Damn _oogle

gkeyIt’s one of those things you don’t really know how much you miss until it’s gone.

Here’s the story. Shortly after I signed a contract to write two manuscripts with a real live deadline and not just a self-imposed deadline, my “g” key went out. When I say out, I mean I can make it work if I pound on it really hard with the tip of my left index finger. The problem is I type pretty fast and almost always omit it on the first hit.

Because I was pretty focused on turning said manuscripts around in a dauntingly short time frame, I didn’t want to take my computer to the computer guy. I kept pounding away, hoping magically my key would decide to get off break and join the rest of its keyboard friends. It didn’t.

I found myself accommodating. What word can I write that does not use THAT key? Hmmmmm. Yep. That one works. Still, it’s amazing how many words require a “g.”

I looked at the positive side of the situation. Here’re some upsides of a defective g.

1. At least it isn’t a vowel.

2. My left index finger muscles are now REALLY strong. Like if there was a left finger muscle competition, I’d totally take it.

2. I’ve learned not to take my “g”–or any other key for that matter–for granted.

3. I’ve learned the keys pop off and that a Q-tip and alcohol provide good temporary remedy. (Careful not to break your key.)

4. I have formed a new appreciation for consonants.

Still, I needed a fix. I ran through several troubleshooting paths. I checked out the forums, more on accident than on purpose. (Damn, Google.) I looked at the Lenovo website. I tried to understand the Lenovo website. I decided to “Live Chat” with the Lenovo person on the Lenovo website.

This ended up being more like a “Live Write” then a “Live Chat.” Just as well.  “Really,” wrote Radesh. “All you need is a new ‘g’ key.” Radesh send me to a disconnected number for my new g.

Through this month-long period I had every intention of getting the computer into my very competent computer guy as soon as I’d submitted my manuscripts. He was fairly certain I’d need a whole keyboard and I trust him.

I wanted to be ready with my new keyboard as soon as my projects were submitted. When I went to order it, though, I wasn’t even sure what model my laptop was. I couldn’t seem to find it on the hardware or software. While I was in town one day, I took my laptop and decided to swing by Office Depot and have the computer guy there tell me which keyboard I needed. Office Depot had gone out of business.

I went to the other office supply store.

Teen helper: “Can we help you?”

Me: “Can I speak with the computer guy?”

Teen helper, after consulting in huddle with other teen helper: “That’s Brandon. He’s on his break. He only has 3 minutes left.” She stared at me like I had a spider on my forehead. “You can wait if you want.”

When Brandon emerged from his break, he was about as helpful as an ant. “I’ve never seen one of these keyboards be replaced.”

Thanks, Brandon. Something tells me next time I go to this office supply store it may be gone, too…

Having finally hit the wall, and eager to get moving on a new project (involving lots of gs) I called my computer guy. He was very busy that day and apparently did not get the emotional SOS that I was sending in my pre-office supply store text.

I had Googled the Lenovo site while waiting for Brandon in an attempt to find a working number. I decided to try Lenovo again (since they were so helpful the first time.) I asked Siri to call on the way home. I was rather surprised when Navas answered on the first attempt. Maybe my luck was finally turning around on this whole “g” thing.

We started talking. He seemed very eager to help. Finally. He said he could help, but needed me at my computer. Made sense, but I was driving. He said he’d call me back in 20 minutes when I got home. Wow. What customer service. I got home and opened my computer. Navas called as promised. He told me this was an easy fix and he knew what to do. We just needed to get in there and do one really quick thing.

Before I knew it, Navas was inside my computer running a scan and asking questions. Then I realized this was not Lenovo, but some third party entity named iYogi that had jumped into the Lenovo website somehow and now he was inside my computer. (DAMN, GOOGLE!) I could tell by the distraction techniques he was using that this was no good. I SOS-ed my computer guy on my cell: “HELP. Some dude’s inside my underwear drawer–I mean, computer. How do I get him out?”

Michael (computer guy) has the patience of a saint. “Just sign off. Or power off.” He’s so smart.

Michael walked me through unraveling any damage that might have happened during my self-help session. Between my husband and I (more him than me) we got things back to normal. Everything, that is, but the g key.

Hopefully, tomorrow will find that problem solved. We ordered the right keyboard on Prime after we finally figured out between the three of us which one to get. (Get those drones already, Amazon.) I’m hoping I’m but moments away from an impeccable g.

Me to husband: Is Mercury in freaking retrograde or what?

Husband, after Googling: Yep.

Damn Google.



True Words

mug shotAnne Lamott said something like if people didn’t want to end up being made into bad characters in her books, they should have behaved better. I always thought that was kind of funny, not that I’d ever use pen as sword.

But recently I was talking with a writer friend and realized I’d totally done it subconsciously. I’d killed off this person (and not in a very nice way, I might add) that had definitely annoyed me. I felt bad. What struck me most was that I totally missed it.

That’s just part of the fun of fiction, I guess. How often do you read a book and wonder if the author knows what she is revealing about herself by being quite possibly unaware of that. Writers are brave people that way. They know that they reveal their truest essence in ways they may not see, yet they do it anyway.

This is true even in non-fiction. I’m working on a couple non-fiction projects and am noticing that staying neutral is a challenge. I wouldn’t have thought that. Fact is fact. Yet, we all have a filter of some sort and even interpreting fact moves through it. Movie critics are probably the best example of this. Their reviews feel very much apart of their core personality to me.

There’s only one answer. Be nice to the writers.

We All Have A Story

tellyourstoryI’m both drawn to and repelled by the current story I’m working on. As a Pisces Sun and Moon, I’m used to living in the world this way. It’s a story that I’ve always felt was mine to write, not in a autobiographical sense, but in that way where I feel my muse holding me close and whispering in a no-nonsense way, “DANCE.”

Here’s an article on the front page of the local paper last week on the project that’s making me two-step. (I would like to point out that I am not yet 50!)

Jamie Weil of Cottonwood reads from an early draft of her next novel, based on the exploits of serial killer Darrell Keith Rich, also known as the Hilltop Rapist during the summer of 1978.

Jamie Weil of Cottonwood reads from an early draft of her next novel, based on the exploits of serial killer Darrell Keith Rich, also known as the Hilltop Rapist during the summer of 1978.

Cottonwood author Jamie Weil, 50, is not afraid to tackle difficult subjects.

Her first young adult novel, titled “First Break,” is the story of 17-year-old Paige who leaves a small town to attend an urban university.

Two weeks into her first semester at college, Paige hears voices telling her to kill herself.

After trying to make the voices stop with a bottle of her roommate’s prescription sleep medication Ambien, Paige ends up on a 72-hour psychiatric hold, then stays in an adolescent psychiatric hospital until her 18th birthday.

Weil’s latest project for young adult readers is a fictional murder mystery based on her real-life acquaintance with serial killer and rapist Darrell Keith Rich, also of Cottonwood, who was executed for his crimes in 2000.

“When I was younger, say 5 or 6, I would go to a baby sitter,” said Weil, whose family moved from her birthplace in Salinas to Cottonwood when she was still a toddler.

“At first, I would stay for the day with Mama Lillie Rich and Daddy Dean Rich. Gradually, as my own mother and stepdad would go on fishing trips to the Klamath River, I would sometimes stay overnight or even several days with them,” Weil recalled.

Years before, Lillian and Dean Rich had adopted Darrell Keith Rich as a 2-day-old infant. Mrs. Rich ran a day-care in her Cottonwood home, Weil explained.

During the summer of 1978, a series of violent rapes, abductions and eventually killings were reported along Hilltop Drive in Redding, just 14 miles north of Cottonwood, Weil said.

“I was 14 at the time and Darrell was 23. I had a major crush on him when I was 11 or 12 and he was in high school. I even knew that he had been born in Torrance, where I later had my own children,” she said.

Previously, while Darrell was still in high school, Lillie and Dean Rich divorced and Darrell started getting into trouble, Weil recalled.

“He would go to the park and threaten to beat up people,” she said.

During his murder and rape trial, more of Darrell Rich’s combative exploits came to light including an incident apparently driven by despondency over his adoptive parents’ divorce in which he fired a gun over the head of a police officer in hopes the officer would retaliate by killing Rich, stated defense attorney Russell Swartz in an account from “Season of Madness,” a book on the case written by Robert Scott and published in May 2013 by Pinnacle Books/Kensington Publishing Corp.

Darrell Rich was eventually sent to the California Youth Authority for that and other incidents. He even spent time at Crystal Creek Conservation Camp outside Redding, Weil said.

“I remember his adoptive mom would take us to see him at Crystal Creek,” she added.

In 1978, when Darrell was released from California Youth Authority custody, he appeared to be settling down, Weil said.

“He had a job, got married and lived in a house not too far from his mother,” she said.

At that time, neither Weil nor anyone else in Cottonwood suspected Darrell Rich was the notorious Hilltop rapist, she quickly added.

“One late summer afternoon, I was walking into Cottonwood from my mother’s home on Gas Point Road and Darrell’s car pulled up alongside of me and he asked me if I wanted a ride. There was something very strange going on because his eyes were really glistening. His eyes were just manic, yet he was trying to be very charming,” Weil recalled.

“All of a sudden, I had this sharp intuition not to get into the car,” she said, noting she plans to title the book “Sharp Intuition.”

“Get in the car,” Darrell said to young Jamie in an even more threatening tone, Weil said.

“That was about the same day or so in mid-August 1978 when he picked up 11-year-old Annette Selix, an innocent child who was walking home from the market,” she said.

According to trail testimony, Darrell Rich took the young girl to his Cottonwood home where he raped and sexually assaulted her, bit her thigh, stripped her naked except for panties, then drove her 30 miles to a bridge where he threw the girl, still alive, to the rocks 105 feet below.

Battered and broken, Selix curled into a fetal position and died there some time later.

Selix was Darrell’s final victim.

Court testimony shows Darrell Rich had previously sexually assaulted and killed Annette Edwards, 19, a vivacious young woman on her way to watch the July 4th fireworks from her apartment on Hilltop Drive; Patricia Moore, 18, a former beauty pageant contestant who hitched a ride along a busy street in downtown Redding; and Linda Slavik, 28, a young mother enjoying a night out in Chico with a friend.

Darrell Rich also admitted to, was tried for and convicted on charges of kidnapping, rape and other sex crimes with four other young women, including a 15-year-old from Red Bluff and a 14-year-old girl Rich dragged into his car by the hair as she was walking along a Redding street at night with her boyfriend.

“At that time, Cottonwood was a small, innocent town where you could leave your front door and windows open,” Weil said.

“My story is set in a similar Norman Rockwellian town that also loses its sense of innocence under the tyranny of one person,” she said, noting she will not use Darrell Rich’s name nor the names of any of his victims in fictionalizing her close brush with death.

“The protagonists in my novel are two teen-age girls who are going to figure out what’s happening because the police are taking too long,” she noted.

“I’m not going to use his name, but I want to capture the essence of the story. I’ve avoided doing this book for a long time because it is so dark and dangerous, but every time I try to step away from it, something draws me back to the story,” Weil said.

“I’m about 50 pages into it, and actually, I’d like to have two months clear to finish it,” she noted.

Meanwhile, she continues to plug away at two other books she is writing as well as complete a blog three times a week, Weil said.


We all have a story, an experience that only we can tell. We may feel too protective of that story, like we need to keep it locked up where nobody can see it lest we endure it again. I believe, though, that each of us has a story that only we can tell. That story makes itself clear to us over and over again as we either embrace it or push it away. In the end, we have a responsibility to share that story. And sense those are the stories I love to read most, those are the stories I will write.

The Torch Carriers

torchWriting blog? What writing blog?

I marvel at writers who are disciplined 12 months out of the year. They have routines where they spend two hours each day most days (or even 7 hours each day) on their works in progress or other creative projects. They make time for journal entries, stream of consciousness writing, snail mail letters, blogs. You, my friends, are the Torch Carriers.

I’ve touched this discipline at times. And if nobody gets sick, or runs out of toilet paper, or has one of those out-of-the ordinary demands that are ordinary in my world, I can keep it going for maybe a few weeks.

Then it’s like anything. My writing time–which I’ve so nicely slotted out on my Google calendar–has been mulled over by life and the priorities I’ve chosen instead.

And this is a choice. It’s not like a bulldozer from my subconscious emerges and I have no control over it. It’s that I’ve looked at what’s most important to me right now in the present. I have two teen boys, one here only until June when he goes back to Germany, and one here for the next three years. Those moments are measured out and of highest priority as I know from having a 26 year-old that these moments fly by so quickly. My husband and I love date nights and daily walks with our 11-year-old lab. Those moments are measured. I exercise every day and coach others into a healthy lifestyle. I meditate each day, and spend time learning something new (right now in the form of weekly classes) and this is what keeps me balanced and inspired. I’m not willing to give any of that up.

When the day is over, I ask myself where I might have fit my writing in and I may or may not see a place. I ask myself where I might find a place the next day and I balance my priorities accordingly.

Whether or not it fits, there is this driving force in me that yearns to create, to explore the ideas that flow through me like Niagra Falls and never leave my lips or my keyboard, to tap into that utterly divine collective unconscious that so often arrives at similar tracks despite the allusion of individual creators.

And I know I will. Meanwhile, I am so grateful for the writers out there who write daily and keep the torch burning. Thank you, Torch Carriers.

What’s a Good Name for A Serial Killer?

nameI wonder if all writers have such a hard time naming their serial killers.

Can’t use the real name, can you? I’d really rather do that, because my novel is based on a particular one (my babysitter, actually, which is a pretty freaking weird feeling), but there are rules against that, I think.

I start thinking of names close to that original, but they all turn out sounding like church pastors or second grade teachers. I run down the list of people I don’t like that much, but that seems risky. I try to intuit it, but this is one area my intuition just goes, “Got nothin’.”

Next tactic: I ask other people in my immediate circle. My husband and I get a good laugh about last names like Killmore and Youngblood, but this is obviously too distracting and only really works for our own entertainment on our morning walk with the dog. I check with my mom who is a voracious reader and thoroughly excited by her discovery that she can buy 4 “pocket” books for a dollar down at the senior book club. She’s not sure either.

I start alliterating: Derek Durtz. Um…no. Nobody wants a serial killer with an alliterated name.

I pull up a list of ten serial killers and settle on one until I remember someone else who I really like with that name and don’t want to make their name into a serial killer name (even though the real live serial killer already did that if that makes any sense.)

I try to channel the writers of “24” because they’re AWESOME with names. Think about bars they might hang at in LA where I could go lurk and listen into their conversations over a porter and maybe they’d just bring it up. It could happen.

Sigh. Am I alone out here? Anybody got a great name for my real life babysitter serial killer?

The Lord of Confusion

lord_of_the_flies2I know I’m probably going to be flogged by English teachers from around the world, but I’m going to challenge this famous piece of literature up against today’s publishing process. In today’s market, would Lord of the Flies be published?

During my four years as an English Lit major at UCLA I read my share of complicated literature and I have a solid shelf of Cliff Notes to prove it. But what I’ve never understood is if you need a translation tool to understand what you’re reading, how do we decide these are great works of art, specifically for our high schoolers? How do they get on that elusive approved list that never dies?

On that note, I’m reading Lord of the Flies (another word for Satan as it turns out) with my high school freshman and neither of us are completely clear about what’s happening. Golding uses about four pages to describe kids playing on a beach with language that manages to complicate the picture so thoroughly, we have to read back over it. We sense there are hidden Highlights messages (I mean you don’t have to hit us over the head with a conch shell to see that), but what they are, we’re not entirely sure. That’s how secret they are.

Now, I know what I would do in a situation like this–I’d head straight for the Cliffs. But would this be okay with the teacher? Would my name come up in the staff lounge while discussing “bad parenting?” Should we be promoting translation tools to our rosy face youth who can’t even drive yet?

If I’ve learned anything from being a teacher myself, and having two kids go through lots of school, it’s that teachers can’t read minds. So I shot the teacher an email and told her we were both having problems understanding the–eh hem–decorative language and guess what she said? Get the Cliff Notes and use alongside. (Keyword: alongside.)

Sweet. Off I went to find said Cliffs and discovered them online–for free. A whole new world of literature translation. Each chapter was broken down with quizlets at the end and I thought how helpful this would have been when I was throwing back 15 novels in 10 week trimesters (often in Middle English) back in the day. I was thankful we had found this tool and that my son may actually be able to understand this famous novel before we just decided it was crap.

On the down side, understand that we just doubled our reading. First we read the summary, then the book, then the analysis. My son’s response? “How many more pages? This is taking too long.”

It’s not flawless, but at least we understand it’s an allegory written by the most likely depressed Golding, wrapped in his post WWII pessimistic view of human nature as savagery. That makes sense considering Hitler just took out six million Jews and 2 atomic bombs were dropped. Golding was grouchy and was certainly not seeing the Universe as a friendly place. But since he was Oxford grade and an English teacher to boot, we throw him a bone by passing his darkly penned novel on and on and on, all the while sharing his deep pessimism with our young adults. Fortunately, sense they don’t really understand it anyway, it doesn’t rub off that much.

But back to my original point–is there an editor out there in today’s market that would confidently take this to Acquisitions and lobby for it? From my limited corner in the literary world, I hear editors wanting clear language that gets to the point…characters the reader can keep track of…a readable text. I know. I know. Language evolves and it was different then. But here’s my follow up question. If that’s the case, and with all the new amazing literature that’s been written over the past ten years, why is it we make our high school students read the same five novels over and over? (All people under 25, exactly how many times were you assigned The Giver?)

Maybe I’m just missing something here. And just to clarify, I don’t feel like this about all novels deemed high school curriculum worthy. But I definitely think we have lots of amazing choices (which don’t require translation tools) that may be passed up in the name of what we’re supposed to revere.

Uncursing Creative Genius



Friend, fellow writer, and my critique partner, Darbie Andrews, sent me this amazing Ted talk on creative genius this week. Her timing was spot on as this is something I’ve been mulling over for the past few weeks. (Tedx commercial break: I’m a big Tedx fan and will be at the Tedx in Redding on 9/7 at 2. Hope to see you there!)

Elizabeth Gilbert speaks on emotional underpinnings of the creative process. After sitting in “Jobs” last night with my husband on date night, I told him as we were leaving, “This isn’t a movie about the history of Apple Computers and technology. This is a movie about the ups and downs of the creative mind, and all the benefits and liabilities that go with that that.” We see Jobs’ eyes (well, Ashton Kutcher’s actually)  fire up when he’s in the zone, visioning what the future will look like. He walks into his designer’s room and says, “Stop whatever you’re doing and spend the rest of the day creating something you like. Something useful.” That’s a guy who appreciates the creative process.

But with that creativity comes a dark side. Jobs’ relationships suffered. All of them. And he suffered because of it.

How do we manage the creative process without matching the fate of so many respected writers, artists, and other creators who’ve come before us? Long time writer whose “freakish success” Eat, Pray, Love (as she calls it in the talk), Gilbert takes a look at Greek and Roman times as a space to return to when thinking of creative genius. That, at moments, God shines through, and others recognize Him.

Back then, it was believed that creative spirits were something that existed outside of the creator rather than inside as is the current cultural thought. She argues that this current cultural thought could be the undoing of our great creative minds as they obsess on such things as “Will I ever be able to top that last thing?” when they’ve had success or alternatively, “What if all my work is for nothing and nobody ever sees it?” before they feel successful. It all rides on the individual. At least with the old model, there is someone else to blame when things go poorly, and to share the success with when things go well so the ego doesn’t get too overblown.

If you’ve ever struggled with the emotional landscape of the creative process (and to one degree or another we all have), you’ll appreciate Gilbert’s prompt on how to strengthen our creative future both individually and collectively.

Go. Watch it now. You’ll be glad you did.


All About the Overlap

writing30When my youngest son first started taking AR tests (don’t get me started) in early elementary school, he would cross his storylines if he had started a new book before testing on the old one. His story worlds would collide.

This happens to me when I’m writing. It’s not easy to be in one phase of a work (let’s say final, final revision hypothetically) and first draft on another. This is especially true if each work is in the same genre.

There are two reasons I can figure out for this challenge. One is that when I have worked on something forever, I know it inside and out. The sentences have been planted, watered, cared for, harvested, reseeded. With a first draft, on the other hand, the seeds are barely buried–more like just tossed in the wind. They may or may not stay. Upon second read, they’re painful, while looking deceptively brilliant until the always-humbling monthly critique session. To merge those two worlds–the polished and the raw–slaps that writing ego upside the head.

The second reason, though, is the feeling you get when someone you’re close to leaves–either town or the planet. They leave a void that sits empty for a time.

On a lesser level (hopefully), is the feeling you get at the end of that Netflix series when only two episodes of your favorite series is left and you’ve been binge watching for months. You feel the anxiety building. What will you do without Jack Bauer going rogue each night?

Our new coping mechanism: the overlap. The therapists may argue we need to feel the void, but I like this better. Before you run out of episodes, start a new one. Before you hit the end of the book you’re reading (unless you’re in 4th grade and confuse your storylines), start a new one. Before you hit the end of the book you’re writing, start a new one.

Hair of the dog.

Here we go–and other dreams

dreamAll other blog posts were wiped clean from my brain (EVERYTHING was actually–just tabula rasa me) when I got the email. A series of them, actually.

But before that…

You may remember (this is NOT backstory) last week I was excited/nervous/giddy because my manuscript was all grown up and flying the nest? Destination: Editor-land.

So off it went and guess what? It landed! Immediate requests flew back. In multiples. Not one. Not two. Not three. Ready for it? Four requests within the first 8 hours. Woot! I don’t even know how to describe that feeling. I don’t even know what it means. Does that happen all the time? I’m a brand-spanking newbie at this.

And once again, I danced around the livingroom for a few minutes…

…before that voice in my head said, “Yeah, but…”

I told it I didn’t have time for it right now. I told it it’s not the boss of me. Right now, I’m just dreaming. Picturing the auction. What does that even mean? Are there number paddles involved? Will it be like the one down in Cottonwood on Fridays?

“Yeah, but…”


This is how it’s gotta be. Let me enjoy the dance.

To be continued….

My Fantasy

This is a little how I look at bedtime. Just ask my husband who has to navigate through my nightly inspirational magazine, my angel cards, my poetry book, my current personal development book, and whatever novel I may be reading. They’re like my stuffed animals I need to say goodnight to before I can enter into my dream world respectfully.

Truth be told, I get sleepy in less than 30 minutes. I’m lucky if I get to the novel. But this is my fantasy. To lock myself in a chair in a meadow, with flowers all around me, white puffy clouds breezing by, a stream babbling behind me–and My Pile of Books I haven’t gotten to yet.

I marvel at friends who read a book a week. My mom’s like that. She tells me about the characters and storylines in her books. She reads several hours a day consistently. I love that. I want to be like that when I grow up.

When my husband’s dad, Len,  died, I remember going to the rabbi to discuss ceremonial details. He told us stories. One was about Len, who was on the board of the temple at the time the rabbi was interviewing for a job. Len asked him this question: “If money wasn’t an issue, and you could do anything in the world, what would you do?”

The rabbi thought and he said, “First, I would pile up all the books and magazines I never get to and I would sail to this remote island (can’t remember the name) and I would sit underneath a palm tree for a year until they were all read. Then I would come back and help people.”

When I heard that, I thought, “Me, too! I want to go to that island with my stack then come back armed to serve.”

For now, I dream. I nibble away at it each night before bed, each moment I can steal here and there, and hold gratitude for each treasured word, knowing that one day me and my Pile of Books will find an island or a meadow somewhere to be together.