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I started school a year later than my first grade classmates because my family had moved from Maine, where children don’t go to kindergarten. I had also come from a rural village where our nearest neighbor was a quarter mile down the road.

Adjusting to city life was made a little easier by the nearby Golden Gate Park, living in the working class community of the Haight-Ashbury and across the street from our church, Hamilton Methodist.

My first year in school presented the wonders of learning as well as the constrictions of sitting at a desk when we were called in from the yard. In Maine, I had had years of nearly complete freedom to roam as far and as wide as my pre-schooler legs could carry me.

My independence and self-reliance did not prepare me for the urban school experience. During that first year, a girl twice my size approached me during recess and told me she intended to beat me up after school. She did not offer a reason.

Fortunately, self-preservation is a primordial, embedded instinct. At the end of the day, I was out the door and on my way home as fast as my first-grader legs could go, my would-be assailant left behind but not forgotten.

Like any six-year old with parental overseers, I told my mother.

For the next few weeks, my mother walked me to school and came to meet me at the end of the day. This was a chore too many after a while. I also became disenchanted with the restrictions, as being walked to and fro limited my opportunities for adventure and exploration.

By mutual agreement, my mother sent me on my way alone. Since my personal nemesis had not forgotten her threat, I was careful to rush in to be among my fellow six-year-olds and to rush out with the same intent. Sometimes, there is safety in numbers.

From somewhere, I had the notion that I had to confront this girl. Armed with nothing more than fear and a straight back, I asked her “Why do you want to beat me up?”

She accused me of snitching to the teacher about something she had done. I declared that I had not. And that was the end of weeks of anxiety and self-inflicted trauma.

I wish I had the ability to garner the courage, at every juncture, my first-grader heart gave me, but as we grow and experience more of the dangers of interpersonal communication, the stakes are higher, the outcome less certain and often more costly.

The sense of betrayal and the equal sense of guilt, the vague sense that we must have done something to warrant the bullying, compound to confuse and enervate our stronger selves.

Bullying from family members, friends and co-workers presents so many more difficult possibilities, making a quick getaway seems the safest, most logical answer but at what cost to our sense of self-esteem and worth? The humiliation of being victimized seems to stick around a lot longer than a sense of triumph but it is the fleeting triumph that gives us the strength to overcome the next time.

And so, the bullies in my novels are vanquished and their intended victims get all they want and deserve from a life well-lived. Writing is a brave act in and of itself. The real bullies in our lives will never know, but we do.

I wrote this post in April 2014, on my usual 4th Tuesday of the month, for Classic and Cozy Books on Blogspot.


…And what?

Why do we tell stories? For me, this activity became a lifelong occupation from the age of three. One night, I woke from a nightmare that, to this day, fills me with dread and a feeling of sick emptiness. I crawled into my parents’ bed for safety. I had no words for the terrible dream or the terror I felt.

Instead, I told a story to my wakeful father about the house I wanted to live in when I grew up. My father was a carpenter, so it was possible to believe he would build the house for me. Concentrating on a future possibility took me away from a present danger.

From that night on, I found great comfort in using my imagination to tell stories about an alternative reality. I spent long hours alone, content to fill my thoughts with the people and events I created, and ‘rewriting’ the endings of movies I had seen. During my teenage years, I added drawing to my work box of tools but the stories still took place in my head.

Not long after this, my first year in high school, I moved to another state. I made two friends in my new high school, both of whom had a similar story-telling penchant. We told each other stories, interactive between the three of us, exchanging ideas and characters, building worlds around make-believe situations. In my second year in high school, back in California, I continued this collaborative effort with other friends and again during my early college years.

In college, my first choice of a major was art but, finally, writing emerged as my true avocation. Once the decision was made, I entered a phase of my education that was so incredibly rich and textured, I have continued learning ever since. Fortunately, writing is an art form that demands constant discovery.

But why do I write? One answer is clear: not for the money!

Our ancestors told stories to explain the mysteries of the environment, for comfort, for entertainment during the long dark, winter nights. Our own reasons for story-telling are similar. In antiquity, knowledge of the forces of the universe were explained by the imagined existence of magic and the supernatural. How is that different from our own society’s love affair with Dracula, Terminators, Angels and the Once Upon a Times of 21st Century entertainment?

What was formalized by Aristotle and Euripides is our premier source of coming to terms with a universe we understand only marginally better than our cave-dwelling progenitors. The depth and breadth of human imagination, and the drive to express it, cannot be contained, no matter how frequently a story is told. Everyone of us has our own, individual interpretation of events. If our telling strikes a chord with others, we have succeeded in expressing a basic human truth and kept the terrors of dreams at bay.

Ye Old Tea Shoppe?

Ye Old Tea Shoppe?

My mother seemed always to have an answer for every state of the human condition. A turn of phrase, an adage, an idiom, a quotation that addressed a predicament in which I or my siblings found ourselves.

One of these is well-known and the photo here begins as my mother would have, but goes on to encourage hatefulness in the guise of ‘cool’ or ‘clever’. But not representative of an establishment that I feel comfortable entering.

I first saw this advertising board earlier this month. As I write, the sign is still there. In the shop today, there were two male members of staff. At the beginning of this month, the staff member was female.

This is not the first time this shop has ventured into the realm of nasty in hopes of catching the eyes of what, to my mind, must be equally nasty patrons. However, I pass this shop twice a day and very rarely do I see any patrons inside.

Although I am a tea-drinker, I give this place a miss. In any case, this seems like the kind of business that does not welcome people like me as customers.

My philosophy is straightforward and one I learned from my mother when I was a nasty fourteen year old: “You get more flies with honey.” How we treat one another matters. What we do and say to one another defines us more than what we accomplish or possess.

Perhaps, if the owners of this tea shop put out inspiring, educational or encouraging messages, the staff wouldn’t be wasting their time coming up with hurtful witticisms. They’d be too busy providing service to enthusiastic tea-drinkers.

Smile and say hello. It’s painless.

Writing!

And as soon as I had thought of the title for this blog, I recalled an encounter that made a mark and was instrumental in guiding me forward.

Years ago, I attended a literary event and had a conversation with an escapee from a New England family. I believed, being also from New England, we might have a common ground or two. We did, but not as I initially expected.

Aside from our Downeaster background, we both put pen to paper. I had a few short stories in small literary magazines and a prize or two (magazine subscriptions, nice writing implements—they all count!) to my credit. My eastern compadre had not yet committed to his chosen art form sufficiently to venture into the public arena.

In fact, he had difficulty admitting he was a writer, certainly not by acknowledging his desire to engage in the enterprise by speaking its name. When asked what he did, he made a gesture with his hand of writing in the air. When asked what he wrote, he muttered, “My dreams.” And he meant exactly that—not a list of goals or wishful future accomplishments.

He spent his days recording the activities of his sub-conscious.

At this point in my life—graduate student working an 8-hour nightshift—I didn’t have days or much of nights, but finding time to write was not a problem; I didn’t do much else.

My fellow writer lived on an allowance from his family and had all the hours of the normal day but could not commit to his chosen vocation without embarassment. He may now be a bestselling author or a billionaire or the CEO of his own company…I pass no judgment, only speculate that his family may have been instrumental in his lack of confidence.

I sympathize. My mother’s response to my announcement that I intended to be a writer? “Don’t be ridiculous.”

I blazed on regardless—not without many moments (read that as YEARS) of self-doubt. I am still learning my craft, even with ten novels and three volumes of nonfiction, I can never know enough but I do sometimes wonder if my mother was right.

But then again, I know she was only looking out for me.

A short reminder that tonight is the last opportunity to buy my ebook titles at the 65% discount rate offered through the month of March. The sale will end tonight at midnight, Eastern Time.

The sale includes:

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Also, my publisher, Amazon is offering my debut novel, Wait a Lonely Lifetime at a discount.

 

 

 

And also included are the 6 installment stories that make up the Nights Before novel (available only in print). The stories as individual ebooks are at 100% discount (free!) onKobo, AllRomanceEbooks, and Smashwords.

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8d4ff-wllcoverMontlake Publishing (my publisher for my debut novel) will, on Amazon, be offering Wait a Lonely Lifetime at 1/3 the usual price (99¢) from Friday, March 4th through Monday, April 4th.

In the spirit of this Spring Sale from Montlake Publishing, I will be offering the same amazing deal for ALL my books currently listed on Amazon, Kobo, Barnes & Noble, All Romance eBooks, and Smashwords during the same time period, approximately 65%.  Books that are currently available for 99¢ will be FREE (except Barnes&Noble & Amazon) for the duration of the sale.

Beginning on March 4th, this March Madness Sale is the perfect opportunity to get ready for your Summer Reading Adventure!

My part of the sale will also include my historical novels set Wales! Details about those are on Lily Dewaruile: Welsh Medieval Romance.

All of my ebook titles will be on sale until April 4th:

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‘Twas the Night Before New Year FREE
‘Twas the Night Before Valentine’s Day FREE
‘Twas the Night Before Mother’s Day FREE
‘Twas the Night Before Labor Day FREE
‘Twas the Night Before Veteran’s Day FREE
‘Twas the Night Before Christmas Eve FREE

Wait a Lonely Lifetime 99¢ (Only available on Amazon)
Salsa Dancing with Pterodactyls $1.65 
This Can’t Be Love 99¢

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This was my second post for Classic and Cozy Books, March 25, 2014, posted shortly after I published Salsa Dancing with Pterodactyls, one of my favorite novels. If we don’t like our own work, why are we writing?


Have you ever found yourself writing, without premeditation, about someone from your distant past, even your childhood, whom you have not thought of during all the intervening years? There they are, just as you had last seen them, clear and vital, presiding over a part in your story that you wouldn’t have envisioned when you began the work.

Sometimes they are protagonist, or antagonist, but more often they are the deuteragonist or tritagonist who hold your fictional world together in the populated corners that give your story and main characters depth.

When I was a fifth grader, my mother decided that this tomboy was going to learn how to walk, sit and stand like a young lady. Every Saturday morning, I walked up to the mansion on Sutro Hill where Mrs. Evelyn King held her dance classes in her own studio, complete with barre, walls of full length mirrors, a stage and a sun room also with barre and a view across the city to the Bay.

I was not the only girl in my school class attending these lessons but I may have been the only one who got more than good posture out of the years of ballet, jazz and ethnic dances.

At least in terms of sparking a lifetime of creative inspiration and opportunity.

Not only did I learn to dance, I developed a love of music. For me, the two are inextricably linked. I rarely listen to music without also dancing—if not full-on, with my fingers and/or toes.

Yet, I knew from the first lesson dancing was not my future. Choreography was fun and performing was a thrill but to be a professional dancer required the one element I didn’t bring to the barre every Saturday morning. Passion.

That ingredient was reserved, even then, for writing, for story-telling, for making worlds with words. Being able to transform all the joys and heartbreaks of growing up into stories is a most wonderful thing.

So, Mrs. King, thank you for inspiring me to nourish this passion. Perhaps, if you were still with us you might recognize yourself in Sharon, the dance teacher in my novel, Salsa Dancing with Pterodactyls. But, if not, know that I created her as a tribute to you and all the other teachers who have launched their students into the world of creativity.

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