The Power of Motivation or How to Get Your Laundry Done

appleSBLaundry1 Second Daughter wants a new surfboard. Not that “The Apple” doesn’t get the job done even on East Coast waves, but it’s a bit old. A surfing friend gave it to us used, and we had it repaired once already.

You may not know this but new surfboards are not particularly cheap. 😀

The Hubster and I let Second know we would kick in if she would save most of the money to buy her new board. She is not yet of an age to be earning big bucks at McDonald’s and she isn’t the babysitting type, so I told her I would pay her $2 per load to do the family laundry.

The laundry room lists pictured are the result of her research and planning into what it would take to do this laundry thing and how toLaundry2 organize it. Note each family member has a different color and the schedule has towels every day. She has already made $6, and I am grateful indeed. It is early days in this process, but I am hoping the motivation (surfboard) will be enough to keep the laundry laundry3going.

Next stop for me: how to delegate grocery shopping.

Next stop for Second Daughter: conquer the world.

Did you have to work to earn money for something you wanted when you were young? A car maybe? What was your heart’s desire? Your best summer job?


Link Love: Art Online

LI am fascinated by art and I would dearly love to have more time to explore the great museums of the world. I count myself very lucky that I have been to quite a few. Off the top of my head I have seen: The Louvre in Paris (pictured), The Museo d’Arte Moderna and the Vatican Museums in Rome, The Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, The National Gallery (Smithsonian) in Washington, DC. And those are just the big, traditional, Western ones I have been to.

Art for me offers a way into the kind of self-expression I seek in my writing, especially my fiction. I can open an art book to any page and in attempting to describe the artwork pictured, I can figure out how to tell the stories I want to tell. The cool thing is, I have noticed that over the past couple of years, the great museums have been opening their doors to the virtual world, offering online curated glimpses into the works on display in their physical museums and sneak peeks of artworks in their private “vaults.”

This topic came to mind as I read blogger Cristian Mihai’s recent post on Google’s Cultural Institute, which half of me thinks is a great idea and the other half thinks, “Wow. A totally virtual world is being created here. I will never have to leave this little room.”

So I offer the following link love to the world of virtual art curating–here’s to getting lost in a museum!

The “Biggies”

The LouvreThe Louvre offers a learning tab on its website called “A Closer Look,” which is just what it says: an in depth look at some of the Louvre’s most famous pieces. If you have ever asked yourself the question, “What’s the big deal about the Mona Lisa anyway?” check out this online learning series. I found the presentation a little stiff but the detailed analysis and historical background of the artworks puts these cultural icons in perspective.

The Prado–The Prado in Madrid offers Pradomedia, detailing important exhibitions in Spain’s famous National Museum as explained (in Spanish with English subtitles) by museum curators. Because this is video, you get an idea of the size of the paintings in their museum home as the narrator explores the philosophies behind the arrangement of these objets d’art.

The Hermitage–housed in Catherine the Great’s Winter Palace in St. Petersburg, Russia, The Hermitage offers a unique spin on the virtual tour with its Digital Collection. (Note: you must have the Java plug in to browse the artworks.) From the Hermitage website:

“As a rule all exhibits must be handled with great care that is why the visitors of museums very often have to scrutinize works of art through glass or from behind the barrier. You will have a unique opportunity to view masterpieces of the Hermitage using an innovative technology of IBM. Choosing the section Digital Library select the exhibit you are interested in. Using Enlarged image you can see the exhibits in the enlarged size and scrutinize their slightest details.”

The Metropolitan Museum of ArtThe Met’s 82nd & Fifth series is my favorite of these glimpses of the great museums. The curators have put together short, topically driven talks that tie the artwork to an emotion or a physical feeling in an unexpected way. For a unique take on LOVE, check out Mia Fineman talking about Adam Fuss’s photogram of rabbits and their guts. Yes, really! You can subscribe to this feature via email and have art in your inbox every week or so.

The Aggregator

The Google Cultural Institute–The more I looked through Google’s new venture, especially the YouTube channel, the cooler it got to me. See what you think.

Do you think the art and culture can and should be shared virtually in this way? Is it the same experience as you would get with the live version? Better? Worse? Do you like your art placed in context by a curator, or would you rather form your own cultural linkages and opinions?

Guest Post: Kourtney Heintz

SixTraintoWisconsin1600Today on the blog I’m hosting debut author Kourtney Heintz whose novel The Six Train to Wisconsin is getting rave reviews and was a 2012 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award Semifinalist. This book has really captured me (I’m about 1/2 way through!) and I can’t wait to finish it! Read on to get a glimpse of the evolution of the title for The Six Train to Wisconsin (cool, right?) and scroll down to find out more about Kourtney and her amazing blog tour.


Kecia, thank you so much for letting me take over your blog for a day. I really appreciate your support with my debut novel!

 The Six Train to Wisconsin wasn’t my original title. It started out being called The Killing Lights. That was only for a few weeks back in 2009. I needed something to call the short story I was working on. I hated referring to it as “it” or “the short story I’m writing”.

The Killing Lights sounded cool to me. Intriguing. I wasn’t quite sure how it related to the story, but I didn’t have anything else, so I went with it.

But I wasn’t really satisfied. I wanted a title that captured the story. I wanted a title that made people wonder and then have that a-ha moment after they finished reading it.

Back then I lived in Manhattan. My daily commute was on the 2 Train from Wall Street to Time Square every morning. I returned home via the R or W Train to City Hall or Rector St. One day, I forgot my reading materials. So I had nothing to occupy my mind for that 30-minute ride.

It’s always when my mind is wandering that I have these moments of inspired clarity. Often when I’m doing laundry or taking a shower, something amazing will just come to me. This was one of those times.

I was seated across from the subway map they plaster on the wall of each car. I started thinking about how Kai and Oliver live and work on the 6 Train. The local green line. Something about Six Train grabbed me. But Six Train was too nebulous. It didn’t get to the heart of the story.

My mind turned it over. They go from living on the 6 Train in the East Village to Butternut, Wisconsin. Hmm. There was something there. I knew it. And a few minutes later, The Six Train to Wisconsin became my title.

It was catchy and intriguing. It made me wonder. It summed up the physical and emotional journey of the book. The 6 Train doesn’t run to Wisconsin. So the idea of taking the 6 Train to Wisconsin hinted at a journey of conflict. A journey that wasn’t meant to be and wasn’t easy to take. I wanted to capture the difficult shift the characters experienced.

It just felt right for the book. During the next 3.5 years of working on the manuscript, not once did I think to alter the title. It’s like when you find the perfect sandals. They just meld to your feet and you can walk for miles in them without considering switching to anything else.

The Six Train to Wisconsin Back Cover:

Sometimes saving the person you love can cost you everything.

There is one person that ties Oliver Richter to this world: his wife Kai. For Kai, Oliver is the keeper of her secrets.

When her telepathy spirals out of control and inundates her mind with the thoughts and emotions of everyone within a half-mile radius, the life they built together in Manhattan is threatened.

To save her, Oliver brings her to the hometown he abandoned—Butternut, Wisconsin—where the secrets of his past remain buried. But the past has a way of refusing to stay dead. Can Kai save Oliver before his secrets claim their future?

An emotionally powerful debut, The Six Train to Wisconsin pushes the bounds of love as it explores devotion, forgiveness and acceptance.

Author Bio:

Kourtney Heintz writes emotionally evocative speculative fiction that captures the deepest truths of being human. For her KourtneyHeintzIMG_0891characters, love is a journey never a destination.

She resides in Connecticut with her warrior lapdog, Emerson, her supportive parents and three quirky golden retrievers. Years of working on Wall Street provided the perfect backdrop for her imagination to run amuck at night, imagining a world where out-of-control telepathy and buried secrets collide.

Her debut novel, The Six Train to Wisconsin, was a 2012 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award Semifinalist.

Connecting with Kourtney Heintz Online



Facebook Page:



Amazon Author Central Page:



Paperback available from:


Barnes and Noble

Friday Film: Roman Holiday

As promised after reviewing the 1940 film of Pride and Prejudice with Greer Garson and Laurence Olivier, I will be posting some more of my impressions of the old black and whites in a new blog feature, Friday Film.

First up, Roman Holiday (1953) starring Gregory Peck and Audrey Hepburn in her first major role.

Fairytale in the Eternal City

Audrey_Hepburn_Roman_Holiday_croppedPrincess Ann (Hepburn) is a Royal princess (country of origin undisclosed) traveling through Europe on a whirlwind “goodwill” tour. Newsreels show her waving at crowds in London and Audrey_Hepburn-Harcourt_Williams_in_Roman_HolidayParis with much fanfare and pomp. She gets to Rome and upon her lady-in-waiting’s recitation of a complicated schedule for the following day (COUNTESS: 10:45 Tour of Automobile Factory where you will be presented with a small car. PRINCESS: Thank you. COUNTESS (frowning): Which you will NOT accept. PRINCESS: NO, thank you.), Princess Ann has a tantrum/break down. Her handlers respond to her exhaustion by calling a kindly doctor who injects her with “a new drug,” which will help her sleep and make her happy. (NOTE: This drug-the-silly-hysterical-woman device, while apparently normal behavior for the time, has always disturbed me. Alfred Hitchcock directed a similar scene to chilling effect in The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956) with Doris Day and James Stewart after Doris Day’s character becomes hysterical when she realizes her son has been kidnapped! They actually hold her down to stick her in the arm in that one!) In Princess Ann’s case, the drug is slow to take effect, and she decides to escape her handlers by sneaking out of the palace/embassy where she is staying. Unfortunately, the drug overtakes her when she is out in the city.Gregory_Peck_in_Roman_Holiday_trailer_cropped

Gregory Peck as American journalist Joe Bradley comes upon the drugged Princess in the Foro Romano. Not knowing who she is, he thinks she has had too much to drink and alternates between treating her like she is a hustler and thinking she is an innocent who needs taking care of. Eventually his chivalrous instincts win out and he takes her back to his tiny apartment in Via Margutta to sleep it off.

When he wakes the next morning, the princess is still sleeping and Joe still doesn’t know who she is. He quickly figures it out, however, when he pays a visit to his editor who informs him that the princess has been taken ill and has cancelled her press conference. Reporter Joe senses a scoop and a scandal in the making that could be very lucrative for him. His motivation: to score enough money from this story to get back to New York to work at a “real newspaper.” With the help of a Gregory_Peck,_Audrey_Hepburn_and_Eddie_Albert_in_Roman_Holiday_trailerphotographer friend, played by the brilliant and funny Eddie Albert, he proceeds to show “Anya” a great time on the town while managing to take pictures of her with a little cigarette lighter camera. Rome gets showcased in all its dusty glory. Anya rides around the Piazza Venezia on a scooter, visits the wall of wishes (which no longer exists, more’s the pity) and the Bocca della Verita (the Mouth of Truth), and ends up in a night club brawl on a barge on the Tiber under the shadow of the Castel Sant’Angelo.Audrey_Hepburn_and_Gregory_Peck_on_Vespa_in_Roman_Holiday_trailer

No spoilers here! But suffice to say for me the story ends in an emotionally satisfying but believable way. There is certainly NO lack of chemistry between Gregory Peck and the luminous Audrey Hepburn. And you get the impression that Eddie Albert is a little in love with her too, which makes the Princess’s day out with these two “hardened” journalists charming and poignant.

Rome is a character all to itself in the movie, and as a former resident, I loved seeing the Eternal City on a bright sunny day into a sparkling night as I scrambled to identify the streets and places showcased in the Rome tour montage.

Definitely one to put on your must watch list!

Roman Holiday Tidbits

* Screenwriter Dalton Trombo did not receive a credit on the film because he had been blacklisted in the film industry for suspected communist sympathies. He was one of the “Hollywood Ten” who refused to testify before the House Committee on Un-American Activities and were subsequently prosecuted for contempt. The blacklist/boycott included Charlie Chaplin, Orson Welles, and to some extent even Humphrey Bogart.

From the detailed Wikipedia article: “The Hollywood blacklist—as the broader entertainment industry blacklist is generally known—was the mid-20th-century list of screenwriters, actors, directors, musicians, and other U.S. entertainment professionals who were denied employment in the field because of their political beliefs or associations, real or suspected.”

Don’t present me with the choice of either being in contempt of this committee and going to jail or forcing me to really crawl through the mud to be an informer. For what purpose? I don’t think it is a choice at all. I don’t think this is really sportsmanlike. I don’t think this is American. I don’t think this is American justice. ~Actor Larry Parks in 1950 to the House Un-American Activities Committee

* The screenplay for Roman Holiday was originally written with Cary Grant and Elizabeth Taylor in mind, but when they were unavailable, director William Wyler selected the unknown youngster Audrey Hepburn with a clever screen test that kept the camera rolling even after the “formal” audition was complete. William Wyler also directed Mrs. Miniver, for which role Greer Garson took home the Academy Award in 1940.

* Audrey Hepburn was “discovered” by Colette (French writer and author of Gigi) and plucked out of obscurity to play the title role in the stage play of Gigi.

* After filming in Rome, Gregory Peck insisted that Audrey Hepburn’s name be moved to top billing alongside his on the movie posters, predicting she would win the Academy Award. Which she did. She also took home the Film Critics Circle Award, the Golden Globe, and the BAFTA (British Actors’ Award) for her portrayal of Ann/Anya in Roman Holiday. The film was nominated for 10 Academy Awards and took home 3, including Best Costuming and Best Screenplay (ironic right?).

Roger Zelazny and Me: Talking the Literary Canon at Backspace

confhotelmay I attended the Backspace Writer’s Conference last weekend (it was my birthday present, actually). Wow, what a ride. Three days of workshops packed with info on what literary agents really want (no, really); how a book idea becomes a movie (it’s not how you might think); inspiring words from YA author A.S. King (One truly cool chick, go check her out. Like, right now. I’ll wait.); and choreographing fight scenes with thriller author Jonathan Maberry (holy crap, I didn’t know you could break someone’s elbow with two fingers!). All culminating in the equivalent of Writers’ Church with superagent Donald Maass talking about his writing how-to: 21st Century Fiction (props to Vanessa Lillie for coining the term 🙂 ). Lots of take aways, lots of work up ahead for me, but the best part was that I got to indulge one of my all-time passions: talking about books and favorite authors with people who love books and authors.bryantparkmay

In an evening conversation with Ted Boone, aspiring Science Fiction writer, I related an event that sticks out in my mind as formative regarding my notions of novelists and what they do. I don’t read SF these days (and I definitely don’t write it–never say never) but I have read it in the past and here’s why: When I was a young kid looking to sell Girl Scout cookies, my mom took me up to Stagecoach Drive in Santa Fe, which was potentially a brilliant sales strategy because Stagecoach Drive is Santa Fe’s equivalent of Newport, RI’s Bellevue Avenue. I don’t remember if I sold a lot of cookies–I think we were a bit stymied by the gated driveways–but the key to our trip was Mom’s acquaintance with Judy Zelazny, Roger Zelazny’s then wife. Roger Zelazny, for those of you who don’t know, was the prolific and award-winning author of classic Science Fiction and Fantasy novels. His oeuvre spanned the “Golden Years” of SF/F from about 1962 into the 1990s. He died in 1995. He was particularly known for his Amber series and for elevating pure genre fiction to something more literary. George R.R. Martin (of Game of Thrones fame and another Santa Fe resident) counts Zelazny as an inspiration for his own work.NinePrincesInAmber500

At any rate, Mrs. Zelazny selected a flattering number of my boxes of cookies, and while I was counting out change, she asked if I might like to see where her husband worked. I had no notion at the time that I was entering the workspace of a renowned novelist. I did know Roger Zelazny wrote books because his name was on the paperbacks my brother read non-stop in those days. As I remember the moment (which may bear only a little resemblance to ground truth) we walked down a few sets of stairs, like we were going underground. We got to a set of huge doors, where Mrs. Zelazny knocked. Upon receiving the call to enter, the doors parted like the gates of Mordor, and we entered a place of literary dreams. The Author, ensconced in the middle of floor to ceiling shelves holding books and Hugo awards, turned from his typewriter to greet us politely and a bit distractedly. I think he may have even signed a book or two for my brother. This is a sacred image for me, and no matter how many books I sell in the future (I hoping it will be many!), I don’t think I will count myself a success until I have an equivalent book-lined room of my own.

So thanks to Ted for reminding me of that formative experience. And thanks to Roger Zelazny for opening those doors so I could glimpse the writer at work and dream.

So what are your formative experiences about people in their workplaces? Did you visit a fire station as a kid? See the Marines at 8th and I? Anyone a Roger Zelazny fan?

It’s (finally!) Spring: 3 Ways to Start Over

Backyard MayI love my yard in springtime. The leaves, the grass, the shrubs all bear that bright green that says they’re starting over. (Though I wish my dog wouldn’t pee on the azaleas and I am jealous of my neighbor winning “Yard of the Month!” She totally deserves it, though. Go, Pam!)

Azalea May

Life can really be nothing BUT starting over. From the very beginning we master crawling but then we have to learn to walk, then to run, then to dance. When you go to school you finish elementary school only to start over in middle school, then you finish high school, just to begin again in college. By the time we’re on our 4th or 5th job, you would think we would be really good at this starting over thing. But that isn’t necessarily true…

I have spent this winter and early spring working on my next book and to be frank, the work has humbled me. I finished the early draft in November with such high hopes, and then I had to start over with the rewrite. I am now on my 5th or 6th version. Such is the writer’s life, I am finding out.

“Press on: nothing in the world can take the place of perseverance. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.” ~Calvin Coolidge

So for all of us who have yet to master the starting over gig, here are 3 ways to go about it:

1. Try something you haven’t before

Alex Lickerman on Psychology Today blog

“I really am content enjoying all the things I already enjoy. But straying into foreign lands, both metaphorically and literally, has always forced me to challenge my beliefs. And as painful as that is, nothing, I believe, contributes to our happiness more than shattering the delusions to which we cling, unable as we often are to distinguish between beliefs that are true and beliefs that are false (especially beliefs about ourselves).”

2. Set some goals

From Zen Habits–Really Simple Goal Setting

“The key to simple goal setting is to not have too many goals.”  🙂

3. Keep at it

Claire Gregory on All the World’s Our Page

“Push down the fear, trust all that ingrained knowledge, and keep on practicing. Forget about the destination and keep your focus only as far ahead as your headlights let you see. Sure, you might bump a couple of kerbs or ding your door on a pole now and again- but then it’s easy to forget that we all do that occasionally.”

Is spring a time to start over for you? How do you start over whether it’s new or not?

Link Love: The Best of St. Pat’s 2013

SI do like a good toast, so on this national day of toasting to the Irish in us all I offer a trip around the blogosphere for some of the best of St. Patrick’s Day.

For Fun

The fun and fabulous Susie Lindau dances an Irish Jig and offers up some toasts for us to try.

Celebrating the Emerald Isle from space! Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield honors St. Patrick from the international space station by singing Danny Boy (not bad!) and wearin’ the green.

If you have green eyes (and I DO), you may be Irish, or female, or both. Laura Dimon offers up the statistics on what makes green eyes so unusual. Plus, the most famous green-eyed lass in literature. Any guesses?

For Food

The how-to video in Irish Soda Bread, the American Way is a mini-visual spectacle. If you replay that bit where she slathers the Irish butter and it melts a little, you can actually smell the warm bread spiced with caraway seeds and currants. I want to invite Melissa Clark to my house to make these buns for me. Like, right now. Yum.

The full St. Patrick’s Day traditional meal explained by Rachel Allen on the WSJ Speakeasy blog. In the category of “I’ll bet you didn’t know that”: her explanation of how Irish coffee was invented.

For the foodies out there an Irish food paradise on Wise Words, the oeuvre of Irish food blogger Mona Wise and her chef husband (winner of Blog Awards Ireland‘s Best Blog for 2012).

For Travel

Our Amazing Planet’s post A Photo Tour of Ireland not only captures images of the Emerald Isle and its people, it presents the history and traditions of the Irish in the photo captions.

My own discovery of Blarney Castle from 2012’s St. Paddy’s Day post, including some blarney from Winston Churchill and my mom.

Lastly, a celebration of St. Patrick’s Day would not be complete for me without my favorite Irish pub song, “The Wild Rover,” sung here by The Dubliners:

Slainte! Happy Saint Patrick’s Day, Everyone! BeannachtaĂ­ na FĂ©ile PĂĄdraig!