Saturday, August 02, 2008

Family vacation

Carol, Beanie and Mom are going to New Orleans in October for a week and asked me to join them. I can't afford a vacation right now and I can't take any more vacation time until November, so that lets me out. Beanie and Carol came up with the idea of the four of us planning another vacation next year and making it an annual thing, going somewhere new every time.

Mom has a thing for trains and I get monthly newsletters about train trips through Canada and Alaska. I suggested going on one of those. I also suggested a cruise to Alaska but Beanie doesn't like the cold. I reminded her that you can only take a cruise to Alaska in the summer months and that it is warmer then. I sweetened the pot with whale watching and the chance of seeing polar bears, seals, sea otters and walruses. That made a difference. Beanie said if she likes New Orleans she wants to go again when I can go with them and show them the best spots. I gave her a list, but there are quite a few things she won't be able to do with Mom along.

I'm surprised they didn't include Jimmy now that he won't be towing Bobbie along with him. She doesn't get along with anyone in the family and has complained that Beanie flirts with Jimmy. She doesn't have any close relationships with her siblings so she doesn't understand or get close family relationships. Beanie and Jimmy are close. Since Carol and I got married and moved out it was just them, like they were the only kids in the family. They have fun together and they like each other. That's not flirting; that's family. Good thing she isn't my spouse or she'd complain that Beanie and I flirt with each other. We're just really close and always have been.

My grandson Jordan turned nine two weeks ago and AJ and his wife are moving back to Idaho. Actually, AJ's wife and he kids are already in Idaho and he's still in South Carolina, probably something to do with his postoperative care since his back surgery. David Scott is buying his first house and called to ask me some questions. He's so emotional you'd almost think he's a woman sometimes. I got him calmed down and hopefully thinking clearer. That's what family is for.

Jordan isn't the only one with a birthday in July. Jimmy turned 48 a week ago, although he claims that he stopped at 45, so he's 45 plus tax. I don't think he's comfortable heading closer to 50, but it's inevitable. But nearly 50 and starting over again after a divorce is always a little bit scary. It happened so fast I'm not sure he's taken it all in. He's another emotional male, but mostly with blushing. Beanie sent Jimmy a cookie bouquet at work the day before his birthday. I can just see him going down to the reception desk to pick it up. When he took the bouquet I know he blushed as red as a beet from his chest to the roots of his hair. He's blond going quickly gray so it should have been a very fiery show. I wish someone had taken a picture. That's one I'd hang in the hall with the other pictures of my family: Beanie sleeping on my couch when she, Mom and Carol visited two years ago, Mom standing in front of a Lucky Dog cart in New Orleans, and Dad in his uniform when he was young. I also printed out pictures of my Sri Lankan family: Upali and his wife, two sons and daughter. Maybe that's where we could all go next year: Sri Lanka. I'll have to suggest it to my sisters and Mom.

In the meantime, I have work to do, books to read and writing on the new book to do. Good thing life doesn't stop or I'd have nothing worthwhile to do.

That is all. Disperse.

Friday, August 01, 2008

Obsess no more

It seems every other week one of my friends are complaining about leaks -- the information kind. That's why I keep a public journal. Not everyone can do that because of their jobs or because they just prefer to keep their lives and actions off the gossip fence. One thing I have learned is that the only way to keep a secret -- or your life private -- is to tell no one. The chances of leaks increases with the amount of people who know, especially people who like gossip or a good cat fight. The worst offenders are usually the ones we trust the most -- and family. I learned that the hard way and it's why I make everything public. When I want to keep a secret, I put it in my paper journal or in my password locked private journal on my laptop.

Think someone is leaking information because private details keep popping up in conversation or on someone else's journal or just over the gossip fence with a strong wind blowing in your direction? It's time to look close to home, the closer the better. The thing about families is that not everyone will agree with everything you say or see things the way you do. They might not be secure enough to tell you to your face but the information will leak out somewhere to someone. I've seen plenty of private details leaked at parties or during a conversation with a virtual stranger or casual acquaintance because everyone needs to talk to someone who will listen to them, someone who won't judge and who isn't obsessed with people, places and/or things.

When people don't feel secure in a relationship, no matter what they say out loud, they look for a safe environment and a friendly ear. My best and oldest friend and I were having dinner with her husband of five years and she had to leave because her daughter called and needed her help. Her husband and I stayed to finish dinner and we promised to bring her dinner home for her to finish. Her husband and I have known each other since high school and we've always been friendly, but I was surprised when he told me about an obsession she hadn't mentioned to me. I thought she got over this particular obsession a long time ago, which is probably why she didn't tell me about it.

For years, she and another woman have been at odds. The woman moved on and didn't give my friend a second thought but she just couldn't let go. Any time she could manage it, she made veiled comments at parties and gatherings the woman either attended or would be sure to hear what had been said. Her sons usually told me what happened when I saw or talked to them, but to hear it from her husband was something new. He loves her but he doesn't agree with her obsession and, after hearing the story of what happened from someone other than his wife, who is carrying a huge grudge over something that is mostly in her head, I knew things weren't going well despite how happy they were otherwise.

I remember the incident very clearly and over the years I have done my best to convince my friend that she needed to see things from a more neutral perspective, but she wouldn't -- or couldn't. She had convinced herself she was the injured party. She had told the story so many times, adding details and twisting the facts around until it made her feel better, but it wasn't the truth. I knew I had to say something and I didn't have long to wait. It is her favorite topic, one she keeps in well oiled order.

Without telling on her friends and family, I reminded her that I knew the truth and we discussed it. She got angry. She didn't want to hear the truth. She had too much invested in her conflated version of events. But we've been friends for a very long time and we've had disagreements before and we're still friends because she knows, as I do, that no argument is worth the loss of a good friend. When I got home I sent her a photocopy of my journal from that time to remind her of what really happened. At first she was angry, but eventually she softened and agreed that she had taken things too far.

I understand her anger because the woman made her see something she didn't want to see. She had put so much energy and time into denying the truth that she wasn't willing to let it go so easily. This situation is not unique and it's not rare. Several friends and some of my very extended and far flung family have been through similar situations and I've seen it so many times in blogs. Some people love a good cat fight and others need to get some distance from the obsessed person because they suspect there is another version of events that is closer to the truth. At the core, obsessions turn the truth on its head and inside-out to make the obsessed feel good about themselves because in their heart they fear someone will find out the truth they don't want to face. Like I said, the only secret you get to keep is the one you tell no one.

Obsessions are dangerous and divisive and have a way of sending loved ones for shelter and a friendly listener.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Out of the closet

There's nothing I like better than finding gems among the books I review. Another such is Family Outing. It's a memoir of a writer who, at the age of 10, found out his mother was a lesbian. She was outed by a jilted lover, code named Tattle Dyke.

The book is wonderfully honest and wickedly funny. What stuck with me was what the author said about why he couldn't get past his anger with his mother. It would have been harder for him to deal with his father coming out of the closet because it would have made him question his own sexuality, as his mother's sexuality affected his sister. What it all comes down to is sex.

I understand and sympathize with the gay community when they complain the whole world is geared towards heterosexuals and they shouldn't have to hide their own sexuality for anyone's comfort, and I agree -- to a point. Although the majority of the world seems to be heterosexual, it isn't quite so much about sex. Sex and the City is about sex and and many shows and movies focus on and feature sex but the heterosexual world at large isn't all about sex, and there lies the difference.

While a hot guy or a beautiful girl might stir sexual thoughts in the opposite sex the sex is not right out on the table. With homosexuals, all heterosexuals see is the sex. It becomes less about a person and more about visions of sex and thoughts of homosexual sex. In heterosexuals' minds sex is an option and when they are faced with homosexuals sex becomes the only subject. It's a mind picture you can't get rid of (no matter how much bleach or cleanse you use) -- like your parents having hot and kinky sex or any kind of sex after the children are born. Parents are supposed to be asexual -- and so are children (at least in parents' minds). We know our children are having sex (we certainly did) but thinking too much about it guarantees sleepless nights and phone calls to the psychiatrist for emergency sessions.

Whether or not you have a friend or loved one who is homosexual, Family Outing is a book everyone should read to understand both sides of the subject. It's the most honest book I've read on the subject in ages.

That is all. Disperse.

Books and thoughts on books

I got another box of books to review from AuthorLink and I tore right into them, having just finished a box of nine books in three weeks. I need something to read and I just finished Reflections in a Golden Eye by Carson McCullers. I've seen the movie with Elizabeth Taylor, Brian Keith, Julie Harris and Marlon Brando but I wanted to read the book. I always want to read the book. The movie definitely missed some of the subtleties of McCullers' writing and tone and I am glad I read it. It's more of a novella than a novel but it was good all the same.

I have read Ballad of the Sad Cafe, which was adapted for the stage by Edward Albee and was mentioned in Picnic by William Inge and starred Kim Novak and William Holden (Susan Strasberg was reading the book and Rosalind Russell ratted her out to her mother for reading a dirty book). There are other stories and novellas (she didn't write any novels) by McCullers and I think I'm going to have to read them all -- maybe a few times.

Digging into the box, I found several books that look interesting, but I just had to read some of Friends on a Rotten Day: The Astrology of Friendships. Hazel Dixon-Cooper is Cosmo's bedside astrologer and is amazing in her insight. From what I've already read, the book is a must-have for writers to help understand and build characters for their stories and novels. My favorite feature of each astrological sign is the Bitch Factor. I just had to read a few and they accurately described several people I have known over the years and explained why they are they way they are. I haven't read the whole book, but so far it's funny and insightful.

For example: Tactless Terry . . . barrels through life pretending that her rude and insensitive observations are only her "honest" opinions. In her, that thoughtless but innocent trait turns malicious. Terry Knows that blurting out a painful or embarrassing fact at the worst moment will hurt you. She does it on purpose. Terry takes Gemini's love of dishing rumors about people and expands it into a full frontal assault of brutalizing truth, in the presence of her victim. Her comments are dispensed in two ways. She's only joking (it's all in good fun and no one will care so you shouldn't either), or she's reluctant (this is for your own good). In the latter, she tries to get you to confess something, because it not only humiliates you, it might inspire someone else within hearing distance to confess a dark secret, too. This is her most dangerous ploy, as it only serves to give her ammunition to use against your other friends.

And then there's: Broken Record Barb [is] caught in the myth that her life is the only one that's interesting. You can't shut her up. Save yourself and don't answer the phone [or the door]. She really won't notice because, being the egotistical bimb[a] that she is, yours was just the next number on her speed-dial list.

And last (for now) but not least, here's the Tyrant. If micromanaging were an Olympic sport, the Tyrant would win the gold medal hands down. The most possessive Taurus or controlling Scorpio looks a rank amateur up against this one. At work, she's the one who's always standing over everyone's shoulder, making sure that anything she's delegated is done precisely, exactly as she directs. Don't do it and there will be hell to pay. At home, she controls everything from the family diet to who the family can choose as friends to what everyone watches on TV.

Ms. T. usually surrounds herself with a collection of weak-kneed losers who all depend upon her to dictate their miserable lives, which she is only too happy to do. She loves her role and makes sure that everyone knows how everything would fall apart if it weren't for her pulling the strings. She's easy to spot because every conversation the woman has begins with either, "You will do as I say," or "Don't make me have to tell you twice." Don't make
me have to tell you twice to avoid this controlling bimb[a] like the plague she is.

It goes for Barbs, Terrys and Tyrants who keep journals and blogs, too.

I read several of the signs and I really like the easy conversational tone. Dixon-Cooper uses her friends to illustrate all the signs, making the book fun and more real. There is no meanness or bitch factor in her anecdotes and she avoids the narcissistic "it's all about me" and "feel sorry for me" moments that characterize some astrological reference books. The way the book is arranged covers the important points and makes everything easy to find. There is no repetition and I never felt as though she ran out of material. Dixon-Cooper also has sections with Venus and the moon in the signs, as well as a section on the guys. The first thing I thought of was checking out people I know and have known and the second thought was that it was a great way to build and understand fictional characters, a place to start to put flesh on their bones and real emotions in their actions and reactions.

As I was reading the usual suspects on my LJ F-list, I came across one entry that made me proud of the writer and also brought up thoughts of people like the one mentioned. These people refuse to let a relationship die a natural death, lurking in the shadows and never commenting or commenting in offhand ways to other people or on their own or other blogs so that the information gets back to the person they've described. Sometimes the mention is just subtle enough, with just enough facts, that only those in the know understand what is being said so they can promptly run off and tell the subject of the subtle mention and cause trouble. Aah, the drama kings and queens. These situations are not to be confused with other bloggers who talk about general situations or situations that are common to many people but that some frenemy has decided is all about them. It's not the same thing at all.

The first type of person is malicious and cowardly and the second person has a guilty conscience and sees themselves "feelingly portrayed" everywhere they look, especially by people they spend a good part of their time taunting and maligning in not so subtle ways. Yes, kiddies, it is a jungle out there and the animals are always on the loose, so stay alert to the dangers.

That is all. Disperse.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

No choice

As if the government isn't already in our business enough, now Los Angeles is banning fast food restaurants in low income areas because people are getting too fat. "'What's next — security guards at the door saying 'You're overweight, you can't have a cheeseburger'?" Casana said'"

The problem isn't fast food. Most fast food restaurants offer healthy choices, but that only works if you actually choose them. And it really isn't fast food, per se. Eat too much, exercise too little and you get fatter. Of course, certain foods help aid in weight loss and work better with your system, but they are also costly.

The French have a diet heavy in cholesterol, carbohydrates and fat and yet overall they are fairly slim -- and they have plenty of fast food restaurants -- but the French keep moving. They walk more.

Exercise is part of the solution, but the real solution is education. Instead of banning fast food restaurants, how about teaching food economics and backing it up by teaching people how to cook healthy, low cost meals? How about making organic produce and meat less expensive? How about, instead of factories for farms, we go back to growing food organically and raising food animals organically? How about, instead of feeding chickens, cows, pigs, sheep, etc. on corn and slaughterhouse remains (refeeding/mechanized and subsidized cannibalism) we let them roam freely and let them graze on grass and eat hay and bugs and all the natural things they used to eat before farms became factories?

Or better yet, how about legislators minding their own business and sticks to governing the things they were elected to govern, like gas prices, taxes, poverty and jobs -- to name a few?

Let's face it. We now live longer lives and have a higher quality of living and yet we are poorer than we ever have been before. I have nothing against restaurants and like to eat out on occasion -- let someone else do the cooking -- but I know how to prepare healthy, low cost meals on a budget. I've been doing it most of my life. I know how to cook. I know how to shop. I learn something new about food all the time because I read and research.

This is America, the land of the free and the home of the brave, and yet the government intrudes more and more into our everyday lives, telling us what we can and cannot do. I do not remember electing anyone to be my mother or my father or even my grandparents. I do not need a guardian and I do not need a babysitter. If I want to make a bad choice, I am willing to live with the consequences. That is my right. But more and more I find the government taking away my choices and dictating what they think is right for me without ever getting to know me, and people shrug and let it happen. Even when a government dictates for the people's own good, it is still dictating and a benevolent dictator is still a dictator. Before we know it, we will have fewer freedoms. This is where it starts and this is where it must end. Education is the answer, not control.

I saw Super Size Me and I know what Morgan Spurlock wanted to show, but he got the wrong end of the stick. Anything done to excess is going to be harmful -- even pleasant things. Ever read The Magic Fish-Bone by Charles Dickens?

Spurlock ate at McDonald's for every meal and it didn't look like he was exercising that much -- or even walking -- just eating. It isn't necessary to super size everything, especially not a large drink that is composed most of sugar. I'll bet if someone ate every meal at McDonald's for a year and made better food choices the outcome would have been different, especially if they exercised.

You can eat a healthy diet and still gain weight if you don't move around, get some exercise, walk at least 10,000 steps a day. The Amish eat a high fat, high carbohydrate, high cholesterol diet and few of them are overweight. Could it have something to do with all the physical labor and walking (Amish walk 20,000+ steps a day)? It's not about diet and health, or even food choices, it's about control and the government wants to control every aspect of our lives. What's worse is that people think the government cares for them. I do not think that is the motivation for government intervention in food choices. Just like drugs and guns and anything that can be overtly harmful, if people want something, they will find a way to get it -- even if they have to go across town.

Banning fast food restaurants won't make a difference in the end, but this sets a precedent. If we allow the government to take an inch, they'll take more than a mile; they will take everything away and the only choice will be no choice. Government run restaurants, government chosen menus, government guided lives -- Big Brother is already here. Think while you can, thought crimes are already being enacted.

That is all. Disperse.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Staying cool

I like hummus but it can be expensive to buy, so I decided to make my own and find that it tastes better than the store bought kind and I can add things I like: roasted red peppers, sun-dried tomatoes, dill, etc. Whatever I have on hand, even roasted garlic, but I have found out that unless I want really garlicky hummus I need to cut back on the amount of garlic cloves I use and one or two is usually just enough. I think I am going to try sautéed shiitake mushroom and onion next time. Since I've cut back on meat, hummus has become the main source of protein, and my favorite.

The clouds keep threatening this side of town with howling winds and cold breezes that make me reach for the covers at night but still no rain, unless you call the 15 minutes of off and on pounding we got on Friday. It was more off than on and the pounding was brief, about 2 minutes. There's more rain in the forecast today and tomorrow, but if it's anything like what it has been over the past few weeks, the west side of town will get it all. Going to the movies, I've found, is the best way to stay cool, although I inevitably end up sweaty by the time I get home and have to take a cold shower. Cold showers have been the best way to keep cool, even in the middle of the night.

Hellboy II was even better than the first movie and Ron Perlman has the character down. Guillermo del Toro's mechanical hell beasts and scenery make the movie a ride into the clockwork bowels of hell, but my favorite was the death of the tentacled plant being. It was the very essence of birth from destruction and it was beautiful. Abe's romance with the princess was sweetly poignant and sad and it looks like there is a lot more Hellboy to come. I can hardly wait.

Ever since I read the first issue of Batman, I have been hooked on the dark knight, but Christopher Nolan's walk on the dark side with Christian Bale's Dark Knight owes much to a Star Trek episode where Abraham Lincoln fought alongside Kirk and Spock against Genghis Khan and the Enterprise's enemies. Lincoln and the Vulcan counterpart of Lincoln decided that they must follow the dictates of their conscience and sue for peace. They were killed. They believed that fighting evil with its own weapons is not the path to peace because you end up becoming what you fight. That, too, is the message of The Dark Knight. The special effects have not taken over in this next installment of the newly realized Batman but they play a crucial part as much as any human character. Heath Ledger as the Joker moves like a maniacal Keystone Cop on crack and his mania runs like a Stygian current through his performance with an understated, malevolent glee that is the complete opposite of Jack Nicholson and Cesar Romero's giggling, gleeful portrayals. Ledger is a much darker and more dangerous Joker that sneaks up on you and begins to make sense. It is sad to have lost such a bright and talented actor, and it makes me wonder if Ledger found it difficult to get out of character once he became the Joker.

Of all the musicals I have seen in recent years, Mamma Mia! is at once sillier and much more fun. Meryl Streep's voice has lost some of its verve and depth, sounding like she's smoked too many cigarettes and spent too many nights up drinking at the bar, but she can carry a tune. The choreography is haphazard and thrown together and I expected the swim fin chorus line to breaking into a tap routine at any minute, but despite the contrived feel of the musical numbers I thoroughly enjoyed myself watching stellar actors having so much fun being silly.

The new X-Files is on my schedule this week and I know I'll enjoy seeing Mulder and Scully together again as they race against the clock to stop the next phase of alien colonization before December 21, 2012. However you plan to stay cool, enjoy yourself and the waning days of sun and heat and flies, for autumn is not far away.

That is all. Disperse.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Jaundiced vision

Last night I heard one writer talking about another writer. I'll call the writers Lila and Anne.

Anne was celebrating a three book deal, her first, and I heard Lila call Anne a liar. She didn't say it directly to Anne but to three other writers sitting with her at the meeting. But when Lila saw a copy of Anne's contract she couldn't deny the truth.

"It was nothing but luck but luck won't finish those books." One of the other writers asked Lila why she was so negative. "I know her," Lila said. "She is a hack. I could do better. I should be the one writing those books."

One of Lila's friends reminded her that she didn't have the contacts or the experience to write the books. All it took was one look from Lila to silence her friend who should have known better than to question Lila's judgment. Lila forced a laugh and patted the friend's hand. "I was just joking," she said. Her friends smiled weakly and changed the subject.

It wasn't enough to call Anne a liar. Lila had to let everyone know she was the better writer. The fact that Lila hasn't written or sold anything since her first book three years ago wasn't mentioned. It's not something Lila wanted to hear and her friends, uncomfortable as they were with Lila's comments, know better than to cross Lila.

Lila belongs to a lot of clubs and writing associations. She's active in the writing community. She's an organizer, and a good one, using her charm and skills to draw other people in and get them involved, but few people really know what she's really like. They know her public face, not her private face. They would be surprised to hear how Lila talks about them when they're not around or how she criticizes their work and writing choices. Lila is no different than a million other writers who believe their kind of writing and minimal to moderate success is the only success. It's nothing new.

Journalists see fiction writers as hacks pandering to consumers and publishers to create the dregs of writing: romance, mystery, thriller, fantasy, science fiction . . . every genre of fiction. Journalists stick to the facts and few would be willing to admit that since Truman Capote wrote In Cold Blood and turned hard journalism on its head to create a new kind of journalism that combines the tools of literary fiction in bringing the facts to life, journalism isn't what it used to be. Journalists will grudgingly admit to the dream of retiring or taking time off to write the Great American Novel, but that's as far as they go. The club journalists belong to is exclusive and doesn't admit the hacks, even though there are plenty of journalistic hacks in the ranks more interested with fame and Pulitzers than of keeping the public informed of the truth.

Authors of literary fiction look down on genre writers and within the ranks of genre writers mystery writers and writers of thrillers look down on romance authors and they all look down on science fiction and fantasy authors -- or did once upon a time before the lines between the genres blurred and genres mixed, adding romance to science fiction and fantasy and fantastical elements to mystery and thrillers and vice versa. Nonfiction writers give the cold shoulder to fiction writers and so it goes.

When it comes right down to where the rubber meets the road, humans are social animals, creating clubs and associations and organizations that are supposed to bring people together and end up serving to keep people out. After all, a club can't be exclusive if everyone is allowed to join, defeats the purpose of being exclusive. And people respond by either creating their own exclusive clubs that exclude the people who excluded them or seek legal means to force their way in. It has always been this way and it will likely always be this way as long as people see everyone else as rivals or less than they are.

A writing teacher once told me that getting published is 90% luck and 10% talent. He was right. What he failed to mention is that writing is also about hard work. The words may come easily, editing could be a breeze or merely going through the motions, but none of that matters if a writer sits on the writing or doesn't move far from their comfort zone to try something new, to keep growing and changing and evolving. Some writers, like Harper Lee, only need to write one book to be wealthy and famous for the rest of their lives. Those writers are rare. Most writers keep plugging away and failing, becoming famous after they die and someone find their work and realizes they have lost a gem -- John Kennedy Toole comes to mind. Some writers stay in their comfortable niche, happy to write what they like and what works for them -- something they can phone in and still be brilliant -- or nearly brilliant. Other writers fail and never write anything else or sit on the sidelines, smug and satisfied that they at least got one or two contracts and their books are on the shelves with their name on the spine; they never write anything else or spend so much time organizing and criticizing that they feel they don't need to prove themselves or keep company with writers who are less talented or just luckier.

Harper Lee wrote another book but it was, by all reports, awful and she never wrote another, hiding behind her one success. Truman Capote wrote several successful books but then fell into a life of drugs and booze and rarely wrote anything good, demoralized because his cousin Harper Lee was more successful than he was and despite his success with In Cold Blood. He felt he had failed. The critics couldn't praise his work enough because he felt he was a failure. He fell into a comfortable niche and never came out again, never challenged the boundaries or tried another path.

It doesn't matter if a writer or poet puts their work into trunks in the attic and is discovered after her death or writes only news articles or book reviews or recipes or whatever they choose; they are still writers and poets. If the only success they ever taste is finishing a book or fifty stories or being published in anthologies or literary journals or on the pages of national papers and magazines, they are still writers and as such are worthy of recognition and respect. If a writer manages one contract for one book with the help of a friend, he's a writer. If you write for your own amusement or for your children or for publication, you're a writer and deserve to be recognized and respected. You belong to the club of writers and poets, no matter whether you write fiction or nonfiction, and it is an exclusive club. Good thing the club of readers is more forgiving and will allow writers and poets to join. One is not better than the other; both clubs are symbiotic. Writers need readers and readers need something to read, and everyone is a critic and some critics are published.

What Lila forgets is that Anne has worked hard for her success even though it seems like she has been standing still. Yes, she was lucky to land the contract and to be finally recognized for the excellent writer she is. Lila's criticism has less to do with Anne's abilities or talents or luck and more to do with Lila's fear that the sleeper has awakened and she is about to be eclipsed. She needn't worry because Anne knows she's lucky and she also knows how much hard work has gone into making her reputation for good, solid writing and clear, evocative prose. It has been a long hard climb up the ladder for Anne and she stumbled and stopped along the way, but she deserves her success. It's too bad Lila can't see that with her jaundiced vision.

Every writer feels a little jealousy at someone else's success, especially if it seems the success is unearned. That's only human. But to hang on to the jealousy reeks of sour grapes and bad sportsmanship. The cure is simple. Take a moment to feel the jealousy completely and then go over and congratulate your rival. After that, get back to work and use your rival's success as a reminder that publishers are still willing to buy good work (yours if you work hard) and there's plenty of luck -- and publishers -- left to go around.

Unfortunately, Lila is like too many writers who have tasted a little success and realize that it may be all they will ever have no matter how hard they try because, like my Gram always said, her eyes are bigger than her stomach. Personally, I wish both Lila and Anne well, as I wish all writers -- successful and struggling -- well. After all, we all need a pat on the back once in a while.