Our Anniversary

Last year at this time (February 28) I was clouded with nerves and fear as I went through the process of purchasing my first new car. I’d driven my good old ’93 Ford Probe for almost 10 years—ever since I’d gotten my license (it’s still kind of in operation—my dad uses it), but cost and stress of upkeep was getting too much, and I had a CD that was dying to be put to use.

So after a morning of test-driving and an afternoon of inept negotiations I was the proud owner of a new Toyota Yaris.

That's me and my Yaris on that stressful day

I’ve always wanted a Yaris since seeing commercials for it during Prison Break, and though I looked at other cars—even went to the Cincinnati auto show—the Yaris was always the one for me. And I still love it. I still park it in the biggest, farthest away parking spots just to protect it, and every time I see it I want to wash it, even though I know at this time of year that would be futile. I think it loves me, too—a few times I’ve even gotten 40 mpg!

So, in honor of this occasion, I thought I’d look back at the vehicles I’ve chosen to give a few of my characters.

No Car:

  • Janie (SST)
  • Gwen (HE)
  • Kyle (KMS)
  • Vance (KMS)

Truck:

  • Dustin (PG)
  • Valerie (HE)

Van (W/ Handicapped Accessibility):

  • Amber (PG)

Sports Car:

  • Sam (HE)

There are a lot of “no car”s on the list. Sometimes I feel a car is sometimes too easy in a story—and in the case of 3 out of 4 of these characters, unaffordable. Forcing characters to find other ways of getting around can take the story in new, unexpected directions. In Kyle and Vance’s case, it probably shaped the yacht-stealing followed by the nautical journey that is central to the story’s quest.

I was a little surprised to see that I have 2 main characters in trucks, but, though a truck doesn’t fit my personality or needs, both Dustin and Valerie are independent, down-to-earth, and hands on, and they both love their trucks.

Our cars say a lot about us, but a character’s car (or lack of) can say even more. It’s one of many details that helps me form my characters and set them on the paths that will become their stories. And maybe in my next book I’ll give someone a Yaris.

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A New Character, A New Book

This time I’m introducing a character from a new book I’m working on—Lindsay. She is 15 and lives in the Midwest with her mom, Abbey.

On weekends my mom and I always do some kind of bonding activity—a walk in the park, a show at the community theater, or even just a trip to the farmer’s market then cooking dinner together. But no texting, no phone calls the whole time. Every once in a while we do something big, and I’m allowed to invite a friend or two—but my mom has made it clear that she cannot be ditched and that she gets to participate in everything we do.

So a while back we rented a boat and went out on Lake Erie. I don’t know where my mom learned to drive a boat, but she’s pretty good at it. She’d gone ahead and called Reagan and Kim’s parents to invite them. She didn’t even ask me who I wanted to bring. We had all once been best friends, but now—well, you’ll see.

Kim arrived first, and her attention seemed more focused on her phone than her mom, who was telling her to be sure to wear a life jacket and take her Dramamine. Reagan walked over. She had a camera and a notebook—not for homework, for her own personal research. I think she wanted to keep track of all the pollution we saw. Lake Erie isn’t the cleanest of places, and she was interested in how all that skuzz affected the animals. She loves animals—always has. I hoped we’d see a two-headed fish.

As soon as we got in my mom’s car she asked for everyone’s cell phones. Reagan hadn’t brought hers, but Kim gave me a look of panic. I told her it was the rule. Even though she finally held it out, my mom still had to pry it from her hand.

So it was a long two-hour drive to the lake. My mom talked some, and Reagan, who was up front, told her some about her project of building safe nesting boxes for some rare area bird, but Reagan wasn’t a big talker, and Kim was too pissed about being cut off to give much more than one-word answers.

Then we listened to the radio, but my mom had it on the oldies station she liked, which I don’t get because she wasn’t even born yet when some of those songs came out. She just turned 40, and I know that sounds old, but theses songs were even older.

I was pretty depressed by the time we got to the lake. I’d kind of been hoping to have a good time so maybe we could hang out like we used to again. I still spent time with Reagan and Kim, but separately. Reagan and Kim never even crossed paths anymore unless forced.

We all got in our swimsuits and did the sunscreen thing. My mom didn’t make us wear life jackets and promised to tell Kim’s mom that we all had. That actually helped. I think my mom moved up a level in Kim’s eyes. My mom seemed able to win anyone over. If all my friends voted, I’m pretty sure they’d pick her as the favorite mom.

I can’t say Reagan or Kim rekindled a friendship, but we all had fun, and I even caught them talking to each other without being prodded. They didn’t hate each other; they were just so different now.

I thought by the time we got back in the car to head home that I might be able to convince them to hang out with me together sometime without my mom arranging it, but then Kim begged for her phone back, and my mom gave in, and that’s all we heard from Kim except tapping keys for the rest of the night, and Reagan ended up falling asleep. But it could have been worse. We all made it back, after all.

The Boy Who Could Do Anything

A Story from the Partial Garden

Another idea I have for this blog is to put up short stories based on my books in the “Pages” section of this site. Now that I have figured out how to do that the way I want, I now present to you my story, “The Boy Who Could Do Anything.”

My third finished work, The Partial Garden, (which was also a finalist in a manuscript competition) is about Dustin and Amber, who find themselves frequently transported between their own world and a strange new one. Besides not getting along at all at first, they face a mysterious adversary that seems to want to kill them. Dustin and Amber have to cooperate and help each other—especially Amber, who is confined to a wheelchair—to figure out where they are, why this thing is after them, and how to get (and stay) home.

Without giving too much away from either story, I’d like to give you a few pertinent facts about the short story.

  • This takes place about 50 years before The Partial Garden.
  • Al isn’t a character in the novel, but another person in the story is.
  • It’s safe to assume that Al has traveled to the same place Amber and Dustin will go—but his trip is a bit different.
  • Al’s experience in this world is extremely rare, and his path won’t be repeated for at least 50 years.

I suppose one small advantage to not having my novel published at this point is that I can go back and change it—Al will very likely get a mention in my next draft. Well, I hope you enjoy. Let me know what you think of it!

82nd Academy Awards Nominations

Celebrity-obsessed CHARISMA TAUPE is in my book THE HOLLYWOOD EFFECT. She recognizes the book’s main character, Valerie, from the movie she’d starred in and anoints herself as Valerie’s new best friend.

I absolutely love this time of year! There’s a celebrity award show almost every weekend, and everyone who was big in the past year comes to town looking so fabulous! I think I spend more time in Hollywood these months than in my own house—though sleeping in my car does get uncomfortable. But it’s all worth it when I catch a glimpse of a star.

Now to the good stuff. Oscar noms just came out and here’s who should win: The Blind Side for best picture, Jason Reitman for directing Up in the Air, Colin Firth for leading actor in A Single Man (his accent is so sexy, though Clooney would be good, too), Sandra Bullock for leading actress in The Blind Side, Matt Damon for supporting actor in Invictus, and Anna Kendrick for supporting actress in Up in the Air.

The other awards aren’t that important. I mean, who really cares who wrote the movies or made the sound effects? It’s the actors and the directors who give the movie life! If they’d get rid of all those stupid categories then they wouldn’t have to cut off the acceptance speeches for the awards we really care about.

I can’t wait to see what everyone wears. Seeing all the celebrities gathered in one place looking glamorous is really what these award shows are all about. By the way, my favorite Golden Globes outfit was Diane Kruger’s. I wish I had a dress like that—I’d wear it every day!

Diane Kruger

Diane Kruger at the Golden Globes

I can hardly wait for March 7 to come, but I’ll be keeping busy seeing all the nominated movies again—at least the good ones. And I’ll be watching the sidewalks and boutiques for stars!