The Perfect Fraud: This gripping novel explores complex realities

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To my delight, Ellen LaCorte carries the reader inside the mind of a psychic in The Perfect Fraud.  There we get a glimpse of the physical and emotional toll, complete with the joys and fears, the discomforts and the thrill, that would come with tapping into the spirit of someone else. But it also raises the question of whether psychics are for real or not. Don’t some of them help the police find the killer? Not having ever considered much about the legitimacy of psychics, I found myself curious to follow the story of Claire, whose powers to see into the lives of others seems to come and go. Readers see what it means to have the ability to channel other people’s experiences, and to see ahead to the threats clients soon will face. This novel idea made The Perfect Fraud a gripping read.

Juxtaposed with the psychic Claire’s emotional life is the ongoing story of another woman, Rena, who goes to great lengths in caring for her seriously sick girl. Just as in the case of the psychic we are carried into Rena’s mind. She is a woman who must take dramatic steps to discover the cause of her daughter’s deteriorating health, tracking down doctor after doctor in search of a diagnosis. It is easy to relate to the mother who will stop at nothing to safeguard her daughter, and this is where Ellen LaCorte’s story grabs hold of you.

But neither Claire nor Rena are what they seem on the surface. They are more than just women with the power to affect the lives of others. As events unfold, subtle hints suggest that the narrators of these two storylines report their worlds as they alone perceive them. Suddenly their ability to see themselves clearly is called into question. The reader turns pages to see who’s telling the truth and how the lives of these two women, both caught in their own mother-daughter entanglements, will intersect.

The Perfect Fraud surprises, entertains and delights with the unexpected story of two women, each struggling to get what they need and what they want out of life while forced to face their complicated realities.

Join me at the Langhorne Writers Group

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Next week I’ll be talking to a writers group in Bucks County about the lengthy path I have taken as a writer. Meet me at the Sheraton on Oxford Valley Road in Langhorne, PA at 6:30pm to join in the conversation about This Writer’s Journey.

I knew I had a story to tell when I realized I’d reached adulthood unwilling to trust anyone. Back then I knew to take things seriously. Not to say out loud anything that mattered to me. Not to expect anyone’s help. To be leery of people who wanted to help. To leave my body if I needed to. That is all different now and it has been eighteen years since starting my project.

I’ll be using Austin Kleon’s book, Show Your Work “a best-selling guide to getting your work discovered,” to help me describe my own path. I’ll be using his points to make my points. He says that work, or in our case, writing, “is about process not product and that by being open and freely sharing your process you can gain a following that you can then use for fellowship, feedback or patronage.”

My own process has been slow for good reason, and I’ll talk about the hurdles we all face in trying to move forward in the seemingly solitary pursuit of “being an author.”

 

If you notice that you are unloading all of your issues on your fellow humans on a day-to-day basis, maybe you should talk to someone

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I love the title of the book Maybe You Should Talk to Someone by Lori Gottlieb. It’s a phrase we hear often, but the subtext is a serious one that is easy to ignore. So by making it the title she highlights the notion that no, really, maybe you should talk to someone.

Lori Gottlieb shows us in her informed examination of the psychotherapeutic process, that making contact is the primary goal when a patient shows up on the therapist’s couch. She gives us a sense of what a therapist might experience as they go about their work day attempting to assist those who come to them seeking help. Meanwhile, as she tells us about her various patients and what they talk about in her office, she herself is struggling with her own crisis. This comes in the form of jilted love that derails the life she had been planning, and for which she also seeks the help of a therapist.

It’s a bit of genius to open up the role that is traditionally held secret, that of the therapist but also that of the patient, to demystify the process and therefore welcome us all into what some may see as the scary world of psychotherapy. By positioning herself as both therapist and patient she shows us that it is not that easy to get the job done. That it is not just a matter of showing up and paying the money and claiming you were there, no matter which role you take. Both must engage. Both must make contact.

I know this firsthand for having wandered into a psychotherapist’s office when I was 27 and then staying for about another twenty years. A good therapist can open up their office as a symbol of what it means to be real. I went in believing that psychotherapy was a place to “learn more about oneself” whatever that means, rather than to work on any problems. I actually believed I had no problems, except at some level I must have realized the benefits because I went willingly and openly. A capable therapist, as Lori shows herself to be, has the power to help people make huge changes in their lives if they are able to welcome the opportunity. You must give yourself over to their leadings, trust in their training, their intuition, and their humanity, to guide you where you need to go. And a talented therapist can do it.

Lori Gottlieb is not afraid to show us how this works as she offers both the details and the outlines to the processes undergone by her patients and herself. Each of us at our own pace and in the therapy office, must let down the very useful defenses that keep us from unloading all our issues onto our fellow humans in our day-to-day lives, and Lori shows us that in this engaging book.

 

 

 

Susan Holloway Scott meets Project Runway

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Soon after meeting Susan Holloway Scott this week, the best-selling author of many historical novels including her latest, The Secret Wife of Aaron Burr, I went to her Instagram account. There I found a treasure trove of Project Runway-perfect inspirational photos. Not only does Susan delight in crafting stories about historical figures, she posts lots of artwork. She’s attracted to pictures of women, often wearing clothes of either great richness or great simplicity. I couldn’t help but imagine the designers on Project Runway running away with ideas inspired by the frocks in the many paintings she selects. The dresses themselves tell a story.

Great examples are “The Painter’s Honeymoon” by Frederic, Lord Leighton, c1864, “Lille Marie on Neky’s Arm” N.P. Holbech, 1838, and Kehine Wiley’s 2012 “The Two Sisters.” Thank you, Susan, for sharing these images with us.

Billie on the Street

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About the most fun I’ve had in a while was eating dinner with friends and talking about the goofy Netflix show starring Billie Eichner called “Billie on the Street.”

He absurdly approaches a random woman on the streets of NYC, camera crew in tow, waving a dollar bill, screaming at her to “Name two people!” Somehow it is hilarious to see victims become paralyzed when talked to in this abusive manner, even when it is simply to “name two people.” He really means any two people, such as “Mom” or “Joe.” You see their panic as they realize it is as simple as it sounds yet they cannot make themselves calm down enough to come up with the names of two people. I mean, even saying, “the milkman” would probably suffice, but even that is impossible for these ambushed deer-in-the-headlights people.

I’m not saying I wouldn’t also be terrified. Being abused verbally is not actually funny. It is truly terrifying. But in the spirit of the old comedian Don Rickels, Billie Eichner insults and abuses for a laugh. He’s angry and rude and screaming, impatient with the world and particularly, you.

Because of the humor, I can see his actions as a social experiment. He exposes the truth that we freeze up when treated badly, lose our heads and have no sense of the moment. Become ineffective and weak. Powerless. He shows us that no matter the content of the abuse, we are vicitms simply by virtue of it.

Fighting back is an option, but few people on this show have the presence of mind to do so. That’s why, I guess, we had a hilarious dinner, topping each other with one silly “Billie on the Street” story after another.

“You can hide behind words” – Tara Westover

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When Tara Westover said that as an author she can hide behind words, I knew exactly what she meant. It’s easy to use figurative language to suggest an idea and then let the reader bring what they will to it. In this way, we as authors invite individual interpretations of universal themes.

It may seem like we are saying something particular, but in truth by using metaphors and other rhetorical devices we only offer a suggestion. Then the reader embellishes. We have hidden what we really think or how we really feel in this way, especially if we aren’t even sure ourselves.

I sat in on a discussion of Educated, Tara Westover’s memoir, at our local library and watched as various participants presented Tara’s work as evidence of various positions on the nature of evil, power, and denial of the past.

I love how powerful words are.

The Big Mind Break at The Lodge at Woodloch

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If I could have taken a picture of my daughter and myself outdoors in the infinity hot tub, in the woods during a snowstorm, peering out across the forest where deer were nestled in from the weather, to the view of the frozen lake beyond, I sure would have. But, as you can imagine, I just couldn’t manage a camera at the time.

Besides that unique experience I learned to ice fish! No mani-pedi’s for me.

And start fire by rubbing sticks together! 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Lodge at Woodloch, in the Poconos, was a spa full of deligthful surprises. It was worth the splurge to be there because not only did we have the fun of these physical outdoor activities, we enjoyed some unique indoor fun, too. Here we are on The Great Wall of Yoga.

Once our brains were well-perfused we sat in on a small-group discussion of “apologies.” A social worker led by describing her cancer experience and how her first doctor, who missed the signs and the diagnosis, seemed to be avoiding her. Missing apologies, accepting apologies and how to move on if you’ve decided not to accept an apology were all brilliant points if you ask me since these are issues of everyday life.

The big mind break of thinking in different ways and learning new skill brought a joy I didn’t expect. This gift to my daughter seemed like it might be loaded with the kind of activities I enjoy only in small doses. But the thoughtful variety of things to do and experience were exactly what I appreciated in this January trip to the spa.

The Writer’s Journey

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By the time I reached adulthood I knew not to trust anyone. I knew to take things seriously. Not to say out loud anything that mattered to me. Not to expect anyone’s help. To be leery of people who wanted to help. To leave my body if I needed to.

I have been compelled to write the story of my unusual childhood, and now eighteen years after starting my project, I have an agent and a completed manuscript that’s making the rounds at various notable publishing houses. Join me next Tuesday night at the Brandywine Valley Writers Group where I’ll lead a discussion on The Writer’s Journey.

I’ll be using Austin Kleon’s book, Show Your Work “a best-selling guide to getting your work discovered,” to help me describe my own path. I’ll be using his points to make my points. He says that work, or in our case, writing, “is about process not product and that by being open and freely sharing your process you can gain a following that you can then use for fellowship, feedback or patronage.”

My own process has been slow for good reason, and I’ll talk about the hurdles we all face in trying to move forward in the seemingly solitary pursuit of “being an author.”

Meet us at Ryan’s Pub in West Chester, PA at 7:00pm to join in the conversation about The Writer’s Journey.

Throwing plates at the wall

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Whatever was on my father’s mind was rarely a secret. Unless it was a secret, of course. Both my parents were masters at keeping secrets. Common everyday concerns, like how they felt about me, for instance, was worthy of a trip along with them to their graves. Oh, they tried to come up with plausible feelings, but I don’t think they knew how they felt about much.

Their feelings popped out unexpectedly at times.

They didn’t fight. At least not in front of the kids. Oh, they did bickering pretty well, and complaining, and Dad was especially good at deriding, degrading and humiliating. But I was shocked to learn, that during my childhood, Dad would get so mad he threw plates at the wall. That’s what Mom said, and I believed her because it definitely sounded like Dad. But I never saw anything like that. That was a secret.

It was no secret that was how it was supposed to be. You are supposed to never share your feelings, if you even know what they are.

That’s what I learned at home.

Daughter saves the show

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Last night my daughter complained that both my husband and I fell asleep at the movie theatre. (What are they putting in those loungy reclining chairs for anyway?)

“It’s like going to the movies alone,” she said.

I countered with, “You used to wet you pants, you know,” and that shut her down!

Thanks to her waking me several times though, I can report that Knives Out is a delightful show with an unexpected social commentary under all the fun.