Finding a Princeton Spouse Between Black Holes and Planetary Nebula

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by Veronica Forand

Mary Ellen Thompson sat down at an empty table at the Chemistry CaFe in the Frick Chemistry Building on Princeton’s campus. As she began to inhale a ham and cheese on rye with a small Diet Coke, a tall, dark and amazing guy asked if he could sit down.  She would have answered “yes” if her mouth had enough saliva to swallow the sandwich. It didn’t. Forced to raise her hand for him to wait, she took a quick chug of the soda and then exhaled forcefully.

“Sure,” she finally answered. She twirled her copper braid and batted her eyelashes as her mother had instructed her to do when confronted with a potential spouse.

Mr. Amazing nodded and sat next to her. His lunch consisted of a large salad with grilled chicken and a glass of milk.  He didn’t touch his meal though. Instead, he stared into her eyes. A total cliché of a moment, but what the hell, she hadn’t dated a hunk like him since her freshman year when she’d tutored a blond, buff running back in Calculus. She deserved a romantic cliché on her life.

“Are you a student here?” he asked.

“Yes. Are you?” she continued their dry and otherwise predictable conversation.

“Yeah. I’m a history major and I play on the soccer team.” A slight smirk lifted the corner of his mouth. He was intelligent. He had to be in order to garner an exclusive spot at an exclusive school. He also had toned muscles that stretched the sleeves of his polo shirt. He could be the future father of her children. He could be the one. “What’s your major?”

She smirked back, sure that she’d found her equal. Her match. “I study astrophysics and am a member of the robotics team. I’m focusing my thesis on the long established problem of cosmic ray confinement in the Galaxy.”

His brown eyes, still staring intently at her, began to gloss over. “Cool.” Those baby browns turned toward the door, the cashier, the blonde with her breasts hanging out of her tank top, anywhere but toward Mary Ellen. “I’ve got to go. I’m late for class.” He stood with his untouched salad and milk and hightailed it away from her.

Her mother’s advice about finding a husband was proving more difficult as she moved closer to graduation. Should she stick with math or science majors and give up her dream to be held in the arms of a rock solid athlete? Or switch majors to something less intimidating. Maybe neuropsychology or microeconomics. A husband, after all, would be the most important decision of her life.

Facebook: Nobody “Likes” Me.

Nobody “Likes” me, but it’s okay. I’m stronger than that!

 

IMG_0236by Veronica Forand

When I joined Facebook, I became friends with literally hundreds of amazing people from every continent (except Antarctica), every political affiliation from fascism to communism to anarchism and a multitude of religions and non-religions.

In short, I felt popular.

Alas, getting friends is the easy part of Facebook. The key to success is not the amount of friends you have, but how much your friends “Like” you. If you are unsure about your true popularity, send out a random “Hi” into the Facebook stream of ramblings at a time when most humans are awake and at a keyboard. Seven pm is generally a good time to do this.  You should have your message “Liked” by at least one person per every hundred friends you have. I devised this ratio during a two second brainstorming session. My success rate is about half of that. The result?  I’m pretty much a cyberspace loser. Even worse, there are times that nobody in the Facebook world “Likes” what I have written. Nobody. Do my posts just zip by every one of my friends and they ignore them or are there nefarious forces in Facebook determining popularity among various Friends.

Facebook would love me to pay to make my posts more important on the screens of my friends and followers. I just can’t do that. The thought that paying to make myself more popular would make me feel even more ridiculous than I do now when I turn on Facebook and hope that I have at least one person who responded to something I wrote. Can you imagine paying extra money for some extra attention and still not receiving notice? I’m just not strong enough for that kind of rejection. For now, I hope to get one person “Like” something I posted. One connection among a billion.

After that, I’ll go home and snuggle my kids, my husband and my dog. Those connections have a much better “Like” ratio.

Old Fashioned Friends

by Veronica Forand

Did you ever wonder exactly how many friends you have in this world? Not Facebook friends, Twitter followers, or relatives, but the “help, my battery won’t start, do you have jumper cables” kind of friends? Real honest to God old fashioned friends.

I recently did a count and realized that I’ve let too many people go from my life because of obligations and commitments. If I called them for jumper cables, they’d be surprised to hear from me. That’s not right. And it puts me at the mercy of AAA.

I do have a small posse who I can rely on and who can rely on me for any number of things; coffee chats, lunches out, watching the kids, or plain old griping over the phone. Not redecorating advice, I’m pretty inept at decorating. I once decided on blue wall-to-wall carpeting, so I painted the walls the same blue. I then added a blue and white striped couch for contrast and a painting of a boat in blue water. Luckily, we moved and my friends never let me decorate again without assistance.

So I’ve come up with five steps for me to reconnect with some lost friends:

Call them. I need to get over my fear that they don’t actually want to talk to me. We are all busy, so I need to give them the benefit of the doubt. And believe me, there’s a lot of doubt.

Surprise them at their houses with coffee. Although the last time I tried this, the friend was just short of finishing her afternoon romp with her husband.  She won’t be inviting me over in the near future.

Pick up their children from school to give them a break. Generally, call first. Kidnapping charges are difficult to fight, especially with an irate parent sitting next to the prosecution.

Have my children join their children’s activities. Kids get more structured learning moments, because they don’t have enough, and mothers have a chance to connect. I first need to make sure John wants to join the ballet class, because pink tights aren’t comfortable for boys, or so I’ve heard.

Use social media. This generally defeats the point of personally reaching out to my friends, but time is limited and they should be happy with any contact I can give them.

Thanks to my friends (and various sisters in law), the rooms in my house have more than one color.

Critiquing Novels 101

  • When critiquing another person’s manuscript, remember that your voice does not belong in someone else’s work. I’ve restructured entire pages before remembering that I’m not the author and the person doesn’t necessarily want a humor hit immediately after the dog dies.
  • Sometimes showing is more dramatic and effective than telling, but not always.
  •  Sentences containing the word “was” are not all passive. Sorry to the person whose work I annihilated. I’ve been reading up on basic grammar and shouldn’t make that mistake again.
  •  If judging a contest, NEVER tell the writer that you would have stopped reading if you didn’t have to judge the story. That’s just mean.
  •  Novels don’t have to be in deep POV.  Many successful writers have drawn readers into their stories without using the technique at all.
  •  Rhetorical devices can create interesting, amusing, and entertaining passages. They can also create cloying, artificial, and annoying pages to endure.
  •  Read dialogue aloud. If it doesn’t flow off your tongue, it probably won’t flow off the character’s tongue either.
  •  Don’t send people a first draft to critique. Fix the glaring errors yourself so the person doing the critique can concentrate more on plot, characterization, and flow.
  •  Find people to critique your work that understand and like your voice. If you write snarky vampire princess books, make sure the person who critiques your manuscript appreciates snarky vampire princesses.
  •  Be honest, but only if it’s helpful. A professor in college once told me that I couldn’t write a quality term paper because I had no talent for writing. I proved him wrong when I won a writing contest in law school and earned a spot on the International Tax Law Review. It wasn’t my lack of talent that hindered me; it was my lack of a quality teacher.

 

Alone in the Woods

Hiding in the woods on a fall afternoon is my favorite thing to do. I hike in about half a mile, carrying water, some Lara bars and my current read. The key is finding the right rock to sit on. Sitting on a log generally leaves my pants damp and bringing a folding chair defeats the point of communing with nature.

If I sit for about ten minutes, the birds begin to sing and sometimes a woodpecker will rap out a tune nearby. If someone or something comes close to my hiding spot, the birds stop. So as long as I hear my background music, I feel safe. The dog asleep at my feet gives me a sense of security too.

Usually, I can stay out for about two to four hours. No one around, no traffic sounds and nothing beeping or clicking or generally annoying me. By the time I return home, I’m refreshed.

The non-medicated way to stress relief.

Autumn in New England. Peaceful, beautiful.

Welcome

 It may not look like much now. Yet, in the next few weeks, this will become a place to explore some really cool stuff. Amazing, intelligent words that will leave you craving for more. You will beg, you will plead, but you’ll have to wait because I also need to finish other things in my life.

A list of things that need to be done before the next blog post:

  • Laundry. Trust me, we’re wrinkled and smelly. It must be done.
  • Decorating for Halloween. Apparently this is more important than decorating for any other holiday. The pagan gods are winning the war to create the best window displays and creepiest landscape designs.
  • Change my first novel from one genre to another. Thanks Romance Writers of America, I needed a challenge and you gave me one.
  • Write and edit the next 100 pages of my 2nd WIP. No problem, I write fast and hate exercising so I’ll have more time.
  • Walk the dog. When I’m in a hurry, I just take him out for a drive. He likes the change of scenery. Win-win.
  • Plant an obscene number of bulbs. They darn well better arrive in the spring or I’m calling in the groundhogs to clear the defects out.
  • Hanging with the family as we rush from activity to activity in pursuit of… I have no idea. I never rushed from activity to activity as a kid. I turned out fine. Just ask my therapist.

Hopefully, you have a more enjoyable week to look forward to.

Where I’d rather be…sailing in Hyannis.