Tuesday, August 31, 2010

We Have Always Lived In The Castle

Finishing writing a book is a bittersweet feeling. As I get to the end of this draft of How To Own And Operate A Haunted House, I feel great relief. It's almost finished, those longed for words The End are looming! Oh happy day! But I also feel a sense of loss at having lived in those rooms for a long time and seeing the door close, a kind of writerly post-partum. What next, what next as Robert Lowell famously asked in his poem about a mid-life crisis. He also broke his girlfriend Jean Stafford's nose not once but twice (once by punching her, once in a drunken car wreck). I have a postcard of him above my desk, smoking and look like he's on the verge of a manic episode. Those wacky poets!

I'll keep you posted on the progress and will write THE END on this very blog when I get there. Until then, thanks so much for reading the excerpts. At this stage in the game, I'm finding it hard to focus on any other writing. Any thoughts on ending a project from my dear commenters?

Michelle's Spell of the Day
"I don't think it's very useful to open wide the door to younger artists; the ones who break down the door are more interesting." Paul Schrader

Cocktail Hour
There's only one more episode of Hung -- and they are skipping Labor Day. Waah! Sunday's episode was off the charts. When the season is over, I plan to write a comprehensive review of the best show on television right now.

Benedictions and Maledictions
Happy Tuesday!

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Emmy Night

Happy Emmy night! Here's another piece of the novel, edited down as to make some sense. Thanks so much for reading!

People start to drink in earnest, and I hold a glass full of margarita, allowing myself to enjoy the salt rim. I read somewhere that Dean Martin often held a martini glass full of water in the interest of keeping up the appearance of a good time. Despite such an uber cool precedent, pretending to get plastered felt like a real drag. Alcohol itself provides false merriment at times and the pretend version should be listed as one of Dante’s infamous circles.

I ease myself into a folding chair in the corner, acting as if I’m engrossed in the snack buffet which consisted of the usual college party far -- queso made from Velveeta and Rotel tomatoes in a crock-pot, guacamole, chips, and a few stray pigs in a blanket. Nary an organic snack in sigh which makes me relax a bit. Nothing gives me the willies like an heirloom tomato.

“So here you are,” Shane says, sitting down next to me. He’s wearing a Social Distortion t-shirt he wore in high school for our heavy metal photo shoots. He seems so unchanged from that time. I feel changed, beyond repair. As Hank says, It’s not the years, it’s the mileage.

Michelle's Spell of the Day
"Put your ear down close to your soul and listen hard." Anne Sexton

Cocktail Hour
Give me your opinions on the Emmy dresses -- you too can be Joan Rivers. I kid, as Krusty the Klown says. I kid because I love.

Benedictions and Maledictions
Happy Sunday! Thanks to the anonymous commenter for the Coetze recommendation -- I love Disgrace. And Dave, I am also looking forward to Detroit 187.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Happy Birthday, Beth!

Happy birthday to my dear sister Beth, aka Good Tiny! She's the best sister in the entire world, and I hope she has a wonderful year.

Michelle's Spell of the Day
"A lot of people might be frightened to be me. But I love being me." Iggy Pop

Cocktail Hour
Anybody reading anything good? Tell, tell!

Benedictions and Maledictions
Happy Saturday!

Friday, August 27, 2010

Stevie Wonder - Living for the City

Hi everyone -- thought I would send everyone Friday greeting with a little Stevie Wonder. In my own personal Say Nice Things About Detroit campaign, I'd like to suggest everyone take the opportunity to see the Motown Museum. I'm not big on museums, but this is well worth your time and the small admission fee. The people who give the tours have the greatest stories and make the music come alive. When I was there once, I was forced to pretend like I was Mary Wells. Yes, this is true. I feel like Mary Wells is my spiritual Supreme. Happy Friday to all!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

The Luckiest Boy In The World

I'm still in the midst of my final final final mile of a big project. Yes, I will finish it before the sand runs out of the hourglass! I appreciate you guys reading and for all the support. Clearly, not a lot of love for high school -- ha! I understand. High school is about surviving a kind of existential horror show played out in cafeterias. At any rate, today I'm going to quote the end of the Playboy interview with Paul Reubens, aka Pee-wee Herman. I think it's really insightful. Opinions?

Playboy: At the end of your stage show Pee-wee Herman proclaims in song that he feels like the luckiest boy in the whole wide world. How about you?

Reubens: Ummm. Does the length of that pause tell you anything? No, I don't know. I don't feel like the "iest" of anything. I'm not the best or the worst. I grew up never realizing there was this gray area of life. Everything was black-and-white, right and wrong, whatever. Well, I like the gray area. I don't have to be the luckiest anymore. But I will be, I bet, every night on Broadway when I'm singing the song. I believe it at that moment when I'm singing that Pee-wee Herman is the luckiest boy in the world. He does learn to fly after all.

Michelle's Spell of the Day
"The curious paradox is that when I accept myself just as I am, then I can change." Carl Rogers

Cocktail Hour
Interview suggestion: Paul Reubens in Playboy this month. Read the whole thing. Yes, Heff, Playboy does have words! You won't regret it.

Benedictions and Maledictions
Happy Thursday!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Tequila Sunrise

Here's a scene from the high school reunion portion of my novel. Did anyone go to any of their reunions? If so, tell all. Thanks for reading!

“Hey Em,” yell Michael Wharton, a boy I dated for three weeks one summer. I hate to say it, but love did not last because I couldn’t stop hearing “We represent the lollipop guild” every time I saw him. Shallow, I know. I am forever biased against short men since my rejection by Jon Anderson in the 7th grade. I wrote him a note with the requisite boxes of yes/no/maybe asking if he wanted to go together. He checked maybe in social studies which turned into a no by language arts. I made a wish that he would stop growing, and he never made it past 5’2. Michael towered two inches above Jon, but still, I towered above Michael in heels. All I recall from our brief love affair hitting him with a pillow during Tequila Sunrise, the scene where Mel Gibson is yelling at someone for something. Seems like some good foreshadowing . .

Michelle's Spell of the Day
"I have woven a parachute out of everything broken." William Stafford

Cocktail Hour
Jodi, my beautiful dear, you are right -- Better Made rules!

Benedictions and Maledictions
Happy Tuesday!

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Let's Get Small

Browsing at Half-Price books one day, I found Steve Martin's memoir, Born Standing Up, for a dollar on the clearance rack. Knowing next to nothing about Steve Martin, I decided to give it a try. I'm filing this under "hidden gems." This memoir was a revelation! Understated and brilliantly written, I found myself extremely impressed by the writing and observations. Comedy, the hardest art form there is in my opinion, is dissected in a thoughtful manner. His own rise and completion are documented. Like any good story, there's the way it happened and how it ended. According to Martin, comedy depends on newness. When he stopped being new and therefore funny, he stopped performing stand-up, opting for a career in movies. Refreshing insights all around.

I can't recommend this book enough. Any favorite Steve Martin bits that you guys love?

Michelle's Spell of the Day
"Straight is the line of duty; Curved is the line of beauty; Follow the straight line, thou shalt see The curved line ever follow thee." William MacCall

Cocktail Hour
Chip suggestion: Better Made

Benedictions and Maledictions
Happy Monday!

Saturday, August 21, 2010


One of my favorite songs from the great George Jones. My favorite George quote -- "I spent money on women, coke, and cars. The rest went to foolishness." Happy Saturday!

Friday, August 20, 2010

Dream Cruise

It's Dream Cruise time in the fair city of Detroit. I've never been a car person, truth be told, and when asked what kind of car I had, I answered in all seriousness, A white one. The one before that was Polynesian metallic green. But I do love the words, dream cruise. They are so evocative and lovely even though most of my dreams are nightmares where my exes become uber successful, winning Pulitzers and getting their stories made into films, like Jeffrey Eugenides did in The Switch (yes, this movie is based on his short story, "Baster").

So where are you guys cruising on this Friday afternoon? I've always loved Fridays, that feeling of possibility. In college, I'd use Friday afternoons to open the windows of my dorm room and blast BB King's "The Thrill Is Gone" over and over. What thrill and where it went, who the hell knew? All I knew is that I liked the feeling of world-weariness it gave me, all of eighteen and ready to throw in the towel or at least close my eyes until a bottle of cheap jug wine appeared when mysteriously the thrill returned.

Michelle's Spell of the Day
"One can have, it turns out, an affection for the war years." Steve Martin

Cocktail Hour
Looking forward to the Pat Tillman documentary.

Benedictions and Maledictions
Happy Friday!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Twenty Answers

Hey everyone, I'm in the last few miles of a big writing project, so today I'm opting for the facebook 20 things you don't know about me prompt. I don't really ever get on facebook so here goes, as spontaneous as I can be --

1 -- I love commercial with stuffed animals doing adult things with a good soundtrack. Thank you KIA!

2 -- I grew up in a neighborhood with an autistic girl named Michelle. Everyone called her Little Michelle. Her dad shot the entire family several years later. My mother commented: Nobody ever washed their hair in that family. I knew bad things would happen.

3 -- I love to give presents. It makes me even happier than receiving them even though I love to receive them as well.

4 -- My Aztec zodiac sign is the Death, something I share with my friend Sharon.

5 -- If my body could look any which way, I would choose Christina Hendrix off Mad Men.

6 -- A lot of my hair fell out after my big washout surgery. For almost a year, I wore clip on pieces from Walgreens. This was not the best look.

7 -- I abuse Comcast On Demand. Seriously.

8 -- I love Woody Allen, even after the Soon-Yi debacle.

9 -- Like the Pewabic pottery slogan, Life really is worth living in Detroit.

10 -- I don't like to go to bed too late, don't like to get up early. Fear of missing something -- umm, no.

11 -- I love my readers, fellow writers, and all the supportive messages I receive. The world can be a harsh place -- it's nice to know some fellow travellers.

12 -- Cleaning makes me so happy. I'm not proud of this, but it's a harmless perversion.

13 -- I'm kind of a mess. That's okay with me, but it took a long time for acceptance of that fact.

14 -- I hate the smell of airplanes, particularly when boarding. It always makes me feel like crying.

15 -- My favorite sounds are church bells and sirens. This pretty much sums up my life.

16 -- I'm not very brave about physical things like skydiving, surfing, etc. I prefer to sit on my ass.

17 -- Above my desk, I have the Janis Joplin tarot card on my bulletin board. She represents the Tower, nothing left to lose.

18 -- Everyone thinks their friends are the best friends anyone could have, but in my case it's true.

19 -- I used to worry a lot. Gave up that habit. It can be done.

20 -- I collect decks of tarot cards. My favorite so far is The Wizard Of Oz deck.

Michelle's Spell of the Day
"You expect far too much of a first sentence. Think of it as analogous to a good country breakfast: what we want is something simple, but nourishing to the imagination." Larry McMurtry

Cocktail Hour
Memoir suggestion: Born Round Frank Bruni

Benedictions and Maledictions
Happy Thursday!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

For Display Purposes Only

A mid-week shot at flash fiction -- hope everyone is having a great week!

For Display Purposes Only

My ex-husband spotted me at a pool in a turquoise-colored bikini. He went to his apartment to call me, tell me that a cute girl was by the pool. I waved to him, and he laughed. He thought I was someone else, not his reliable confidante, the girl he used to convince other girls he wasn't a threat, just a really nice guy they should get to know. The middle of the story isn't important, just the predictable elements of love -- tedium, disappointment, estrangement. Who will get the vacuum cleaner? We can share it, it's a joint custody vacuum! Will we stay friends? Of course. The story ends, and we are strangers. I don't have the bikini anymore, but it remains the same, he thinks I'm someone else.

Michelle's Spell of the Day
"The moment of change is the only poem." Adrienne Rich

Cocktail Hour
Movie trailer suggestion: I'm Still Here (this is a hoot!)

Benedictions and Maledictions
Happy Wednesday!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Best Critiques, Worst Critiques

Hey guys -- thanks for the kind words and emails about the video! Beth is truly a star, yes? She's my Dean Moriarty, for sure. By the way, Hung's Thomas Jane plays Dean M. in a movie called The First Time I Committed Suicide. Now that he's divorcing from Patricia Arquette, the ladies can descend. So today's quick question -- who critiques your work and why? I'll answer this when I return to your responses. How much do you have to trust that person and why did you choose him or her? Is there someone with whom you won't share your work and why? Happy Tuesday!

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Happy Birthday To Angela, Happy Birthday To You

Happy birthday to the best friend anyone could ever have, Miss Angela Leigh Bills. I've known Angela since my first year in college, about seven years ago. Ha! Seriously, I have known Angela forever and a day, and she has morphed from a fun-loving party girl (and still is) to someone who helps the needy, day after day, and puts on the full armor of God and goes out with a smile and never fails to impress me and everyone around her. Happy birthday, honey!

In other news, if you're skipping Eat, Pray, Love this weekend (not since Sex and the City Two have been there been more men in fear of having to go to the theater -- advice, Don't do it -- let the womenfolk go on their own and talk about you), I'm holding the release of Blue Collar on dvd. I'm so glad this movie came out on dvd so I could finally quit racking up fines on it at Thomas Video. I love this movie. It's gritty and real and way too Detroit for words.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Open Marriage

There's been some talk on the television shows lately of giving men a cheating pass in marriage, the idea being that women should accept that men are going to cheat no matter what and that it's better for everyone if they have permission. Well, I know that men and women cheat, but I'm not sure a pass is a smoking hot idea. I mean, it's kind of in the category of let's play with the toaster in the bathtub. Adultery seldom has to do with mere sex. It's about excitement, romance, love, and feeling alive -- things that fade in some long-term marriages. I don't think the idea of your spouse having sex with someone else thrills anyone. But it's a lot less hurtful than the aforementioned qualities.

A pass doesn't acknowledge this dynamic. Most people subscribe to the partnership/friendship idea of marriage, a collaboration between equals who love and respect one another. What's lost is the mystery of love, the painful chills and thrills of newness and the tenderness that comes from not knowing someone well. If you could give someone a pass for this feeling, would you? I know I sure the hell wouldn't. Better to preserve the mystery in your relationship, the mystery that threatens to leach out with every mundane minute. In the words of Joan Jett, love is pain and I'd do it again. A pass for that sort of thing? Not possible.

Michelle's Spell of the Day
"As for you, my galvanized friend, you want a heart. You don't know how lucky you are not to have one. Hearts will never be practical until they can be made unbreakable." The Wizard of Oz

Cocktail Hour
Hung gets better with every episode!

Benedictions and Maledictions
Thanks for the bar votes -- I definitely like all the ones mentioned. I've even been in the one in the French Quarter about a million years ago. Yes, I have. It's time for me to see New Orleans again. And yes, beautiful Jodi, I love the Irish coffee bar despite our bad reputations. Ha! We are never ever pains in the ass. Happy Thursday!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Enjoy Detroit

I'm not big on lists, but I have read a few lists lately of the best bars in America, both in Esquire and Playboy. Cliff Bells in Detroit made the Playboy list, and I would highly agree. I'm going to list a few in Detroit that I find particularly wonderful and throw the question to you, dear reader. Favorite bars? What makes a bar a great bar?

The Park Bar -- Detroit: great drinks, cool food service (hot dogs and Hungarian food are available right next door and you place your order on a checklist of what you do and don't want and the food appears like magic! If only all of life were this simple.)

Cliff Bells -- Detroit: great music, beautiful setting

The Emory -- Ferndale: fantastic drinks, beautiful interior, best okra and roast beef salad ever

Old Miami -- Detroit: awesome setting, great flair, cool people

Forte -- Birmingham: fantastic upscale setting, excellent food

Back soon with more suggestions and the usual nonsense . . . Happy Tuesday!

Sunday, August 08, 2010


My least favorite event as a gymnast was the balance beam. This competed mightily with the vault which I hated as well. I knew a girl who broke her neck on the vault which gave me significant pause as I thought about throwing myself over it. But the beam was a bit worse -- four inches on which to twirl and spin and flip. You had to do a mount and a dismount (self service humor, make up your own joke) and you had to do a balance pose like a scale. This didn't bother me as I could hold the same position forever. Movement was always the difficulty.

I hear the term balance thrown around all the time, and I use it myself in my more new age moments. But what the hell does it mean? To do something well usually requires throwing yourself out of balance. Writing is the place I struggle with this the most. When I am writing well, everything else is faltering. Everything becomes material which is the sign to me that I'm in the zone. I overhear conversations and see things with a clarity I usually lack. As narrow as that zone is, it sometimes reminds me of the balance beam. As a compulsory exercise, it sucks. But in optionals, you can do your own tricks which is a lot more fun.

Michelle's Spell of the Day
"It's a wonderful day and I feel great." Ray to his buddy Mr. Hunt in Hung

Cocktail Hour
Esquire has a list of fifteen bars you must try before you die, a bar bucket list so to speak? Any nominations for our own list?

Benedictions and Maledictions
Happy Sunday!

Friday, August 06, 2010

Dining With Baby Grouchie

Hope everyone is having a great weekend! Here's a picture of Baby Grouchie in his edmame phase. That one, he's quite the foodie. Too much Top Chef. He believes Padma is very very mean for breaking up with Salman Rushdie (he enjoys Salman's short stories, but not the novels as much). But he loves watching the food on Top Chef and thinks he might have a shot at winning a quickfire challenge someday.

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

The Last Days Of Disco

I've noticed a few ads for movies which seem to have the same concerns about paternity -- the absent dad in Cyrus, the dad who loses his job in Ramona and Beezus, the sperm donor for two lesbians in The Kids Are All Right, and the friend who switches a sperm sample in Switch. The role of the father these days seems even more complex than in the days of Rosemary's Baby when the Devil himself was the substitute pitcher after a night of drunken revelry. "He has his father's eyes." My dad, who died six years ago today, kicked it old school. I was born in a time before dads routinely said things like, "We're pregnant." My dad would have scoffed at such nonsense. We are not pregnant as we will not be squeezing a baby out of our vagina. He had what we used to call the sense God gave a goat and now is referred to as good boundaries. Dads in his day didn't videotape births on their Flips and send them to friends via their Iphone (does anyone else find these commercials disturbing? I especially hate the one where a woman tells her husband/boyfriend/secret lover (who the hell knows?) that she's having his baby. Doesn't this seem like something you'd want to do in real time? Just saying . . . ).

But my dad was a great dad, the dad everyone in the neighborhood wanted. Granted the competition wasn't what you might call stiff -- there was the alcoholic Frito Lay man, passed out in his delivery van by noon, the guy who shot up his family one very hot August night, the funeral director/pedophile dad . . . well, the list could go on, but you get the idea. My dad was fun. He'd put on his compilation of disco songs (Don's Dancing Dynamite Disco Mix! was written on the tape label in black Sharpie) on the tape player and do the bump, the hustle, and as time passed, the moonwalk. Don's Dancing Dynamite Disco Mix! was a staple for at least twenty years. Right before he died, he and my sister and Sissy Lynn visited me in Detroit. I was living in the kind of apartment that evokes pathos, the kind of place that makes you say, Is this where it all ends? A doomed kind of place which made me get them out of it as often as possible. We spent one of Dad's last days on earth at the Henry Ford Museum where there was an exhibit that paid tribute to disco -- A Decade Of Friday Nights. Friday was always Dad's favorite day, the end of the work week, the start of the fun. Wherever he is, I hope it's Friday all the time, an eternity of Friday nights, not just a decade.

Michelle's Spell of the Day
Paradise -
I see flowers
from the cottage where I lie.
~Yaitsu's death poem, 1807

Cocktail Hour
Am reviewing some writing books this week and next -- look for it . . .

Benedictions and Maledictions
Happy Wednesday! Hey handsome Mark and lovely Robin, thanks for the kind words about the excerpt! You guys are the very very best! And Robin, glad to hear about that writing mojo . . .

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Dead Man's Party

Hey guys, another novel excerpt -- tomorrow a review of Is Life Like This? by John Dufresene. Thanks for reading!

“Well, it couldn’t be any worse than that bar you took me to on my last visit. It was like drinking cheap liquor in a dark closet,” Hank says.

“Yes, that pretty much sums up Tudges,” I say. Tudges has all the aforementioned charms and a regular Wednesday night karaoke, the highlight of which is a middle-aged Eastern European man dressed in a white suit who performs at least ten songs from the Frank Sinatra catalog.

“Well, Michigan seems like a dream to me now,” I say, quoting the great Paul Simon, husband of Edie Brickell who I used to see play at UNT with the new Bohemians.

“I wish,” Hank says.

I frown. No one need trash talk my great love. “Great lakes, great times,” I say in a voice that tires to replicate the Pure Michigan ads. And then in an attempt to change the subject, I shift to Halloween. “I'm planning a straight up Halloween party since we’ve had a Devil’s Night and Day of the Dead one. Thought about doing a come as your favorite dead person, but decided that was tired. Instead, we’re doing a come as the person you wish was dead. A lot more dramatic tension.”

Michelle's Spell of the Day
"Perhaps in the lower frequencies, I speak for you?" Ralph Ellison

Cocktail Hour
Movie reviews coming soon . . .

Benedictions and Maledictions
Happy Tuesday! Thanks for the suggestions and yes Mark, borrow away! And as for pretty pretty Jodi, you do just fine without any of the book -- your tales are wonderful! (But if you get the chance, check out Anne Lammott's Bird by Bird. You'll love it because you love her. She's the bomb, yes?)

Sunday, August 01, 2010

Thanks But This Isn't For Us

Happy weekend! My apologies to all -- I have been remiss in answering emails and comments this week because of a lot of nuttiness and in an attempt to finish the rewrite of How To Own And Operate A Haunted House. Yes, I feel as if I'm living in the haunted house, but that's okay. That's what a novel does. I've been talking a lot about plot this year, something I didn't understand forever. In graduate school, we focused on poetry and short stories. It's not anything like writing something longer, not at all. Raymond Carver once said that writing short stories and poems have far more in common with each other than novels. I believe this to be absolutely true.

So I wanted to alert those out there who may be struggling as I struggled to a resource I found absolutely invaluable. Thanks But This Isn't For Us by Jessica Page Morrell. I love books about writing, but for years, steered clear of practical advice in very specific terms. I talked a lot about rejection as a teacher (having been at the end of it many a time) and was good at the whole a winner never quits and a quitter never wins rhetoric, but seldom addressing what wasn't working in my own writing. Having beaten my head a few too many times against walls, proverbial and real, I decided to take a chance on this book which is written by an agent who tells you why you are suffering the close but not quite syndrome or the no way in hell response. I graduated from the second category to the first by my own will, but the close but not quite is difficult in that I want to drink Drano kind of way. I highly recommend this book to all writers. Some reviewers on Amazon disliked her bossy tone. Hell, I ate it up! Tell me what to do, Jessica! Like Woody Allen said about psychotherapy after fifteen years, I'm giving it one more year, then I'm going to Lourdes. I needed a little tough love. This book provides it. Get thee to a bookstore and read it. Right now, I'm reading Is Life Like This? by John Dufresne and loving it as well. Will provide review as soon as I'm finished. Do you guys have any especially helpful writing book suggestions?

Michelle's Spell of the Day
"The characters you create in your novel become as real in your mind as movie stars." Norman Mailer

Cocktail Hour
Tonight -- Mad Men, Hung -- life is sweet!

Benedictions and Maledictions
Happy Sunday!