More on Dez

Dez is my main man, really. He’s the leading male character in A Light in the Dark. I remember when I saw Dez Bryant on ESPN in a pair of bike shorts and nothing else. I told myself right then and there, the world needs more Dez’s. So, I came up with my own.

The name Dez is unique. I don’t personally know anyone by that name. To me though, it sounds strong, cool and a little dangerous. That’s my leading man-to a point.

My version is also a nerd in his own way and really not all that cool. He can’t hold his liquor and he hasn’t always made the best decisions. By the time readers meet him, he is a much better Dez than he used to be but, generally speaking, time and age have a way of helping that along.

So, he’s grown up, my Dez, and he knows what is important in life. But when he has to face an unforseen hurdle in A Light in the Dark, some of the old Dez starts to pull through. Hard times certainly are a good measure of a person’s strength. No one is perfect.

Dez’s audience will meet him at a time in his life when things are very good and then suddenly not. That’s when readers will really get to know him and see what he is made of. I am hopeful that his genuine reactions will not disappoint. Kinda like Dez Bryant in those bike shorts-it’s worth a look-see.

We Need to Take Care of Each Other

I don’t have tons of money. I live a conservative, non-flashy life. My things are practical and necessary and you won’t hear me digress too much about them. If I was in a more comfortable situation, I would hope that wouldn’t change much but I also hope I would be as generous as my circumstances allowed.

A unique example is a German immigrant woman from my hometown. She lived with her brother and never married. Hers was a life of frugal, simple means. When she passed on, she left the town a few million or so. She must have acquired it over years of meager living never having spent it. She may not have been generous in life but her name has since been posthumously admired on buildings around town. It’s a perfectly executed story with a surprise ending where she got the last word. It doesn’t matter when or how you choose to be generous just as long as you do it.

That is one of the principles that emerges in A Light in the Dark. It may not seem like it, but we are all in this together and once we accept that, life can get better-for everyone. I know it’s fun for some out there to show off what they have-it’s become part of our culture. How fun is it, though, to have so much more than you need when you actually know someone who has so little, often based on circumstances quite out of their control? When you put a face on it, it becomes more personal. It certainly does for Sabrina in the novel, so much so that it becomes a part of her journey.

Take a current headline, for example, and consider all involved. There is such a domino effect. It’s not just about the perpetrator and the victims. It’s about the families on BOTH sides. There is an innocence and vulnerability that exists there if we are willing to see it. You can ignore what’s going on or you can do your part, whatever that is, to improve someone’s situation. You never know when that someone might be you.

The Russell Westbrook Snarl

I’d like to make one thing clear. I am NOT a huge NBA fan. It’s a league that has become mediocre at best. There is really only one team I watch as a fan, and that is the Oklahoma City Thunder. Why? One player-Russell Westbrook.

Russell has a desire to win that is fun to watch. He has serious talent and can do things not everyone in his league can do-that is fun to watch, too. What also sets him apart though is the most definitive game face in the league. Whether amped by an exhilarating dunk or unhappy with a call, that snarl says it all.

I don’t have “the snarl.” I have my own version of resting bitch face but that’s different. When I see Russ snarl, I think, “That’s how I feel when someone pulls out in front of me.” I’d love to flash them THAT snarl as I pass them. It would be more effective than any word or finger gesture and would definitely get my point across.

I’ll leave all that to Russell though. He’s far superior at it, and let’s face it, I don’t want to get punched. But in my next writing venture, there just might be a character with a menacing snarl.

Seeing John Grisham the Day that Prince Died

Ever since I got my tickets to attend the John Grisham lecture, April 21st was, to me, John Grisham Day. I was excited to see and listen to this mega-writer and I have to say, he didn’t disappoint. He is charming, funny and self-deprecating. I am not sure what I expected but he is definitely more. It’s official. I’ve been Grishamed.

It was inspiring to hear about his initial struggles with this first novel, early marketing snafu’s and his fly-by-night experiences with Hollywood. He joked about his kids playing around the thousand copies of A Time to Kill he bought for his book launch party and how there were plenty of boxes worth of books for them to play around AFTER the party as well. It was also sweet to hear how his first reader and critic is still his first reader and critic-his wife. It turns out his foray into writing and his subsequent sky-rocketing career was and still is very much a family affair. Not many can do it alone and John Grisham is no different than a lot of us.

I think what I enjoyed most was his little stories about his writer friends, Pat Conroy and Stephen King. He spoke passionately and with thoughtful humor about his friendship with Conroy, who passed away in March. And while he and Stephen King are two very different writers (and people), they have a very strong connection through their experiences and success. I never knew. Imagine driving down the back roads of Mississippi and seeing those two on a joy ride together, but that is exactly what he described.

I had an image in my head of this stuffy, corporate intellectual but, in actuality, John Grisham is an endearing and relatable, husband, father and avid baseball fan. For a few hours, I sort of forgot he was a multi-million best-selling author and became enthralled with a regular guy telling stories of his own life.

Then, I went home at the end of John Grisham Day to face another reality-a world without Prince.

12 Pounds of Everything Good

When I started to get serious about writing again, my initial stabs were short-lived and short in general. Nothing would stick. I had a story set in Chicago (with our buddy Dez from A Light in the Dark) but it quickly lost its luster. I had another one I began about a serial killer truck driver. Gee, how’s he gonna kill this next person? Try having those thoughts and then go to sleep at night.

Then, I found my muse. She’s short, sweet, spoiled and just about the best friend you could ever have-my not so little mini-dachshund. So, I wrote about when she first came home with us to stay.

After my rescue dog Murphy died, I was beside myself with grief and only four days after her passing, my husband could take no more. That is when he surprised me with Sammi (Sammer Jammers, Baby Love, Fatniss, Mama’s Little Sweetheart). I had never had a puppy before-she was my first.

Over the years, as she is almost nine, we have joyed in her funny little ways and obsessed over her battle with the bulge. When you’re short and stout, every pound counts and we’ve kept close watch. The breeder told us she shouldn’t grow to be over 10 pounds yet our girthy girl has weighed in at a healthy 12 pounds for many years now. Occasionally, she has rocked the scales at 13 pounds and over and some could say we were sold a bad bill of goods, but we wouldn’t have it any other way.

Does she play fetch? Not really. You throw her beloved toy and she will go get it but she won’t bring it back to you. Is she smart? Well, she can’t play fetch but she knows when it’s time to eat, when it’s time to do her business and when it’s time to go to bed. Is she a good guard dog? No, not at all. She likes to bark and then skittishly run away. Her best attribute? Her wagging tail-there is no better way to be greeted as you walk in the door at the end of the day.

A mini-dachshund, clearly she is not. What she is is quite simply 12 (or 13) pounds of everything good.

The Science of Naming Characters

As it turns out, there isn’t one. You might think that naming characters is deliberate and meaningful but, in my case, not really. I actually couldn’t wait to name everybody so I could just get on with the storytelling and, in hindsight, that’s probably not the right way to go about it. I came up with names that made sense to me but didn’t have anything to do with me so I could be creative and be attached to the characters for who they were or who I made them to be-not any previous experiences. Plus, it’s kind of fun to just randomly make names up.

I did, however, put plenty of thought into naming the pets in the book, and, of course, I named them after my own.

So why did I name my main male character Dez Parker? I guess you could say I had the name on the brain. When ESPN is on in the house every day and on multiple TV’s during the football season, you start to pick up on things repeated over and over. Athletes Dez Bryant and Jabari Parker’s names were mentioned a lot in the summer/fall 2013 when I was avidly writing and shazam. Dez Parker was born.

Sabrina? That one I really can’t explain. I watched Bewitched as a child but that I am sure had no influence. I have never watched Sabrina the Teenage Witch so I know that’s not it. I am at a loss when it comes to naming her but I know she most definitely IS a Sabrina, no matter the reason. It just fits her.

Some names mean more and are more important to the story (and the author) than others. It’s not solely determined by the flip of a coin but it can be. It’s fiction, and there isn’t a whole lot of science to it.

I Was a Book Club Dropout

I am a Book Club Dropout

So, how does one start to write a book or better yet why? It was something I had thought about for years, but I lacked inspiration . . . and drive. I was reading pretty avidly though and that seemed to initially provide the spark that I needed.

In 2008, my friend Peggy started a book club, aka the Book Club Gangstas, and I was all in at first. We’d pick out a book and then meet the next month to chat it up – pretty standard. Several years in though, I found myself actually not reading at all. I still went to book club, of course, to eat and visit, but after awhile, I started contemplating writing a book rather than listening to everyone else discuss the one they just read (and I didn’t).

That was when my friend Amy invited me to a writer workshop, and I became an official book club dropout. I told the club that I would be back though, and, with any luck, I would have a book they could add to their reading list.

I had had a character in my head for a long time, but I just didn’t quite know what to do with him. Headlines at the time literally propelled me forward with a plot and a full storyline. I felt lucky and overwhelmed, but I just kept hammering away and four months later, I found my ending. It was a great feeling to be finished, but still it seemed a hallow accomplishment for me.

Everyone said, “Oh my gosh! You wrote a book! That’s so great!” And it was, except it wasn’t. To me, it was simply a word doc. That’s not sexy AND, in my opinion, that’s not a book. So, I began my quest to be published and a year and half later, the wheels were finally in motion.

It’s been a long, tough and trying journey at times, but I haven’t been alone. My friends, my family, my beta readers including the Book Club Gangstas all gave me the support and encouragement I needed. I am so grateful.

So, that’s the story of my story and I have to say, it happened quite authentically. What followed was “A Light in the Dark” and I have absolutely no regrets. The character, the story, the big picture, all of it means mean so very much to me. There are times when we all need a light in the dark and this book, quite obviously, is mine.