Photos for January Stones and April PAD 2012 property of M J Dills (exception 1/16)

Monday, June 30, 2014

My Leg of the Blog Tour in Progress

First and foremost, my genuine THANKS to Nancy Coats Posey for inviting me to join this Blog Tour. 
A word about Nancy:
Nancy is a lot like me, having so many interests, she needs to be twins and even some days, triplets. Nancy is an Alabama native who has lived in North Carolina since 1995, an English instructor, poetess, wife, mother, and grandmother, a photographer, and a perpetual beginner mandolin player. She has a couple blogs she floats in and out of for poetry, general information, and art projects. Her regular blog "Discriminating Reader" is devoted to her lifelong love of books. She reviews her recent (and excessive) reading and sometimes just chats about books and reading in general. Check her out at whenthepenbleeds,blogspot You’ll be happy you did.

The tour is comprised of questions starting with

       1.  What am I currently working on?

I HAD A BOY, my latest novel about Robin Dockery, a pregnant teenage runaway in Los Angeles, during the music explosion of the ‘60’s and ‘70’s. Robin gives her baby up for adoption but gets him back when she marries a handsome British lad so he can get his Green Card and stay in the USA with his boy friend, the son of a Venezuelan diplomat.

I completed writing BOY last year and had some interest, mainly from Anderson Literary in NY, who send me the kindest, most informative rejection letter a person could ever hope to receive.

BOY is a unique story because it is mine… I lived it and felt all the pain and joy that’s transferred onto the pages. The music scene in LA was a magical one and music really was everywhere. I take great liberties with facts and plot twists, giving cameos to the quick and the dead.

As she moves up and down the coast, over a couple decades, between Southern California and a small town in rural Washington, Robin is continually torn between her self-made family and the gnarly nest of her religious and mildly demented mother, her browbeaten father and redneck siblings with whom she has never been able to relate. I’m happy to report these characters are not based on my own personal family.

Robin’s story is important because she represents a generation of females whose choices were limited. Birth control was not quite impossible to get, but it was a challenge. Pharmacists kept condoms, (which were known by the objectionable name rubbers) behind counters so they had to be asked for. If a girl purchased a condom, she was considered nothing less than a slut and usually underwent interrogation by some white-coated pervert. Boys inquiring about prophylactics were shamed with stupid questions like “What size? You want extra large or extra small?” by the chuckling jokesters.  Roe v. Wade was on the horizon, but aborting a pregnancy was way too expensive for the majority, whether they could have the procedure legally or not. I've knew girls who found surgical solutions. They went through horror and humiliation. Some never fully recovered.

So… what happened to Robin and others like her, when their children realized they could've had a different life with someone else, someone not related to them? They might have grown up in a fantasy family, chosen and adopted. or maybe with that completely uninterested father.  

What about the mothers who didn't know who was the father of their baby? That was more common than most want to admit. Or those who barely knew him; their sperm donor, as we have semi-fondly referred to those guys who showed up for maybe a night or two, then disappeared down the road, taking responsibility and their last name with them.

How does it feel to have men come back into a mom’s life, who previously insisted she illegally abort her baby, but now want to play the role of father, grandfather, cuddly best friend and confidante?

My goal with BOY, at this point, is to re-edit… once more, and make it just a bit rawer than the original. Ms. Anderson, the literary agent, gave me some recommendations that I do believe it would be wise to pursue.

2.  How does my work differ from others of its genre?

I HAD A BOY and my previous novel SING, AND DON’T CRY are about my personal adventures, turned upside down with fictionalization. Not that it hasn't been done before, but no one has ever told my story. 

I weave a certain amount of lessons in my tales, without being moralistic. John Irving wrote about the morality of abortion without ever being political or didactic. The same could be said about Mark Twain and racism; he didn't beat you over the head with it. Stephen King told stories about the death penalty and the mortification of prison life but it wasn't his intention to make his reader be shamed or feel guilty. Good teachers and I aim to emulate them.

3.   Why do I write/create what I do?
4.   How does your writing/creating process work?

I say this with a grand heaving sigh: I don’t have a choice in the matter. Words flow out of me, and like many artists, I wonder whom I’m channeling. I've stories to tell and if I try to do it through spoken word, I’m likely to be whacked over the head with a 2X4 until I shut up. So writing seems like a healthier alternative. More than once I've been told “you should write a book.” It seems like the things that have happened to me over the course of six decades are not your ordinary life. Everyone has a story to tell. My position is that some of them really neeeed to be shared. Point is, I know I like to read a good book and my aim is to give others the same pleasure.  

I work best in the mornings, which is odd, since I always used to consider myself a night owl. I’m not; I just have a hard time getting out of bed in the mornings on some days.

I like background music when I’m writing and if I want to get super inspired, I put CD’s on like soundtracks from ChocolatThe Mission or Amélie.

I can write in chaos or tranquility. There are boxes in drawers and closets with reams that attest to the fact. I possess notes written in darkened hallways, adjacent to deathbeds; bright glaring hospital rooms where my own personal cot was tucked in the corner of the patient room; boats pitching on the open sea leaving no resemblance of proper penmanship; humid jungles where cicadas screamed so loud, writing was more conducive than talking.

I've trained to perform in a circus; single-handedly midwived a baby into the world, with no training; marched, sat and sang for equal and civil rights; worked with famous people in theater summer stock and held lead and minor roles in plays and musicals; sang in a rock band; moved to a foreign country where I had to teach myself the language and then owned and ran, not one, but two businesses;. That’s just the tip of my literary iceberg. 

I end my blogs by saying “Thanks for reading” and what I mean by that is thank you for reading my blog; thank you for reading and buying books from first and second hand stores; thank you for reading poetry, mine and everyone else’s; thank you for reading newspapers and the internet; thank you for reading to your children; thank you for reading billboards; thank you for reading graffiti (because it's often someone’s creation meant to be shared); thank you for reading your emails; thank you for reading recipes; thank you for reading report cards and progress reports; thank you for reading your homework; thank you  for reading famous authors and not so famous authors; thank your for reading directions, the manual, the map and instructions; thank you for reading cereal boxes; thank you for reading The Magna Carta, The Constitution, the Bible, the Koran and the Talmud; thank you for reading... you know… Thank You for Reading.

Friday, June 6, 2014


Music was a huge influence in my parents’ lives. They danced; they sang. My mother and her brother participated in Dancethons in California, when they both lived there, he in the military in Wilmington and she building stealth gliders.
Jo Stafford’s I’ll Be Seeing You, along with every other young American in love during the war, was my parents’ song. My dad was too old for the service (b 1905) but he made good money tending bar and that’s how he met my mother. When she left California with a broken heart, she never intended to be swept off her feet by a handsome bartender in Seattle, sixteen years her senior. They were married three weeks after meeting; a marriage that lasted 42 years.
They loved to dance and I have fond memories of singing hits of the 40’s with extended family, gathered around the piano while mom tickled the ivories. I think a lot of people left a hunk of their heart in that decade. They lost so much.
Soldiers and sailors were everywhere. Seattle was a port and young men, some who lied about their age to enlist, were shipping out at Bremerton.
There were many restaurants and clubs in Seattle, including the Black and Tan (12th and Jackson), where my mom told me the jazz was incredible, the crowd very dark-skinned and the atmosphere never boring. She said famous people, Duke Ellington, Charlie Parker, Lionel Hampton played there and toured up and down the coast. The Town Ranch (at 8th and Pine) was one of their favorite spots and they frequented John Q Public, which is where this photo was taken in the spring of 1944. Pictured with my parents are three young boys who were shipping out the following day. The child on the left called himself Johnny Angel. My mom said he couldn’t have been over 16, maybe younger.
When I think of D-Day, I always picture these three sailors, getting pickled with my parents the night before they boarded ship to go win a war. Normandy was a slaughter, as we know. There was an estimate of 4,500 allied soldiers who died that day; 10,000 more casualties.
Give a listen to Jo Stafford to take you back to a different time.
May all our sweet young boys rest in peace. Thank you to all who have served.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

The Great Divide


I don't get it. I know SEVERAL small business owners who pay their employees a STARTING wage of $15. I'm also quite sure the owner of Cupcake Royale is far from personal financial pain, as was referred to in a friend’s Facebook thread. 
What a lot of whining! Why can't large corps do as Costco, known for paying their employees above the minimum in all states and countries they do business?  I worked the holiday season this last year at Nordstrom for a jaw-dropping $9.25/hr. I did okay for the weeks surrounding Christmas, which could have made it worth my while, but the bookend paychecks I received resembled nothing close to a living wage. That ain’t right.  
Food servers currently earn $9.32/hr and you say "oh, but they get TIPS, too…" Hah! I have many personal friends who are in this business. Most have two jobs. And it’s still a struggle.
I’m an apartment manager who’s pressured by upper management to raise rents whenever we have vacancies; ergo there are certain people living in our building. We used to call them yuppies; young upwardly mobile... a privileged generation. They are shutting out those who have not been able to afford a college degree, which seems to be the earmark for getting a livable wage. I know. I've done the job hunt in the past five years and it’s scary. I’m lucky to have some of the resources I do and the ability to capitalize on them or I would have gone down with this economic ship a long time ago.
Herman Cain, past presidential GOP hopeful, didn't quite come out to abolish the minimum wage but his claim that it’s the best starting place for those seeking a first job fell on ears of those with a high school education and no hope of even attending a community college and/or being able to pay rent. Guess how Cain made his fortune? Burger King. Godfather’s Pizza. He held executive positions in the restaurant industry most of his career. Republicans Rick Perry, Rand and Ron Paul all have run for office on platforms that include abolishing the federal minimum wage and as the elder Paul famously glibly quoted “because it would help the poor people.”
There is a great disparagement between the working class of America and those above them. We have the poor and we will always have the poor; those born in circumstances that are almost impossible to rise above. But we also have a diminishing lower middle class, who find it more difficult with each passing year to make ends meet. I know people who are in miserable debt, simply because they have been forced to buy GROCERIES with a credit card. Buying a new car? Laugh. Out. Loud. These are people who work at more than one job and when the day is done, there is little time for fitting in an extra class at the community college, let alone embarking on a new education or career.
I’m really disappointed in those I know who are complaining about things like higher menu prices. If you can afford trips to Europe, Asia, Hawaii, Mexico, go home to the East Coast/California to visit the family; if you have a new car don’t rely on Metro for your transportation, if you drink hard liquor or visit local restaurants, frequent a bar/café where everybody knows your name, shop retail don’t buy clothes at Value Village out of necessity, never sweat your car payment verses your rent mortgage, then maybe you should be willing to let others afford some of the same. We aren't discussing luxuries here: this isn't about yachts, expensive champagne, designer shoes. This is about enjoying life and not working your fingers to the bone. Because as the song says “What do you get? Boney fingers!” And instead of turning up your middle one to the people who actually make your life better, give a damn.  

Thanks for reading.