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Posts Tagged ‘Salsa Dancing with Pterodactyls’

In case this is news, we had a power outage in San Francisco today. The first I heard of it was a phone call to my office on the south side of Market Street. I heard the police and news helicopters most of the morning but that is not unusual in this city. Our building security kept an eye on the streets and from what I’ve since heard on the national news, fourteen neighborhoods—from the Financial District to the Marina—were affected.

I left my office shortly after noon, walking along Montgomery Street to Sutter, back along Kearny and up the north side of Market. All shops, building and restaurants were closed. All traffic lights were out.

Happily, I am able to report that San Franciscans behave well in a crisis. Drivers followed the basic rules of stopping at every intersection, moving forward when the box was clear. Pedestrians crossed in crosswalks without risk—pedestrians have the right of way in CA and today that law was actually followed.

I heard laughter, saw kindness and courtesy, patience was the operative word. BART engineers set up generators, the Municipal Transit Agency directed traffic and our wonderful Police Department kept everyone safe.

Even late in the afternoon, most of the business sections of the city were still shut down. And yet, civility reigned.

Thank you, San Franciscans, tourists, shoppers and commuters!

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yellodaisyMany of us experience trepidations when we offer something of ourselves to others.

The classic and often humorous question, “Suppose I give a Party and nobody comes?” is all the more poignant for actors, dancers, artists and writers who are always at the mercy of “invited” guests when they exhibit, perform or publish a work of their own creation.

A saying in the performing arts goes, “As long as there are more people in the audience than on stage…” but imagine what you feel when that is not the case.

A writer is always a singularity—in no danger of being in the majority—as long as you have more than one reader.

As one of my colleagues once commented, “If one person reads your book and loves it, you are a best-selling author.”

There is no monetary security in the Arts, probably least of all in the written word. Here are the statistics one author presented to a workshop a few years ago (regarding fiction authors):

  • Only 3% of authors/writers are ever published.
  • Only 3% of those authors who are published get their name of the cover of the book.
  • Only 3% of published authors with their name on the cover of the book make a living from writing.

That works out to .00027% or roughly 8100 authors out of an estimated 30,000,000 writers.

1384050607361Do not quit your day job until you get that movie deal.

Many more of us in this century can tick off the first two of the statistics largely due to the advent of independent/entrepreneurial publishing. Some of us were among the fortunate .009% who ticked off the first two in traditional/legacy publishing but are still far from being among the 8100 who can make a living from writing alone.

Like most creative people, writers find other ways to bring in the payola, bread, dough, green, bacon. Some of us find employment in a field related to our vocation such as writing copy, journalism, grant-writing, advertising, web content—hoping that such activity won’t kill our creative impulses. Others make our daily bread from sideshows such as teaching, talks, workshops.

1384050603906And many choose to work in jobs and professions that have nothing to do with writing and everything to do with keeping a roof over our heads and food in our children’s mouths.

Fortunately for all of us, we live in a culture and society that gives us the freedom and tools we need to create and dream and speak our minds.

Imagine if we didn’t.

What kind of party would that be?

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My hometown is a village located in the southwest corner of Maine. For the first five years of my life, I spent my days wandering the woods and groves of lilac bushes around my house or with the kids down the road, an older girl and her younger brothers.

During the summer before I turned six, my father found work in San Francisco and my mother drove across the country with my older brother as a relief driver and the car loaded with luggage, my younger sister and me.  We arrived in the city and moved into a flat in the Haight-Ashbury. My parents enrolled me for the first grade—my first experience in school as Maine didn’t provide pre-school/Kindergarten education—and my father taught me to read before school started.

From rural Maine to cosmopolitan San Francisco might have been a shock, but not for me. We were close enough to Golden Gate Park for me to disappear in the groves of cyprus instead of the lilac bushes. My school was Dudley-Stone which drew its student population from the north and western Haight, rich in cultural and economic diversity. Later, we moved a little south to the Cole Valley and I started third grade at Grattan School.

The Haight-Ashbury Neighborhood Council held many community events—potluck dinners, talent contests, street fairs. We didn’t call it ‘diversity’ then. We called it community, neighborhood, friends. When I moved to live in Wales in the 1980s, I was so proud of my roots in San Francisco, that I wrote articles and gave talks about the spirit of community, neighborliness and friendships formed in my early school years with people of every race, religion and culture from around the world.

There was no strained, self-conscious effort to accept one another. We just did. The kids in my neighborhood ran around together, played and commiserated, disagreed and had water balloon fights without any distinction about the color of our skin, the origin of our culture or the denomination of our faith. Of course, we saw and sensed the differences but they were celebrated. We were all inhabitants of a sunny neighborhood and enjoyed the experiences of a wide world.

These are my experiences and I do not pretend to speak for those children I considered my friends in that long ago time, but the interference of adults in the innocence of childhood has never been more pervasive than it has been in this century.

This school year in San Francisco, the Board of Education is forcing children to learn about matters that only concern adults. Parents have a responsibility to protect their children from undue influence, including their own prejudice. As one of my childhood friends, now a renown clinical psychologist, once said, children do not need to know about what matters to you, only what matters to them.

My parents did not teach me prejudice and I have never looked at anyone to judge them for their color, religion or position, only for their character. And I have faith that most of us are good, honest, optimistic people who want only to be left alone to live our lives and raise our families. These are the people I write about.

 

 

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Disappointments come at every juncture of our lives. As children we face rejection as players on teams, aren’t invited to a classmate’s birthday party, fail a test or don’t get the grade we wanted on a paper. These are all learning experiences and prepare us for the inevitable rough treatment we will face in the adult world. As one of the teachers in my children’s school replied to a request that party invitations not be distributed publicly to save the ‘feelings’ of the uninvited, “They have to learn they won’t always be invited. Better they learn it now.”

A hard lesson for a six or seven year old when they are one of only a few who are not going. As parents, we want to protect our children from such heartaches but preparing them for the real world also requires we make some tough choices ourselves. Who among us has not faced the disappointments we hope our children will not? If we remember how our own parents’ handled our disappointment, we may have some insight into establishing emotional resilience in our offspring.

If we are not as fortunate, we may find other sources of support and strength. Motivational speakers and writers provide inspiration and occasionally help us clear the emotional blocks that stop us from achieving the success we want.

Writers are told to thicken their skins. We will need armor for what the world of agents, publishers, reviewers and readers throw in our direction. Several years ago, I attended a writers’ day workshop during which the audience was given a catalogue of the percentages of success of all the millions of us who aspire to publish (and especially to be read).

One statistic was that only 3% of writers are ever published. An even smaller percentage at that time saw their names on the cover of a published book. Self- and indie publishing has made a significant dent in those numbers. What hasn’t changed is the need for armor.

However, no matter what we write or the genre we write in, the foundation of our stories is the conflict of the individual versus the group. Our heroes and heroines stand up to evil and injustice, even if they are borderline immoral (scoundrels, vamps, tarts, disgraced cops etc) in their own right. Most of our primary characters have faced disappointments that have given them a mark which distinguishes them from their antagonists. And how they respond to that disappointment is their defining moment.

8aa17-51jt0rtvrl-_sl500_aa300_In my novel, Wait a Lonely Lifetime, Eric Wasserman sacrifices his best interests to those of his closest friend. Eric has several reasons for this, one of which is his past experience of inferiority in comparison to Steven Langdon’s presumed success.  The truth comes to light when the now divorced Sylviana Langdon searches for the man she fell in love with fifteen years before, surmounting her own disappointment and risking her happiness on the slim hope she and Eric can have a future together.

Although my publisher praised this novel as a ‘terrific romance,’ my armor was dented a little by the occasional harsh review.

I went on to write three more novels and am working on a fifth.

Not getting chosen for the volley ball team or not receiving an invitation to a sleepover is good preparation for the knocks we all face when we begin our professional work. Being shielded from any negativity in our formative years makes us weaker and more vulnerable to the real hurts coming our way.

Either that or we seek safety in the group, subvert our thoughts, talents and futures to the will of others, too delicate to face opposition and too easily damaged to be of use to ourselves or our society.

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All of my novels are available on AllRomance eBooks, Amazon, Barnes&Noble, iBookstore, Kobo and Smashwords, as well as many other related sites. Further information is also available on my website, Leigh Verrill-Rhys.
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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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