Introducing...Ms. Bojangled Nerves

Sitting here on the eve of the Kindle release of As it Seems, an absolute jangled mess of nerves, I ask myself one question: Why do I write? Why publish my thoughts for everyone to read? (Okay, that's two!) The simple answer is: I have something to say and this is how I express myself. But it's not easy, especially for someone who takes criticism to heart. I dread the moment I bump into someone I know has read my book...and they say nothing. Ouch! It stings. I'd rather they said, "nice try" than nothing! 

I can't help but wonder how this novel will be received by readers of my first book. Will they love it or hate it? Will they be disappointed with my sophomore effort? I don't know. I want to say 'and I don't care!' but that would be a lie. In my last blog post, I said 'I wrote this book for me and if my readers like it, that's the icing on the cake.' Well, I want a big ass cake made only with icing, inside and out!

Believe me when I say it's not pleasant to read a nasty review about something I put my heart and soul into. My books are my babies; the characters, my family. Imagine someone criticizing your child in a very public way? Doesn't feel good. Publishing a book is like dropping your little ones off at school for the first time ever, praying the other kids won't pick on them, that they are accepted for who they are. But...we know deep down not everyone will love them as we do. Our hope is the good outweighs the bad. The same goes for my baby, As it Seems. Not everyone will love it. All I can do is set it free and hope for the best.

My new book comes with a few disclaimers: 

One, the setting is primarily in Rhode Island but I created two fictitious towns. Why? Because Rhode Island is a small state and I believe the social underpinnings explored in this book could be Anytown, USA. I'm not pointing fingers, though if you know RI well enough you may have some idea where I got my inspiration. For my New England friends who love to read about home, not all locations are fictitious. A lot happens in Providence, Boston and Nantucket, with a few mentions of Bristol and Newport. 

Two, this book tackles difficult topics such as adultery and depression. An unfortunate fact of life is most people have experienced adultery in one form or another, or know someone who has. The same goes for depression, whether mild and fleeting or severe and lasting. It's been called 'a page turner with plenty of action', but 'could trigger some painful emotions or memories'. You've been warned!

Three, there are intimate scenes in this book. No big surprise to anyone who read my first novel! That said, you will never find gratuitous sex in any of my books. If I include this type of scene, there's a purpose. It's meant to capture an emotion that drives the story forward, whether it's love or hate, desire or despair. According to readers, the scenes depicted in my first book were 'full of love.' In my second book, the emotions are more complex and the reasons for these scenes more complicated as a result. Some are heartwarming, others are not. 

Four, because of the subjects addressed, I don't recommend this book to anyone under 17. Not because the intimate scenes are more graphic than my first novel, but because I don't think teenagers can understand or appreciate the stage of life I've depicted here. This is written from the perspective of people in their forties, not their twenties as in What if I Fly? This isn't about the first flush of love. As it Seems is about what happens once that flush fades and how love grows and changes. 

Disclaimers aside, this story is not doom and gloom, I promise. By the time you reach the last page, you will have a smile on your face, and a warm fuzzy feeling in your heart. 

The Writing Demons


Last night I started writing my third book in thirteen months. That's a lot of writing. When I finished my second novel a couple of weeks ago, I promised myself I would take a little time off before I began the next one. Maybe catch up on some reading, spend time with the family, focus my attention on school, clean the house. It's gotten rather dusty in here over the past few months! 

When I'm deep into the writing process...everything else falls by the wayside. And I can't afford to do that right now! I have three children, two graduate classes, tons of homework, an internship, tutoring, book signings, meetings. I don't have time to get sucked into another imaginary world of my own creation. And that's exactly what's happening. Again. Quite by accident.

I'm blaming the waitress for this one.

On my way home from grad class last night, I decided to stop by Eli's Kitchen for some chowder. I sat at the bar, quietly reading a magazine while the air around me buzzed with conversation. The restaurant was packed and my stomach was grumbling, enticed by the delicious smells wafting from the kitchen. I've never minded going places alone. Restaurants, movies, plays, concerts, traveling to new places. I'm pretty good company! But once in a while I get a little lonely as I watch the couples around me, interacting, sharing stories, sharing their lives. That niggling sense of loneliness was creeping toward me last night.

And then the waitress approached me.

She smiled and asked if I was the author who was in the restaurant a few weeks ago. "Did you write What if I Fly?" she asked. My eyes flew open, taken aback. I didn't remember her serving me, nor do I remember discussing my book with anyone at the restaurant, but somehow she knew. So I said yes, and she was so excited! She told me she bought my book the next morning and read it in two days, gushing how much she loved my story and couldn't wait for the sequel.

I thanked her and sat back against my bar stool, staring into the kitchen and then broke my promise to myself. No need to feel lonely, I thought as I rifled through my bag and pulled out the Moleskin notebook I keep with me at all times (just in case). There are people to be met inside my head! How convenient! I opened the blank notebook and stared at the empty page for all of thirty seconds before putting pen to paper and another story was born. I had a very loose concept for my third book brewing in my head, but as I sat there, the story unfolded on its own, and before I knew it I'd become acquainted with a whole family of characters. I wasn't alone. I was surrounded by new friends and family. In the space of an hour, I'd been sucked into the vortex of this new world, already consumed with their lives.  

Something has taken hold of me. I'm possessed by the writing demons. It's as if I'm trying to reach the light at the end of the tunnel, only to discover the tunnel never ends. There is always another story to be written, more characters to create. And when I'm not writing a story...I feel kind of lost. Purposeless. And anxious. I have forgotten how to relax! I'm beginning to think I've forgotten how to truly live. 

Do I write at the expense of my own life or does writing enrich it? I don't know anymore. Writing is a solitary process but the product I create is for the masses. It means a lot to me to know my stories bring enjoyment to others. But I'm not getting any younger. I've stayed out of the dating game for the past couple of years. I mean...why bother dating when I can write a better romance than I've experienced in reality? The simple answer is...I can love what I write, but it can never love me back. What I'm writing isn't real.

My goal this time around is to achieve balance between fantasy and reality. It may take me four months to write this book (versus the two it normally takes) but I've got some living of my own to do, and only one way to do it. Close this computer and get to it.



The Juggling Act


We all juggle many roles. Mother, friend, sister, daughter, writer, student, teacher, housekeeper, publicity hound, artist, negotiator, cook. We do the best we can with what we have, but as I get older I realize the importance of slowing down, taking a little time to smell the proverbial roses.

There's always going to be something that needs to be done, errands to run, clothes to be washed, homework to be checked. It's so easy to get caught up in ticking off the boxes on the 'to do' list, getting from point A to point B. And the goal? Too many times it's to simply get through the day, the reward being...sleep, the closest we come to death while our hearts beat in our chests.

But is that living? Or just existing?

To quote Ferris Bueller, "Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it!" It's all going by too fast! My life is half over yet it's just beginning in so many ways. Will there be enough time to enjoy the fruits of my labor? To stop and smell the roses? Only if I make the time. Those are the memories we leave with our family and friends, the ones we take with us to our graves. On my deathbed I'm pretty sure I won't say 'I wish I'd taken the time to vacuum more, or work longer hours, or fold that last batch of laundry!' Neither will you.

In the past I've been a horrible juggler, trying to keep too many balls in the air at the same time. Inevitably, I drop them all and have to start all over again.  But I've been working on my juggling act this year, trying to take things at a moderate pace which enables me to keep a few balls in the air at a time, slowing down to alternate, without dropping them all. I've gotten pretty good at it, but I'll admit, it's gotten a bit hairy lately.

My latest 'act' involves publicizing my first book, writing my second book, attending graduate school, raising my three children, and stopping to smell the roses (in no particular order). It's a lot. The ball I'm close to dropping is the publicity for my first book, and I don't want that happen. I've poured too much of myself into it to just drop it at this point. Which leaves the roses. But I can't drop the roses. They're what makes the difference between living and existing.

I guess I'm going to have to keep practicing my act.