Flagler Beach

The Best Book Ever Written



I was sitting on the beach this morning, watching the sunrise, drinking my tea when a pesky question arose in my mind:

What do you want?

Oh great, I thought, not this one again. Sometimes I’m too existential for my own good.

What’s funny about this is just a few days ago, as I was working on my new book  I asked this question regarding my main character:

What does she want?

This notion  is the core of my book—all my books. What is the single driving factor for each of my protaganists? Everything in my story that happens from beginning, middle and end points to the central desire of the leading role. This driving force is what keeps the reader engaged. It’s why we read… to see if the characters get what they want in the end.

Isn’t that all we’re looking for in life as well? To follow our desires and ultimately leave this planet finding what we came for?  That’s why this element is key to good story telling.  Desire seeking is a key component to the human condition.

In the case of my novella (working title:Oz Sucks) Jane, a cynical, spitfire has been blown to Oz in a hurricane and wants nothing more than to get home. Thus I am creating a story dedicated to Jane’s quest. Every scene in the book in some way points towards her desire, either bringing her closer or farther from her goal.

My secondary character, the cocky, romantic interest, Kansas transplant Nick wants one thing and one thing only—to have Jane. So, my story is a dance of sorts between these two characters, based on a basic premise: Jane wants to go home and Nick wants Jane.

Think about the “characters” in your life. Are you not also doing a dance with them as them as well? A push-pull of I want, you want… we want?

A great example of this comes from Lord of the Rings. The premise is so simple. Frodo, wants to get rid of the ring without being sucked in by its power…and of course Sméagol wants the ring. Such a modest premise for such a rich, complicated story.

We are no different than the characters in the books we read. We are all driven by our desires, thus our lives unfold according to the path we choose. If you want to be a wealthy person, your life story will show you acting in ways either to make money.or in some people’s case spending money haphazardly in order create the illusion of wealth. If your reason to live is to make your children happy, all of your core actions will be to give them what they need for a happy existence.

Of course our desires change over time since life is full of many sub-stories…not quite as clean and crisp as a book. However if you step back, pretend you are the reader instead of the leading role, you can see what drives you, why you do what you do.

It’s a weird exercise, seeing yourself as the reader (or the writer) instead of the actor, but I find it fun and fascinating.

beach sunrise.jpg

Sunrise near my home in Flagler Beach, Florida

I’ve probably sat in this spot on the beach five hundred times in the last five years and each time my surface desires have morphed and changed, but this morning I felt something different. Beneath my multitude of wants, something stayed the same.

What do I want? I asked myself. I knew the answer. Like a character in one of my books, the core of my desire has been calling me all these years.

I want to bring love to this world…and so, for me, as I write this life story I know it’s about becoming whole, so I can help others in their journey.

So if I’m to stay true to my writer’s code, every action I do from here on out should reflect this desire to not just give love, but be love.

That’s one lofty book, but I think I’m up to it.

Remember you’re the author of your own book….your own personal masterpiece.  Make it a good one.

In love,


PS. Here’s a great talk by Andrew Stanton the creator of Finding Nemo who talks about the key components of story telling and the power of asking ‘what do you want?’





The Adventures of Mr. Fluffermuffin


Out on the open road.  Just me, my husband, four kids and one adorable unicorn.

My family (plus my 16 year old son’s girlfriend) took our minivan north from our hometown in Flagler Beach, Florida to our old stomping grounds– Madison, Wisconsin to visit with family and friends.

The adventure was documented by a little crocheted unicorn named of Mr. Fluffermuffin.  He had a blast.

Peace, love, and floppy eared unicorns,



My darling daughter, enjoys the cool summer breeze with Mr. F.


Mr. Fluffermuffin gets a better view atop my son’s head


Mom has taken a liking to Mr. F


Oh dear!  Don’t look there!


Shawn secretly adores the little guy.


“Daisies make me smile (so does Judy!)”


Mr. Fluffermuffin loves to photo bomb.


“Well, helloooo there Miss Kangaroo…”


Mr. Fluffermuffin likes when Uncle Caleb shares his fancy drink


Aunt Heidi takes Mr. Fluffermuffin on a tour of the Midwest


Oh dear!  Be careful near that claw machine Mr. Fluffermuffin.


Ski Ball!? Yet another precarious place for a wee unicorn to be hanging out


Mr. Fluffermuffin says “Fried cheese curds?!  I think I LOVE Wisconsin!”


“Good unicorns get to ride up front with the big boys.” says Uncle Eli


Thumbs up to unicorn adventures and happy dogs!


So long Wisconsin…and thanks for all the cheese curds.

There’s a whole lot of love up there.

Thanks for the adventure.

When Life Gives You Lemons Have Chocolate Cake (Plus a Few Glasses of Wine)

We had no idea what to expect that night and frankly I was getting a little nervous. The GPS said we were just two miles away however the neighborhood was looking sketchy—at least not the kind of place my Jewish grandma would have deemed safe for her little bubala to be wandering.

I was the one who planned the outing in Jacksonville, Florida, 80 miles away from our home turf of Flagler Beach. I had assured my friend Tim that I had done my homework and that The Three Layers Coffee House was going to be a great place to sell our books. The only problem was my estimates were based solely on an email conversation with the manager and a few fancy website images that promised whipped cream topped chocolate cakes (I’m a sucker for cake).

We pulled up to the one story brick café and parked. Little tables lined the side of the building and funky Jazz streamed out the open door.

It looked friendly enough, but how could we know this was going to be the place for us?

Tim and I looked at each other with weary glances.

“Once we go in we can’t back out, ” Tim said.

I just looked at him, unsure.

“I guess we just have to go for it.” I said

And with that we stepped out of the car and headed in. A number of people sat about the well lit room, sipping their espresso cups, nibbling on treats as they enjoyed the band.

three layers

Upon arrival we were directed to the wine bar, a separate room in the back, dark and cozy, where a small area had been designated for us.

Behind the bar stood a woman with an air of casual comfort, her red hair pulled back into a pony tail. She welcomed us and introduced herself as Amy, the manager of the aptly named “Amy’s Wine House”


After hauling an automobile’s weight in boxes and supplies, we laid out our table cloth, set up our wares and followed the routine set up. And so, with our table looking lovely we waited for the crowds to pour in.

And we waited.

And waited.

Two glasses down and our only potential customer was a drunken looking fellow who left as quick as he came and two young women who appeared to not even notice our elaborate set up.

And so Tim and I had soup… desserts… a little more wine… and nothing.

Not only did we not sell a single book, no one even came by to look at them.

Now, had we been in the wrong mindset, this could have been one crappy evening. Rearranging schedules, spending gas money and time…it was a set up for complete and utter frustration.

However, not once did we look at each other with disappointment. In fact, quite the opposite. We were relaxed and happy, savoring good wine, casual conversation in a funky, new setting. Sure we weren’t selling books, but we both chose to make it a good time anyhow.

With no other customers that night Amy, our barista had plenty of time to chat with us. Amy’s knowledge of Beatles trivia appeared (to this Beatles rookie anyway) to rival Tim’s own, and Tim, impressed with Amy’s music knowledge promised to air one of Amy’s pick songs on his radio show (Surf 97. FM).


We left that night with a new friend, some left over of chocolate cake and a reminder that even though things may not go as planned, they can still go wonderfully.


The Return of the Osprey—a Love Story of Sorts

I used to joke with my husband that I was like a kite in our relationship. He on the other hand was the guy on the ground with a roll of string in his hand. Under this model he was the one who kept things stable. When I start getting too high he reeled me in, and when I needed a boost he sends me outward.

This is the story I told myself for many years and for the most part it was true. As a creative sort, assigned a slew of mental illnesses, I had been told I would always need someone grounded and stable to reel me in from time to time.

This model worked for many years, and in some ways it still does, but it became problematic when I would feel the need to tug on that string and see just how far it could go. This just ended in sadness and frustration and resentment on both our parts.

So a few weeks ago I decided to rewrite our story.

In the new version my husband and I are on the beach. Once again he is the one with the kite and I am the kite itself, susceptible to breezes and shifts in the wind.

As I fly high, I spot on the skyline a bird—an osprey, flying towards us. I admire its strength, its focus, and its sense of freedom, but it causes me to wonder.   Could I too be more than just sticks, paper, and string?

As this thought passes through my mind the chord between he and I dissolves, fragments of string scattering in the breeze. I am scared, because I have been attached to a string all of my life. Aren’t I just a kite? I can’t do this on my own.

I panic as this man I love is getting farther and father away as I drift alone down the coast… but then something happens.

I feel myself changing, my support braces begin to crack, my flimsy paper tears and I feel myself shifting, muscles forming, bones developing, wings spreading outward.   As the wind blows, I lift up, flap and dive. I am no longer a kite, but a beautiful osprey.

I fly against the breeze to where my husband stands alone. I give him a nod. He is not concerned.

He knows I will return.

As this new being, I am my own agent. I am an explorer, a master of sky, sea, and land. I am now in control during the strong winds and the gentle breezes and though I am free I have not forgotten the man below. I picture myself finishing my journey, returning home, bringing gifts. In my talons I hold a white sea shell, with a small hole in it, symbolic of our love that is both perfect and imperfect simultaneously.

In honor of this story I have envisioned in my mind, in real life when I go for a walk on the beach I always return with a white sea shell with a whole in it. He’s got quite a collection growing on his desk. I have even tattooed a little osprey on my arm, wings outstretched wide, open and free.


How lucky I am that I have found a loving partner who understands the importance to me of being able to fly down that coast alone…and you know, maybe he is equally as lucky to have found an adventurer, a lover of the sky who will always understand the importance of coming home.




Waking Up


This morning I woke up in a horrible funk…once again angry at myself for all the ways I’ve declared myself a failure. It seems to be a pattern lately, waking up in despair.

So, since it’s Sunday and I don’t have to get the kids off to school I decided to try something different. I slipped on some clothes and walked down to the beach. When I got there the morning sky was glowing, rays of sunlight pouring through the clouds onto the ocean’s surface.

I stepped in the sand and did my morning “yoga” prayer to the sea, then settled myself on a step at the beach walkover. With no particular plan I ripped out half a page out of a notebook I had brought along. I then began scrawling all the things I “hated” about myself—all those things that ran through my head while I laid in bed most mornings…my neediness, my lack of order, the ways I’ve clearly fail my family, friends and myself….all my inadequacies. I didn’t hold back one bit.

Then with pleasure I shredded the half sheet into little pieces and stepped into the water. With a smile on my face I tossed the paper in, watching the little fragments flutter into the ocean like a flock of tiny birds on their final flight.

I then walked back to my seat, where my notebook and pen sat. In front of me was the remaining, blank half sheet of paper.


Looking at it I decided it needed to be filled. And so I began to write a response to those negative words that were now part of the waves:

This is you. The one here in this moment, connected to the ocean, connected to God. Fear is just a distant whisper—a memory of need and loss. It serves no purpose anymore.

You are here—magnificent, with all the knowledge you need in the palm of your hand. You are the light that streams through the clouds, the breeze that blows, the changing tide. Your heart breaths light.

Chaos and order are just perceptions. The world is both—neither good nor bad.

I hereby free you from your obsessions, your worry. These are distant calls. They are no longer needed in this magnificent place.

Now—tell this to your heart! Worry and self-hatred are no longer you.

You are beauty, light, and love.

And so, I came back from the beach feeling calm and clean, free from my worries.

It’s going to be a good day.




When Joy Slips In


I walked down to the beach this morning.  We live just a few blocks away in a wonderful, small beach town in Florida called Flagler Beach.

As I walked I felt this welling of joy.  Absolute happiness.The conditions were right, the air the perfect temperature, the sun hanging low in its morning position…but this feeling wasn’t coming from the outside, this was welling up from inside, percolating like a bubbling spring.

As I stepped barefoot on the asphalt, it hit me, like it always does. The fear.  The caution. I have been taught for most of my life that ecstatic joy is in fact a bad thing–a symptom of a mental illness.  You know, the M word: Mania.  Up until this past year I’ve been the most dutiful of bipolar patients..constantly guarding against the “craziness” that might slip in.

But something happened when I went out on the beach this morning.  Out there with my toes in the sand I did my routine sun salutation, like a yoga prayer to the rising sun.  And as I brought my arms upward and gazed at the crystal blue sky I heard a voice.  Not a crazy voice…just me in my most open state.

The voice said simply, “Don’t be afraid of joy.”  And I smiled.

This was not a crazy feeling.  In fact, it was the exact opposite.  This was being truly alive.  Connected.

So please, tell me what you think.  Should us bipolar folk regulate joy, our connection with the divine in order to protect against a treacherous down swing? Do you “normal” people out there temper your happiness in order to protect yourself from hurt?

I’d love to hear your input on this one.  In the meantime I’m going to savor this joyous glow…..

Peace and joy to you,



A Writer’s Casting Call

smiley fingers

Writing is a lonely occupation. When I’m not by myself at my lap top writing, I’m in my head “conversing” with my current lineup of characters, who really don’t cut it as far as companions go.

For years I wrote alone, embracing my editors’ brief one-line emails as pretty much the only writerly contact I got in a day. But now, things are different. I’ve been graced with a whole a cast of real life characters—all writers who make my professional world a little less lonely.

And so today, I’m bringing you into my lucky world and sharing some of the people who’ve joined me on this writer’s journey….

Marydreads (aka Marybeth Jeitner) is a sixty–something writer, working on her first book, inspired by her struggles and triumphs with alcoholism. She wears her hair in fuzzy, grey dreadlocks. Sometimes when I look at her I get the feeling that she’s just emerged from the forest, he mossy hair twisting atop her head. Her writing is deep and dark and sad, bringing to life the pain she’s been through. But in spite of what she’s seen, she’s got a golden laugh that can, without hesitation, fill a whole room with brightness.

I suspect Michael Ray King is an old school romantic. (His blog post of undying love poems to his sweetheart Michele sort of gives that away)   The contribution he’s brought to the writing community here in Flagler beach is immense. He MCs and manages The Inspired Mic, a highly valued, community based open mic, that encourages writers to overcome their fears and get on the stage. He also owns a grassroots publishing company that has fostered a number of blooming writers.

I met John Pascucci at the Inspired Mic. His tough, tattooed, New York Italian exterior was an instant curiosity to me and so we started hanging out. He’s the author of Jethro a sci-fi book that features his own dog as a superhero of sorts. John is gentle and thoughtful and has the uncanny ability to tune in very closely to people’s emotions, which surprises me, given that… well….he’s a guy. Due to a mishap with a back surgery John has been in chronic pain, yet he rarely complains. He keeps on going, charming folks wherever he goes.

Dima Zales and Anna Zaires come as a team. I rarely see them separate. In fact I swear they almost move in sinc with their sleek (vegan fed!) bodies. Together they pour out sci-fi, romance, and fantasy books that tantalize readers around the globe. They are a marketing machine, working Amazon and other author friendly sites with heartfelt ambition. Anna spent her teenage years in Florida, but her early years in Russia, leaving her with an ever so slight accent that can’t but help enhance her natural beauty. Dima, from the Ukraine amazes all of us with his acts of mentalism–card tricks that make it appear that he reads our minds. We’re always careful what we think around him.

Then there’s David Karner. Since he was a kid he’s been making horror films, but when you meet him, you’d never guess this guy likes guts and mayhem. David is a kind, gentle man, a solemn listener who has taken on the task of being a stay at home dad to two little ones, but then somehow finds time to not only write screenplays but direct and produce his own horror films. David is not only very talented, he is also immensely supportive of us writers, and on several occasions, when I was feeling weary of my work he’s given me the lift I needed.

And then of course there’s Tim Baker. If you follow my blog you’ve heard his name before. Tim writes a series of popular thrillers featuring a motorcycle riding, ex-navy seal named Ike that apparently the girls go gaga for. Tim has become a good friend. We hang out, tease each other, and discuss whatever is going on in our writerly lives. What I value most about Tim is that he always straight with me, giving me his frank and honest opinions (even when I’m not quite sure I want to hear them). Because of his advice, he has pushed me in ways as a writer that no other friends have. Tim is a dichotomy. On one hand he’s this rough around the edges , Rhode Island, tough guy who rides a Harley but the truth of the matter is (and don’t tell anyone I told you this) he’s really just this sweet, gentle good guy, who genuinely cares for the people in his life. Pretty much everyone who meets Tim likes him, drawn to his honesty and unabashed willingness to be just who he is, and nothing more.

And so I end this blog with one word: Wow!

I am amazed and awe struck that I have made so many wonderful friends and colleagues who support me and love me in the work that I do.

Thank you guys! I am very grateful.

Looking for Friends in all the Wrong Places


I live in a small town. But its not quite what you think.

Flagler beach, Florida is a lazy beach town bordered by the Atlantic Ocean. We’re on a barrier Island which means if you want to go to the real world you have to cross a bridge—something many of us try to avoid.

When my family got here three years ago, we had no idea what to expect. We were quite literally basing our move off a series of Google searches. The photos of the beach looked nice, the schools were decent, so we came.

I’ll be the first to admit, Flagler beach is not your typical Florida tourist town. In fact, when I arrived I was a little concerned. The town felt—dare a say—a little scuzzy? A little raw? If Flagler Beach were a person it would be a road weary biker dude, worn, tired but happy. If you met him in a bar you might be a bit apprehensive at first, but ultimately he’d be the kind of guy you’d want to sit by for the night because the stories he had to tell. That’s Flagler Beach.

I remember when I got here I desperately missed my friends from Madison, Wisconsin. The upper middle class stay-at-home moms that I hung with were nowhere to be seen. I kept saying to my husband “Where are my people?”

They were here, but I was looking in the wrong places.

Last night my husband and I went to our friend, David Karner’s movie premier in Daytona Beach about thirty minutes from Flagler. The attendees that night were mostly from our town.  As small towns go, there was plenty of sitcom worthy conflict and tension in the air, but we put it all aside to support an amazing guy.

The movie was wonderful, we clapped wildly, and as the crowd cheered, sending their love forward I looked to the group and felt a warmth welling in me.

These are my people, I thought.

Writers, artists, musicians, movie makers, entrepreneurs, free spirits. No, they weren’t moms with mini vans, whose lives revolve around t-ball practice. They were people a varying ages and backgrounds, with a passion for creating…and yes a love for one and other.

Those Google searches I did three years ago could have never captured what I’ve found in this quirky town. And now as my life intersects and weaves together with this marvelous, energized group of people I am reminded:

I’ve found my people.

I am home.