Sunday, November 28, 2010

Have You Shopped for the Holidays Yet?

If not, forget the malls, stores, or buying any other junk for yourself that eliminates space in your house! (Ever watch Hoarders? Scary stuff).
Have you noticed (when you're an adult with adult friends) that no one knows what they want for Christmas? Or volunteer to share with you what they want? Unless you love technology, who needs things anymore? We're still in a recession. The most important needs these days for people are a stable job and good health care. A gift so unreachable to some.
The gifts that people will always need are right in front of your nose.
A gift everyone wants, and will use no matter what.
Food! And Americans love food.
Now that we've got the solution figured out, here's what you do; I will share a Christmas list of my own as an example:

Nona's Wish List

Starbucks Gift Certificate

Whole Foods Gift Certificate

iTunes Gift Certificate

Gift Certificate to Williams Sonoma

Gift Certificate to any restaurant that they love.

Monday, September 6, 2010


I love summer. Summer means heat, sticky humidity, or dry desert heat. People go to festivals, fairs, outdoor concerts, beaches, and let’s not forget sunbathing and swimming. Ah—the fundamental activity that defines summer is to put on the suit and take in the sunshine, hear the kids splashing and screaming, and watch the partying adults drinking cocktails after beach volleyball.

This is all fine and dandy for those not committed to the multiple tasks of being a serious writer. Especially in sunny California. Yes, you have almost guaranteed sunshine during the months of summer. No day for rain. And definitely no thunderstorms. (What is a thunderstorm?) Although the morning may be overcast due to the Marine layer, the clouds will burn off by noon. (Please note that living on the coast of Northern California will bring you more overcast than the valleys.)

I get up and see that it’s cloudy. Great! Must go out and walk before the burning sun makes its appearance. Where I live, people prefer shade. In the central and southern part of California, the sun is hella strong. People wear big sun hats, ultra sport hats, or big visors to protect their skin. And the sun is bright, hot, and lends a Technicolor light to all it shines upon. As a young girl growing up in New York State the summer air was uncomfortable. The East Coast humidity can irritate anyone. There was summer sun, but it was a hazy sun that never gave a clear pure light. Eventually that hazy sun cooked the clouds and BOOM ! A thunderstorm is born. The benefits for artists, musicians, writers and the like, is that you will get overcast days or a day of rain from time to time. Ah--the perfect weather to stay indoors and do those creative, indoor projects.

Out here in Silicon Valley, there is no such weather break.

Working on my laptop near a window can be counterproductive. I see the perfect and pristine blue sky. The pointy cypress trees are vivid against those golden grassy hills. The air is perfect and comfortable. Never too hot; never ever humid. “Oh God, why am I not riding my bike? It’s so beautiful and perfect!”

It’s the climate everyone everywhere would kill for.

What they don’t realize is that this beautiful, vivid, Land of Oz-like weather hinders productivity. You don’t want to do research. You don’t feel like writing blogs. Adding friends to increase your marketing base becomes more annoying than usual. And focusing on your pretend world in your story becomes a challenge. So getting back to that sunshiny window, I brainstormed some tips to battle such an obstacle.

And I came up with one. DO NOT WORK NEAR A WINDOW. I don’t know about everyone else, but it depresses me. It’s telling me that life is passing me by.

Solution? Work in an interior room with NO windows. I picture the rooms in the basement of corporate buildings or hotels that provide air-conditioning and solace. Go to the library and work AWAY from the window. After a while, you’ll forget how beautiful and sunny it is out there; because—I’ll throw in a cliché--out-of-sight, out-of-mind really does work. You could find a coffeehouse that might have a back room, or a window-less upstairs. You need to go to a place where you can’t tell night from day. Some coffeehouses provide that artistic-creative atmosphere that’ll fuel the productivity function in your brain. And sometimes that lounge-style jazz music provides assistance. Just don’t drink too much coffee--it’ll turn you into a shaky wreck refusing to sit down.
The constant sun won’t last forever, but it’ll take until November before those gloomy, overcast, rainy days reappear. All I can say for now is to use that survival skill I suggested. You may feel depressed or guilty at first, but the more you spend time away from the happy sunshiny day, the better your production will be. Now close those blinds and get back to work.

Saturday, August 7, 2010


I learned the hard way. After I submitted my first novel to a publisher, I thought I was finished—really finished. I was already a professional writer. Didn’t need any more help.

Boy I was wrong. I needed help in areas I didn’t even know about and the publisher let me know that. At the same time, I saw this as a gift; a gift of new knowledge. I wanted to have the power to fix my defective grammar—without relying on others and critique partners. So I enrolled in an online grammar refresher course and read additional educational materials on grammar.

I wanted to share my knowledge with other aspiring writers. There is the creative aspect that drives writers to express their ideas, but it is so important to make sure that your writing conforms to the very complicated framework of English grammar. I believe learning to write never ends—it’s an ongoing journey. I’m sure there will still be things I’ve done wrong after I completed polishing up my grammar for my novel.

To prevent, or lower the chances of getting bombarded by surprises after submitting your first baby to the publisher, I would like to share a few editing tips. Things you may not know needed correction or attention. You’ll be saving yourself a lot stress--before your work lands on the editor’s desk.

Don’t let body parts act on their own. You’d think you’ve seen these written in other novels.

Example: “His fingers raked his hair.” It sounds like his fingers are detached from his body.
The correct way is “He raked his fingers through his hair.”

This I didn’t know about and I have written so many sentences with these wandering body parts. Keep going over this rule as you edit. I had to go over it many times until it was drilled in my head.


Keep out details that have nothing to do with the scene or story. It slows the pace. However, you can be creative and make those detailed statements having to do with a scene.

For example, in my Living with the Ex novel, Karina welcomes Naomi into the townhouse when she brings in her luggage. (Karina is Naomi’s ex’s sister. Karina and her ex live together in the townhouse.) Naomi notices Karina is wearing a Minnie Mouse T-shirt and has her hair up in braids.
I sat back rubbing my chin. I’m thinking the editor or reader is going to say, “Who cares if she’s wearing a Minnie Mouse T-shirt. How is that related to the story?” I could either eliminate this, or be really creative. Give a reason why the Minnie Mouse T-shirt should be in the story.
And I changed it to: Karina opened the door, wearing a big Minnie Mouse T-shirt. Her hair was in two braids pinned up over the crown of her head. She drew a warm smile, probably convincing Naomi that they were in Disneyland. Right … she wished.

Now it has something more to do with the scene. Naomi’s nervous. She’s about to face her ex-boyfriend in the townhouse. Karina’s Minnie Mouse T-shirt and braids made her feel for a fleeting second that she was in Disneyland--where you’re happy and relaxed. It took her away from reality, knowing she had to face someone cold, someone who’d broken her heart, and someone who was furious about being in a reality TV show with her. Now if any of you were in Naomi’s situation, you’d probably rather be in Disneyland too!

Make sure your words are spelled in either American or British English. I ran into a few words I’ve written in British English. Such as “towards.” Sometimes you see it spelled “towards” or “toward.” I’m glad I had caught this and googled “towards vs. toward.” I came upon a link that states “towards” was British English, and “toward” was American English.


Keeping Author intrusion out when you come upon these phrases:
“He noticed that Jack was nervous.”
Instead: “Jack faced him, eyes widened.”

“She was shocked when seeing him with nothing on …”
Instead: “Omigod. He was in her room naked!”

“He thought he was safe …”
Instead: “He was safe.” or “Safe at last.”

“Ivo knew he had to tell her that he didn’t sleep with Bianca.”
Instead: “Naomi had to know he didn’t sleep with Bianca.”

This is in Ivo’s POV. Doesn’t it make you feel more connected with the character’s POV and feelings?

Take your time getting familiar with these tips. There’ll be more to come soon on my next blog.

Saturday, April 3, 2010


Today was one of those days of embarrassment and isolation. I am writing about a hero in my book who is a granite countertop installer. He just received his contractor’s license and had opened up his new firm in a tiny office. Not sure if I had enough research done for what I had already written about him, I decided to talk to some employees in countertop companies in person. I was extremely nervous about this because I feared that I’d be too bothersome to the employees, and they would shoo me out of the store or office.

I went into a huge home improvement store around 11:30am. I found someone at a desk in the countertop section. I asked him some of my questions I needed for my research. He referred me to a company that might be able to answer those questions. The company stores marble and granite slabs. They also do the carving, designing, and polishing of counter-tops. He gave me directions to this place and I left.

I arrived five minutes later at the office building. The parking lot was tiny. I had to be super careful pulling up my car between a huge van and a stand supporting two marble slabs for street display.

I wrote down all my questions in a notebook in order to ask one of the workers. When I went inside, my impression of it being a tiny office from the outside was dead wrong. I stepped into a huge foyer that looked like an art gallery. Decorative finished countertops of granite and limestone hung on walls like paintings. I heard my feet echo from the high ceiling.

A hallway in the back led to another big room stored with unpolished and unfinished slabs piled high on shelves, or standing for display. I was impressed and curious about the industry. I knew nothing about it. In fact, the older I get, the more I find out that I don’t know much of anything. Here was my chance to learn about something. I immediately thought of my hero in the book as I was entering “his world.”

A doorway led outside from the side building. More slabs leaned on the fence for display. The path continued around the back of the building. I heard what sounded like sawing and drilling coming from an additional section of the building with a metal exterior. I headed back towards the doorway and a woman who looked a few years older than me came outside holding a clipboard. Good, she must work here. And she gave me eye contact. Good sign.

“Hi, do you work here?” I asked.

She gave me a little smile. “Yes,”

Going great so far. I briefly told her I needed to ask some questions about the granite countertop business, stuttering about three times. “I am writing a fiction novel about a guy who cuts granite countertops.”

The woman’s face changed and her smile faded. “Well, I don’t think I can answer any of those questions. The only person here that would know this would be the manager, and he’s busy with a customer right now.”

Well, I couldn’t ask the manager so I prodded to ask her some questions I felt she could answer. I mean, if she worked here, she had to know something. “Well, maybe you can answer some of these,” I opened my notebook to the list of questions. “Do contractors order slabs here?”


“How are slabs carved?”

“They use a giant tile cutter and then an edging machine. The installation takes place on-site.”

I asked her to elaborate what she meant “on-site”.

“They go to the client’s place and do it outside.”

“That drilling I hear,” I said. “What are they doing?”

“They drill holes for faucets,” she listed more but my writing couldn’t keep up with the information. It seemed she answered about half of the questions.

“Look, that’s all I know. I’ve been only working here for three weeks,” she continued waving her hand to add emphasis. Okay, she was irritated. And it made me feel bad and embarrassed. She walked away to attend to a customer.

As I headed inside, I passed a tall middle-aged man with a hammer hanging from his belt talking to a couple. By listening to the conversation, I quickly made out that this slender man with brown curls was the manager, and the couple was a customer.

After the couple left, the manager approached me. “Can I help you?”

Great! He appeared friendly and eager. But wait until I had told him what I was here for!

He held his hand out and I shook it. “Hi, I’m Nona.” Being anxious, I dove right in. “I’m here because I’m doing some research on granite countertop businesses because I’m writing a book about a hero who-”

He held up his hand and turned to head inside.

Huh? Okay. Did he just run away from me? Or did that hand signal mean “wait”? Maybe there was someone inside that called his name. I didn’t hear anyone call his name. Maybe he ran inside to tell someone about the weird chick outside who wanted to interview him because her fictional hero cuts countertops …

It took a while until the heat surged through my system. I was too impatient. I was ruthless. I was pissing these people off! Was this guy going to come back? I waited, feeling numb.

A few seconds later, he came outside to meet me. He spoke rapidly, “You have to call and make an appointment for that. We are really busy here and we don’t have the time—there are business cards in the front and go pick one up.”

He walked off. My legs felt they were disconnected from my body because I was paralyzed in humiliation. They moved to the lobby while my upper body wasn’t ready to go. I passed the woman I spoke with earlier. She was coming my way.

She spoke, but I could tell it was to someone else.

A dreadful feeling of isolation and rejection overcame me. I made a mistake. She must hate me. She was probably thinking, “Ugh, there she is again!”

I exited the office and went to my car. I got in and started the engine. I couldn’t move. I couldn’t drive and I felt like complete shit. I tried to research a subject for my book so I wouldn’t wind up writing something incorrect or politically incorrect about it. What if someone in the industry read it, got mad, and sued me because my story mentioned radon?

I was once again left in the unknown. I would never call this company and would never speak to this manager at all! I would just have to find another company to research. I hate research. There must be a better way to do this rather than going up to strangers to ask them about their profession. Their purpose and goal was to do business, not answer questions from some silly author. If only I knew someone who had a friend or relative in the granite countertop business …

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Nona's THOUGHT OF THE WEEK Valentine's Day Special

As Valentine's Day creeps up and it's only a week away, it's not a good time for some of us single gals. So I came up with a philosophy to remind the single ladies that they are okay after they read my latest thought:

Sunday, January 17, 2010


In the adult world, your peers are far more polite. This became clear to me when I moved to California. There was no blunt, in your face, obnoxious comments from people spitting out what was on their mind. Oh, but someone will always say something else to someone about me. That I was weird. I admit I am weird in some way that can be good, unique, standing out and creating something creative that can make a difference in the art or music world. (My inspiration was to be a rock star, not a nurse or accountant) But then there’s the “bad weird”. Not the crazy, mental patient or druggie weird, but the weird that’ll never get me married with a normal, quiet man who’d provide my future with a nice normal house and two kids. At parties, bars or any other social scene that didn’t consist of the singles’ mixers, I’d find some normal people to try and talk to. I wouldn’t have to worry about them flipping out as I could grow closer to them. They wouldn’t embarrass me or themselves and I could live in a comfortable quiet environment. And people, who’ll see me, won’t label me weird because my friends weren’t weird. So what happens when I try to get their attention? No connection. Either they couldn’t or wouldn’t connect with me. And who were they? People who blended in the background. Untouchable from controversy or risking their “blending in the background persona” to act a little out of the ordinary. Jocks who like to go to sports bars and go scuba diving. No one was moving their head or eyes in an out of the ordinary fashion. I’d be hurt, and then angry. I mean who did they think they were?

I admit I am weird in some way that can be good. But then there’s the “bad weird”.

I still struggle with this even today. I mean, you’re probably thinking, why is this thirty-something woman agonizing over something so teeny-boopish? The reason is, that your inner teeny booper, “want to be part of the crowd”, “to be accepted” stays within you. It can crush your soul and can force you to perceive the world as a place where no one will ever understand you. Many of us still yearn to be wanted and accepted. That led me to find friends who turned out to be anything BUT friends. Even the friends who had appreciated my weirdness. You always have to be careful with the people you befriend when the normal ones won't hang out with you because your weirdness overwhelms them. They have some emotional and psychological issues themselves. It's a dilemma that I am presently struggling to master. I'm sure some of you out there know what I'm talking about.

I also live in an area where creativity is not the trend. I need to reside in a world of entertainment like Los Angeles. Weird people there are more appreciated. I feel I can be myself when I'm down there. I know this sounds ironic to some folks. Many people in the San Francisco Bay Area diss L.A. which brings me to make a final conclusion: You diss L.A. because most of you are not creative!

Tuesday, January 12, 2010


Halloween is my favorite holiday because I can be weird!

Sure I’m a healthy girl. But I have an affliction. An affliction you have never heard of. An affliction so chronic, I can’t seem get rid of it. There is no cure for it. No one is running marathons to raise awareness and find a cure for it either. You are born with it and it’ll stay with you until the day you die. My affliction is WEIRD.

I used to sit by some very “untouchable” girls in junior high lunch period. What I mean by untouchable was that they were neither popular, weird, burnout, geeky, or slutty. No one picked on them. They looked average-- the girls next door who kept out of the spotlight. I thought I was safe sitting with them. But eventually one of them would blurt out to me or someone else that I was weird. Like this other quiet girl I sat with at the cafeteria in ninth grade. She kept out of the spotlight and hung out with friends who weren’t picked on but not the talk of the girl’s room either. I thought if I sat like her, acted like her, even mimicked her faces, my weirdness would become extinct. One day we sat quietly while “Lauren” was writing a letter to her other unnoticeable, noncontroversial best friend. I couldn’t help but peek at the words as she was expressing how she hated lunchtime. She said she wanted to die. I kind of felt bad that she was feeling such pain. Why didn’t she share that with me? The next words she wrote answered that question. “And Nona, she is sooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo totally weird.” The “o”’s filled the whole one line of the loose leaf paper. It ripped my heart out. It signified her having a strong emotion and opinion about me.

She said, “I had never met a person ever in my life that was anything like you.”

Weird? How was I weird? Here I’m working my ass off trying not to be weird. I followed the crowd, from wearing rock shirts and stone washed jeans (this was the ‘80s), writing rock groups on my three ring binders, even buying the in-style sunglasses. It was a 24 hour job. Always on the alert. Stress! My eyes and ears were working overtime. My brain was doing double power. But someone seemed to notice something in me that wasn’t like everyone else. It pained me and sometimes I just wanted to give up. I wanted to be that girl no one could make fun of. That no one bullied if I had blurted a socially inept remark, not on purpose. I wanted to feel safe and comfortable and racked my brain to figure out ways to do it. And then eventually I threw the towel in. In college it was a different world. There was still immaturity but the cliques were vague and people focused on other things more important than picking a person to make fun of, or calling them weird. Like hooking up. Except for this one time. I was living next door to someone in the dorm who had made a comment about me to my face which was so profound. She was from Massapequa, Long Island and she was blunt. Her comment wasn’t negative nor positive, but potentially factual. She said, “I had never met a person ever in my life that was anything like you.”

(Part 2 coming next week)