Sunday, July 29, 2012

Where Has All the Quiet Gone?

I had to give a "thumbs up" to this post on my Facebook feed by Robyn Ringler:

"I have often felt that, as a society, public places have become too loud. Also, at weddings and other big family parties, the music often plays so very loud, you can't even talk to all the relatives and friends you hoped to catch up with. I find myself seeking out restaurants and coffee shops where the noise level is low enough to actually carry on a conversation. Does anyone else feel this way?"

I do!

Indoor noise pollution is on the rise. Loud music, tables crammed together in restaurants, beepers beeping, crazy cell phone ring tone intruders, text messages chiming in from every direction, and, as far as I'm concerned, TV is the biggest culprit of all. 

In the beginning TV was entertaining and harmless. Families gathered in their living rooms at the end of the day to watch shows like—

—three network channels to choose from and a fuzzy PBS. Then, like a discreet dandelion in a meadow, TVs spread far and wide. They are everywhere. In gyms, TVs are sprawled across the walls or attached to every cardio machine. TVs are in minivans, inside computers and in billions of rooms in houses, hotels and schools around the world. Most bars have at least three. One restaurant I dined in once had a portable flat screen in every booth where the flip jukeboxes used to be.

Just look at the first bullet from a Kindle Fire ad on

  • Over 20 million movies, TV shows, songs, magazines, and books 
Isn't it ironic that a device designed for reading displays movies and TV before books?

Where does the TV invasion bug me most? Doctors' waiting rooms. I actually used to look forward to going to medical appointments just for the wait. Find a comfy chair, open an ignored book or thumb through one of the office magazines. Maybe find out if Jennifer Aniston ever had that baby or how Princess Kate and Queen Elizabeth are getting along. Now, there's too much background noise to focus—the TV blaring, the fish tank gurgling, office machines rumbling, other patients chatting on their cell phones. No wonder more people than ever are taking blood pressure medicine. Could it be related to noise?

For the answer, go to:

The way the TV weed is spreading, we'll soon see these noisemakers attached to our grocery carts and as an amenity at campsites.

As Robyn asked, "Does anyone else feel this way?"

AWOL on the Appalachian Trail by David Miller. At age 42, David Miller escapes the noise of the world to fulfill a dream and hike the 2,172 mile Appalachian Trail from Georgia to Maine. Mesmerizing descriptions of nature, fear, isolation, reflection and determination.

One sound that never turns into noise is rain falling. This song by Dar Williams recognizes its loveliness in The Beauty of the Rain.


An excerpt from my soon to be released novel, A Stop in the Park, where the main character, Michael Stolis, contemplates what to do about his noisy home:

The congestion finally dissipated and Michael drove down the tree-lined brick street where his Federal-style home welcomed him. When the driveway came into view, he couldn't make himself pull in. Behind the front door, the TV would be blaring, the kids would be bickering and Jamie would be blasting her iPod in the kitchen. He just knew it. He let the car idle in front of the house and sat as still as a frozen tree branch, not sure what to do. If he went inside, he'd explode. 

Sunday, July 22, 2012

An Alaskan Adventure Minus a Camera

Frequent visitors to this blog know that one way I kick back is through travel, whether it's a casual flower walk in my hometown of Saratoga Springs or hiking in Mount Rainier National Park. I also get a thrill out of spotting an animal in its natural habitat. This week I'm sharing a humorous experience guest blogger, Delinda McCann, had on a recent Alaskan vacation (at the top of my dream vacation list) where she sees lots wildlife:

Delinda McCann
Author of
Lies That Bind

             If you like viewing wildlife, Alaska is the place to go.  We took a cruise to Alaska in June and the wildlife kept us entertained.  The bars on the ship had bands and were really lively until about ten P.M. when all my fellow passengers went to bed.  When they weren’t sleeping, the crowd of tourists wildly foraged for food among the many restaurants on the ship.

            However, if people-watching is not necessarily your thing, Alaska offers a vast selection of outdoor wildlife to observe.  You are certain to see whales on a trip up Alaska’s inside passage.  Black bears are commonly sighted as are bald eagles.  Raven is a favorite among the Alaskan people.

            Some wildlife can be seen from the comfort of the ship.  One morning at breakfast we were treated to the sight of both a humpback whale and a male Orca.  The Orcas are my favorite to spot because the male dorsal fin is five feet tall, black, and glossy.  Overall, orcas are beautiful black and white animals.  The dorsal fins make spotting them easy.  Humpbacks are easy enough to spot because they are so big.  We look for the plume of mist from their blow. 

            This particular morning at breakfast, the humpback wasn’t producing much of a blow.  He was sleeping—just lying on top of the water looking like a big log with a bump on it.   The orca was nearby a smaller sleeping log with his tall dorsal fin piercing the morning mists.  Both whales were easy to see as they slept peacefully, oblivious to the cruise ship full of half-awake humans sliding by.

            We got off the ship at Juneau for a trip out to the Mendenhall glacier.  I left my camera in the room thus assuring that we would see wildlife.  I’d chosen this tour because I wanted to walk in the woods, so we set off walking.  Our first stop was to view the glacier.  We found a large number of beautiful Alaskan Terns nesting just below the trail.  Remember my camera is in my room.

            We continued on out toward the waterfall.  I soon noticed people with their cameras out intently taking pictures into the dense shrubbery.  I looked through the willows and saw a young black bear.  Since there appeared to be a satisfying number of meaty, tasty people between the bear and us, my husband and I stood and watched it for several minutes.  It crossed the trail in front of us and wandered off into the woods toward the visitor’s center. 

            Continuing on toward the waterfall, we encountered a flock of ravens.  They were calm around tourists— just sitting around posing for pictures, but I didn’t have my camera. 

            After hiking for a half hour away from the parking lot, we turned around and started back to our bus.  When we arrived back at the visitor’s center, we found more tourists intently taking pictures into the shrubbery.  We’d encountered the black bear again.  As we were walking through the parking lot, the bear came out of the shrubbery and ran across the asphalt not far from where we hastened to our bus.

            Back on our bus, our wildlife adventures could have been over.  As our driver guided our bus down the highway, he entertained us with a commentary on the local history.  I sat and watched the bald eagles lazily soaring overhead.  Suddenly, I saw two eagles lock together and fall out of the sky.  Being a romance writer, I immediately called out in a loud voice, “Eagles!  Having sex!  Left side of the bus-in the sky.”  The poor bus driver nearly wrecked the bus.

Delinda McCann is author of the novel:  Lies That Bind, a romantic thriller with outlandish characters. Learn more at: 

Thanks for sharing your story Delinda!

Tells us about something spectacular you've seen, but alas, no camera to capture the memory.  


Delinda McCann's novel, Lies That Bind, is my choice. You can order it on Here is part of what one reviewer wrote:

Delinda McCann has written an unbelievable account of society's interpretation of a dementia caregiver, the social reform for care of orphans, and a love story strong enough to transcend global terrorism. 
She does this by encapsulating you into the daily lives of the characters so meticulously interwoven with the story that you seemingly become part of the extended family.


I had the pleasure of seeing Barefoot, a folk band from Alaska, at the oldest coffee house in the USA, Cafe Lena's, a couple of years ago. I've been a fan ever since. Here they are singing, Tell Me A Story: 



Saturday, July 14, 2012

From Dream to Idea to Novel

I have always been enthralled with words. Whether spoken or written, they have the power to influence, inspire, charm, enrage, soothe. The magic of language has been at the core of my choices from activities as a teenager: editor of my high school newspaper; to college study: journalism, communications, communication disorders; to my career: speech-language pathologist; to my lifelong hobby: creative writing.

Because of this, I dreamed of writing a novel. That dream was suppressed while I worked, parented, mowed lawns, shoveled snow, cheered at my sons' hockey games, skied down mountains, climbed up mountains, socialized with friends and on and on—no time to write a novel. Even if I did have the time, did I know how? Sure, I could read a book, but writing one was overwhelming. So I tucked my many ideas into the "Someday" file of my brain until...

...while relaxing with my (now) husband, Keith, on a park bench in Dupont Circle, DC, I witnessed a compelling interaction between an intense upscale white male who was losing a series of blitz chess games to an elderly African American male. The upscale man's wife and daughters waited impatiently as Dad and husband insisted on more games. I turned to Keith and said, "Wouldn't that be a great start for a novel?"

The idea simmered in my head and eventually ignited into a fire that I couldn't ignore. I had to write that story, but when? At the time I was a single parent of two sons transitioning into college, engaged to my love and best friend of eight years, Keith, working full time as a speech-language pathologist for a school district, working part time as a clinical supervisor at a college and maintaining a house. Sure...write a novel in my spare time.

Fortunately, I had taken the audio version of Excuses Be Gone by Dr. Wayne Dyer out of the library. After listening to it, I decided I not only could, but would write that novel...500 words a day. I kept that commitment to myself. I even wrote 500 words on my wedding day, Christmas, and the day of my house closing. I must confess. I did not write the week I moved or the day after my wedding.

What about the "how" part?

I have a B.A. in Journalism/Communications from the State University of New York and have taken many creative writing classes over the course of my life. In addition, I took online fiction writing classes and delved into books on novel creation. I'm also an avid reader, which is a must for every writer.

I absolutely fell one hundred percent in love with the process. Words gushed from my head and heart to my fingers onto the keyboard. Many days I wrote far more than 500 words. After several months, I had a rough draft of a novel.

Then came the editing. I needed to learn more so I called on the writing community for help. I attended several writing conferences and joined Saratoga Romance Writers and The Hudson Valley Writers Guild.
I enrolled in the master fiction class at East Line Books and Literary Center where I met the owner and instructor, Robyn Ringler, who became my mentor and independent editor. In January of 2011, I was one of ten writers selected to participate in a twelve week novel writing class taught by acclaimed author, James Lasdun, through the New York  Writers Institute. This led to acceptance into the New York State Summer Writers Institute at Skidmore College.

The learning process was incredible!

Four years after I witnessed that scene in Dupont Circle, I received this in the mail a week ago—the proof copy of "my novel." Talk about a kick back moment! I'd love to share the cover with you right now:

And here's what it's about:

Michael Stolis, a DC attorney, is frustrated by twelve hour work days, tightly scheduled weekends and his family's chaotic habits. He explodes over minor irritations like being stuck in traffic, and his tantrums need to stop. His disillusioned wife, Jamie, is sick of his anger outbursts, and wants him out of her life. Michael longs to reignite the passionate love they once felt for each other. Jamie prefers to spend her time fostering illicit Internet relationships. Michael had simply followed his Greek father's instructions for a successful life, but something went terribly wrong. A lucrative career, a Georgetown brownstone and a BMW coupe didn't deliver happiness as promised.  

When his family is about to implode, Michael finds hope through Rufus, an astute retired bus driver he meets over a game of blitz chess in Dupont Circle. Michael is intrigued by Rufus's prescription for  fulfillment, but is it too late to change a life, chase a dream, revive a marriage? Michael must decide how much he is prepared to lose if he embarks on a quest so very different from the world he created. Touching, romantic, and deeply provocative, A Stop in the Park, follows the story of a man and a woman who yearn to escape the trap of the modern American dream.   

My dream is about to become a reality with A Stop in the Park. Thanks to each and every one of you for being a part of my journey to a novel. So excited!!!!


Dream by Priscilla Ahn. A wistful song about a little girl who has a dream. The lyrics and voice are beautiful.


No Question. It's Excuses be Gone by Dr. Wayne Dyer. I am just about certain that if I didn't read this book, I would never have written A Stop in the Park. Thank you, Dr. Dyer!


Sunday, July 8, 2012

Giving Too Much

You've just hiked three miles into a magnificent forest. The sun is shining, the temperature is hovering around seventy degrees, and the humidity level is low. You breathe in the crisp air. You decide to savor the moment and rest by a waterfall a few yards further up the path. You spot a boulder that is made for sitting and settle in. You pull out a baggie full of homemade chocolate chip cookies and eat one too many. You gaze at the waterfall cascading into a lake that looks like it has been sprinkled with glitter. You hear a rustling in the bushes.

Oh no! It's a bear or maybe a coyote.

You are too frightened to move, but the rustling is getting louder. Soon you detect light footsteps. Curiosity conquers fear and you turn. You breathe a sigh of relief.

It's not a bear.

It's not a coyote.

It's not even a snake.

It's a....

demure deer. It hesitates, but doesn't take it's eyes off you. Or is this gentle creature gawking at your cookies? It must be hungry, and you've been taught to share. Do you toss some crumbs in the deer's direction or stash the baggy in your backpack? You recall signs you've read at national and state parks:

You pinch your chin. How many cookies did you just eat? You think about a sign that could be posted at your grocery store. Possibly:


Eating food located in the center isles is not healthy for humans as their bodies don't adjust well to the salt, fat, sugar and preservatives often found in this food. If consumed, you will gain weight, feel sluggish, decrease your attention span, and crave more of these addictive substances. In addition, predators, such a heart disease and diabetes are attracted to humans with a high concentration of unnatural particles hovering in their bodies.      

You look at the deer's hopeful eyes as it continues to stare at your cookies. You recall seeing this bird the last time you crossed the border while traveling from the U.S. into Canada. 

The innocent vagabond is so used to people feeding it from their cars, it's not flying through the sky, plucking worms from the ground, or resting in a tree. Instead, it has taken residence on a busy highway nibbling on potato chips and Twinkie crumbs. It's not realizing its true potential or experiencing the satisfaction of self-reliance. In fact, the bird is being spoiled. What is the definition of spoil according to the dictionary?:

"Ruin something in such a way that a quality such as worth, beauty, or usefulness is diminished."

You recall seeing an unspoiled bird hunting for its own food in Yellowstone National Park:

You smile at the deer, stand and walk away.

Strolling along, accompanied by a touch of guilt, you think about your children, students, friends, society. As much as you want to give, there is always the possibility that you could give too much of the wrong things: like money without work, dessert before dinner, fun before chores. It is so tempting to watch an instant smile form on a face you care about because of a treat you bestowed. But just like the bird at the border, they will be back for more. It's just plain easier to be handed a treasure than to hunt for it. And soon the ability to hunt for the ultimate gift of independence and survival will be destroyed.

So on that day you took a hike and chose not to feed that deer, you gave it the gift of freedom, diligence, and power—so much better than a chocolate chip cookie.

Is there ever a time when you feel you give too much? I know I do. I need reminders like, "Don't feed the animals," to reign me in when my giving could be a detriment to another's growth and development.  


In celebration of the quintessential gift: Independence Day by Bruce Springsteen. In this video, Bruce sings in Paris on July 4, 2012.


The Little Prince by Antoine De Saint-Exupery. We can't have a Kick Back book list without this classic tale about a boy who learns how to live on his own as he travels from planet to planet.