Saturday, September 26, 2015

Time To Chuck The Bengay

Hubby and I just returned from a ten-day cruise.
Cruising seems to be what more 'mature' people do these days. I suspect it has something to do with not having to pack and unpack every time you hit a new place. That can be such a drag. Add into the mix someone comes in to straighten out your room three times a day, and makes and serves your meals.
Now you've really got something. Everything is done for you with a big smile, whether they mean it or not.

Being home the first day was a shock. What is this, I have to open my own refrigerator door and find something to cook for dinner? What do you mean I have to make my own bed? While I loved being home and cuddling with my cats, this was a big let-down.

I pondered all of this as I brushed my teeth, concentrating hard on my lust for the sybaritic lifestyle. After about twenty-seconds I noticed the toothpaste tasted funny. I picked up the tube and read the label: Bengay.
I panicked then rinsed and spit, expecting my entire mouth to tingle and burn from the ointment. It didn't. I read further on the label. Expiration date: 2011.  What had once been a soothing muscle ointment became a gelatinous nothing in only four years over it's due date.I looked at my face. Only several decades over my due date.
Time to take another cruise.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

What's With Men And The Godfather I, II, and III?

Yes, they were good movies, especially the first one. Yes, they had wonderful actors, story line, yada, yada. Well, maybe using Coppola's daughter might not have been the best idea, but nepotism is alive and well in America.

I remember seeing all three of them waaaaaaay back when. And I got over it. I have already told my husband, Norman, there is now a moratorium on having to hear about these movies.
Is this a guy thing? Most of the men I know quote from them as if they were the Holy Grail. They say lines from the movies the moment they get together. I'm trying to think of one man I know who doesn't rhapsodize poetic, reciting  many of the scenes and lines when the subject come up. And these movies were made decades ago. Before, during, and since fabulous, fabulous movies came out of Hollywood. What is with the male concentration on GI,II,III?
Maybe I'm coming at it from a female point of view. These women didn't get treated so well. When they were in the way, they either got bedded or slapped around. They had absolutely no power as women or people. Not something to emulate.
Also, I am Italian American. My life took on a new slant when these movies came out. Most people think this is the life of Italian Americans. Not mine nor anyone I knew. Possibly, the menfolk in my family were too stupid to be a part of the Mafia. But regardless, these movies became the defining example of the culture.
So on a lot of levels, I resent the impact they've had on our society. I mean, the Italian culture is so much more that guys running around with guns and slapping people around.
But mainly, I don't get it. Guys, they were just movies! Get over it.
And I guess, maybe I need to get over myself. Stereotypes are alive and well in America, just like nepotism. I guess I'll have to grin and bear it. But be very careful what you say to me. I'm sure I've got a cousin somewhere.....
Anybody have another point of view? Love to hear it!!

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Why I Write Short Stories

I try not to be fazed when people say I write light-weight books. Mainly, because I do. It's hard to be taken aback when someone calls it as it is. I also write genre. Mysteries, to be exact. For the most part, they are well received, more so than I thought possible.
I suspect that might be because while considered humorous and light-weight, my books are based on deeper stuff. In the Alvarez Family Mysteries for instance, the first book of the series takes place two years after the patriarch of the family dies. The protagonist (Lee) is fairly disassociated from her mother and brother, especially after the father's unexpected death. What they still share is a business created by him, a detective agency in Silicon Valley. Through a set of circumstances - okay, a dead body, because it is a murder mystery, after all - they become close again. I threw in unconditional love in the form of an uncle, who loves all three of them, no matter what. In the best of all possible worlds, most of us could use someone like that.
This odd, four-peopled family represent a lot of today's family dynamics. Many readers see that. While the books might be labeled funny and light-weight, the reader often identifies with the underlying problems this small family manages to overcome. And most importantly, this is a family who reaches out, despite the fact they often don't 'get' one another.
But back to why I like short stories. After the initial draft, I look for feedback from friends and fellow writers. I have found that in short stories, short shorts, and flash fiction (so called for their extreme brevity), each and every word counts. Rambling is not permitted to the extent it is in a novel. Writing in these mediums is what hones the craft. Truly.
If you are having writer's block, stop what you're doing - which is wanting, anyway, right? -  and choose any three words. Then try to do a 300 to 500-word flash fiction around those words for a couple of hours. If that doesn't grind up your stoppage, make it a 50-word ff. It can be the most rejuvenating thing in the world. Better than 3-weeks in the Bahamas. If you can clear your stoppage while lounging on a Bahamian beach, hurrah for you.
There are many short stories written by the accomplished. They knew and know the benefits of less is more. The beauty is, short stories force the writer to focus on each word. Otherwise, the results are probably going to be just garble. One cannot redeem oneself in the following chapters. Often, there isn't even a following paragraph. Get that one word and get it right.

Ernest Hemingway is credited with writing one of the best 6-word short stories: Baby shoes for sale. Never worn.
Now, isn't that lovely? I mean, really. A whole life experience - more than one - is penned in six words. That's craftsmanship.

I have just finished a collection of my short stories, short shorts, and flash-fiction, called Corliss and Other Award Winning Stories.
I'm no Hemingway (I only wish), but I've worked hard on these stories. I'm proud of them. They were rewritten and work shopped up the wazoo.
Sell-ability? Forget it. Other than famous writers and the Best American Short Stories collection, short stories on the whole don't sell well.
But that's not why we write them. Certainly not why I do. I want to sharpen my skills. I want to challenge myself. Then afterward, if allowed, I want to share, because there's something from the heart in a short story.

Do you have a short story, short short or flash fiction you would like to share? Whether you've written it or not, I would love to read it.
Life and short stories are for sharing. And you might win an eBook copy of Corliss and Other Award Winning Stores.


Heather Haven, writer
San Jose, California 95135
Heather’s author page at Amazon:

Email me at:

Monday, May 4, 2015

Liar, Liar, Pants on Fire

When I was a kid, I asked my mother why people lied. She said, "Usually it's because if that person tells the truth they won't get what they want."
That's probably more true than not. However, I find it interesting that there are so many words that mean a lie or liar, and most of them are just wonderful sounding. I mean, aren't we wasting terrific words on something that's supposed to be shameful and rotten?
For instance, in Tennessee Williams' play, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Big Daddy uses the word 'mendacity' frequently. What ham actor wouldn't want to scream that out to a packed house night after night? Tennessee Williams probably saved the word mendacity from obscurity. In today's clime, it's probably the only way anyone under thirty who didn't major in Drama knows the word at all. If they do. It does have more than two syllables, after all.
Then there's the wonderful words 'equivocator' and 'fabulist'. Equivocator sounds like someone who settles things, makes this right, equalizes them. And who wouldn't want to be a fabulist? Maybe not if they knew what it meant, but going by the sheer sound of it, it's fabulous. Yes, pun intended.
Then there's prevarication and taradiddle. Just great sounding words. I could go on and on, but as I am simply musing, my job is done here.
But to carry this a little further, maybe there's reason we have such inventive, colorful, and neat-sounding words for a liar. Possibly somewhere deep inside of each one of us, we are in awe of someone who can look us straight in the face and tell one helluva whopper.
Heather’s author page at Amazon:

Saturday, January 3, 2015

This Writing Thing

I have discovered there might be a perk or two to being a writer. For sure, my crossword puzzle skills have improved dramatically. I will now grope for the rest.

Perk #1 - I can enter a world I create when all around me is chaos. There's a lot to be said for that. The older I get, the more chaotic I find the world. Sometimes a trip to the grocery store can be mind-boggling. I have been Greenpeaced there several times. The polar bears are better off because of the volunteers and my contributions to their cause. Oh yes, and I did buy some ice cream.

Perk #2 - People actually think because I can write a novel, I am an intelligent person. This is not necessarily the case. I have found that I am on the fairly dumb side, especially when it comes to finding my reading glasses or the car in a parking lot. Of course, saving the bears distracted me. I wandered around the parking lot for 15-minutes pushing a shopping cart full of melting ice cream. I try to look on it as exercise.

Perk #3 - When together with a bunch of strangers at a gathering and we need to make inane, mindless conversation before the hors d'oeuvres arrive, I can throw in the bit about being a writer. This usually stops people in their tracks. but ratchets up the conversation. They think of  J.D. Salinger, Jane Austin, or Steven King. I think of the arrival of shrimp cocktail. Sometimes one or two trapped people actually like murder mysteries. This means I can give them a bookmark and hope they go to Amazon to get one of my books. Add another 1/2 perk for this.

Perk #4 - I get to do what I love. Hmm. Let's make that Perk #1.

Happy New Year to all my fellow authors and readers. We may be crazy, but we are doing what we love to do. There's a lot to be said for that.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

I Hold Charles Dickens Completely Responsible

Decided to share this again. First published last holiday season.
Since I was a child, 
I would watch countless adaptations of A Christmas Carol on TV and
in the movies. I've seen variations of the character of Scrooge played by the likes of Alec Guinness, Susan Lucci, Jim Carrey, Vanessa Williams, and Scrooge McDuck. I even read the novel way back, when I was into a Reading the Classics Phase, which is a great phase to be in, frankly. We learn from the masters.
In 25-words or less, A Christmas Carol is a story of a mean, hard-hearted person who hates Christmas and all it stands for i.e. love, charity, and warm fuzzy slippers. On that fateful Christmas Eve, Ebenezer Scrooge could have just as easily uttered, "Cripes! It was an undigested bit of beef, a blot of mustard, a crumb of cheese, a fragment of underdone potato. Someone pass me a Tums." Let's face it, if antacids had been around then, it might have been a different story. 
But being a genius writer, Dickens has Scrooge find his inner self, thanks to an unending supply of colorful and inventive ghosts who are out to show he doesn't have to be the rat-fink he thinks himself to be. It is touch and go for awhile, but kindness and mercy win out. Love of fellowman scores a touchdown. And we, the readers, cheer from the sidelines. Yes, you can be a B&BP (bigger and better person) if only you try.
Taking this story to heart since I was around five-years old, I was convinced it was possible to help change a person's character. Yes, enlighten them as to the good in everyone, help them to see the gentler part of humankind, that which sets us apart from the rest of the animal kingdom, and you've got something. Although, according to Lila Hamilton Alvarez, the matriarch of the Alvarez Family Murder Mysteries, what sets us apart from the rest of the animal kingdom is our ability to accessorize. I should have listened to her.
So, at the ripe old age of 49 and holding, holding, holding, held and strangled, I have come to realize change is not going to happen for some people. They are incapable of change, they don't see the need, or sadly, some people believe they don't deserve happiness, so changing for the better is not an option. For them, a troubled, loveless life is a self-fulfilling prophecy. Psych 101, folks.
 But because of Charles Dickens, I saw the hope. I saw the possibility. 
Consequently, I spent decades trying to win one or two people over, loving them just a little bit more than the day before, and to hopefully, make them love me. 
Forget it. You can't make anybody do anything. What's the old saying? You can lead a horse to water but you can't make it drink. Or was it, you can lead a horticulture, but you can't make her think?
But Dickensian lovers, despair not. I am not slamming a man who knew minutely about humanity's strengths and weaknesses. There is a deeper truth in A Christmas Carol, one I failed to see the first few hundred times of viewing or reading. 
The beauty of the character of Ebenezer Scrooge is not that he changed, but that he wanted to change. He wanted to be a B&BP. It was and is the miracle of inner perspective. And Christmas, after all, is the time of miracles. 

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all of you. And God bless us, everyone.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Thornton Wilder's The Skin of Our Teeth

I recently saw a production of Wilder's Skin of Our Teeth, given by Mountain View High School students. It was amazing.
First of all, I had forgotten just what a fine play Thornton Wilder had written. As a teen, I had been involved in two productions of it, myself. One in high school and the other in college. I was too young and too inexperienced to understand the complexities held within the manuscript. Wilder winning a Pulitzer Prize for the play should have been my first clue he was on to something, but I can be slow on the uptake.
Wrapped in allegories, anachronisms, humor, dinosaurs, and satire, Wilder exposes social mores, sadly even more relevant today than in 1942. It's about the way society gets caught up in the trappings of male/female roles, the educated vs the uneducated, the haves and the have nots, man's love of creation and need for destruction. The author throws in murder, lust, and betrayal, almost as an afterthought, but then there's a lot of think about in this work. A frightening, but often hilarious play, it is one that asks us to ponder our own lot in life and enforced expectations.
Under the capable direction of Rob Seitelman, Mountain View's drama teacher, a fine production of this play was mounted. To my mind, it was of a higher calibre than one had a right to expect of high school students. But maybe not. Today's children are much more aware and savvy than the youth in my day. And when you have a dedicated, talented director such as Mr. Seitelman, buoyed by healthy school funding, strong parental support, kids who are devoted to the arts, and a beautiful theatre in which to deliver this bundle, a lot can be accomplished. And is.
So, let's give credit where credit is due. Last week Thornton Wilder, Rob Seitelman, and the Mountain View cast and crew delivered the goods in The Skin of Our Teeth. I was privileged to see them strut their stuff.