We Love Memoirs Giveaway–Loveyoubye

I’m gearing up for the birthday bash at We Love Memoirs on August 28, 2017. This is a fun, hilarious, and oh so friendly, memoir-loving group on Facebook  where there’s always something going on. On this momentous day (I do believe it’s their second birthday), I’m going to pay them a visit where I’ll eat some virtual cake, drink a virtual martini, (maybe two), sneak down the “naughty” step, and give away an ebook of my memoir, Loveyoubye: Holding Fast, Letting Go, And Then There’s The Dog. I’d love to see you there!

Loveyoubye_Full Cover 9781938314506 6Dec2013.indd

Below, I’ve listed some questions and answers about my writing process and also a little insight as to how Loveyoubye came about.

1. What inspired you to write this particular story?

It started out as a way for me to let off steam and gain some sense of sanity after my husband of twenty-five years started disappearing for weeks at a time, without apology or explanation.

2. Describe your writing in three words.

That’s a hard one. Instead, how about I share a couple of Amazon reviews for Loveyoubye:
“. . . an honest book written by a woman with the soul of a poet.”
“. . . the author tells her husband’s side of the story with generosity and love, with sympathy and candor.”
And finally, people say my books are an “easy” read.

3. What authors inspire or influence your work?

Mary Karr, Abigail Thomas, Carol Shields, Raymond Chandler, Anne Lamott, Elena Ferrante, Elmore Leonard (“leave out the boring parts”), and countless others.

4. Is the Thesaurus one of your best writing friends?

Definitely. I want each and every word to count. Finding the right one is vital.

5. How Does Your Writing Process Work?

So far I’ve been prompted to write by a need to resolve some issues deep inside me, to scratch an itch I can’t quite locate.  I wrote all three of my books by the seat of my pants, this way. However, I’d love to be able to outline a story. I’m working on it.

6. What project(s) are you working on now?

My gazillionth revision of my YA novel, Monkey’s Wedding is with my editor. It was almost published back in the late 90s, but my publisher merged with another house and I was dumped. I went on to write the sequel, Mine Dances (also set in Africa), which I’ll spiff up next. Then it’s on to getting them both published.

7. Where can readers find you and your book(s) online?

http://www.rossandrawhite.comGoodreads, Facebook, Twitter

Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Indiebound

 

Day 5–Positivity Challenge

The last day of my 5-day Positivity Challenge! Doing my bit to radiate positive energy in these Days of Trump. And all the other negative energy being generated around the globe. It helps you know. I’m blogging three things about my life that are positive (or for which I’m grateful) and posting on Facebook. This time, I’m not going to tag anyone, like I did the first two times. To tell the truth, no one responded when I did. It could’ve been a glitch between my blog and Facebook, and no one caught their names. Or. It’s about doing what I’m moved to do without acknowledgement or support. A biggie for me.

Here goes:

 

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  1. I am so very grateful for all the music and art that’s available in Laguna Beach. Especially now during summer. On Sunday, I was moved to head down to the Festival of Arts to attend whatever was playing at the Concerts On The Green series. It happened to be a Bluegrass trio. More than the music, I found myself appreciating  how it was the creative spirit that had led these musicians to this very stage.2016-08-16 10.30.202. I love that I live in a neighborhood that has a resident horse. Meet Scout with his fly mask on. He gets this blissed out look when I scratch his cheek, and his eyes follow me and the pups as we pass him on our way up the hill.2016-08-16 10.38.363. The first Naked Lady (aka Belladonna) flower of the season. Always a treat.

 

Day 4–Positivity Challenge

Day 4 of my 5-day Positivity Challenge! Doing my bit to radiate positive energy in these  Days of Trump. I’m blogging three things about my life that are positive (or for which I’m grateful) and posting on Facebook. This time, I’m not going to tag anyone, like I did the first two times. To tell the truth, no one responded when I did. It could’ve been a glitch between my blog and Facebook, and no one caught their names. Or. It’s about doing what I’m moved to do without acknowledgement or support. A biggie for me.

“Gratitude is the first sign of a thinking, rational creature.” ~Solanus Case (an American Capuchin friar and priest who was known during his lifetime as a wonderworker–1870-1957)

Here goes:

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  1. The three shishito peppers I finally managed to persuade to grow, what with my bad luck this year with anything green, and the frickin’ rats eating everything I put in the ground. (Note the wire enclosure.)2016-08-13 17.38.44
  2. “Boochcraft,” an alcoholic kombucha (was the name Hoochcraft taken?): Ginger-Lime-Rosehips. Delicious!2016-08-13 18.06.54
  3. This little tile bench made by Hank Westmoreland, talented artist, and all around classic Lagunatic, sadly deceased. I haven’t had this piece for very long, but I don’t know how I did without it.

Day 3–Positivity Challenge

Day 3 of my 5-day Positivity Challenge! Doing my bit to radiate positive energy in these  Days of Trump. I’m blogging three things about my life that are positive (or for which I’m grateful) and posting on Facebook. This time, I’m not going to tag anyone, like I did the first two times. To tell the truth, no one responded when I did. It could’ve been a glitch between my blog and Facebook, and no one caught their names. Or. It’s about doing what I’m moved to do without acknowledgement or support. A biggie for me.

 

Here goes:

Fergie staring at me

  1. Fergie. My baby girl. It took me three years to get another Staffie (breed of my heart) after Sweetpea died. Her (The Ferg) with those giant burps, and murmurs of assessment, and kissable belly.2016-08-13 16.20.51
  2. The tchotchkes I’ve collected through the years. For example, this ceramic bird I bought in Mexico shortly after I left my first husband. The fact that it has survived my  bull-in-a-china-shop nature makes it especially precious.
  3. My intrinsic nature: my tenacity, my sometimes embarrassing enthusiasm and my openness to all possibilities. I’m finally appreciating who I am. About time.

Day 2–Positivity Challenge

Day 2 of my 5-day Positivity Challenge! Doing my bit to radiate positive energy in these Trump Days. I’m listing three things about my life that are positive (or for which I’m grateful), which I will then post on Facebook and tag three FB friends. They’ll do the same. If you find it hard to participate in the daily task, that’s okay. Just keep trying. Forget about coming up with anything profound, just focus on finding one thing, no matter how small. DO NOT have to blog, just post on Facebook. 

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Here goes:

  1. Steve Martin. Last night, I saw his new “adult” comedy, “Meteor Showers” at the Old Globe Theatre in San Diego. It wasn’t as good as I’d hoped. Way too “clever” to be cohesive. The acting was superb though, and the venue delightfully intimate. A magical evening.
  2. Yet another dragonfly visit. Big and brown, the creature showed up in my writing studio, yesterday. The last dragonfly who paid me a visit was a wild and fiery red, perched on a bullrush reed in my pond. According to animal totemism dragonflies are connected to the symbolism of change and light. When the dragonfly shows up in your life to remind you to bring a bit more lightness and joy into your life. Yes indeed!
  3. Laguna Beach. I may complain about the traffic and this and that, but I am so ever fortunate and grateful to be living in an art town.

5-Day Positivity/Gratitude Challenge

Reminded by Faceboook of the 5-day Positivity Challenge I took in 2014, I’m starting one of my own. Couldn’t be a better time, don’t you think? Too much Trumping going on. Time to radiate positive energy. So, for the next five days, I will list three things about my life that are positive, or for which I’m grateful on my Facebook wall and then tag three Facebook friends, who will do the same, and so on. If you find it hard to participate in the daily task, that’s okay. Just keep trying. Forget about coming up with anything profound, just focus on finding one thing, no matter how small. You DO NOT have to blog, just post on Facebook. 

Day 1:
1. I am so wildly, madly grateful for my sweet loving Jake. He has buoyed me through some mighty trying times. And at 12 1/2 years old, he’s still willing to climb the dratted hill  every day with me. Even in the broiling sun. I love you Jake!!!

Jake Closeup

2. I’m loving “A Moon Shaped Pool,” Radiohead’s latest albumn.  Yow!

3. Finally, I’m blogging again, albeit, a short stint. Still, it’s a most positive event.  I’ve been querying Small Presses for Monkey’s Wedding, and trying to find a path into the memoir (or maybe it’ll be a novel) that’s been tapping me on the shoulder.

Until tomorrow!

 

 

Art and Love Gone Wrong

Second of a series of excerpts from my memoir Loveyoubye: Holding Fast, Letting Go, and Then There’s the Dog, released April 2014. 

Quick catch-up. My husband starts taking off for weeks at a time. No explanation, no apology, just yards of attitude. After twenty-five years of marriage no less. Here I’m thinking back to when things were good between us.

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I remember the day I cast his face in plaster of Paris for the mask. He lay on his back on the cement front deck, Vaseline smeared all over his face, his beard and moustache matted with the goo. I’d finally persuaded him to go along with my experiment, but he almost lost it when I kept slathering on Vaseline. He couldn’t even stand sunscreen on his face. So there he lay, two straws sticking out of his nose while I kneeled beside him with a bucketful of plaster, slapping it on. I hoped this was the way it was done. All I knew for sure was that I had to hurry and finish before the stuff set. Just as I was about to plop down the last handful of plaster, he grunted.

“What’s wrong?” I yelled. Sticking his index finger in his ear as if I’d broken his ear drum, he made a rolling motion with his other hand for me to hurry.

“Yeah, yeah, I’m almost done,” I said just as his hand came down on top of mine. Plaster flew everywhere, some of it plugging the end of the straw sticking out of one nostril. He made a snuffling sound and, Frankenstein-like, struggled to his feet.

“Wait, wait!” Jumping up, I glanced around desperately for something to clear the straw. A bamboo twig? Too thick. He flopped back down and growled. I crouched over him.

“Snort it out!” I burst out laughing and couldn’t stop. Doubling over, I staggered around, crying with laughter. He reached blindly for me, his growl now a muffled roar.

“Sorry,” I managed to gasp, and I kneeled beside him. I touched the plaster. It had set.

“Listen, I’m going to get this stuff off right now, it won’t be long, okay?” I bit my lip to stop the giggle that bubbled up and started tugging on the edge over his forehead. He roared in pain.

“I told you we needed more Vaseline!” I shouted. Twenty minutes and a million microscopic tugs later I held a hair-speckled mold of Larry’s face in my hands. He sat up and glared at me.

Now I couldn’t help the grin that stole across my face. His encouragement had led me to the world of the arts, a world I’d yearned for back in Zambia and didn’t know it.

Available at AmazonBarnes & Noble, and IndieBound (support your local bookstore!)

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Driven To The Edge

Third in a series of excerpts from my memoir Loveyoubye: Holding Fast, Letting Go, and Then There’s the Dog, released April 2014. 

Quick catch-up. Larry, my husband of twenty-five years starts taking off for weeks at a time. No explanations, no apologies. In the following excerpt I’m remembering an incident when I almost killed him.

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A twenty-something woman at work, someone who had a crush on Larry, once confessed to me that it was weird how he could sometimes hit a nerve with his teasing, like he had a sixth sense about some current or existing vulnerability of hers—but she refused to believe that he meant to hurt her. Another girlfriend told me how she’d felt “brutalized” more than once by how he would hone in on her dating life, knowing it wasn’t going well. His sisters and daughters had stories of how he teased them until they became hysterical. And then there was the time he wouldn’t let up on his brother-in-law, who, goaded to the point of desperation, floored his van down the block with Larry clinging to the side. He, too, didn’t hold it against Larry.

Because this was the guy everyone thought of as their particular pal, who had what one friend called an essential sweetness. I mean, this was a man who couldn’t pass a homeless person without a generous donation and a kind word. Who would chat for hours with the guy everyone else avoided because he was either an asshole or a bore. And those Seventh Day Adventist missionaries, how they loved him. One of them ended up dropping by every couple of weeks just to talk about cars. Outside the gate, of course—Larry never invited anyone in.

It was a head-spinner for me. I constantly found myself in a dilemma over this “other” side of him, the goading, aggressive side. It was like he’d taken leave of his senses. When I got mad or hurt by his aggressiveness, he’d make a face like I’d lost my mind, telling me I was way too sensitive. I half-believed him. Especially since he only teased people he liked, or so he said. Mostly I believed he felt emotionally vulnerable and teasing gave him some kind of control, a way to keep people at bay, while at the same time it allowed him to feel something. It was like he fed on the emotional distress of others. I could never decide if he truly believed that he was “just playing” like he insisted he was.

What puzzled me was how someone kind and generous in so many ways couldn’t see the effect his teasing had on others. But I expected that with my love and help he’d come to realize that what he was doing was cruel and harmful. I continued to believe this even after the time he goaded me to the point where I flipped out and almost killed him with an X-Acto knife.

It happened seven years into our marriage. I’d told Larry about a conversation I’d had with this guy at work about spirituality. I thought he would appreciate the sentiments expressed.

Instead, he launched in with, “You’re in love with him, aren’t you?”

“What?” I hardly knew the guy.

“Why don’t you just admit it?”

“Are you serious?”

“Come on, be honest now.”

“Stop messing around.”

“You love him, don’t you?”

“Okay, what’s going on?”

“You tell me.” There was something in the way he said this, a lilt to his voice. Was he “just playing?” I thought about how he’d once told me I was easy to tease because I took things so seriously.

“I don’t understand,” I said.

He stared at me, like he was waiting for me to confess. Despite myself, I couldn’t help wondering if he was picking up on something I myself didn’t even know. The thought unnerved me. We went back and forth, the conversation growing more and more insane, with him jabbing at me with insinuating questions. The angrier I became the calmer he grew. It was like he was watching a movie, curious to see what came next.

Finally, feeling overwhelmed and frantic, I flung the X-Acto knife into the doorway four inches above his head and then stood there, glaring at him, hands clenched. His mouth dropped open in that way he had of showing exaggerated surprise. He did a slow pan from me to the knife then back again.

“You tried to kill me,” he whispered.

I stared at him, my anger trickling away, replaced by guilt and frustration and fear.

“Didn’t you?” he insisted.

“Enough, okay?” I cried.

“Well, you did.”

Feeling the rush of tears, I pushed past him. He made an exaggerated staggering motion backward. “Remind me not to mess with you again.”

Available on Amazon 

Digging For the Light

My current memoir, Loveyoubye: Holding Fast, Letting Go, and Then There’s the Dog, (published April 2014) isn’t my first attempt at memoir. I started what I thought would be a memoir twenty-two years ago. At the time, I thought I had begun to write so I could  finally record all those stories I’d been telling people ever since I arrived in America from Africa. Stories that came from growing up in a small Zambian copper mining town and a sisal plantation in Zimbabwe, as well as all those road trips my family took to Congo, Malawi, Tanzania, and Kenya where my larger-than-life dad always managed to wangle invitations to the most unusual places. I had plenty of material. What I didn’t know was that I’d intuitively chosen writing to explore my own personal myths in an attempt to reconcile the past.

I ended up with a 500-page unholy jumble of flashbacks. It took another eight years to “straighten” out my mess, only this time I ended up with a YA novel and sequel, Monkey’s Wedding and Mine Dances, with two teenage protagonists. A white girl and a black boy, set in Zimbabwe and Zambia. The scope of my story had become too large, or so I believed. Or else I wasn’t ready to dig all the way into the bedrock of self.

That opportunity came when my husband of twenty-five years started disappearing for weeks at a time without explanation or apology.  The marriage had been headed for the rocks for a while, but I hadn’t expected this. I had deluded myself into thinking I could fix it. Scared, hurt and angry, I started writing Loveyoubye to vent, but mainly to gain insight. To complicate matters, I had to return to South Africa to help my mentally impaired brother move from one residence to another. And then there was the dog. The love of both of our lives. She was getting worse. What to do. He became more subversive. I tried harder. We wobbled along. I wrote. Without giving away the ending of my story, I will tell you this, through searching for and finding those exact words that brought to light the deepest parts of me, I found release and power.

 

Fun, Fun, Fun!

Back in  February, I took a trip home to South Africa to visit my son, Layne, and his family, and to attend a couple of weddings.  Lots of sweet family bonding (grown son Layne to his workmates: “my mommy made my sandwich this morning.”)

Me, Daegan, and Layne at Illanka's wedding
Me, Daegan, and Layne at Illanka’s wedding

And then last month, I spent an incredible two weeks in Spain and Portugal with my other son, Darin, his family, and in-laws. Nine of us. They’re all foodies and adventurous, so we had a blast. We synched right into 2 o’clock lunchtimes and 10 p.m. dinners, which, in Spain for us, always included tomato bread, Jamon Iberico and fresh sardines–in any form: small white and raw, or big and grilled.

In front of our Barcelona piso--nephew Axel and Kylie the Great
In front of our Barcelona piso–nephew Axel and Kylie the Great
My grilled sardines in Seville market near our piso
My grilled sardines in Seville market near our piso

Funny incident in a very swank restaurant in Seville. Intrigued by the “chlorophyl” soup on the menu, I inquired as to the ingredients. “Que?” came the answer from one of the woman servers. This time, I mimed my question, mouthing the words as if she were deaf. “Ah,” she said, realization dawning and then, looking pleased with herself, said slowly and deliberately in a thick Spanish accent, “Chlor-o-phyl.” The soup was delicious.

Chlorophyl Soup
Chlor-o-phyl Soup

I’ve never been one for Sangria, but I must say there’s nothing quite as refreshing as the way the Spanish make it, especially on a hot summer afternoon. Portugal has its shots of Ginja (a traditional Portuguese drink made with sour cherry ginja berries), available around every corner in alcove-like bars or in these huge enclosed markets filled with food stalls.

Sharing Sangria with Lily
Sharing Sangria with Lily
Shots of Ginja in that Seville market
Shots of Ginja in a Sevilla market

There’s a certain joie de vivre that’s evident in both Spain and Portugal: that music trio, in a sprawling Seville market near our piso, that sprang to life as the market was closing at midnight just as my daughter-in-law and I were making our way home after dinner with the rest of the family. We stopped. I ordered a Ginja, she got a beer and we found a table out on the cobbled street. Little kids charged around, chasing each other and playing futbol in the street. I rocked in place. She pretty much did too. My PhD, non-finger-snapping, non-dancing, serious daughter-in-law. It’s good to get away.

Music at midnight

Portugal had some surprises for me: piri-piria deliciously hot spice prevalent in Southern Africa and Angola, and of course, Maputo (old Mozambique–what used to be Portuguese East Africa, where we spent many a holiday). And then there was that custard-like tart with a self-forming crust that in South Africa the Afrikaners call melktert that I came across in a Lisbon cafe. I even met a thirty-something-year-old Portuguese waiter who waxed nostalgically about living in Johannesburg for the first fifteen years of his life. Small world.

Melktert
Melktert (milktart) at Lisbon cafe near our apartmento
The old red light district (taken from our 18th century apartmento window in Lisbon)

Must say, though, the Spanish and Portuguese aren’t big on veggies. No matter, Salmorejo, Spain’s version of gazpacho (pureed tomatoes, onion and bread, topped with Jamon and drizzled with olive oil), as well as blistered Padron peppers, more than made up for it.

Samorejo with shrimp
Samorejo with shrimp
Tomato bread and Jamon at 4 Cats, Picasso's hangout
Tomato bread and Jamon at 4 Cats, Picasso’s hangout
Dining in the street in Barcelona
Dining in the street in Barcelona

As for all the magnificent buildings and churches, many with Moorish influence, there are way too many to mention. Except for the Sagrada Familia, Antoni Gaudi’s giant basilica in Barcelona. This was the most awe-inspiring structure I’ve ever encountered. A truly mystical experience. It wasn’t the religiousness of it, all the icons, crosses and paraphernalia that struck a chord, or even that hush-like aspirational resonance some churches acquire over time, although it definitely had that. To me the building, which was begun in 1882 and still in progress (Gaudi died in 1926) was a living edifice, a testament to the spirit of creativity. Louis Sullivan, the great American architect, described the Sagrada Familia as “spirit symbolized in stone.”

Tower Sagrada

Me in Sagrada
Inside Sagrada Familia

My horoscope for 2015 predicted foreign travel. It also predicted that I would be socially very active with friends and family, have fun at parties and social gatherings, and that my friendships would deepen. Uncanny. Right on all counts. And we’re only half way through the year. What’s next? Maybe a trip to New York to meet with a publisher who’s going to give me a giant advance on Monkey’s Wedding? Wait. That’s not foreign travel. Okay, how about just a phone call from said publisher instead, and a bike/river cruise instead, one that will take me from Vienna to Budapest? I’m ready to go again.

Me by steps & graffiti
Sevilla graffiti

Kylie and me hugging Me & Lulu at lunch first day

Kylie and Lulu-Ole
Kylie and Lulu-Ole!