Kind Spirit: Jennifer Hotes

selfieI’ve met many writers in the virtual world where we now increasingly live. They all want you to read their blogs, comment, retweet their tweets and like them on Facebook but not all of them return the favor.  So it’s a true honor to post an excerpt from Jennifer Hotes’ debut novel Four Rubbings.  She is a champion supporter of other writers, a hospice volunteer, and still very much in touch with the magical, tormented world of  teenagers. She’s also a very talented artist.   From Four Rubbings:


“As I kneel down next to my mother’s grave, I notice the withered flowers that slump over the sides of the vase. The sunflowers we brought for her birthday have exploded with rotting gray seeds. I dig my nails into my palms to keep from tossing the dead bouquet behind a bush. The leaves crawl with gnats and tiny worms that feast on the fetid offering.

“You guys are glad I forgot fresh flowers, aren’t you?” I say, content to leave the rotten bouquet in place. I stretch across the grave and goosebumps erupt down my naked arms and legs. I suck in the air that hangs thick around my face, a mix of rotting leaves and smoky sweet mulch that tickles my nose and makes me sneeze. After blessing myself, I cross my legs at the ankles. I close my eyes and picture the porcelain white vault below that encases the last of my mother’s earthly remains. I imagine the cedar roots that have Adobe Photoshop PDFwrapped around her coffin by now, blotting out the delicate gold leaf details entirely. I think about my mom the gardener, tucked inside the roots of a tree, and smile. Desperate to feel my mother’s spirit, I paint a vivid mental picture of her, plucked from fuzzy memories and fading photographs. In this particular time capsule, I’m seven and she snuggles next to me in bed. Lush copper hair drapes over her shoulders. It was before the days when she hid her chemo-ravaged head with scarves. Her eyes glint with mischief as she looks down to ask which book I want first. My tiny hands reach for The Runaway Bunny. She wraps her arms around me and opens the worn board book. The thick spine creaks as she turns to the first page and I nestle deeper into her. Resting her chin on the top of my head, she begins to read a book we both know by heart. Her voice vibrates down my back, and her warm breath washes over me like a blessing as she whispers:

“Once there was a little bunny who wanted to run away. So he said to runawaybunnyhis mother, ‘I am running away.’ ‘If you run away,’ said his mother, ‘I will run after you. For you are my little bunny.’”

Today brought the news of my mother’s cancer and her dire prognosis. So tonight, my favorite baby book brings me a special comfort. She won’t die. Mothers don’t die. She will be here to watch my whole life, because I need her. That’s what mothers do. As she closes the book, I lean into her and breathe in baby powder, sunshine, and coffee. She kisses the top of my head and tucks a curl behind my ear. “Josie, before you were born, our hearts were stitched together in heaven. I’ll always be this close.” She lays her hand across my bony rib cage. Lying on her grave, I bite the inside of my cheek to keep from crying and taste blood. I hold a hand over my ribs and ache to feel a trace of the string that ties our hearts together, but all I feel is cheap fringe and fake beads.

Read more about Jennifer Hotes.

giveaway swag packAs a part of her blog tour Jennifer is raffling off free copies of her book plus several other other goodies, including a free peek at the next book in her Stone Witch series.  Click here to enter the drawing. 

False Spring


Since it’s such a lovely day here in California and the cat has once again taken over my chair, I’ve decided to write out on the patio, listening to the jays and chickadees bicker over the seed which Hubby has left out for them.

This part of the world generally has what I call a “False Spring” sometime in January or February, two or three weeks of spectacular, springlike weather.   The blossoms blossom, the Cameilliasdaffodils sprout and the camellias show their pretty faces. 

Traditionally, and I really hope it happens soon because we are in a severe drought, the cold and rain returns.  Because I live close to San Francisco, the cold and fog can last until September.  We’re not famous for warm summers.


Speaking of birds, I’m always amazed by people who can get a good photo of one.  I must have taken 500 shots of the fellow to the left.  This is the best one and you can see it’s a little fuzzy.  By the way, can any of you bird bloggers out there tell me what kind of bird he is?

Please lock me away; but not with a mini-bar


Stricken with writer’s block, aspiring scribe downs the last alcohol from the mini-bar while his muse yawns.

One of my guilty pleasures is the television sitcom Frasier. When it first aired in the 1990s, I didn’t have time to watch television. I was working full time and taking care of children. I had no spare time.  If I did, I watched reruns of silly British comedies, such as Are you Being Served and As Time Goes By.  In those days I needed as much silly as I could get and no one does silly better than the Brits!


One of the great silly British shows – Are You Being Saved?

But lately I’ve found a channel that plays re-runs of Frasier in the morning when I’m having breakfast, reading the newspaper and getting caught up on email.  It always starts my day off with a giggle or two. Lately they played an episode called “Author, Author” that hit close to home. Reasons are below.

Most movies and television shows in which a writer is a main character make one, or all, of the following assumptions.


Writers always get freaked out by dogs…

1) It’s easy to get published and after you hit it big, you will become an asshole. Examples: She Devil, As Good as It Gets.

2) If your first novel is a huge success but the publisher says your second is shit, steal a brilliant plot from an unknown writer and pass it off as yours.  Of course, you’ll be obliged to kill the real author before publication but that’s okay because everyone knows, writers make great murderers.  Example: Death Trap


A typical writer selfie

3) You hit it big but you’re an out-of- control, drunken misogynist. Life will only get worse and worse for you until the maid finds your naked, bloated body face down in your own vomit in some seedy hotel room. Frankly, there are too many examples of this type of movie to list.


Not your average drunken psychotic writer  therefore no movie of your life!

Please note, I’m talking about movies in which the writer character is fictional. There are many good movies about famous authors. Although it irks me that scripts about suicidal or drunken writers seem to be manna from heaven for Hollywood. No one’s ever made a movie about the lives of say – James Mitchener, Erma Bombeck or J.R.R. Tolkien. The truth is, most writers lead pretty boring lives, especially these days when spending exorbitant amounts of time on social media is part of your deal with the Devil. Doesn’t leave much time for drunken carousing, illicit affairs or bull-fighting.

In the episode of Frasier I watched the other day, the brothers Crane decide to test out another myth about writing:  4) A case of writer’s block can be cured by locking yourself away, preferably far from civilization.


Writer’s blog leads to fratricide!

In their case, a hotel room with a mini-bar. If I were locked in a hotel room for a weekend under the mandate to produce a couple of chapters, that minibar would be emptied the first day and the paddy wagon on its way to get me.

Handbook for the Hopeless

My buddy Duke Miller has just published Handbook for the Hopeless, How to Get a Job in a War Zone & Hallucinations, a novella which not only provides practical advice on working with relief agencies but also examines (among other things) the results of virtual suicide.

HFTHopeless PHOTOThe narrator sits down to write a straight-forward handbook (as an assignment from his publisher), however, besides being tormented by his past, by memories of genocide and famine, he’s struggling to come to grips with  the possible suicide of an online pen pal.  Or, it could have been a hoax perpetrated by imaginative teen age girls. He has no way of knowing. Thus his feelings are hallucinatory.

I could say a lot more but I’d rather provide an excerpt from The Handbook for the Hopeless, How to Get a Job in a War Zone & Hallucinations by Duke Miller.  Now on Amazon for only 99 cents.

Those still alive were hardly better off. For miles there were massive clusters of ragged, naked, sick, thirsty, and hungry people. Movement came in swirls like gasoline fouling a lake top. Birds hopped and torn blue plastic flapped and smoke rose in thin wisps and the whole scene was like the aftermath of a decisive battle on some far-flung desert. The wind blew little pieces of death into my mouth and nose. I was eating the dead. Dogs ran along the road with eyes downcast, sniffing at bodies. The thick, rolling volcanic crust meant no rent for easy burial. The dead lay with open mouths calling to rigor mortis for a second opinion. The flies were everywhere. Some of the dead were dressed in grass mats, lying beside the road, waiting to be picked up by nonexistent trucks that were part of somebody’s idiotic plan in New York.

 If you own a Nook, it’s also on sale on Barnes & Noble.

WARNING! If you are offended by graphic sexual language, this book is not for you.  However if you like it, spring for a copy of his first book Living and Dying with Dogs which you can find an excerpt of here. They’re both amazing books which will change you forever.

Taglines and Toenails

You may wonder what taglines have in common with toenails.   Well, I’ve spent the last two years trying to come up with a tagline for my blog and the best I can come up with is Writer, artist and wine cork bath mat maker.

Just the sort of tagline that brings viewers back for more, don’t you think?  I’ll answer that question: Noooo, I don’t think so!

toenails1Trying to come up with a tagline is like trying to cut your toenails – there’s just no easy way unless you’re a double-jointed contortionist.  Or clever. I’m neither so I’m screwed. 

But there are many writers out there with great taglines.  Here are some of my favorites:

  • Deep thoughts from the Shallow End of the Pool  from Return of the Modern Philosopher.  I love the way deep thoughts plays off against shallow end of pool to let you know this writer Doctordoesn’t take himself too seriously. 
  • Pop Culture and Geekery with a Dash of Mischief  by Sourcerer.  Another writer who lets you know with his tagline that reading his blog will be fun, fun, fun!

Some bloggers just tell it like it is:

LoriSchafferWe are all Miss America from Short Subjects I feel like writing about tells you two things right off the bat.  Women rule and she’s not going to be tied down to any particular subject.  Right on!

I wonder what will happen when the daughter of Savvy Stories – whose tagline is currently Funny things I learned from my daughter – puts him in an old age home. Will the tagline on her blog be: Funny things my doddering dad said!

One of my favorite taglines is actually a bio, of sorts: 

Mother, writer, whisky drinker, pilot, card shark, wishful thinker from Peak Perspective.  How delightful!  Can’t help but love this blogger!PeakPerspective

There are hundreds of very clever bloggers out there with great taglines, why not me?  I was so desperate that I googled and found a questionaire guaranteed to help you come up with just the right tag line:

  1. What does your company do? (in 10 words or less) 
  2. Why does your company exist?
  3. What is your company striving to become?
  4. What core values guide your company’s behavior?
  5. How is your company unique? What separates it from the rest of the pack? 
  6. What solution does your company sell? What does it promise and deliver? 
  7. What is your company’s key strength/advantage over your competitors? 
  8. Who is your target audience? Describe what is special/unique about it.  
  9. What compels people to buy and use your company’s product/service? What are their hot buttons?

There was only one I could answer without sounding snarky, Number 3: What is your company striving to become? My answer: A humorous respite from the world.  Which has, of course, been used a zillion times.


Hubby dances a jig while I struggle to think up a tagline.

After spending an inordinate amount of time freaking out about my lack of cleverness, I stumbled upon this article.  It asserts that marketing gurus are moving away from recommending set taglines to their clients.  Sheesh.  So I decided to visit the web site of an established author, someone’s who’s been a “business” for a long time and see what he did. Sure enough,  Stephen King’s tagline is: Official Web Site. Can’t get more generic than that!

ddduke.128.625110Finally, my buddy Duke came up with this tagline: For Drunks Who Can Still Read.  What do you think? Too specific??  Do I really want to limit my audience to only drunks?

Of course, I could just steal Stephen King’s idea:

JTTwissel, Official Web Site

Too presumptuous?