Patience is not one of my virtues…

Finally, we have finished our proofreading of The Phone Call, and are waiting for the (hopefully) final proof so we can look it over one more time. There are days that seem to be full of hurrying to get the writing/editing/proofing done, then waiting for the next step. Any of you who know me personally know that patience is NOT one of my virtues, but I am trying to be better about this.

So now, we wait again, and I know that it will only be a day or two until the proof arrives, then we can set a release date. I can’t adequately express how excited I am that my second novel will be published soon, when it still seems like a dream that the first was published.

While we wait, here’s a new teaser for The Phone Call:

 

Meeting old characters again…

Over the last two weeks, we have been proofreading The Phone Call, getting it ready for release in print and e-book versions. The funny thing is, The Phone Call was the first novel I ever wrote, so I have “known” the characters for more than twenty years. I started writing it when my son Sam was a baby, and kept picking away at it for years. I’d think it was done, then months later decide to revisit it, edit/re-write/change it, then the process would start all over again.

The Phone Call was the first novel of mine that Solstice Publishing offered a contract on, and I always expected it would be the first one published. A couple unexpected glitches in the editing process put it in spot #2 for publishing, but in my heart, it will always be my first book.

So, over the last months, as I worked on the editing of That One Small Omission, and have been working on novels 3 and 4 and my memoir, I had sort-of lost “contact” with the main characters of The Phone Call, Kat and Alex.  Over the last two weeks, I’ve remembered how much these characters have meant to me, and have greatly enjoyed getting to know them again. I can’t wait to introduce them to all of you!

 

Saying good-bye to an old friend…

This morning we said good-bye to our friend, Marc, the most stubborn, opinionated, irritating alpaca ever to walk this earth, one who we loved with all our hearts, and who will be sorely missed.

marc

To understand our journey together, you need to know the history. Almost nineteen years ago, I saw an article in the local paper about alpacas. I’d never seen an alpaca, never. I’d seen llamas, but not alpacas. There was a local farm that offered that families could come visit and hang out with the alpacas for free. So we went.

And I met alpacas. And I fell in love. I mean, LOVE! They were beautiful, and interesting, and just captured my heart.

So for almost two years, we researched, visited farms, put aside little bits of money, and finally bought two alpacas, with third thrown in as a rescue animal. There was fluffy white Saber, feeble-but-brilliant-and-loving Chad, and baby Marc. They arrived at our house on a freezing cold January day, we didn’t even have a real barn for them, and they moved into our vegetable garden area because it had a rudimentary fence around it.

Over the next months, we (okay, Paul) built a little barn, put up real fencing, and got to know our new friends. And the love affair stayed the same. I just plain loved being with them, watching them, listening to them. Once we sheared them, I learned to spin, and another love was born.

Year after year, our little herd changed as members passed away, but Marc stayed the constant.

One year, we went to Grand Manaan on vacation, and while we were gone, there was a bear attack, and one of the other alpacas was killed — but Marc and his buddy Erv jumped the fence, and ran almost a mile away to safety. When the bear came back a couple nights later, Marc jumped the fence again, and ran to find his protector, Paul. From that day on, Paul was Marc’s buddy. Oh, yes, they fought — you should have seen the daily battle over when Marc would try to take all the grain from the other alpacas, and Paul would keep him away. But when Marc got out last New Year’s Eve, and got lost — we hadn’t realized he’d developed night blindness — it was only Paul who he would follow home. And then there was the repeated garlic incidents — Marc would get out of his pasture and go roll in the garlic beds and eat scapes, and you all know how important the garlic is to us as a family. Then there was the time that Marc protected me when our ram had gotten upset, and went after me, hitting me and injuring me, and when the ram pulled back to hit me again, Marc got between us.

Oh yeah, he had his wussy moments too. He’d scream like a baby when it was time to shear him. And a squirrel could spook him and he’d give that eerie alpaca scream to let us know something was wrong.

And eat, that animal could eat. He’d gobble his food, always looking for more, and would make sure he’d get more than the others. Apples and kale were the favorites, although squash plants were high on the list too. Just Saturday we took him some apples, and stood and laughed watching him eat them, taking a bite from each one, almost as if making sure that the others wouldn’t want them after he’d bitten them — like siblings licking cookies…

So today, we mourn his passing — knowing that he had a long, healthy, happy, joy filled, protected life — but we will miss him still. He was the first to the gate to see us, loved to have his neck scratched, could kick like a maniac, and always made us laugh. How lucky we are to have had him in our lives for so long!

In his honor, here’s a little collage of pictures of him.

That One Small Omission — getting ready for a kindle sale price!

My first published novel entitled That One Small Omission was published in October 2017 by Solstice Publishing in both e-book and print versions. I am so proud to finally have it published!

The “blurb” for That One Small Omission says, “Maggie Erickson-O’Brien always played it safe, always. That is, right up to the moment when she met the man of her dreams while on a work trip. A one-night stand led to dreams of forever, right up to the moment when until she realized they could never have a future together. Months later, fate thrusts them together again, and her dream man has to decide if her one small omission will doom their relationship. Can forever still happen?”

My second novel, The Phone Call, is in final proofreading before it is published by Solstice. In anticipation of the release of that novel, the kindle price on That One Small Omission is being lowered from $2.99 to $0.99 from Tuesday, November 21st through Monday, November 27th. It can be purchased here: Kindle Version of That One Small Omission — thanks for your support!

 

Time to stop and look for a moment…

Lately, between the end of the growing season, which means lots of garden clean-up, and some extended family health issues, we’ve felt like we have been constantly at a full out run. Each morning we get up earlier and earlier, with the idea that today we will finally get caught up, and by the end of the day, the list is longer than when we started the day. Add in trying to also keep writing, keep proofreading, remember the importance of our interpersonal relationships, and work at our incredible but demanding day jobs, and it’s been a trying time for us all.

But this afternoon, as I stepped out of a meeting and tried to find my car keys, I took a moment to look to the west toward Lake Champlain. The natural beauty took my breath away, and I stood and stared, and let myself just stop for a moment. That brief few moments did more for my soul than I can express, and as I got back into the car, I felt more settled than I have in the last few weeks.

So now I am settled in at the laptop, ready to write for a while while my trusty proofreader reads nearby, and I am full of vigor and joy in the process again.

Guest Blogger — Ann Richardson

As I’ve said before, I love getting to know other writers, and getting to know how they work. I had read parts of Ann’s original work back in the 1990s when I was studying psychology, and I am thrilled to share a post from her now:

Ann-at-Sams-1-300x225

“As Powerful As Any Great Classic Of Fiction”

So said Sir Ian McKellen in his Foreword to my book. And it is.

Do you remember the terrible times of AIDS and HIV in the 1980s and 1990s? If not, are you curious to learn what it was like for those diagnosed?

Wise Before their Time, first published in 1992, shows in moving detail what it was like to live with HIV/AIDS when there was no real treatment for this life-threatening illness. It tells the true stories of over forty young men and women from all over the world, attending an international conference of people with HIV and AIDS in London in 1991.

I have added a new cover and a short introduction to the new version, but the book remains essentially the same.

These were very young people (most were in their twenties and thirties) having to cope with an unexpectedly shortened life span.

They describe the difficulties of telling their parents, friends and partners of their diagnosis, while trying to cope with the day-to-day problems of staying healthy, keeping in work and supporting their friends.

They all experienced enormous stigma, blame and guilt because of the disease. This can be seen in all kinds of ways ­– from small things, like an Irishman being disappointed that friends did not want him to play with their child, to larger ones, such as man being placed alone in an isolation hospital in Goa for some months with no help.

They all knew others who had died. And one mother tells the story of the death of her toddler.

Yet this is in no way a struggle to read. It is touching, it is enlightening and it is sometimes funny.  But most of all, there is virtually no self-pity. On the contrary, the participants were committed to celebrating the joys of life to the full. Which is why I chose the title – they were, genuinely, wise before their time.

For more information or to buy: https://myBook.to/Wise

The writing process, or at least MY writing process —

People ask me all the time how I come up with ideas for my stories. I can’t really explain it, it is like they suddenly show up in my head, and I start writing. Often I start mid-story, or even at the end, and then the other parts slowly come together.

I write on a computer or tablet, because I type faster than I can write by hand. When I have a draft completed, I print it out and go at it with brightly colored fine-tipped felt pens — never red, usually pink or green or purple. When that editing is done, I input the changes, and do it all over again. Some stories get set aside for long periods of time, but always come back around.

Right now, we are proofreading The Phone Call, and I am also editing More Than I Can Say, and writing book 4. Having so many projects in different stages keeps the process fresh and interesting.

While I finish the proofreading, I made  new collage teaser that I wanted to share here:

collage-2017-11-14

 

Guest Blogger — Paul Toolan

As I have started on this journey of writing and publishing my novels, I have greatly enjoyed the opportunity to connect with other writers. Occasionally, I will be sharing some of their posts here on my page.

Today, I want to share a post from the writer Paul Toolan — he has a new collection of short stories that are Alzheimer’s related. As someone who is spending a lot of time in a rehab hospital right now, this resonated with me. Paul’s blog post is below:

 

a view from memory hill

 

‘Where do your stories come from?’

 

If only I received royalties every time a reader asks me this!

Here, there and everywhere is the true but unhelpful answer. In ‘A View from Memory Hill’, there’s a story called Old Man, Young Pub that was triggered by seeing…an old man in a young pub!

I was at the Brighton Festival [Brighton, England – I used to live there] with old friends/fellow retirees. We dropped in to a wonderful, low-ceilinged pub called The Basketmakers, whose decor has barely been touched since it opened. I remember thinking we were the oldest people there, among many young and lively folk, some dressed in the trendiest fashion, some so far ahead they were next year.

It was a hot day, but as I looked around I spotted an old gentleman in a tweed jacket and tie, standing at the bar, quietly sipping his pint. All around him, bright young things were loud and full of energy. They squatted on bar stools, but no-one offered a seat to the old guy, and his legs could have used one. I wondered about his silent thoughts.

His anonymity, mine too, amongst this colourful crowd threw up a name: Smith. With the conscious germ of a story now in my head, I called him Frank Smith in hope he would eventually be frank enough to tell some sort of tale. I never spoke to this old man, but later when I sat at my keyboard, I spoke to Frank Smith, or he to me. I really don’t know which came first.

What I had was a character and a setting. No plot, no events, no history. Yet. But Frank Smith travelled with me, later in the Arts Festival, to a shabby-chic little theatre where, on hard seats, we watched a trio of skilled actors on a bare, dark stage. Magically, they brought to life some of Damon Runyan’s New York Prohibition stories.

Shortly after, inside that inexplicable swirl called a writer’s head, two separate experiences merged. Frank Smith went to his local pub; and he went to see a play. To keep the story structure tight, I made the theatre a blacked-out room at his pub, and had him go out of sheer boredom. Frank would have liked the Damon Runyan stories, but there’s insufficient conflict in what characters enjoy. I needed to change the play, to find one that Frank Smith liked less, that triggered something of his history, his demons or regrets.

On my bookshelves I have ‘Samuel Beckett: The Complete Dramatic Works’. I browsed through it. ‘Krapp’s Last Tape’ seemed ideal. It featured an old man’s memories, recalled with the aid of an old reel-to-reel tape recorder. Krapp is a drinker too, which resonated with Frank. While flicking through, I revisited ‘Rockaby’, a short Beckett play featuring an old woman in a rocking chair, remembering her past. Within moments, Frank Smith had a wife.

A day or two later, I named her Lucy. Then killed her off. The story would have become a novel if I hadn’t, and I wanted to balance Frank’s ageing memories – of Lucy and others – with voices of youth. So along came the young woman who ushers the audience to their seats in ‘the long thin dark theatre’ where Krapp’s Last Tape is performed. Her surprise that Frank turned up at all, among so many young people, releases the demons that rumbled as Frank watched the play. Short stories need a moment of realisation or change, and the clash between her enthusiasm for the play’s use of the past and Frank’s disturbed memories provided this.

‘We’ve all been something,’ was all he managed to say. ‘Known someone.’

The story might have ended there, but because the theme of age and youth was well-established I felt more could be done. I went back to the keyboard and jiggled the plot, making Frank inadvertently upset the ‘woman in black’, so her young hopes and dreams could quietly confront his regrets.

“In the half-dark, she looked squarely at him, black T-shirt and jeans appraising jacket and tie. A slight twitch flickered her lips. He thought there might be tears.

‘We all have dreams,’ she said, in the quietest voice he’d ever heard. ‘I’d rather dream than drift, any day.’ She pressed her lips together to control the twitch, but it continued. ‘What’s wrong with having dreams?’ she asked.”

This exchange then allowed a more positive development in Frank, making for a more satisfying conclusion [in my view, anyway, but I’d love to hear yours too].

So, a chance observation in a pub, a visit to a play, a book on a shelf, some musings and experiments at the keyboard – and before too long there’s a character’s voice, a felt situation, and a set of realisations. If it was as easy as I’ve made it sound…

I drop in to a pub maybe once week. I’m wondering if I should go more often. Pubs are full of people, and where there are people, there are stories.

You can find A View from the Memory Hill here:  smarturl.it/avwm

 

Paul Toolan

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Winter is coming to Vermont

Today was the first day this fall with a serious frost. The grass had a white sheen, and all outside surfaces sparkled in the sunlight. As I drove north this morning, a beautiful red fox was running through a field, and I slowed down to watch him for just a moment.

Now is the time for us to take care of all of the pre-winter tasks, such as cleaning the garden, making sure we have enough kindling for the woodstove, harvesting the last vegetables, and winterizing the beehives. Each day we cross a few more tasks off the list, and we know that soon we will be in full winter.

Each night, we work on teasers, writing and editing. I think that once the weather is a bit colder, and we have fewer duties outdoors, we will have even more time for those pursuits.

A couple new teasers:

 

We should have our release date for The Phone Call soon, but until then, That One Small Omission is available on Amazon and Solstice Publishing, and now also is available through Amazon in the United Kingdom. The links are below.

That One Small Omission on Amazon

That One Small Omission on Solstice Publishing

That One Small Omission — available in the UK