Some find inspiration in the wilderness. Others find themselves hopelessly lost.

Monthly Archives: April 2013

My novel has a cover. Check it out!

Now, here’s hoping my editors will manage to make the inside pages just as sharp!



In stylish parts of the U.S., in places like Somerville, men who want to look hip and handsome sport roguish facial hair.  Goatees, outrageous mutton chops, or at least five o’clock shadows.

Personally, I’m a big fan of these looks.  My clean-shaven husband loves to mock me because beards of almost any type invariably catch my eye.  Other women notice their friends’ shoes or handbags. I notice soul patches and handle bar mustaches.

When I left behind a string of homes in hipster cities (New York, Denver, L.A., Boston) and relocated to the country, I was in for something of a shock.

You see, there are a lot more men sporting beards here.  Full on beards.  The kind you can use to conceal a weapon or a flask of bourbon. 

But the people wearing them are, let’s say, differently hip.  Many are older tattooed gentlemen roaring through town on Harley trikes.  Even more are pretending it’s the 1860s and wearing Confederate soldier costumes.  Often, a particularly awesome beard will catch my eye and, on closer inspection, I’ll find myself admiring a Robert E. Lee impersonator.  Awkward.  And in the fall, when men all across South Central PA toss their razors to prepare for the beer-fest they call “deer hunting season,” my beard-dar nearly melts down.

Still, I haven’t managed to convince my husband to abandon shaving, even though he’d fit in perfectly well here with some scruff. 

Now, finally, science is on my side.  This is especially helpful since my husband is a scientist.  Check it out:

Then again, he’ll probably rip this study apart.  Even I can see some flaws in the article’s claims. You could grow a beard to avoid sun exposure but, then again, you could just skip the days in the “blistering sun of the Australian Outback.”  Or wear sunblock.

Sunblock is for nerds like me, though.  Hipsters, Harley riders, Robert E. Lee impersonators, and those intent on sunbathing in the Australian outback should stay cancer free (at least as far as their chins are concerned) with beards.

It’s pretty quiet today, Earth Day 2013.  Obviously, we eco-warriors need a new approach.

So, this year, in honor of our earth, I’m putting out a hit list.  Grab your poison, your knife, or a sturdy boot.  Invasive species, we’ve got you in our sights, and we’re coming for you.


Got a friend in the NRA?*  This is the perfect opportunity to recruit them to the environmental movement.  Clearly, they’ve got some muscle in congress and the kind of obstinate disregard for public discourse environmentalists could use more of.   And, of course, guns, too.

Invite your NRA pal out to shoot a European Rabbit.**  While you’re out, smash a starling egg or zebra mussel.  Stomp a fire ant.  Rip up some purple loosestrife or kudzu.  Destroy, destroy, destroy.  Because you love our earth.

Happy Earth Day everyone.

* I heard that dismissive snort.  Just because you don’t have any friends whose views differ from your own, doesn’t mean the rest of us don’t.

** Yes, I believe the European Rabbit is an invasive species.  No, I’m not sure you can actually just go out and shoot one right now.  Please check your local hunting regulations.  Ask your imaginary NRA friend about permit requirements and such.

I’ve pretty much kept quiet all week because, with terrible things happening in the Boston area, it seemed frivolous to post something jokey.  Seeing what’s getting forwarded on facebook and twitter, though, it’s obvious that people are eager for some levity.

So, without further ado, I bring you:

The Top Ten Lockdown (and for those in PA: Power Outage) Activities

  1. Turn away from your screens and hang out with your cohabitants, be they friends or family.
  2. Turn the screens back on because what are you going to talk about all day?  Refresh.  Refresh.  Refresh.
  3. Don’t cook but eat, especially the old candy you stashed in a cupboard out of your kids’ reach.
  4. Rearrange your furniture then look through that catalog from the Pottery Barn and take note of all the things you need.  Don’t feel guilty about obsessing about something as shallow as throw pillows.  Throw pillow collecting is your right and maybe even your responsibility.
  5. Pick up some work reading.  Shuffle the pages.
  6. Drink heavily.
  7. Half-heartedly clean your kitchen until you find more candy.  Sure, those B-list Halloween treats aren’t as fresh as the Easter stash, but maybe malt balls have their appeal on days like these.
  8. Look up the status of medical marijuana legislation.  Listen for approaching SWAT teams.  Pull out your pipe anyway because the police really don’t care about pot smoking today.
  9. Post a heartfelt wish for your friends’ and family’s safety.
  10. Post something inane to keep them distracted and entertained.


*This blog post should not be construed as an endorsement of any of these activities.  Especially malt ball consumption.

I read about the Boston Marathon explosion with sorrow and then dread. 

First, the sorrow.  I thought about all the people injured and the many more shaken and scared.  I thought about my friends running and watching the marathon and worried for them.

Second, the dread.  Like many of you, I suspect, this kind of event triggers memories of 9-11. Not only the horror of that day, but also everything that followed.  Especially the police militarization, racial profiling, and long-term back sliding on civil liberties and freedom.

I recognize that today’s events need to be handled with seriousness and even severity.  I just hope Boston, and the rest of the nation, will stay calm and measured. 

Both victims and suspects need to be treated with appropriate care.

Arranging a trip to Washington, D.C. to see the cherry blossoms is like standing out on your deck late into an April night hoping to see the Aurora Borealis, even though you live near the Mason-Dixon line and you know perfectly well that light pollution has ruined sky viewing for most of the country, including your own neighborhood.

Okay. I’ll admit that I’m guilty of all kinds of nature voyeurism, including some pretty desperate attempts to find natural splendor in unlikely locations.  Yes, I looked for the elusive Aurora Borealis this past weekend in Pennsylvania.  No, I didn’t see anything and, yes, I should have known better.  Those seeking the wonders of nature at the Cherry Blossom festival, though, have exceeded even my delusive hopefulness.

First, the festival planners can’t predict when the cherry tree blossoms will open.  This year, hordes descended on the city to admire closed buds.  Last time I was in D.C. for the festival, most of the petals had been trampled underfoot days before the tour buses pulled in.

Second, and most importantly, even if the conditions are perfect, it is nearly impossible to appreciate the blossoms in a sea of tourists.

If you live in D.C. or if you can get down there during the week when you know the trees are in bloom, by all means, check out the cherry blossoms on the basin.  If you want to celebrate the friendship between the United States and Japan, go, show your support.  Awesome idea.  If you want to do something else in D.C., consider going some other weekend.

Otherwise, just come see the cherry tree in my front yard.  There’s plenty of parking.  And, who knows, if you time your trip right, you might see the Aurora Borealis.

Then again, since I’m such a curmudgeon about crowds, you should probably skip the trip to my front yard and visit Cherry Springs State Park instead.  Cherry trees and an international dark sky park!  Nature nerds take notice:

A lot of people have been asking me what my novel is about.  Here’s my one sentence summary:

It’s exactly like Downton Abbey except set in America. 

Everyone loves Downton Abbey.  It’s on PBS, so it’s good for you.  Still, it’s basically a trashy soap opera with lots of eye candy.  The fashion.  The actors.  The house.  You might not admit to watching Gossip Girls, but you can proudly proclaim your affection for Downton Abbey to even your most intellectual and cosmopolitan friends.  Personally, every time I begin to suspect the show is poorly disguised pulp, Lord Grantham’s dogs win me back with their nobility and quiet devotion.

Which brings us back to my book, Drowning Cactus.  It features a dog, Loaner, who is as charming as Lord Grantham’s dogs, if scrawny, bedraggled and worm-infested.

Okay.  Drowning Cactus has very little in common with Downton Abbey.  It completely lacks a great house, any scheming servants or even useful instructions on the proper way to dress for dinner.  I guess I need another one sentence summary.

Let’s try: It’s basically a prequel to the Hunger Games.  A real page-turner, but with no bows or arrows, few games and very little hunger. 

Other ideas?  The key here is to think of some very successful book, movie, album, art movement, culinary style…  Really, you don’t need to know anything about my book.  You supply the widely appealing point of comparison.  If you want, I’ll even provide the vague adjectives linking said comparison point to Drowning Cactus.

It’s a lot like Argo, but without the CIA plot.  Suspenseful and thought-provoking.

It’s a lot like that Gotye Song Now You’re Just Somebody That I Used to Know.  Just as catchy, but less tragic and melodious.

Go ahead.  Try one.  Feel free to promote your favorite business or yourself.

Reading Drowning Cactus is a lot like the experience of finding a rental apartment through New York realtor Melissa Leifer .  Satisfying and enriching.

Drowning Cactus is to print what Juls Buehrer’s artwork is to canvas.  Beautiful and transporting.

Drowning Cactus is coming out July 26th.  Clink on BUY MY BOOK, above, for more information.

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