Friday, January 18, 2013

The Next Big Thing Blog Hop

When fellow author Penelope Grey asked if she could tag me, my first response was Honey, I’m married and I don’t think the wife would appreciate that very much. She insisted it was all in clean fun. She was super excited about the opportunity to be a part of something that encompasses authors of different genres, but with one goal…writing great lesbian pieces. Hence, The Next Big Thing Blog Hop. Check out her blog posting.

Here’s how it works:  It’s kind of like a chain letter with interview questions. Once I’ve been tagged by an author, I’m supposed to find another five authors that agree to be tagged. I came up a tad short and want to say a special thanks to Chris Paynter for giving me the honor of tagging her. There will be more about her novels and blog below.
I’m talking about my new novel for the first time. I’m super excited to get this one finished up. The story has been a work in progress and I’m ready to let these characters fly.
Questions & Answers:
1. What is the working title of your book?
The title is Someone Like You.
2. Where did the idea come from for the book?
I read an article about couples not divorcing because they couldn’t afford to and managing to keep it amicable. I started thinking what if you had to move back in with an ex for financial reasons or something else. Would the love be rekindled?? If it wasn’t, could two people work around that and stay friends?
3. What genre does your book fall under?
Lesbian romance. All of mine do with the exception of The Killing Ground, which is a mystery/thriller.
4. Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?
I love this question. I always pick someone to play my characters. That way as I’m writing and watching scenes unfolding in my head, I can actually picture faces and how they speak and move and interact. Plus, it makes the love scenes so much more enjoyable.
Lex:                 Tonia Sotiropoulou – she is Greek and has that very distinct dark coloring
Aspen:            Nadia Bjorlin – Aspen has these ice blue eyes and Nadia’s are perfect
Cass:               Kate Hudson
Ginny:             Diane Keaton
Susan:             Jane Fonda
5.  What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
Ex-lovers thrown back together after five years to dissolve their marriage try to ignore the feelings that never went away.
6. Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
My book will be self-published under Syd Parker Books.
7. How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
The first half I finished in about a month, the second half I left and came back to more than once over the last year.
8. What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
I don’t have one in mind, though I can’t think of one that has delved into this subject, at least from this angle. Although, there are a lot of very talented authors and sadly, I don’t have time to read everyone.
9. Who or what inspired you to write this book?
I think “the one love” and second chances inspired me. Sarah has a saying, which I use in the book, “I believe in second chances, just not with me.” My thought is what if the love story you think is done really isn’t done. What happens when two lovers lose their way? Can they find their way back to each other? Does love ever get a second chance?
10. What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?
Following the example of another author who put out a soundtrack to her novel, I’ve decided to do one for Someone Like You. The story is emotionally raw in places and as I was writing it, I would hear a song that made me think of Lex and Aspen. Also, per the request of a very good friend of mine, look for one more surprise to be included.  
That’s pretty much it other than to say that Someone Like You will be out in March.  Chris Paynter is the author of several novels, including the winner of the 2010 Reader’s Choice Award for Favorite Romance Book, Come Back to Me. She also penned Survived by Her Longtime Companion, Two for the Show and Playing for First. Check out her blog at:

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

How He Smelled of Tobacco and Peppermint

There has been a lot of feedback from Jodie Foster’s Golden Globe speech. Did she come out? Is she retiring? All debatable points, but the one thing that touched me, actually made me tear up, was the moment she told her mother, who is suffering from dementia that she loved her. Three times, so the woman lost behind those blue eyes might possibly hear her and remember it. I know all too well the feeling of looking into someone’s eyes, praying this will be the day they recognize me and instead I am greeted with eyes that stare straight through me.
I don’t remember the first time I saw my granddad, but what I do have are snapshots in my head of all the wonderful times I spent with him. After we moved back to Indiana from California, my dad was on the road a lot, so my granddad became a father figure of sorts. I even picked up calling him Dad and did so for years. My granddad owned his own homebuilding business. To this day, I can remember running in to see him in his messy office, spinning in his chair, looking at blueprints and smelling his pipe tobacco. I still love that smell. He taught me to climb trees, swish a basketball and hammer a pretty straight nail. I visited him on job sites and scaled the framed out homes long before there were walls to keep me out. He loved to fish, and he shared that with us.
I remember at four years old climbing up onto the bumper of his truck and telling him to use baking soda to clean the battery posts to “fix” it. We asked him for crazy pills every time we visited, which were actually gum drops. We drank soda from adult cups and sat on the top of the refrigerator and waved at him from our perch. Before Christmas (my Pre-JW days), we would all pile into our cars and follow him to the boonies to find and cut down a Christmas tree. We played basketball with trampolines under the net and he soothed our wounds when we fell off. He took us up in the attic of the garage and showed us a treasure trove of goodies. Looking back, it was all just things in storage, but it’s the reason I love to antique because it reminds me of him.
A recent comment got me to thinking about the year that we watched my San Francisco 49ers play his Miami Dolphins in the Super Bowl. I remember actually orchestrating it so I could watch the game with my granddad. I bet him a Big Mac that we would win. It was a small wager, but to a child it was the world, especially when I won. I never collected that bet and sadly, it’s too late now. We are probably even though, because he lent me a foldable measuring stick about thirty years ago and I broke it and never replaced it.
My granddad was a very proud and independent man. Years ago, when the homebuilding market stepped away from the traditional custom home to a more popular and inexpensive cookie cutter model, my grandfather refused to stop treating each person and home as an individual. In the end, it cost him his business and his home. When I was 16, he and my grandmother lost their house to foreclosure. We didn’t find out until days before it was final and all we could do was pack as much of their life into boxes and cart it away. I met the woman who bought the house at auction years later and it had sold for a paltry sum compared to its value. I silently hoped that her kids loved it like we did, stood on the 2nd floor and tossed things down the laundry chute to the basement, swung on the porch swing so hard they almost tipped it over, made imaginary calls on the antique phone or slid down the stairs on their stomachs.
He and my grandmother moved into my uncle’s house, salvaging what possessions they could and my granddad, trying to salvage his pride. It was in those years that he developed Alzheimer’s. It wasn’t bad the first ten years but in those final years, he became angry and forgetful, so unlike the man I had once called dad. In the end, one of the few people that could still get through to him was my cousin. He would sit with my granddad for hours and talk to him about baseball and fishing and the kids. He could still break through the wall and get my granddad to laugh.
I remember getting the call that he had passed away. We were driving home for 4th of July weekend in 2010. I refused to break down, instead allowing myself small bursts of tears. Sarah finally insisted I pull over so she could drive. I think I cried the rest of the way home. At the visitation, we children gathered around and marveled at how unlike my granddad the man before looked. His “too busy to mess with a brush” hair had been cut and styled, his normally bushy eyebrows were trimmed to an acceptable length and his perpetually tanned skin was sallow. He seemed very lonely all decked out in a suit that wasn’t his and surrounded by nothing. So we scheming children, behind the backs of our aunts and uncle, outfitted him with a fishing pole and several pipes for the road, all discreetly tucked away for later.
I was never more proud of my cousin than when he walked up and messed up my granddad’s hair and tweaked his eyebrows. He walked away with the telltale family smirk and said that’s the way granddad would have wanted it. We spent the night of the funeral at my parent’s house…a reunion of the family he left behind, dancing to scratchy versions of “Brown Eyed Girl” and old Bob Dylan hits and singing into whatever utensil we could find. My grandmother, who has begun her own battle with dementia, was at times dancing alongside, forgetting why we were there and at other times, hiding her sad blue eyes. I brace for the day her eyes don’t see us. For now, I will enjoy her while I can.
Though my granddad may not have remembered those of us he left behind, there are a lot of people that remember what a good and kind man he was and that he always smelled of “tobacco and peppermint.”  
It may have seemed a small, random gesture to express her love to her mother three separate times and so emphatically, but I understand how she feels. For there comes a time when you can say it one time or a hundred times and it doesn’t matter. I applaud Jodie Foster for baring her soul, however brief it was.  

Friday, January 11, 2013

Bittersweet Symphony

To this day, I can’t hear the song “The Boxer” without thinking of my dad. The latest was a collaboration done by Emmylou Harris and Mumford and Sons that I had it on repeat as I drove into work this morning. Growing up, my dad introduced us to all kinds of music, from Journey to Mozart and Handel. I can still remember sitting in the seat of his semi listening to “Faithfully” and not realizing at the time how fitting the words were in our situation. As a truck driver, he was on the road all the time and when he was home, he drank enough to be “cool” and played the role of father, never giving us a look at who he really was. By the time I moved out, I knew my dad loved music and was a Red Sox fan and still had an East Coast accent that would keep up with anyone from Boston.
It wasn’t until he had a stroke five years ago, that my dad became a family man. He was always good at taking care of us before, but I never knew anything about him other than the person he let us see. I didn’t know his past other than he was born in Holland during the war and immigrated to New Hampshire and didn’t learn to speak English till he was ten years old. I remember driving to Florida for my grandmother’s funeral and on the way home he didn’t eat because there was only enough money left to feed my sister and me. What I didn’t know was he almost didn’t go to the funeral because his mom was never really a mother to him. She kicked him out on the street when he was 14 because she didn’t want him, or that after the state made her take him back, he hitchhiked cross country to catch the family when his mom and brother left him behind. He made it as far as Illinois before he stopped and got his first job as a driver with a gentleman that had picked him up along the way. He has worked every day since then.
Those are the sad memories, the ones that I can understand why he didn’t share. But along with those, he started to share the good ones too. When he was at the juvenile home, he got to serve the governor of New Hampshire at a state dinner. When he was younger, he worked with his dad making bread at his small restaurant. When he was 18, he bought his first convertible. He was airborne in the Army, dated a woman named Esperanza in Mexico. Wooed my mother in Sequoia National Park and started his own family. All bits and pieces of what made him the man I knew and I was finally getting to see that.
He changed with us too…in a wonderful way. He was no longer the cocky man I knew, who stayed just on the edges of our family. He was now involved, caring, devoted. He actually loved the kids, not just tolerated them. He has turned into this amazing dad who still loves music, but now he tells us about the first time he heard a song or why it means so much to him.
I have a lot of memories of and with my dad, some happy, some painful. I have some resentment for growing up with an alcoholic father and the challenges that came with that, something I’m still working through. That aside, I have some wonderful memories of time spent with him. Being on the road with him and driving towards the Rockies for the first time, or driving through Utah at night and thinking the Salt Flats glowed in the dark, talking on the CB and making fun of other drivers. Things that make me smile when I remember them.
A lot of my memories have songs attached to them and when I hear that song it transports me back in time. But “The Boxer” and “Faithfully”, those songs encompass my dad. Those are the songs that evoke the most emotional response. I picked up a lot of things from my old man. I am sarcastic to a fault, I wear my heart on my sleeve, I cry at movies (yes, this from the King of Cool), I can bullshit all day long, I can’t carry a tune but I’ll belt out Journey with the best of them. I’ve always done those things, but now when I do them, I can look at my dad and know a little more about the man I got those traits from and know that whatever his faults, he’s trying to be the best dad he knows how to be.
I may not agree with a lot of the choices he made and I will probably always carry some hurt and pain from growing up the way I did, but now my head knows that there’s a reason he was broken and that a lot of his path was just him dealing with that the best way he could. I know he’s spent his whole life fighting the feelings of being unwanted and unloved and how much that messes someone up, especially a kid. I know, despite everything, my dad loves us and no matter what happens, “the fighter still remains.”