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Thursday, May 7, 2015

Ten Miles and a Half

It takes me a full day to cover the length of the ship.

I know every lose tile, every nail, every cold draft when I cross a corridor.

I know every sound: the echo of my footsteps, the creak of metal on metal, the soft hiss of air, the silent laughter of my children’s dreams.

My steps are slowing, I know it. Once, a long time ago, so long ago that not even the ship can remember it, I used to race up and down its hallways like an elf, like a wispy thing, fleet-footed, ephemeral.  Now, I trudge, like an old man, a workhorse that has carried his load for too long. Ten and a half miles is a long path to walk.

My back is bowed. I can feel every joint, every vertebra aching under the weight of the years and responsibility. The tedium of loneliness, the growing silence, and the boredom of routine are getting to me. I wish there was someone to keep me company, but my vigil is a solitary one. I am alone with my children, and they are asleep, dreaming their endless dream.

Once, they ran free under a sun. I have seen the recordings of their past.

They lived under a blue sky, a yellow sun, and there was one moon to light their nights.

They built cities, such glorious cities. They glittered like jewels in the darkness, shone like diamonds. My children, they walked their earth like giants, wonderful, brilliant, their minds wide awake with imagination. They looked up at the sky and saw not stars but worlds, they reached toward those worlds and made the distance vanish.

Their world was dying, they knew it, and they looked toward those worlds, searching for a new home.

In great ships they left, one after another, every year, for nearly a century, they left. In all directions they went, to explore the depth of their universe.

It says in the records that there were billions of them, leaving. Sleeping, dreaming, they left.

My brothers and I, were set to watch over them on their long trek. We promised to make sure no harm would come to them.

That is our task: to chart the way, find a new home, keep the children safe.

We sing for them; we sing their dreams to them, so they won’t wake before it’s time.

Some of them died. We buried them. They taught us how to do that: nothing is wasted on a ship like this one.

So here I am now: old. Alone, and always listening to the silence of eternal night.

The children were wrong. There weren’t any worlds waiting for them to come and settle. There is only endless night, and dead, cold stone, mocked by alien suns.

There is no other life. The universe is empty. It is empty, silent, and endless. They were fooled, and they will never wake up.

Because, you see, this is what I have learned.

The universe isn’t endless at all. We are drawing closer to where we started. We are being returned.

Lately, I’ve heard the other ships. I can hear their whisperings, their songs, their questions.

Why are there no new homes? Why are there no worlds with life? Why no planets for our children?

I have the answer, but I don’t know if I should tell them.

My brethren, they are desperate. We can see the dead sun of the home planet, and the little round rock where our children were born. It is dead, just like all other planets in this universe.

I could tell them why.

I could tell them that the universe, every universe, can only bring forth one living planet.

Yes, that is the truth. One universe, one planet with life. It needs an entire universe to create that miracle: life.

We cannot leave. We cannot stay.Like a wreath we will gather around the dead sun, and our song will be our dirge.

We will sing of endings, of silent darkness, of our children’s dream.

And then, one by one, we will go to sleep, too.

And the universe will end.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

DAREDEVIL–Graveyards and Apple Pie

It's launch day at Buddhapuss Ink! Congratulations to my publisher and Linda S. Browning!

Linda, author of Daredevil, has a wicked sense of humor. Sometimes, it borders on the insolent; she's made me gasp with her sharp and witty comments a number of times, and giggle, and grin.
We all knew what to expect when Linda decided to write a novel: more of that sharp wit!

So here it is, Linda S. Browning's debut novel Daredevil.

And here's my review: 

What a romp!

If I ever get old I want to be friends with Leslie and Belinda.
I’d move into dear Abner’s empty unit and get those two biddies to make me pie every weekend. In return, I’d go on adventures with them, and I swear, I’d be gutsier than Belinda and hold the flashlight so Leslie could do her investigating.

Linda Browning’s novella Daredevil lives up to the expectations raised by her short story “No Wake,” first published in Buddhapuss Ink's mystery anthology Mystery Times 2013.
Her heroines, the feisty Leslie and her partner-in-crime, the tall but timid Belinda, set forth to find out what happened to a missing girl who vanished shortly after her step-grandmother’s funeral. 
I won’t tell you what they discover or how they go about it because I don’t want to spoil the fun for you. 
But I will tell you this: you won’t get to the solution before you’ve gone calling at the bereaved family’s house with pie in hand—like a good Southern belle, have a friendly Lab slobber your face, make friends with an TBI agent, and have had to hide in a coffin showroom. 

This is a sweet little book to be enjoyed over a cup of tea and a piece of pecan pie…make that sweet iced tea tinkling in a tall glass.

Linda Browning has a a voice that is distinct, and fun to read. It lends itself well to the near-slapstick situations that Belinda and Leslie get into. This is cozy mystery at its best!

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Hatching Day

I'd like to add that I wrote this story in 2011, and that it was originally published on the #amwriting blog by Johanna Harness, more than THREE years before Steven Moffat released his version of the Moon-turned-bird in the Doctor Who episode Kill the Moon. 

They said they didn’t know earlier because it came out of the sun.

Well, not OUT of the sun, but from that direction, and that was the reason it could not be seen.

Personally, I don’t think it matters. Even if they had seen it earlier, no one would have believed them. I mean, a bird, flying through space? What is this, a really wonky Star Trek episode?

I remember when it was first mentioned on the news. Marcia had gone out to buy bagels for breakfast, and I was nursing a hangover from the night before. It felt like a regular Sunday morning, boring, a little slow, as undecided as cold pasta, and there on TV was this blurry image of a huge black mass moving through space. They said it seemed to be alive, not a spaceship, and it was coming closer.

Uh oh, I thought, what, are we playing Independence Day? You know, the movie and all? Are we going to be invaded now by slimy aliens?

But no, they said, this thing is huge. Huge, as in, bigger than a planet. Way bigger. And it’s coming our way. Coming our way from…somewhere out there. Silly me, when they said that, this Disney song popped into my mind, the one from “An American Tail”, and I went around humming it all day until Marcia threatened to clobber me.

I remember looking toward the sky every so often, and out on the street there were others doing that, too, as if we would be able to see the dark speck of whatever getting closer, as if a rent would open in the sunny blue sky and there it would be, the THING, the stranger.

Marcia and I sat in front of the TV all the time. It was like watching an ongoing SciFi movie, like one of our Christmas DVD marathons when we would watch all six seasons of the Sopranos in one sitting, ordering pizza and Chinese food and otherwise just, well, watching. We even started talking like the Sopranos, and every third word would be…you know, the four letter word starting with “f”. Marcia really does a good impression of Pauly.

Only this wasn’t a DVD, it was the news. I made her switch to CBS, knowing they would not screw with us too much and would report what was really happening, at least that was what I hoped.

Then three weeks ago, things changed. Man, did they ever change. No one could have made this up. I bet Roland Emmerich is biting his butt right now because HE didn’t think this up. What’s Independence Day compared to this? What’s a freaking space ship hovering over New York and pouring its blue stuff OUT over Empire State Building compared to THIS?

That bird - and yeah, we now know it’s really a bird - reached Pluto.

You know, Pluto? That rock that used to be planet and now is something else, I forget what, but definitely not a planet? Well, Big Bird reached Pluto. We saw the images on TV. And Pluto, planet or not, popped. It popped, and out came another bird or whatever of the same kind, smaller, but the same shape. They hovered there for a while, and then moved on.

They went off in a different direction, and for a couple of days things calmed down. Hey, the Invasion of the Space Birds passed us by!

I have to admit I was a little sad. At long last something really momentous is happening, and it’s not coming our way.

Only, yeah... They were heading toward Neptune.

Now Neptune IS a planet, right? No discussion there. A pretty big planet too. But it cracked just like an egg, and out popped hatchling number two.

Big Mama bird and Big Brother bird were there to welcome the little beast.

I had this moment when I thought I was really on something weird and not just high on coffee when I saw those telescope images on our TV, and I was really, really glad we hadn’t bought that 3D set the other day. Man, that would have creeped me out big time, seeing those planet pieces drifting through space like egg shells. Which they are.

It seems as if life has stopped here in New York.

I mean, it really stopped when those critters started to make their way toward Uranus, and then Saturn. Same thing there. New birds.

By now the pictures make me giggle and come up with really stupid chicken jokes.

You should have seen Jupiter go. All that gas and stuff? It drifted apart like egg yolk when you put your fork in it. Left a spot like a bled-out pimple in the darkness of the universe. You can see it hanging there even without a telescope, good binoculars will do the trick.

Today when I woke up I looked at Marcia, lying asleep beside me, her hand curled on the sheet, her mouth open and her hair a mess on the pillow. I’ve loved her for five years now, ever since we met at the hot dog stand at the corner of Broadway and 42nd. She was just another starry-eyed kid from the boonies who had come to make her fortune in the big city. Hell, she didn’t even know how to order that stupid hot dog.

So I looked at Marcia and thought about the kids we always wanted and now will never have, the book I always meant to write, the career on stage she wanted and will never get. We won’t even be getting the Playstation 3 I coveted.

I’ll take her out today. I’ll take her out to a really nice lunch in a very, very expensive restaurant, and then maybe I’ll book us into a luxury hotel and order the best champagne they have with our room service. And I’ll make love to my girl and hope that right then, right when we’re at it will be the moment when it happens and we go out in glory.

Because last night, just when we had turned off the TV, the knocking inside Earth started.

The birds are here.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

My Child, Alone.

"Goodbye," I called after my daughter as I left the playground, "Be good and play nicely with the other kids! I'll come back to pick you up when you're ready for college!"
She stared after me, my lonely, scared child, but I didn't care. I had other things to do, more important things, like getting pregnant again as soon as possible, and having another baby.
I love having babies, and I really, really love giving birth. That's the greatest experience ever, though I have to admit that deserting them on the playground is a very close second. I'm sure my kids will be found by someone. Anyone. And those strangers will take them home and treat them well. That's what they're there for, after all, aren't they? My kids? Because I sure don't need them once they've left my womb. New adventures are waiting for me!

Does this sound familiar to you? Have YOU done this to your kids? Are you still doing it?
Do you think your kids are safe and will be loved by strangers if their mom or dad aren't around to proudly introduce them, share their abilities or quirks with those curious strangers?
Don't you think those strangers would like to know how your kids like their breakfast, which TV show they love, if they need a bedtime story, and how they spend their Christmas Eve? Won't those foster parents be so much happier if you were there to introduce them to your child? If they see you waving happily after them as they walk away with your baby?

You think this is a weird story, right? Well, yeah. It is. If you're thinking of human children.
But it's not if you think about the books you've written, and that you want the world to read. 

What I'm trying to say is, don't desert your book the moment it's published. Like with any infant, the first two months are crucial for it's survival. It's a well-known fact that books sell best in that time period after release, so why would you want to let it sit on that imaginary swing on the imaginary playground all on its own, when you as a parent should be protecting and nourishing it, and, like any good parent, tell the world how fabulous your book-kid is?

So here's my publishing tip of the day: Promote your book. Promote it not only before it's released, but also once it's on the market. 
I know, the urge to return to your writer's chamber is great. You've just finished a book, you've edited it one more time than you really care, and you want to move on to new, exciting things. 

Promote your released book! Help it grow into that wondrous, shining adult who goes on to–who knows!–win the Pulitzer or the Nobel Prize, or will be made into a Hollywood movie.
Don't desert it the moment it's born.

Promote your book.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Behind the Scenes – What It Really Means To Be an Author

Ever wondered what an author does when he/she isn't winning awards, traveling around the world for research, or posting funny pics of cats on their Facebook wall?

What's that you're saying? They WRITE?

Well yes, there's that. But there's so much more to this job, stuff they never tell you about before you sign that book deal. Let me tell you a bit about that part of being an author.

Book Covers: You write a novel, and while you do that, you see the story unfold in your head. You see scenes, images, and when you're done writing, you have a very clear idea of how you want the cover of your book to look. If you're a self-published writer, fine. The cover is all yours, knock yourself out! But what if you're one of the lucky few who manage to capture an agent or publisher?
I have news for you: there are people who know better. There are those at a publishing house who do nothing else but design book covers. They know the market, and they know what will catch the reader's eye. And trust me, it will not be what you, the author, thought would look best.
There's only one thing you can do in this situation: submit. Shut up, nod, and move on. Let them do their work. They know. Their sole interest is to sell your book, not to make you happy. Of course, in the long run, they'll also make you happy, when the money begins to roll in.
But here's the truth: authors do not get a say on book covers. End of story.

Promotion and Marketing: Oh heck yeah. Those many hours you spend on twitter, Facebook, Pinterest or whatever social media platform turns you on: those hours are work, believe me, and a necessity these days. There's no cheaper way to make your name as an author, and no other place where you can do it as easily. In fact, I think this should be part of any book deal. Of course, while you're on it, you can have as much fun as you want. This is a great opportunity to make new friends, find great ideas for that next Easter lunch, or learn something about a new writing tool or method or whatever tickles your fancy.
But promotion is part of the deal, and there will be plenty of it. Trust me.
And here's a hint: Your publisher will love you even more if you're already internet-savvy when you sign that first contract. In fact, they might just check how active you are already. And it might make that little difference between being accepted or getting a rejection slip. (Of course, if you're reading this, then you already know what I'm talking about, and you hardly need this hint.)

The "Inner Rejection": Publishers are people. When everything's said and done, they are partial to some things, and hate others. Also, they know the market. Be ready to change your plot line, scenes, conversations, even characters and book titles, to toss endings and rewrite… be ready to do anything at all to make your book marketable. When you submit your book, you're not submitting a finished product. You may think so, but it's not true. Don't be afraid of the editing process. Embrace it. Your editor isn't criticizing you. Honestly. Your editor is your friend. They want to make your book better, and not let you look like an idiot.
You'll also find out that with every book you get to publish the editing gets a bit easier, and less. It's a learning process, and it makes you a better writer.

Be prepared for the fact that the book that eventually gets released is different from what  you originally wrote. In a good way.

Oh, and one last thing.
You totally, totally need to be able to sum up your book in two or three really good sentences. Why? Because you'll be asked this one question over and over again: "You wrote a book? What's it about?"And you better have a good answer. THIS is the ultimate marketing moment! You'll never get a better chance to win readers than in face-to-face conversations.
And no, you can't use the book blurb from Amazon. Your answer has to be personal, it has to convey that you know your book inside out. Who else is going to tell people about it if not you?

So–I've had my say for today. Now I'll go back to my writing cave and write book #8 for my publisher.
Have a great day!

Friday, May 23, 2014

Hop Hop Along With Faye!

Hello, and good morning! Today it's my turn to be a part of Faye Rapoport DesPres' blog hop to celebrate the release of her memoir, Message from a Blue Jay.

To be honest, I've never figured out what memoirs were good for… after all, if you don't have to say how it really was, would you still do it? You can call it a memoir and make up all kinds of stuff.
I did read Faye's memoir though. I did it mostly because she's a fellow author at Buddhapuss Ink, and I was curious to see what kind of author my publisher had signed.

And I fell in love. No, I hadn't planned it.

I fell in love with Faye's fluid prose, with her gentle insights and beautiful descriptions.
So, to celebrate the release of Message from a Blue Jay, here's my review. 

A Memoir to Enjoy

Normally, I don’t like reading memoirs. They seem full of self-pity, half-lies, and extenuation. People who write memoirs want to make money by telling their–more or less–exciting life story. I've never understood the concept of writing a memoir. 
Why would anyone want to read someone else’s life story, unless that someone is Henry Kissinger or Kofi Annan?
What could there be in a normal person’s life that would make it so interesting that someone else would want to buy and read it? Why would I read how a stranger travels to London, visits a dying mother-in-law, or tries to save a feral cat? What is the allure?

Here’s the thing:
Faye has written a memoir, and it’s about all those things: traveling to Europe, dealing with uterine cancer too early in life, watching her mother-in-law die, and yes, talking to a blue jay in the middle of a downpour on a lonely road.
She writes about growing up and feeling ugly (don’t we all!), and about herself as a young woman, trying to find herself in a world full of turmoil and imponderables. 
What sets Faye’s memoir apart though is that she looks beyond what meets the eye, is apparent, and finds meaning. She is not afraid to learn from what she encounters. Every essay in this collection tells a small story, but each is also a lesson that Faye learned, and shares with us.
That blue jay on the road? It teaches acceptance. We don’t have control. We don’t control our deaths, we don’t control much in our lives. We need to accept them as they come. Life isn’t about control; it’s about letting go, about gracefully and patiently accepting what comes our way.

Faye Rapoport DesPres is an excellent writer. 
In fact, she’s one of the best writers I’ve read. Her style is poetic, lyrical, observant, and lush, but never excessive, never florid. Her sentences have a lovely cadence, a natural flow, that make them dance easily through the reader’s mind.

A memoir? Yes, Message from a Blue Jay is a memoir. A memoir I thoroughly enjoyed.

Born in New York City, Faye Rapoport DesPres was raised in a rural area of upstate New York. Her maternal grandparents emigrated to the U.S. from Eastern Europe in the early 1900s and settled in the South Bronx, where her mother was raised. Her father, a Holocaust survivor, arrived in New York as a teenager after World War II.

This was the eighth stop on Faye Rapoport DesPres's Virtual Book Tour. 
Don't miss the next stop on 5/26 at This Is Who I Am!

The publisher is offering a personalized, signed copy of Message from a Blue Jay plus swag to the winner of their Virtual Tour Giveaway.
We invite you to leave a comment below to enter.
For more chances to enter, please visit the Buddhapuss Ink or Message from a Blue Jay Facebook pages and click on the Giveaway Tab!

Friday, May 2, 2014

Spillworthy – A Book Release

Today is the release day for Johanna Harness' YA novel Spillworthy, I'm proud and happy to be part of her blog hop to celebrate this release.

Johanna is an amazing person; she is generous, supporting, always fun, always kind. She has helped many a fledgling writer to find their way into publication, and she was always patient, loving, joyful, doing it. 
Johanna has sheep. And she has chickens. And she's a homeschooling mom. She also has very curly blond hair. And she lives on a farm in Idaho. She loves cowboys, and the history of the Wild West. She adores her coffee!

And we love Johanna. So – many, many congrats, you sweetheart girl! 

Here is the interview I did with Johanna, and my review of her book, Spillworthy.

Hi, Mariam.  Thank you for inviting me to your blog today.  I’m so happy to be here.

Mariam: Tell us about yourself, Johanna. What’s your favorite drink, TV show, computer game, your favorite song, and which cake do you like best? Which color is your car? And what do you most like to do on a summer evening?

Johanna: Right now on my desk, I have a coffee mug filled with dark roast, and a juice glass full of milk.  Caffeine wakes me up, but protein helps me think more clearly.

My favorite television show would be either Justified or Longmire, depending on which one I’m watching at the moment.

I don’t play a lot of computer games, mostly because they’re addictive and I can blink and lose a huge chunk of my day. Right now I settle for quick games of Creepy Crawley Solitaire. The best part about playing is the meditative effect. It’s a great escape when I need to empty my mind.

 Song: “You Can’t Always Get What You Want,” is like gospel for me. I close my eyes and cry.


Car color. Hmm. We can’t really agree what color it is. It’s sort of a silver-beige thing. It’s not a color you can remember when you close your eyes. If The Silence were a color, it would be the color of our car.

My perfect summer evening includes time spent around a campfire with my family. That’s where we tell our over-the-top stories and laugh until we fall out of our chairs.

Mariam: Why YA and not an adult novel?

Johanna: I write middle grade and young adult novels as a way of including more people. Neither type of novel excludes adult readers, but adult novels do exclude kids. I really enjoy writing stories my kids can read.

Mariam: What makes your YA novel different from all those others out there?

JohannaSpillworthy is on that border between middle grade and young adult.  The language and characters are accessible to a middle grade audience, but the subject matter can be pretty serious. It’s really up to parents to decide when this book would be right for their kids.

A couple things set the book apart.  One is that it respects the intelligence of kids. The main characters are smart people with limited life experience. They’re not dumbed-down versions of adults or silly images of kids the way adults think they should be. 

In my experience, kids see the world much more clearly than adults realize. Spillworthy is different because it opens up discussion points for many difficult topics—everything from homelessness to abuse to human trafficking—but it does so without ever feeling hopeless.  It’s a great starting point for parents to discuss issues with their kids by talking about characters.

Mariam: Why did you decide to go the self-publishing way?

Johanna: Spillworthy is a different book and I wanted it to stay different. Big publishers are risk-averse right now. That’s okay. They have to think about the bottom line and whether accepting the book the way it is would bring a return on their investment. They can’t take into consideration all the intangibles that make a book worth publishing.

As a self-publisher, I get to consider all the intangibles.  I believe this book will reach the people it was meant to reach.

Mariam: Please tell us what Spillworthy is all about!

JohannaSpillworthy is about a homeless kid who loves to write. He usually fills journals and throws them away when they’re full because he has no way to save them all. When he does have an idea so good he wants to share it with the world, he copies those thoughts onto used pizza boxes, leaving them in public places for others to read.  These thoughts spilled into the world are called spillworthies. The story itself begins when Ulysses is pulled from the streets and sent to live with his grandparents in Idaho.

Mariam: What’s next on your desk? Another YA novel? A sequel to Spillworthy? Or something entirely different?

Johanna:  During my time out on sub with big publishers, I wrote a few books, so I have some options. My daughter says the next one I should publish is DisasterMinds. It’s about a social misfit who is so smart he’s convinced he was created in a top secret lab. He convinces his childhood friend, a girl who was conceived in the same IVF lab, to go on a road trip with him, to either prove or disprove his theory.

Mariam: Is there anything else you’d like to share with us? 

Johanna: The power of writing resides inside stories and individual voices. When weighty topics scare us, we should try leaning into that discomfort, letting it instruct us.  The value of our profession as storytellers lies inside these intimate moments, shared between the reader and the characters.  Through stories, we can change the world. 

Following Johanna's directions on how to release her book, I gave my copy to my best friend's daughter Connie, who is a Middle Grade English teacher, because I think that Spillworthy belongs in every school library, and in classrooms.

Here's what I think of Spillworthy:

"A note rolled up inside a note, left in the fence: 

Some truths are kept hidden in the basement of our souls. We should never stop trying to find them."

Spillworthy by Johanna Harness has left me baffled, surprised, speechless, and with the deep wish that all schools all over the world put this middle-grade novel in their libraries, and not only one copy, but fifty. Or maybe one-hundred. Or maybe enough copies so every child can take it home and then "release" it into the world so it becomes a real Spillworthy, a piece of writing set free into the world. 
I just know that kids will devour this book, and maybe not only kids. When I began reading I had a text marker in my hand to highlight notable passages, only I gave up a few pages into the book. Every page is noteworthy, full of observations, insight, philosophy.
This: "Maybe we're all supposed to be making music together whether it feels like we belong together or not. Maybe it's not enough to live your own lives with quiet respect for others. Maybe we're supposed to be reaching and connecting – even when it seems like there's no way that's possible."

This novel reminds me of To Kill a Mockingbird; the kids are of about the same age, and sometimes the tone is similar. Then again, it's something completely different, something not attempted before, both in style and form. 

Buy this book. Read it. Share it. It's a wonderful book!

You can buy Spillworthy here: Spillworthy
Find Johanna here: Homepage