Sunday, July 31, 2011

Leap Before You Look

 "You can’t be that kid standing at the top of the waterslide, overthinking it. You have to go down the chute." — Tina Fey


People often tell me that I am "fearless" and just seem to "go for it." But I happen to know that I am actually SOOOO much the kid standing up there, overthinking...and scared to death!!

Yet, I also know that the times in my life when I have just leapt, without looking or thinking, have turned out the best.

There was the time that we took the timeshare tour at Casa del Mar in Aruba, and spontaneously signed up to buy, pre-construction no less. We were so shaken by our act that we went straight to the bar and spent the afternoon soothing ourselves with rum and coconut libations. This spontaneous buying decision resulted in 20 years of wonderful vacations on Aruba, and in many of our happiest times and fondest memories.

There was the time we bought the old Victorian house in Maine and opened up an art gallery for my husband in the carriage house.  He was, then, a total unknown, and we had no clue whatsoever about running a gallery. Despite our staggering ignorance, we sold his paintings and my crafts and photographs. He developed a strong following for his art and we met tons of nice people.

Then, when we moved to Arizona, I wanted to do work that made me feel like I making a difference in the world. On a whim, I sent a note to a local pastor, letting him know I was available for .... anything. By chance, he was starting up a non-profit program that helped homebound seniors and their caregivers. Did I want to help, he asked?  Sure! I answered. I jumped in, and the next thing we knew, The Foothills Caring Corps was helping hundreds of people. This snap decision had another unexpected benefit - it also opened up my writing career. Over the next five years, I wrote more than 40 feature articles about aging and caregiving for national magazines.

When we moved to Santa Fe, I suddenly decided to take yoga teacher training. (I know, I'm starting to sound like someone who changes her mind a lot. Well, hey, it's a girl's perogative, right?) I googled "yoga teacher training, Santa Fe," and up came the name Tias Little. I didn't know until I showed up for the first day of training that Tias is something of a Big Deal in the global yoga community. So, I ended up taking yoga teacher training, here in my own town, with one of the top yoga teachers in the world.

Which brings us to the book. Earlier this year, I was pursuing the traditional path to publishing with my agent. We were only a couple of months into it, but already I was starting to think about self-publishing. In June, a few coinciding (but not coincidental) events occured, and overnight I decided to take the leap and publish on my own. Within a few weeks, the book creation process was underway and I was forging ahead with my marketing plan.

Then suddenly last week, I once again became the little girl at the top of the chute, overthinking. I thought, "What the heck am I doing??? I'm just a little kid, and this thing is too big for me!"

Then I took some deep breaths and reminded myself that, when I leap, I always do much better than when I think too much. Because of the other successful leaps I've taken, I've gained some faith that there will be a net to catch me. But that doesn't mean I'm not still scared...

Anyway, I've already leapt and I'm in mid-air now, so I couldn't turn back, even if I wanted to! And I'm not at all saying that I'm sorry I made this decision. I'm thrilled that the book will come into the world soon. I'm proud of it and proud of myself for leaping. But I'm still scared! Thank heavens I have my bloggy friends to keep me steady.

So, I'm curious, are you a leaper or a thinker? Or, like me, a little of both?

Sunday, July 24, 2011

My Mother's Tea Cups

Our house is for sale. It hasn't sold yet, but, with optimistic hearts, we are already packing up things we don't need to use daily. It's a bit like, "If you pack up, it will sell."

Yesterday I packed some things from my china cabinet. It's an antique, oak, with lovely carvings and curved glass sides. This cabinet is special to me for a few reasons: because it fulfills my childhood fantasies of having a gracious home filled with lovely things, because I bought it with the first big bonus I got working at UNUM insurance back in 1991, and because it holds my lovely treasures. Among those lovely treasures are dishes and glasses that belonged to my parents, delicate porcelain statues that I got in Quebec, and my mother's tea cups.

The tea cups and I have history. Growing up, we lived in a small modest Cape Cod style home. Our furniture was shabby and we didn't have many "lovely things." Hanging on the wall above our television, was a tea cup shelf. It held my mother's treasures - beautiful English bone china tea cups.

One day, for reasons I can't recall, I went behind the television. When I stood up, I bumped my head on the underside of the tea cup shelf, toppling it off the wall. The tea cups smashed to the floor.

I don't remember if they all broke, but some of them did. I'm sure Mom was devastated, though I don't remember being yelled at or punished. She probably did yell, and I probably was punished, but I really just remember breaking the tea cups.

After that, my brother and I bought Mom tea cups for just about every occasion. When my grandmother passed away, her collection was added in. Later, when Mom had Alzheimer's and Dad had a stroke, we packed up their house. I took the tea cups.

There are too many tea cups now even for my china closet. I've got some in a cupboard above the refrigerator, and my sister says there are still some in a box in her basement.

Mom passed away in March. She had Alzheimer's so long - the first signs showed more than 10 years ago. I grieved her loss all along the way as she disappeared into the disease. I guess I thought that perhaps it would be easier when she actually passed, because she had been gone so long. But it turns out that's not the case. So much of life is tied up in Moms and Dads and losing them is very primal. Even in middle age, we become their children again and we want our mommies and daddies. So yesterday, when I packed up some of Mom's tea cups, that was me.

Friday, July 22, 2011

BOOK REVIEW: Birthday Pie by Arthur Wooten

Description: When Lex Martindale, a New York City writer, goes home to celebrate his birthday and say goodbye to his dying father, he struggles with whether or not to share with his eccentric Southern family news of his own life-threatening situation. As we travel through seventy years of the Martindales’ rich and colorful history, unearthing forbidden loves, shattered hopes and tenacious dreams, we realize that this reunion is a volatile turning point in all of their lives. But as anger, resentments and jealousies erupt to the surface, it’s their laughter and irreverent sense of humor that prevails allowing for a quiet healing in this bittersweet, moving portrait, of the all-American family.

Review: Arthur Wooten is sneaky…. in the best possible way! Just when you’ve decided that Lex’s mother, former beauty queen Trudy Lee Martindale, is flaky and self-absorbed, that family matriarch Anastasia Battles is cruel narcissism personified, or that brother Roscoe is a shiftless dreamer (read: loser), you discover that there is much more to them than meets the eye.

But it’s the way that Wooten unveils his characters’ depth that makes him such an exceptional writer. In addition to having three successful novels, he is also a playwright, and playwrights depend heavily on dialogue to reveal character. Well, Wooten is masterful at fast-paced, witty dialogue that suddenly, unexpectedly, plunges through his characters’ facades and reveals their humanity. And, his dialogue provided me with some of the best laughs I’ve had in a long time – the severely-misinformed “birds and bees” conversation between young Mattie Lee and her friend Lowell had me hiccuping giggles for days.

Wooten is a story-teller extraordinaire. He can switch us from tears of laughter to tears of sorrow in a heartbeat. As the story progresses and each character’s backstory is revealed, we come to understand the secrets, heartbreaks, disappointments, traumas and tragedies that underlie their present day personas. The triumph of the Martindale family ultimately lies in each person’s ability to laugh, not only at each other, but at themselves, to forgive each others’ flaws and missteps, no matter how severe, and to love each other no matter what.

Wooten’s own buoyant humor and optimism shine through this book, even as some story lines remain – appropriately - unresolved, or unresolvable. It’s clear that he too, loves the Martindales, warts and all.

I highly recommend Birthday Pie as a cool treat to offset the summer heat and doldrums. The book is available on Amazon.com.
Visit Arthur Wooten’s website at www.arthurwooten.com

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Christmas in July

My new friend and delightful bloggini, Michelle Miller, hosts two blogs: The Christmas Spirit and The True Book Addict. She will kick off my book blog tour for The Christmas Village in late September. Michelle loves all-things-Christmas, and she also loves books, which makes us kindred spirits.  All this month she is doing "Christmas in July" on her Christmas Spirit blog, and today I have the guest post, "Why Miracle on 34th Street is My Favorite Christmas Movie."

Stop by and check it out on Michelle's blog at: http://christmasspirit-truebookaddict.blogspot.com/2011/07/christmas-in-july-guest-post-with.html

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Multiple Personalities

So I have this blog, where I hang out with my lovely bloggy friends and write about whatever floats my boat. Then I set up a different blog (don't go there, there's nothing interesting on it yet) as my Author Blog (capital letters :-). I want to keep this blog just as it's been, and have that one for ... author stuff, I guess. More like my web page than a blog.

And, I had a Facebook page - my personal FB page. Now I also have a Facebook page for me as an author, and a Facebook page for my book. And of course I have that Twitter thing going, but there's just one of me on there. Twitter is wild enough without having more than one identity...

I have usernames and passwords up the kazoo and I had to write them all down. Suddenly I feel like I have multiple personalities - wait, who am I now???

Anyone else feel that way?

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Lots of Progress and Going off the Grid

Whew! It was a busy week....but I can look in the rearview mirror and see lots accomplished and much underway with regard to publishing The Christmas Village. I'll share what I've been doing, in case it is helpful to others:

I had a design consultation with Createspace, and they are now working on setting up the beginning of the book through the first chapter so that I can review my font choices and the layout. They are also working on the first rough drawing for the illustrated cover. I should have a first look at both of these by early next week.

I WILL have a book signing at my hometown bookstore, The Andover Book Store. (See earlier blog: An Old-fashioned Bookstore.) It will be in November or early December to take best advantage of the book's Christmas backdrop and the holiday shopping season. They will carry the book and also include it in their email newsletter blast.

I decided to purchase a Blog Tour from the WOW-Women on Writing folks. They will find the right blogs to target those most likely to be interested in the book, and will organize the whole thing.

I would still like to have my own, less formal, blog tour, with you, my bloggi and bloggini friends.  The wonderful Michelle, who has two blogs - The Christmas Spirit and The True Book Addict, is going to kick off my tour with an interview in late September. Some of you have kindly offered to host something to help me out, and I would still like to chat with you about that. We can keep it simple - a guest post or even just a mention about the book is appreciated. If anyone would like to read the book in order to do a review, let me know and we'll talk about getting you a copy.

I've contacted a few indie bookstores about carrying the book, and will continue to work that aspect. I am not planning to go all over the place for signings this year, but some in New England - especially in Vermont, where my story takes place, would be doable.

And - this is really fun - my nephew John, who attends Columbia and just spent a semester in Prague studying film making, is going to make a video trailer for the book that we can put on youtube! How cool is that???

Lots of other things on my list, but those are the biggies.

So now I'm tired and I need a break! My dear friend, Irene, arrives tomorrow, and we are going up to Ojo Caliente (hot springs north of Santa Fe) for a Girlfriend's Getaway that includes lodging, a facial, a private pool and some free yoga. I'm leaving the laptop at home and plan to just veg out for a few days. I'll be soaking my bones in the hot mineral pools and being a lazy bum.

Hope all of you are well and I'll chat with you soon! While I'm gone, stop over to my husband's RVPainter blog and leave a comment - he gets lonely when I'm away! You can find him at http://rvpainter.blogspot.com/.

Plus he's funny, in a cranky sort of way. :-)

XOXO
Melissa

Friday, July 8, 2011

Summer of Smoke & a Prayer for the Planet

 One of the reasons Santa Fe, NM is a great place to live is because summers are so beautiful. A lot of people think that Santa Fe is in a hot desert, like Arizona. But it's high desert, surrounded by gorgeous mountains - the Jemez to the west and the Sangre de Cristos to the east. We have clearly distinguishable seasons, including winters with snow. Not tons of snow, but some snow.
 
Summers are spectacular. We boast, normally, over 300 days of sunshine a year. Blue, blue skies. Temperatures in the mid-80's. I'm originally a New England girl, and I describe summers here to my family back east this way: "Imagine that perfect New England summer day. Now, imagine having that day, every day, all summer long."

The Las Conchas fire near Los Alamos, NM

This summer is different. Like many parts of the country, we've been hotter than normal. But more than that, we've been smoky. First it was smoke from the huge wildfire in Arizona - we are talking about a fire that was raging a full day's drive away from here - yet thick smoke filled the air here in Santa Fe for over a week.

Then there was a fire in the Sangres to the east. We saw smoke from our house, and then one afternoon we saw actual flames shooting up. That fire was in a canyon, so for the flames to shoot so high that we could see them here, 30 or more miles away, above the treeline - well, I can't even imagine flames like that.

No sooner was that fire under control than the huge Las Conchas fire took over. This one is in the Jemez mountains to the west. They turned the fire away from Los Alamos (where the nuclear research lab is) and now it rages across sacred land of the Santa Clara Pueblo and has threatened Bandolier National Park, where there are pueblo ruins and petroglyphs. The smoke has hovered over Santa Fe, off and on, depending  on the direction of the wind each day.

They seem to be getting the fire under control now, and there is promise of a monsoonal system bringing rain from Arizona this weekend. Let's hope and pray.

Speaking of Arizona, that's where we lived before we moved here. They had a dust storm blow over the entire cities of Phoenix and Scottsdale this week - 50 miles wide and a mile high. Can you imagine this? A tsunami of dust rolling over cities.

No matter where you are, there is probably something - excessive heat, fire, dust storm, tornado, flood, oil spill. I can't help but feel that Mother Nature is very angry with us, and hurt by our callous treatment of her planet. I imagine that when her heart breaks, it explodes and becomes fire, that her sobs become the wind that swirls into a tornado or a duststorm or that fans the fire's flame, and that her tears swell the rivers and cause them to overflow their banks.

At the yoga studio where I work, we have taken to chanting this chant daily:

Lokah Somastah Sukino Bhavantu
(Low-ka Sam-as-ta Soo-keeno Bav-an-too)

The essence of its meaning is: "May all beings in all realms experience joy." The chant is intended to send love and protection to the plants and the animals and the earth, and yes, to us humans too. I hope you'll chant it with me.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Tweet Tweet

Yes, that day has come. I have finally figured out this twitter thingy-jiggy. Turns out it's not so bad. It's just like everything else, getting started is the hardest part.

So there I am on twitter as @GoodwinMelissa. Mind you,  I don't plan to tweet all the time. But I enjoy seeing what people say, and I like being able to support what others are up to - especially fellow writers. I've tweeted about Karen Walker's book and about Arthur Wooten's book. It feels self-conscious at first until you realize that people are quite nice and quite appreciative, and some are actually paying attention! Sure there are lots of people tweeting incessantly about God knows what, but you can just ignore it. So it's not such a scary place after all.

I am not following Ashton Kutcher or Charlie Sheen. Or the Kardashians. :-) I am mostly following folks with whom I share some common interest - writing, books, reading, art, children's literature, publishing.

What I am doing now is going down through my blog list and "following on twitter" any of you who are on there. I'm only part-way through my list, so if I haven't found you yet, I will. So, you might keep an eye out to see me showing up as your twitter follower, and if the spirit moves you, you might follow me back. I'll keep an eye out for you too!

find me at @GoodwinMelissa tweet tweet!

Sunday, July 3, 2011

How do I Do a Blog Tour?

Hello dear friends! I need your help...

So my book will be available this fall, probably in September. I need to do a blog tour throughout the fall, but I have to confess I'm not really sure how to go about this. Is it as simple as asking my blogger friends to host me in some way on their blog, with an interview, or a plug for the book, or a guest post?

I'm new to this, so I could use a little help from my friends.

Guidance and advice, anyone?

Many thanks!