Okay, maybe the New York Public Library (Mid-Manhattan Library on the corner of Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street, to be exact) is not exactly a hotspot, but it is one of my favorite buildings in New York City. I remember visiting the Mid-Manhattan Library on my very first trip to NYC (too many years ago to count). I was in awe: the lions, the columns, the grand staircases, the carved wood, the chandeliers, the frescos and, of course, all the books.
I knew one of the key scenes in my book, Inland, would be set in the Library. When my main character learns a big truth about the alternate universe called Inland, I wanted it to happen in the Library. It’s a familiar, comfortable place, as all libraries are, yet it is imposing and intimidating at the same time. She would feel at home there and yet be easily unsettled and overwhelmed. Thanks, Mid-Manhattan Library, for providing the perfect setting.
So, I needed to hide the portal to an alternate universe in one of the busiest train stations in the world. It shouldn’t be that hard to do, right?
Once I knew that Grand Central would play a central role in Inland, housing the secret portal between our world and the parallel universe known as Inland, I needed a way to access that world and a specific location where the portal would be hidden. If you’re going to set the portal in a train station, the obvious mode of transportation between worlds is by train. Well, it may not be the obvious choice for many people, but it was for me.
And, when I was looking for a place in Grand Central to hide the portal, I found no shortage of nooks and crannies. Specifically, I needed a little-used, out-of-the-way platform…and I found one: Track 100. It’s tucked away on the lower level, apart from all the other tracks. It seemed like the perfect place to catch a train to another world without anyone noticing. Hey, anything is possible in New York City, right?
Since my new young adult novel, Inland, has just been released, I wanted to provide a little insight into the story’s development, as well as some of the aspects of New York City that provided inspiration. I’ll be posting a series of photos and anecdotes over the next several weeks explaining how the sights, sounds and spectacles of New York City played a role in the creation of Inland. Let’s begin at the beginning, which, ironically, is a actually a terminus.
When my husband and I lived in Westchester, NY, we traveled into Manhattan on a regular basis. Most of the time, we took the train (the Harlem line) into Grand Central Terminal. It’s an above-ground trip for most of the way, until the very end when the train enters a tunnel. The last few minutes of the trip are spent in darkness as the train slows and arrives at a platform. We usually arrived on the lower level and fought our way through the crowds in the dining concourse to emerge on the upper level. In the main concourse, throngs of people scurried around under the celestial ceiling and the watchful gaze of the four-faced clock.
For me, this was the starting point for so many wonderful memories in NYC. I knew Grand Central would feature prominently in my story when I started writing Inland. Hundreds of thousands of people pass through Grand Central every day. If you need to hide a secret portal to an alternate universe, why not hide it in the middle of so much chaos –- where it could easily go unnoticed? For me, Grand Central Terminal’s size, location and history made it the perfect place to hide just such a secret.
I’m so excited to announce the new release of my latest young adult novel, Inland. It is a sci-fi thriller that takes place in New York City – both here and in an alternate universe called Inland. In celebration of this new release, I’ll be posting photos and offering insight into some of the sights, sounds and spectacles of NYC that feature in this book. Stay tuned…and pick up your copy of Inland from Amazon today. I’m thrilled to finally be able to share this story with you. Hope you enjoy it!
I’m embarrassed to admit it, but I forget people’s names. Always have, and it’s possible I always will. I’ve tried different tricks and techniques, but nothing has been very helpful. It’s like my brain is a hockey goal, and there is this NHL All-Star goalie in my head who smacks away anyone’s name as soon as it is uttered. My husband and I attended a function recently where we ran into a couple that we met at the previous year’s event. Now, I recognized the couple as soon as I saw them. I remembered their stories, where they lived and why they were at this particular event. I remembered all of that, but their names escaped me. Luckily, this was a party where everyone was wearing a nametag. As soon as I saw their names, I remembered that, yes, they were, in fact, Tim and Holly. (These are not their real names, of course. I’ve changed them because they are innocent parties in all of this.) Since I was going to be seeing them a few more times that same weekend, I was determined not to forget their names again. So, I checked that brain goalie and let Tim and Holly’s names sail into the net. (She shoots, she scores!) Unfortunately, it’s unlikely that I’ll get to see Tim and Holly again until next year’s event. By then, it’s entirely possible that I will have forgotten their real names and mistakenly call them Tim and Holly.
As I stockpile candy and get ready for the trick-or-treaters, I’ve been thinking back to some of my Halloweens as a kid. What was my favorite Halloween costume? Well, I can’t recall most of them. I do remember my sister and I wearing matching clown costumes that my mother made for us when we were very young. Mine was pink and hers was blue. When I outgrew mine, my sister wore it and my little brother wore the blue one. (Hand-me-downs were a big thing in my family.) Most of my costumes were homemade. My mom sewed some of them. Others were cobbled together using old dance recital costumes and stuff from around the house. I think my favorite was my red princess costume. I wore a small crown and a red satin leotard from a prior dance recital, and my mom crafted a full-length red tulle skirt for me that skimmed the floor and swayed back and forth as I walked. I don’t remember how old I was that Halloween, but I couldn’t have been more than 8 or 9. I do remember walking from house to house trick-or-treating and feeling absolutely regal. My Halloween princess costume was nothing compared to the Disney dress-up costumes that girls have today, those sparkly little things made to look just like the ball gowns of Cinderella, Elsa or Rapunzel. Nevertheless, that red, homemade costume made me feel fancy, grown-up and very special. Thanks, Mom!
I spent this past weekend with my youngest niece and nephews. My husband and I joined them (and their parents) for a weekend at Disney World. It was fun and exhausting, and we ate far too much. Possibly because of the hot weather or maybe because we were simply on vacation, we all ate an above-average amount of ice cream. We were limited in the flavors we could choose at most of the ice cream stands: vanilla, chocolate or a swirl of both. (I usually chose the swirl because I was too tired to pick between the two.) However, if my choices are unlimited, I will usually choose mint chocolate chip. (This is assuming I don’t have to eat it all day, every day. See my early post for this particular hypothetical dilemma.) I don’t know when I was first introduced to mint chocolate chip ice cream, but it’s been my favorite since I can remember having a favorite. I can blame my mother for this particular penchant, because mint chocolate chip is her favorite as well, and I’m sure she’s the one who got me hooked. Curiously, when my sister was very young, she liked ice cream that began with the letter ‘B’: banana, black cherry and bubblegum were her top three favorites. Over the years, I’m sure her tastes have changed, evolved and expanded to include more of the alphabet. All that being said, I ate enough ice cream this past weekend, regardless of the flavor, to last me awhile… or at least until next weekend.
I am thrilled and honored that my short story, The Bench at the End of the Dock, was selected by Jacksonville Magazine as the winner of their 2016 Fiction Writing Contest. Go buy a copy of their October 2016 issue! It’s on newsstands now. (This issue was a bit delayed making it to the shops – no thanks to Hurricane Matthew, I’m sure.) You’ll find my short story on page 90.
I confess that I almost didn’t enter the contest. With only a few weeks until the deadline, I decided to write this story and submit it. It was an exhausting and emotional exercise to get this story out of my head and onto the page, but I’m very pleased with the result. Jacksonville Magazine did a lovely job with the layout, and it is so exciting to see my name in print as the story’s author. I enjoyed getting to know the characters in this story, and I think they will stay with me for a long time. I’m really pleased that JAX Mag readers get a chance to meet Guy Babbitt and Annaleigh, too, and learn just a small part of their sweet story.
Thank you, Jacksonville Magazine, for choosing my short story. It is a wonderful honor.
This week I’m reading a book that my husband gave me, one that he picked up in an airport book shop and finished on a round trip flight: David Mitchell’s Slade House. I’m about halfway through it, and, so far, it’s been a fun, quick read, and it’s proper scary – just in time for Halloween. By coincidence, I just finished Neil Gaiman’s The Ocean at the End of the Lane, which is also satisfyingly creepy. Reading these two books back to back has inspired me to fill my October with a healthy dose of hair-raising, spine-tingling stories. I have a stack of Stephen King books that are begging to be read. Personally, I think Stephen King is appropriate any time of year, but especially leading up to Halloween. And, I recently purchased a thick anthology of H.P. Lovecraft stories, a perfect (albeit staggeringly long) read for the Halloween season. While I’m not a big fan of horror movies, I do love horror fiction, and this is as good an excuse as any to plow through a list of macabre reads. Is it possible to overdose on scary stories? I’m willing to risk it as I try to finish as many as I can by the end of October. Cue the creaking floorboards, haunting music and eerie, maniacal laughter.
Winner! 2016 Jacksonville Magazine Fiction Writing Contest
My short story, The Bench at the End of the Dock, is the winning entry in the 2016 Jacksonville Magazine Fiction Writing Contest. It is featured in the October 2016 issue of Jacksonville Magazine. You can read it here!
I think my answer to this question has changed over time. During my school years, staying up late was fairly easy. Getting up early was less so. When I was a practicing attorney, I had to do both – get up early and stay up late. At that time, I didn’t have much choice in the matter, so I just did it (not without complaint, if I’m honest). Today, I seem to struggle with both. Getting up really early is challenging and unpleasant, unless it’s done with copious amounts of coffee. Staying up late is easy enough to do once in a while, but it’s not a sustainable routine for me. If I had to choose, I’d prefer to get up early – not because it’s painless, but because I feel like I can get more done during the day than I can at night. Given that I am increasingly fond of getting a full night’s sleep (does that mean I’m getting smarter or just older?), I try not to stay up too late or get up too early. And so, I’m left wondering if it is possible for me to be neither an early bird nor a night owl. I don’t think I naturally prefer either one, and neither is feasible as a long-term routine. It does make me look forward to retirement (many years from now), however, when I plan on sleeping as little or as much as I want and keeping whatever hours I please.
I must confess that I am obsessing about food at the moment. For the past couple of weeks, I’ve been battling a minor stomach ailment. It has meant medication and a very limited menu. After weeks of nothing but easy-to-digest foods such as rice and applesauce, I have been craving all my favorite foods. But, could I pick only one of those foods to eat at every meal for two weeks? It didn’t take me long to get sick of rice and applesauce, but something yummy like pizza or chocolate cake? That might be a different story. Regardless of how much I love a particular food, I think I would probably get tired of eating it every day for every meal. However, I’d be willing to test that theory with ice cream. I am always in the mood for ice cream, but that may be because I don’t actually eat it very often. I’ve never eaten ice cream for breakfast, but I’m sure I could get used to it. And, it would have to be a simple flavor, like vanilla. Anything too fancy or complicated would get old fast. It would be a fun experiment to run, if only I could suspend the effects of all the sugar, fat and calories.
One of my least-favorite childhood memories is closely tied to the favorite childhood memory I wrote about last week. Ferdinand the Donkey, my favorite stuffed animal, had pride of place on my bed when I was growing up. Over the years, he became worn (well-loved) and bald in patches, but he was still my favorite toy. When I was about 10 years old and my brother was 3 (about the same age I was when I was given Ferdinand), I caught him playing with Ferdinand. More specifically, he was covering the poor donkey’s face with lipstick – bubble-gum pink lipstick. I guess the donkey’s sweet face was too much to resist, and my brother must have thought that it would look even better with lipstick. I don’t think my brother meant to do any harm, but I was devastated. My favorite toy was ruined. I mourned for weeks, if not months. Maybe even years. Eventually I got over it, and Ferdinand continued to have pride of place on my bed until I went away to college. I also forgave my brother, begrudgingly and not right away, of course, but I’m happy to report that we can laugh about the “incident” today. I still have Ferdinand. He’s in a box in storage – his sweet face undiminished by time, love and bubble-gum pink lipstick.
One of my favorite memories from childhood is the day I received a special present from my grandparents. When I was about 3 years old (or was it 4?), my grandparents came for a visit and brought with them a stuffed animal wrapped in clear cellophane and tied with a huge bow (yellow, I think). The stuffed animal was a donkey with an oversized head on a little body and large ears that stuck straight up from the top of its head. It was seated, with its back legs curled around its front legs, and it had large, brown eyes and the sweetest face I’d ever seen. I fell in love immediately and named him Ferdinand. When my grandparents arrived, I’d been reading The Story of Ferdinand by Munro Leaf. (To be honest, either my mom was reading it to me or I was reciting it to myself, since I knew it by heart. I can’t remember which.) The Story of Ferdinand, my favorite book at the time, is the story of a bull who wanted to sit and smell the flowers rather than fight in the bullring. Why not name my new favorite stuffed animal after my favorite storybook character? I knew that donkeys and bulls weren’t the same thing, but this little donkey’s ears sticking straight up off the top of its head looked a little bit like a bull’s horns – so close enough. After writing a draft of this post, I purchased a copy of The Story of Ferdinand and read it again for the first time in (many, many) years. It’s still a great story.
I thought this would be an easy question to answer, and then I tried to answer it. First, limiting the answer to three words is tricky, given how many wonderful words there are in the world. Second, I wasn’t sure what I wanted “best” day to mean – an actual, specific day or just a really good day in general. (For this blog entry, I decided to think of a few specific days that stand out in my memory, ones in which I felt fully alive and everything seemed to go my way.) And, third, there are a lot of words I would love to use to describe myself, but they wouldn’t really be accurate – even to describe me on my best day. Therefore, limited by word count, specific memories and honesty, I’d have to choose: creative, focused and energized. When I am all of these things on the same day, the result is usually a very happy and satisfied me by bedtime. Those days are great days, and I feel like I am the best version of myself.
I thought we’d stick with the “new school year” theme and give some thought and praise to teachers this week. As for naming my favorite teacher, this is a difficult one for me to answer. I had a lot of very good teachers, and even a few great ones. But, the teacher I always tend to think of first when I remember the teachers I’ve had over the years is Mr. Gantner in elementary school. He was such a nice man, engaging and quick-witted, and always encouraged us to think creatively. His class was challenging and a bit unconventional, and it kept me on my toes. I also remember most, if not all, of my fellow classmates from Mr. Gantner’s class. That’s not the case with any other class or school year. His class was memorable, and that was due solely and wholly to his effectiveness as a teacher. Not every one gets an opportunity to have a teacher like Mr. Gantner, so I consider myself one of the lucky ones.
If you have read Sycamore Lane (and hopefully you have!), you know that Anastasia and Tallulah communicate with each other by writing notes on the blackboard wall. I thought it would be fun to do something similar on my blog. Each week, I’ll post a new question (just something fun, nothing too serious) written in chalk on a blackboard. I’ll provide my own answer, and I invite you to post an answer, too. We’ll keep it light and entertaining. To that end, please be respectful of others when posting. Thank you -- and I look forward to reading your answers.
Hands down, my favorite thing about starting a new school year was getting new school supplies. There is nothing better than brand new notebooks, folders, paper, pens, pencils, erasers, and so on. I used to love walking into school on that first day, carrying my book bag filled with all those new supplies just begging to be used. I still love a new notebook, clean and unmarked and just waiting to be filled with anything from brilliant ideas to complete nonsense.