Happy New Year to all my friends, family, and the hardest working literary agent on the planet, Victoria Lea.
Writers are a special breed. I knew this when I started changing my daily schedule to accommodate my fictional character’s needs. Don’t get me wrong. I fell in love with Clancy within the first chapter. Well, I didn’t actually fall. It was more a matter of stepping into love with her page by page. Anyway, this got the brain thinking about the other areas in my life that changed while pursuing an author’s career.
Signs you’re a writer. . . .
#1 : You don’t realize you’ve been working on your latest project ten hours straight until the grandkids yell, “What’s for dinner?”
#2: You are an expert at multi-tasking. You work on your manuscript while answering the phone by imitating a three-year-old. Keep quiet and nod your head.
#3: You have a writing quota to make each day and no longer care if family uses the fancy soap and hand towels in the guest bathroom.
#4: You look at the world differently. Carousels become horse tornadoes and roundabouts are amusement rides for cars.
#5: You’ve implemented the five senses to describe each scene in your manuscript to the extreme . . . that you now want your pockets stuffed with fireworks when you’re cremated, so you go out in a blaze of color.
6#: Family members said there was life outside blogging, Facebook, editing, and twitter so you asked them for the link to post it for your followers.
#7: You take your kids to the pet store because you don’t have time to visit the zoo.
#8: You don’t talk out loud yet, but can hear the straitjacket hanging in the closet, whispering daily, “Soon. Soon, my pretty.”
#9: You buy a self-help book on time management and have the author sign it. Now you’re a collector and not a loser.
#10: The five-second rule for fallen food has changed to one week.
#11: Reality calls. You hang up.
#12: You try out new ideas by reading your children “Snow White,” but change the storyline by killing all the characters except the wicked stepmother.
#13: You learn that all toilets flush in E flat and pigs have orgasms that last for thirty minutes, and all you can think about is where to place that information in your manuscript.
#14: You’ve changed the four food groups to wine, coffee, NyQuil, and Advil.
#15: Your three-second count down with your children lasts an hour because you are in the middle of writing a new scene.
#16: You spend over $600.00 at the grocery store on microwave family meals.
#17: You wrap the perimeter of your kitchen with crime tape to give yourself more writing time.
#18: While looking for ways to extend your writing time, you realize that you really can sweep everything under the carpet.
#19: You’ve described so many fictional characters that while standing behind a bald guy at the DMV, you ask him what hair color he puts on his driver’s license.
#20: Your parents never talked about sex or let sexually explicit books in the house and you now blame them for your poorly written sex scenes.
#21: You’re having a bad writing day when your imaginary friends exclude you from the conversation. You get back by eating an imaginary cookie in front of them.
#22: You catch your child reading their sibling’s diary. They lie and say they thought it was a handwritten novel by an author, but you don’t punish them because you appreciate their creativity.
#23: You know people who say words cannot hurt you . . . have never dropped a thesaurus book on their toe.
#24: You’d rather by lulled to sleep by the clicking keys of an old typewriter than listening to a CD with the sounds of nature.
#25: You can’t get past the thought that Twilight, New Moon, and Breaking Dawn make excellent names for hookers in your next novel.
AND . . .
The road to success is long . . . .
You’re not afraid to take the path less followed because . . .
you are the director of the characters running rampant through your brain.
*Conversation with friend (Jenny) after long day on Twitter, Facebook, blog, and revisions*
Jenny: How was your day?
Me: You can’t control everything . . . the hair on our head is to remind us of that.
Jenny: . . .
Me: Clancy went to Paris for a cosmetic photo shoot. Now I have to blog, tweet, post on Facebook, and work on revisions without help.
Me: Here’s proof.
Jenny: You sent your pretend character to Paris and now you’re complaining that your muse is gone?
Me: I know. I can’t believe she left without me. I started tweeting about my blog. Zippo. No retweets. Then I tweeted, I hate those unrealistic movies where wives say, “Yes, honey,” and don’t roll their eyes. Bingo. I started getting retweets. People like twitterledumb.
Jenny: I see.
Me: Here are some of my top retweeted tweets:
Just walked by another car with a stick figure family on back window. It saddens me to see whole families suffering with anorexia.
I always say, “Systematized logistical projection” when I don’t know the answer to a complicated question.
Just bought a self-help book on relationships and had the author sign it. That way, I’m a collector and not a loser.
Pope Francis wanted to follow me on twitter, but I blocked him. I don’t want God knowing my business.
Reasons I’m happy to have cop in family #3: You know DUI checkpoints. #2: Get out of tickets. AND . . . #1: They photo shop your mug shot.
Hey, buff guy at gym – Don’t be a kill-joy when you’re jumping rope & I start singing, “Cinderella dressed in yellow, went upstairs to kiss . . .
I always ask little kids what they want to be when they grow up because I’m looking for ideas. Where do I apply to be a Ninja/Princess?
My parents taught me to look w/ my eyes & not touch. It stopped me from breaking things, but I now blame them for my sexual problems.
My sister joined AA . . . because it’s the only place left where she could smoke indoors.
Do atheists eat angel hair pasta?
*My thought while listening to church sermon.*
Spoiler Alert!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! There are no trains at Home Depot.
My sister enjoys seven to eight cocktails every day on her deck. She calls it bird watching.
I read that 76 year-olds are the new 46. I bet people on Social Security are praying the politicians don’t get wind of this.
Husband stopped putting the toilet seat down. Now I don’t shut the door when I get out of his car.
My father owns a funeral home. I like running out of the embalming room screaming, “I see dead people.”
You made me feel special. You found out where I lived, knocked on my door & handed me roses. Now suddenly you’re a florist doing his job?
Jenny: I heard there are tons of stalker jokes on Twitter.
Me: There’s nothing funny about stalking. It takes effort and some bushes have thorns.
Jenny: You’re thinking of things to tweet now, huh?
Me: If you’re happy and you know it, shake your meds.
Jenny: Stop it already. I thought people tweeted about life experiences.
Me: You need to mix it up. Here’s a real conversation I had with my sister that I tweeted.
Sis: Husband’s penis is getting smaller and smaller as he grows older. What’s with that?
Me: . . .
Sis: I wouldn’t harvest a vegetable from my garden that was that small.
Me: Here’s a true story:
*Mom watching 4 yr. old shoot tampons across room*
Mom: “What are you doing?
4 yr. old: “Can’t I play with these? They look like dy-na-mite.”
Me: It’s about acknowledgement. Facebook friends plead for you to like their postings. Some even email me that I don’t need to read the article . . . just click the like button. Giving a like when you don’t mean it is a kind of like, and a kind of like is a mere like, and a mere like is close to a dislike, and a dislike hedges toward disgust and before you know it, I begin loathing their postings.
Me: I get over forty requests a day to like a posting.
Me: Blogging is all about getting followers. Tweeting is retweets and favorites. It’s exhausting! And to top it off, Pinterest is where bad cooks celebrate canned soup “recipes” and crazy bitches plan weddings they’ll never have.
Jenny: When did we become so needy?
Jenny: Just think what a better world we’d live in if people put this much effort toward the well-being of family and loved ones.
Me: But if we were constantly around family, we’d start thinking and behaving like them. Hey, you just gave me an idea for a cartoon caption.
Jenny: There’s something wrong with you.
Me: Shhhhhh . . . I don’t want my followers to hear you.
It never hurts to have well-known family connections within your chosen craft. Unfortunately, the closest my family ever came to celebrity status was by naming their children after famous dead people. My great-grandfather was Julius Caesar Labadie and he had six brothers–George Washington, Constantine the Great, Benjamin Franklin, Abraham Lincoln, Alexander the Great, and Thomas Jefferson. AWOOGA. AWOOGA. This stuff is too crazy to make up. I’m just grateful the tradition wasn’t passed down or I may very well be writing a blog under the name Martha Washington Sorensen or Cleopatra VII Thea Philopator Sorensen.
The Labadie’s were entrepreneurs, resided in gold country, Forbestown, California, but never struck it rich. On the plus side, I bet no one ever said, “Hey, you . . . what-ever-your-name-is.”
Forbestown-located in the foothills of the Sierra Mountains in California.
Without a famous family to help my status on Facebook, Twitter, and Word Press, I’m forced to make internet friends on my own. My new friends drink Starbucks coffee, listen to music, and post so many motivational messages that I wonder why they spend their day connected to Facebook.
Because the so-called experts say to include pretty pictures in postings (evidently, we’ve reverted to reading picture books) I created mock photos of The Taste of Orange book jackets. Not having a photographer in my family no longer matters with free websites like www.ribbet.com and www.superlame.com.
Perfect. Clancy, fears lightning more than death.
I miss the days of working on my manuscript, fourteen hours straight, which brings me to the reason for posting this blog. No matter what I write in the future, the dedication page will stay the same.
P.S. I couldn’t find a four-leaf clover, either.
Mitzi: No, Clancy. I said to find a photo of olive oil . . . o-i-l. Not Popeye’s girlfriend.
Clancy: What did you expect? I’m a fictional character. Of course, I’m going to think Olive Oyl.
A few drops of olive oil added to hard dishwater will help lather the soap and keep the skin from getting rough.
Clancy: My knowledge on fictional characters might come in handy.
Clancy: For instance, did you know Barbie’s full name is Barbara Millicent Roberts and Ken’s last name is Carson? Shaggy from Scooby-Doo is Norville Rogers. Even the paper patient glued on the game Operation has a name . . . Cavity Sam. I bet you didn’t know the policeman on the Monopoly “Get out of jail free” cards is Officer Edgar Mallory.
Mitzi: Right, I’m going to write a scene about Barbara Millicent Roberts and Ken Carson listening to Norville Rogers on the television while removing Cavity Sam’s organs. Oh, no! There is something seriously wrong with me. . . I can picture the scene. Ken’s painfully trying to grip the tweezers with fingers that don’t bend when he hears a knock on the door. His arm jerks, causing the tweezers to drop into the metal opening. Cavity Sam’s nose beeps and lights up as Officer Edgar Mallory bursts into the room. With stiff plastic arms, Ken shoves Cavity Sam toward Barbie.
“Officer, I swear,” Ken says, “removing Cavity Sam’s ice cream shaped brain was Ms. Robert’s idea.” Barbie flicks her cigarette while staring into officer Mallory’s cardboard eyes. “So, what can I do to get one of those get out of jail free cards?”
Clancy: Why didn’t you give me a last name in The Taste of Orange?
Mitzi: You’re Clancy. Unique characters don’t need a last name.
Clancy: If I’m so special why does it matter if you find a publisher?
Mitzi: Because it will make you real. The only way I can hug you is by holding the book.
Mitzi: Why did you set up Twitter while I was in Chicago? https://twitter.com/JustClancy
Clancy: Why are you complaining? You should thank me. Wait a minute. How did you find out?
Mitzi: Twitter sent a warning. You’re following more people than follow you. Makes you look like spam.
Clancy: But I have diverse interests.
Mitzi: A fictional character with diverse interests belongs on Pheed. It’s the new social network. There are no restrictions like Facebook and Twitter. It’s tailored for someone like you that doesn’t like to follow rules.
Clancy: Sounds like something my protagonist, Peter Codington, would be interested in.
Mitzi: By the way, nice picture. You’ve been working out.
Clancy: You might want to try it.
Mitzi: I worked out by playing with my grandchildren.
Clancy: I popped in and out of your head while you were in Chicago. Loved Bailey and Will. Especially the three-year-old when it came to bedtime.
Mitzi: Bailey has quite the imagination. Did you know her doll, Mary, threw up in the car on our way back from my brother’s house? How do you remove doll vomit?
Clancy: According to, Bailey, the vomit was sitting on top of your head. Why did you waste your time pretending to wipe down the backseat?
Mitzi: Bailey was so descriptive that the odor made me nauseous.
Clancy: Here’s Bailey’s conversations five minutes after you tucked her in bed.
My feet are cold. I need socks.
Two minutes later: I need my blanket fixed.
One minute later: I’m too hot. I can’t take my pajamas off.
Three seconds later: I can’t pull the zipper. They shouldn’t put zippers on little kids pajamas.
One minute later: When is it midnight?
Two minutes later: Mary got out of bed. It’s not fair that she gets to stay up and I can’t.
Three minutes later: I need my door open another crack.
Five seconds later: I’m talking to myself and nobody is listening.
Two minutes later: I shut my eyes but they won’t go to sleep.
One minute later: I need to brush my teeth again.
Clancy: And the number one call out that made your daughter-in-law jump up from the couch and run toward Bailey’s bedroom—I have to go number two.
Mitzi: What else did you do while I was gone?
Clancy: Pretty much just wondered what happened to the chubby little “Bee Girl” from the Blind Melon Video.
My interest in synesthesia (a condition in which one type of stimulation evokes the sensation of another) began six years ago after reading an article in the local newspaper. Two years later, I befriended a woman that experiences this neurological phenomenon in her everyday life. I based, Clancy, after my friend and although my fictional character experiences extreme forms of synesthesia, unlike my friend, I had no idea how close I’d hit the mark on my character’s psychological scars until after the interview.
Scones were baking in the oven, a pot of coffee was brewing, and I’d just placed fresh hand towels and a dish of scented soaps in the guest bathroom (Martha Stewart at her best) when the doorbell chimed.
“Come in,” I said, giving my friend a hug. “Thank you for being a guest on my blog.”
“How could I refuse? You bribed me with an afternoon of wine tasting after the interview. Just one thing . . . please don’t use my real name.”
“Pick a name,” I said.
“I’ve always liked the name, Shelly.”
I knew synesthetes saw letters and numbers in color even when they appear black in print to others. Extreme synesthestes see the days, months, and year in color, too.
“Why Shelly?” I asked, leading the way toward the kitchen.
“Are you starting the interview?”
“Yes, pretend I’m Diane Sawyer.”
“Okay, Diane, I like how the side by side yellow L’s divide the other colored letters. It’s a soft name.”
“What about my name, Mitzi?”
My friend winked. “I like the name Shelly better.”
I mentally slapped my head. “I bet you love my maiden name, McColley. Two C’s and two L’s.”
“Is something burning?”
I grabbed a mitt and removed the scones from the oven.
“I hope you’re a better interviewer than a pastry chef.”
“Me, too,” I said. I poured two cups of coffee and handed my friend a napkin. “Do you want your hockey puck plain or with butter?”
“I hate to tell you this, but I don’t like scones with fruit.”
It’s not uncommon for synesthetes to describe flavors as round, square, or pyramid. “Do blueberries taste like a shape?”
Shelly laughed. “No, they taste like blueberries. However, I don’t like chicken because it tastes like a pyramid . . . sharp.
“What does sharp taste like?”
“I don’t know. I’ve had synesthesia for as long as I can remember,” Shelly said, glancing at the list of questions sitting on the table. “I can’t give you answers on why, how, or when. It’s just a part of me, but it doesn’t define me. What did it feel like growing up as a funeral director’s daughter?”
“It wasn’t any different from being a butcher, a baker, or a candlestick maker’s daughter.” I laughed nervously, and made the where-did-that-come-from gesture.
Although I was no Diane Sawyer, I was sure the basic rules of interviewing were to keep the interviewee from turning the questions toward the interviewer.
“See, you sound defensive. That’s how I feel when I don’t have answers for synesthesia,” Shelly said.
“I wasn’t teased while growing up. It was as an adult that I ran into ignorant people. I’m proud to have four generations of funeral directors in my family, but it doesn’t define me either. You know what really bothers me? The fact that most Americans think Mt. Rushmore is located in North Dakota. It’s in the Black Hills of South Dakota. And another thing . . . not everyone in South Dakota lives on a farm or ranch.”
If this were a televised interview, we would break for a commercial.
“I gather you’re not a native Californian like me. I’m pretty sure Americans know the Golden Gate Bridge is in California.” Shelly smiled and shoved the synesthesia notes to the center of the table. “Would you mind if we didn’t have a structured interview? It seems strange because you know all the answers. What if I talk while you take notes?”
“Perfect,” I said.
“I was born in the late forties when being different labeled a person as crazy. I see blocks of colors when I hear music. Each letter of the alphabet, along with numbers, has specific colors. The colors never change. I hear what I see and see what I hear. I learned after second grade to keep quiet and blend in. Being bullied everyday by your classmates changes you. I pulled inside myself.”
My friend paused and took a sip of coffee. I cursed silently for not paying attention during my shorthand class in high school, and then shook the blood back in my fingers while my mind wandered off Interview Highway 101 and onto Memory
Lane. All those abbreviations of lol, bff, etc., were nothing but an updated version of shorthand. The youth of today probably thought shorthand was a medical term for a rare physical deformity.
“I’m glad schools have a zero tolerance policy against bullying,” I said, making my way back to the interview.
“It’s in the past,” Shelly said. “My mother taught me the names of the colors and then moved on to numbers and letters. She’d draw the numbers or letters on a piece of paper with a pencil and ask me to name them. Instead of saying the number or letter, I would always say what color they were. I’m sure my mother thought something was wrong with me, but she was always supportive and protective. My grandparents thought I had an overactive imagination.”
“What about your father?” I asked. “I’ve read that the father hands down the trait to his daughters.”
“My parents divorced when I was three, but I’ve had relatives tell me that my father disliked inanimate objects like coat hangers and wicker chairs because of their personalities. He also considered the color blue spiteful and red as money hungry.”
“My main character, Clancy, thinks doorknobs and fine china are snobby.” I waited for a comment, but my friend only nodded.
“I was married for eight years. Synesthesia didn’t play a part in my divorce, but my husband may disagree. Did you include in your story how the sound of water gives the sensation of a full body massage?”
“Yes, I think I mentioned it on page two of my manuscript. You’d like my main character, Clancy.”
“Does she like fountains?”
“Dang, I never thought of fountains. Clancy turns on the shower.”
“I have eight tabletop fountains in my home. The fountains are the only items my husband didn’t fight over in our divorce.”
“If you ever started dating would you share your world of synesthesia?”
“Dating? Never. I have my grown children for support.”
“How did you learn you had synesthesia?”
“My son learned about synesthesia years ago and brought it to my attention. Knowing my quirks have a name doesn’t change my daily life one way or the other.”
“Neurologists compare synesthesia to a LSD trip.”
“I’ve never taken illegal drugs, so I don’t know if that’s true,” Shelly said.
“Does getting upset heighten your synesthesia?”
“Oddly, yes. Especially as I got older. Here’s something you might find interesting. I had a MRI last year. I don’t know if the MRI had anything to do with this, but afer the test my senses were dull for a good five days or more.”
“Fuzzy. It’s hard to explain.”
“Some synesthetes say colors blur when they are sick.”
“Yes, blur. That’s a better way to describe it.”
“Do you have any hobbies?”
Shelly’s demeanor instantly changed. Why didn’t I ask this question sooner?
“I love everything to do with gardening . . . even pulling weeds. When I work in the garden, I get instant satisfaction. I played tennis when I was younger. Now, I have to enjoy watching tennis on television. I have a time-share in Hawaii and take long walks along the beach. Oh, and I design jewelry . . .”
I listened as my friend continued to described her love of nature, family, and photography. When my stomach rumbled I stopped taking notes and said,”Are you hungry? Sattui Winery has a wonderful deli and we can eat outside.”
What did we talk about on our way to Napa Valley? If you guessed everything but synesthesia, you’d be right.
Additional Information on Synesthesia:
• More women than men are synesthetes. The trait is more frequent among left-handed women.
• Documented cases of extreme forms of synesthesia show 32 combinations of the senses. These individuals are often misdiagnosed as schizophrenic.
• People with synesthesia have extraordinary memories and high intelligence due to the multiplicity of their sensory experiences.
• Synesthetes often experience unusual occurrences such as precognitive dreams, déjá vu, and clairvoyance.
• Flavors are often described in shapes—pyramid, round, or square.
• Certain words beginning with a specific letter of the alphabet produce color and taste—depending on the sequence of the letters.
• Noises produce not only colors, taste, emotions, and sensations, but in extreme cases, synesthetes experience frightening visions.
• Sudden pain often produces a visual experience.
• Synesthetes feel sounds on their skin.
• Vibrations cause numbness, colors, and taste.
• Touching an object can produce a specific flavor.
• Synesthesia produces gustatory sights, auditory smells, and colored hearing.