get lost in it


a guide to writing

cynthia gregory

 Have you ever noticed  that something you love to do takes very little effort and time seems to evaporate before you like mirage waves on the desert? Meanwhile, tasks that you’re not so eager about drag on and on and eternally on, like the distance between your body scraping across the desert and that oasis on the horizon?

But when it’s good, it’s hypnotic. Its almost like falling in love; and who doesn’t love love, for goodness sake? It feels good, it lowers your blood pressure, makes you feel lithe and alive, and boosts your endorphin levels. You love your writing, and oh, my stars and garters, your writing loves you back! It’s a total adoration fest. The words flow. Your descriptions sing. Your hand is a conduit for a genius stream of words as they spill and tumble through your mind, down your arm, to the very tips of the fingers that push your pen across the page. Each brilliant thought is a nebulous cloud of interstellar dust from which dozens of giant, dazzling stars are born. There has never been a journaler in the history of this whole watery planet who has managed to capture the essence of your subject the way you have, just now, and forever more, amen.

But when you don’t feel ‘on’ and there are pages to fill? That, mon amie, is the desert of the soul. Some might call it writer’s block, but I don’t believe in writer’s block. The only time you have said affliction is when you’re not writing.

Conversely, if you’re writing, you’re not blocked. Period. You just do it. You may not do it with enthusiasm, but just try going through the motions and before you know it, you’re not minding it so much, in fact you find that you’re actually enjoying yourself and if you let yourself be totally honest, you’re glad you forced yourself in to the fulfilling the journaling promise: just write. That’s all that’s I ask of you: just put a little effort into it.

I’ve had a painting project hanging over me for awhile now. The majority of the project is completed; now it’s just the detail work. Most people hate the painting chore; I don’t mind it. I actually find it to be a very relaxing activity that occupies my body and allows my wind to wander. At any rate, I had been putting off putting the finishing touches on my project, and finally decided to do it. I gave myself an hour to paint, “even if I don’t finish the job entirely.” I gave myself into it. I taped off the edges, stirred the paint, picked up the brush, and surrendered to the project. Before long, the hour was up, I was humming a happy little tune, and I continued to paint for a little while longer. I wrapped the project up for the day, put my tools away, and can I just tell you about the sense of satisfaction that I get each time I pass by the newly painted hall? It’s not a masterpiece, but it pleasures me to know that I create a little piece of beauty by not letting my resistance get the better of me, talk me out of doing something I promised myself that I’d do.

What do you do when you are obligated to journal and don’t much feel like it? Well, you can adjust your journaling goals and motivations, or you can break the project into bite size pieces. You don’t feel like writing? Write for ten minutes. Just write one page (I double-dog-dare you). Write about anything meaningless; what you ate, who was on the commuter train, the ten musical instruments that can make the sound of rain. If you can’t write about the big things, write about the small ones.

Write until you remember why you wanted to write in the first place and fall in love with the process. Because you never really get to that place you’re going. There is no absolute there, there – at least, no destination you can find on a map. Allow yourself to get lost in writing and let the writing remind you of who you are. Just give in to it, immerse yourself in it, let go of all the edges that you know, that you cling to, just let yourself get lost in it. I offer a double your genius back guarantee: you’ll fall in love with the place it takes you.


she was not fooled

copyright 2011/all rights reserved


a novel by




Sonia laughed in spite of herself, but she was not fooled.  Under Bicky’s shiny veneer there lurked the soul of a survivor, one who made no pretense of not taking anyone with him.

“There’s got to be a way for the rich to keep on being rich and the rest of the planet to be comfortable.  Not everyone longs for world domination, you know,” Sonia said.

Bicky watched the sprinkler throw tiny droplets in wide, circular arcs.  The street light lent his face a preternatural glow.  He shook his head and sighed, a deep heaving sigh to indicate that nothing that came before and certainly nothing that will ever come after carried quite as much weight.

“If I could do something, I would.  But it’s beyond my frail powers,” Bicky said.

Sonia laughed and started the car.  “Frail is not an adjective I’d use to describe you.”

Bicky stood motionless, arms locked on the door, looking like an old, weary man.  His fuzzy gaze fell on Sonia’s belly and after a few moments the spark returned.

“Bring me the report in the morning, please.  And don’t say anything to your husband.  A little knowledge can be life threatening in certain situations.  He doesn’t need that kind of information coloring his field work.”  Bicky’s vacant stare signaled the end of the conversation. .

Sonia nodded.  A tight, pinched smile graced Bicky’s lips.  He banged twice on the car door, dismissing her.  Sonia pulled out of the driveway and didn’t look back.

to be continued. . .

to read more of what came before, scroll down

a vital woman

copyright 2011/all rights reserved


a novel by



   Kitty’s mother didn’t know a spoon from a spatula and as a result, passed on nothing that could pass for culinary art to her daughter.  Kitty’s parents had a brutal and unforgiving marriage hidden behind congenial outward social appearances so Kitty believed her mother when she told her that in order to get and keep a man, Kitty needed to learn how to feed a man, her mother’s own marriage as evidence of not feeding a man.  She long ago declared the kitchen off limits to the myriad servants that kept the Coleman household running.  After years of study with some of the best chefs in the world, Kitty had become a first-rate chef herself, although apparently it had no measurable effect on the quality of her marriage.  Still, even Bicky couldn’t deny that Kitty had perfected her art.  Tonight the table was adorned by stuffed pheasant, prawns sauteed in avocado oil and cajun seasonings, baby potatoes baked in olive oil, lemon and oregano, snap peas, lightly steamed, and a lovely arugula and mixed greens salad.

Kitty was palpably relieved to have Sonia’s company at the dinner table and wondered, as she bit into a prawn, whether her daughter had fared any better in the marriage department.  Sonia and Hart seemed to have a good marriage, but many who knew Kitty and Bicky would swear the same was true of them, since in public they demonstrated what appeared to be love for each other.  Kitty was a vital woman, full of youthful efflorescence, not the sort that would be predisposed to abstinence, yet all the years without the companionship of her husband had taken their toll on her.  She felt herself drying up on the inside, like ripe fruit left for days in the sun.  Being distinctly southern with all its foibles and genteel sensibilities, sex was something Kitty could not bring herself to talk about, not even with her intimates, which included Sonia.  She was sure Bicky blamed the end of their sex life on Kitty’s inability to forgive one unfortunate incident, but Kitty had seen worse growing up, and that wouldn’t have kept her from Bicky’s bed forever.  Rather it was the lack of intimacy, or any kind of emotional connection with her husband that pushed her away.  Bicky had shoved his emotions so far down, they lived in his feet.  The man would not recognize love if it threw up on him.

These days, the Coleman’s maintained separate bedrooms in opposite wings of the mansion.  The move occurred sometime after Sonia shipped off to Columbia and Kitty discovered that Bicky had kept mistresses for the last twenty years, usually for periods of six to eighteen months, like a prison term for a misdemeanor.  Sensing her own interests would be served by the revelation, Kitty made her knowledge public, the public constituting Bicky and Sonia.  She chose her words carefully paying particular attention to present tense syntax so neither one was ever really sure just how much Kitty knew and for how long she knew it.

To Bicky she simply said, “I know what you’re up to.  And I’m leaving.  Don’t try to stop me.”   Bicky said nothing as usual, but waited on Kitty’s next move.  Luckily, it was only across the foyer and down the hall.

Kitty knew that Bicky loved her to the extent he was capable.  She also knew that had she even once confronted him, raised her voice, thrown a Chinese vase, shown some territorial frenzy over his nocturnal meanderings, Bicky would have ended his affairs.  But recalling her mother’s misery, Kitty decided the best course of action was to remain complacent and aloof and so she allowed Bicky’s transgressions knowing it was her indifference more than anything that branded Bicky’s psyche and bound him to her.  Kitty also knew that Bicky had come to interpret her attitude as one of intense loathing disguised by good southern breeding, and on that point, he wasn’t too far off the mark.


   Dinner was delightful and Sonia couldn’t remember a time when Bicky was so charming.  He told jokes that left both Sonia and her mother clutching their sides in laughter.  For a moment, they were a family and Sonia felt an affinity for her father which left her feeling both sated and bereft.  After dinner, Bicky sat by the fire sipping cognac while Sonia stretched on the couch, her grandmother’s handmade quilt, a swirling vortex of color pulled over her legs as a nascent, tentative bond was forming with her father.

“Tell me something about when you were young,” Sonia said.

A handsome man in any light, the glow of the fire gave Bicky a swarthy, Roman look.  Somber, he sipped the amber liquid and gazed at the crackling fire.

“I had two shirts, two pairs of pants, three pairs of socks and a pair of shoes.  My mother was constantly mending things just to keep our wardrobe together.  When your grandfather struck oil, we celebrated by buying a new outfit.”

“Well, eventually he bought you more clothes.”

“Oh yeah, but that wasn’t until later.  After Mason died and it was just me and him, he realized that life really wasn’t waiting for anybody.”  Bicky’s voice cracked.  Sonia studied him, intrigued by the uncharacteristic show of emotion.

“He was a tight-assed bastard, your grandfather.  Never spent a dime.  Not on us, anyway. Why do you think you have so much money?”  He swirled the cognac around the tumbler.

“I don’t remember him that way,” Sonia said.

Bicky grunted and grew silent.  The grandfather clock chimed ten times.  Sonia yawned, stood and folded the quilt.  “Thanks for a great night, Dad.”  She smiled at her father, but Bicky said nothing.  “I’m going to say goodbye to Mom,” she said, and left the room.


   Bicky walked Sonia out to her car while Kitty stood in the archway.  Sonia blew her mother a kiss and Kitty disappeared inside.

Bicky leaned in and pecked her on the cheek, flashing his perfect teeth, a smile few could resist.  He patted her arm and rested it there.  “Don’t forget to bring me the report tomorrow.”

“Ah, the report.  I hadn’t planned on coming to town tomorrow.  How about I mail it?”

“No!”  Bicky’s voice was gruff and agitated.  “You’re putting yourself at risk.”

“Dad, I’m not even going to be home.”

“Let me tell you, if word gets out that you have a copy of that report….”

“Is it me or you that would be in trouble?” she asked, finishing his sentence.

Bicky put his hands on the car door and straightened up.  “You probably didn’t read it so you don’t understand how damaging it is.”

“I read it.  And I understand.  That report gets out and it could mark the beginning of World War III.  That’s why you sent David to the Middle East.  You want your best people surveying the world’s largest remaining oil reservoirs.”

Bicky’s face turned the color of blanched almonds; he squeezed the door frame.  “Sonia…do not get messed up in this.”

“I’m already messed up in it.”

Bicky looked back at the house where Kitty had turned on the lights in her suite.  His eyes wandered to his side of the house, dark and uninviting.  “And he’ll be back before the sun comes up,” he said.  “So let it go.”

“I would if you’d let him stay more than ten minutes before sending him off again,” she said.  “Are you that desperate to have him secure your interests?”

“There are terrible people in this world, Sonia, and they do terrible things.  Be happy your grandfather’s money keeps you from having to deal with them on a daily basis.”

“If you don’t want me messed up with them, why would you allow David to be?”

“Hart’s a man.  And a damn good engineer.”  Bicky met Sonia’s gaze at eye level.  “Do you know what will happen when people realize we only have twenty or thirty years of oil reserves left?  I mean, when they really stop to think about it?  Pandemonium.”

“Well if it’s so precious, just charge more money and people will drive less.”

“If we charged per barrel what oil was really worth, the average consumer couldn’t afford a trip to the grocery store.  Our whole economy is premised on the consumption of cheap fossil fuel, Sonia.  Every aspect.  It’s not just about driving your car to the movies.”  He paused to let his words sink in.  “Most of our products are trucked across the country.  Milk and butter are cheap because oil is cheap.  But higher food prices are only the beginning.  The majority of our products are made from plastic, not steel, and you need oil to make it.  It’s not just about baggies and milk jugs.  It’s about camera bodies and television sets and lawn furniture and car parts.  It’s actually a waste to burn oil as gas.  It’s too valuable.  Liquid gold.”

“Don’t you think you’re getting a little carried away?” she asked.

“I’m serious.”  The lawn sprinkler hissed to life and Sonia jumped.

“I’m not trying to scare you, dear,” he said.  “I’m trying to enlighten you.”  He looked from her to Kitty’s window and said, half to himself:  “So much like your mother.”  His eyes softened and Sonia thought she detected a trace of fear in his unshakable demeanor.

“If you wanted to avoid it, and by you I mean the energy industry, you could.  You’d be pouring money into R&D, developing a cheap way to access solar power, or hydroelectric power, or any of the myriad powers that show promise.  But you don’t.  Why?  Because you can’t make enough money.  Once the technology’s there you can’t harness it for yourself and, God forbid, you don’t want people to be self-sufficient.  Then they wouldn’t need you.”

Bicky raised the corner of his mouth in a mocking smile.  “Touche, my dear,” he said.  “Still that doesn’t make your knowledge any less dangerous.  And if not the danger, think of the resulting plight of all those poor out-of-work oil company employees.”

to be continued. . .

to read previous installments, scroll down the page

surreal light

copyright 2011/all rights reserved


a novel by



 Sonia would have regretted accepting the dinner invitation had it not been for her mother’s usual effervescence.  They holed up in the kitchen chatting amiably about how the baby’s imminent arrival would change things between Sonia and Hart, about the wisdom of getting a dog before mother and child were sleeping through the night, and, of all things, wine.

“Oh for Godsakes, Sonia.  The kid’s not going to get shnookered off half a glass.  I drank one every night when I was pregnant with you.  I even smoked an occasional cigarette, but they started making me sick so I quit.”

“What were you thinking?” Sonia asked, horrified.

“Nobody told us anything then. I never got loaded.  It helped me sleep.”

“Yeah, but didn’t you at least think it might not be good?  For me, I mean.”

“You’re not a dim-wit.”  Kitty squeezed Sonia’s shoulder.  “A half a glass of wine is not going to drop his I.Q.  Not at this late date.”  Kitty shoved a Cabernet into her daughter’s hand.  Sonia set it down and rubbed her finger up and down the delicate stem of the glass.

“Actually, I’d rather have a Guinness,” she laughed.  “I’ve been craving one for weeks.  You got any?”

“I don’t drink the heathen brew.”  Kitty said, peeking in the oven.  She donned double mitts and hauled the roasted pheasant out for closer inspection, her slender muscles obliging her.  Kitty weighed a hundred and six pounds.  The pheasant had more body fat.  “Check with your father.”

Sonia frowned.  “Really, Mom.  How have you done it all these years?”

“It’s one of my greatest joys,” Kitty replied.

“I’m not talking about cooking.  I’m talking about living with him.”

“You do it for the baby, Sonia.  It’s all for the babies.”

Sonia raised her glass and spoke to her belly.  “Here’s to you, baby.”  She took a small sip, shuddered and poured the rest of the wine in the sink.

Kitty rolled her eyes and prodded the bird lightly with a fork.  “Go tell your father dinner’s ready.”  Kitty said.

Sonia sighed and left in search of an audience.


She blew into Bicky’s sitting room like a sudden wind blasting through a broken window.  A low fire crackled away in the hearth, emanating a warmth that offset the chilly October air.  The curtains had not yet been drawn and the last rays of the sun’s daily trek left streaks across the western horizon like an early Picasso, all color and angle.  The surreal light coming through the floor to ceiling windows cast odd shapes about the room.  Sonia grabbed the armrest of Bicky’s chair and sank to her knees, staring out at the beauty of it.

Bicky chose that exact moment to return to the sitting room and, his seat.  In the dusky light, Sonia’s inert figure was practically invisible.  Bicky tripped over his daughter and, unfurling like a flag, fell headlong, ending with a thud on the slate surrounding the hearth.

“Oh my God,” Sonia said, and jumped up to turn on the light.

Bicky sat up wincing and rubbed at the red welt, already the size of a walnut, forming above his right eye.  He glared at Sonia for a moment and grimaced.

“Oh, geez, Dad, I’m so sorry, I….”  She snickered, then cleared her throat to cover the faux pas.   “Can I get you some ice or something?”

Bicky motioned with his head toward the wet bar.

Sonia fixed her father a Chivas and water and handed him the glass.  “Mom said it’s time for dinner,” she said, and left.

Using a fire poker for balance, Bicky hoisted himself up, turned off the light, and sank into his armchair.  His long slender fingers probed the delicate area.  He could hear Sonia rummaging around in the kitchen, sense the lowered voices of mother and daughter, feel the muffled laughter like a poker in the ribs.  Bicky was scowling at the fire when Sonia returned a minute later with a plastic bag full of ice wrapped in a dishtowel.  He sniffed the towel before applying it to the walnut-sized lump on his forehead.

“What, you think I’d give you a used towel?” Sonia said reading his mind.

Bicky smiled and busied himself with the ice.  He didn’t say thank you, just sat in silence, recalling the many non-lectures of Sonia’s youth, willing the words to form on his tongue, yet unable to manage a syllable, for either a tongue lashing or executive pardon.  Before Sonia was born he had joked that if the baby were a girl he’d throw it in the river.  His first glance at Sonia was rife with disappointment, and not just because of her sex.  Something deeper was at work, something Bicky couldn’t put his finger.  His wife hoped that in time, he’d turn a favorable eye toward his daughter, but infants do little else but sleep and eat and poop and cry, and Bicky, the mover and shaker, didn’t have the time to invest in that kind of nonsense.

As a result, Kitty chose Sonia over him, pushing her sulking husband even farther away.  Soon after Sonia’s birth, their sex life began its precipitous decline which probably would have been reversible, but for one unfortunate evening when Bicky came home, quite intoxicated, and when his advances were declined, slapped his wife in the face.  Kitty never willingly slept in the same bed with her husband again.  In Bicky’s mind, the two events – the birth of his daughter and the loss of a willing, companionable wife — were inextricably intertwined.  Had he been able to see beyond the prominent, handsome nose on his face, he would have realized that in her inimitable southern style, Kitty was using sex, the only weapon she had in her arsenal at the time, in the hopes of bringing Bicky around to loving his daughter.

But truth often remains hidden until one trips over it – literally – and even then it’s hard to face.  So Bicky sat, sullen and craggy, staring at the fire while Sonia waited patiently for a tirade that wasn’t coming.  What Bicky didn’t know was that Sonia was in her early teens when she concluded that a parent who couldn’t rouse sufficient anger to correct a guilty child was a parent who didn’t give a damn.

Sonia cleared her throat and rose to go.  “It’s time for dinner.  If you feel up to it.”

The sun had set; the only light in the room came from the fireplace and Bicky could barely make out Sonia’s shadowy figure walking away.  “Where is it?”

“Where is what?” Sonia stopped, but did not turn around.

“You know what,” he hissed.

“No… I don’t,” she said coyly.

And so went their game, and only now did Bicky give her his undivided attention.  “I’m not going to ask why you took it.  Although I suspect it has something to do with gaining leverage to bring your husband home.”

Bicky flicked on the lamp next to the arm chair and stood to look at his daughter.  Sonia’s countenance and bearing were regal.  She had her mother’s high cheekbones and slender figure.  Even pregnant, her face retained its sculptured look.  From the back, he would have been hard pressed to say she carried the extra weight.

Sonia stood still, head facing Bicky, body facing the kitchen, refusing to turn to him.

“I had hoped you and I could find some common ground,” Bicky said, his business voice taking over.  “With this baby and all, it might be the thing we need to get past our…differences.”  He strolled over, squeezed her shoulder, flashed a tight-lipped smile, meant to convey warmth.

She flinched.  He lowered his hand and patted her arm.  He felt her relax almost imperceptibly into the arms – arms which had withheld their support for most of her life – and then constrict again.

“I know you can’t wash years away in an evening,” he said.  “But maybe we can start.”  Bicky’s eyes were wide and sincere.

Sonia dropped her head to Bicky’s shoulder as if she were trying it on for size.  He stiffened, but didn’t recoil.  She reached up a hand to touch the knot on his forehead.  He squeezed an eye shut, but allowed the invasion.  She smiled, a small, tentative thing, and he squeezed her arm in response.

“Shall we dine?” he asked.  Sonia nodded.

Without releasing his grip, Bicky steered his daughter into the dining room.

to be continued. . .