Friday, November 21, 2014

Anticipation abounds!

As I reported last April, one of Amazon's imprints, Lake Union, bought my novel, Daughters.  On the brink of a re-launch, here are the details of what's been going on in the last seven months.  Daughters was originally published by Delacorte Press and had professional editing and proofreading but there were still many glitches in the 720-page manuscript.

1.  The first step was the long process of re-editing.. The re-editing was not for narrative content but for inconsistencies within the narrative of historical references, dates, inconsistencies in the story lines of each character, etc.

2.  The second step was proofreading.  This step included English usage, grammar, awkward phrasing, etc.  I had mis-used or omitted about a gazillion commas.  (By the way, the rules of comma use are so long, complicated and open to interpretation they are useless for normal writing.  No.  Really.  They.  Are.)  I had paid particular attention to the use of which/that but the proofreader shut down all my "thats" and changed them to "whichs."  

3.  The third step was selecting and approving a cover.  I have to applaud Lake Union for including the writer in this process.  In traditional publishing they can put Hitler's Baby on the cover and you have nothing to say about it.  You see the cover when it's done.  Lake Union allowed me to reject designs, images and typeface during several rounds.

4.  The fourth step was jacket copy.  Again Lake Union allowed me to approve, re-write and suggest material for the jacket copy.   We also decided on a title change because the publisher didn't feel that the original title conveyed the depth and reach of the novel.  "Three Daughters" is the new title.

5.  One day in September I heard from a man in Michigan who was going to direct the audio version of the novel. (Amazon has its audio book studios, Brilliance, in Michigan.)  The novel is set in Palestine and there are many foreign phrases and accents in the book.  This dedicated man had researched every non-English phrase and wanted me to confirm the pronunciation. The actress selected to read all 19 discs (23 hours of listening) was excellent.

6.  One evening two weeks ago, the UPS man left several big packages in my vestibule.   My son, who was visiting, opened one box and found copies of the first printing of "Three Daughters."  It was nice to have him there to show all the proper emotion because I'm a dud at showing proper emotion.  Besides the paper edition, there is a digital edition, MP3 edition and an audio book.

7.  After a conference call with the head of marketing and my author coordinator, I am awaiting the official publication day next Tuesday, November 25. 

Anticipation abounds.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Hard hats, big boots and black boxes with needles.

If you ever want to get anyone's attention pronto (and we know how hard that is) tell them you suspect a gas leak. Not much else invites such an immediate and generous response. Even with a bleeding head wound you still have to give the emergency room nurse your date of birth, your social sec. #, the deed to your house.

Without any interrogation the gas co. operator said, "We'll have someone there within the hour." She didn't ask for a credit card number.  She said get out of the house, don't turn on any lights or electrical appliances, don't light any matches, open all the windows.

I don't know what the life of an "I smell gas" investigator is like.    I don't know in what state of excitement he finds the smeller. The term "blow up" might be on their minds.  I think my computer is going to blow up if I fill the box marked "agree" on any internet interrogation.  

I smelled the gas in the little cottage in back of my house as I was about to get on the train to leave for a four-day trip.  For those who know me through this blog, I hate to leave my house.  I will do almost anything to avoid going far from my domicile and you would think a gas leak was a perfect excuse to abort the trip. I had already locked the front door and the back door of my house and getting the keys out of the suitcase was difficult.  I walked away from my property, the gas, the gas smell, the brain disorder (mine) and continued to the train that happens to be at the end of my block.  With every step, the words "blow up" clippety-clopped right alongside. On the train I had a stern talk with myself. I said, this is a chance to compartmentalize events and put them in perspective.  You opened the windows and shut down the in-take lever. Go on your trip and forget about the gas leak.

When I returned, I made the call and the gas team arrived 47 minutes later. The men (there were two) were tall and rotund. They wore hard hats and big boots and held black boxes with needles. They said, "When we leave there will not be a shadow of a doubt that it is safe."  How often have you heard that only to have the thing blow up the minute the truck pulls away?

I have to interrupt this banal post for important breaking news. I took a peek at my news feed and see that a probe has landed on comet 67P in a space first.  I just nailed down info on comets this weekend reading The Magic School Bus to my granddaughter.  (I also learned that 1.3 million earths could fit inside the sun - a fact that somehow scared the heck out of me.  The sun, unlike the Jimmy Dean Sausage man, is not a small friendly warm thing.  It is a vast, vast sociopathic star that makes everything else revolve around it.) Scientists hope the lander, equipped with 10 instruments, will unlock the secrets of comets -- primordial clusters of ice and dust that may have helped sow life on Earth. It is disturbing to hear that dust, my constant nemesis, also presents in space. When I hear ice and dust, that sounds disgusting but if it is going to unlock secrets, I'm all for it.  I wouldn't have thought that comets would be part of the big bang theory but that's just another surprise in the never-ending surprise factory that is space.  When the lander started talking to the scientists they were so happy they were dancing around acting all teen-agey and high-fiving like crazy.  Good for you scientists - it must have been a huge relief to get that first message.

(btw, the gas smell was due to a faulty pilot light in the stove.)

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

I don't like my pasta al dente.

Call me bourgeoise. Call me low class.  But don't call me for that bs that has been foisted on us for far too long:  pasta served al dente or as I like to call it al tough and tasteless.

The name should give you a clue:  to the tooth.  Since when do we cook for the tooth?   What about cooking it some more and calling it al lingua, to the tongue.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

How do you feel about money?

A successful friend sent me a link to a webinar on wealth and abundance and because I respect her judgment I participated.

I went in a skeptic yet found some sound and useful  ideas that  I will share with you.

1.  We each have a "set point" about money that determines how much our subconscious decides we ought to have and we unconsciously structure our money activity to accommodate that set point.

            a) Our set point, a vibration level that we use to calibrate how much wealth we should have is dictated by the sum of our hidden ideas, absorbed from mom and dad and any other influences in our childhood before we could differentiate between a sound idea and a bad one.  We loved mom and dad and depended on them for our safety and wanted to imitate them.   

2. It is these subconscious ideas and attitudes that define how we regard money, how easily we get it and how we use it.

            a) If mom thought you had to work hard to earn money then you probably work hard to earn money.

            b) If dad mismanaged money or lost it in the stock market, then you probably find a way to waste money or use it in ways that do not make it grow.

            c) If dad or mom had something against wealthy people - they were superficial or obnoxious or just plain bad then you are conflicted about wealth because wealthy people are bad. 
            d) If your parents thought that money was "the root of all evil" then it stands to reason you would not want a whole bunch of it.

Most of us don't know we have a subconscious roadmap for wealth.  We feel our money journey is just a product of bad luck, lack of opportunity, ignorance, poor education or the economy.

I know that I used to mirror my father's attitude about money.  Dad liked to hoard money - put it away somewhere and think about it.  It made him feel secure to have it but he didn't want to USE IT.  To him, money was something physical to stash somewhere.   He didn't see it as a tool to enhance his life and circumstances.  He lived nicely but not well. He swept his own shop instead of hiring someone to sweep it for him.  He stayed close to home and never learned to drive.  He traveled by bus.  (Guess who else likes to travel by bus and mows her own lawn?  Moi.) 

One of my father's younger brothers, my uncle Charlie, had the opposite wealth profile.  He was a bon vivant who, at one time, employed a butler.  I remember that butler because I lived with Charlie at the time.  Mr. Vitezy looked exactly like Albert Einstein.  His wife was the housekeeper and they lived in an apartment over the garage at Charlie's Bethesda, Md. house.  To Charlie, money was energy and freedom.  Both brothers were equally wealthy.  The other brothers in the family were divided between spenders and hoarders but no one came close to my father's extremes

Although we think it is hard to change our wealth set point, it probably isn't.   It is hard to discover what the hidden ideas are but once they are out in the open the opportunity to topple them is possible.  If you sit quietly and ask yourself what money means to you, you'll find some interesting answers.

Maybe you feel just right about your wealth status.  I'm almost satisfied with my wealth level but upon examination, I realize my dominant habits of spending, using and making money are directly attributable to my parents.  Just knowing that has resulted in some really big changes in my money habits recently.

Start out by asking yourself some very simple questions.
How do I feel about money?  
How did my father or mother feel?
Do I see money as a tool to be used or as a physical item to be put away and accumulated?
Do I see money as an enemy or a source of freedom?
Do I see wealth as something out of reach?

Sunday, October 19, 2014

What would Daniel Tiger do?

Daniel Tiger an unexceptional wimpy cub has been sucked out of the cast of the beloved Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood and repurposed as a stand alone TV guru who helps toddlers navigate life's vicissitudes. 

Daniel, like Tony Robbins or Deepak Chopra is all about putting out a bible for living that will get the little ones emotionally fit.

I would not have singled out Daniel out of Mr. Roger's troupe.  I might have chosen passive-aggressive Henrietta Pussycat who felt jealous and threatened by others but liked to take care of people. Or the cynical Lady Elaine Fairchild, who, in pre-TV life operated the Rapid Walking Beauty Counseling School.

Here is some of Daniel's misguided advice (annoyingly sing-songed so it stays in your head forever):

1.  Grownups come back. 

Grownups sometimes never come back.  Grownups can get fed up and move to Costa Rica and take your stuff.  You know what else doesn't come back?  Your favorite Lululemon hoodie that cost $109 and they don't make anymore.

Remember that carpenter grownup who was going to fix your porch rail?  Did he come back? Did your materials deposit come back?

2.  Rest is best. 

Rest (unless you are in a medically induced coma) is never best. Too much rest is what gifted you with fifteen extra pounds. Sitting, as you've been told, is the new smoking. Even by-pass surgery patients are up and walking as soon as they can tell you the name of the current president and their home address.

Mom, is that you?
3.  A new baby means more love in the family.

A new baby as any moron knows is most often a chaos machine and mom's hormones are so unreliable she reacts like a detonated watermelon just because the toast got a little too brown.

4. On loaning toys: You can take a turn and then I'll get it back

Even if you sing this totally misleading rule, it does not guarantee that Prince Wednesday will give you your tigertastic car back or if he does it will be in good condition.  That's why people leave a damage deposit.

How about a couple of kisses?
5. The toll to drive your car over the bridge is three kisses.

This is misleading on so many levels.  If you try that on the George Washington Bridge, they will possibly haul you off to jail.  Kisses will not stand-in for money when you apply for a mortgage.

Daniel Tiger could take a page from a French Tiger Mother's playbook:  chin up, no sniveling and give me a perfect three times table.

N.B. There is a reason why the book "Go the F**k to Sleep" is still a best seller three years after publication. The New Yorker (yes, The New Yorker) said: "Nothing has driven home a certain truth about my generation...quite like this."

Friday, October 3, 2014

Wait. What?

I read an article today titled, How American parenting is killing the American marriage. It says that American society has made parenting an unyielding religion that punishes the heretic.  If you just jerked up in your seat and said, Wait. What? I'm right with you. If someone offered that thought at a ladies luncheon we would all stop eating and stare open-mouthed because it is the thought that can't be spoken.

Below is a quote from the article and the link.

The origins of the parenthood religion are obscure, but one of its first manifestations may have been the “baby on board” placards that became popular in the mid 80's.  Nobody would have placed such a sign on a car if it were not already understood by society that the life of a human achieves its peak value at birth and declines thereafter. A toddler is almost as precious as a baby, but a teenager less so, and by the time that baby turns fifty, it seems that nobody cares much anymore if someone crashes into her car. You don’t see a lot of vehicles with placards that read, “Middle-aged accountant on board.”

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Oh sheet! No really, I mean Oh sheet.

Every so often I get the idea that I'm going to trick my subconscious into making me neat and organized.   At that time, I take on a low level task.  This week it was to catalogue all of the cotton sheets I have collected over the years with a zeal most reserve for religion or charity.

When I was a young wife, cotton was out of favor (shocking , no?) cotton clothing, cotton tablecloths and cotton bed linens were nowhere to be found in middle class stores.  We were offered no iron fabrics that were the texture of thread laced packing tape. If you exuded one drop of perspiration the fabric smelled like a used tire factory.  We were uncomfortable. This was a dark era in American Life.  I was disconsolate and often sang out my dilemma to the tune of Imagine (Yes, I am committing a travesty.)

Imagine there's no cotton,
It's hard but let's just try. 
No terry, lisle or flannel 
Your linen's gone bye bye.

Imagine there's no oxford for hubby's workforce shirt, Uh uh uh uh uh
You may think I'm a weeper but I'm just one of the wives.
who prays each day for a reunion with the fabric of our lives.

I won't bore you with how they were accumulated but I have three large storage tubs of cotton sheets and pillowcases.  Like Scarlett O'Hara, I'll never be hungry for cotton again.  This stash of bed linens are not differentiated.  I have to unfold eighty-seven sheets before I come to the ones that fit my bed.  I have sheets with hemstitched borders, with scalloped borders, with plain but wide hems.  I have 300, 400, and 600 hundred thread count sheets.  I have serviceable muslin sheets that must have been made for a penitentiary or correction facility.  Their no nonsense off-white sturdiness fairly screams "I'm an overrun from a batch of prison sheets." I have flannel sheets imprinted with tiny wales, penguins and fluffy clouds.
I'm the upper crust of sheets - hemstitched!

On the appointed day I dragged the storage tubs to the middle of the floor.  I had sticky labels, a good pen and a measuring tape.  Yes, in my obsessive way I was going to measure and segregate my sheets in size piles so I could choose the ones I needed with certainty.
Really? We're organizing sheets?

After measuring three sheets I realized that no two twin sheets are the same size.  There are long twins and short twins,  The fitted sheets vary, some have elastic and some do not.  Some have expandable webbing at the corners and fit all the way under the mattress.  I quickly became imprecise and let it go.  After a couple of hours, I bundled up piles of twins, fulls, queens and kings.  I wondered who named all these bed sizes.  I guess twins were meant to be placed side by side, identical.   Fulls are not really full enough for two.  Queens and kings?  Really.  A bed is all it takes?  

I did not have any California king sheets which are sheets that could cover the state of Delaware.

The only value of this post is to make you feel better about whatever you did today.