Friday, December 30, 2011

Dear 2011

Dear 2011,

you were a mighty fine year.

Now I can't speak for others, but for ME you were the best year ever. You were a year full of wonders, miracles and lovely events. You made me smile more than all your brothers I've met before. You were a stellar year, and if I could I'd frame you in gold, give you your own platinum record, name a planet after you or give you your own star on the Hollywood Walk Of Fame.
Yes, you were that brilliant, and I'm hugging you right now!

The first thing you gave me, right after the fireworks and the hangover of your first day, was an email telling me that yes, I'd written a good book and someone was thinking of signing it.
Right after that, right after making "First Contact" with my future publisher, I got my plane ticket, and my passport.
Only a few days later, the 2011 Neil Diamond tour was announced, and he CAME BACK TO MY TOWN for a concert! Sadly I have to say that the concert was not as exciting as it would normally have been for me because it took place just before I was getting on that plane.

In April, I got THAT call, the one every writer dreams of and waits for, and I don't have to go into that again because it has been documented ad nauseam on many blogs, on twitter and on Facebook.
Let me just say, the lady who called me via Skype to tell me they wanted to sign me was nice, pretty, and NOT as old as dirt.
I've never regretted signing with Buddhapuss Ink, not for a single moment. I'm probably their happiest author.

In June, I left home for that longish trip through the US to meet my twitter and Facebook friends.
Here they are: Sue and Rich, Denise, Tara, Moniera, Susan, Jane, Laura, Leslie, Marianne, Patti, Bunny, Jen, Nancy and Steve, Alicia, Keith and Emily, Sylvia, Denise, Adam, Julie, Paul and Claudia, Sam, and MaryChris.
Hope I didn't forget anyone.
I was in London, Vancouver (Can.), Seattle, Ellensburg WA, Washington DC, on the Eastern Shore, Topsail Island NC, Wilmington NC, Lynchburg VA, Charlotte NC, Portland ME, Freeport ME, Boston, New Haven, Jersey City, Edison NJ, Amagansett and New York City.
And I loved every moment of it. Oh well, the Luray Caverns, not so much. A lot of walking, and my bad leg balked.

In NJ, I met my publisher. In NYC, I had lunch at Carnegie's, and in DC I saw the Library of Congress (at least in passing). On Topsail, on my birthday, I bought a silver ring with shark teeth. In Wilmington, Bunny and I ate ice cream. In Vancouver, I smelled skunk!!! (and thought it was a burning tire). Bunny and I, we had a fabulous morning meeting Jen in Lynchburg.
In Jersey City, I visited with Keith. Nuff said.
Edison – and that's a bowl of spaghetti highways away from Jersey City – in Edison I visited my publisher.
Yes, folks, the dreamed-of moment. Meeting in person the people who think you deserve to be published.

When I got back home I started writing the next book while "Distant Shore" went through its last rounds of polishing.

Then, another miracle happened. And to this day I really think it is another miracle.
Someone on Facebook posted this painting:

I thought my heart was going to explode.
No one knew who the artist was, and the friend who had posted it had forgotten. FORGOTTEN!!!
I tried everything to decipher the signature, to no avail. Finally a twitter friend pointed me to Google's reverse image search, and I found the painter's homepage.

and this painting.

I fainted. Honest to God.
Eric had seen into my mind, he had PAINTED my book.
This picture, titled "Echoing The Sea", it HAD to be on my book cover. And it is. Long story, fantastic story, miracle story, but it's there. It's where it belongs, on the cover of "The Distant Shore".

Yesterday my publisher sent me the pic that's at the top of this blog post. They were wrapping up MY books to send me my copies.
Can you begin to imagine how I felt, seeing this photo? I bet you can.

So, once again, thank you, 2011. You rocked. You opened a totally new path for me, took me to strange and wonderful places, introduced me to lovely and wonderful people.

2011, you were a star among years.


Wednesday, December 28, 2011

The Christmas Spirit Forever

Thanks to a mutual friend, I've just met lovely Joanna Cannon. On her blog, I found this wonderful Christmas post. Joanna has said everything I'd been thinking, everything I would want to say. Thank you for that, Joanna. Christmas may be over, but the spirit is alive.

 A wishlist for Christmas …
For those who face Christmas alone, I would give the gift of a forgotten memory. The rush of a memory so fresh and new, it makes folds in a stretch of time and builds an easy footpath back to a long-ago Christmas of belonging.
For those who travel each day pressed into strangers on a crowded train, who feel the lives of others leak into their own, I would give the dawn of a December morning and a silent, crimson sky. I would send the flush of hidden pheasants in a winter mist and frosted breath which tumbles across a soundless horizon.
For those who plug themselves into a counterfeit world, I would steal their iPods and their mobile telephones and their earphones and replace them with the blackbird who sits by my window each day and sings with a heart which is filled with joy at just being alive.
For the field, I would give the gift of being a meadow once more. It would no longer be sliced by wire and fence, and machinery would cease to cut into its flesh. The value of the meadow would not be measured in the weight of its crops, but in the whisper of a breeze through its grass and the dance of squirrels across unmeasured branches.
For the pheasants and the lambs and the calves, I would give a life without fear of bullets and slaughter. For those who hunt and kill, I would give the gift of understanding that a life which feeds on control and greed is truly a life less lived.
For those who watch clocks from a marked life, who are fixed to their seats by invisible chains, I would give you the gift of an oak tree. You will sit at its feet and whisper into its bark and you will find the seat so comfortable, you may wonder if it was made just for you all along.
For those who want without need and count without value, for any who take from those with nothing to give and beat people in our society who are already beaten, I would give you eyes to see, a voice to speak out and ears which will listen to your conscience.
Thank you to everyone who has taken the time to read and comment on my ramblings this year and may your best December gift be the one you least expect.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

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Publication day for "The Distant Shore" is coming closer, in fact it's less than one month!

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Monday, December 5, 2011

Love And Friendship And All That Crap

Things change, and people change, and sometimes things that happen make people change.
For a while now, observing the way my own life is going, I've been thinking of writing about some of these changes. 
The one I'm talking about today is nearly a taboo, I think. 
And since I didn't manage to write a straightforward blog post about it, I've worked it into my novel "Under The Same Sun".
Here's my protagonist, Jon Stone, talking about friendship, and how it changes when your life changes.
He says it better than I ever could.

“I’ve always wanted to ask this,” Kevin continued, “Do do you even have any friends outside showbiz, Jon? Do you meet people other than those you work with, or family?”
“You asked me almost the same thing last year,” Jon replied, his voice quiet and deep, “Funny you should return to this. No, I don’t have any friends outside showbiz or the family.” He stopped and stared out into the darkness of the yard. “Naomi’s cousin Ferro and I were talking about this the other day, in his studio. He said his life was gradually getting lonelier. Family and some fellow artists, that’s basically it. I know what he’s talking about.”
“What do you mean?” Sarah watched him curiously, her head tilted and her mouth pursed, which made her look even more bird-like than usual.
“Something weird happens when you are successful.” Pushing away from the table, Jon lit a cigarette. Helen clucked at him, but he ignored it, giving her a guilty smirk in return. “The world shifts. The moment you announce that you’ve made it, signed your first deal, the world shifts. There is no other way to put it.” He got up and began to pace, his head lowered, as if he was trying to gather his thoughts. “I’ve thought about this often. I’ve even tried to write songs about it, but I couldn’t find the right words, it always sounded like whining.” He took another drag on his cigarette. “Which it is.”
“What do you mean, the world shifts? Are you off on one of your songwriter tangents, Jon? I just never get that stuff.” There were some sausages on the grill, and Kevin went to get them. Their aroma reminded Naomi of Positano, of parties on the terrace, and the sweetness of the nights there, compared to the oppressiveness of Brooklyn. She needed, she decided, lots of flowers for the garden of their new house, lots of Mediterranean flowers in terra-cotta pots.
“As long as you’re a nobody, struggling, hoping, your old friends will stick by you. But, once you achieve some level of success… I don’t know.” Impatiently, Jon tossed his butt into the ashtray Helen had brought out for him. “It’s almost as if your old friends think you don’t need or want them anymore once you have success and get a slice of that fame so many are after. There’s all this talk of people leaving everything behind them once they get famous and all that, but believe me, it works the other way around too. It’s like…” His hands shaped his thoughts into the air. “It’s like walking on a path, and when you take that certain turn in the road some people won’t go on with you. I don’t know why. I don’t think I’ve changed that much.” He shrugged. “I’m not a kid anymore, but I’m not a totally different person either.” More animated, he sat down again, sliced into one of the sausages and took a bite. “Do you remember Declan from high school? The guy I used to hang out with all the time, the one who would cheer me on like no one else? He’d come downtown whenever I had a gig.”
Kevin nodded.
“Well, a couple of months after I had signed my first record deal he told me he didn’t want to hang with me anymore because all I did was talk about the studio and the recordings and stuff. He said it in a very friendly and regretful way, but he did say it, and it broke my heart. I couldn’t understand why my breakthrough would change anything. Why would being a successful artist turn me into someone else in my friends’ eyes. I don’t know. Declan was the worst, though. We had been so close, real buddies. We had a great time. And then he dropped me, just like that.” His hand hovered over the plate with the meat, and he picked out a kebab skewer. “It felt like being punished. It felt like being punished for being successful.” The pieces of pork dropped on to his plate as he pushed them off the skewer, right into the ketchup. “I’ve been careful with people outside the biz ever since. I’m not going to waste my time on useless friendships. They don’t understand anyway. They don’t understand the way we live. They think it’s all song and dance and glitzy parties. The work part, the loneliness, the many silent hours spent working on the songs, they don’t see that. The drive to be creative, to shape something new, they can’t understand that. They only see the stage, the opening nights, the tuxedoes and evening gowns.”
Jon stopped talking to pop a tomato into his mouth and wash it down with a swallow of beer. 
“How did Ferro put it? Something about friendship and love turning…” Naomi asked into the silence. Everyone was looking at Jon, Helen with a trace of sadness in her face, Kevin in puzzlement, and Sarah with disbelief.
“Ferro?” The beer bottle empty, Jon placed it on the floor beside his chair. “He said that friendship and love turned into admiration, and admiration into distance. How the expectation that you would move away into stardom made people pull back, when you yourself don’t mean to distance yourself. And how he stood by and watched it happen to him after his first exhibition in Rome. Instead of cementing old friendships, it killed them.”
Naomi recalled her own chat with Ferro, when he told her there was no woman in his life, and how hard it was to fit both his art and love for a girl into one life. She lowered her gaze to her wedding ring and the big diamond Jon had given her that day in London when he had asker her to marry him.
“So, I don’t have friends outside the music business.” A small, bitter laugh escaped Jon. “Hell, I don’t have a lot of friends at all, for that matter. Well, I do, but not buddy friends. Not friends who laze on the couch with me on a Saturday afternoon, order in pizza, and watch football.”
“Ferro said he had no place for a woman in his life,” Naomi’s words made him shift so he could see her better.
“No wonder, he’s hiding in that studio and that church of his all day long.” Jon laughed. “I wonder if he can even look at a woman without seeing a potential model in her.”
She smiled at him. “You’re not like that. You have enough space for a wife.”
“Yes.” He took her hand in his. “But I don’t think I’d be married if it wasn’t for you. I don’t think I could tolerate anyone else in my life day in day out. I need the woman who would buy a Steinway for me, before buying a coffeemaker for herself.”
“But Jon.” Naomi leaned toward him, ignoring the rest of the family. “You would buy a coffee maker for me before getting a piano for yourself.”
“Yes. Yes. I would. I’d buy you the best espresso machine in the world.” 
He bent forward to plant his lips on hers lightly, until Helen said, “We get it. You may stop, Jon, please. Why don’t you go and get us some wine from the fridge instead. There’s a good boy.”
“See?” Jon sighed, rising, “At least here I’m still my old, normal self. My Mom’s errandboy, that’s me.”


Thursday, December 1, 2011

All Over Again

A year ago today it was snowing.
It had been frosty and cold for days, and that day, December 1, it began to snow.
I remember how I looked out of the window in the early morning and cursed a bit because it meant I'd have to put on my very comfy and very warm, but also very ugly winter boots to go out.
At that time, I was still working at school, and the Christmas Show we had been rehearsing for was only five days away.
So I dressed, made coffee, stared out of the window some more, admired the neighbors' holiday decorations, listened to the hubby grumble about having to scrape snow from the car, and then I turned on my computer.
There was one important task for me to do that morning, before I set out for school and the cold auditorium for another round of rehearsals: I was going to submit my first book ever to a publisher, for the first time ever.
I knew nothing about submitting.
I had no proper synopsis, no query letter, only a hastily slapped together summary in the "you know, and that's really all that happens" manner, I had no bio other than that I'd been born and was still alive, and my pitch was "I'll do what I have to do, except dance naked on tables". Yes, I really wrote that.
And slapped an unformatted, very lengthy manuscript into an attachment.

I'm kidding you not, that's how it went. I was in a hurry, the publisher had requested the book, and they kept asking for it. So I sent it off. I remember being totally ecstatic for about three hours, and then the panic set in.
The book was too long. I hadn't done my best with the editing. I hadn't found a good ending.

My hubby, patient, loving soul that he is, bore it all, and more of his hair turned silver.

A day before Christmas I fell into depression. And I MEAN depression.
My older son, a medical doctor, came around, took one look at me curled up on the couch, a mound of used tissues on the carpet, and went out to get me a pack of antidepressant.
Totally listless by then, I watched my family put up the Christmas tree. The presents weren't wrapped, there weren't even presents for everyone, and I hadn't done any grocery shopping for the holidays.
And it didn't mean a thing to me.
I wanted that book deal. I wanted that email telling me I had that book deal.
My older son kept telling me, "Why are you making such a fuss? Of course they'll take it!"
Only I didn't really think it was going to be that easy.

I had to wait until the middle of January until I got THAT reply, and a little longer until the contract was finalized, but it really was that easy, in the end.

The reason why I'm writing this now is because last night, exactly a year after submitting "The Distant Shore", I finished writing the sequel, "Under The Same Sun".
And I'm full of gratitude and blissfully happy because I'm allowed to do this, I'm allowed to be a writer. I have the best publisher in the world.

I think writing one book and getting it published is a pretty cool thing. I mean, it's VERY cool.
But finishing a second is way cooler. It's a totally new dimension. It proves you have more in you, writer-wise, than just one burst of creativity. It proves you have a chance of being in it for the long run, have that career as an author.

So I'm sitting here on my couch, my favorite red velvet cushion in my back, my cat beside me on his favorite red fluffy plaid, hubby has made fresh coffee, and I'm opening the "Same Sun" file to start the editing of my brand new novel.

Come on, Santa. Try and top that.