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Below is my first article on Avalon Authors on May 23, 2011. Avalon is no more and some of us are forming a new group blog at Classic & Cosy. I hope you will join us there. These are my blogs for the original Avalon Authors group blog. Over the next few months, any article title with ‘Repost’ in it will have come from the Avalon Authors blog.

Good day. My name is Leigh Verrill-Rhys and I am a new author with Avalon Books. My first published novel is Wait a Lonely Lifetime, a contemporary romance set in Firenze (Florence) and San Francisco. Although this book has had a rocket speed journey from conception to contract, the journey for me as an author has been a lifetime.

WLLjacketproofwebWhat can you say about an event that amounts to the biggest moment in a writer’s career? Selling your debut novel. Every description falls short – despite your finely honed skill at the craft you have made your life’s work.

I have put words on paper from the day I learned how to hold a pen and make letters. I remember the evening I sat at the drop-leaf table in my parent’s living room, scribbling my story of giants and fairies, when I decided to make writing my profession.

Between then and now, there have been a few hundred diversions and denials. All manner of writing has sustained me – from grant proposals to articles to autobiographical anthology editing. Besides short stories, I steered clear of fiction. I told myself, ‘If I truly wanted to write fiction, I would be writing novels.’ But I was writing novels, in my head and in notebooks, a secret indulgence!

The day came when I had to make the final declaration. Though I have always written, I hadn’t given myself permission to be a writer. For years, I struggled with where my writing always took me. One day, I confessed. ‘I write romance.’ I lost a few friends or rather they deserted me but I had finally staked my claim on my future. The journey so far has led me to many new friends and opened a vast world of potential.

Three years later, almost to the day, I sent my contemporary romance to Avalon Books. Though not my first completed novel, I’m proud that Wait a Lonely Lifetime is my debut as a novelist.

Last month [April 2011], I participated in a group blog as a guest at Four Foxes One Hound. The subject was ‘ideas’ and I wrote about some of the events and images that contributed to this romantic novel. The title sums up not only the relationship in the book but also the length of time to experience enough to be ready for that moment of clear, sparkling inspiration.

My moment came one morning in early autumn as I sat at a table in Venice. Across the room, I saw a man in uniform. From that moment, Wait a Lonely Lifetime took shape and flourished through to the end. In this book, I had to explore a world and a way of life that were alien to me. At the same time, I felt I was ‘coming home’.

Have you had a similar journey? Where has your writing taken you?

By now, Wait a Lonely Lifetime is available as an ebook and in paperback, at local libraries and at Florey’s Book Company in Pacifica, California where I held a book signing in 2012.

Border Patrol

Jammed Together on Muni

Jammed Together

We all have our personal borders: physical, temporal and emotional. Unless we protect them, we run the risk of becoming someone we never intended to be.

We all know about our personal space, our comfort zones, our time management. We are not as aware of the effect of losing control of those borders or how encroachment steals our sense of self and its effect on our potential.

Our physical borders go beyond our personal space. When we are on a crowded streetcar, we worry less about space than when we are at a social gathering. On public transport, we are most often surrounded by strangers and in temporary discomfort about real concerns for our personal possessions and our toes.

At a social gathering, we, though still a temporary situation, may know many of those gathered together. We may have shared experiences with some, pleasant or unpleasant, and the discomfort this engenders can be triggered by emotions associated with that experience.

In addition, social gatherings garner some unwarranted camaraderie—glad-handing, shoulder-slapping, bear-hugging—from others we may not even know. Worse than that, for some of us, it’s isolation. Though we welcome anonymity on the bus, being ignored in a social get-together is painful on many levels.

To compensate, we may use the physical crutch of substances to lower our inhibitions and join the glad-handers and bear-huggers when we’d be better off helping out in the kitchen.

Ravages of Time

Ravages of Time

Time is finite for all of us but we still hear people say they have “time on their hands.” The biggest time-thief at our borders is probably ourselves, followed closely by family and friends. It’s too easy to say ‘yes’ to avoid the discomfort of saying ‘no’ to our nearest and dearest, despite the absolute necessity for our personal well-being. Protecting this border can make the difference in our career plans and professional success, yet we don’t value Time as an asset that we need to use effectively.

Writers are particularly prone to falling victim to the “time-suck” of others’ needs. If we don’t take our work seriously, it is even more difficult to say ‘no’ to the requests for help—from babysitting to helping with a move across town. Of course, keeping our relationships with real people is essential but putting our work aside for the wrong reasons: “I’m only writing after all” or “I’m not doing anything important right now” or “I’m not on deadline” don’t get our books written.

We all extol the virtual necessity of social media. But, who among us hasn’t succumbed to the salacious seduction of just one more post, one more tweet, one more connection for our network that lead to losing more time than we ever meant to give up? Who hasn’t pondered whether to join that best-selling author while she plays the latest game—after all if she has time …

Bottomless Emotional Descent

Bottomless Emotional Descent

Physical and temporal borders aside, let’s face the biggest destroyer: Emotion. The emotional blackmailers, the emotional vampires, the psychic demons, the manipulators. The people in our lives who will not leave us alone even though they are nowhere near us. They live in our heads, pushing all our creativity and good intentions to the side while they sit like vultures in the bare branches overlooking our work.

They’re the work colleagues we allow to mess with our heads about our productivity. They are the friends whose lives are miserable. And misery loves company. They are the jealous sibling who wraps us up in need and punishes us for caring.

Sometimes, we can’t get rid of them and feel guilty that we even want to. Too often, in an effort to handle the situation, we spend more time talking about them, thinking about them, analyzing ourselves and our relationship to them than we do enjoying all the fruits of our labors and the wonders of our own lives.

Eventually, letting our borders gape open, sends us in a downward spiral. At some point, we have to regroup and make the ascent all over again. Why not set our boundaries and keep to them in the first place? There are ways of doing this without damage to anyone, including ourselves. Just think, the person on the other end might be wanting the same, but doesn’t know how to say ‘no’. We could be doing them a favor.

© 2014 Content and photographs, Leigh Verrill-Rhys

 

The Camp of the Saints
The Camp of the Saints by Jean Raspail
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Prophetic, timely, a difficult book but compelling read. Fittingly finished reading this book today, 14 juillet, Bastille Day, but I wonder if the French revolutionaries of 1789 would be in The Village or on the beach.

View all my reviews

This book speaks entirely for itself. I cannot fault its logic, as it is. There are many notes struck that are resonant at this time in our history. Written in the 1970s, The Camp of Saints reflects what the Wall Street Journal has, this very day, claimed is the worst time since the 1970s.

I will not forget the experience of reading this book and am glad I did.

 

Reading books by men has become a regular activity for me. How better to understand the nature of the king? As a writer of romance, the male of the species takes a lot of my attention. We won’t find many romance writers for whom that is not true.

For me, it also helps that I raised three boys even though I grew up with four sisters. Some of my most recent escapades into the world of men’s fiction have been in the company of John Locke, Lin Robinson,  Stone Wallace, Frank Waters and Zane Grey, among many others. (One cannot avoid reading the works of male writers if one chooses to be a literature major…)

One of the questions that always arises in my brain is ‘Why do women want men to be more like women?’

A recent Toyota commercial is a case in point. In this particular 30 second effort, the receptionist at a dealership is talking to a potential customer whose boyfriend comes in with a frothy coffee and a puppy he’s rescued. Besides the total emasculation of this otherwise hunky guy, what are we supposed to take away from this?

That women want that? Are you kidding me?

Look at the results of the recent  broadcast of the mug shot of a known felon. He had good bone structure but those eyes? Those were the eyes of a guy whose predatory instincts were in full furl. Thousands of my sex (that means gender for those who don’t like the word s e x) were all over wanting to take him home. (Not me! If he isn’t already a threat to women, he soon will be, IMO.)

Those are just two opposing examples of women’s preferences. Here’s another: current teen idols v. my teen idols. I idolized The Beatles, one in particular as all Beatles fans had to choose. While they were youngish and I was even younger, they were, in fact, men. Not especially good-looking but talented, successful, brilliant, hard-working, dedicated, ambitious – need I go on?

And then we have certain very pretty, somewhat androgynous, singularly prepubescent males with no visible means of achieving adulthood.

The psychology is quite simple: The unattainable regarding my teen idols kept me and millions of other young women quite safe while we explored the ‘concept’ of sexual attraction. In these times, it’s not the ‘concept’ young women are expected to explore but the reality. Therefore, idolizing the pretty and sweet offers the same security. While our hearts are engaged, real temptation has no power.

In any case, men are not like women, not from their earliest breaths to their final gasps. Thank goodness! Make your peace with that, ladies, and live a happy life.

I do not know why we allow it nor why so many men and women offer their lives in sacrifice to it but it seems that war is always with us.

What are we fighting for?

I am one of the Vietnam War generation. My parents and siblings were products of the two World and the Korean Wars.

There was never a brief suspension where we might begin to hope there would be fewer conflicts until this way of settling differences was eradicated.

I lived in Europe at this time and if the IRA wasn’t planting bombs in public places where they slaughtered and maimed children, the Serbs, Bosnians or Croatians were. Those were only the wars I knew about. There were and are so many others. There will be another and yet another.

What are we fighting for? Freedom, ideas, power? Land, food, dominance?

Is it foolish to believe that all of these are pitiful excuses for causing misery, suffering and decimation?

This morning, on my way to work, I read this from Louisa May Alcott’s Civil War Hospital Sketches:

“…John looked lonely and forsaken just then, as he sat with bent head, hands folded on his knee, and no outward sign of suffering, till, looking nearer, I saw great tears roll down and drop upon the floor. It was a new sight there; for, though I had seen many suffer, some swore, some groaned, most endured silently, but none wept. Yet it did not seem weak, only very touching, and straightway my fear vanished, my heart opened wide and took him in, as, gathering the bent head in my arms, as freely as if he had been a little child, I said, ‘Let me help you bear it, John.’ …”

 Today’s wars, as with Vietnam, are far away, in foreign lands brought to us by television, distant and unreal. Yet, the power of Alcott’s few words written 150 years ago, the suffering of this one wounded soldier draws our admiration for his fortitude and compassion for his pain from our hearts. We are not immune or indifferent.

Whatever we think of war, its causes and its consequences, the experience of any one individual is a test of our own humanity. Although we cannot go about everyday in constant distress and heartache, we can stop a moment and share the suffering of our fellow men and women, however much we wish we didn’t have to.

 

 

Boneyard 11
Boneyard 11 by Linton Robinson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Lin Robinson delivers a hard-hitting, intense and topically explosive story, full of characters who challenge our preconceptions about the criminal worlds of prostitution, drug trafficking, gang warfare, hired assassins and more!

The adventure into the southern California and Baja underworld is a trip most of us would avoid at all costs in the real world. Robinson presents this way of life in all its variations with his usual wry wit and intense observation of all things human.

As far-fetched as some of the events seem, they ring true through this author’s skill in capturing the essence of truth in the fundamental nature of the characters. Despite their dubious occupations, their underlying humanity and basic human emotional needs wins our compassion and understanding. Some get exactly what they deserve and that is not always what the law might require.

Readers of Robinson’s Sweet Spot, will most likely enjoy this book. Although Boneyard 11 has fewer of the laugh-out-loud moments of his Mazatlan Festival novel, the banter and wit is delightful.

View all my reviews

I am reposting this blog from Kristen Lamb because she has written about issues that are so critical to writers and citizens that I hope all my readers will have an opportunity to read this and think about what she has said.

Something Wicked This Way Comes & Why Writers Could Be in Great Danger.

My comment on this blog post was:

“I am rarely offended by anything or anyone but I am terrified by the trend to assign ‘special status’ to some groups while denying the same protection to others. While some of us are not allowed to offend ‘Special Status Groups’, others of us are not allowed to be offended.

“This is an fundamental inequality of which we have always been warned by philosophers such as Voltaire: “I may not agree with what you say but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” And is clearly established as a civil right in the U.S. Constitution’s first 10 amendments, especially the Bill of Rights’ First Amendment, and yet, increasingly, this Amendment is being eroded so that it applies only to specified ‘Special’ groups.

“We are in grave danger of being silenced to the point that we are afraid to speak out about anything for fear of being labeled intolerant or bigoted, among other erroneous epithets. This can only result in even further division and eventual backlash. Political correctness began its insidious erosion of intellectual freedom in the US in the 1960s. If we are not free to write and express our thoughts and opinions, we are already imprisoned.

“As to the ‘special’ aspects of honors evenings, how are we to compete in this exceptionally competitive world if we constantly coddle our children, so as not to make them feel bad? I have to ask if this is not an attempt to destroy them with kindness? My favorite advice to my children was “Life is hard and then you die” – they have all grown up to be decent, productive, happy and loving young men.”

If we do not protect our freedoms now, they will be lost for generations.

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