turn this synopsis into a powerful logline + win my eternal love. and a hundred bucks.

Oh You with the Wondrous Taste to be Reading this Blog:

Below is my working synopsis for the novel I’m working on called THE DECADENTS.

I would like to call upon the wisdom of the crowds to help me develop a punchy one- or two-sentence description that I can use at cocktail parties when people ask me what this damn book is about.

So give it a shot.

Enter a logline in the comment section below.

If I choose yours, I will give you a $100 Amazon gift certificate and name a character in the novel after you.

Contest ends whenever someone delivers up the perfect logline — or I come up with one on my own, or give up on the whole exercise, in which case I will give a $50 Amazon gift certificate to the entry that amuses (or bemuses) me the most. click for more

the art of more (money/readers/love): fighting off the scarcity complex

-- cross-posted from tribalwriter.com


I have a problematic relationship with money.

I didn’t learn about it growing up.

I married a man I met in college who, in the course of our marriage, became wealthy. I had no access to any of it other than what he gave me.

My attempts to carve out my own career (and income) as a dark-fantasy novelist got sidetracked by babies. Nothing had my name on it – not the house we bought together, not the car I drove, and because I didn’t know anything different, and because we lived an amazing lifestyle, I told myself I was fine with it. I didn’t want to be spoiled or ungrateful.

Two and a half years after my husband filed for divorce, and after a prolonged battle over a document I signed without a lawyer under questionable circumstances, I received a divorce settlement.

Now I’m a woman of substance, so to speak.

I have a business manager and an investment advisor and investments and a house in my name.

And yet I don’t feel any different than when I legally had nothing. Some deep part of me continues to feel impoverished, and I worry about losing everything.

So this is what it means to have a scarcity complex.

I’ve been working on mine (thank you, helpful therapist).

I read Tara Gentile’s THE ART OF EARNING and it inspired a shift in me. She talks about the “paycheck prison”: how you focus on spending less…instead of challenging yourself to develop other streams of revenue.

To create more.

It’s about unlocking your potential to create the
wealth that supports that latte habit, increases savings, decreases spending
(yes, increased earning can result in decreased spending), and creates ideas that put money to work for you & your world.

This, I all-at-once realized, is what people refer to as an abundance mentality. It’s a deep sense of the potential in you and all around you. You can use your gifts and skills to create what you need – more than you need – as you need it. Instead of worrying over the size of your pie as you fritter it away (people with a scarcity complex often indulge in careless, might-as-well-spend-it-while-i-have-it consumption), you focus on enlarging it.

What you put your attention on – grows.

(Which is why a 'gratitude practice' can be life-changing: it keeps your attention on the things you want more of.)

So simple, I know.

And yet it isn’t.

And yet it is.


A writer remarked that she was discussing with a writer friend the possibility of self-publishing her novel. Her friend started trumpeting the merits of traditional publishing…and then they were arguing over self vs traditional…and “nearly came to blows”.

What struck me was how unnecessary that argument was.

Because it assumes either one or the other.

It’s “the tyranny of either/or” …

….instead of and.

Self-publishing and traditional publishing.

In today’s rapidly changing publishing landscape, they serve different purposes and different kinds of fiction. I predict – and I’m hardly alone in this – that a successful writing career will now include a mix of both. Together, they enlarge the pie of what’s possible: the material you publish, the readership you connect with, the profit you make.

But scarcity complex can blind you to this. You find yourself ‘competing’ for resources even when the circumstances that limited those resources…have changed. You respond to the past instead of the present, and run the risk of turning your anxiety into a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Perception is reality.

What you put your attention on…grows…even if it’s the dark space of lack.



We are all competing for it.

It’s the one thing you can’t make more of. There’s only so much mindshare to go around.

We are writers competing for a readership.

But what if we focused on creating more readers?

On using platform/social media — trust, influence, credibility, authority — different kinds and forms of storytelling — to reach into the neighboring entertainments and bring people back to books.

What would that look like?


Something happens when you start thinking in terms of creating more instead of settling for less. You start asking different questions, which frames your thinking in different ways.

As Chris Guillebeau puts it:

Fighting over a Small Pie = dumb idea, rooted in scarcity, fear, and small-mindedness.
Expanding the Pie = abundance, rooted in a belief that there is enough for everyone.

When you strive to expand the pie, you redefine the category and change the game. You utilize your strengths and talents and knowledge. You experiment with new ideas, and allow those ideas to evolve – or die out.

According to Seth Godin, embracing change – or being the change – is the one true way to stay in the game in the first place.

After all, this is the age of: innovate or die! Not to mention the ubiquitous: be remarkable!

In his book SURVIVAL IS NOT ENOUGH, Godin stresses the necessity of evolution and the importance of the fast feedback loop. By making lots of tweaks, experiments, improvements, and little bets, and hooking yourself into a constant loop of constructive criticism that lets you know what works and what doesn’t, so you can keep revising and adjusting accordingly, you rise through the environment as it is now – and not five or ten or fifteen years ago – and influence what it becomes.

You stay relevant and meaningful.

Platform can be a great example of this. Instead of fighting for a narrow slice of your right people, you build out a deeper pie. Your platform forces a constant interaction with your audience; day in, day out, you have to create value – and more value – through your blog posts and tweets and videos. You see which of your ideas hit the ground running, or need more development, or fall by the wayside. Instead of competing with other bloggers, you form partnerships with them – which allow both of you access to each other’s audience and to deepen and increase your readership and the value you put out into the world.


In order to be successful at creating more, you have to follow your strengths and interests.

By ‘strength’, I mean it in the way Marcus Buckingham means it: whatever activity energizes you and makes you feel strong and alive and most like yourself. Identify those moments. Cherish them. Organize your life around them – figure out how to do more of them – and, over time, the dots will start to connect into a skillset uniquely yours.

I like the analogy Sally Hogshead uses in her book FASCINATE. She’s comparing flowers in the Amazon to successful marketing – the ability to fascinate people – but I think it’s a great analogy for thriving in any highly competitive world.

University of Florida biology professor David Dilcher wrote, “flowering plants were the first advertisers in the world. They put out beautiful petals, colorful patterns, fragrances, and gave a reward, such as nectar or pollen, for any insect that would come and visit them.”

Plants offer other lessons in marketing survival. For instance, the Amazon jungle might look like it would be a desirable place to live, if you’re a plant. It’s lush, exotic, flourishing, with plenty of water. But with thirty million species in the rain forest, vegetation grows so thickly that each plant to must fight to gain food, protection, and even a slender ray of light. Plants act like marketing managers: developing unique adaptations, designing spinoff extensions, and seeking unconventional niches.

By listening closely to your environment and playing to your strengths, through constant experimentation and feedback and revision and more experimentation and feedback and revision, you can be abundant.

You can create things and express things that no one’s quite seen before.

You can make more.


stronger for the broken places

When someone treats you badly -- over years -- it leaves you raw and wounded inside.  When you've made repeated overtures of peace to that person only to have your head bitten off -- or to be ignored -- sooner or later you have to come to the realization that this person doesn't care about you and probably never really did (and the signs were there from the beginning, if you had known to pay attention and interpret them correctly.)  If you once loved this person, and possibly in some corner of yourself still love this person, you need to find your own sense of closure, because there will never -- ever -- be an apology, or any recognition of the damage done.

I let go. I am so done.



I let it slip to a male friend that I thought Andrew Weiner is maybe a sex addict.


“Why?”   He immediately seemed on the defensive.  “Just because he was sexting?  Or because he sent a picture of his – nether regions – to this woman?”


Oh my god, I thought, looking at my friend with bemusement.  You have so totally done that. 


“Not that I’ve ever done anything like that,” my friend said. 


“No,” I said, “because he was so stupid about it.”


Sex addiction is a process addiction, which means that the addict gets his rush off the chemicals -- serotonin, dopamine, adrenaline – that the behavior activates in his own brain.  Under this theory, Weiner made his highly questionable use of social media not because he was ignorant of the potential consequences -- but because he was in an altered state. 

He was high. 

Sending some near-stranger a picture of his underwear-clad erection through a public channel like Twitter no doubt seemed like an excellent idea at the time.


Which is usually how and why a sex addict gets caught – if he gets caught.  He (or she) gets careless and leaves something on his cell phone or laptop for someone else to find.   If he’s famous and/or wealthy, he leaves himself open to exploitation by the less-than-savory characters he encounters through the Internet. 


“But you know what I think?”  a girlfriend said to me over dinner at Spago the other night (I had the gnocchi, and it was awesome).  “I think 99 percent of all men cheat on their significant others.  Don’t you think that?”


“No,” I said. 

"well-behaved women seldom make history": redefining what it means to be bad

cross-posted from Tribal Writer

I posed topless for a female photographer who specializes in boudoir. I’m lying on the bed in a man’s velvet smoking jacket, hair blown across my face. I look at the camera. It’s a beautiful portrait (the photographer is very talented) and I’m proud of it. It reminds me slightly of Manet’s Olympia. That painting caused a scandal at the time (1863) — not because the subject was nude — but because of how she stares at the viewer instead of looking away demurely.

It’s that act of shameless eye contact that makes her – according to the moral dictates of the era — truly “bad”.

I once said to someone, “I don’t know if I’m a good girl with a bad streak, or a bad girl with a good streak.” But I was being ironic. My real point was that, like any other woman (or man), I am both and neither.

In fact, it’s kind of amazing to me that the good girl/bad girl dichotomy still exists. It came up again when movie star Reese Witherspoon accepted an award on television and took her speech as an opportunity to slam other, younger women for being “bad”.

“I understand that it’s cool to be bad, I get it,” she said, in that tone of false camaraderie women sometimes use before they slip in the knife. “But it’s possible to make it in Hollywood without being on a reality show….And when I was coming up, a sex tape was something you hid under your bed…And when you take naked pictures of yourself, you hide your face! Hide your face!” She finished off by declaring that she was going to try to make it “cool” to be a “good girl”.

But imagine this:

Instead of criticizing the same young women for the same things that everybody else is already criticizing them for, she could have slammed reality shows for their misogynist (and monotonous) depiction of women.

She could have criticized the kind of media that turns a girl like Paris Hilton into a celebrity in the first place.

She could have pointed out how advertising – which is so very everywhere that we no longer notice it as we’re breathing it in – co-opts rebellion and sells it back to girls in the “you’ve come a long way, baby” pseudo-liberation supposedly found in a package of cigarettes.

She could have criticized a culture that trains girls to define themselves by their sexual appeal only to punish them for it.

She could have echoed Laurel Ulrich’s famous comment that “well-behaved women seldom make history” and pointed out that ‘bad’ doesn’t have to mean shallow and self-destructive. It can mean cutting against the traditional good-girl dictates of passive and pretty and pleasing and quiet. It can mean speaking up against the status quo, the double standard, the beauty myth. It can mean rejecting the idea that your moral nature depends not on what you do, but on what you don’t do (have sex).

It can mean revolution not rebellion.

She could have said: If you’re going to be ‘bad’, make it MEAN SOMETHING…other than self-sabotage.   read more at TW

ferocity of soul + a willingness to wander

cross-posted from www.tribalwriter.com/

“As the late theologian, mystic + Harvard professor Howard Thurman often said, there are two questions that we have to ask ourselves. “The first is ‘Where am I going?’ and the second is ‘Who will go with me?’ If you ever get these questions in the wrong order, you are in trouble.”
– Caroline Myss

“We have only to follow the thread of the hero path, and where we had thought to find an abomination, we shall find a god. And where we had thought to slay another, we shall slay ourselves. Where we had thought to travel outward, we will come to the center of our own existence. And where we had thought to be alone, we will be with all the world.” – Joseph Campbell


When you commit to the life of the creative badass – including your engagement with social media – you’re going on a journey. The ‘journey’ thing might be an overused metaphor – and make you think of Steve Perry telling you to don’t stop believin’ — but that doesn’t make it less apt.

Because social media isn’t a marketing campaign in the traditional sense. It doesn’t begin, blast out a message, and then end six weeks later. You don’t get in and then get out with a happy sense of mission accomplished.

You don’t slap it on your novel like an afterthought. (“My book comes out next week – I better hop on that twittering Tweeter thing!”)

To get anywhere, you have to put one foot in front of the other – one tweet in front of a blog post in front of a status update – day after day after day.


Likewise, creative badassery doesn’t begin and end with a single project, whether it’s a novel or presentation or multimedia art thing or your first startup. It requires long-term vision, ferocity of soul, and a willingness to wander.

That’s where the journey part comes in.

This is the part that no one can teach you. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel – because that would be stupid – but any truly creative life belongs solely to the person living it. It is their soul DNA made manifest, fleshed out with love and blood and sweat and tears and endless hours of deliberate practice, served up to the world with their particular brand of style and savvy. It is the work, but it is also the life. It is the self that knows itself, that has learned to align its values and purpose and passions, its dreams and actions, until the inner life is no longer at war with the outer life.

It knows how to flow with the go.

You’re not just born into this; it’s not like a silver spoon that a few kids get through a happenstance of fate while the rest of us stand in line at Target. The creative life is an achievement that is nonetheless fluid and constantly evolving. You don’t just achieve it once, but over and over again. You have to keep showing up.


The creative life is shaped by creative, adaptive, experimental thinking as opposed to procedural thinking. Peter Sims calls this the “little bets” approach. He uses Chris Rock as an example. When Chris is putting together new material, he goes to a small local club and shows up, unannounced, on the stage. Night after night after night he sits and talks to the audience, making observations and trying out jokes, building on what works and discarding what doesn’t. Instead of writing out an act, and waiting until he decides it’s ‘perfect’ before presenting it to an audience – and risking disaster — Chris makes a series of bets so little that when those bets fail, it’s no big deal. It is, however, a great education.

Sims remarks that

Similar ways of thinking and work methods showed up in the ways that Pixar creates its films…entrepreneurs and savvy CEOs like Jeff Bezos identify and develop new market opportunities…architect Frank Genry designs new buildings…generals go about counterinsurgency strategy and training…stand-up comedians generate new material.

The creative person’s willingness to wander exposes her to new ideas, new experiences and potential interests. Some of these blossom into fascinations and tap into her strengths, and a lot of them don’t. But by making a series of little bets, she can move and feel her way forward into a life that is shaped to her strengths and desires. She can discover her passion: not all at once, but little by little, as she builds on what works for her and discards or minimizes or delegates what doesn’t.


There is no map for your creative life, no step-by-step procedure that someone else can hand down in a book or a blog that will magically reveal to you the meaning of your existence. It could be that the mission of your life is to find your mission, and in that process discover who you are and what you have to give.

It’s not a linear process. You’re allowed to loop back to learn something you might have missed the first time. You can kind of spiral your way forward.

The important thing is to begin the journey.

This can be the tough part. Every journey starts with a separation, a leave-taking, a realization that the place you are right now is a place where you can no longer stay. It might be your hometown, but it could also be a relationship that no longer allows you to grow, friends who don't want you to change (since any change that you make would ripple outwards to them), or a culture or a country or a religion or a profession.

As Carolyn Myss puts it, “You cannot live for prolonged periods of time within the polarity of being true to yourself and needing the approval of others.”

A creative badass must to her own self be true. The irony is that, in the end, this allows her to be more truthful with others. You can’t transcend your desires if you’ve never even learned what they are, or if you’ve never tried for what you want.

Sometimes, in order to find the life you need, you need to leave the life you have – and navigate that uncertain space between. You have to declare yourself. You might have to be solitary for a while. You will encounter doubt and dark nights of the soul (although this would happen anyway). You will have to stand up against conformity and shed your false identity.

You will lose some things, gain others, and find a new tribe.

The tribe of the creative badass.

we shall not cease from exploration


My first baby son Nevada was born on May 18 and died ten weeks later.  This is the space of time when his memory for me is especially primal and vivid, experienced on multiple levels. It's tough to explain.

The worst years of my life (in order) would be the year following Nevada's death and then the year following my separation (and, in a distant third, the year of junior high.  For is junior high not hell?).  What amazes me is that, when I was actually going through these experiences, I thought I was coping just fine.  And it's not that I'm not strong and resilient -- if there's one thing I can comfortably say, I am as resilient as hell -- but that the mind has some fierce protective mechanisms, including the ability to deny the depth of what you're feeling.  

Now that my life is on solid ground again, the real emotions start to surface.  I can allow myself to feel the grief and sadness and anger.  Someone once described anger as "hurt pulled inside out" and there is truth to that. 

I can also admit to love.

The other morning I was sitting at an outside table at Urth Cafe in Santa Monica with Dude.  He was reading the newspaper and I was reading a book called THE HERO WITHIN by Carol S Pearson about archetypes (I have become fascinated with archetypes and how you can tap into that mythic power in your personal life, your creative work, even your social media marketing and branding).  And I felt a great sense of contentment, well-being -- a.k.a. 'happy'. 

It also reminded me that the happiest moments of my marriage took place in the earlier years, on the Saturday and Sunday mornings when E and I went to the bookstore, then took our purchases to a cafe and read over coffee and just hung out.  Somewhere along the line we stopped doing that.  Hindsight tells me that our marriage suffered for it.  But the ironic thing is, for all the glamour and adventure of the jetset lifestyle, when I think about happiness with him I don't remember the south of France or St Barts or the Google dude's wedding on Richard Branson's private island (in fact, we had wicked fights and I sounded some true depths of misery at all those places).  I think about lazily strolling down University Avenue in Palo Alto, our arms around each other's waists, in the sunlight.

So now I am lucky enough to have that again -- with someone else.  Which reminds me of the T.S. Eliot quote --  "We shall not cease from exploration/ And the end of all our exploring/ Will be to arrive where we started/ And know the place for the first time."

Funny, that.


When you first come to Los Angeles, you're completely disoriented: you think it's this massive urban sprawl scattered with palm trees divided by mountains that all looks the same. Spend more time here and you start to recognize it as a group of villages, each with its own personality, tied together with ropes of highway.

The first time Dude and I went to brunch was in Beverly Hills.  "Everybody here," he said, looking around, "is so groomed."

When we went to brunch in Venice some weeks later, I saw what he meant.  Everybody there had this cool, rumpled, disheveled thing going on. ("And you," he reminisced later, "were in a full-on outfit." Yeah, well, habits die hard, although I was glad to let that one go.)

My new house puts me west of the 405 and out of Bel Air.  I was meeting with inspectors and general contractors at the property and then driving the long sloping streets down to Sunset.  My first impressions: 

1. I will no longer be risking my neck on a daily basis (or scratching up my car) on the blind turns and narrow winding pothole-filled tourist-bus-crawling, sportscar-dive-bombing roads of Bel Air, and

2. Throw a rock and you hit about fifteen yoga studios.

These are not bad things.

i was told there'd be cupcakes


My friends Nia and Sebastian got married before I met them, and I regret that I missed their wedding.  It had a space theme.  The wedding cake was shaped like a planet.  At their anniversary dinner last Friday night, a close friend handed out cupcakes shaped like planets in honor of their cosmic union.

What is this city's obsession with gourmet cupcakes?  Bakeries around here are like heads of the hydra. Close one down, and two would spring back in its place. Given the population's ambivalent attitude toward carbs -- or even eating -- it's impressive. 

The dinner was held at a restaurant in a hotel in West Hollywood.  "What's the dress code?" I asked a friend.

"Given the location, I'd say Hollywood trashy glam."

"Oh, good!  It's been so long since I've done Hollywood trashy glam!"

Except we're all grown-ups now, with kids, entering early middle age.  Now we wear blazers.


Every year my artist friend Chase holds an art show at his house in West Hollywood.  It's a charming house that works well as a DIY art gallery, with a deck out back that overlooks the hills. People milled through the rooms and hall and lingered out on the deck, drinking champagne and eating cookies from La Brea Bakery. I eyed one little painting in particular and spoke to Chase about a magazine article I want to write.  I am still looking for my central subjects: an attractive professional progressive couple, preferably married, who have opened up their relationship to include other people and would be willing to speak about their experiences and be photographed in a national magazine. 

(In my experiences so far, the men are happy and willing to do this.  The women?  Not so much.)

Chase had a couple in mind, but I had to leave before I could meet them.  Drat the luck.  

posing with the artist

winners and losers

My twins turned 7 and the consequences were immediate: they are no longer allowed to bring stuffed animals to their father's house.

"It's really annoying," said Jack*.

Quinn was dejected and tearful as I buckled him in the car to go to his dad's without Monkey.

It's not like I always agreed with my ex in the best of times, but I question the purpose of this.  Objects like security blankets and stuffed animals are called  'transitional objects' and offer comfort and consistency, especially in new environments  (or, say, situations where they're shuttling from one home to another).  Children outgrow them and leave them behind.  Why can't that process be allowed to happen naturally, according to the child's unique evolution?  

It's no secret -- since he has been profiled in everything from the New Yorker to Wired -- that my ex grew up in a male-dominated family in a male-dominated culture (South Africa) and works in male-dominated industries. He lives in a highly competitive world  ("people play dirty," he told me once, "because they think they're going to die") and he's done very well in it.

But I don't want to see any child shoehorned into a definition of masculinity that forbids him to flourish as himself.  It's why, when I saw my ex give a little speech that went along the lines of, "Quinn, in this world you can be a winner or a loser.  Do you want to be a winner or a loser?" I lifted my hands and gave his new wife a WTF? expression. 

Life is not a zero-sum game, even if business often is.  I want my boys to maintain strong boundaries, yes, and be savvy, and not be ruthlessly taken advantage of, but at the same time to come at the world through service and soul.  Elevate yourself by elevating others.  Add value to the pie and make it bigger.  Learn that failure doesn't make you a loser but is part of the learning process (and people who fear failure hold themselves back from their own potential, since growth demands errors and mistakes).  Stuff like that. We live in new, interconnected times; we are wired into each other like never before; the division of public and private is transforming into something much more transparent. Acts of aggression that cause hurt, anger and resentment can come back to bite you in the ass. It's better to seduce instead of conquer. 

I do not think this is naive, or a sign that I am weak.  I have a fire in me and can take it to the mat when I have to. 

* I'm using pseudonyms, obviously