Paper Whites


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Writing? What writing? As I stare at this white paper, empty and yet pregnant with doubts about being a writer, I can only think about my recent past and how I’ve made that my excuse for not writing. Another new year and it seems I’ve lost all seeds of inspiration.

If not for pictures, I may forget more than just the words, so as I go through the photos on my iPhone trying to recapture the year, I will try to recreate my life. But I cannot see the forest through the trees. Recently, my life has been as full as a house jam-packed with clutter — just don’t light a match. (Forgive the metaphors, at least I’m writing shit down!) Life isn’t the simple life I thought I wanted — the life of a writer — but I wouldn’t change anything, really.

The wait for something to happen with my writing has been like a ten-month pregnancy. And just as I should be blistering over with new fodder for story ideas, the writing seems to stop, as it did the year before last when I found myself expecting my first grandchild (our Esperanza/Hope). Out of wedlock, I finally got married a couple of months later to my Coast Guard (don’t even get me started on life savior metaphors or how my ship finally came in). And then, not even nine months later, I had another grandchild so I put my writing on hold to hold my grandbabies. My writing life has altered faster than a diaper change.

But at least my ailing mom was happy to meet her two great-grandchildren. She was even happier to know that I was married (even though it wasn’t in the church and he was a Gringo) and not living in sin anymore. She did a little Mexican Hat Dance at our wedding reception — the best one (of my three) she’d ever attended, she told me. She could now die happy. A few months later she did die, but it wasn’t a very happy transition, especially amongst my siblings. All kinds of shit from the past came to the clogged toilet’s surface.

And then a couple of months after Mom passed, my sister’s Malibu home has burned to the ground in the Woolsey fire. Only the scorched foundation is left under the ashes. Not to sound cliché, but it really does put things into perspective about what’s important in life and yet I ask myself, what’s it all about, Alfie? Past sins also seem to have been gutted in the fire, if not just temporarily, but any seeds of motivation have also burned away. Being a writer doesn’t seem so important anymore. Life is so precious and I’m paralyzed by the thoughts of it all sizzling away faster than a Woolsey Wildfire — especially before having become a smoking red-hot writer myself.


Scrolling through my smart phone, I now notice the photo I took while visiting my sister’s fire-ravaged property a few days after the fire. Three little flowers — paper whites — have miraculously pushed up through the charred soil, tiny faces beaming toward the sun. Standing tall in the shadow of the ruins, like the three Marys under the three crosses on Mount Calvary, the white-capped mini saints seem to be shouting at me, “Hey, look at us, nothing can keep us down — not a little fire, not even the crucifixion of our Lord! Pick up your pen and write, you big whiner!”

Three days later, I shall rise from the dead. The seeds of inspiration have been sown: babies, new life, new growth, death, changes, love, forgiveness, and hope.

But for now, my husband is asking me to join him down at the marina to check on our boats (this Coastie and writer don’t own boats, we manage and care for them). What can I tell him? No, I’m a writer not a boat cleaner. Leave me alone. 

Actually, I will use this as another excuse not to write, but I do see a story here and at least I’ve written this all down before grabbing, unfortunately not a pen, but my cleaning supplies.



Words Don’t Fail Me Now!



I just read an interesting article in “Medium” by Brian Kurian entitled “3 of the Most Effective Ways to Fail as a Writer.

Well, so far, I’m able to check all three boxes that would qualify me as writing a failure, I used to love writing. Right now I don’t know what’s going on with me, except that here are the 3 sure-fire ways I’m killing my writing career:

#1 — Be Insecure About The Quality Of Your Writing

Just because I’ve received probably over a hundred rejection letters (more like impersonal form rejection notices) that don’t give any reasons/feedback whatsoever. What else can I think but that it’s because of the quality of my writing? (To be honest, I do have a novel coming out “Curse of the Ninth” sometime soon, but it’s still with the editor, and I do have other writing just floating around out there in the ether!)

#2 — Don’t Absorb High-Quality Content

I guess Facebook and “Potty Time With Elmo” don’t count.

#3 — Don’t Make Writing A High-Priority

Okay, so this morning 12/17/18, I’m setting aside some time to write some content. Now that the frenzy of funerals and fires are over, the house hunting, taxes, banking, Christmas shopping, grand-babysitting, and husband will just have to wait because I am a writer who doesn’t want to fail. Just putting it out there! (But how can I resist these two little loves of my life, who when they call, I go running!)0729f684-54e9-4e3b-84ae-1dd213a3d7b7


Milky Way Hope


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Nighttime and behind my eyes it’s dark

but the stars still twinkle and spark across

the Milky Way backdrop of my eyelids

heavy as titanium.


I wake to the words: “At first there was light.”

As the sun bleeds through the windows of my soul

I imagine an asteroid blasting me clear

out of this solar system into another.

It gives me hope. I get out of bed.

Scary Times for Men


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Christine woke up from a nightmare in an Alaskan

Best Western, before realizing she wasn’t dreaming.

“This is a very scary time for young men in America,” the man in the t.v. blasted.


She hadn’t come far enough north.

So she unplugged, strapped on her big

red hiking boots (the better to kick with)

and escaped into the woods

like Little Red Riding Hood or

Hansel and Gretel,

leaving no bread crumbs

for there was no turning back.


Christine knew that throughout history and fairytales,

women and children had never been safe

in the forest. But now was an especially scary time

in America for #MenToo.


Wandering like Thoreau (a young man in America) through the woods,

she wondered whether Henry’d ever encountered

a big bad wolf or a creepy Grimm witch along the pond.

They used to hunt witches in Massachusetts, she shuttered

to think. Falsely accused, they were hung after trial.


She hurried along her way north until after a time,

through a curtain of dazzling snowflakes,

Christine came upon a nice-looking igloo where

she entered quietly, hoping everything would be

just right.



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Just above the melting Godwin Glacier, over

The seaport of Seward,

The sun explodes like a ball of fire.

Wakey, wakey! It shouts, splashing a

bucket of icy crystals down the

Kenai Fjords and out across the anchorage.


Yesterday the water was calm,

The surface smooth as pine-colored glass.

Not even a raindrop for a rippling effect.

Today, a slight northern wind causes the water

to sparkle and wrinkle like corrugated steel.

Beyond, small waves break as a pod

of orcas perhaps search for silver salmon

and fishermen return to Resurrection Bay.




Curse of the Ninth


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Novelist and Screenwriter Ruthie Marlenee Signs with E.L. Marker™

Novelist and Screenwriter Ruthie Marlenée Signs with E.L. Marker™

SALT LAKE CITY, October 2, 2018

Like her main character Charlie, Ruthie Marlenée grew up hearing wild, colorful stories about her wealthy, entrepreneurial grandfather.  Later, knowing she liked to write stories, her father approached her.  “Kid, you wanna story?  Watch Chinatown.  That’s who killed your grandfather.”

Dubious, dismissive, yet intrigued and also a lover of film noir,  Marlenée watched the movie. It prompted her to do further research, leading her down a different path. She discovered a story not just about murder, but about greed, jealousy, and the psychological havoc wreaked upon the little boy Charlie, and consequently his descendants.

The result is her novel, “Curse of the Ninth,” a tale based on real and imagined events. After almost twenty years since the kernel of the idea was planted, after going back to UCLA to workshop the story, after earning her Writers’ Certificate in Fiction and a nomination for a James Kirkwood Literary Award for “Curse of the Ninth,”  Marlenée is happy to find a home with the WiDo/E.L. Marker Family of Publishers. A company  Marlenée describes as “a personable and genuine organization willing to take this project on.”

Marlenée believes that writing is about using your imagination and so sometimes when she writes she can’t help but add bits of magic or elements of speculation.  In her current novel, she marries the notion of the Curse of the Ninth Symphony, where a composer is doomed to complete a tenth, together with the Buddhist meditation practice of Phowa, the transference of consciousness at time of death.

Marlenée likes to read the kind of books where she can imagine the movie, so needless to say, once she’s completed one of her books, she adapts it into the screenplay.  When working on a novel, it’s a 24/7 sort of gig.  When not physically writing, she can be present amongst family and friends and function pretty well, but in her head she’s always working out an idea or a scene and that’s what keeps the smirk on her face.

Ruthie Marlenée is a mother and a new grandmother and a wife to a husband she adores.  She loves to read, write, see movies, play tennis and travel. She enjoys all the gifts California’s nature has to offer.  It’s no wonder with so many wonderful hobbies that she has so many wonderful stories to tell.

Marlenée found the WiDo Family of Publishers through a subscription of Poets and Writers.  She says, “I liked the idea of a smaller press run by a family passionate about literature and willing to give writers with good stories a chance.”

We couldn’t be more excited for her to be joining our family with her book “Curse of the Ninth,” and hope it’s just the beginning of a beautiful story for all.

Marlenee has earned a Writers’ Certificate “With Distinction” from UCLA.  Some of her writing can be found in  Silver Birch Press, Long Story Short, and The Coiled Serpent Anthology.  Her screenplays have been recognized at film festivals, domestically and internationally.  She first published a novel Isabela’s Island in 2004.  She has completed a fourth novel, ​Agave Blues​​.  Learn more about the author at her website




Fifty-six years ago when I was four.

Yes, do the math, I am in my sixties.

I am old enough to know better, or

young enough to still have my faculties.

At four was I old enough to know best?

At fourteen was he only being a boy?

“Just look into this tiger’s eye,” he said,

Handing me the shiny round marble toy.


I can recall details, colors, touch, place.

Time of year I can only guess – Easter?

I can tell you there were others present,

But not about the looks upon their face.


Is it real, this tiger’s eye, I wondered?

Feeling pressure, I turned my gaze into

The eye of evil, harbinger of shame.

Years silenced until it happened again.


Then I spoke up, but no one seemed to care.

Forced once more to shut up, suit up, play nice.

Chin up. Get over it. Who said life’s fair?

I’ve dared to speak up and I’ve paid the price.

Continue reading



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News warns us to expect showers by this afternoon.

And, outside I can already hear the clouds rolling in

Or, maybe it’s just the planes headed south.

And if you listen closely, the only sounds are of heat

and dryness like a rattler crossing the desert.

On the radio last night callers talked

About making soups and pumpkin lattes.

Seriously? We’re still basking in 70 degrees.

I put on my Uggs, but quickly shake them off.

It’ll be a cold day in hell before it rains in California.

Fish Tacos


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Mom was always quite blunt, unapologetic and didn’t mince words. She’d said a couple of years ago, “What are you waiting for? I sure hope you get published before I die.” (I’d given her a copy of the manuscript. She loved it so much she mailed me an advance of $100.00!)


In this photo, my sister, my niece and I have just sprung Mom out of hospice (with a two-hour supply of oxygen) for a road trip down memory lane: Monte Vista Street, La Habra, California. We found our old home buried in the re-gentrified barrio surrounded by half a million dollar homes and multi-unit apartments. “That’s where Mama Cuca lived,” I said to my niece, pointing to my grandma’s still-standing bungalow next to the train tracks and across the street from my childhood home. You could see the steeple from the old Catholic church poking out behind it. “And the Conchola’s place, and Doña Pola’s. Oh look, they’ve covered the ditch where Carla (my sister) fell in trying to catch pollywogs; where old Señora Gradillas landed one night after mass.” In all black, including her mantilla, la señora had been walking home from church in the dark (there were no street lamps back then) when she was struck and killed by a car, catapulting her into the ditch. Mom simply nodded. “Remember, they used to have those holy processions down our street before Christmas?”  I asked. “Las Posadas,” Mom added, low and hoarse. Next, we drove through the grounds of our old school and parish, Our Lady of Guadalupe. Mom didn’t need to go inside the church. She said, “I’ve seen it enough,” besides her swollen legs weren’t working very well (or was it that she knew she’d be resting inside before too long?). And then after we couldn’t find the place where Mom remembered they sold fish tacos on Idaho Street (as if a taco stand would still be standing after 50 years), I put a smile on her face when I told her I’d just signed a publishing contract. Later, at home, in between bites of something bland and puréed, I overheard her telling the hospice nurse about her daughter, the author – something about being proud — (something better than fish tacos).