Friday, June 17, 2016

To Breathe Deep The Scent of Life's Limited Time Span

I have a decidedly black thumb.

I have no outdoor garden space, and the only indoor plants I ever tried to grow were adorable, small pink roses that were given to me as a get well gift. Sadly after a short time of thriving and blooming, they fell victim to the Great Aphid Invasion of 2003 and had to go.

It was many years after that, toward the end of a particularly frustrating, long winter that I first decided that imitation spring was better than no spring at all.

So I headed to the local craft store, where they have every type of fabric flower and plastic plant you can imagine (more than I could ever name) and I came home with a bag full of sale-bin treasures.

A few of my first faux flower purchases.

For a time, they were enough to satisfy my need to have flowers around me.

I felt that I finally understood, for a little while, at least, the reason behind the dusty old centerpieces my Grandmother kept in her house; one on the kitchen table, one on the table in the hall. Another in the living room, one on the dresser in the bedroom. (There was, too, of course the bowl of faux fruit. My sister actually ate one of the rubber grapes once and lived to tell the tale.) And on the walls of my grandparents' home that I so loved, still-life paintings of what else? Bowls of fruit and flower arrangements.

It’s only now, after some time (read, years) of living with these 'plants' and acknowledging the age they’ve taken on, I am beginning to realize that they’re not serving the purpose they were intended to any more. They’re not making me feel better; they’re making me feel worse. And they’re probably really bad for my asthma, too.

So, out the fake flowers must go.

I have already started the purge, but I find more of them hiding in the least expected places; in little bottles behind picture frames, and in containers I’ve had so long that I’ve become blind to them. 

Every time I turn around there’s another bunch of faded fabric roses (which would be a great title for a book, now that I think about it; maybe I should photograph them before I throw them away…) or a little sprig of plastic plant climbing like artificial ivy up from a pot on a bookshelf.

These are not the things I want to surround me any longer.
I want living things in my space, not repositories of dust that pale and grow dingy but never die.

Because we will all die, one day, and living flowers will remind me that life is poignant and fleeting and meant to be nurtured, even if clipped at the stems.

I want to breathe deep the scent of life's limited time span in all its sweet, heartbreaking glory.

I want real roses and carnations, even if I have to buy them myself.

I want to tend to them, trim the stems day to day so they can take in fresh water; prolong their limited existence for as long as I can.

I want to see them and be reminded of the fragility of life and how any one of us can be cut short at any time, and that is what makes now the most important time because as Captain Picard once said on Star Trek (and you can never go wrong quoting Picard) you should “Make now always the most precious time. Now will never come again.”

It’s been a long time since made now the most precious time, especially since for the past year or so especially now has always been pretty bad.

Losing my Dad the way I did was especially hard, something that once again is at the forefront of my mind as Father’s Day approaches. Yet I can’t just accept that this is the way that life is always meant to be, or that means giving up on it ever feeling better.

If I give up on it ever feeling better, there will be no reason to fight the continual desire I have just to close my eyes and go back to sleep until it’s time to face another day (and then repeat the process…)

I’ve lost myself in looking back, in getting stuck in the wheels of my anxiety disorder. I’ve lost my motivation to vicious Bipolar depression to the point where I have slept literally months of my life away at this point in 2016.

I don’t want to sleep my days away any more, and I don’t know where to begin to get better (so far medication adjustments have been a bust) but starting where I am seems like the only place I can begin.

So, the fake flowers are going. As will old artwork I no longer feel an attachment to and any object that I cannot justify a very good reason for keeping (I just bought some bestselling book on a Japanese method of tidying up your home, we’ll see if anything from it resonates and sticks.) Our apartment is small, and every inch of real estate is precious. I’ve let too much clutter creep back in since the great purge when we moved in four years ago, it’s time to go another round.

I’ll start with replacing the false flowers with real ones, the first chance I get. Our supermarket has gorgeous carnations and roses, always, for a very reasonable price so I think this is a small indulgence I hope to be able to allow myself for a while to come.

My mother always used to say that having cut flowers in the house made her sad, because they die.

But to me that fact always made them more precious. They, like us, have that limited lifetime, with every second a ticking clock down to the moment of their demise. Perhaps that is why they are so treasured, and so beautiful.

Maybe they’re the reminder I need right now that things don’t last forever, good or bad. That things change, and there is new life on carnation stems that will bloom even ten days after you buy them if you just spend a little time tending to and caring for them each day.

It’s time I tended to myself a little each day, too, and see if, after some nurturing, I can’t start to beat back the darkness that surrounds me now.

I know I’m under it, in here, somewhere.

I just have to find myself again, beneath the piles of old paintings, books whose messages no longer serve me, and those bunches and bunches of dusty old craft-store flowers.



Tuesday, May 31, 2016

The Power of a Book Out of Print

Note: The following was originally written last night as a bit of encouragement to some of my fellow authors who will also see their books go out of print when Booktrope closes today, for many and varied reasons.

I was asked to post it again, and so I am posting it here. I hope it gives hope to anyone who has ever put a book out there and then either removed it from circulation or had it taken down with the closing of a publisher. It's a story about a book that went out of print before I was born, and how much it means to me, still.


Some forty-one years ago, when I was just a scrawny little thing with hair the color of straw and enormous blue eyes too sensitive to open wide in the sunlight, there was a library in a small shopping mall not far from our home.

The mall had a restaurant, a candy store, a book store and a few shops of sorts…but my love was the library.

On one trip to that library, my mother discovered a book that would become my favorite; The King’s Procession, by James and Ruth McCrea. 

Brightly illustrated, it told a story about bravery, kindness, and loyalty.

How I wanted to own that book.

The only trouble was it had gone out of print years before; and so the only way to get it was to keep renewing it from the library.

We did that—renewing it instead of returning it—for a good long while. But then one day there was a request from another reader for the book, and so it had to be returned. My heart was heavy as I gave it over to the librarian, somehow I knew I’d never see it there again.

In two weeks or so when it was time for the book to be returned, Mom and I made a trip to the library but alas, no King’s Procession. The book was not returned on time.

The book was never returned at all.

Week after week we’d check, but the librarian would only shake her head. Someone had simply decided, it seemed, to keep it.

The idea of stealing a book from a library was hard enough for me to comprehend, but then came the worst shock of all to my four year old system; one week we went back to visit the library and found that it was gone.

Without warning the place had just closed up. I remember standing on my toes with my forehead against the window, peering in to see the empty shelves, rows and rows of them.

I don’t remember if I cried that day, but I know that I sure felt like it.

They never did bring the library back to Northville Square.

The little mall still exists, I found, and last year I took a walk through it for the first time in almost forty years. It’s sparsely populated with boutiques now, including a small antiques store I wished I could have browsed longer before my asthma started complaining. I love antiques, but my body does not love their unique, vintage fragrance.

There is a point to this story, though, and one that I want everyone who is feeling lost right now, whose books are going out of print tomorrow, to remember.

I never forgot about The King’s Procession, and I searched high and low for it for thirty years. Then long about the time I was going to turn thirty-five, I realized that we had a marvelous tool now called a search engine, and surely someone must have heard of the book or had a copy at some point. Maybe there was one on Ebay for auction, maybe someone had one in their home and had no interest in it. 
Maybe a copy for me was out there, just maybe.

I found it on a site called Alibris, a fine condition copy that had been from a library. It even had the dust jacket (rare).

Then I found they had another copy from another seller. No dust jacket, but it was in splendid condition as well.

Immediately I ordered them, one for myself and my daughter and one for my mother. And when I held that book in my hands after thirty years, it was like reuniting with an old friend. I remembered, somehow, every illustration, the poetic turns of phrase, and the sweet simple message it contained; that new is not always improved, and love and loyalty are the most important things of all.

Today, that book is one of my most prized possessions: a book that went out of print during the decade before I was born. A book I happened across that made such an impression on me that I never forgot it; and I will never forget it.

The authors will never know. I don’t know if they’re even still with us in this world, but they will never know what their book meant to that little girl and means to this grown woman, whose own books are now going to be out of print.

This experience gives me hope; that maybe one of my books will stay with someone, any someone, out there, so much that one day they will wander to a site like Alibris (which is now selling used copies of my books… talk about coming full circle) and find a copy of a book that means something to them, for whatever reason.

It could be your book they go searching for and find, and cherish even more for its rarity.

So don’t despair if you’re not sure how you’ll get your books out there again right now. Trust that they have touched someone out there already, just by existing. Someone knows your characters’ names, imagines their faces and voices, and understands the story you were trying so hard to tell.

As I prepare to place the rest of my novels up on what I imagine to be the world’s biggest public library (Wattpad) I do so with the hopes that as many people can check my books out, as it were, as they like; and that they might see something in them that will stay in their hearts.

Here’s to you, James and Ruth McCrea. How sad you must have been on the day when The King’s Procession went out of print; but how happy I like to think you’d be, if you knew that your story lives on in my family, passed down to the next generation, and cherished between us for all our lives.

So my books will be out of print after tomorrow; there will still be some of them ‘out there’ and that makes everything, all of it, worth it to me. 


Friday, May 27, 2016

Wishing Cross Station's New Cover

Designed by the lovely and talented Ida Jansson... this will be Wishing Cross Station's cover when I publish it on Wattpad.

Also of note, this will be the first story I'm posting at Wattpad that I will be giving a 'mature' rating. It has what I consider a strong PG-13 rating (overall theme and scenes near the end) and as a result, just to err on the side of caution I will be rating it mature, as it was always intended for an adult audience anyway, even though it contains nothing that is truly graphic.

NOTE: I have just gotten input from someone who read WCS and feels it does not fit a mature rating, but should at PG13 qualify for the general Wattpad audiences rating. Curious what you think? If you've read the book please drop me an email at the address on the sidebar and weigh in! Thanks! 

You can read the first chapter here.