Conversations With a Teen Daughter

15yo: Working on the house so you’ll have a surprise when you come home.

Me:  Oh, I love surprises!

15yo:  It’s part of Operation Sssss.

Me:  What’s “Operation Sssss?”

15yo:  It’s the plan my sisters and I created as secret siblings.

Me:  Can you be more specific?

15yo:  We’re the Scheme Team.

Me:  Yeah, I get that. What are you girls up to?

15yo:  A pet.

Me:  We have 5 pets already. A dog, guinea pigs, fish. What kind of pet are you wanting?

15yo:  We’re trying to convince Dad to let us get a Python.

Me:  A PYTHON? Have you lost your minds?

15yo:  Ball pythons are very friendly and easy to care for. You only feed them once a week. The males don’t get very big.

Me:  What do you feed them?

15yo:  Rats.

Me:  This just went from bad to worse.

15yo:  They’re not live rats. They’re frozen.

Me:   And just where do you plan to store these frozen, dead rodents?

15yo:  Duh, Mom. In the freezer.

Me:  Next to our food? Gross! No, no… just NO!

15yo:  Don’t worry. I’ve already priced small freezers. We can keep them in a separate freezer in the garage. I found one for $150 at Best Buy online. What a deal? Huh?

Me:  How do you plan to pay for this new freezer?

15yo:  Spot cleaning a house.

Me:  Whose house?

15yo:  Ours.

Me:   I’m not paying you $150 to clean your rooms and do the dishes!

15yo:  Not just the dishes and our rooms. It’s a surprise.

Me:  [after arriving home from work] Wow! The kitchen looks fantastic!

15yo:  Look. We cleaned every room in the house. [takes me on a tour]

Me:  You organized my shoes by color?

15yo:  Yep. And your books are all organized and alphabetized by author on the shelves now too.

Me:  [writes check for $150] How much is this snake?

15yo:  Depends on the type of Ball Python. There are hybrids of all kinds. They’re so pretty. [pulls out phone to show examples]

Me:  [shivers] Well, best of luck to you. Dad is terrified of turtles. I seriously doubt he’d allow a snake in the house.

15yo:   No worries. I alphabetically organized all his movies and X-box games.

Me:  You sound confident.

15yo:   Yep. Gonna name him “Monty.”


Most Embarrassing Moment of My Life

By Snow Brooks

I was only 14 years old when my mother and I traveled to Europe as American tourists. Our first stop was a 2 week stay in London and Mom had already given me the When in Rome, do as the Romans lecture. For months before our departure she’d preached the etiquette of each country to ensure I was properly prepared and wouldn’t embarrass myself with some cultural faux pas.

Twelve days in London and I had managed to blend in well! No one suspected I was American until I opened my mouth and my Southern drawl made it blatantly obvious. As long as my lips were sealed, I had everyone fooled or at least I did until I met the Piano Man.

You see, Piano Man wasn’t your run-of-the-mill musician. He was a pianist at one of the swankest restaurants I’d ever set foot in. All decked out in tuxedo and bow-tie with manicured salt and pepper hair that looked like it took days to perfect.

As Mom and I dined, I became enamored with the guy’s performance. His fingers danced across the keys with effortless grace and, as a 4th generation pianist, I appreciated his abilities. Mom was a pianist too and understood why I kept gawking at Mr. Mozart and his flying fingers.

It wasn’t just his talent that had my attention. While he performed, Piano Man would sway and lean toward me, the weird girl who kept staring at him, and flash his pearly whites.

Was he playing just for me now? Perhaps he could see how much I appreciated his musical abilities.

He grinned again just before flowing into a new song. An American song! Yes, Mr. Piano-dude was definitely playing this one for me! He must have overheard the twang of my accent.

There was a glass globe with money next to him, so I strolled over and tipped the gentleman. His smile widened as he continued playing my song. I was so honored that I decided to sing the lyrics to show my appreciation.

I began, “My country tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing.”

Why was Piano Man frowning?

I went on, “Land where my fathers died.”

Why was Mom making cut-throat gestures?

“Land of the pilgrims’ pride,” my voice trickled off, sounding more like a question.

Why were one hundred angry eye-balls of fellow diners glued to me?

I cringed, press my lips together, and skulked back over to my chair.

Mom’s face was beet red. “What on Earth are you doing?” she chastised.

“I was singing.  America. You know,” I explained with an innocent shoulder-shrug.

“That’s not America,” she breathed through ventriloquist teeth. “Here, it’s God Save the Queen!” she informed, hiding her eyes behind a palm.

“Oh,” I sunk into my chair, feeling like the one who needed saving.


Why Writers Drink

By Snow Brooks

When I was young, I thought novelists were quirky hermits who lived in log cabins tucked far away from the prying eyes of civilization – pecking out stories on dusty typewriters with only their cups of coffee and a cat to witness. How else could they get all those pages organized into complete stories if they socialized in the modern world?

Besides, I’d never actually met a novelist in person. They were like Big Foot – rumors of a sighting here and there, but never was I lucky enough to lay eyeballs on one. In fact, the first author I met was the one staring back at me in the mirror when I completed my first novel.

As I studied that reflection, I realized I didn’t fit the bill for my idea of a novelist. As a family practitioner working full-time with 3 lively daughters and a distracting husband who could make me laugh with a glance, I didn’t exactly ooze author. There was no hermit lifestyle. No cats. No typewriter. No log cabin… dammit. But I did guzzle a mean cup of coffee.

So how did I morph into this mythological creature I call a writer? Oh, it was simple. I woke up one morning, hands on hips, and said, “I’m gonna be a novelist!” That’s how we all made our grand debut in the literary world, right?

Okay, maybe it didn’t happen exactly like that. The truth is I awakened one morning and thought, that dream was so nutty, I gotta write it down.

I mean I’d had some crazy dreams before, but this one took the cake! It was one of those goes-on-all-night sorts with crisp imagery and lengthy conversations. In a fit of inspiration, I got out a pencil (tool we used before texting kids) and I wrote it all on a sheet of notebook paper.

After a few pages I noticed I was, how should I say, embellishing some of the details to help the story flow from one scene to the next. It was all just for shits and giggles until I became hooked. Sigh. More like obsessed! The little dream turned into a 90,000 word novel in a few months.

When I finished editing, I tucked the manuscript in a drawer, smacked my hands clean, and marched off without another thought. You see, I didn’t write it with the intention of having it published. I had a job. I wrote it because it was a fascinating story that I didn’t want to forget.

The real problem began a few weeks after I finished the damn thing. When I went about my daily routine, I missed the writing. Rather, I grieved it. Seriously.

The joy of being immersed in a world of my own creation, one that I could control with some wild imagination and keystrokes was like discovering I’d sprouted wings and could fly. I wanted it back and I missed the characters who’d become a part of my life in those months. It was then I understood why writers write – it’s a bloody blast!

After completing my 3rd novel, my friends and family started asking if and when I planned to publish the books. Apparently, writing novels for my own pleasure without publishing is like baking wedding cakes and not sharing them with the wedding parties. The scandal! To appease them, I researched the process of publishing and soon learned why writers drink.

If you’re new to the process of query letters, synopses, literary agents, and waiting weeks for replies, let me tell you – it would drive St. Peter to the bottle! One month in and I popped my first cork of red wine. Hell, I may even start feeding the stray cat scratching at my door.

Schrödinger’s Novel: Both Best-Seller and Slush-pile Dweller

      By Snow Brooks

There’s something alluring about holding a stack of manuscripts in ambivalent purgatory, stashing them in a drawer, and strolling away with a devious grin. Locked and unseen, my novels hover between the possibilities of living literary masterpieces or lifeless sewage. That’s the charm of uncertainty. I’ve got a best-seller in my drawer! Well, sort of, according to Schrödinger and his furry friend.

Like Schrödinger’s cat, my darlings exist in a state of quantum superposition until I open the box and a literary agent observes one. Is it dead? Is it alive? Part of me doesn’t want to know. Only a nefarious, mustache-twirling literary agent and his rejection letter can quash the hope uncertainty allows.

It wasn’t until I completed my third manuscript that my box of Schrödinger novels became too tempting to leave unopened. I admit it – curiosity got the better of me (yes, I know what that did to the cat). But seriously, what’s in the box? And thus began the delightful process of hunting down the ideal mustache-twirler to query.

The first thing I noticed in my search for said rascal was that locating an agent who is actively seeking romantic-suspense fiction with emphasis on suspense is like searching for life on another planet. When I finally located one in the agency universe, it felt like I’d stumbled upon a news-worthy discovery. Hear me CNN?

Then began the charming task of writing a synopsis, which is rather like fitting a hundred clowns into a Prius. And don’t forget the query letter with biography! A true delight for an unpublished author – up there with plunging needles into my retina. But, I did it. Clown-stuffing, needles, and all!

So now, I wait. Likely, for my first form rejection letter from Mr. Mustache that I will proudly frame and display as initiation to the Thick-Skinned Writer’s Club. Will I give up? Even if my walls become filled with “Sorry but” and “I’m afraid” letters? Nope. I’m tenacious and I have mustache clippers!