Perfect Things

I found this quote in a new book I’m reading (Love Walked In by Maria de los Santos–I’m only a chapter or so in, so the story hasn’t evolved too much yet–but her writing style is beautiful). It stuck with me and I chewed on it all day, so I thought I would share.

 It made me think of items and things I’d put on my perfect list. Some I came up with:

  • The beginning of spring when the weather is amazing but it is too early for bugs.
  • The opening bars of Billy Joel’s Piano Man.
  • Twilight. The time of day, not the stupid books.
  • The way babies move their little mouths when they’re asleep.
  • Using your favorite pen.
  • The first bite of ice cream.

What would be on your list of perfect things?

If You Read One Book This Month: “Captain Jolly’s Do Over” by JR Ingrisano

I’m starting a new column here on Mama Writes Words, highlighting my top “You’ve Gotta Read This” pick for each month. I’m excited to be starting with Captain Jolly’s Do Over by JR Ingrisano.

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In his debut novel, Ingrisano introduces us to Jamie, who is fed up with life, love and the doldrums of every day happenings. In a move all of us have dreamed about once or twice, he runs away to start over. In his case, he lands in the Caribbean, where he becomes the skipper of a ship called “The Do Over”. Over the course of the novel, we get to experience Jamie’s life on the island as well as the unravelling that led him there.

In this second life, Jamie encounters characters that are the very heart and soul of the book. There’s Bonita, who “must have once been something. She was still something, but she looked a bit worn around the edges…in her heart, Bonita was still someone’s princess.” There’s Jason the Bartender, who “understood people. He had a feel for them; he could read them”; and Yvonne, “big and friendly…more like a house-mother for a sorority than the owner of a small, well-run tavern.” They are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the cast that fills Ingrisano’s book. And while I love the characters, what really got me about this story was the journey.

You don’t get to leave your life, crumbled marriage, and children and run off to an island without consequences. You don’t get to reinvent yourself without facing the ghosts of your past. Jamie isn’t immune to these realities, and that grittiness is what makes his story so great.

As always, I don’t do spoilers on my site. You can find out what happens to Jamie by buying the book here…and one lucky person can win a signed copy of the book. All you have to do is make sure you’re following this site and Ingrisano’s site, and leave a comment on this blog answering this question:

If you were going to run away, where would you go?

Contest will run through October 1st. Open to residents of the continental US. Winner will be chosen at random. 

I was given an advanced copy of this novel. All opinions are my own. 

Planning a Literary Garden

I am so excited about the yard in our new house. We have so much space and I’m both delighted and overwhelmed by it. I’m not much of a gardener, and I know I can’t do it all at once, so I’m starting to plan and research, and of course my mind goes to books.

I want to create a literary green space. Keep in mind I’m in the day dreaming phase, but here are some ideas I’ve had.

BitOfEarth

  • Lilies and petunias for a Harry Potter garden, along with some herbs and interesting looking “herbology” class plants.
  • I’m really inspired by The Hundred Acre Wood–a sand play area for Roo’s Sandy Pit, Rabbit’s vegetable garden, a little log tucked away for a thoughtful spot. And hunny pot planters, of course.
  • A flowering tree that has big white blossoms like the “White Way of Delight” in Anne of Green Gables.
  • A spot with bright, colored flowers and curious looking plants that would be perfect for an Alice in Wonderland inspired tea party. Perhaps some interesting looking mushrooms, too!
  • A little scarecrow post with Peter Rabbit’s blue jacket hanging on it.
  • I’d love to find a way to tuck a tiny rose garden back in the woods that border our lawn to make our very own secret garden.
  • A lamp post, so we can find our way home from Narnia.

And of course, I need one of these signs.

GardenSign

What am I missing? What books would be represented in your literary garden?

The Hardest Part of Being a Writer

weird writer

Hello, friends. I missed you last week and I apologize for the lack of blog posts. My novel, The Goldens, is finally at the stage where I can start shopping it around so I spent all my free time last week hammering away at a query letter to send to publishers and agents.

I have, at least in my opinion, reached the hardest part of being a writer. For me, it’s not thinking up new ideas, finding time to write (although I do admit that is a major challenge) or even finishing a piece. The hardest part starts once it’s done.

Because once I’ve finally finished a piece and spent hours finding the right words and the order to put them in, I have to succinctly sum it up in one paragraph and make it sound so appealing in that handful of sentences that someone will actually want to read it. And frankly, I’m terrible at it.

To put it nicely, I’m verbose. To put it other ways, I’m long-winded. No matter how you say it, I don’t do short. So query letters are the bane of my literary existence.

But–thanks to gallons of Pepsi, pounds of animal crackers and the support of someone who has managed to snag that elusive book deal–it’s done. Done and sent off into the world.

Which brings me to the second and third hardest parts of being a writer: the waiting, and the imminent rejection. Because there will be rejection. Hopefully, there will be acceptance as well, but part of this process is growing a thick skin and preparing to hear (what will hopefully be a gentle and kind) “no thank you”. And in the mean time…you just keep writing.

Sharing is caring: what is the hardest part of your job?

Sneak Peek of ‘The Goldens’

Welcome to a sneak peek of The Goldens, my debut novel coming out late 2015. I would love to know what you think!

When David Graff woke up, he was dead. He was surprised at how definitively he knew this. One minute he’d been driving, Billy Joel on the radio. The next minute he was here—although he wasn’t exactly sure where here was—and he was no longer alive.

He surveyed his surroundings. He was in a room, generic but comfortably furnished. There was a bed, a TV, a rocking chair. A window behind a heavy navy curtain did not provide any clues, as it was too dark and foggy to see outside. When David turned back around, a dog was staring at him. It was not a dog he recognized. It looked a little like a collie, but with a little street mutt thrown in. David had never been very good with dog breeds. This particular dog was wearing a fisherman’s vest and regarding him with big brown eyes.

“Hello,” the dog said, and David was not shocked, although he was aware he should have been.

“Hello,” said David. “Who are you?”

“You can call me Barney,” the dog said.

“Where am I, Barney?”

“Heaven.”

David glanced around. “This is heaven?”

“Well, the first steps.”

“I always thought it would be…prettier.” David said.

“I daresay it will be,” said Barney. “Although I don’t know for sure what yours will look like.”

“What mine will look like?”

“Heaven looks different to everyone,” explained the dog. “Suited to their design of perfection. Can you imagine trying to create a place that made everyone happy? Logistical nightmare.” He shook his head. David nodded. This made sense, but something else bothered him.

“What about…I thought there would be people here to greet me.” He shuffled his feet a little, looking down. His mind flashed through images of people he had lost—his mother, uncles and aunts, old friends—and settled on the image of a certain person. “You know, pearly gates and all.”

The dog looked at him kindly.

“You’ll see her soon enough,” he said as if he could read David’s mind. “Her and everyone else.”

“What about God?” David blurted out. If a dog could smile, Barney did.

“He’ll be there, too,” he said.

“So what do I need to do to see them?” David asked. He suddenly felt rushed and anxious. Barney seemed to sense his anxiety.

“It took you a long time to adjust to your life on earth,” he said gently. “Think about it. Nine months in the womb, and years of guidance from your parents. Think of me as your guide to heaven. I’ll show you the ropes before I send you off on your own.”

“But what do I have to do?” David repeated.

“You need to say goodbye to your old life,” Barney said. “It’s imperative for everyone, but especially those like you—who leave unexpected and suddenly.” David thought back to the Billy Joel song. Without realizing it, he sank into the rocking chair and started to sing to himself. “And the piano, it sounds like a carnival, and the microphone smells like a beer…” He paused, and looked up at Barney.

“It was a car accident,” he said. The dog nodded. For the first time since the he got to heaven, David felt sad. Then he realized sad wasn’t even the word for it. An overwhelming, pressing emotion crushed him as he remembered the song, reaching down to turn it up, and looking up just in time to the see lights of the other car swerving into his lane before hitting him head on. He saw himself slumped over in his seat, heard the sirens. Saw the young girl who drove the other car get out, hysterical, on her phone. But David could only think of one thing.

“Gracie,” He whispered. He met the dog’s eyes, and saw his own pain reflected in them.

“You have to let me go back,” David said, jumping up. “You have to let me. I have to see my daughter. I have to say goodbye.” The thought of Grace getting that phone call—it crushed him. The room spun around.

“If this is heaven,” David demanded bitterly, “then why am I so sad?”

“Because you haven’t said goodbye,” Barney said. David didn’t move, his head buried in his hands.

“How am I going to say goodbye?” David asked. “I’m dead.”

“Think back to a time someone you love died,” Barney said. “Like her.” Her face swam in front of his eyes. His Elisabeth. Her big green eyes, hair the color of honey. The first time she laughed, David had been delighted by the huge sound that came out of such a petite woman. He always thought that first, fantastic belly laugh was the moment he decided to marry her. Grace looked like her mother. It stopped David in his tracks sometimes when she walked into the room.

She had barely been two when Elisabeth died—she’d be 35 this year, the same age her mother was when the cancer took her.

“Of course you never get over the death of your wife,” said Barney. “”But it got easier, right?”

“I suppose.”

“Do you know why?”

“Time heals all wounds?” David quipped.

“There’s a little more to it than that,” Barney said. “Leaving the only world you’ve ever known isn’t easy. There is a journey everyone has to take, to say goodbye and make peace with the people they leave behind.”

David thought of Grace and looked up. “Will they know I’ve said goodbye to them?”

“I asked you earlier and you said it got easier, right? That’s because Elisabeth left you a Golden.”

“A Golden?”

“You can help the people you left behind find their peace with your passing. I can show you how. How you’ll get to give those final goodbyes, conversations, things you needed to say. So that when you do enter your ‘pearly gates’, you’ll have no regrets.”

“But will they know?” David pressed.

“Eventually, yes. In their own way. Some people will know right off, depending on the connection they had with you. Most won’t. These moments will get filed away for one day when your loved ones are ready. Maybe it will be something they find, a song they hear on the radio, a prayer, or a dream. But they’ll know.”

“When can I start?”

“Now, if you like.”

“What do I do?”

“Just go through that door.”

“Door?” David looked up and saw a door where a solid wall had stood a moment before. He felt like she should be surprised, but he wasn’t. He glanced back at Barney, who gave him a reassuring nod of the head and settled down on the foot of the bed. David took a deep breath, turned to face the door, and thought of his daughter. —