broke up a few months before I started working at the airport.

A clever opportunist, my supervisor used this opportunity to segue into a problem he was having. He asked me if I knew what the term frigid meant and, when I said no, he explained it to me. I do not recall if I responded, but he continued talking. He told me that his wife couldn’t meet his needs because she was frigid, and how would I like to go on a picnic with him sometime.

“Wait, you mean for sex?” I blurted.

It’s been 25 years but my skin still crawls at the memory of his face leering at me across the front seat of his car.

I don’t even remember his name – but I will never, ever forget that expression. I was bewildered. Why would he ask me this? She was still his wife! He was married. Married! That meant something, didn’t it? Shouldn’t it? This wasn’t normal…was it?


I told him I’d have to think about it because my eyes were sore and it had been a pretty eventful day.

I never had any intention of taking him up on his offer, but he had the home field advantage. Remember – I was nineteen years old. It was my first time living away from home. This man was highly regarded by my coworkers and everyone liked him, but I was a passenger in his car and my only goal was to get back to work.

To my disgust, he seemed satisfied by my response. The rest of the drive was tame in comparison to his previous questions. Conversation turned to work, my goals, and opportunities for me to be promoted within the company – perhaps a position where I could work more closely with him. A promotion to something with a little higher pay.

As he talked, I never drew a relationship between his sex life and my career path. The very idea was unfathomable. Besides, why would he seriously be interested in a kid like me? I was only nineteen.

That night I told my roommate, who was concerned. She suggested I ask our immediate manager, who had more time and experience on the job with that company, for advice.

The next time the three of us worked together, we went to the otherwise empty employee cafeteria. I relayed what happened. The manager asked if I wanted to be promoted into a higher-paying position where I’d have to work close to him every day. When I said no, she shrugged it off.

“Then just turn down the job. It’s not a big deal.”

So that’s what I did. I turned down the job. Deep down, I knew that my airport security gig was in no way a career path. Part of my reason for leaving college was because I didn’t have any idea what I wanted to do with my life and I felt guilty for wasting my parents’ money on tuition for classes that didn’t really interest me.

He found some other girl who did take him up on his offer. I have no idea if his frigid wife ever knew about his extramarital dallying. When the chance came to work in a different industry, I took it and walked out on my airport job without the required two weeks’ notice. I never looked back.


That wasn’t my first time experiencing something like this and it was in no way the last. It is the one that comes to mind the most when I hear celebrities like Trump say they can do what they want to women and then, after being called out on it, chalk up what they’ve said as “locker room talk”.

It wasn’t okay then. It’s not okay now. It won’t be okay in the future.

If you have a story to share, please feel free to use the comments section. If you’d rather share anonymously, email me at and I’ll be happy to host it on a future blog post.

#WeAreWomen #WeMatter #HearUsRoar

The End of an Era

While that title might suggest this post is about politics or some other aspect of human nature, it refers to an event so life-altering that yesterday found me in tears on more than one occasion.


My Keurig died.

It was more than a coffee maker. It has sentimental value from a time in my life that I will never, ever get back. It was there for me during some of the most poignant times of the past five years…

…through deaths of family members (including Gingerbelle, my beloved Golden Retriever)
…when my sons graduated high school, started driving, and working jobs with crazy hours
…during the series finales of television shows like Downton Abbey, Parenthood, and Mike & Molly

You get the idea.

I know, like Celine Dion promises, that my heart will go on. Cinnamon the Golden Retriever keeps me company while I write. Sons who drive can bring home $1 iced coffee from McDonalds. Television shows like Victoria, This Is Us, and (very soon but not soon enough) Gilmore Girls: A Year In the Life will sustain my entertainment addiction…for now.

Although there will be other coffee makers (hopefully another Keurig because nothing else fits my lifestyle like this machine), I will always think fondly on my Keurig B60 Special Brewing System.

Until I publish a bestselling novel or hit the lottery, the plan is to save spare change until I can afford the Keurig 119435 KFF Coffee Maker in rhubarb red to match the rest of the small appliances in my kitchen.

Wish me luck.

Anthony Does Not Watch Movies

Well, he does watch them, but it’s conditional. Here’s what happened.

When my writing group meets, sometimes we do more discussing than writing. A couple of weeks ago the topic was plot twists. Several movie titles were mentioned, and it seemed that each time my friend and fellow writer Anthony Marchese admitted, “No, I don’t believe I’ve seen that one.”


“Do you watch any movies?” I asked, incredulous. As a huge movie buff, I couldn’t imagine anyone not seeing some of the films mentioned in our discussion.

He said, “Yes.” Then he explained that movies are something he usually watches with someone else. He doesn’t watch movies alone. (In his defense, he’s also an actor and has seen more theater in his lifetime than I probably ever will in mine.)

Here’s a list of movies with plot twists we discussed that are now on his list of things to watch:

  1. The Shining
  2. Six Sense
  3. Fight Club
  4. Primal Fear
  5. The Village
  6. The Exorcist
  7. Rear Window
  8. Fright Night
  9. Cujo
  10. Psycho
  11. Silence of the Lambs
  12. The Leprechaun
  13. Pan’s Labyrinth
  14. Identity
  15. Shutter

I’ve seen all of these movies – some of them multiple times.

Are there any in the list you haven’t seen? Let me know in the comments.

And if there are any movies you wonder if Anthony has yet to watch, ask that in the comments too so he can reply.


Here Be Dragons


During the summer of 2014, our son’s best friend moved two states away. Speedy, his beloved box turtle of the past three years, was unable to go with him. When he asked if we could foster Speedy until he returned home “or whenever” of course we said yes. It was a turtle. How difficult could it be?

This is Speedy. Yes, we saw a vet about his overbite.

Keeping a box turtle turned out to be incredibly easy. I joined a Facebook group for reptile owners and learned a lot about our new four-legged, tough-shelled friend. He ate his turtle food. We spritzed him with water. He climbed on the turtle-friendly playground we created in his newer, bigger habitat. Everything was going really well.

And Then There Were Two… And Then Three…

Everything was going so well that when the Facebook group presented the opportunity to add a gecko to our menagerie, I jumped at the chance. The next month, we added a second gecko to our growing menagerie.

Geronimo is a female Giant Day Gecko. She’s bigger than this now and kind of looks like the GEICO gecko. His previous owner was going overseas and had to give him up.
This is Captain Jack. He is a Crested Gecko. Most reptiles like to shed in private but Jack seems to be the exception. He really loves showing off for me. His previous owner went to college and unfortunately the dorm has a no-reptile policy.

This put our number of pets at seven – four dogs and three reptiles. All the humans in the house agreed – we were done. Our home is one step up from a tiny house, and it was full. No matter what animal became available or its circumstances, the answer would be, “Sorry! We’re unable to take in anything at this time.”

Famous Last Words…

So we agreed to take this pair of bearded dragons temporarily. They were in bad shape – as in, I was afraid they wouldn’t make it through the night. Their prior owner left them in the hands of someone who, it turns out, disliked reptiles. In my head I was already calling them Lenny and Squiggy.

Lenny and Squiggy are 2-year-old bearded dragons. Their previous owner was unable to take care of them due to extenuating circumstances.

Their habitat (which came with them) was filled with lettuce and what looked like old cat food. The person had kittens who urinated on the screen – and the poor dragons – and the habitat was flea infested.

We added a heat lamp and did some quick research on the best foods to supplement their diet of gut loaded crickets. (Gut loading is a process of enriching the food eaten by live food, like crickets, worms, or mice, so the nutrients get passed on to the bigger animal.)

My husband began making the dragons a medley of diced squash, apples, greens, and other reptile-friendly foods. Within a couple of days they showed signs of improvement.

Because the primary living space in our home has an open floor plan, Where we put their habitat is visible from practically any seat in the living and dining areas. While under our near-constant supervision, we grew rather fond of these new creatures.

Then my husband began referring to them as his dragons. His boys. His buddies. He and our sons gave them nicknames like Cheech and Chong, Beavis and Butthead, Spongebob and Patrick.

Life as Foster Failures

When I mentioned finding them a new home, my husband scoffed. They were already settled in here. A routine had developed. We wouldn’t want to stress them out by moving them again, would we?

And that’s how we ended up with nine pets. We are foster failures – people who agree to provide temporary care for an animal but then end up adopting the animal ourselves.

Now I have to figure out how to work Lenny and Squiggy into my book. Fortunately it’s a cozy mystery, so they’ll fit right in with Harvey Wallbanger the Golden Retriever and Calico the cat.

Do you have pets? Do you work them into your writing projects? I’d love to hear about it in the comments!

3 Ways Introverts Can Interact with Society from Home

The older I get, the more of an introvert I am. If someone were writing my life, some days it would look a lot like this:


Even when things look good on the surface, underneath that top layer labeled, “I’m fine! It’s okay!” it’s really not. I worry too much. Eat too much. Stress too much. Watch too much TV. Play too many video games. Drink too much coffee.

Let’s scratch that last one. There’s no such thing as too much coffee.

Leaving the house sometimes proves to be a debilitating mental challenge. One friend punctuates her invites to me with, “And I understand if you just can’t people today. If that’s the case, then we can do this another time.”

I love her for that.

At the same time, I hate that any of my friends would ever have to say that because of all the junk taking place underneath that top layer. I don’t want to be a burden by showing up. By not showing up, I’m a different kind of burden.

Nobody Wins at Introverting

Introversion in a lot of ways is a lose-lose situation. Once someone remarked to me, “You got what you wanted, though. You got to stay home.”

Introverts don’t always want to stay home. It’s something they need to do. They may have crippling social anxiety. They may lack the “oomph” that makes them want to put on a smile and interact with others in a face-to-face setting. Regardless of the reason, their introverted nature is a serious issue.

Helping Overcome Introverted Tendencies

If you find yourself falling into the trap of not being able to people very well, here are some things that have helped me:

  1. Cut back on your social media use. The more time I spend on social media, the easier it is to stay home. I already talked to all my friends. Therefore there’s no need to meet up with them in person. Right? Wrong. Use a social media blocker to prevent you from visiting the pages except for limited amounts of time, and redirect your internet use to something more productive.
  2. Volunteer. Volunteering doesn’t always mean face-to-face time with people. If you volunteer in a library, then you could wind up working in a small office or re-shelving books. Animal shelters often need volunteers to spend time with the animals. (This is especially fun if you’re Pokemon GO hunting!)
  3. Join an online group to talk to people in real-time. Almost every Friday and Saturday night you can find me in a Google Hangout for Sprints and Spirits, a free online writing community on Facebook. Even though I don’t see these people face-to-face, the video chat is sometimes just what I need for social interaction.

Are you an introvert like me? How do you balance the urge to stay home with the need for social activity? Let’s talk about this in the comments!

Query Letter Do’s and Don’ts

FT 03 submissionsA good query letter should be like a hobbit – short, sweet, and to the point. Even more importantly, it should be professional. Here are some tips you can use for querying both editors and agents.

  1. Use the person’s name in the greeting. Using “Dear Editor” or “Dear Agent” sounds impersonal, like you’re sending the exact same letter out to multiple people at once. If you are sending your book or short story to several editors or agents who allow simultaneous submissions at once, then you should still personalize the query letter. It takes a couple of minutes and is a real attention grabber.
  2. Start with a hook. Now that you’ve grabbed their attention by personalizing the greeting, you need to hook them so they read to the end of the query letter. The hook is essential. If you can’t hook the editor or agent from the start, then you might as well not not send the letter at all.Don’t try to sum your whole book up in a sentence or two. Pick one intriguing thing that will convey the uniqueness of your book – much like a tagline that you’d find on the front cover of a book. Here are some examples:
    – “Hide. Seek. Run.” THE LOST GIRLS by Allison Brennan
    – “A child killer stalks the frozen streets…” COLD GRANITE by Stuart MacBride
    – “Nine Americans and their epic quest for gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics…” THE BOYS ON THE BOAT by Daniel James Brown
  3. Keep your bio brief. This is not the time to share your entire life story. Stick to facts related to your writing career including publishing credits, awards you received, and membership in industry-related organizations.You’ll also want to include any professional qualifications related to the work, such as – I am a dedicated genealogist and researching my family tree was the inspiration behind my cozy mystery, ONE-WAY TICKET TO THE FAMILY REUNION.[Note: That’s not a real book title but now I kind of want to put it on my list of things to write.]

And now for the don’ts. These need less explanation because most are basic common sense.

  • Don’t send work in a genre the agent or editor doesn’t accept. (i.e. Don’t send cozy mysteries to someone who makes it clear they want paranormal romance.)
  • Don’t bad-mouth anyone, anywhere, ever. It gives the impression that anyone is vulnerable to comments you make on-the-fly.
  • Don’t list every other place you submitted your work. It’s okay to leave it at, “This is a simultaneous submision.”
  • Don’t say “fictional novel”. Your genre will tell the editor or agent it’s fictional.
  • Don’t compare your book to an entire list of novels similar to yours. One or two is enough to get the idea across.

If you have an unpublished manuscript collecting dust, then what’s your holdup? Write a query letter and get it out there. Every day you do nothing is another day farther away from holding your published novel in your hands.

3 Tips to Increase Writing Productivity

Every time I sit down to write, it never fails. Something interrupts me. It might be the dog, the ding alerting me to a new email, or the daydreams of other projects I might someday work on in the future. If you’re a writer who is reading this right now, then I know you can relate to distractions interfering with the writing process.

you should be writing

Distractions are detours on the path to becoming a bestselling novelist. They’re like quicksand, dragging you far away from competing your work in progress. Fortunately there are things you can do to combat the daily distractions that interfere with your writing.

Take a Page from the Plotters

You don’t have to be a plotter to produce content like one. Writing in the void without knowing what comes risks producing tens of thousands of words that you’ll end up cutting later. Some authors find this essential to the process. I find it’s word vomit that gives the quicksand of distraction a slightly foul smell.

  • Come up with a tagline for your story that embraces the basic plot. Even if the end of your story changes, the basic plot usually remains the same throughout the book.
  • Replace your traditional outline with a mind map. Write the basic plot in the center of the page. Then use lines (straight, squiggly, or zigzag – your choice!) to connect ideas to the plot. I like to use straight for characters, squiggly for places, and zigzag for events.
  • Fill out a character development page for each one of your main characters. Use Google Images to find people who best resemble the characters. Keep these pages handy as you write to remind you of the details. Middle-grade author Laura Emmons says, “I find that if I know my characters well before I start writing my novel, I’m less likely to develop writer’s block.” She’s right!

Use NaNoWriMo Strategies

As a social media manager, I have to keep up with social media. It’s an essential part of my job. I also need to write however. How do I manage both? I’m a sprinter.

No, I’m not talking about sprinting like Abbey D’agostino and Nikki Hamblin from the Rio Olympics 2016.

Writing sprints are short bursts of time in which you do nothing but write. That’s it. I find it helpful to sprint with a group. (If you’re looking for an online sprinting group, then check out Sprints & Spirits on Facebook. It’s free and the members are awesome.)

Join a Writing Group

My local group, The Mountain Scribes, is awesome. The other members are not only a constantly source of emotional support, but they also challenge me to write outside my comfort zone. I wouldn’t be where I am today without them.

When searching for a local writing group, ask yourself these questions:

  • When does the writing group meet?
  • Where does the writing group meet?
  • Is the writing group gender-specific?
  • Who is in this writing group?
  • What are the goals of the group members?

Members of the Mountain Scribes, for example, share a common goal – getting published. Whether on our own blog or on a bestselling book list, although the scope of our goals differ the end result remains the same. We want our works out there for others to read.

How do you increase your productivity as a writer? I’d love to hear about it in the comments!


Life Is Stranger than Fiction

Have you ever heard the old saying, truth is stranger than fiction? If you ever doubt the validity of that statement, then just head over to Facebook.

Authors wear many hats. Mine include writer, beta reader, and most recently social media manager for The Write Services, home of the Instagram for Authors course. This means I spend a lot of time on social media, whether it’s scheduling posts or cruising my newsfeed for interesting content.

Sex Pigs Halt Traffic After Laser Attack on Pokemon Teens

I kid you not, that was the title of the news article Neil Gaiman shared a couple of weeks ago. Apparently a couple of Swedish kids were out playing Pokemon when they ran upon a pig mask-wearing couple. The couple shot lasers at the kids. Later drivers saw the same couple having sex by a waterwheel.

“It can’t get any stranger than this,” I thought, mind reeling as I pondered why anyone might do this.

But Wait There’s More

The PEOPLE ALSO SHARED feature on Facebook gives you an idea of what else is trending among users of the social media giant. The pig mask-wearing couple sounded like something out of the movie Deliverance. As I scrolled down, I felt relieved that West Virginia didn’t hold a monopoly on weird happenings.

people also shared

Then I saw the third item in the list.

Oh well. At least it makes for interesting speculation that may someday show up in my short stories.

I’d love to hear what interesting, true things you’ve found in the news. Let me hear all about it in the comments!

Why I Did Not Share #NakedTrump on Facebook

Last week when those statues of Trump popped up around America, I laughed. If I’m being perfectly honest, I thought it was pretty hysterical.

And then the New York City Parks Department tweeted this response.


I was in stitches. It’s funny, right?

Actually, when you think about it, it’s not that funny at all.

After several hours of whooping it up at the expense of this statue, my good friend Adrienne Wright posted this to Facebook:

trump shaming

Adrienne makes a very good point. It’s one that was a huge wake up call for me. Was I really so blinded by poking fun at the reality TV celebrity that I’d lost sight of right and wrong?

Yes, I was, and yes, I had.

I went from being a liberal-leaning, feminism-promoting, #IAmWithHer supporter who claims to #FeelTheBern to someone who blatantly advocates #BodyShaming. My laughter over the statue was on the same level as Trump’s thoughtless comments about immigrants and refugees.

Over the next few months, I’ll definitely be more careful about what I share, where I comment, and what I say when I do comment.

Not only does it affect how others see me online, but I have two sons who, despite being old enough to vote, are still easily influenced by their parents. The last thing I want to do is make comments that push them in a direction that I feel is wrong.

So what about you? How did you react when the statue appeared? Do you agree that a statue like this is akin to body shaming or do you feel Trump got what was coming to him?

Writing a First Page an Agent Will Love


When I finish my current novel and begin querying agents, I want them to ask me for the first few chapters – or better yet, the entire manuscript. Either way I’m posed with the same challenge. I have to get them past the first page.

The First Page – What Agents Want to See

  • Start with Activity – The Intern at In the Inbox suggests starting with activity because, “Manuscripts lose the reader’s attention when they start in characters’ heads. Frustration, anger, and apathy are week beginnings.”

    Don’t tell the reader what’s happening. Show them by the activity taking place on that first page. If you feel you have to start with an internal monologue, then maybe it’s time to rethink the starting point of your novel.

  • To Prologue or Not to Prologue – The prologue takes place before your story begins. Sometimes the author puts the prologue in italics to distinguish it from the rest of the novel.

    Although there are some books that use a prologue and are better for it (Orphan Train, Water for Elephants, and The Lovely Bones come to mind), Elmore Leonard suggests avoiding them. He calls them annoying back story and claims the writer can drop the information in wherever they want.

  • Create a Well-Balanced Opening Scene – The opening scene should combine the right amounts of tension, setting, and action to cause the reader to want to turn to Page 2. In a guest post on Jane Friedman’s blogDarcy Patterson, the author of Start your Novel, says:

    The first pages of a novel encapsulate much of the story and are extremely important in establishing setting, character, pace, audience, tone, and voice. First pages give readers a door knob to turn, an opening to the whole story. Editors are sophisticated, critical readers, and they immediately pick up on missteps such as the following.

    Holding back too much information can cause confusion for the person reading your book. Giving too much information is akin to giving someone a spoiler alert to how a movie ends before the previews finish playing.

Now It’s My Turn

Here are the first few paragraphs from my work in progress.


“A funeral home?” Harriet McConnell exclaimed. She paced the length of the galley kitchen in her ranch-style home, a route that took about eight steps in either direction. “Why would my brother die and leave you a funeral home?”

Joe slouched into one of the two chairs on either side of the table in the adjoining dining area with a shrug. He laid his hand on the table’s Formica top and stressed, “I swear, Ma. I dunno why he’d leave me his funeral home.”

“A funeral home,” she repeated. “I know he was single and didn’t have any kids, but I figured he’d leave it to one of his charities. Or maybe your… well, never mind that.”

“Or maybe my what? Wait. He supported charities?” Joe tilted his head. “When did he do that? After Grandma and Grandpa’s funeral? Was that why after they died you told me he was too busy to come to my birthday parties?”

Joe vaguely recalled his uncle’s presence in his early life, but truth be told, until the lawyer’s office called he’d nearly forgotten the man existed. The news of an inheritance surprised Joe as much as it did his mother.

“What’ll you do with it? Oh Joey, you can’t keep it. You know that, right? Just think of all the corpses that passed through the place. And worse things. Oh, Joey.” Harriet punctuated her words with a shudder, avoiding her son’s earlier question. Turning to face him she asked, “You’re not going to keep it, are you?”

What do you think? Without hearing the elevator pitch, does it make you want to know more?