Showing posts with label death. Show all posts
Showing posts with label death. Show all posts

Monday, June 10, 2024

Getting Published


Chapter 25

Getting Published

I loved the publisher of my Hawaiian book, The Frog's Song. While she was doing a line-by-line edit, we got to know each other. That she published the book was an honor. I'm sorry it didn't make both of us rich.

 One must note, though, not as an excuse, but as a fact that first books rarely hit a home run on the first try. I have noticed, however, that if I give the book to someone, they like it and give it to someone else. That pleases me, but it bypasses both the publisher and me. And the publisher is disappointed that it didn't sell well. Me, too.

 If it had a subtitle, perhaps One Year off the Grid on a Tropical Island, people wouldn't mistake The Frog's Song for a children's book.

When we moved to Temecula, California, we gradually regained the confidence we had lost in Hawaii. We felt something odd there, often felt lost, and longed for home. 

 Strangely, the ache in our hearts, (DD's and mine) lingered in California. DD and I would drive to a beach where pelicans flew up and down the coast in groupings of twelve or so. And when they glided overhead, I felt a definite lift of energy. They slowly flew down the beach and then gradually returned over our heads again. When I looked up, I could see fluttering fringe on their wing tips.

We performed clearing ceremonies at the water's edge to rid ourselves of the heaviness we were carrying. We were confused about what we had encountered there, how we felt "Called," and then felt we must leave. Undoubtedly, negative energy existed there. It depended on where you were. On the Kona side of the Island, it was light and fun. Not so in Hilo.

 We wrote "Goodbye Hawaii" and whatever else we wanted rid of on rocks and threw them into the sea. 

 In Temecula, Neil worked on a project with a fellow he had worked with earlier when we lived in California. And Neil was available to do Clinicals on their current optical instrument.

 We were there for two years until the project was shelved. Neil contacted a Microscope company in Eugene he knew of and got a job there. Thus, we arrived back where we started. It was good. We were close to our first-born daughter, her husband, and my eldest grandson. 

 But Hawaii was where Coqui frogs sang us to sleep at night. And then, when we rented a house in Junction City, Oregon, we heard the not-so-melodious singing of bullfrogs at night.

 "Frog sings the songs that bring the rain and make the road dirt more bearable."

  --Medicine Cards, by Jamie Sams & David Carson, Illustrations by Angela Werneke.

 One Literary Agent told me he hated the Coqui frogs of Hawaii. Hated? That's a strong word for a frog no larger than a thumbnail. The Coquis don't croak. They sing their own name and don't harm anything—except in large numbers, they can keep some people awake at night. They eat bugs and insects, and their singing is to call a mate. They were accidentally imported from Cuba on plants—some residents don't like imports. 

 Temecula was an excellent location to drive to the beach, LA, Disneyland, and Las Vegas. In Las Vegas, DD and I discovered Mandalay Bay's Lazy River. What fun, a quarter mile-long swimming pool that ran in a loop with a current that would push you along. It was perfect for a two-year-old to ride on mom's or grandma's back and dip under waterfalls.  

 The Temecula location allowed us to visit my friend Sylvia from our college days, and her husband, Greg. Sylvia and I connected in a Spanish class at UCR, remained friends, and kept in touch no matter where we were. Sylvia loved to travel and often visited us in Oregon. Our stay in California allowed us to visit and restaurant hop. Who wanted to cook at that stage? Sylvia once rented a bungalow at the Winery, where they had excellent food and view of a glorious countryside.

 I treasured a long metaphysical talk with Greg, Sylvia's husband, while Sylvia pretended to be my grandson's second Grandma.

 DD found our Temecula house when she and her son traveled from Hawaii on a house-hunting mission.

 Earlier on, we had looked around the LA, Burbank, and Pasadena areas where DD had considered getting a job. She chose Temecula, a central place and a lovely house, and we rented it from a nice man who would allow our two dogs and two cats. A 150-pound dog is a problem for landlords who don't know and wouldn't believe that Bear was the gentlest dog who never damaged anything. He was much safer than a little twenty-five-pound dog.

 Newfoundland dogs, so I’ve heard, are natural babysitters. Wendy's dog in Peter Pan was Newfoundland. In Hawaii, Bear placed himself between the baby, walking by then, and the neighbor's Doberman, barking that Doberman bark that can curdle your blood. The Doberman must have thought we were invading his territory, for we were right over his fence line. However, he was invading ours. The neighbors rescued us and kept their Doberman home after that. 

 I wondered why many Hawaiians feared dogs until I found that many had macho or hunting dogs. When I took my little poodle, Peaches, with me, people went gaa gaa over her.

 The Temecula house was on three acres containing a grapefruit orchard the owner didn't tend. Later, he started a turkey and chicken farm on site, but out of sight from the house. When the birds came, I offered to feed his flock, as I was experienced with chickens, and he agreed to give me the job plus a reduction in the rent.  

 The turkeys became accustomed to my voice and would gobble when I called out to them. Coyotes killed many turkeys until the owner shored up the fence sufficiently. However, some mornings, I would still find a headless turkey who got too inquisitive about who was marauding their fence line. 

 One day, from the front yard, I watched a machine prune the orchard across the street. They used a humongous device with a giant blade that cut the sides of the trees while traveling down a row. Coming back down the row, it cut the other side. Finally, the blade rotated to a horizontal position and cut the tree’s tops. The result? Square trees.

 The property was at the top of a long sweeping hill from town, and on the slope, vineyards stretched out in rows green with summer foliage. Wineries along the highway offered fabulous brunches, and from our house in the fresh morning hours, we would watch colorful hot air balloons drift lazily on the air currents. 

 As twilight fell on our Temecula home one evening, Little Boy Darling, somewhere between the ages of two and three, looked up through the Eucalyptus tree branches and said, "It's making a net for the moon." A poet in the making.

 As was my habit, I often went out in the truck to write. One Temecula morning, with Peaches by my side, we happened upon a hot air balloon lying on the ground slowly deflating while being held down by two men holding long ropes.

 I could see through the opening at the bottom of the balloon to its top, where it had another hole and a closable flap. The air was streaming through the balloon and out that hole, slowly deflating it. Presently, from over the ridge came a man riding a horse with a dog loping along beside them. The dog trotted up to the men holding the balloon, then padded on doggy feet from one man to the other, gathering loving scratches.

 The men chatted a bit, and then the man on his horse with the dog trailing him disappeared back over the ridge.

The men continued their job, and when the balloon was flat on the ground, they rolled it into a ball, stuffed it into the wicker gondola that was once filled with adventuring people, and loaded it into their pickup. 

I thought of Greg, Sylvia's husband, who died last week.



It's Up to Us



Sunday, September 24, 2023

Conversation Under The Maple # 6


"Potato skins,” said Harvey, coming from the kitchen where he had heated his treats under the broiler. "Red potatoes from Liz with cheese, green onion, and sour cream to dip. And Ollie, there is a bag of potatoes on your counter for you to make the potato salad for next Sunday. The kids agreed to come since I set the date and didn't give them a choice. They'll be driving down from Seattle and Portland."


"Great, Harvey," said Ollie, "you guys are so creative with the snacks. Is this a competition?"


"For me, it was a slam dunk. I used the inside of the potatoes for hash browns."


Everyone dived in. 


"Yum, these are perfect, Harvey, thanks," says Sally.


After everyone had eaten a stuffed potato skin and settled into their seats with a drink, Twinkie pulled a canvas bag from beneath her seat. "Ollie, I brought you something." She pulled a 6-inch glass orb from the canvas bag. "It's a fishing net float I made last Saturday, primitive by professional standards, but my first piece worth sharing." She held it out to Ollie. "It’s for inviting us into your lovely home. And for being the gracious hostess, you are."


"Oh my, Twinkie," says Ollie, gently taking the glass ball. "It's beautiful. Your blues and greens are exquisite," she turned it around in her hand, "and there's a bit of purple, "How'd you do that? You are an artist! I see there's a little loop. I will hang it in my kitchen window. Thank you so much. I am honored." 


Ollie swishes her white caftan aside, and with her gold dangling earrings flashing in the sunlight, she sits the glass ball in the center of the table. "Simad," she says, "We sent you off with little help last week."


"Truth be told, I ran off because I was embarrassed. I was complaining."


"No, Simad, you told us how you felt," Ollie explained. "That's different from complaining. As much as we would like it, life isn't always rosy. Our experiences are what they are. Remember, we're here to support and encourage."


"Then figure out what in the hell is wrong with me."


"You know what?" says Shal, "Stuckness like you are having means you are onto something big."


"You think so?"


"Well, the closer you are to the truth, the more the monster resistance will jump on you. It's inescapable. It is always there. It is not your fault. You can't kill it."


"Whoa, that's encouraging."


"But you can trick it."


"Shal, where do you get these things?"


"Well, for one, I read Steven Pressfield's Do the Work. One exercise is this: He took it from Patrica Ryan Madson's book Improv Wisdom. Madson was an Impro teacher at Stanford, and one of her exercises was this: Imagine you have a box. What's inside? You open it, and there is a frog, a book, or a clock inside. No matter how many times you open the box, something will always be inside. 


"Pressfield wrote, 'I believe with unshakable faith that there will always be something in the box. Ask me about my religion? That's it. That's how I approach my work. My brain will always give me an answer.' Guys," says Shal, "that's my religion, too."


Simad was silent thoughtful, one hand stroked his chin. 


Ollie said: "Why did you start writing in the first place, Simad?"


"I felt it had me by the neck and wouldn't let go. I had to do it."


"Did you love doing it?"


"Oh yes, I'm in the zone when words are flowing. I'm out of the zone when the words all bump into each other like a train wreck. That's where I am now."


"So, says Twinkie, you do it out of love."


“I suppose so, yes, I love doing it. It feeds me. Is that being egocentric?"


"Who cares, "says Shal. "You must be somewhat egocentric to do any art. It's putting your heart out to be shot at."


"Is that troubling you, Simad? You're afraid of being selfish?"


"Well, there's an aspect to it."


"Give it up, dear one. Do you think Beethoven was worried about his ego?" Ollie says.


"Maybe. He was human."


"Yeah, but he did it anyway, even deaf. Imagine that. He must have heard all that music in his head, and it was roaring to get out."


"But I'm not a Beethoven."


"Nope, he's been done, and you don't want to be deaf anyway. I bet you have words roaring to get out." 


"I do. It's the deadline that has me tied in knots."


"Ah, the ole, I'm not good enough ploy—the pressure. Or maybe you're afraid of being shot at. Get back to the joy of it. That's the reason you want to write. There is always a little something we must pony up to when fulfilling our dream. There is always an aspect to it we don't like. And you have a publisher wanting it. Many people would go into poverty for that."


"I'm into poverty already. This is my first novel. My last book was non-fiction. I'm not supporting myself with it."


"You're making excuses," says Ollie, "Get back onto the joy of it. Do you have your ending?"


"That's part of the problem."


"Let your protagonist write her own ending. You don't have to do everything for her."


Simad laughs. "I'm curious to see what she comes up with."


"Me too. Hurry and finish so I can read it. I'm tired of your lolly-gagging. Even if you don't know what to write, your fingers should move on that keyboard. Write "crap, crap, crap***" until something emerges." Ollie fills her cup as though for emphasis.


"And," says Twinkie, "You still have your hearing."


"Yeah, if I didn’t I wouldn't hear all this advice. Or know to love you guys because you want to help me."


"And stop worrying about being perfect. That'll kill you. Just get 'er done," said Sally. "When we were on vacation, my kids got their best shopping done in the last 15 minutes. There was something about the urgency of it."


"But Sally, Chefs are notorious for being a perfectionist. What do you do if a dish isn't perfect?"


"I throw it in the garbage and start over. I do have a deadline—a customer waiting for their food. I don't cook all that much, though. I give the recipes to my cooks, and they do it. I'm not looking for a Michelin star. I'm a cook, not a Chef. I'm more like Julia Childs: a pinch of this, a dob of that, pour in some red wine, eat, enjoy."


"How did you get so blasé about your art, Sally?"


"I'm not having a heart attack over a plate of spaghetti. Oh, I'm sorry, Harvey."


"No problem. Liz couldn't cook worth a darn. She loved to garden, though. You figure."


"So, she died doing what she loved. We should all be so lucky." Twinkie says, "I don't mean to be disrespectful, Harvey."


"It's good that you are disrespectful about death, for there isn't any. People live on, just not here. It's the person to hold and to love I miss. We had our ups and downs in marriage but were always committed to working it out. She was my best friend and my lover. I looked forward to coming home every day."


"We came together to expand our spiritual journey, Harvey. Thanks for sharing that." Ollie says. "Simad, I suggest you write for about 15 minutes outside your manuscript. Write out the crap. Or run around the block. Or clean house. By the way, do you have dishes in the sink?"




"Wash them as soon as you get home, and your block will disappear."


"Is this like paying for warts to make them go away?"




"I'll do it. In fact, I'm excited. I'll wash the dishes, then dive into my novel. I'll pretend I'm shopping those last 15 minutes before boarding the plane for home.


Shal pipes up, "Homer began both the Iliad and the Odyssey with a prayer to the Muse. He knew his best work came from some invisible source he could not control. He could only invoke it."


"I will let my characters get what they have been wanting all along.," says Simad. "I believe I was afraid to write "The End,' although writing 'The End' is passe' now."


"Yeah, Simad," says Shal, "just finish the damn thing. Be cocky enough to believe you can do it."


"I will."


"One more thing," said Shal, "Oscar Wilde said. He always passed on good advice. It is the only thing to do with it, he said. "It is never of any use to oneself."


"Here, here," said Harvey, chuckling, and hoisting himself out of his chair. "I'll heat up the rest of the potato skins."



P.S.You can find all the conversations on Substack, plus a little extra in between. 


Jewell D's Substack