Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘benchmarks’


untitled-1

Tonight, I went to Happy Canyon. This is hardly news; I’ve been going to Happy Canyon far too often since my third birthday, when I first attended. This year is special, though, not because it’s Happy Canyon’s 100th birthday (it is), and not because it’s my 55th birthday (which it also is) but because this year My Son the Tubist is playing in the band. We all have certain benchmarks in our lives; for me, this is one. I’ll be writing more about it later, but for now, let me share one of my very favorite Happy Canyon memories–my son’s very first visit to a place where I’ve spent an embarrassing amount of time–or I would have, if I was capable of being embarrassed over going to see the same show, over and over again, as often as I can. For years this was so I could shout at an Old Family Friend, who for years got his legs cut off four times a year. It was also because I am something of a connoiseur of Falling Off Horses, and Happy Canyon being what it is, it is the rare show that doesn’t include somebody biting the dirt. But I digress.

This story is included in Benchmarks: A Single Mother’s Illustrated Journal, but it says something I love about my life–and have loved about it for a very long time. It also serves as an excellent scene-setter. When I get around to writing about this year, you’ll have a good idea of what’s going on. This will allow me to focus on the Really Important Stuff–the tuba brumming away out of sight, a deep gold river of sound connecting my son, out of sight in the orchestra pit, and me, high in the darkened stands. Grab a cushie for your tushie (it’s necessary on those Hard Happy Canyon Benches), fill a flask with hot chocoloate or coffee laced with the alcoholic beverage of your choice, if you’re so inclined, grab a Pendleton shirt, sit back, and enjoy the show.

Painted snowcaps turn gold, then pink, as the first stars twinkle in the evening sky. Dust and summer night lie heavy on my skin. The narrow wooden bench bites into my thighs. I shift. The lady pressed far too tightly against my left side heaves a martyred sigh and looks pointedly at my too-generous hips.

“I can’t get comfortable, Mommy,” whines five-year-old Alex.

“I know,” I say quietly. “Stand up ’til it starts.”

He huffs, squirms, and stares around the crowded grandstand. “Why are the mountains pink?”

“Because the man up there is shining a pink light on them.” I point to the light guy, high overhead in his little nest in the steel girders.

“Why?”

“So it will look like it’s getting dark.”

“But it is getting dark.” Alex’s chubby finger stabs at the stars glimmering above the painted skyline.

“I know.”

“Where’s the man?”

“Up there.” I point again to the light guy’s airy perch in the rafters overhead.

“So why does the man have to shine that pink light on the mountains? Why can’t he just let them turn pink by themselves?”

“Hush!” hisses the lady beside me.

“Forget the mountains,” I say hastily. “Look, it’s starting.” I point down into the sawdust-covered arena, where a tall man in a cavalry uniform is escorting an elderly Native American man to center stage. I recognize Chief Clarence Burke’s heavily beaded buckskins and feathered war bonnet. The cavalry officer looks more like a warden than an escort. I think they might have chosen more tactfully. But this is Happy Canyon. It doesn’t pay to be too critical.

The packed grandstand falls silent. Chief Burke raises his arms and closes his eyes. His cracked, cadenced voice drifts on the night air, faint and rough as pine smoke.

“What’s he saying, Mommy?” Alex asks, tugging on my arm.

“Shhh,” I whisper. “Listen. He’s welcoming us.”

The sounds float over us, as they must have floated over the trappers, the explorers, and the missionaries. Chief Burke falls silent. His arms drop. The cavalry officer steps up to the microphone. “Chief Clarence Burke of the Umatilla Indians welcomes you to Happy Canyon.” They turn and pace out of the arena. Music swells, lights go up on a line of tipis, and we are in Happy Canyon.

I settle back—at least as much as one can settle back on a narrow, unpadded wooden bench.  Alex stares open-mouthed at two Native American men carrying a deer down a switchback trail to the village. A deep, unmistakably Native American voice informs us that one of the young men has shot his first deer and is now eligible to marry. It’s been nearly ten years since I last visited the canyon, but I remember this part and cringe in anticipation.

This is how it has always gone: The happy couple stands on the second level of the four-level stage. Somebody backstage plays a scratched recording of “The Indian Love Call.” Then the newlyweds walk down the path to the first level, perform a wedding dance with their friends and family, and go into a tipi at the edge of the village, presumably to make sweet, sweet love.

Happy Canyon may have been an annual visit for me for nearly twenty years, but it’s Alex’s first time, and I’m not sure that his manners extend to enduring a crackly recording of a song that sets even my teeth on edge.

I lean down and whisper, “There’s going to be an awful song now, honey, but I need you to just not say anything, okay?”

“Okay,” he whispers absently. “What are they doing with that deer?” His eyes never leave the arena, where the village has awakened and people in richly beaded buckskins go about cooking, fishing—there’s a pool down there—visiting, trading, celebrating the young man’s first kill, and preparing for his wedding. I dig in my purse for backup. “Here, have some chocolate milk,” I whisper, thinking that the bottle will muffle any cries of pain or outrage the scratched record may provoke—and in the meantime help him forget about what seems to be happening to the deer.

He sips, still gazing at the village. A woman’s voice, still unmistakably Native American, informs us that the wedding is being celebrated. Sure enough, the couple, their friends, and family are dancing the wedding dance to the beat of drums. There has been no “Indian Love Call,” and I’ve never heard a woman narrate the pageant. Well, well, well. The times, they are a-changing in the canyon.

The dancing ends and the happy couple heads for the end tipi. Village life goes on. Trappers, explorers, and missionaries arrive. A lone wagon creaks in. The woman’s voice, deep, cadenced, and filled with old sorrow, tells of a clash of worlds. Fighting breaks out. A white girl is dragged into the village, screaming. A few minutes later men on horseback pound in, firing blanks into the air. Chaos erupts. The girl leaps onto a running horse and escapes. The villagers scatter.

More wagons roll in. Pioneers climb wearily out and gather around the campfire cooking, singing, and dancing. We in the stadium sing with them: “Skip to my Lou,” “Sweet Betsy from Pike,” and “She’ll Be Comin’ ’Round the Mountain When She Comes.” Feathered war bonnets appear among the bushes, and more fighting breaks out. The cavalry arrives. A man in a frock coat rides in and the tribal leaders negotiate. The woman tells us how the tribal elders signed away their birthright without knowing it because it had never occurred to them that one might presume to own the earth.

At last the end comes. The tipis are struck and loaded onto horses. The village dies. The woman tells about life on a reservation created from wasteland, about the struggle to maintain a cultural identity in a world changed beyond recognition, about working with one’s enemy for the common good, about salvaging life from destruction.

“When are they coming back?” Alex asks.

“Never,” I say, and I am sad.

The lights go down. “Wham wham wham wham-wham smack!” echoes in the darkness. The lights go up on a frontier town. Dance hall girls walk the streets. The town drunk staggers across the sawdust arena and tumbles into the pool where the Indians fished, pops out, and hotfoots it back to the saloon. The Pony Express rider flashes in, switches horses, and flashes out.

The stagecoach rolls in. A redheaded couple emerges. They supervise the removal of their steamer trunk from the rear of the coach, open it, and pull out eight children, all attired in bib overalls and red yarn wigs. A group of pigtailed Chinese men trot over, hands tucked in sleeves, bowing. The blatant ethnic stereotyping appalls me. I am amazed it has survived. The laundrymen don’t seem to find it troubling; they hustle the family into the laundry. A few minutes later the family emerges clean and pressed. Boys in flesh-colored tights plunge into the pool to emerge dripping and screaming.

“What’s going on?” Alex asks.

He might well ask. Happy Canyon has no plot. Rather, it’s a whole group of subplots, which, because the performance is live, using live animals, antique props, and amateur performers, may or may not happen the same from night to night, or from year to year.
“Just watch,” I say. A mismatched couple drives in, the wife tall and muscular, the husband delicate and natty. He grabs a dance hall girl and bends her over his arm like Rudolph Valentino. His wife spots him and, together with the other god-fearing women of town, attacks him with a broom. The Chinese laundrymen rush out, pull him to his feet, and drag him into the laundry. Moments later he emerges clean and pressed. His wife tosses him onto the buggy seat and they drive off.

“When are the Indians coming back?” Alex asks.

“They’re not,” I whisper back.

The dance hall girls do a lively can-can to a rollicking tune that has us all clapping and stamping. The pageant is nearly over. A Native American man mounted on a pinto pony races across the arena. An American flag flutters over his head. Man and pony zigzag up the trails high into the scenery, and come to a halt on a painted mountaintop. The flag flutters in the golden spotlight. The orchestra strikes up the national anthem. We stand.
Ten years ago, the response was half-hearted. Some stood, hands over their hearts. Some stood laughing and talking. Some slouched in their seats. But this is September 12, 2002, a year and a day after the World Trade Center fell. Today there are two spotlights on the stage. One is trained on the Native American man, his pinto pony, and his flag. The other rests on three uniformed men standing on another painted mountaintop across the stage. The men are three tanned local boys with sunburned, muscular necks, hair like ripe wheat, heavy shoulders. I suspect they spent their summer driving trucks and combines and going into town on Saturday nights to drag race on Main Street and drink beers with their girls in the parking lot up by the old Carnegie library. I wonder where they will be a year from now.

But next year is next year. This year everyone stands, and everyone sings. We sing about rockets’ red glare, bombs bursting in air, and how we saw through the night that the grand old flag was still there. We sing about spacious skies, amber waves of grain, purple mountains, abundant harvests, and about how this land was made for you and me, and I feel again the tug of this land where I was born, and I know again that while some people can leave their birthplace and remake themselves in strange lands, I am not one of them.
I tried. I left as soon as I could, and I only came back under duress. Walking the familiar roads and fields is as much pain as homecoming. Every step holds memories I have worked hard to erase, as well as memories I cherish. And yet as I stand here in this darkened stadium, singing along with a thousand people, staring down at the lit representation of a past that never was, breathing in the heady fumes of beer and popcorn, I am again a little girl, a teenager, a fledgling woman, and the night again holds the magic of endless possibilities.

A whiff of charbroiled hamburger from the Charburger Drive-In across the street tickles my nose, and for a moment I am jammed into one of its battered booths with my sisters and as many of their friends as my Grandpa could shoehorn into his car. Each of us has a charburger, a shake, and fries and dipping sauce on  the table in front of us. And as the crowd we are talks, laughs, and teases, Grandpa looks at us all and smiles. When his gaze falls on me he leans over the table and flicks my french fry box with one gnarled brown finger. “You eat these, doncha, Bodie?” he asks. And I smile and nod and eat a fry to please him, even though the Charburger’s fries aren’t all that great unless you eat them really, really fast, before they cool.

Back in the stands, Alex leans against me and lays his head on my shoulder. I lift him and settle him on my lap, falling into the slow, easy sway that is the mark of mothers in my world. I lean my cheek on Alex’s curly hair and sing softly about Betsy from Pike. But I am not really thinking about the songs anymore.

The falling of the towers has reminded us all that America’s freedoms, privileges, and resources are not givens. We are not sure how to best preserve them, and the debate is growing increasingly bitter, but we are all agreed that we have taken our gifts for granted for far too long.

“Look, Mommy, they came back,” Alex says happily, lifting his head from my shoulder. He’s right. The Indians have come back. Along with the rest of the cast, they fill the painted mountains and forests, surround the man on the pinto pony, the flag, and the sunburned local boys. They spill over into the sawdust, buckskins mingling with calico mingling with cavalry blue with sequined velvet and feathers. Alex heaves a happy sigh, lays his head back on my shoulder, and is instantly asleep.

png

I drive back to my mother’s house through streets full of what we scornfully called “drugstore cowboys”—all hat and no saddle was how we described them. There is dancing on Main Street. The carnival is in town, as it is every year, and as I ease my car through the crowds on Main Street the lights of the Ferris wheel circle overhead. The warm fragrance of corn dogs and cotton candy fills the car. I speed up as I head out of town then slow down again and creep carefully up the steep, rutted track that leads to my mother’s house high on a hill overlooking the Umatilla River Valley.

As I round the last corner I see that she has left the porch lights on for me. For just a moment my stomach twists in the old, familiar cocktail of fear, love, pain, and aching sweetness that I felt each year at the end of summer. And at last I understand what it is. It is the pull of the land. I was born less than sixty miles from this spot. I grew up here. I ate foods grown in this soil. I gave the land my sweat and my labor. In turn, the land gave me what I needed to survive—food for my body, and food for my soul.

It gave me cool mornings scented with wet grass and alfalfa. It gave me ripened wheat fields under scalding sun. It gave me desert hills split by long, straight roads shimmering in the summer sun. It gave me cornfields rustling in the night. It gave me the howls of coyotes, the clatter of balers, the whistle of the wind, and the cries of killdeer, meadowlarks, and mourning doves. It aged me. It renewed me. And sometimes in the evening when the sky turned to pearl, silver, and cobalt and the chill wind cut through my T-shirt and bib overalls, I hardly knew where I ended and the world began. This land was my land.

And I walked away—ran away, actually, driven by demons I didn’t understand and couldn’t have faced if I had. I ran away, but now I’m back, and as I pull into my mother’s driveway I understand the truth—I might have belonged here once, but I left, and the world from which I fled went on without me. Tonight has been a taste, just a taste, of one of the best parts of the life I left. And now I must walk into the house, and face down the fears that drove me away in the first place. I carry Alex inside, slip him into his pajamas while he sleeps, and pull on my nightgown. The fresh smell of soap and sunshine surrounds me, and I realize my mother has been busy while I have been gone. I lie down beside Alex and pull the fresh sheets over us.

I close my eyes and think about Happy Canyon. I remember the drums, the chants, the measured, dignified dances, the wagon train’s fiddle music and square dances, the can-can girls, and I realize that in spite of past injustices and wrongs, in spite of culture clashes, we who belong to this land—even those of us who have left, and are just beginning to find our way back—have something in common. We have our songs. There are the songs that divide us—and sometimes set our teeth on edge—and the songs we sing together. We would be the poorer for losing either.

I think again about all of us in the stands, singing together. I marvel that so many of us can remember the words, and I wonder. In twenty years, will Alex bring his children to Happy Canyon? Will the stands be full of people who remember to stand, and who still know the words of the songs that bound us tonight, as well as the songs that divided us? Will Alex know our songs? Will I remember them? Will I have made this land Alex’s land? Will I have earned my right to again call it my own?

The next morning Alex and I start the long trip back to our apartment in Gresham. On the way out of town I stop at the music store and buy a song book.

 A note about the illustrations: These are based on some art I developed for a traveling exhibit of the Applegate Trail a number of years ago. The Southern Oregon Historical graciously agreed that I might use them, provided I mention their name. So I did. Thanks, Southern Oregon Historical Society–I wish I lived close enough to still do stuff for you. I think of you often and kindly.

Read Full Post »


Today’s the last day to download Past Lives: A Journey free. Tomorrow, November 24, we’ll have a complete change of pace, when Redeeming Stanley: Redeeming Stanley: A Savage Little Tale of True Love, Old Gods, Bitches, Bestiality, Burnout, and Above All, Payback becomes the free download. Stanley’s been popular since he first met the public way back in 2009 (and won Audiolark’s Best of the Best e-books award, incidentally). Stanley is, of course, available in paperback and Kindle (and for free from November 24 to 28!), but he’s also available as an audiobook from Audiolark. He’s not free there, regrettably, but he’s still a darned good deal. So go on, download…download…

Available in paperback and on Kindle from Amazon

November 19-23: Past Lives: A Journey
This is a tiny little collection of short stories that grew out of a series of past-life regression exercises. The stories are poetic, evocative, and thought-provoking, from the girl trapped in the desert to prove a point to the mistress who has discovered too late that relationships can be transforming to the milkmaid who lacks the courage to fight back to the woman who discovers that she has lost something she never realized she had–and in redeeming her present rewrites her past and her future, these are stories about love, what it means, and how we find it, lose it, and sometimes, if we’re lucky, discover it again within ourselves.
Reviews Download FREE November 19-23 (it’s always free to Amazon Prime members)

November 24-28: Redeeming Stanley: Redeeming Stanley: A Savage Little Tale of True Love, Old Gods, Bitches, Bestiality, Burnout, and Above All, Payback
This little book right here is the reason I sometimes am startled to find myself turning up on Alternative Porn Sites. I think it’s the “bestiality” in the title. Which is warranted, but it’s the sort of warm, fuzzy bestiality that sort of slips by, only later provoking a double-take and a “Whoa, did she really go there?” Why yes, this book does indeed go there. It’s a fun, unlikely story about a collection of characters who really should have mutual restraining orders–old gods, the born-again christians who try to Save them, self-described Babe Magnet and armchair explorer of the female psyche Weldon Frame, The Freak, Satan, the Whore of Babylon, the Coppess (body by Frigidaire) and some trucker in a Peterbilt and a gimme John Deere cap. It won a “best of the best e-books” award back in the day, and has continued to sell steadily ever since. Also, reviews keep popping up from time to time, so word on the street is that it’s still a fun, funky, “guilty pleasure” sort of book, ideal for anybody who has discovered that she’s been dating in the shallow end of the gene pool, decides to stop, and learns that sometimes things can get a little messy. But funny. Book clubs like this one. I think you will, too.
Reviews  Download FREE from November 24-28 (it’s always free to Amazon Prime members)

November 27-December 1 Good on Paper
Once upon a time, a king named David got the hots for a steamy little number named Bathsheba. Lucky for David, Mr. Bathsheba was busy being one of David’s best generals, so Bathsheba was home all by her lonesome…

See where this is heading? Of course you do.

So does Sarah Conrad, reluctant Bible scholar and unwilling paramour of televangelist Pastor Jimmy Jay Rayburn. It’s a destination she knows well. But the destination is only the beginning. Sarah doesn’t wind up sleeping with an aging “man of God” by accident. Eldest sister Elaine’s minister husband isn’t divorcing her on a whim. And middle sister Elizabeth doesn’t vanish in a fit of pique, leaving a dead dog, a roomful of blood, and Sarah and youngest Conrad DJ behind.

The Conrad children survive by keeping up appearances. But it costs them. When family patriarch Dan Conrad is diagnosed with terminal cancer and the children come home to help appearances are no longer enough, and tensions rise. When somebody winds up murdered the Conrads are forced to unravel their past in order to survive their present.

Set on a family farm in a fast-disappearing slice of America, Good on Paper is first and foremost a story in which to lose one’s self–readers consistently comment that they “couldn’t put it down.” But beyond that, the story raises questions. How do we determine who is “good?” How do we decide what is real? Do we respond to the victimization of others, and if so, how? How do we integrate a painful and abusive past into a vibrant and creative present and future? Above all, this story leaves readers wondering, with DJ Conrad, “…what it is about our family, our church, our society, that allows abusers to not only survive, but thrive.”

By turns infuriating, hilarious, magical, frightening, and lyrical, the Conrads’ story captures the paradox lying at the heart of abusive relationships, as well as the courage, honesty and humor that the Conrad children use to survive.

Tracing the Conrad children’s journey to healing and resolution makes for a powerful and haunting read, one that should appeal to a many, particularly those interested in understanding how the pain of an abusive past can become the fertile soil from which a rich, meaningful future can spring.

Reviews  Download FREE November 27-December 1 (it’s always free to Amazon Prime members)

So that’s what’s happening–don’t be shy about downloading, and if you like the books, we’d love it if you’d post a review or response on Amazon–or even write about it here! I’ll be reposting this from time to time, to just keep everybody updated on what’s going on, free-wise. Happy holidays!

Read Full Post »


It’s hard to know quite what to do with a headline like that. I wrote it, and realized it evoked images of Judgment Day, and in my case, the sorts of images that make me jump up and bump the AC setting down by about ten degrees. I thought of changing the title, but really, what else could I call this post? Past Lives, Reviewed is exactly what I’m going to be talking about. Yes, gentle readers, the little collection of short stories that grew out of my foray into past-life regression, the little collection that somehow leapfrogged my more ambitious memoir about being a single mother that has been trapped in the doldrums of Final Revisions for, lo, these many months … where was I?

Oh, yes. Past Lives: A Journey has been on Amazon for a few months now. There’s been absolutely no fanfare. I approved the final proof. It hit Amazon. I’m still waiting for the Kindle edition to get finished. That little book has just been sitting there quietly, waiting for me to get off my sit-upon and actually do some marketing, or at the very least a signing. Imagine my delight to discover that, in spite of my sloth, Past Lives has gotten its first review, and a very nice one it is, by one of my favorite writers, Marian Allen. You can learn more about her here. And you should. Go. But finish reading this first.

I mean, this is a woman who is entitled to an opinion. Here’s what she said:

To be fair, I think I would have given this five stars if the author hadn’t been so honest.

This book is a series of stories written in response to past-life regression exercises. As a matter of full disclosure, I hereby state that, although I bought the book, I did so because I had read a couple of the stories on Bodie’s blog, and knew they were beautiful.

Heartbreaking to joyful, it’s cleansing and healing to follow this writer’s journey through these vicarious (or allegorical?) explorations of experiences of one person’s oppression by another.

The experience and the catharsis are valid for persons of either gender, although the stories of “the woman in the red dress” speak most clearly to female readers.

Highly recommended. Oh–the problem with the honesty? I wanted more stories. I didn’t CARE if this was all there actually were in the set, I wasn’t ready for them to be over! Again: Highly recommended.

Thank you, Marian. Thank you ever so much.

Now, about the “more stories” thing. You’ll be pleased to know, Marian, that Benchmarks: A Single Mother’s Illustrated Journal should have cleared the last of the editing shoals and be ready to set sail by around the end of this week. It should be on Amazon by the end of next week. One of the reasons this book is taking so long is because I’ve made the decision to produce it in several ways in order to appeal to a broader audience. The illustrated version is the Cadillac of the series. It’s 8.5 x 8.5 inches, full color, and it includes numerous paintings done by yours truly. It’s truly lovely, but all that lovely carries with it a price. And in times like these I understand that it’s a price some might find prohibitive. So I’m also producing the book as a small, trade paperback, suitable for tucking into a purse, briefcase, or diaper bag—think of it as the Hyundai version. It doesn’t have all the lovely paintings, the rich color, and the abundant size, but it’s priced within just about anyone’s budget. And, since I’m finding that e-books are playing an increasingly significant role in my sales, I’m also going to be producing Benchmarks on Kindle, as well as in a color, graphic e-book format, if all goes well. These will be the razor skateboards of the group, so to speak.

But that’s not all. I’m also developing a line of related products through CafePress. The idea is to provide a number of sales alternatives designed to appeal to a broad range of readers. I can do this, of course, because I do my own design and because I make use of the online tools available. You should try it; it takes time, but very little money.

And since we’re being honest here, I should probably say that I had tucked a few more stories into Past Lives, but ultimately decided to remove them to preserve the integrity of the collection. Removed they may have been, but those stories have been neither discarded nor forgotten. I’m beginning work on a less exclusive collection of stories even now, one that I think will include “The Girl Who Could Fly,” and “The Fattest Woman in the World,” The story that provided the germ that is even now growing into my first Young Adult novel, The Flying Walinskis. When they’ll see the light of day I couldn’t possibly guess, since one of the things publishing has taught me is that everything takes longer than you expect, but it’ll happen. It’ll happen … it’ll happen … Stay tuned.

Read Full Post »


“All happy families are alike. Every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way”, says Tolstoy in the beginning of Anna Karenina. The same point is made nightly on the news: happy news doesn’t grip viewers like violent, frightening, or tragic coverage–preferably close to home. It follows, then, that an author who wishes to sell is well advised to choose a violent, frightening, or tragic subject.

When I began writing memoirs, I started out like many other people–I was writing to exorcise personal demons, to document my way through a dark and frightening land. I wrote thousands of pages of that journey.

And then I got pregnant, and everything went to hell. Or at least I thought so. But a funny thing happened on the way to Perdition. I kept having these wonderful, shining moments, moments that have come increasingly often as the years have passed.

When people learned I was a single mother the invariable reaction was a sympathetic face, and a pitying, “Oh, that’s so hard.”

But by then it didn’t feel hard. It felt scary sometimes, but mostly it good, and safe, and fulfilling and rewarding. I didn’t want to be rude, but accepting sympathy made me feel like a fraud. Yes, I faced hard times–but doesn’t every parent? Yes, single parenting carries its own set of challenges with it–but doesn’t any endeavor worth the effort?

I am not a fool. I watch the news. I read. I know that not every single parent’s experience is like mine. But neither is mine like theirs. And so I set aside the memoir that might “sell”–the story of sad, dark, and frightening times, and I chose to write my first memoir about something that quite likely will not sell–about my son and myself, and our boring, happy family.

The book doesn’t document every second of every day–or even every year. What it does document are the moments in our shared life that changed me–the moments when my son raised me, instead of the other way around. It holds those moments that I suppose most parents have, when they look at their children and feel grateful, awed, and humbled to have been chosen to share their lives.

It’s not all beer and skittles, of course. The challenges are there. But somehow it feels very right to have my first memoir be not about the pain and the dark, but about the joy of my life.

Read Full Post »


Things are very exciting around here. I’ve gotten my proofs back from the printer (it’s CreateSpace, so this also serves as my final proofreading/approvals copy) and the results are mixed. I’m producing this book in two formats, for two audiences. The first format is straight-up text; the second is an illustrated gift version. Why? Because I think it’s smart from a marketing point of view. The illustrated gift version is quite lovely (I’m including the cover below) but all that loveliness costs money. To capture the more penny-wise folks I’m producing a small, economical, text-only version, suitable for tucking into a purse (or a diaper bag).

I still have to get the proofreaders’ reports, but from a graphic standpoint the results are mixed. I really like the gift book cover; the economy model, not so much. So it’s back to the drawing board on that one. The nice thing is that it’ll only cost me the price of a proof (which I’ll need, anyhow, once I make my text changes). The cover on the small book just isn’t gelling for me. And that brings up a really, really good point. You. Cannot. Trust. Your. Monitor. Don’t ever, ever sign off on a print job without seeing a proof–and if it’s a color job, insist on a color-calibrated proof. This cover looked lovely and soft and elegant on my monitor. when I held it in my hand it just looked lame. So, now’s the time to fix it. The gift book version is working, so I’ll go with that look as the basis for the small book art.

The other thing I don’t like about the little book is that it’s not little enough. I set it at 8.5 x 5.5, which I thought would look small and cute. It doesn’t. It’s not big enough to make a statement, or small enough to be charming. It’s just lukewarm, fit only to be spewed out of my mouth. Or re-designed, in this case. Thank goodness this is a short book. I went back into the CreateSpace options and chose the smallest trim size they offer–it’s a bit over 5×7.5–and tweaked my copy to fit that. It’ll increase my page count slightly, and therefore my cost, but by judicious layout adjustments I’ve been able to pretty much hold the length. Here’s hoping the next proof comes out better.

Speaking of proofs, CreateSpace is offering a great new pilot program, and they invited me to participate. They now offer an option to waive your proof. This option should address one of my pet peeves with the CreateSpace system–that they don’t allow me to bleed certain types of graphics off the page. My proofs look pretty good; a few of the images were layered improperly, but I can see them in the proof, and have already fixed them. It’s now a million times easier than it was before, when I just got a terse little note telling me my whole book was unprintable, which left me cursing and trying to fix the problem by guess and by gosh.

So anyhow, it’s been a good, productive day, which brings me to marketing, which I plan to get locked down this weekend. I’m doing something special to market this book. Instead of just selling the book, I’ve developed a line of mom- and baby-related products on CafePress. I’ve put together a gift basket’s worth of samples–a maternity t-shirt, baby shirts, blankets, and hats, coffee mugs, birth announcements, shower announcements, a journal, thank-you notes–all sorts of things geared toward the expectant mom and her baby. Add the memoir, and it’s a gift tailor-made for single mothers and mothers-to-be. I’ve got another book in mind for the baby, but I won’t go into that now.

So, without further ado, here’s a peek at the impending book cover–a literary ultrasound, if you will:

Lord willing and the creek don’t rise, it’ll be out in the next month or so.

Read Full Post »


Standards are important. They let us know when we have achieved what we dreamed of doing, or if we’ve lost our way. The trip back from Portland with my cousin Jeffie reminded me of some of my earliest benchmarks, the standards against which I have measured all other things.

One of those firsts was the first time my Grandpa took me through the old road in the Columbia Gorge. As we drove the winding road through the moss-hung forests he told me about driving the road in trucks, about Celilo Falls, about Multnomah. And all the while the rain pattered on the car windows, dripped off the trees, and soaked the lichens growing on the pitted gray arches that guarded the steepest sections of road. The heater hummed, and I curled up on the back seat, warm and drowsy, as Grandpa’s voice went on and on, weaving a magic strong enough to last me the rest of my life.

I looked out at the rain-polished world and thought about how we were driving exactly where Grandpa used to drive. All that divided us were years. Now, I am startled to realize that when Grandpa told us his stories we were only about thirty years apart. More years now divide me from that day in the car than divided me from Grandpa in his truck. But never mind.

We passed a small stone house. Its windows glowed golden and glistened on falling droplets as we passed. I watched the house as long as I could, kneeling on the back seat, staring out the back window until a curve blocked its silent promise of a dry place by the fire.

That day, that road, and that house became benchmarks for me–the road a gateway to a mysterious realm, the house the ideal home for which I would strive, the day a symbol of a time when anything and everything was possible, as long as it was contained in my grandfather’s soft, rusty voice.

I have driven the old road many times in the years since then. The road has had its ups and downs. Sections have fallen into disrepair. Some have been restored. The small stone house stood empty and derelict for decades. But two days ago, when I drove the road again with Jeffie–who increasingly looks like Grandpa, even as I am coming to resemble Grandma–the rain still fell, the leaves and moss still shone as if they had been polished, even the asphalt looked like glass. And the house? The small house that became the standard by which I have since measured home? The house that stood forgotten, broken, and sad? Well, take a look. Someone has looked at it, saw what I saw, and gave it back to itself. The benchmarks hold firm.

(Thanks to Jeffie, who took these pictures while I drove.)

Read Full Post »

the BrainChancery

Or, "I Flew to Hong Kong And All I Got Was This Lousy Brain Tumor"

The Mighty Viking

Conquering those things we must, one story at a time

The Bipolar Bum

Backpacking and Bipolar II. Taking Manic Depression on tour.

WalkedThru

For You.

ascetic

Sergey Reta | Blog

Red Tash

Teller of Tales

immikecohen.wordpress.com/

"Cancer was the best thing that ever happened to me" - Mike Cohen

maggiemaeijustsaythis

through the darkness there is light

Sunny Sleevez

Sun Protection & Green Info

Holly Jahangiri

Notes Scribbled on an Old Planner

Fabulous Realms

Worlds of Fantasy, Folklore, Myth and Legend

Someone To Talk To

Just another WordPress.com site

Heidi M. Thomas

Author, Editor, Writing Teacher

Marian Allen's WEBLAHG

This, that, and a whole lot of the other

Beneath your Covers

Paranormal books & media review blog

Pat Bean's blog

Just another WordPress.com weblog

This Kid Reviews Books

A Place for Kids and Grown-Ups to Discover Books

%d bloggers like this: