Dec 21, 2012

An Open Letter to the President on Gun Control

I wrote the following in response to an email from the White House regarding a petition I signed online calling for better gun safety, regulations, and restrictions. I'm not saying I have all the answers or even the correct answers, but I think we all need to make our voices heard and have an open, public conversation so that we can all come to an agreement about what we need to do as a nation to put an end to these senseless, heartbreaking mass shootings. (As a note, I play first person shooter video games but I do not own any guns, nor have I ever shot a gun or even wanted to shoot a real gun. Also, I personally only prefer to shoot aliens or zombies, not humans or animals, but that's just me.) Now, onto the letter:

I do not think that video games or entertainment is to blame because all other countries have access to the same media but do not have as many mass shootings as the USA. So, let's examine why not. Is it merely access to guns? A store in CT was robbed a dozen times and no one noticed any guns missing. This is HUGE. Guns should be better tracked. They should require photo IDs to purchase (at ALL purchase points including gun shows) plus proof of gun training. No military style guns nor any large capacity clips/magazines should be available to civilians ever. People should pass a written test plus a hands on test (just like when you get your license to drive) but should also pass a rigorous mental health examination by a qualified, certified professional therapist. Moreover, if the household contains mentally ill children or adults, or senile elderly, measures should be taken to ensure those people absolutely never ever have access to guns in any way shape or form. No one should be teaching their mentally ill or autistic child how to shoot guns! And I should know, I grew up with autistic family members. They can be brilliant but they often live in their own worlds. Regardless, that kid should have 1) never learned to shoot a gun in the first place and 2) never been able to access a military style gun. Reduce access to all guns, ban military style guns and large capacity clips/magazines, beef up training requirements, and restrict access to the mentally ill, while also providing more access to affordable mental health care, plus work on destigmatizing mental illness in our society so people reach out for help, and you will have less mass shootings in America.

Dec 14, 2012

Best. Chocolate Chip Cookies. Ever. ...Also, Eggless.

My grandma used to make the perfect chocolate chip cookies, but I never got the recipe. So, I've been experimenting with various chocolate chip cookie recipes over the years and I think I may have stumbled onto the most damn delicious chocolate chip cookies I have ever had.

In searching for the elusive grandma cookie recipe, I remembered 2 key ingredients: shortening and molasses. I can't even tell you how happy I was to find this recipe: Soft & Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies from Pastry Affair. However, something was still missing; all that shortening and no butter left me craving that buttery flavor. I told myself next time I make chocolate chip cookies, I'll substitute the shortening for the same amount of a 1:1 mix of shortening and butter.

Unfortunately, when next time rolled around, I was lacking in the butter department so instead of a 1:1 ratio it ended up being a 1:11 butter to shortening ratio, but it still worked marvelously well. Nonetheless, if I had enough of both, I would make it 1:1 next time simply because the shortening seems to make it thicker whereas the butter makes it chewier so it's all about finding the right balance. The 1:11 ratio tasted great, but needed to be slightly less thick yet slightly chewier.

Regardless, I also didn't have any eggs (or desire to go out in the cold rain to procure said eggs) so I Googled egg substitutes for cookies and found 3 options: milkyogurt, or *drum roll* cream cheese. Cream cheese in a chocolate chip cookie? Seriously? Yuck, right? Well, as luck would have it I also had no milk or yogurt, but I did have cream cheese.

Lastly, I usually use the standard sized chip in either semi-milk chocolate or carob, but I had a half bag of large dark chocolate chips leftover from a previous experimental recipe, so I tossed those in and I must say that the larger size chip plus the richness of the dark chocolate really added to the overall flavor of the cookies.

Now, without further adieu, my new favorite, cobbled together, incidentally eggless, chocolate chip cookie recipe:

  • 6 oz cream cheese
  • 6 tb butter
  • 6 tb vegetable shortening
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup lightly packed brown sugar
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 tb mild molasses
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 cup chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (180 degrees C).

In a large bowl, mix the granulated and brown sugars together. Add in the butter and vegetable shortening. Cream together until smooth and well blended. 

Add in the cream cheese and continue blending well. Pour in the vanilla extract and mild molasses. Mix well.

Meanwhile, in a separate, smaller bowl, whisk the baking soda, salt, and flour together. 

Then add the flour mixture to the batter slowly, stirring as you go. Mix in the chocolate chips.

Scoop tablespoon size cookies about an inch apart onto a baking sheet. Bake for 10 minutes. 

Remove the cookies from the oven, leave them on the baking sheet for a couple of minutes, then transfer them to a cooling rack. (Yields approx. 4 dozen cookies.)

Eat and enjoy!

Nov 23, 2012

Lamentations of a Vegetarian on Thanksgiving

For Thanksgiving this year we were invited to our friends’ for dinner. Last year I prepared my first full Thanksgiving dinner on my own - just a small dinner for two. The year before that I went to Florida for a family Thanksgiving. But regardless where I go, I face one single challenge: I’m a vegetarian.

Let me just get this little confession out of the way: I did not become a vegetarian for altruistic reasons; rather I became a vegetarian for the absolute most selfish reason of all: I just don’t like meat. Or poultry. Or fish. Yuck. I hate the flavor (especially fish) and I can’t stand the texture (especially steak - gross!!!). The mere thought of putting any of that in my mouth, well, let’s just say you might as well be eating wood chips, that’s how little I view meat as food.

I grew up in New England and summered on Cape Cod for most of my life, where it is near unheard of to not, at least, eat fish. However, all growing up from as early on as I can remember (and I can remember being 3), I haven’t liked fish. The smell would hit me first. I cannot even walk into a fish market without gagging so I certainly wouldn’t want to swallow it. I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve had to literally spit my food out into a napkin in public because some jackass friend or family member made me feel so guilty for not eating seafood that I’d go, “Fine. You want me to try it again right here right now to see if I still don’t like it? Fine.” And I’d bravely take a bite, but then an involuntary gag reaction would kick in and before I could stop myself out the food would project onto my napkin.

Next came beef. I just couldn’t stand the texture of it in my mouth especially when hitting a pocket of gristle. Even just writing about it now makes my skin crawl and my stomach turn yet I haven’t eaten beef since I was an early teen. Even earlier than that I ceased eating burgers. I recall my dad screaming in McDonald’s, “I am not buying her anymore cheeseburgers. All she does is pull out the beef and eat the bread and cheese!”

In my latter teen years, I would on rare occasion eat turkey or chicken, but I wicked picked at it. Like I would pull Turkey Club sandwiches apart and scrape out any fat or undesirable or weird looking parts and I would grimace at the sight of my father just biting right in without a care in the world. I did not eat chicken legs, though, or anything that actually resembled meat; only cold cuts processed to the max. The less like flesh it was, the better.

I really should have realized I was a natural born vegetarian much sooner, but it was just plain not an acceptable state of being in the 1970s and 1980s in rural/coastal Mass. Heck, even beyond. To this day I get ridiculed and attacked by meat eaters who automatically assume I’m a vegetarian for purely altruistic reasons. Thing is, the only thing I ever do to provoke such attacks is to simply proclaim I don’t eat meat when asked. Then wham bam suddenly all the meat eaters are on the defensive telling me how they would never deny themselves the yumminess of meat or whatever.

Um. Hello? Have you met me? I have ZERO willpower. If I really wanted to eat meat that shit would be in my mouth faster than you can say PETA.

Thus, Thanksgiving can be difficult. I feel like I miss out on the central bonding experience of eating the turkey, then feeling sleepy. (Heck, I even had insomnia last night.)

Why don’t I fit in? Why don’t I like meat? It was not a learned behavior or an inherited behavior. In fact, my family tried like hell to break me of being vegetarian but they couldn’t ever force me to eat something I just plain didn’t like.

Now, granted, since then I have adopted a more moral vegetarian stance, but, if I’m being perfectly honest, it’s largely out of convenience, since if I don’t already like to eat meat it’s no great leap for me to then also advocate for animal rights.

Regardless, despite it all, I had a particularly fun Thanksgiving this year so thanks to my friends for that (not that any of them probably even read this blog but if you do Hi! *waves* Wanna brownie?? =P).

Aug 27, 2012

Sometimes You Just Need A Little Magic...

Sometimes this life gets me down. It's not necessarily any one thing. It's not even necessarily a thing. Sometimes it's just a fleeting feeling. Sometimes it's learning the hardships of a close friend. Sometimes it's politics, sometimes religion, sometimes just all the harsh realities of life like poverty, starvation, disease, and war. Sometimes I just need a little magic...

Years and years ago, before I lost my way, I had started a series of books called Kaleidoscope Moon about witches and fairies and vampires. A supernatural story set in modern times. I poured over various reference books studying all I could about witchcraft and the like. I had always loved the occult, as far back as I could remember and even got my first deck of tarot cards when I was around 12 (that I read with astonishing accuracy which ultimately freaked me out so I gave it up).

However, my love for dark fantasy never wavered and, recently, I was presented with an opportunity to dive back in. Enter, Scarlett.

Scarlett is a good friend and talented writer who has been giving me excellent notes on Castaneda* and when I mentioned to her that I'd been feeling a little down and needed to write something fun, she mentioned a year old project of hers that she's been mulling over: Saurimonde, erotica with a twist. Fairies, demons, witches, necromancers, beautiful women and strapping young men, a make-believe world in a medieval setting, gory elements of horror, and explicit sex. I was hooked.

Since she lives in France and I in California, we met on Skype to discuss. She sent me an outline and character sketches and I immediately began writing. I just took to the material like nobody's business.

Since then we've each written several pages and continue to meet, discuss, and brainstorm. It's fun watching the story grow as the characters become more whole, eventually telling the story themselves. Sometimes I feel like I'm just along for the ride and some other force is telling the story through me... Like magic.

I just needed a little magic.

I haven't abandoned my other projects*, no, just pushed them to the back burner to do something fun for awhile. Something not based in reality. No pressure. No rules. Just pure, unadulterated fun.

Oh! The other thing, the whole reason I'm even blogging about this now is (I get easily distracted - look, a squirrel) that at first I was going to write this horror erotica under a pseudonym, like Anne Rice when she wrote her erotica novels, but then I thought, wait a minute, do I really need a pseudonym? I mean, it's not like I have some pristine reputation I need to uphold nor do I ever plan to run for office, so why bother, you know? I even had a name all picked out. I still dig that name and may use it for something someday, but, hmm, I think I just might use my real name to write erotica. Why not? Life is short, might as well live a little! Also, I'm really proud of what we've written thus far, so why not take credit?

Also, for more on the project, including inspiration and reference materials used, check out Scarlett's ongoing blog here:

[*For a brief history lesson, my non-fiction projects include: Medicated, a follow-up to In The Now that chronicles my descent into pharmaceutical madness, so it gets pretty heavy and emotional a lot and Castaneda (working title), a script based on Sorcerer's Apprentice: My Life with Carlos Castaneda by Amy Wallace, a brutally honest depiction inside the secret life of a new age guru and his harem of witches, so that too gets pretty heavy and emotional (at least the first draft of that is done but I just need to get through the long rewrite process).]

Ok, now I need to get back to bodice-ripping, gore-filled, supernatural erotic fiction!

Jun 18, 2012

From C64 to Xbox. Also, Lollipop Chainsaw.

I'm a late bloomer when it comes to console games, but I started extremely early on PC games.

My first computer was the Commodore 64 and my first game was Alice in Wonderland (1985). All I remember about it was failing to solve the chess board and begging my dad to hack the game for unlimited lives. The next game I recall getting was an early god game that I think was called Populous, which I absolutely loved. I have a thing for playing god. Then I didn't play any video games for years, instead trading my PC for a Mac and video games for PhotoShop and early Painter programs, until I hit college when a boyfriend had a Sega Genesis. I quickly grew addicted to Mortal Kombat, but stopped playing because that boyfriend got sick of me beating him all the time. He'd actually even scream at me about it towards the end of our short lived relationship, "You're not even trying to do moves, you're just hitting all the buttons like crazy. That's not fair! That's cheating!"

That experience was so torturous I stopped playing any and all video games for a long time until I met my husband-to-be, but even then we'd only play House of the Dead at the arcade.

Then one day, about 12 years ago after I traded back to PC from Mac, I was talking to my Dad on the phone about our old video games (one of his favorites was Myst) and how I really missed playing god games and wondered what was out there today (this was 2000-2001). Shortly thereafter 2 PC games arrived in the mail from him: The Sims and Civilization 3.

OMG I fell fast in love!

I'd start playing at like 6 or 7 at night and the next thing I'd know I'd hear birds chirping and the sun would be creeping up spilling unwanted rays in through the sliding glass doors bathing me in early morning shame.

From The Sims and Civilization 3 to The Sims 2, Civ 4, then Sims 3 and Civ 5 that's pretty much all I played for years aside from silly Yahoo games that I'd crack periodically out of boredom like Bejeweled, Big Kahuna Reef, or Jewel Quest. (Fun Fact: Bejeweled is the only game that I have installed on every single gaming platform I own.)

At some point I bought a Wii, but I don't really count that because I pretty much only bought it for exercise, as the games left a lot to be desired insofar as quality (or lack thereof) of the graphics. At some point I also discarded it for exercise because I realized I got a better work out just following along with an old Rodney Yee yoga DVD than I ever did with any game on the Wii. Doh.

But then one of my favorite filmmakers, James Gunn, announced that he was working with Suda51 on a new video game for Xbox, Lollipop Chainsaw.

If you're not familiar with James Gunn, all I can do is direct you to watch a few movies as a crash course: Tromeo & Juliet, Slither, & Super. Those should pretty much paint the picture. If you're too lazy to watch those, well, let's just say he's a bit of a twisted genius blending a perfect balance of fringe horror and dark comedy with a killer soundtrack. (In fact, I'm listening to the Lollipop Chainsaw soundtrack as I write this - from Skrillex's Rock N' Roll to Toni Basil's Mickey to Sleigh Bells' Riot Rhythm to The Runaways' Cherry Bomb, it's an odd mix that just works.)

Well, shit, now I needed to get a damn Xbox.

So, about a year ago now, I got my very first Xbox and around about the same time I got to go to E3. My mind was blown. There were so many more games out there now than there had been back in the Mortal Kombat days and, my gods, the graphics. They were near perfection. Many games even came scarily close to the uncanny valley. I was in heaven.

Of the many games I tried on Xbox while waiting for Lollipop Chainsaw to come out, including The Sims, American McGee's Alice in Wonderland, and Left 4 Dead (all of which I hated on Xbox and much preferred on PC), as well as the Gears of War and Halo series, my favorite by far was Halo Reach. I found I often had trouble working the controls in most games, but there was something about Halo Reach that was just incredibly intuitive to me. I felt more connected to that game than any other. Also I just absolutely loved the graphics: all spaceships, stars, and scifi looking. From the moment I played that game I knew it'd be pretty damn hard to beat it and, until recently, nothing has come close for me.

That is until Lollipop Chainsaw came out this past week.

Granted, the quality of the graphics in Lollipop Chainsaw are sub-par compared to a game like Halo Reach and the game-play is extremely different, but, while I still hold Halo Reach as the penultimate console gaming experience, Lollipop Chainsaw becomes a close second because, well, it's just fun as hell. It's the only other game I've played on Xbox that I've wanted to keep playing to the end (which I haven't gotten to yet but plan to get back to tackling momentarily).

While a game like Halo Reach is slick as hell and I love it, it's acutely masculine, whereas Lollipop Chainsaw is like made for chicks, especially slightly twisted ones. It's perfect for the gal who loves pink but also zombie movies. Also, the setting is a lot more relatable and fun.

Jun 4, 2012

Carrie Fisher and Being in the Audience for Spoilers with Kevin Smith

When I was, oh, let's say 3 or 4, my folks went to see a scifi movie on opening night. They didn't bring me along (even though they normally dragged me out to all sorts of grownup events like Gordon Lightfoot concerts), because they were unsure if I would enjoy it. My Mum was never a big scifi fan, but my Dad couldn't get enough of the stuff. I was raised on Doctor Who and Star Trek. However, once they saw the movie, they knew instantly I would love it, especially because of the muppets. I was a huge Muppet Show fan.

So, shortly thereafter, when the film hit the drive-in theater in Wellfleet, Mass., I caught my first glimpse of Star Wars from the back seat of a VW Bug. I was instantly hooked. Twinkling stars, giant spaceships, lasers, a whiny kid stuck in the middle of nowhere but dreaming big (ok, I wouldn't relate to that aspect until about 10 years later but I sure did have a crush on Luke until I discovered Han), Yoda, R2D2, and, last but certainly not least, Princess Leia.

Oh, how I looked up to her. She was not your typical, boring, Disneyfied princess I was used to all fluff and no substance just looking for a prince, no, she was a diplomat, a rebel, and she carried a big gun. She was the epitome of cool to me. Beautiful and feminine when it was called for, but quick-witted and tough as nails, too. I wanted to be Princess Leia when I grew up.

When I did grow up, I realized Princess Leia was merely a character sprung from George Lucas' mind and brought to life by Carrie Fisher.
My Mum was always an avid reader and one day she handed me a book saying she had just finished it and thought I'd enjoy it, too. That book was Postcards from the Edge by Carrie Fisher. I read it cover to cover twice. I watched the movie of it countless times. And every time Ms. Fisher wrote another book, I read that voraciously, too, from Surrender the Pink to Delusions of Grandma to Wishful Drinking, et al. There was something about the way she told a story - it was like you were in the room with her conversing - it didn't come across like formal, stuffy writing. In a way, I suppose, she reminded me a little of my literary hero Jack Kerouac with his easy, free-flowing style, wild life, and lack of filter. I loved it! I lacked a filter in life, as well, and always felt out of place as a result, but here were like minds sharing their most intimate life details on paper. I had journaled my intimate life details, but never had the courage to share the way they did (well, not until recently). I looked up to Carrie. I marveled at her. She could sing, act, write - what couldn't she do? And she was hilarious. And it seemed so effortless. I can't even tell you how many times a day I ask Jeremy, "Was I funny? Is this tweet funny? Is that line funny?" (The only other thing I ask so much is "Do I look fat in this?") I love funny. I love to laugh. And Carrie always brought the funny.

There's always been a part of me that is terrified of meeting my idols. You hear horror stories all the time. So-and-so was an asshole or whatever. I've been mostly incredibly lucky. The handful of people I've met who I've admired the most have turned out to be super cool, nice people (Bono and Kevin Smith spring to mind). And, although I didn't technically meet her, I saw Carrie Fisher for the first time in real life last Friday and right off the bat she seemed so cool and comfortable and warm and real and funny as all get out. I wish I could have actually met her, shook her hand, and said, "Thank you, I love your books," but that's ok. I probably would have accidentally swallowed my tongue and just said, "Abu Dabbu," so perhaps for the best.

Oh, and in case you're wondering where all this happened, it was at Universal Citywalk where Kevin Smith is shooting a new Hulu Original Series called Spoilers ( where he takes you out to a movie, then you head back to the studio to talk about what you thought of the movie with Kev on camera and what not, then there's an interview and a few other fun segments. So, basically, being in the audience is a lot more interactive than most. If you're near Universal and have Fridays free, I highly recommend signing up to be in the audience ( Even though I didn't have anything to say about Snow White and the Huntsman (other than Thor was hot), I had a blast being in the audience. Kevin is just non-stop funny. And omg Carrie Fisher! What an awesome guest. I never thought I'd ever be in the same room as such Hollywood royalty. It was a wicked good time.

(Note: you can watch the Series Premiere with Carrie Fisher here: Spoilers with Kevin Smith: Girls Just Wanna Have Guns S1E1.)

May 29, 2012

So Many Free Downloads and a Contest!

Like OMG.

I'm having a valley girl moment because my brain imploded from how many of you downloaded copies of my book today and it's only noon.


There goes my brain like a giant balloon being tackled by a kitten with tiny sharp claws fully extended.

POOF. Whoosh.

And there go all my coherent thoughts like so much hot air.

Seriously, though, thank you everyone for partaking in this 24 hour promo-athon for my debut book. After it started midnight last night/this morning I half expected to wake up to either zero downloads or like 10 to 20, but at 9:30 am it was at 52. My heart leapt up into my throat, my brain imploded, I swallowed my tongue, and my stomach did somersaults. (And as of this writing it's at 75!)

Again, thank you everyone who downloaded the book today. I hope you enjoy it! And if you haven't downloaded it yet or don't know what the hell I'm going on about...

You have 12 hours left to download my debut book IN THE NOW, a memoir/women's studies/self-help book about sex, drugs, and everything else, on Kindle for FREE here:

It's all about spreading the word.

Also, if you enjoyed your free copy of IN THE NOW, please "like" the official Facebook Page here for your chance to win a FREE signed copy of the paperback version (plus swag!). (One winner will be chosen at random when the page reaches a total of 75 likes, then a second winner at 100 likes.)

Or, instead, you can buy a signed copy here: The first batch was such a success, I've ordered a second small batch. So, if you're interested, buy now while supplies last and I'll throw in any IN THE NOW related swag I have lying around.


[Edited to add contest. Also, up to 81 downloads now! OMGOMGOMG]

Update: Total count for yesterday was 209 with a handful squeezing in right up until the very end. Wow! Thanks everyone!

May 11, 2012

The Times They Are A-Changin': A Rambling Essay On Politics, Education, Creativity, & The Mayan Doomsday Prophecy

Our country is in turmoil. A wave of change the size of a tsunami rages towards us on the horizon. The conservative right are scared. They see the change coming and they don't like it one bit. They hold onto "traditional" values so tightly they are squeezing the lifeblood out of their more liberal members.

So, what is coming on the horizon that scares them so much? I keep asking myself that. Just the other day I was conversing with someone about how the GOP is imploding. Their views are so extreme and so backwards, they can't possibly win. They are scrambling. The louder they get, the more panicked they actually are that Obama might win and the wave of change is inevitable. Sure, Obama's not perfect, but he stands up for what is to me the absolute most important thing about being an American - freedom.

Freedom to choose. Freedom to love. Freedom to marry. Freedom to not be a mother. Freedom to not be religious. Freedom to go against the grain. Freedom to voice disappointment in government. Freedom to believe what you want. Freedom to strive. Freedom to dream.

Why does the GOP so desperately want to take our freedom away? Why are they so decidedly un-American?

Then I started reading The Rise Of The Creative Class: And How It's Transforming Work, Leisure, Community And Everyday Life by Richard Florida and it all clicked.

The book talks about, as the title would suggest, an increase in the number of Americans who make their living creatively, and, because of that rise, society is changing.

When I was young, I was singled out in school for high marks and put into the "Gifted and Talented" program. They don't have that program anymore and it's a damn shame. They'll tell you it's because the other kids felt left out or what not (no child left behind). The funny thing is, I was teased relentlessly for getting good grades. It didn't seem to bother any of the other kids, it just made me a target - But I didn't ultimately mind because for the first time I felt truly at home in a classroom. I felt intellectually challenged, and like I could ask honest questions without getting ridiculed by my peers. We could choose our own homework and every single week, I chose to do a book report. "Aren't you tired of reading books and writing reports, Missy?" "No, never." Other times, we learned chess or photography.

That experience changed me fundamentally as a person on a very base level. It took me years to finally embrace a creative lifestyle - mainly due to family and peer pressure to be "normal" and get a "real job," but now that I am fully embracing a creative lifestyle, I can honestly say I've never been happier.

I spend my days how I wish. I once recall a friend saying that if she didn't have a day job, she'd just sit around the house all day watching TV. Before I met Jeremy, I never watched TV and when he's off to work, the TV stays off. Occasionally I'll play music, but for the most part my day consists of silence and thinking - waking up, checking social networks, crawling slowly out of bed, flipping on the computer, leisurely eating breakfast, doing yoga and/or swimming and/or going for a walk to clear my head, then getting down to business - now that business may be spending the day writing, or reading and doing research, or, if I did pick up some side work, I may be at the computer designing, but, by design, that's less these days.

I sit, I ponder, I talk out dialogue to my cats, I pace, I fret, I pull out my hair, I play video games to blow off steam, I pop in a movie for inspiration, I write, I cross it out, and write some more.

An ex-friend recently told me that I wasn't a real writer because real writers get paid to write - I'm just another Hollywood poser. She then informed me that all I am, or ever will be, is a housewife and web-designer.

But, the thing is, that's just such a misguided, defeatist attitude.

Tell that to Kevin Smith - who in his recent book Tough Shit, reveals that how he became a filmmaker was by simply changing his point of view - instead of thinking, "I want to be a filmmaker," he thought, as encouraged by his sister, "I am a filmmaker," and that, my friends, is the key to success (of course, you have to also be good at it and hard working but success all starts with the right frame of mind).

For years I've struggled with my artistic abilities and dreams. I've been ashamed of them, down-played them, and outright hid them from others for fear of ridicule. I grew up in a rural, hard-working area of Massachusetts filled with farms and abandoned textile mills where it was unheard of to make a living as a writer. If I said, "I want to be a writer," invariably it would be met with, "But what do you want to do for a living?"

Well, I certainly don't make a living writing...yet, but I haven't really tried to until now. Fear got in the way for a long, long time, fear and peer pressure. But do you think anyone was paying Kevin Smith to make Clerks? Or Quentin Tarantino to make Reservoir Dogs? Sure, they make a decent salary now, but they started out doing it for free, for the love of doing it, and they kept on doing it until one day someone threw money at them.

They made movies for passion. I write, have always written, for passion (and to keep myself sane) - I just rarely share it with the world because I so desperately feared more ridicule from my peers, which brings me back to Gifted and Talented - when that program went away, I drifted into academic depression for years - if you aren't allowed to do what you love, what's the point?

My parents seemed to despise their working class jobs with a passion. And when my dad made manager and more money, he was more miserable! Yet they both had talent... Wasted talent. My Mom could paint and draw really well, my dad could sing and play guitar (he was even in a band in his youth). It wasn't fair.

Then one day I met Bono and he changed all that for me - it has still taken me years to shed the normalcy brainwashing and accept myself as a writer/artist but that fateful day March 16, 1992 my life changed.

But what if I never met him?

What about all the kids who will never find themselves in a classroom because all the arts and honors programs are cut?

And then I think about Rise of the Creative Class and how psychotic the conservatives are getting (have been).

In the book, it mentions how American society was in turmoil when we switched from an agricultural based society to a more capitalist society of industry and manufacturing. People left the farms in droves to head for the city - I can so relate, but instead of getting an assembly line job, I chased creativity without even knowing or realizing how many others were doing the same thing.

And the creative class is highly influential - books, movies, music, TV, fashion, electronics, science, etc. We work from home and we use our minds.

But according to my ex-friend, I'm just a housewife (presumably only because I don't have a typical day job - why is it so damn difficult for folks to wrap their minds around the concept of "working from home"? I guess they imagine me spending my day with my thumb up my butt trolling Facebook... Probably because that's what they do on their days off. I don't have days off. I work all the time, but I love what I do so it's not really work and I'd rather be alone in my home office (or by the pool) writing than doing anything else). And according to the GOP, I'm just a nuisance - so they belittle people like me, silence us, strip away our rights, take away our healthcare, force us back to the assembly line (so to speak) to give up our dreams and become robots.

No, thank you.

I work from home and sometimes I write, sometimes I design, but all the time I am creative and I'm a threat - a godless, childless, Liberal Arts educated, married woman with a voice and the power to use it via writing.

And this voice also observes. Over a decade in LA, I've watched the talentless flock to Hollywood for a fast buck then flee when it doesn't pan out, but I've also watched talented people struggle for years sticking to their guns, ignoring the nay-sayers, and pursuing their passions - and while not all of them are rich or have their names in lights, they are happier living the dream than being a robot for the man, because, in the end, talent wins out - you cannot fake it, or inherit it, or buy it. You can become rich without talent, but certainly not respected.

Regardless, the creative class is real and it's on the rise, and even though I'm in the lower end (financially), I am happy to be part of a movement for change - change that has the GOP fighting for their lives because with the rise of the creative class and its influence comes acceptance of differences, equality, and so much more (like funding for the arts, I hope).

And the funny or interesting thing is that all this change, all this economic turmoil as the creative class grows shifting our society away from greed and towards the arts, I can't help but also think about the Mayan 2012 prophecy. If you read into it, the Mayans weren't talking about the end of the physical world, rather a shift in human consciousness away from materialism and towards spirituality - and it looks like, speaking in basic terms of numbers, empirical data, and economics, that they were right.

For the GOP, though, it is the end of the world as they know it - gays will one day be able to marry and be accepted as equals without question, women will continue to fight for their rights until one day they will no longer need to, and the empire will fall, along with Wall Street... As the creative class rises to power.

So remember, just because society or your friends try to tell you who you can't be, can't marry, or what you can't do with your own body or life, you already are who you are and nobody can change that or take that away from you. Nobody. If you write, you're a writer, whether you get paid to or not. Money doesn't measure talent and society can't suppress it and oppress it forever. The times, they are a-changin'.

And to that ex-friend, before writing this blog, I had just returned from mailing more signed copies of my book to paying customers, am about to organize my notes for my second book, and rewrite a screenplay based on a bestselling memoir that I optioned, but, yeah, I'm not a "real writer". Thanks for the support, bestie!! /sarcasm
"You can dream so dream out loud; don't let the bastards grind you down." -Bono

UPDATE: An article posted on The Daily Beast this morning called 
Top GOP Pollster to GOP: Reverse On Gay Issues contains the following quote:

“As people who promote personal responsibility, family values, commitment and stability, and emphasize freedom and limited government we have to recognize that freedom means freedom for everyone. This includes the freedom to decide how you live and to enter into relationships of your choosing, the freedom to live without excessive interference of the regulatory force of government."

So, I guess the times really are a-changin'! Hallelujah!

Apr 24, 2012

Being a first time self-publisher and other musings...

Sometimes I wish I were invisible; other times I wish the whole world knew my name.

Sometimes I feel like two different people.

There are so many thoughts racing through my brain, please bear with me as I make sense of them all...

I'm trying to not look at my book sales. I just don't want to know. Not for any reason other than the fact that I never really write anything initially to share with other people, so I don't want numbers to become a motivation -- or detraction. I even compose blogs with pen and paper only to edit and reread later to determine if I want to share or need to share... But then sometimes, like now, I stop midway through yoga because so many words are stumbling through my head I can't concentrate on the moves I have nearly memorized and should be able to do deaf and blind to plunk my sweaty self down at the computer and hunt and peck at the buttons until words become sentences spewing stream of consciousness all over my keyboard and monitor not even knowing half of what I'm writing it's all so fast - which sometimes I go ahead and click publish without a second glance, but more often than not save to drafts and forget.

Regardless, what I want to blog about right now is two-fold: 1) self-publishing and 2) duplicity; not that there's any correlation, or maybe there is?

Half of me wants to log on and track my sales the minute my eyes open, the other half just doesn't want to know, which brings me to my opening statement of a private life versus a public life. Half of me kinda still wants that youthful notion of fame, but the other half wants to move to an isolated beach house nestled between mountains and ocean in Big Sur and make hippie jewelry while tending my herb garden and building my zombie apocalypse bomb shelter.

Half of me wants my book to do really well, pick up steam, get traditionally published by Simon & Schuster, and land me in Oprah's book club (does she still do that?), while the other half could care less if anyone ever reads it (though both halves really really want you to buy it).

Obviously, a book doing well affords the author to stop moonlighting and focus 100% on writing. However, a book doing well also leads to...dun dun dun...the dreaded interview. Gods, I just don't really want to be interviewed ever. I just know I would totally insert foot in mouth, get misquoted, or do something appalling. I get weird when I'm nervous and I'm most nervous when I'm put on the spot. I think the number one most frightening experience I could ever imagine is being interviewed on late night television.

It's like there are phases: Phase 1 - email interview for print - totally easy, no problem, I could do that stoned in my sleep. Phase 2 - phone interview for print - more dreadful because I hate talking on the phone with a passion, but at least I can be naked. Phase 3 - in person interview for print - actually this might be better than phone because even though I have to leave the house, at least I can make eye contact and hopefully sarcastic remarks read better. Phase 4 - radio interview - totally freaken scary because it's live but I'm just a disembodied voice floating out into the airwaves so no one can see how much I'm sweating. Phase 5 - TV interview - absolute horror!!!!! You have to look good, sound good, be funny but coy, intelligent but not arrogant, attractive but not too much, and interesting. I've seen myself on camera, I sit or stand like a fucking statue with wide eyes and a blank expression on my face reeking of hyper self-awareness and self-consciousness as giant pools of sweat form under my arms and between my boobs unless I'm directed otherwise (I wish I could show you the lost footage of me as a dominatrix in the film Nowhere Tomorrow by Henry Lee which was described to me as scary I was so intense). My heart rate races. I can't breathe. The walls close in. Tunnel vision.

Yes, I have severe stage-fright, which puts like a huge damper on the fame half and creates a weird dichotomy inside me because I have such a deep desire to express myself for better or worse.

It's like, yeah, go be a blogger, self-publish a few books, sell maybe 50 to friends and family, then hide but that won't pay the bills.

So, now I have to sit here and contemplate publicity. Marketing. Reviews. Interviews...

This, right here, is partly why In the Now sat dusty on a shelf for 10 years before I released it. Constant ambivalence about my own writing and career. What a curse!!

Self-publishing is a LOT of hard-work. I did not make the decision to self-publish lightly. I scoured the internet late into the night clicking page after page of Google searches getting several pages deep and feeling like Alice down the rabbit hole reading How To guides and various self-publishing horror stories and triumphs.

It is also expensive.

The actual writing, of course, is free (but also massively time-consuming - just finishing a book, let alone publishing should be cause enough for celebration, thus having a real job becomes problematic, hence the expression 'struggling writer'), even the actual publishing of the book is mostly free unless you want to order proofs and promo copies, and the distribution is practically free (they have a free option, but I opted for the extra bookstore package which is decidedly inexpensive), but where they get you is the marketing.

Books don't sell well. Period.

It's like most entertainment ventures wherein you have to view it as a loss before you even begin. Sure, some things pay off big, but those are few and far between. For every Stephen King or Neil Gaiman, there are millions more like me.

So, if you want your book to do well, whether you self-publish or not, you have to take the marketing into your own hands. This is, yes, you guessed it, expensive and time-consuming.

I have clients whose websites need maintenance. I have mountains of chores and errands. I have dentist appointments and social obligations. But I can't think about any of that stuff right now I'm so consumed by marketing. My head whirls. The dishes are piled up, the floor is thick with cat fur, and to top it all off I'm recovering from a wisdom tooth extraction and fighting a damn chest cold to boot. *cough cough hack hack spit* *cough more* *break a rib* Also, all I've eaten today is a slice of Sourdough bread, a spoonful of hummus, and 4 olives.

Kevin Smith and Lloyd Kaufman seem to have really figured out marketing, especially on Twitter, so I study them. I love to watch them work weaving random @replies with book sales. It's sheer genius and it sells! They gain more and more fans each one eating up the constant information and attention. But you need lots and lots of engaging followers in the first place to make that work.

I suppose I could start a Kickstarter to raise the funds to promote my book, but that just seems silly. Just buy my book instead, y'know? Cut out the middle man. But the people won't come to you, you have to go to the people. And as much as I like to think the whole world lives on Twitter or even the internet, it doesn't. Only a small fraction of the world's population is actually online. You need to go to the people where the people are and shove your product right in their faces and tell them how they can't live without it and how much better their lives will be once they've got it.

Yeah, that's just so not me.

Right now my big conundrum is trying to figure out the best way to get folks signed copies. That's my big headache. I suppose the easiest way is for me to order the book, sign it, have folks Paypal me for it, then ship it on out. Ugh. Paypal.

So, yeah, that's my day. How you doin'?

Well, I'm off to eat some Ramen and finish my yoga.

Apr 23, 2012


Sometimes I lie awake all night
just to watch you sleep
the quiet of your mind
as you breathe deep 

I wonder at what you're dreaming
as you wiggle your nose
kick out your leg
or make an unintelligible noise 

the perfection of your sleeping face
is something to behold
like the moon on a starry night
so beautiful 

I will love you through all space and time
my sleeping dove
and now as you stir awake
my eyes fall shut

Apr 9, 2012

Fake Interview

In Melissa St. Hilaire's new memoir-cum-women's-studies book In the Now, the jane-of-all-trades graphic/website designer, blogger, and screenwriter shares her now infamous story of how she met the World's biggest rock star, Bono, recalls her various funny and embarrassing exploits with sex, drugs, and rock 'n' roll, and reveals how horribly wrong her first pitch went in Hollywood. Is she crazy? Let's find out. -Alan Smithee

FI (Fake Interview): In your introduction, you mention that you actually wrote this book over a decade ago and how it was Lloyd Kaufman of Troma who urged you to finally publish. How did that come about?

MS (Melissa St. Hilaire): Well, I went to the premiere of his film Poultrygeist and we became fast friends, but even after he suggested I self-publish, it still took me awhile to actually do it because it's an unconventional memoir.

FI: And what was it that finally made you take the leap?

MS: Chelsea Handler.

FI: Oh, is she a friend, too?

MS: Nope. I was stuck in an airport for several hours going insane from boredom when I happened upon a shelf of New York Times bestsellers and 3 of her books were on it next to little bottles of Purell and rows of Kit Kats when I thought, "Meh, I'll give her a go."

FI: And...?

MS: And they were unconventional memoirs on the New York Times Bestsellers List. (pause) So, I read the first book. Garbage. I read the first half of the second book and realized I had already read about 50% of the material in the first book. Unbelievable! So, I thought, "If this crap can make the New York Times Bestsellers List 3 times over, then I'm totally publishing my book."

FI: But you do realize that the only reason Chelsea Handler was on the New York Times Bestsellers List is because she's famous?

MS: Yes.

FI: And you're not... So...?

MS: So what?

FI: Right. Ok.

Check out Melissa St. Hilaire's upcoming book In the Now coming soon to and on paperback for $9.99 or order a copy from your local bookstore. For more release info and news, or to send the author a request for a signed copy, "like" the official In the  Now Facebook Page here: (Photo credit: Claire Folger)

UPDATE: Now available! Buy here:

Mar 16, 2012

On Meeting Bono 20 Years Ago Today

     20 years ago today I met Bono for the first time. I remember it like it was yesterday. His voice, the look in his eyes, his sincerity, warmth, and sense of humor. He was so cool and yet so real and down-to-earth - that might sound strange now, given that Bono is on the brink of becoming a billionaire and is known the world over for his big ego causes, but 20 years ago, despite U2's big Joshua Tree win in the 80's, they were still a baby band trying out vastly different material than their previous award-winning sound. In the end, Achtung Baby turned out to be even more critically acclaimed than JT, but back then it was just all so new and different and foreign. Achtung Baby is and forever will be one of my all time favorite albums. The ZooTV and Zooropa tours remain ranked as my all time top favorite tours ever with Zooropa Dublin being two nights of concerts that for me set the bar for which every concert I have ever been to is compared. Of course, before I met Bono, U2 was and had been my favorite band for a few years, but after meeting him something inside me changed on a soul deep level. He was The Fly. The ultimate rock star. He walked with swagger and exuded confidence in his dark fly shades. I was petrified. But when he spoke, there was such kindness, such intensity. He really listens. He looks you deep in your eyes. He makes you feel like you are the most important person in the room, the center of the universe...

     About 6 years after meeting Bono, I wrote my first book, In the Now, of which you've no doubt heard from me on Facebook or Twitter or Google+ that I will soon be self-publishing. In the Now is a memoir, in case you didn't know, and I do go on about Bono quite a bit in it, so, I thought, as both a teaser for my upcoming book and a special way to mark the occasion of the 20th anniversary of meeting my idol, I would offer you an excerpt from In the Now on the aforementioned event. (I should note that for brevity in the book I combined two separate meetings into one, most of which is from the first meeting on March 16, 1992 but the bit with the drawings is from August 1992.)

In the Now excerpt:

     During art class we always listened to WBRU, Brown University radio, and on that day, March 16, 1992, the DJ announced that Bono had been spotted at the Four Seasons Hotel in Boston. I flipped out. I saw my chance and I grabbed hold and let destiny lead me. I asked everyone in the class if anyone would want to go with me. They all declined, but one friend informed that she knew a girl who went to Hopedale High who was from Dublin and worshipped U2. I took another chance, went to the payphone, and got her phone number from 411. Her name was Eryn*, though unfortunately her last name escapes me at this time.

     I rang her up and to my surprise she was home. I explained who I was and what I wanted to do. She was excited and said she couldn't believe that of all the days she could have stayed home from school, it would be this day. Fate was on my side.

     I called my mother and, since she understood, she dismissed me from school. I left right away, making sure that I had all my drawings in tow, and drove my 1984 Chrysler Laser (also dubbed U2 mobile, because of all the stickers) to Hopedale. We drove to the train station, as I didn't know Boston that well then, and made our way to the Four Seasons.

     Once there, we waited for hours, freezing, debating how long we should stay. Then, as if in a dream, Eryn spotted him, Bono, mindlessly entering the front door. She called out to him in her husky, Irish accent, "Bono, would ya mind talking to us for a moment?"

     He turned suddenly and came towards us.

     When we had first arrived, we were the only two, but as we waited a small group of teen girls also joined. They started jumping up and down screaming. Eryn in all her Irish charm just started talking about Dublin and old times. As it were, she had hung out with them years ago when she was around 14, and to my surprise, he remembered her. I simply stood there, frozen, in awe. Finally, Eryn grabbed me and said, "Why don't cha ask him for a photo?"

     "Bono," I meekly asked, "Could I get a picture with you?"

     "Of course," he replied and pulled me close with his arm around my shoulder. Without hesitation, I slipped my arm around him. I was in heaven. I had a grin like I'd just won the lottery and if you look real close at the photo you can see his eyes rolling a little bit behind his dark shades.

     Having accomplished that, I gained the confidence to actually talk to him.

     "U2 is my favorite band. You've inspired me so much…"

     I rambled on in fan talk. Eryn reminded me of the drawings, which I quickly shoved in his face.

     "Hold on," he extended his hand to me, "Bono."

     I took his hand and shook, "Melissa."

     "Let's see these drawings," he said and gracefully took the drawings and slowly looked at each one, "These are great, you're a really good artist."

     Now, I'm sure he was just being polite. I've since then given up on portraiture, but it was nice to hear these words from someone I admired so much.

     After signing autographs for all the others, he spun me around and, with my thick black marker, began writing on the back of my denim jacket. When he was finished he spun me around again, handed me my marker, and with a hand on each shoulder said, "Melissa, it was nice meeting you," turned, walked away and disappeared into the hotel. Everyone else there then grabbed at my jacket, "Oh, how cool!"

     I shook them off and ripped off my coat to find his self-portrait with, "Mr. B on my back," written underneath. I beamed. I understood. I felt enlightened. Bono was a REAL person, just like anyone else, just like me. And if you, if I, put my mind to it, I could accomplish anything. No longer would I suffer fools. No longer would I try to fit into a pre-existing stereotype simply to be accepted. I would stand my ground. Be myself. That was the key.


The Infamous First Photo March 16, 1992

Showing B Artwork in August 1992

Did I mention I was in British Vogue December 1992?

One of the paintings I showed Bono - Acrylics

And another one - Watercolor

A photocopy of a pencil drawing I ended up giving to him.

     The following day, March 17, 1992 St. Patrick's Day, I saw U2 at the Boston Garden with tickets from the band...Everywhere you went in the city that day all you could see was a sea of green and all you could hear was U2 blaring from every pub and car radio. It was magical for a U2 fan.

     In the video of that show above, if you look really close, you can see me jumping up and down like a maniac in the first row of the stage right balcony as Bono takes the stage (0:31).

Happy St. Patty's Day!!!

(*Not her real name.)

Stalk me on twitter for the latest news on my upcoming book In the Now (in addition to my many inane ramblings because that's what twitter's for) @dreamoutloud or on Google+ or on Facebook or even on MySpace if you're wicked old school.

Feb 14, 2012

The Best Peanut Butter Cookies Ever

Last year I posted a blog about peanut butter fudge drop cookies with the same basic ingredients as the recipe I am about to post, albeit with a few minor tweaks that, ultimately, make all the difference in the world.

I have been baking cookies as long as I can remember from rural Massachusetts to urban California and these Peanut Butter Cookies are the absolute best I have ever had.


  • 1 large egg (I was scarred as a child by an egg with a partially formed baby chick inside so I never use real eggs, instead I used the equivalent amount of Lucerne's Best of the Egg)
  • 1 cup granulated sugar (I used a mix of white and raw sugar)
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 cup creamy peanut butter (I used Skippy this time)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract (I doubled this up from 1/2 tsp)
  • 1/2 cup peanut butter chips (these replaced the 1/3 cup of crushed nuts from the original recipe)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

In a medium to large bowl, mix together the egg, sugar, and baking soda until it's smooth and well blended. Spoon in the peanut butter. Mix well. Add the vanilla. Mix and stir in the peanut butter chips.

Scoop out tablespoon sized balls of dough. Place about an inch or so apart. Use a fork to press down slightly on each one.

Bake for 10 minutes.

Makes about 20 ridiculously yummy cookies.


Feb 8, 2012

Writing the Castaneda Script

Dublin sleeping on Amy's book
A little over a year ago, I was in Massachusetts visiting family over Xmas break and, during a particularly bad weather streak, I read Amy Wallace's memoir, Sorcerer's Apprentice: My Life with Carlos Castaneda.

It moved me.

A couple months later, I met with Amy and optioned her book. And so began my first adventure adapting a book into a screenplay (since I took a class in college on it years ago)...

Prepping Notes
After almost a year of research, interviews, self doubt, Scarlett Amaris saving the script by helping me structure the plot from my disjointed notes on a yellow legal pad into approximately 30 index cards, and more self doubt, I finally finished the first draft today. It took me 8 actual days of writing over a 3 week period to complete (not counting a handful of scenes written prior to Scarlett's collaboration that were mostly scrapped, although I did incorporate elements). (My writing days were so sporadic because I only wrote days Jeremy worked so I could have the place to myself - only because I can be a monster if my concentration is broken. I seriously need a private office. Who wants to give me $20,000 to put down on this cute little house in Silverlake with an office? Anyway...)

I feel elated. 

Now, I just have to input the script to Final Draft... Edit, Re-write, Repeat (as necessary), Polish.

(4) Legal Pads (Please ignore the pink ribbons - purchased prior to scandal.) 
(2) LiveScribe notebooks
I'm experimenting with a new process. I don't touch type (long story) and I just feel more organically connected to my words via pen and paper, anyway. So, I hashed out the script on (4) legal pads, then copied them word for word, making preliminary editing notes and tying up loose ends along the way, into (2) LiveScribe notebooks with the Echo (a LiveScribe pen). (It took 2 regular pens and 3 ink refills for the Echo.)
(4) Legal Pads (side view)
(2) LiveScribe notebooks (side view)
Next, I'll convert it to text with an app called MyScript, check it over, and input it to Final Draft. I'm really curious to see how the conversion process goes and if it's better than just typing the whole thing out. (Note: a typical blog I can write in an afternoon takes me up to a week to type, never mind several pages of a script. I can't even tell you how many handwritten scripts, short stories, unfinished novels, and poems I have that will never see the light of day just because I will never get around to typing them out.) Thing is - just by having to physically write it out twice, daily, scene by scene or sequence by sequence, albeit insane, seemed to really aid my writing process - I felt more connected to each word. So, even if it's slower in the end, which it's already proving to not be, I still might do it this way again in the future just because the process itself really suits me. The mogigraphia, or "writer's cramp," on the other hand, not so much.

I also documented every day I wrote with a photograph of my "writing station" (to track my progress), which I've included below for your viewing pleasure (or boredom, whichever the case may be - it's all good, I don't care, I finished a year long script/project today! Well, the first draft, at least...)

Day 1
Day 2
Day 3
Day 4
Day 5
Day 6
Day 7 
Day 8
TL;DR: It took me a year of prep work to write a script in 8 days and I'm psyched to move on to the next phase - re-writes.

[UPDATE #1 2/13/12: Took 2 days to convert my handwriting to text via MyScript. Only 1 page out of 166 pages did not convert. I assume something corrupted that 1 page. Next step: Going over the  entire text with a fine-toothed-comb to make sure every word converted correctly.]