A republication deserves a pretty new cover. In the spirit of do-it-yourself and because I've been doing a lot of graphic and visual art design lately, I decided to have a go at cover making. I had help--big thanks to photographer Sherry Steffensmeier and editor Diane Breton for their input.
I'm getting closer to the rerelease of Tender Bonds as an e-book. I'm excited, because I do love this book. written with love and care some time ago. And I'm nervous, too. Self pubbing seems a hard road to me and I haven't yet taken the plunge with anything more than some short pieces. But I'm going to venture forth anyway.
Here's an excerpt from the book. Patty, the main character, has recently discovered that she has a step brother. They share a derelict father named Jack . I'll warn you ahead of time that her brother, Charlie, likes to use adult language. (Perhaps I should put an R rating on the excerpt?)
I took the photo at a pond near my house. There's a lake, a made-up place called Babylon Lake, that figures heavily in this book. I imagine it looks something like this in the fall.
(Charlie) swigged the last of his wine. “I’m going to open another bottle. You game?”
I was feeling the buzz of the first two glasses I’d consumed. It was not an entirely bad feeling. Maybe that’s what Jack went for, that little buzz that made all problems seem a little less problematic. Only in Jack’s case, it had backfired. “Sure. Why not.”
“Unfortunately, all I’ve got left is wine in a box.”
“It’s not.” He went to the kitchen and came back with a carton. “But it is cheap.” He poured us each a glass. “So tell me about Jersey.”
“Tell me about Valerie.”
“I asked first. What are you running from?”
“Nothing.” I knew I sounded defensive. “I’m just trying to…” How could I put it? I didn’t know myself, really, what I was trying to do. Not in my frontal lobe anyway. Somewhere deep inside myself I understood. But how do you word that? “I’m trying to figure some things out,” was the best I could come up with. I lay my head back on the couch. My shoes were off. I had the thought that I felt about as much at home as I ever had anywhere. It must have been the wine.
“And hanging around here is going to help you figure things out?” Charlie wasn’t joking anymore.
“I don’t know. Maybe. Maybe if I can get to see Jack, I can fill in the missing pieces. I keep making wrong choices. Not wrong, maybe. More…it’s like I don’t make choices at all. Things just happen and I let them. Maybe it’s in the gene pool. Maybe if I meet Jack, I can fix it.”
“I’ve known Jack a long time, and I’m still fucking things up.” Charlie sat up in the recliner. I was staring at the ceiling. “Jack doesn’t have any answers. You can trust me on that.”
It was a tin ceiling. I remembered it as soon as I looked. It hadn’t changed in thirty-six years. “You think he’ll remember me?” My eyes filled, washing the tin plates. I took another swallow of wine.
“I have to tell you something. That first day, you showed up here with that stupid plant? I wanted to kick you out. I’ve hated you for most of my life.”
I sat up. “Why?”
“Because. Jack, he’d get drunk and talk about you. It was “my Patty” this and “my Patty” that. It hurt my mother. She never had kids with him, you know. Couldn’t, I guess. And he used you like a weapon. Did it to me too. “My Patty” was always better than me. He used to say “your sister Patty would never act like that,” whenever I messed up. And I’d think fuck you and fuck Patty too. She’s not my sister. Said it aloud once or twice. He beat the crap out of me when I did.”
His words stung more than I thought possible. “I’m going to go.” I stood up and swayed before regaining my balance. “I’m sorry you feel that way.”
“That your solution for everything? Say I’m sorry and run off?”
“You hate me. There’s no sense in my staying.”
“Thing is, Patty, I don’t hate you. I don’t know you well enough to hate you.”
He picked up the box of wine. “Have another drink. We’ll talk, get to know each other, then I can hate you.”
I handed him my empty glass. I wasn’t sure how I’d get back to the motel anyway, feeling as buzzed as I was. I could imagine getting stopped for DWI.
Like father, like daughter.
Coming Back Soon!
It's been a long while, I know, but I'm finally bringing back the Tender Bonds. The story of Patty's homecoming is a deeply personal one. Unlike Patty, I did not have an estranged father or a newly discovered stepbrother. But like most of my stories, shades of truth are contained within. The characters are composites of people I grew up with. The setting, though fictional, mirrors the places in which I came of age. Places shape character and mine was sharpened and honed by a small town nestled in the Adirondack foothills. I wrote this, in some ways, as a tribute to that setting.
The book was published, but once the publishing company closed its doors, rights reverted back to me. I've decided it's worth publishing it again. I'm crossing a few t's and dotting some i's--a quick once over copy edit, and a touch up for the cover to name a few things. Once I've finished, which should be within the next few weeks, I'll be putting the book out as an e-book. Later, I'll work on the print copy.
Watch this space for more information.
Castle on the Hill
When our boys were small, my husband Jim and I were frequent summer visitors to Crane Beach in Ipswich Massachusetts. The wide expanse of sandy beach buttressed by dunes made for a wonderful day trip. The water was sheltered, small sandbars with splashy pools were perfect for little ones.
We’d always noted the nearby signs for Castle Hill and knew it was a historic sight. But since small children and historic sights are things that don’t often go well together, we ignored the long road to the top of the drumlin that overlooked the beach.
Fast forward a whole lot of years to an October day warm enough to be mistaken for summer. Jim and I were ready for an outing and Crane Beach, topped off with a drive up the road to the top of the drumlin seemed long overdue.
It was worth the wait. The house, built by plumbing supply magnate Richard Crane Jr. in the 1920s as a summer home, is a 59 room Stuart-style mansion. The grounds are reminiscent of an earl’s park in England. Downton Abbey could have been filmed in a place like this. Castle Hill has, in fact, been used as a billionaire’s haunt, as the home of Jack Nicholson’s devilish character in the Witches of Eastwick. The lawn extends on for what seems to be forever, up and down long grassy hills until finally ending in an breathtaking view of the beach and ocean below.
If you’re ever in Ipswich, I’d highly recommend a visit. Bring a good book, a large garden hat, and a picnic lunch in a hamper with champagne.
#Benches (and a few chairs)
Since being bitten by the photo bug, I’ve gained a fascination for benches. It began as a way to anchor a picture—something I’m learning as I explore things like perspective. But there is something to be said for a bench or a chair placed outside. It seems to say “come sit and stay awhile, enjoy the scenery.” This is very much in keeping with my own goal of slowing down, feeling the pulse of my life, noticing what is around me. The richness of life continues to astound me.
Most Tuesday mornings, I get up early to walk with two good friends in the forests near my home. The walks are a combination of exercise and lively conversation and something more profound—a sort of renewal, a freshening, a boost to the spirit
Until very recently, I didn’t have a good name for this third element. But then I heard a podcast in NPR. Forest bathing, they said, is a new concept in the US. It’s an idea that comes from Japan, where they practice ‘shinrin-yoku’ which, loosely translated, means ‘taking in the forest atmosphere’. The Japanese are staunch believers that spending a little time outdoors and soaking up the smells, sounds, and sights in a natural setting is good for your health and wellbeing.
It turns out they are right. Studies have found that spending time out in nature reduces stress, helps working memory, and increases positive outlook, among other things.
Sadly, we are not a nation of outdoors people. Most of us only spend seven percent of our day in the elements. But forest bathing is beginning to take off, classes in shinrin-yoku are springing up all over the country. Some people have taken to calling it the new yoga.
I’ve never taken a formal class in forest appreciation, but I do know that my Tuesday excursions provide a good elixir for both my body and my soul. I guess my friends and I have been forest bathers for a long time.
My Life in Pictures
Even though I recently finished the draft of my latest novel, I’ve been having a hard time staying focused on my writing lately. This is twice as true in the early stages of writing.
For me, creating a story or a poem requires opening the faucet up wide. Images, ideas, words, need to pour forward so I can cup my hands and catch them. Even if it’s wet and messy at first, this is where I begin. Lately, my creativity has slowed. The faucet isn’t entirely shut, but the output is dripping instead of streaming.It’s become painful and slow to put anything on the page. Writer’s block does not describe this accurately. Better to call it writer’s anemia.
There are a lot of things I could point to as the cause of this anemic state: the divisive political climate in my country and it’s currently misguided leadership has me worried for our future. Social media often feels like one big room filled with people who are shouting at one another. Don’t get me wrong, I believe that people ought to have the right to express their opinions, but we aren’t doing a lot of give and take. We aren’t listening. The news doesn’t help. Everyday, it seems, the ugliness in the world is brought into our conscious. Senseless shootings that lead to arguments, natural disaster that are answered with tone deafness to the suffering they cause. I’d like to turn away, but find I can no more do it than I could turn away from my own sick child.
The divisiveness makes me uneasy. It makes offering up my own opinion feel dangerous—and my work, as an extension of who I am and what I value, feels unsafe as well. The dark of all this distrust, chaos, and uneasiness colors my existence. But there is another side. Love and beauty do exist in my life. My family, my friends, the wonderful people who have helped me along my writing journey. The natural beauty of the world outside my door, woodlands alive with color, an hour's ride away is an ocean that is vast and awe-inspiring. It’s not a big life that I lead, but it is a rich one.
I had, I realized, fallen out of love with my life. And love of my life, love of the world, is what has always inspired me to put words to page. In a larger sense, it is also what keeps me putting one foot in front of the other as I walk through this life of mine. I needed an antidote, a cure for my malaise.
Help often comes in unexpected ways. For me, this time, it’s come in pictures. Take a new phone that can take decent photos easily, add a friend who is takes fabulous pictures and is willing to act as mentor, and a good photo editing program that is easy to use, and you have—creativity returned. I’ve started photographing my ordinary life, walks through the woods, time spent with grandchildren, days at the beach. I’ve rediscovered that this earthly heartbeat of mine is extraordinary. Miracles unfold everywhere.
I’ve fallen in love again.
This writing journey, this life, is a long road full of pitfalls and wrong turns. Also, incredible beauty, kindness and friendship with those I've met along the way.I'm so glad you're here to share the road..
Find me at Story Finds