Tuesday, January 25, 2011

A Bird in the Hand....

The doorbell rang while I was chopping vegies, getting ready to make supper.

“Back,” I said in my firmest tone, trying to peel two mastiffs from the front door. One thing about mastiffs, if they don’t want to obey, you’re not going to make them. Four hundred pounds of dog doesn’t move without cooperation, and when it comes to doorbells, they know their job. They have to see who it is before you do. Just in case. If you try to tell them otherwise, you’re only displaying your stupidity, but they won't hold it against you for the future.

So I squeezed in between them, opened the door just wide enough for me and peered out.

Already dark as night, this being January and the streets of North Port having no lights, all I saw were headlights on the street. Clearly something big. A large van.  I flicked on the flood lamps just in time to make out UPS as it drove away.

I looked down and found the small corrugated shipping box between the doors.

It was here. My book!

Yes, the long awaited moment had arrived. I grabbed the knife from the cutting board, carefully sliced the packing tape and held the first copy of This Bird Flew Away in my hand.

For months I’d dreamed of this moment. “Wait until you hold it,” said my friends who’d been there before. My sister suggested it would be something like having a baby. Without the pain, she added, though I think that’s debatable.  Lots of painful moments involved in the two years of producing this book.

In the writing, there were passages that ripped out my heart. There were times my fingers danced along the keyboard on automatic while I hauled long buried memories from somewhere deep and dark inside, and tears coursed down my face with the struggle.  It had to be honest. It had to be real.

But there were profoundly joyous times as well. Bria, my heroine, is gutsy, strong-willed, stubborn, smart and so sure she’s always right. She’s scrupulously honest with the reader, but a world-class liar to those around her. She makes me laugh.  I know her so well and she’s as real to me as anyone else in my life even if she is a figment of my imagination. But the real joy I found in Bria was the time spent building the teen-age version of her with my granddaughter. Paige, sixteen at the time, spent many an hour sharing what she felt the girl’s feelings would be, how she might react and even how she would speak. Through Bria, my granddaughter and I grew closer. Priceless!

Then there’s Jack, Bria’s beleaguered guardian. The eldest son of a domineering father with four younger brothers, a homely man, inept with women, morally principled and well-intentioned, he knows nothing of girls and even less about how they work. I love him, too. Sometimes stuffy, often lost, strongly guided by his moral compass, he means well and we watch him walk deeper and deeper into the mire that we see forming beneath his feet, but he does not-- not until it's too late.

And Mary, the mother figure to them all, living a lonely life within the confines of her Irish-American community, who gives Bria her first stable home and in turn, is rescued by the girl.

They all live.  Now I hold the chronicle of their lives in my hand. What started as a dream, as all my stories do, grew into a few strings of words on my computer screen, then a large mass of words in a file, was worked and reworked, edited by the talented Kathryn Lynn Davis and reworked again, has now matured into this beautifully produced book.

And that it is. My publisher, Black Rose Writing, has done a fabulous job of the cover and the interior design. The pages feel substantial; the binding is top quality. Most gratifying, they allowed me to produce the cover art, pick the font and the layout.  To say I’m pleased with the quality of the outcome is an understatement.

With pleasure, I checked the book very carefully one last time and emailed my approval. Tomorrow, it goes into production.

In a few days, it will be available to those who registered on the website, and to all who visit there in the future.

Soon it will be posted on Amazon, Barnes & Noble and all the usual places for everyone to share.

But today, it’s still a private pleasure, as I hold this first copy in my hand.

Sincerely yours,

Postscript: The next day, I took This Bird Flew Away out for lunch to meet friends. Here's a photograph of the great occasion. Now be aware, this is one of the few times I've ever published a real image of myself. Yes, that lovely, elegant-looking, cultured lady you've come to associate with my name is an avatar. Some people have pen names. I have a pen image. Why? Privacy -- mine and that of some of the girls from the past, girls I worked with or fostered. 

Anyway, I'm the one in the black glasses. The other lady is my dear friend, Sharon. And the fellow in the back is a total stranger sitting at the bar. The place is our favorite local hangout, Joe Cracker, in Port Charlotte, Florida and if you're ever fortunate enough to be in the neighborhood, I recommend the coconut shrimp. PS They also make a mean margarita.  


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