Monkey’s Wedding Gets The Bronze!

I’m tickled. Little Monkey’s Wedding won an Independent Publishers (IPPY) Bronze Medal.

I worked so long and hard on this book, and suddenly it’s successful. It has turned out to be the little book that could. First, it was picked up Kindle Scout and published, and now it has won an award.  I want to thank everyone for your support, you’ve been part of my success.

 

 

A Momentous Occasion!

A batch of paperbacks for Monkey’s Wedding arrived today!

Now I can finally send the book to my brother, Garth, who lives back home in South Africa. He’s been waiting for a copy for twenty-two years, ever since I told him I was writing a book about us. A book that started out as a memoir (and ended up as a mystical, political, historical, family story, with him as a fictional character). You can read about it here.

“Where is your book,” he’d ask in every letter over the years. You could almost hear his slow deliberate way of talking coming through his barely legible text. The couple of years he spent in that small classroom at Frederick Knapp School with all the other “slow” kids in Nkana, Zambia, where we were raised, hadn’t taught him much beyond his letters, which in his dotage has regressed to mostly scribbles. Soon, I would tell him.

It wouldn’t have helped to tell him about all the near misses Monkey’s Wedding had gone through on its way to publication. From being picked up by an agent to a near miss with Time Warner Publishing, to enthusiastic interest from the editor of Harper Collins (until she had to get smart and back off from this niche title that didn’t promise a big payoff). Nor could I have told him how I’d relegated Monkey’s Wedding to a fantasy of being a #1 NYT bestseller (the newspaper clipping I pinned to the wall with Monkey’s Wedding’s blurb pasted over the top bestseller at the time now brittle and yellowed).

“Maybe they will never publish your book,” he finally wrote a year ago.

I’d come to the same conclusion. His health was deteriorating. This was the guy who wasn’t supposed to live past twenty anyway. It was time to fulfill my promise to my brother. I would self-publish. I had the book professionally edited and set about researching the whole self-publishing route. But it was hard giving up my dream of having the book published by an agency. I made one last mad dash and submitted Monkey’s Wedding to Kindle Scout–the American Idol of publishing–with hope in my heart, yet believing that there was no chance in hell my novel would get selected.

Against all odds, Monkey’s Wedding was selected by Kindle Press for publication (of the Kindle), along with more popular titles like Necrospect, Cowboy Sanctuary, Devil’s Glen, Trapped in Love, Eternity Prophesy. Books so unlike Monkey’s Wedding it’s laughable. And wonderful.

With the might of Kindle Press/Amazon Publishing behind me, I went ahead and self-published the paperback. Garth will finally get his book.

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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!

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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.

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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