Saturday, September 10, 2016

An Open Letter to the Passengers on my Lufthansa Flight

Let me start by saying that you were all wonderful. No really, fantastic. All of you. 
Yes, even the two teenage boys in the row right in front of me. It was okay that you kept your seats all the way back, even through the meals, and that you were restless. I understand. It was a very, very long flight. But taking off your shoes and sticking your feet up over the headrest, that was not okay. Your socks positively reeked. It took me a while to figure out that the obnoxious stench wafting through the plane was actually the ripe odor of your apparently dirty teenage feet and socks. 
I didn’t complain because you were kids, but I do think your parents across the aisle should have.

I also won’t complain about the young couple with the baby two rows in front of me. Actually, I liked your dreadlocks, casual attitude to baby-rearing, and your personal clothing style. All was good. 
But–guys, seriously. If you travel long distances with an infant, I have a suggestion: 
Pack all your baby stuff in one bag. Really, it’s not difficult. That way, you’ll have everything in one bloody place, and you won’t have to climb on other passengers’ seats or armrests to dig through your three bags in the overhead bin while dear dads trousers slipped and showed off your pubic hair to your hapless fellow travelers. We really didn’t want to see that, and certainly not every thirty minutes. Those diapers, crackers, bottles, baby food, and pacifiers would have been so much happier together in one bag stowed under the seat in front of you. 

And to the sweet elderly Italian lady next to me: You would have felt much better if you’d accepted and drunk the water and juice they kept offering us. Yes, I know you felt dizzy; trust me, it’s called dehydration. 
And that medical emergency: “Is there a doctor or nurse aboard?” came over the PA while we were flying over Greenland with nothing below us but rocks, ice, and snow,
I was picturing a rough emergency landing in Goose Bay or some other God-forsaken glacier-surrounded village, but thankfully the emergency passed, and we flew on.

So, dear passengers, thank you for such an exciting flight. 
I could have done without the smelly socks, the exposed lower belly, and the dizzy old lady, but the food was great, the service was friendly, and we were on time. 

What more can one expect? 

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Hello, Again, Hello!

Once again I’m packed… 
Tomorrow I leave on another trip across the ocean to visit friends in Canada and America. 
This is my fourth big trips on my own, and I thought I’d be cooler about it by now, but no; last night was pretty sleepless, and I’m sure tonight will be as well. 
This morning, as I was packing, I thought of fellow writer Ellie Dias and her upcoming book, Big Red, her affectionate name for the huge suitcase she lugged—stuffed to the gills—through airports around the globe. 
My husband, walking past me as I was packing, pointed at my rubber boots and rain jacket, and said, “Since you’re packing those I expect the weather in Tofino to be very nice and sunny and warm. You do know Murphy’s Law, right?”
He has a point; and I have a heavy suitcase.
Yes, it’s heavy, but I’m traveling for five weeks. And now that I’m sixty I figure that I’m entitled to an extra change of shirts, jeans, or shoes.
Ah, shoes. I remember traveling with the pair I was wearing, and one pair of sandals. That was all I needed. But now? Won’t work. My feet are old, too. They need respite. Oh well. They’ve carried me through sixty years on this planet of ours, I suppose I should be kind to them.

Where am I going this time?
Back to Vancouver and Vancouver Island.
Sue had to bribe me into visiting her in 2011. She came all the way to London to pick me up and then worked the flight back to Vancouver (she was a flight attendant for Air Canada) because I was so afraid of making that long flight.

Now, I can’t wait to get on that plane so I can go hang out with her. She’s such a great friend, funny, patient, incredibly talented—especially with her camera—and her family is a riot of kids, and high spirits. Being with them is like being immersed in a big Irish family–which they in fact are. 
And Tofino! Don’t get me started. 

I remember how Sue and I stepped out on Chesterman Beach for the first time, and we both caught our breaths. I never wanted to leave. I could easily have turned into one of those driftwood tree boles and sat there just watching the ocean for eternity. I hadn’t expected the Pacific to be so different from the Atlantic, but it is.  

Then, for the first time ever, I’ll visit Texas!
My dear friend Sharon is waiting there for me, and I can’t wait to finally meet her in person. She had read my books and posted to my Facebook author page about how much she loved my writing, and we took it from there. 
Now I’m going to visit her and I hope she won’t be disappointed. I’m just a fat, old granny in real life. 

Patsy is in Orlando, and she’s my third stop this year.
I’ll be honest, I never expected to visit Florida, let alone have someone invite me there! 
But Patsy and I and my other homies in our little twitter group, we chat daily, and have been twitter friends for so long, that I have to admit I’m crazy excited about meeting her in person. 
Patsy, to me, is a cross between the Angela girl from Bones on TV and Joan Baez: Quirky, very musical, a bit eccentric, funny, a girl who loves life. I think we will have an amazing time together.

As always, my last stop will be glorious New Jersey.
I know, I can hear you moan, and you have every reason to. It’s really an incredibly boring place. And the highways? OMG ROAD RAGE!
But my dear friend and publisher resides there, and so, to me, it’s a fabulous place. How can I travel to America and not visit Buddhapuss Ink? Right?
And have lunch with her and my author buddy Sam Hilliard in Princeton?

So–here we are. One more night, and I’ll be on my way to the sky. 

“Hello again, America, hello, again, hello.”


Friday, August 26, 2016

Dear Publisher…

Dear Publisher, 

As I sort and iron my clothes before I pack my suitcase to travel across the ocean to visit you yet again there are a few words that I’d like to say to you.

Working with you over the past five years wasn’t always easy.
You made me write blog posts for blog hops, you made me write blurbs for book covers and Amazon pages, you wanted me to write my own bio, and hold still while my picture was taken. Me, the one who usually hides behind the camera!
You made me think before I wrote, you even tried to wheedle me into plotting my novels—which hasn’t worked until now, but  will change in the future.
You made me challenge my ideas and push limits, always patient, always giving me the time to work through my resistance and figure out why you wanted me to do something differently. 

When you followed me  on twitter I was a nobody. 
I’d never written a novel before, let alone thought of publishing it. That was in the distant future, if at all. 
I remember so well that day when we chatted on twitter and you offered me a mug of virtual coffee, and I replied, “Would you like the first three chapters of my novel in return?” and you said, “Sure!”
I broke out in a sweat, panicked, I had no idea what to do. My younger son came home from school, asking for lunch, and I yelled, “Just grab anything, I can’t talk to you, I’m submitting my novel!”
“Uh huh,” he mumbled, and finished off all the tomatoes and mozzarella he could find in the fridge. 
I sent the file eventually, with no  query letter,  a synopsis not worth mentioning, and my marketing plan was, “Anything you want me to do, except dance naked on tables!”
You offered, I signed. 

Suddenly I had a publisher.
We’ve released five books together so far; there were some tears, there were some altercations, which felt like I was a bolting horse, and you were my patient,  understanding trainer. 
You never lost your sense of humor, and you never let go of that gently guiding rein.

To this day I believe you made a huge mistake. 

I don’t know what happened when you decided to sign me as your author, but I’m sure of one thing: you were utterly deluded. Maybe someone had brought you a huge mug of  fresh coffee and you were dazed by the scent. Maybe someone had sent you a package of Droste chocolate and you were in a sugar coma.
I’m still waiting for you to wake up, look at my writing and say, “Hey, wait a minute, missy! I’m sorry, but you don’t belong here!”
Honestly, I do. 
Five released books later, three Independent Publisher Book Awards, a brilliant new project waiting to be tackled, and I still wonder: Did she really mean me?

The label “author” sits uncomfortably on my shoulders. It feels like an honor I haven’t earned, but as long as you, dear publisher, believe I’m worth your time and money I’ll pretend that yes, I can write well enough to merit it.

My suitcase is almost packed. There’s Droste chocolate for you, and coffee, tucked in  with my clothes.
I’ll once again sit at the desk you point out to me and sign that tower of books, the bookmarks, the postcards. I’ll stare at those books, so pretty, so well designed, and I’ll open one and read a few lines. Once again the wonder will pour over me; I wrote this.  Wow.

My amazement will never end. I’m an author, and you, dear publisher, believed in me, and made me into one.

Friday, June 10, 2016

"If it doesn’t exist, then go ahead and write it"– Interviewing Sue Barnard

Today I'm  very honored and thrilled to interview  Sue Barnard, the author of The Ghostly Father, Nice Girls Don't, and The Unkindest Cut of All. 
Sue and I met on twitter many years ago. We started our writing career almost at the same time, and it's been fun to watch our books being picked up and published!

Hi Sue, before we get down to the real author questions, tell us a bit about yourself. 

  • Where are you from? 
Originally from North Wales, but apart from three years at Durham University I’ve lived most of my life in and around Manchester, UK.

  • Cat or dog?
I’m fond of both, but don’t own either.

  • What’s your favorite dish? 
That varies according to the seasons.  At the moment, it’s fresh asparagus.

  • Your favorite subject at school?
I enjoyed most of them, apart from sport, which I was (and still am) rubbish at.   I didn’t like art very much either, but that could have been because we had a rubbish teacher – one who wasn’t interested in anyone who wasn’t already a budding artisic genius.  So out of a class of 29, at least 28 of us were doomed to mediocrity before we’d even picked up a pencil.   Even now, more than 40 years later, that particular sense of failure has never really left me.

I particularly enjoyed languages, and went on to read French at university.  When I try to speak French I’m often asked if I’m from Belgium, and I’m never sure whether to be flattered or offended.

  • Tea or coffee? 
Tea on waking (we have a teasmade by the bed!), tea with breakfast, coffee mid-morning, coffee after lunch, tea mid-afternoon, coffee after dinner (provided it isn’t too late – otherwise it would keep me awake at night).  

  • If you watch TV - What’s your favorite crime show?
Jonathan Creek, written by David Renwick.  It’s a perfect blend of quirkiness, ingenuity and humour.

  • The last movie you saw?
Florence Foster Jenkins, about the life of the great(?) singer.  Funny and moving by turns.  Highly recommended.

  • Last book you read? 
Kindred Spirits: Tower of London, by fellow-Crooked Cat author Jennifer C Wilson.  It’s a refreshing new take on the story of King Richard III and the Princes in the Tower.

Okay, now that we know more about you let’s talk about the author part.

  1. When did you write your first story, and what was it about? 

If you exclude all those compulsory Composition exercises at school, my first attempt was a short story in the whodunit style.  That was more than 30 years ago.  I found it recently, re-read it, and cringed.  Enough said.

    2. Your first published novel was The Ghostly Father. In it you give the Romeo and Juliet story a totally new twist. How did you come up with that idea? 

I’ve always loved the story of Romeo & Juliet but hated the ending.  But a few years ago I came across one of those lists of Things You Should Do Before You Die, and the one which leapt off the page and grabbed me by the throat was Write The Book You Want To Read.  The book I’ve always wanted to read is the version of R&J in which they don’t fall victim to a maddeningly-preventable double-suicide.  

Why, I asked myself, should there not be such a book?  And the answer came straight back: Why not indeed?  And if it doesn’t exist, then go ahead and write it.

   3.What has changed for you since you’ve become a published author?

In terms of my day-to-day life, not very much.  But it has meant that I can now describe myself as a writer, and can give a positive answer to the inevitable question Have you had anything published?

   4.Has it lived up to your expectations?

If by that you mean “Have I Earned Millions?”, then the answer has to be No – but unless you’re one of the very lucky few, it’s very hard to make a fortune (or even a living) from writing.  Having said that, the rewards in other respects have been overwhelming.  It’s really satisfying when someone – especially a total stranger – tells me how much he or she has enjoyed what I’ve written! 

5.What advice would you give your younger self? Would you encourage a young Sue to become a writer?

Yes, I would – and I’d tell her not to leave it until she’s the wrong side of 50!

   6.Which authors influenced you most? 

Shakespeare (obviously), but also John Wyndham, Joanne Harris, and my dear friend and mentor Sally Quilford, who taught me everything I know about writing romance.

   7.How do you feel about giving away books (Kindle) for free as a marketing technique? Have you done it yet, and were you pleased with the outcome?

I haven’t given away any of my books for free; my publisher doesn’t do that.  But we have had promotions in which the Kindle versions of the books have been reduced in price for an introductory or limited period, and those have been reasonably successful in terms of increasing sales and raising the books‘ profiles.

I must confess I’m a bit wary of totally free promotions; I can’t help wondering if their overall effect is to undervalue the work of the author.  One writer once told me that someone had said to her, “I really want to read your books, but I’m waiting for them to become free before I download them!”  Shocking, I know – but apparently there are people out there who always want something for nothing, and there is a strong risk that free promotions will simply fuel that kind of greed.

   8. What are you working on right now?

I’ve just blown the dust off a long-running poetry project.  Don’t stay in specially waiting for it to be finished, though.

     9.Where can we buy your books?

The paperbacks are all available from Amazon.  The e-books are available from Amazon, Smashwords, Kobo, Nook and Apple iBooks.  The links are here:

The Ghostly FatherAmazonSmashwordsKoboNookApple iBooks
Nice Girls Don’tAmazonSmashwordsKoboNookApple iBooks
The Unkindest Cut of AllAmazonSmashwordsKoboNookApple iBooks

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Friday, May 27, 2016

Flamingos, Fireflies, and GREAT NEWS!

My new novel, For the Fireflies, is being released via my NEWSLETTER! We're eleven chapters in, but it's not too late to catch up!

Also, there's a MAJOR announcement in this weeks newsletter. 
The subscription form is right here, in the right-hand column of the blog! 

Welcome to Key West!
At last, the family is reunited.
While Josh can’t believe his parents bought an RV and drove all the way from Brooklyn, Allie can’t wait to be on the beach and feel the surf on her feet. Standing there, she wonders about Earth, Saturn, and the universe in general…
Meanwhile, Claude is surprised to learn who Joshua’s father is. Will it change their friendship, and how will Annabelle react when she hears the news?
Enjoy the sunset,

~ Mariam

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Memories of 9/11, Flamingos, and New Hope.

Most people in and around Manhattan couldn’t walk away from the city after 9/11, they had to stay and deal with what happened on that day. 
For those who remained, the sorrow may never pass, the memories may never dim, yet life goes on the same way Spring follows Winter. Everywhere, tiny buds of new life blossom into renewed hope for the future. Buildings are rebuilt, babies are born, and the music of the city flows through the canyons between the skyscrapers.

In the same way, Jon and Naomi get to see New York through their daughter’s young eyes, and they finally find the courage to return to the house and the city where they were so happy.
What does all this have to do with flamingos? You'll have to read Chapter 10 of For the Fireflies to find out!

Here's a short excerpt:

Raising his head, he seemed to shake off a heavy cloak. “Then something happened, and I never wanted to come back here, ever again. Your mom and I had to, though, because of the musical. But we never stayed any longer than we had to. Now, though…” 
Smiling at her, he let his hand glide over her braids. “With you here, it’s like I can look at it with fresh eyes, with your eyes.” 
Allie tried to imagine it: Was he somehow sitting inside her head, a mini version of Dad crouching somewhere behind her eyes, and using them like glasses? 
“A bad thing happened in this city not long after you were born, Allie.” He put down his coffee cup on the table by his elbow. “It drove out the memories of the good times, and left only black and dreary days in their place.” 

(psst… the signup form for the newsletter is right here, at the top of the right-hand column! Sign up, read the novel!)

Monday, May 9, 2016

Flowers and Blue Skies

Let me share this lovely day with you.

My walk today took me past the magnolia tree again. Sadly, all its wonderful blooms have gone, and it looks tired and limp like it was to a wild party and now is suffering from a murderous hangover.

There are other blooms out now though, like this beautiful azaleas (maybe they're rhododendrons, don't ask me!):

And this dandelion, totally ignoring the park fence and growing where it wants:

A bit farther down the road, and there are more azaleas (or rhododendrons):

And lilac. Have I mentioned how I love lilac? I could smell the sweet scent of this tree from far away.

There were some violets, too, but they were too deep in shadow to get a good photo of them.
Did you notice the blue sky? The beautiful sunshine?
It's definitely spring here!