Embracing My Inner-Teenage-Girl Angst

Mari Kato, a vegan Buddhist, turns flesh-eating demon on her 16th birthday thanks to a family curse.

Mari Kato, a vegan Buddhist, turns flesh-eating demon on her 16th birthday thanks to a family curse.

Sometimes tapping into my inner teenage-girl-angst feels just a little more raw than what’s comfortable. At the same time, I love using that energy to create powerful scenes. What was that famous quote by Erica Jong? (Pardon me while I look it up!)

If you’re writing and you don’t feel nervous, then you’re probably not writing anything interesting.”

And then there’s the emotional scene I’ve excerpted below, where Mari must say goodbye to her parents, for the very last time… because her mission means making the ultimate sacrifice, her life!   

~Jamie (a firm believer in happy endings and never killing off  heroines!)

Pacing over to my parents, I wrapped my arms around them and took a shaky breath. This was the last time I’d ever see them. I know the root of all suffering comes from attachment, and as good Buddhists we’re supposed to rise above all the wanting, but right now I just wanted my parents.

I wanted them to know I loved them. And that they were the best mom and dad a girl could ever ask for. I’d miss my mom’s all-consuming enthusiasm for rocks and science. I’d even miss the way she got all amped-up on coffee and stayed up for days doing research. I’d even miss her constant checking up on me.

Then there was dad.

All at once, I regretted my every eye-roll of every Four-Noble-Truths lecture. I desperately wanted to remember every word. To hold those words in my heart. I’d miss his loving reminders to steer me to right-thought and right-mindfulness. And all the other rights of the Eightfold Path I messed up more times than I actually got right. I’d miss meditating with him. And I’d really miss his cooking, too.

I held my parents for a long time. This really was the end of the world. Burying my face in my dad’s shoulder I mumbled, “Dad, you make the best agedashi-dofu.”

I think he knew what I was about to do. He hugged me back tighter. So did Mom. I took a deep breath. “I love you guys.”

PS- If you get a chance, visit Regarding Romance  where I share some Oni the Lonely pre-pub history! 

The Collection: Not-So-Common GREAT QUOTES

quote book with photo of picasso 90th birthday exhibition My quote journal dates back to 1990. 24 years of feathering out my little book of great quotes and wordy whatnot, and every time I seize upon another “good one”, I scribble it into an empty space.  There aren’t so many empty spaces left anymore.

Today, Steve Jobs (RIP) inspired an addition. And not sharing a few while I’m here? Impossible!

A woman’s instinct for gambling is satisfied by marriage.” Gloria Steinem

F. Scott Fitzgerald on Hollywood: “It can be understood only dimly and in flashes; there are no more than a handful of men who have been able to keep the entire equation in their heads.”

Buono per l’anima, no buono per il portafoglio.” (Good for the soul, not good for the wallet.) ~ Anonymous

People have good hearts. They don’t always know how to help you. But when you define it for them, they come running to support you.” ~ Arnell

My Soul is a Light Housekeeper” – title of poem

A lie can travel half way around the world before the truth can put is boots on.” ~ Mark Twain

Work done with anxiety about results is far inferior to work done without such anxiety, in the calm of self-surrender. Seek refuge in the knowledge of Brahman. They who work selfishly for results are miserable.” ~ Bhagavad Gita

Lower than a snake with a belly full of buckshot.” Foghorn Leghorn 

Time let me shine and be golden in the mercy of his means.” ~ Dylan Thomas

The heaviness of being successful was replaced by the lightness of being a beginner again, less sure about everything. It freed me to enter one of the most creative periods of my life.”  ~ Steve Jobs

Please check out my interview at The New Writers Interface  where I share insights on publishing and filmmaking, and reveal how I came back from the darkest year, and lowest point, in my writing journey.



ONI THE LONELY: My First 2014 Release Available on NetGalley

Who doesn’t love a character who can punch a hole through the Earth’s core, or a sparky Buddhist dad who knows thousands of ways to cook tofu? I have to confess, I really cut loose with Oni the Lonely, let my freaky fiction flag fly, and had a blast writing Mari.

Oni the Lonely is a young adult paranormal romance and complimentary copies are available to reader-reviewers for a very limited time on NetGalley. http://goo.gl/QaxgvO

I hope you’ll check it out! In the meantime, here’s the cover blurb and an excerpt:

Mari Kato, 16, wants what everyone else her age wants: driver’s license. Too bad a family curse, passed on by her Japanese-born Buddhist dad, who claims to be thousands of years old, transforms Mari into a flesh-eating Oni demon when she feels frustrated (like every time she gets behind the wheel). But when her geologist mom moves their vegan-lifestyle-obsessed family to Rock Creek, Mari stumbles upon the gates of Hell and a mining company plundering its depths. Add in an evil cheerleader determined to steal Mari’s first boyfriend and plunge the Earth into eternal darkness. Suddenly getting the keys to the car isn’t as important as saving the world. Totally dealable… if she can find the courage to reveal her demon self.


Stuffed behind the driver’s seat, my emergency suitcase held a change of clothes and two-dozen pairs of size-seven pink canvas sneakers.  I’d gone through a lot of shoes in the last month. Ever since my sixteenth birthday.

“Your body is going through changes, Mari.” She reached back and patted my knee, sympathetic.

“Mom, stop it.”  I didn’t want to hear it.  Not now.

“Your father and I are just trying to help you.” Her pale blonde hair, pulled back in a ponytail, caught the late afternoon light.  She’s as blond, willowy and tall as my dad is dark, stocky and short.

Unfortunately, I take after my dad.

I shrank deeper into the seat, wishing I could disappear.  On top of everything else that could possibly go wrong in my life, I’m short.  My body is a mish-mash of two worlds.  My skin is the color of a latte, my eyes are brown, and I have a case of radish legs.  Daikon no ashi.  In Japan they have these thick white radishes called daikon.  Ashi means legs.  You get the picture.  Thick legs, daikon no ashi.

“If you really wanted to help, you’d let me drive,” I whined.  “My learner’s permit is still good.”

“Maybe when we’re closer to Rock Creek and farther away from traffic,” my dad answered.

“What traffic?”  I peered out the window. “We’ve been driving for over six hours.  All I see is desert and sagebrush.”

“There are cows, too.”

“Fine, a few cows.  As long as they stay on their side of the road can I drive?”  I wasn’t about to give up.  After we passed Bend, Oregon, and turned off the interstate I hadn’t seen a single car. “How about now?”

“Soon,” my dad answered.

“If I don’t practice I won’t get my license until I’m three hundred years old!”

“Well, I didn’t get my oxcart license until I was five hundred.”  He always saw the bright side of everything.  It was his nature.  Everyone said he was sparky.  When you’ve had a day like mine, sparky is just annoying.

“Dad, you are not thousands of years old, and you are not a demon,” I protested.  My parents exchanged worried glances, annoying me even more. “And I’m not a demon either.  There is no such thing as demons.”

“I denied my horns and claws once, too.” He sighed.

“It’s just hormones,” I stated.  Sex-ed taught me everything I needed to know about that.

“Demon hormones,” he answered calmly.

I rolled my eyes.  Dad told me bedtime stories about demons since I was a baby.  Happy, friendly demons.  Dancing demons.  He claimed it wasn’t Santa Claus who delivered Christmas presents, it was a red demon.

The Easter Bunny was a white demon.

Cinderella had a purple fairy god-demon.

“You’re obsessed with demons.”

“But I was one.”  Not that I ever saw him do anything vaguely demonic.  He was the least demonic of any creature to ever walk the Earth.

My mom looked at me pouting in the rearview mirror, then turned to my dad.  “It’s okay with me if she drives if it’s okay with you.”

He pulled the car to the shoulder.  Finally, something to look forward to.  Settling into the driver’s seat, I adjusted the mirrors as my mom climbed in back.  Ahead of me, the cracked and faded gray strip of pavement was divided by a worn centerline.  Probably rubbed off by all the people escaping from Rock Creek.

I put the transmission in drive.  Everything was better behind the wheel.  At sixty miles an hour, a mile went by every minute.  This corner of the world was flat as pancake.  There was nothing on the horizon other than more desert.  Then the minutes stretched out.  A mile seemed like ten minutes, and my brain started to completely shut down, until I saw something different. Something strange.

A block of stone.

Alone, sitting in the dirt that was the same color.  It was as if the Egyptians, after building the pyramids, had a left over block and stuck it in the middle of the Oregon.  Plop.  Here it is. Enjoy!

“Did you see that?” I asked my dad as we whizzed past.

He was staring blankly out the window.  “What?”

“A big stone block,” I answered.

My mom leaned forward over the seat and pointed to another block coming up fast on the other side. “Like that?”

“Yeah.”  I looked at the new block, identical to the last one.  A big stone rectangle.

“There’s a lot more,” mom added.

She was right.  At first there was just a stone block here and a stone block there.  Then there were more and more.  They were scattered everywhere.  On both sides of the road, like it had rained stone blocks.

“There’re hundreds of them,” I said, amazed.

“Hundreds of thousands,” my mom corrected me.  “That’s why we’re here.”

The deep bass of an air horn blared behind us.  I jumped, hit my head on the inside of the car roof, then looked in the rearview mirror.  A truck grill took up the whole thing.  The truck’s big engine roared as he pulled into the oncoming lane and passed us.  On the door of the dump truck were the words: Rock Creek Mining Company.

As he pulled ahead, I noticed the back of his empty truck was the same size and shape as all the stone blocks.

“What’s going on?” I asked.

“Slag,” my mom said using her best geologist voice.  “Made at the Rock Creek Mining Company.  That’s who I work for now.”

10 cool things about TODAY… maybe more!

Okay, I admit, I wrote this blog yesterday – not today – and it came to me in one big rush of gratefulness.

1. It’s the first official day of fall.

2. Found the perfect parking spot at the Park and Ride.

3. The “kid” who sat across from me on the Max was in deep distress. His body language oozed confrontation. He was seeking it, all the while muttering about  killing people, and how many times he’d been to jail.  And the strange thing about this was, after my initial fear reaction, I was overcome by the urge to practice Tonglen. It’s a Buddhist thing, a sort of meditation, and I am not very practiced at this.  I focused on breathing in all his negative energy and breathing out light.After ten minutes the kid mellowed out and I felt a total sense of calm.

In fact, I felt awesome.

4. By the time the train rolled into my stop the skies open up wide. I opened my umbrella and leaned into the wind as I walked up the hill with an absolute joy of being in the moment, of experiencing the rain and the elements. Knowing it was just temporary and seizing this experience of being alive.

5. I met with my sister “Janes” of SEE JANE PUBLISH.

6. My bagel was delicious (I love carbs).

7. After the basics had been covered, we got around to a little gossip. Gossip-lite.  I was completely and utterly flabbergasted by the state of online dating. Facial recognition searches? Strange men eating food off your plate on the first date?  And that’s just the stuff I can MENTION on the blog. OMG!!! I was shocked, and y’know, maybe it’s good to be shocked sometimes.

8. I glimpsed my shadow later that day.  Downtown, en route from Buffalo Exchange to my mothership, J.Crew.

9. Retail therapy to deal with the above shock. I only spent $11.

10. I came home to my husband and hound.

11. Gin.

12. Sharing the adventure of my day with my husband and hound… not that the hound understood, but she curled up by my feet anyway, happy for my return.



My horoscope told me to pick berries… so I did!

bb1My horoscope today said, “Go pick some berries.” Seriously, that’s what it advised. Apparently a vacation from work or money-making activities will make me more productive.  Which is odd because just this morning I was thinking about how I idealize summer as a relaxing, laid back season.  It’s actually nothing like that at all.  Longer days translate into more to do, and my to-do list keeps getting longer.

And then I get all stressed out about everything I’m not getting done.

Which is why it was a good time to pick berries.  Blueberries!

I often get my Zen on in the blueberry mines… and sometimes I just get dive bombed by greedy robins intent on picking the bushes clean before I do.  This morning, standing on a step stool and reaching toward the top branches laden with berries, I thought about how blueberry picking and publishing share many similarities.  Here’s my list:

Both can be time-intensive, often tedious, activities. Which is why it’s important to get one’s Zen on early and be one with the project at each stage.

Whether it’s one branch, a row of bushes, a chapter, or a new software program… I start at one end and work my way through.

There’s lots of (bird) poop and plenty of distractions.

Results aren’t guaranteed.  Broken branches, sun-burnt berries, runaway blackberry vines, and taste testing slow my progress.  Sometimes an hour spent picking doesn’t equal much in the basket.   Ditto for writing.bb2

Think long term.  Just like freezing and packing away gallons of berries to be enjoyed over the next 11 months of the year, authors need to be constant cultivators. Building a strong list of titles is an author’s war chest.

Which brings me back to my to-do list. This blog was not on it, but I better get back to that next great project.

Jamie Brazil is the author of The Commodore’s Daughter and other novels.  You can find her, and dozens of adorable photos of her Bloodhound, on Facebook. http://facebook.com/BrazilBooks