Friday, March 29, 2013

WHAT THE EXPERTS SAY: Suspense Author Ty Patterson

Ty Patterson, Author

Suspense author Ty Patterson brings us THE WARRIOR, a thriller about a crime committed in the Congo and the “warrior” who chases those responsible. It “is fast-paced, with a great cast of characters,” according to one reviewer. 

A “voracious” reader, Patterson started to write THE WARRIOR when his wife and son challenged him to do so. After all, it was on his “to do” list. Patterson believes that his experiences from living on several continents enrich his writing. 

Don't miss the excerpt following the interview.

Q: What inspired you to write THE WARRIOR?

Ty Paterson: I have been writing for a long while, in the short story/humor piece format and even spent a stint as an advertising copywriter, which helped me hone my skills in packing a punch.

The idea to write a full length novel was on a wish list, but got a kick start when my better half and son suggested one night in December 2011 to stop making excuses, come out of my comfort zone, and start writing.  The events in the Congo which form a backdrop to THE WARRIOR had stayed with me and when I started writing, those events became part of the book and THE WARRIOR was born.

Q: Many of your reviewers describe THE WARRIOR as “a gripping read.” How do you make your story “gripping?”

Ty Paterson: Yes, this feedback gratifies me immensely. I don’t think there is a formula for making a book gripping. If there is one, someone out there is rolling in it.

What I do is to write in the style that I like to read. So I like sparse prose, I like intense action sequences that are short, I like my characters to be driven by a purpose, a conscience, not ‘Dolph Lundgren’ action characters, and I like to write about themes that are big in scale.

I tried to bring all these together in THE WARRIOR and am grateful that my readers found my story gripping.

Q: How important is the setting in the Congo to telling your story?

Ty Paterson: Very. For my first book, I was very keen on writing a story based on a theme that had a large reach, global scale and that affected the emotions of people. I did not want to write about a bank heist or the theft of a nuclear weapon, or the Apocalypse… there are enough books out there on those themes. The Congo and those events were perfect for my story.

The other driver to having that setting was my own experience. I have lived in Asia where in many countries, women do not have a voice; where the system is so skewed and imbalanced that it will take decades for women to be recognized as equals. I wanted to have a champion who took on such a cause and Congo was apt.

Q: Besides “gripping,” your reviewers also mention how much they like your characters. “Ty Patterson skillfully weaves a clever thriller with an ex-soldier as a likeable male lead.” “I also really enjoyed the secondary characters a lot.” What makes your characters “likeable?”

Ty Paterson: When I read my first review with that description, I couldn’t stop grinning like a goofball for a week till my son reminded me not to inflict that look on him.

My characters are not Superman or Ironman, who do unbelievable feats. They are characters who believe in certain values and commit everything to those values. I think it is that aspect that makes my characters likeable to my readers. We live in a world where, especially in recent years, the rate of change is so fast that people change on an almost daily basis. So to read about a character that has a value system and holds steadfast to it is something my readers like in my opinion.

In terms of secondary characters, I have always been fascinated by movies/books that depicted a strong bond; Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, Tango and Cash, for example, and I wanted to bring out this bond in my book. I think that has resulted in readers liking the secondary characters too.

Q: What makes a good villain?

Ty Paterson: A very good question that no one has asked me before. A villain is of course someone everyone hates, but does the villain have to be all evil? Does the villain have to have a background that resulted in his having a set of beliefs that are against societies? If villains do acts of good, do they become better villains?

Again, I think there is no formula to what makes a good villain. I think the character of the villain has to be dictated by the overall plot and that is how I created my villain.

And yes, I have sidestepped that question a bit because I haven’t a clue.

Q: Is THE WARRIOR a story to inform readers? Or to entertain?

Ty Paterson: Great question. I am a voracious reader and read anything from the labels on toilet paper rolls to books on quantum physics, economics, fiction, thrillers… anything that captures my mind.

I have learnt a lot from books that were pure entertainment and some of those facts stayed in my mind just because I read them in pieces of fiction. When I was in high school I read an Agatha Christie book that mentioned the corrosiveness of Sulphuric acid. Guess what? That has stayed in my mind all these years but I have forgotten all those chemistry classes and the experiments.

So the short answer is my book is primarily to entertain, however there are themes in my book that will be informative and will stay in readers’ minds. And in my very humble opinion, that should be what good entertainment is about.  

Q: How helpful was your background to forming your story?

Ty Paterson: Very. If I had not spent some time in Asia, in all probability my book would have been in a totally Western milieu, with a different plot. My background has shaped the story for sure.

Q: Do you outline your stories or do your characters take over?

Ty Paterson: I am not one of those authors whose characters scream in their minds and make them rush to the keyboard to let those poor things out. I am less romantic that way.

I outline my stories, but it is a rough outline with some lines nonexistent or blurred. I am not sure if there are authors who write from a fully formed outline and structure right from the beginning. If there are, I would love to meet them.

My characters do influence the plot to some extent as I start writing, but in general I know the start, the end and the bits in between, so my characters do not radically alter the plot.

Q: What do you do when you’re not writing? Are you a dancer? Do you do standup comedy?

Ty Paterson: I would like to say that I am really born on Krypton and if you are lucky you might see me up in the sky with the cape and the red underpants. Unfortunately, in the world where bills and mortgages have to be paid, I work at a job that I love…however; I hope that my writing will enable me to write full time.

Readers, you know what I mean. Appreciate your love and please don’t stop showing it!

About Ty Patterson

Ty discovered reading at an early age and the backs of cereal cartons were frequently part of his reading diet when nothing else was at hand.

Reading has held him in thrall ever since. Reading takes him to multi textured worlds and fills his world with visual imagery; all fuelled just by the power of the black word on a white page.

He uses his life experiences, of living in a couple of continents, of selling tea to street side stalls, to infuse his writing. And to take his readers on the same flights of visual imagination that his favorite authors take him on.

Ty is privileged that his wife and son shape their lives to accommodate his writing. They also humor his ridiculous belief that he is in charge.


If you enjoy reading thrillers from the likes of Lee Child and Robert Crais, you will enjoy THE WARRIOR.

When Private Military Contractor Zeb Carter witnesses gruesome crimes in the Congo, he can’t just walk away.

Plagued by the scale of the crimes and the helplessness of the victims, he is bent on his own private justice.

What transpires is a fast pace gripping journey that stretches from the Congo to New York, into the world of corrupt politics, influential politicians who want him dead, and government agencies who are against him.

This breakneck paced read is an edge-of-your-seat thrill machine, with a plot so full of surprises; it will carry your imagination beyond the final word.


          It’s in Kindu, almost in the center of the DRC that he first hears of a group of contractors who have gone to the other side. The Congolese who mention them are fearful and whisper about mass rape and these contractors in the same breath. ‘La mal personnes’ and ‘atrocities’ are phrases used by them, describing the contractors as evil, committing atrocities. Many Ngok and Primus beers over several days and he hears that the contractors and the FDLR soldiers they are associated with are now based near Lake Kivu near the border with Rwanda. After all it’s quite difficult for 6 white men to blend in with black soldiers so they get noticed. The Congolese talk about a band of black and white soldiers who capture mines, often killing several mine workers and then looting the mines. Artisanal and small scale mining is wide spread in the DRC and because of the small scale of operations; it is very easy for armed bands of men to hijack the mines. The FDLR soldiers and the white skinned contractors roam across the mines, taking them over and trade in gold, minerals, diamonds, ivory, coffee, drugs, anything that has value. They prey on the local villages for food and women. The DRC’s army and police is either incapable of dealing with this force or is unwilling. Or, more likely, is in collusion. The UN Peace Keeping Force is usually too late to the scene and stretched too thin.

          On a few occasions he is lucky to meet victims who have suffered at the hands of this band of soldiers. They all speak of the ruthlessness of the soldiers both black and white. He records his conversations with the Congolese victims and pretty soon has a dossier of atrocity. A few victims have even identified the mercenaries from their Agency photographs he is carrying. He has decided to visit a few villages in North and South Kivu before making his way back to Kinshasa and then back to the US.

          And so he lies on the outskirts of Luvungi one of the villages in the vicinity of Lake Kivu. This is the third village near Lake Kivu that he has surveilled. It’s been a couple of hours since the trucks left, the jeep is still there, and nothing has changed. He does not know how many soldiers have gone in the trucks or how many have been left behind. He knows these have been the FDLR soldiers since he recognizes their uniforms, or soldiers impersonating them.

          Of course he is going in; it isn’t in him to be a passive spectator. Andrews can go firetruck himself.

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Friday, March 22, 2013

WHAT THE EXPERTS SAY: Sci-Fi Author T. Allen Diaz

T. Allen Diaz, Author

T. Allen Diaz brings us a “space opera” in his just-published novel PROCYTHIAN REIGN – a book described by one reviewer as “original and fresh.” Diaz admits that he dreamed his plot, and that he writes science fiction for the freedom it offers to develop setting and background.

Diaz describes himself as a typical family man. When he’s not writing, he spends as much time as possible with his family, serves as a firefighter, and loves to paintball. He is also a history buff with special interest in the American Civil War. PROCYTHIAN REIGN is his first novel.           

Q: What inspired you to write PROCYTHIAN REIGN? Where did you get the idea?

T. Allen Diaz: That’s a really long story.  I have always been a daydreamer and conjured stories that I found interesting.  Sometimes I would fantasize about history, sometimes it would be a space story, and sometimes it would just be about a girl.  But I was always one who could run off by myself in the woods or even the backyard and dream the day away.

So, years later, I’m a young adult.  I’m newly married and living in this shoe box apartment saving for a house, and this friend-of-a-friend receives some major kudos from someone for this screenplay that he’s written about alien Shaolin Monks.  It wasn’t my cup of tea, but it made me think that maybe I could do something with the story that I had rolling around in my head.

Well, I sat down and started writing by hand in this journal.  It was terrible.  It read like a bad scene from Star Wars and my good friend who read it was gracious enough to point that out.  I was frustrated.  I tried to sit down and think of a new direction:  Why were these people interesting?  What baggage did they bring?  Where were they coming from?  What obstacles could I give them along the way?

One night I’m asleep and have this dream: Four friends are living in this coastal town that’s being besieged by Man’o’War-type wooden sailing ships.  Despite the Man’o’War thing, the friends were all watching TV and using phones, typical dream stuff.  They’re pursued by a tyrannical king that was related to one of them.  There’s a little more to the dream, but that might be a bit spoilerish, so we’ll leave it at that.

But, that began the ball rolling and three or four years later, the very rough first draft of PROCYTHIAN REIGN was complete.

Q: One of your reviewers writes that it is possible “to envision every setting.” Does your setting drive your characters? Is setting more important than your characters?

T. Allen Diaz: No, setting does not drive my characters.  It is carefully chosen to fit the situation into which I want to place my characters, but it is chosen for them and the story, not the other way around. 

Q: Given that you are writing science fiction, how do you get readers to buy into your premise? How important is credibility to your story?

T. Allen Diaz: Let me start by saying credibility is VERY important to me.  It is important that my characters have credibility.  It is important that the reader look at the society and its model and think: “that’s no stretch.”  It’s important that the conflicts and motivations of my characters be iron clad and relatable.

That being said: PROCYTHIAN REIGN is a space opera, not hard science fiction.  I go through some pretty great efforts to make the “science” plausible, but, like a cop reading a detective novel, an MIT physics professor would be sure to find some holes.  I’m ok with that, though.  It’s not the focus of the story.

Q: Why do you write science fiction? Are there other genres you would consider?

T. Allen Diaz:  I write science fiction for the freedom of creating the setting and background however I want.  It’s my hope that some tech and setting changes would make the PROCYTHIAN REIGN story fit nicely into Revolutionary France or Russia. But, I really feel like creating this new society that more closely reflects our reality makes it more relatable to people today.

As for other genres: I love spy and detective thrillers and am in the midst of writing a detective noire series set on a colonized moon.  It will obviously have a sci-fi setting, but the story is all detective.

Q: How do you engage readers to care about your characters?

T. Allen Diaz: I strive to make them very believable and relatable.  Most of the characters in my story have traits and characteristics that I’ve witnessed in the real world.  I hope that will show to the reader and that he or she will begin to fret for the characters as they embark on this journey.

Suffering is also the name-of-the-game when it comes to engaging readers.  I try to put my characters on a difficult and often dark path that will take its toll and make any development by these characters plausible while creating a real sense of drama regarding their safety.  I’m not afraid to hurt or kill my characters.  It is the only way to create the kind of high-stakes drama I’m seeking.

Q: Do your characters push you around and make you write what they want? Or are you in control?

T. Allen Diaz: You might discern from my last answer that this one is a resounding no.  My characters do not push me around.  It is my experience that we are all at the mercy of a universe that can be both gloriously wonderful and ruthlessly cruel.  As such, any plot point or action must be plausible within that paradigm.  Bad things happen to good people and good things happen to bad people.  Karma doesn’t always come around to repay past sins or good deeds.  And, sometimes it’s just better to be lucky than good.  So, no one or nothing is “off limits.”

Q: What makes a hero/heroine? And on the flip side, what makes a villain? Who is your favorite villain?

T. Allen Diaz: The central underpinning of a hero or heroine is that the reader must care about him/her.  If that doesn’t happen, the book will be closed for good before the second chapter.  This means that the story should establish with haste who this person is and what his/her journey is going to be. 

The hero must rise to face the challenge of this journey and (ideally) that journey should place him/her in unfamiliar waters.  Any knight can win a jousting match.  But make that knight leave the battlefield and have to pursue a political goal in court where head-on conflict is a liability and alliances are tenuous.  That’s compelling.  It’s a challenge.  And, it creates the opportunity for the character to grow…or wilt.

As for villains: They are always more fun!  I like my villains to be smart, sophisticated and deadly.  A really good villain should have a certain “cool factor.”  He should be competent and intelligent.  He should also be interesting and relatable.  One of the ways I try to do this is to make him deal with the same chaotic universe with which our heroes struggle.  By mastering these elements, he becomes plausible and all-the-more menacing.

In PROCYTHIAN REIGN, that person is clearly Leo Krisminski.  Leo is a mobster-turned-corporate-security.  He seems affable and friendly and will smile to your face until the moment the blade punches into your back. He has street contacts and uses them to keep his finger on the pulse of Bravura City.

But, his corporate security chief responsibilities are constantly pulling him in directions outside his comfort zone.  He must learn about starship combat ops and about raising and managing troops for far-flung covert ops.  He must fight home-grown insurrectionists and tackle the expanding responsibilities of a wartime spy chief.

He is human, but he is a force to be reckoned with.  I love Leo Krisminski.  I had a lot of fun writing him and I love reading his scenes.

Q: Is your primary goal to entertain your readers or are you also trying to deliver a message?

T. Allen Diaz: I like to believe that good entertainment makes you think, but I don’t want to use PROCYTHIAN REIGN as a platform to preach my views to others.  Yes, I have tried to make the story relevant to people of the time by creating a type of corporate aristocracy that could be seen as an extreme reflection of our socio-economic system today.  And, yes, the haves vs. the have-nots is an even bigger part of our political dialogue today than it was when PROCYTHIAN REIGN was written a decade ago.  But, other than using those elements as part of the canvas for telling this story, I have made no effort to advance a specific opinion about politics or our political system.

I like to think PROCYTHIAN REIGN does reflect our society and its setting is a plausible descendant of the one in which we live, but, again, that’s in the hope of making it something to which a reader can relate.  I want readers to see this society for all of its flaws and say: “Yep, that could be us in two or three hundred years.”  That makes the characters and their struggles more relatable.  I want them to look at Eric Phillips’ life and say: “I understand how you could be so angry.”  I want them to look at Laura and say:  “Maybe the ‘finer things in life’ wouldn’t be as important to me, either.”

And then, I want that reader to keep turning page after page to find out where Eric’s anger and Laura’s sense of nobility takes each of them. 

Q: Tell us something about yourself. What do you do when you’re not writing? Do you have a muse?

T. Allen Diaz: I’m just your typical family man who tries to spend as much time with my kids and fiancĂ© as possible.  I love paintball and try to play every chance I get.  That’s not nearly as often as I’d like, but it’s a lot of fun. 

I love to read and am fascinated by history.  I like history from all different eras, though I’m definitely an unqualified Civil War buff. 

I obviously like science fiction and enjoy Robert Heinlein’s Starship Troopers (the book), Scott Westerfield’s Succession series, George Orwell’s 1984 and especially AnimalFarm.  I also like John Le Carre’s George Smile spy series.  Dennis Lehane’s Patrick Kenzie series is a great read.

I’m already living one dream riding a fire truck every third day. I have taught EMS and still pull the occasional class until I can get my writing career in full swing.  I have a very happy life.

As for a muse: I do have one friend (the one who told me my first story was like a bad Star Wars scene) that serves as the inspiration for Laura’s uncle, Louis.  I borrow appearances or characteristics from real people that I know, but I don’t take people I know and transfer them into the story.

Regardless of commercial success, I love writing and will continue to do it until I can’t.

About T. Allen Diaz

T. Allen Diaz is a newcomer to writing.  PROCYTHIAN REIGN is his debut novel, and the first book in the Proceena Trilogy.  He is a life-long resident of the Tampa Bay Area where he serves as a firefighter.  He has a wonderful fiancĂ©, two wonderful daughters and a son who have all been instrumental in supporting this project.

Proceena, corporate capital of the Procyon 2 System, a place where humanity lives a double life: One of opulent wealth, and one of crushing poverty.  Now, these worlds will collide, forever changing the lives of those caught between them.

Laura Clabar is the niece of the CEO of the reigning corporate authority.  She lives a life of privilege and comfort.  But, after falling for an idealistic, politically active indigo (Procythian working class), she begins to question if there is more to power and status than a life of creature comforts and luxury.  Does she have a Noble Obligation to protect those less fortunate?  Or, should she just go on living her life of opulence blind to the suffering of others? 

Eric Phillips is an officer in the Guild of Proceena Workers, and a fiery, intense radical.  He wants change and he wants it now.  When a mysterious stranger comes into his life with an intriguing offer, it looks like he just might get it.

But, is there room for both of them in the Procyon System?  Can an angry revolutionary work hand-in-hand with a sworn class enemy, or, will Laura soften his iron temperament?  And, can they stay one step ahead of her uncle’s relentless henchman, Leo Krisminski, or will they end up as casualties of this would-be revolution?


Purchase site


Twitter address Tallendiaz@proceenawriter

Friday, March 15, 2013

WHAT THE EXPERTS SAY: Fiction Author, Cinthia Ritchie

Cinthia Ritchie, Author

Cinthia Ritchie seems to have a thing against Barbie dolls. In her recently-published novel DOLLS BEHAVING BADLY, her main character is a single mom of a gifted eight-year-old in Alaska. That's not too unusual, but to support herself and her son she has many jobs, including as “an artist who secretly makes erotic dolls for extra income.” One reviewer says her book is “A story you’ve never heard before, and one you won’t forget.”

Ritchie is a former journalist whose career is full of awards. She lives in Alaska where she enjoys the “indescribable” joy of running.

Don’t miss the excerpt following her interview.

Q: What caused or inspired you to write DOLLS BEHAVING BADLY?

Cinthia Ritchie: I was a single mother working two jobs and attending graduate school and my guilty pleasure was sitting in the bathroom at night and reading novels (the bathroom was the warmest room in our draft house). One night as I was reading “Diary of a Mad Housewife” I thought, wait a minute, this woman is stressing out and she has a husband, a housekeeper and no money worries.

That’s when the idea of a single mother writing a diary came into my head. A few nights later, I imagined or perhaps actually saw the ghost of my Polish grandmother (I was in the bathroom again), and the voice of the book swam through my head.

Q: OK – I can’t resist.  Did you grow up with Barbie dolls? Or were you more of a Cabbage Patch doll person?

Cinthia Ritchie: I grew up with Barbie dolls, though I rarely got to play with the “good” models, since I had two older sisters and one younger. I usually got stuck with Midge or the Barbies with crappy hair. I do remember eating the shoes, though. It was my way of getting back at my older sisters. I’d swallow one of those oh-so-tiny shoes, and sit there smiling as they frantically searched. Later that night, though, I’d lie in bed terrified I was going to die. So I guess I’ve always had it in for Barbie.

Q: How important is humor to telling your story?

Cinthia Ritchie: Humor is very fickle. If you overdo it, it can easily kick you in the butt, and the last thing you want to do is turn off readers. The voice behind “DOLLS BEHAVING BADLY” naturally developed with a humorous tone—I didn’t really have to work at it.   Really, I think it was my way of cheering myself up and resolving inner conflict over many of the choices I had made. The book isn’t overtly autobiographical yet I think we always write for a purpose: To make sense of our lives and the lives around us.

Q:  One of your reviewers said: “An out-of-the-ordinary setting and cast of characters are the backbone of Ritchie’s compelling debut novel.” How important is setting to telling your story?

Cinthia Ritchie: Living in Alaska is like nowhere else. Even though Anchorage is a city with big-box stories and traffic problems, it’s unique. Moose stumble down the streets in the winter. Bears are sighted in city parks. You can see whales while walking the beach late summer evenings. It’s pretty amazing. You are constantly reminded how small you are, and how immense nature is. It’s very liberating, and very grounding.

Mostly, living in Alaska is a dichotomy between beauty and danger. You are always aware of this, and maybe that’s why people feel free to shuck off pretensions and simply be themselves.  We are an odd lot up here, and I wouldn’t want it any other way.

Q: Do you have heroes and villains? Or are your characters some of both?

Cinthia Ritchie: I think we are always our own heroes and villains, and I wanted my characters to reflect that. Just as we don’t always like ourselves, we don’t always like the people we love and we don’t always like our characters, either, or agree with their choices. But we still love them. I wanted to transfer this philosophy over to my readers, I wanted them to know that it was okay if they didn’t like Stephanie or Sandee, didn’t like how they spoke or acted, as long as (and this was so, so important to me) they loved them.

Q: You have spent a considerable amount of time as a journalist. How transferrable were writing skills from journalism to fiction? Which do you enjoy more – writing fiction or reporting?

Cinthia Ritchie: Oh, fiction without a doubt. I also love creative nonfiction and poetry but reporting is simply what I did to pay the bills. I enjoyed it as a job, yes, and it offered opportunities to do and experience amazing things: Walk on glaciers, fly in float planes over mountains, kayak across Resurrection Bay. Yet fiction is my true love. I’ll put it this way: I wouldn’t report without a paycheck. But fiction and poetry? Honey, you don’t have to give me money, just give me a laptop and the time to write.

Q: Do you write to entertain, inform and/or influence?

Cinthia Ritchie: Influence first, and inform secondary. I think that fiction offers readers an invaluable lesson: The chance to see and feel the world through someone else’s perspective. And really, isn’t that why we read in the first place? It’s that same curiosity that causes us to look in other people’s windows when we walk our dogs at night. We are all voyeurs. We all need the reassurance that we share something with those around us.

Q: When you’re not writing, what are you doing? How important is running in your life?

Cinthia Ritchie: Oh, I do love running so, so much. In the summers I’m out running in the mountains and on the trails every night. It feeds something deep inside of me, something essential and wild. It brings me such joy. There’s nothing like running mountain trails in the Alaska summer twilight, no one else around and all of that silence. It’s indescribable, really.

I also love to hike, read, swim, write (of course), walk my dog on the beach, work out and take naps.

About Cinthia Ritchie

Cinthia Ritchie is a former journalist and Pushcart Prize nominee who lives and runs mountains in Alaska.

She’s a recipient of two Rasmuson Individual Artist Awards, a Connie Boocheever Fellowship, residencies at Hedgebrook, Kimmel Harding Nelson Center for the Arts and Hidden River Arts, the Brenda Ueland Prose Award, Memoir Prose Award, Sport Literate Essay Award, Northwest PEN Women Creative Nonfiction Award, Drexel Magazine Creative Nonfiction Award and Once Written Grand Prize Award.

Her work can be found in New York Times Magazine, Sport Literate, Water-Stone Review, Memoir, Under the Sun, Literary Mama, Slow Trains Literary Journal, Sugar Mule, Breadcrumbs and Scabs, Third Wednesday, Writer’s Digest, Foliate Oak Literary Magazine, Cactus Heart Press and over 30 other literary magazines and small presses.

Her debut novel, DOLLS BEHAVING BADLY, released Feb. 5, 2013 from Grand Central Publishing/Hachette Book Group.

Carla Richards is a lot of things. She’s a waitress at Anchorage’s premier dining establishment, Mexico in an Igloo; an artist who secretly makes erotic dolls for extra income; a divorcee who can’t quite detach from her ex-husband; and a single mom trying to support her gifted eight-year-old son, her pregnant sister, and her baby-sitter-turned-resident-teenager.

She’s one overdue bill away from completely losing control-when inspiration strikes in the form of a TV personality. Now she’s scribbling away in a diary, flirting with an anthropologist, and making appointments with a credit counselor.

Still, getting her life and dreams back on track is difficult. Is perfection really within reach? Or will she wind up with something even better?

Thursday, Sept. 15

         This is my diary, my pathetic little conversation with myself. No doubt I will burn it halfway through. I’ve never been one to finish anything. Mother used to say this was because I was born during a full moon, but like everything she says, it doesn’t make a lick of sense.

          It isn’t even the beginning of the year. Or even the month. It’s not even my birthday. I’m starting, typical of me, impulsively, in the middle of September. I’m starting with the facts.
I’m thirty-eight years old. I’ve slept with nineteen and a half men.

           I live in Alaska, not the wild parts but smack in the middle of Anchorage, with the Walmart and Home Depot squatting over streets littered with moose poop.

          I’m divorced. Last month my ex-husband paid child support in ptarmigan carcasses, those tiny bones snapping like fingers when I tried to eat them.

          I have one son, age eight and already in fourth grade. He is gifted, his teachers gush, remarking how unusual it is for such a child to come out of such unique (meaning underprivileged, meaning single parent, meaning they don’t think I’m very smart) circumstances.

         I work as a waitress in a Mexican restaurant. This is a step up: two years ago I was at Denny’s.

         Yesterday, I was so worried about money I stayed home from work and tried to drown myself in the bathtub. I sank my head under the water and held my breath, but my face popped up in less than a minute. I tried a second time, but by then my heart wasn’t really in it so I got out, brushed the dog hair off the sofa and plopped down to watch  Oprah on the cable channel.

         What happened next was a miracle, like Gramma used to say. No angels sang, of course, and there was none of that ornery church music. Instead, a very tall woman (who might have been an angel if heaven had high ceilings) waved her arms. There were sweat stains under her sweater, and this impressed me so much that I leaned forward; I knew something important was about to happen.

          Most of what she said was New Age mumbo-jumbo, but when she mentioned the diary, I pulled myself up and rewrapped the towel around my waist. I knew she was speaking to me, almost as if this was her purpose in life, to make sure these words got directed my way.

          She said you didn’t need a fancy one; it didn’t even need a lock, like those little-girl ones I kept as a teenager. A notebook, she said, would work just fine. Or even a bunch of papers stapled together. The important thing was doing it. Committing yourself to paper every day, regardless of whether anything exciting or thought-provoking actually happens.

         “Your thoughts are gold,” the giant woman said. “Hold them up to the light and they shine.”

         I was crying by then, sobbing into the dog’s neck. It was like a salvation, like those traveling preachers who used to come to town. Mother would never let us go but I snuck out with Julie, who was a Baptist. Those preachers believed, and while we were there in that tent, we did too.

        This is what I’m hoping for, that my words will deliver me something. Not the truth, exactly. But solace.


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