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Welcome…

BetweenHereAndGone_coverLARGEWell hi there!

Just to get you started, here’s a little FYI on what you’ll find find around these parts. There’s the obligatory About me page where you find out all my deep dark secrets. (Not really, but you do at least find out whether I love milk or dark chocolate. And what my friends think of me.)

Of course, if you’re here for the books, you’ll get information on When the Stars Go Blue (St. Martin’s Griffin/2010), winner of BEST YOUNG ADULT NOVEL: 2011 INTERNATIONAL LATINO BOOK AWARDS, as well as info on my previous novels, Adiós to My Old Life,  It’s Not About the Accent, and Both Sides Now. Also, in coming weeks, I’ll be adding more information about the story to which Publisher’s Weekly gave a starred review, calling it a, “lush portrayal of a joyful, painful, complicated life,” Between Here and Gone coming from Diversion Books on January 12th, 2016.

READ THE FIRST CHAPTER HERE

I can also be found on TwitterFacebook, and Instagram so there are various and sundry ways with which to keep up with me. So please, give me a holler- I do enjoy connecting with people. In the meantime, look around and feel to comment if the spirit moves.

 

Barb

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Photo credit: Adam Emperor Southard

“If your book was going to be a movie…”

“…who do you see in the roles?”

We’re often asked this—or some variation, like, “Do you cast your books as you’re writing?”

Truth?

Some writers do—some don’t. I happen to fall in the camp of casting the roles as I’m writing. I’m so very visual, it helps me to have a touchstone of sorts, as I’m writing. If I need to come up with a physical tic or go into particular detail about how light plays across features or the myriad of shades eyes can contain. I use a photograph or film clip as a springboard and then my character has a tendency to blossom from there and become their own person.

When I was asked this question about Between Here and Gone, however, I came up against a bit of a conundrum. Y’see, I first started working on BHAG in 2007 (ironically, the same year Mad Men premiered), yet the book wasn’t published until January 2016. Yes, that’s a lonnnnnng time. And with respect to the casting question, it rendered some of my original selections…obsolete, as it were.

So I decided I would give you a Then vs Now comparison of my primary players. So without further ado…

Natalia/Natalie

Then: Rachel Weisz

Now: Dominik García-Lorido

Back then, I wasn’t thinking beyond the sort of look I wanted for Natalia. Dark hair, but not black, fair skin, light eyes or if they were brown, more of the hazel variety. In other words, not unlike the majority of the Cuban girls I’d grown up around. So yes, Rachel’s British, but she embodied the period look and the vulnerable strength I envisioned for Natalia. Fast forward to now and I have Dominik García-Lorido. Andy García’s daughter and an accomplished actress in her own right. And she’s done the period thing, having appeared in Magic City.


Jack

Then: Jack Davenport

Now: JJ Feild

It would appear I have a thing for British actors. It’s not intentional (okay, maybe it is). But in this case, since Jack is as WASP as WASP gets, British—not so far off the mark.

At the time I used him for my model for Book Jack, Jack Davenport was already edging on too mature—nearly nine years on and he definitely is, although one could possibly argue that Book Jack is definitely old beyond his years and they wouldn’t be wrong. However, there are many delicious options these days and how could I go wrong with JJ Feild? He has the elegant reserve I would expect Jack to have, yet also has a raffish, can-let-down-his-hair charm that’s also necessary to the character, and we already know he can do character out the wazoo.. And to those who do a double take when they see JJ and go, “Why didn’t you just go with Hiddles?” well… Tom Hiddleston is so very Hiddles, that I actually had a hard time looking beyond his very Hiddlesness. (Is too a word!)

Ava

Then: Kate Winslet

Now: Evan Rachel Wood

Kate would have been brilliant. Actually, Kate is so brilliant, she’d still be brilliant. But Ava is the consummate narcissistic character who is on the verge of turning thirty and Kate, God love her, looks precisely as a 40-year-old woman should. Hence, a currently closer to Ava’s actual age actor which brings us to Evan Rachel Wood. Both women are spectacularly gorgeous and have the requisite acting chops to pull off batshit crazycakes.

Remy

Then: Nacho Figueras

Now: Sebastian Stan/Lee Pace

Remy has always proven to be difficult for me. In a way, he was the easiest character to write without having a visual reference, since has so visceral in so many other ways. The closest I came back then to having a physical model for him was Argentinian polo player (and Ralph Lauren model) Nacho Figueras, but even he didn’t seem quite right. These days, I vacillate between Sebastian Stan and Lee Pace, with Lee just edging out Sebastian. Mostly. Kind of. Ask me tomorrow…

Dante

Then: Leonardo DiCaprio

Now: Dominic Cooper

Back then, Leo was an obvious choice because a) envisioning him and Kate Winslet as Dante and Ava was absurdly easy and b) it’s the sort of role I could just see him in. Still true today, however, I must admit, I can just as easily see Dominic Cooper, based in no small part (ain’t lyin’) on his portrayal of Howard Stark. He speaks and I can just hear Dante. (I know, I know…I’m dipping into the Marvel well quite a bit. It’s not intentional.)

Bonus: Leo and Kate as I would imagine Dante and Ava.

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Greg & Constance

Then: ??

Now: Greg Kinnear and Emma Thompson

Yep. It’s true. I had no visual markers for either Greg or Constance. But when asked about it now, it seems a no-brainer. I love Greg Kinnear and think he can totally pull off the well-bred wise-assedness of Greg and as far as I’m concerned, Emma is divine in pretty much everything. I can totally see her utterly embodying Constance’s warmth and intelligence and inherent kindness.

 

So there you have it. My take on who I see in these roles. If you’ve read the book and have your own thoughts, let me know! I’d love to know how readers see these characters.

One of the most consistent comments/compliments I’ve received on Between Here and Gone is what a striking and lovely cover it has. And looking at it, you can’t imagine the book with any other cover, can you? It just so perfectly captures the essence of the story. BetweenHereAndGone_coverLARGEWith one glance you know it’s a female-centric period piece, likely involving a journey, whether metaphorical or literal (or in the case of BHAG, both). One would think it was easy to arrive at this cover and yes, once we found the perfect image, it was. Getting there, however…

Lemme ‘splain.

As many of you are aware, Between Here and Gone began its publication life on Wattpad, the online publishing platform that allows writers of all stripes to post their work. At that time, BHAG had been out on the submission rounds, had received many rejections, some decent feedback, and I was absolutely convinced it was never going to see the light of traditional publishing day. But I didn’t want what I felt was a good story languishing on my hard drive so I decided to perform an experiment. I would revise, based on the notes I’d received in rejection letters, and post the story, a chapter a day, on Wattpad, and see what sort of response it could garner.

So I set up my profile, prepared the first chapter to load, and…well, I needed a cover, didn’t I? Something that would give readers a hint of what they were getting, yeah? I’m no graphic artist, but I figured I could throw something reasonably decent together with the tools at hand. I scoured the internet for appropriate pictures, played with layouts in, of all things, the iPhoto card program, and came up with this:

BH&G1

Pretty, innit? I loved the wistful expression on the model’s face and the dreaminess of the background. The title font I was less fond of, but given I was working with limited options, it was sufficient. It was elegant and readable and didn’t distract from the overall effect.

Flash forward almost three years later. Between Here and Gone had sold to Diversion Books and we needed a cover. Both Marketing and Design loved my Wattpad cover and wanted to know if they could use it as a springboard for the new cover. (I mean, really, it is a gorgeous image, isn’t it?)

One teeny, tiny problem, however.

The image I’d used, which I had thought was an out-of-copyright image from the annals of Look magazine, was in fact, not. Umm… whoops? And when I contacted the art gallery that owned the rights to the image about the cost to acquire usage, they never even responded to me.

Double whoops.

So we had to start from scratch.

No problem, right? I provided the Diversion team with a slew of images of the sort I could imagine working for the cover. I knew I wanted a female-centric cover and one that conveyed travel or adventure or movement. After all, Natalia and her journey are the absolute emotional center of this book, with the time period setting the background for the events.

Time passes—we get the first prototype.

Between Here and Gone_coverpreview

It was…not right. Mind you, I can see exactly what the designer was going for and I can’t say that it was a bad idea, but its execution was all wrong for the tone of the book. The bright colors and cartoon-like graphics suggested a light, classic-era Shopaholic-style chick lit, rather than a more dramatic women’s fiction/coming-of-age story. And certainly, nothing, other than perhaps the shape of the glasses, suggested the time period. Certainly not the font—and if you discount the importance of the correct font, just take a look at titles like Stewart O’Nan’s West of Sunset or Helen Simonson’s  The Summer Before the War. 51btTR4u4eL._SX324_BO1,204,203,200_
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One glance and you have an immediate sense of the when of the time period. Even if you can’t pin it exactly, you know it not to be contemporary. Of course, the graphics aid considerably, but the font supports the graphics. In the case of the first BHAG cover, the font didn’t do much to support the graphic or the story. It was serviceable enough, but like the cover itself, not right.

TL;DR It didn’t work. Armed with constructive critique that the colors and images needed to be a bit more period/locale specific, the cover designer returned to the drawing board.

And lo, we got Cover 2.0:

Between Here and Gone_preview2

Well, then. We were on the right track. I did love the color scheme. And the geometric graphics definitely had a mod 60s sort of vibe to them. I liked the idea of the NYC skyline although I was a bit disconcerted by the visual of One World Trade Center—but I knew that was something that could be dealt with in production.

Unfortunately, however, the legs threw me for a loop. I know the image was supposed to convey the sense of walking (the motion I had requested), but just having disembodied legs didn’t work for me (and the fashion hound in me felt that the shoes gave more of a 30s vibe than 60s). And while a period font might have made a strong argument to support of the cover, the one used was again, nice, but somewhat generic and unremarkable.

By this point, I was concerned the designer and the team in general wanted to strangle me, but I knew in my gut we needed the perfect cover for this book and moreover, that the perfect cover was out there waiting to be created.

Luckily, the Diversion team was exceedingly patient and tolerant with me and once again allowed me input into what I thought would make the perfect cover. So I set to work, searching out images and cover examples—finally, I stumbled across a stock photoset that seemed to capture everything I was looking for. On a wing and a prayer, I emailed off the links and…they loved them. A few weeks later, I received these:

Needless to say, I lost my tiny little mind with excitement. Here was the cover I’d been longing for—two of them, in fact! Now, to choose. While I loved the font on the all-turquoise cover and liked that you could see more of the car, it was the coral/turquoise ombré shaded cover that whispered, “Me. Pick me. I’m the right cover.”

And it was. I loved that the young woman was the focus of the cover. That she was staring off into the distance, whether it was looking back to where she’d been or looking forward to where she was going, who knew? It was up for interpretation. I loved that while her expression was wistful, there was still a focus and determination about her. And I loved that you got a distinct sense of the when of the piece. It didn’t have to be exact, but it was enough for the reader to be able to ascertain that yes, this is a mid-20th century set story.

It was perfect.

And judging by the reactions I’ve received since it was revealed back in October, you all think it’s perfect, too.

Let me just thank the Diversion Team and my wonderful, wonderful cover designer again for their patience and for allowing me to be such a big part of the process. Most authors, we’re never given that gift and to have had it, for a book that means so much to me, defies words, really.

 

Between Here and Gone is on sale now!

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A STARRED review for BETWEEN HERE AND GONE!

So yesterday, I found out this happened:

PW Review_BHAG

What this is, is a starred review from Publisher’s Weekly for Between Here and Gone. Only my second review ever from PW and my first ever starred review. To say it was unexpected would be understating it. To say I’m BetweenHereAndGone_coverLARGEthrilled would definitely  be understating it. There are so many great things about this review, but I think my favorite has to be this quote: “Ferrer (Both Sides Now) has created a story that’s breathtaking in its scope, and a heroine whose strength will leave readers in awe.”

*insert pleased giggle*

If you’d like to be introduced to Natalia/Natalie, my lovely heroine, you can read the first chapter HERE.

And if you enjoy what you read and want to have the rest the minute it’s available, you can preorder HERE or just click on the book cover. (And isn’t it a pretty cover?)

Remember, BETWEEN HERE AND GONE will be released on January 12, 2016, from Diversion Books, so go forth and pre-order. It makes authors’ holiday seasons merry and bright!

So a long, long time ago (okay, three years), in a galaxy far, far away (well…Wattpad) I put up the first chapter of a manuscript I loved an awful lot, but which I thought had no chance in hell of being traditionally published.BetweenHereAndGone_coverLARGE

I had no real audience or platform, and the genre wasn’t one that lent itself well to self-publishing so that wasn’t a viable option. But I was tired of having stories I knew were good sitting under my metaphorical bed. I’d seen other already-published authors use Wattpad to share excerpts or stories they loved with their readers as well as just starting out authors use Wattpad as a sort of informal publishing platform, so I figured, “Why not?”

I also figured maybe about sixteen people would read it, but hey—that’s sixteen more people than who would have seen it had it stayed safely tucked away on my hard drive.

I posted a chapter a day for the next month. Slowly, readers started finding it. And by the time all was said and done, BETWEEN HERE AND GONE had nearly 300,000 views. Paltry by some genre standards, but for a sort of women’s fiction/coming-of-age/culturally specific/mid-century modern set story? Might as well have been an entire universe.

I’m pretty much of the opinion that having the story up on Wattpad and having all those views is what ultimately brought BH&G to the attention of Diversion Books. (Well, that and an agent who just will not give up, bless her stubborn heart.)

And now, on January 12th, 2016, BETWEEN HERE AND GONE will be published, with its beautiful new cover. But in the meantime, we’re going back to our roots as it were, and with my publisher’s blessings, I’ve posted the edited first chapter—which is now the Prologue and I can hear Jenny Crusie swearing at me from Ohio. (Sorry, Jenny—that was one edict that needed to be broken.)

To get to the Prologue, you can either click on the cover (SHINY!) or Right Here.

As a writer, one of the most common questions I get—if not the most common question—is “Where do you get your ideas?”

Those of you who follow me on social media know I have a habit of posting outrageous/interesting/sometimes horrifying news articles with a sub-title of Writers Are Such Ghouls, Part…

Generally followed up with some commentary along the lines of “If I ever submitted anything like this to an editor, it would get rejected because it’s just that unbelievable.”

But as most of us know, sometimes, life really is too unbelievable. And oftentimes, art skirts uncomfortably close to the truth. Both sentiments I encountered a great deal over the course of submitting BOTH SIDES NOW. It’s no great secret that book had a very long road to publication, most of the rejections consisting of “This is beautifully written but…” and from there you could insert variations on a theme of “It’s difficult to believe something like this could actually happen.”

Sometimes the “this” had to do with the idea that the spouses of cancer patients could fall into a comrades-under-fire affair (ironically, a story element I got from an actual news article), but just as often, the “this” referred to the fact that a marriage could very nearly fall apart, stretched to the breaking point by a cancer diagnosis and subsequent treatments. I think we, as a society, have these romanticized ideals of what it’s like to Deal With A Deadly Disease—a trend I suspect may have begun with publication of Erich Segal’s LOVE STORY (and we won’t even talk about the movie version—oy!). There’s this idea that the sufferer must, you know, suffer bravely, yet quietly and elegantly, and the spouse/caretaker must Gracefully Bear Up Under Pressure.

Yeah…not so much.

When I wrote BOTH SIDES NOW, I wanted to not only write Nick and Libby’s stories as the so-called “healthy ones” in their respective marriages, but I also wanted to show snapshots of how two very different relationships dealt with the intrusion of this horrific disease and how it has a way of utterly upending everything you know. To that end, I read—a lot. I spoke to a lot of people, especially nurses, about what they saw and experienced. And in the end, I tried to craft a story that wasn’t particularly glamorous or sexy, but that was human.

And yet, I got “This is kind of unbelievable…” responses.

Then days like today roll around, where I’m lazily perusing headlines as I have my second cup of coffee (See: Writers Are Such Ghouls, Part…)  and very nearly do a comical spit-take over a decidedly not comical moment. Because today, I saw this headline:

Amy Robach and Andrew Shue: Cancer Nearly Destroyed Our Marriage

Amy Robach is a Good Morning America anchor who, a few years ago, underwent a mammogram screening on-air as part of GMA’S October Pink Initiative. Because of that screening, she discovered she had breast cancer, underwent a bilateral mastectomy, and several debilitating rounds of chemotherapy. At the same time, she was newly married to actor Andrew Shue. To say that all hell would broke loose would apparently be putting it mildly. (See: Headline above.)5105h7hlSTL._SX327_BO1,204,203,200_

Now Amy has written a memoir called BETTER in which she describes her experience with breast cancer, from the decision to undergo her first mammogram in such a public fashion to how it affected her children and yes, her marriage. How it very nearly fell apart and how they painstakingly put it back together.

For me, it was like bringing everything full circle. I was inspired to write BOTH SIDES NOW in part because many years ago I read an article about a young woman who’d been diagnosed with breast cancer less than a year after her wedding. The strain on her marriage was such that she offered her husband an alternative—she gave him permission to have an affair if necessary, to find physical and emotional comfort with someone else while she worked on putting herself back together. He didn’t take her up on the offer, but their story stayed with me. And served as the spark of “What if…?” that serves as inspiration for so many writers.

Then I got told how unbelievable it was. Until I found the editor who found it believable.

I’ve had readers tell me it’s kind of unbelievable. I’ve also had readers tell me it’s most assuredly believable.

And then I saw that headline. And had Amy Robach and Andrew Shue tell me, even if indirectly, that it’s definitely believable. And real. And human.

That’s all I ever really wanted to do, you know. Write a human story.

Regardless of any future outcome, I’m content knowing that on that level, I succeeded.

(And yes, I’ll be reading BETTER in the very near future.)

So—there’s a thing…

Once upon a time, I wrote a book. I loved this book. I loved this book so very, very much. And for a long time, it seemed as if I was the only one. Then I found an agent who loved this book. And for a long time, we were the only two who loved this book. But my agent, she never gave up on me or this book and at long last, we found an editor who also loved this book. And now, this book, that I once called Breathe, has a home and a release date and…. *drum roll*

A new title and cover.

Ladies and gents, I give you, Both Sides Now.

both sides now_approved

Cover copy:

For fans of Elizabeth Berg’s TALK BEFORE SLEEP and the novels of Jodi Picoult comes the provocative new novel from Barbara Ferrer.

In grief, they find each other. Through loss, they find love.

They meet in a hospital corridor. Libby is there for Ethan, her mentor, her best friend, her husband. He’s dying, and she’s struggling to survive. Nick is there for Katharine, his reason for living, the love of his life, his wife. She’s dying, and he holds on all the tighter as she slips away from him.

They can’t do this alone. But maybe they don’t have to.

From that chance meeting grows a fast friendship, one of gallows humor, of life in South Florida, of shared experiences in their marriages―the fights, the quirks, the love. Libby and Nick become for each other what no one else can: the person who understands, who hears with the same ears, who sees with the same eyes. In stunning prose, Barbara Ferrer maps the sacred terrain of Libby and Nick’s connection as it develops from one of necessity, to one of possibility.

Deep and powerful, this nuanced, elegiac portrait of two marriages, of sickness and survival, and of the healing power of human connection will resonate with readers for years, and showcases Ferrer in all of her brilliant insightfulness.

Links to buy

 

The Continuing Fight Against Art & Intellect

The backlash against @JimRome continues, deservedly so, For those unaware, on Thursday, the well-known sportscaster/commentator tweeted:

“Is there anyone not in a marching band who thinks those dorks running around with their instruments are cool?”

The tweet has since been deleted has allegedly apologized (it was seriously weak) but no matter—Rome is learning what most of tech-savvy “dorks” have known for years; on the internet, everything is forever. And as such, he’s still hearing it—deservedly so. As a former band/corps member, his jibe (which yes, yes I get it, he says shit like that just to be controversial and get a rise) both pushed the expected buttons, but also rolled off my back much in the “water off a duck’s ass” sort of way. Seriously—same shit different day. My whole life I’ve been involved in activities that label me a “dork” in some form: musician/band/corps geek; figure skater; writer; even now, with my increasing involvement in ballroom dancing, I’m subject to the “wink, wink, nudge, nudge isn’t that cute and fluffy!” commentary. (Yet how many times have athletes gone into Dancing With the Stars utterly cocky about their ability to cope with the physical demands and wound up at the end of the first week whimpering and waving the white flag? ‘Nuff said.)

More telling, I think, within Rome’s comment is the arrogance and anger displayed towards culture and intellectualism that’s becoming frighteningly prevalent in this country. It’s as if it requires thought and finesse and refinement, then it’s viewed as somehow weak and needs to be mocked and beat down into submission. I don’t understand what they’re so frightened of.

What is frightening, however, is the world people like Rome would prefer to live in.

‘Cause I’m good like that.

So.

Today is the release day for the Sassy Seven Boxed Set of which I (and my book Lucky Thirteen) are a part. It’s a collection of seven full-length romantic comedy-esque novels from some great authors (and me) all for the low, low, low, low price of .99!

(Handy clicky-buy links go HERE)

Amazon Kindle
Barnes & Noble Nook
iBooks
Kobo

There’s also a fun Q&A on USA Today’s Happily Ever After Blog where all seven of us confess why we love romcom so much, who our favorite romcom couples are, and what each of our books is about. I compared mine to My Big Fat Greek Wedding.

Of course, I didn’t have the time (or column inches) to talk as extensively about Thirteen as I might have otherwise. Let’s see—interesting tidbits.

This was the second full-length manuscript I wrote, close to ten years ago. (The first one lives under my bed and will never see the light of day.) If you know anything about me as a published author, then you might find yourself asking, “But Barb, this is an adult book—not a young adult.”

Yes. Yes it is. Remember how I’ve always said writing young adult was kind of a happy accident? I not only had this manuscript completed before I ever published as a young adult author, but two more featuring the same extended cast of characters. I had hoped that publishing in young adult would help pave the way for the adult stories, but it didn’t quite work out that way. But that’s all right. Because now I can bring it to you myself!

To whet your appetites, a small excerpt, in which our heroine, Isabel, is having a heart-to-heart with her best friend Ciara in the wake of a most unexpected encounter with a man who a) works for her and b) happens to be thirteen years younger. To say she’s conflicted would be putting it mildly. Thank goodness for Ciara.


“Oh. My. God. Then what?”

I shrugged as far as I was able to while reclined over a shampoo sink. “Nothing. I let him make the escape he so clearly wanted to make. Haven’t seen him since.”

“Which was?”

“A week ago.”

“And why not?”

I winced at the imperious tone—and at the increased force of the scrubbing of my scalp.

“Well, for one, I really did have the mother of all colds, so I holed up at home for a few days and now he’s called in sick the last few days. Probably figuring out some graceful way to quit. That way, he won’t have to worry about being the leading man in the next serial installment of Attack of the Crazed and Probably Hormonal Woman—ow!”

Ignoring my yelp, Ciara continued to scrub my scalp vigorously. “Okay, refresh my memory. Which waiter is this again?”

Stretching my arm, I was just able to snatch a towel from a nearby stack so I could wipe away the trickle of shampoo currently threatening my left eye. “The young one,” I sighed.

“They’re all young, babydoll,” she drawled. Water began sluicing through my hair, hot nearly to the point of pain. “Which young one? And how young, exactly?”

I spluttered as she not-so-accidentally ran the spray across my face. “I’ll never get a chance to tell you if drown me, Ciara.”

“Fine.” With a click, the chair popped upright from its reclined position, making the blood rush to my head. Dizzy, I opened my eyes only to rear back from Ciara’s narrow blue gaze, hovering entirely too close.

“I’ll give you condition and rinse time to collect your thoughts, then—all of it.”

Pfft.” Like the death stare was supposed to impress me after twenty -five years of best-friend-hood?

Parked in the chair at Ci’s station I meditatively blotted my hair with a towel while she arranged her tools. As she began combing through my damp hair, our gazes met in the mirror.

“Well?” But her tone and look were both less demanding than they’d been a few moments earlier which was exactly what I needed to loosen up. She knew me too well, the bitch. “Let’s start with something easy—how young, exactly?”

“Twenty-five.” Not like I’d checked the employee records I had on file or anything. Praying that I was recalling his age incorrectly even though I already knew better.

“Hmm,” she hummed. “Nice. Let’s move on to the physical—how tall?”

I thought back to how, even at five-seven, I’d still had to rise slightly on tiptoe to kiss his cheek. “Just about six feet, I guess.”

Separating a section of hair, Ci started snipping. “Okay, then. Tall enough you can wear your Louboutins comfortably. This is good.” She winked at me in the mirror. “Eyes, hair, distinctive features?”

“Brown and brown and young.”

“Oh come on, Isa.” Ciara’s voice took on a decidedly annoyed edge again—even her tiny diamond nose stud seemed to glitter impatiently under the fluorescent track lights. “You have to give me more than that to work with.”

Sighing, I pulled up a mental image of Josh’s face—not difficult, since it had been on my mind a whole lot more than I was comfortable admitting, even to Ci. “Well… his eyes are the exact color of dark chocolate ganache—deep and rich. Great lashes. Not girly long, but thick.” Yeah, I’d done more than my share of surreptitious glancing during dinner. Don’t ask me why. It’s not like I hadn’t seen him most every day for the last three years.

Ci kept snipping, but looked up long enough to catch my gaze in the mirror again. “Okay, keep going—because I’m still not quite picturing who this is. What about the rest of the face?”

I started to say ‘young’ again, but Ci’s hard tug on my hair warned do not annoy the woman with the sharp scissors. Sighing, I tried to keep it quick and painless. “Wide cheekbones, almond-shaped eyes that turn down slightly at the outside corners—”

Okay, maybe not quick, because I liked mentally revisiting the sleepy, very sexy appearance that particular feature gave him and which had left me going more than a little warm every time he’d turned that intense dark brown gaze on me. However, not sharing that tidbit. That was mine.

Finally, I got to the one thing Ciara could relate to. “His hair’s nearly as dark as his eyes, kind of longish and somewhere between wavy and curly.”

Yep. That got her. Should’ve just started there.

“Wait a minute—that waiter with the gorgeous hair that women come in here begging me to give them, regardless of cost? That’s Josh?”

“Um hm.”

“Oh sweetie, you should’ve just said so. I’d have recognized him from the description of that head of hair alone—I’ve been dying to get my hands on it.”

“Don’t you dare,” popped out before I could stop myself. Didn’t have to look in the mirror to know I was blushing like some adolescent twit.

Not one more word. Even if she snatches you bald-headed.

She laughed as she combed my hair out once more, holding my head steady between her hands and studying the results, then snipping a bit more here and there. “Relax, darling. Just to shape it a bit—maybe rethink the sideburns. Nothing drastic. So, what about the bod, proper?”

I turned to look directly at her, scissors be damned. “Jesus, Ciara, it’s not like I saw the boy naked!” Only nearly shirtless and well, my hands had gotten intimate with his fly and Lord, was it getting hot in here? “I thought you wanted to figure out who he was? Now you know.”

One narrow shoulder rose, the gesture elegant even given the black baby doll tee with “Bite These” scripted in rhinestones across her chest. “Color me curious.”

Color her sadistic. Forget it. The battle was lost. She was going to keep asking and honestly, I wanted to keep talking.

But only to purge myself—get him out of my system.

Yeah, right.

“Kind of long and lanky, I guess… but not in a ninety-eight pound weakling sort of way. Nice shoulders.”

Shifting in the chair, I took a deep breath that whooshed out on a sigh. “Oh, and his chest—”

“Whoa. Hold up.” Ci leaned forward and grabbed the hairdryer. “I’m guessing with that head of hair….” I watched myself turn beet red as her reflection leered and her eyebrows did a truly horrific Groucho Marx thing.

“My, my… I guess so. And since my chests of preference are neither hairy nor flat, you can keep that tidbit as the little private fetish I know it to be for you.”

“Tit slut,” I muttered beneath the whine of the dryer.

“I heard that.”

Sticking my tongue out at her reflection, I remained slouched in the chair until she none-too-gently prodded the brush handle between my shoulder blades, forcing me to sit straighter. Thankfully, the task of drying and styling my hair brought a temporary respite in our never-ending game of Let’s Dissect Isa’s Love Life. Not that I didn’t do the same to Ciara when opportunity arose—especially since she actually had a love life worth dissecting. Had to be why she was pressing so hard for the dirt given she’d been after me to date… well, since Chris and I had decided not to stay together.

Ten years ago.

One could say it’d been a dry spell.

But who had the time? Or inclination, come to think of it?

And honestly… I was perfectly good without a man. I had Alex, Mae’s, friends, family; why did I need romantic entanglements? I didn’t. Yeah, the physical urges got pesky from time to time, but no big.

I was nothing if not self-sufficient.

Ci shut off the hairdryer and fiddled a bit more with my hair, snipping a few stray bits here and there before finishing it off with a fine mist of spray.

“Long bangs, layers for movement, but not so much that you can’t put it up in a sharp, sophisticated ponytail or twist for work if that’s what you want. You like?”

I looked in the mirror at Ciara’s slightly anxious expression. As if she really needed to worry. Not like I’d let anyone else touch my hair since we were teenagers. Grasping the hand she had on my shoulder I reassured her, “You know I love it.”

Her expression relaxed. “Good. It’s so fun to play with your hair now that you’ve let it grow out again.” Unable to help herself, she rearranged it again. “I think last time you wore it this long was high school.”

“Well, you know, Ci, once you hit forty it’s time for Sensible Hair. Two more years and that’ll be all she wrote..”

“Oh, bullshit.” Ci’s hairbrush hit the rolling cart beside her so hard it skidded a few feet away. Good thing I’d come in before the start of her business day, otherwise, she might be scaring off customers. “Girl, I swear, you are getting on my last gay nerve with this nonsense. I don’t know where the fuck you’ve been getting these crackpot theories of what women our age are or are not supposed to do, but they’re about as outdated as organdy aprons and pearls and heels while you vacuum. ‘I can’t have long hair. I can’t fuck a younger man,’“ she mocked in an acid sing-song. “It’s pure, unadulterated crap, Isabel.”

I spun the chair around to face her. “Always so nice to see the breadth of your Columbia University education shining through.”

“It is crap. My mother’s latest boyfriend, courtesy of CougerStalk-dot-com, is seventeen years younger than her and she says it’s the most amazing sex she’s had since her twenties.”

I shuddered. “Dear God, talk about TMI.”

“Tell me about it, but the woman won’t stop calling me at ungodly hours and conveying all the gory details—in glorious living Technicolor. Thank God she hasn’t figured out how to upload videos to YouTube or else I might have the visuals to go along with.”

She paused as we both contemplated that horror.

From Lucky Thirteen ©2014 Barbara Ferrer

Fly with the angels, Genie- Robin Williams (1951- 2014)

The college visit across the border today meant that for the most part, I was off the grid, so it wasn’t until after I was back in the U.S. and had opportunity to call my husband, that I learned the devastating news that Robin Williams had died by his own hand.

To put it simply, I am heartbroken.

I am also, sadly, not horribly surprised. I, along with most of the world, knew he’d battled some fairly vicious demons throughout his career, and while I’d hoped he’d managed to wrestle them into some form of submission, I also had that niggling sense that those mean little fuckers weren’t necessarily done with him. After all, the demons, they want the best and the brightest and the most brilliant and in Robin, they had a sterling example.

Robin was literally my first crush. From the moment he bounded onto the screen on Happy Days through Mork and Mindy through his standup through his incredibly prolific and varied film career, I loved him. I didn’t love every role, but I always saw the heart and sheer life he put into each role, no matter how small. He was a classically trained actor with a comic’s sensibilities and while he was undeniably a comedic genius, it was in his dramatic roles that he was, unsurprisingly, most compelling and arresting. (It’s in fact, a small, dramatic cameo in Dead Again that remains one of my absolute favorite roles.)

He made me laugh during some of the darkest moments of my life, teaching me how to find the humor in the dark and the absurd in the unthinkable, and he made me laugh during some of the absolute best moments of my life. In fact, during labor with both of my children, I brought a portable CD player into my hospital room and listened to Live at the Met—the hospital staff thought I was nuts, I was laughing too hard to care.

And when years later, I was able to finally fulfill a lifelong dream and not only see him perform live, but meet him, I was able to tell him that story. His response?

“Fuck me!”

To which I responded, “No, that’s what got me there in the first place,” and which elicited a surprised, genuine laugh from this lovely, gentle man. Because that’s what he was—the epitome of the word gentleman and I am forever grateful I was able to share that one brief moment with him. It was but one of a million for him, but one in a million for me.

I hope the demons, having finally claimed victory, finally allow you to rest easy Robin.

You will never, ever be forgotten.

Robin:Large

Ten days post surgery, I nearly bust my stitches laughing. What a brilliant night.

If you or someone you know is considering suicide, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

So my first official involvement with G.I.S.H.W.H.E.S. (or the Greatest International Scavenger Hunt the World Has Ever Seen) has come to an end.

First off, as some of you might be asking, “What in the ever-loving hell is G.I.S.H.W.H.E.S.?” Well, it’s the brainchild of actor/lunatic Misha Collins of Supernatural fame. The idea is for teams to compete in a scavenger hunt that’s comprised of both finding items, creating items, or committing random acts of kindness, many with a very silly/absurdist bent to them. Ultimately, the idea is to stretch your boundaries, step out of your comfort zone, recapture childlike joys, and maybe make some new friends along the way.

When all is said and done, I’m of… mixed emotions.

The positives:

My team, Inevitable Innuendo, was absolutely spectacular and I got to know several people I wouldn’t have, otherwise.

I got to enjoy the week with my daughter, since she was also a team member.

I discovered I have a far higher tolerance for personal silliness than I might have imagined.

I learned something about the depths of creativity (and sheer abandon) that seemingly normal people have. (And I mean that in an incredibly complimentary way.)

I saw a lot of people really going to Herculean effort to help each other out (like the amazing lady who created TWENTY papier mâché heads and took them to a meet up for pictures with actor Osric Chau).

 

The negatives (and it really boils down to only one):

I wasn’t really crazy about a lot of the items on the list. I get that a good deal of my dislike stems from my own nature, which is introverted and more than a little cynical to begin with, but that first day, as I scanned the List, I had a sick feeling that several items had the potential to go somewhat pear-shaped.

And boy, did they.

The one that’s received the most publicity was the item requesting a published Science Fiction author to create a 140-word story starring Misha and the Queen of England. Now, let me be clear—many GISHERS who made the request did so in an incredibly polite fashion and many authors who were unable to comply, replied in kind.

However…

Some requests were framed in less than polite fashion (dudes—don’t demand); some responses to an author’s polite decline were met with less than gracious responses (dudes—they said no, it’s not a personal indictment, move on); and in some ways, worst of all, some authors, even when presented with a polite request, responded in such rude, overbearing, condescending, and downright mean fashion, it made me embarrassed for my profession. Because seriously, there is no call to tell someone, who is contacting you because they are presumably a fan of your work, to “kindly go die in a fire.” (Yes, that was a direct quote from a response to an incredibly polite request.)

All I can say is, if Neil Fucking Gaiman can decline politely, then so can you.

Side note: I found it particularly fascinating that the lesser-known the writer, the more vitriolic the response seemed to be and the more resentful that they were being asked to “write for free,” with additional snarking about the disrespect Misha was showing towards authors and forgetting that we’re professionals, too, and hey, would he consent to starring in multiple short films without pay? Guys, guys, guys… this wasn’t exactly a Harlan Ellison moment—

Also, I found it ironic that most of the vitriolic responses consisted of far more than 140 words. Just sayin’.

Obviously, this is the item that stood out to me the most because of my personal investment in it, but there were others that I felt skirted some very sketchy territory for me, in that they posed a potential professional issue for someone by intruding on a workplace, or caused disruption to someone’s personal space. Again, could just be me, though.

I’m also seeing a fair bit of resentment for the celebrity participants. This mystifies me as in the rules, it was clearly stated if a celebrity team won, a non-celebrity team would also be chosen for the Grand Prize. How is this a bad thing? It means you get double the fun if you’re the winning non-celebrity team. And why should someone be excluded from the event just because they happen to be well-known?

It’s this sort of behavior that tends to make me froth at the mouth and want to back slowly away.

Actually, too, now that I think about it, there was one other thing that bothered me about the List and perhaps, about the intent of G.I.S.H.W.H.E.S. to begin with—the idea is that we’re supposed to push our personal boundaries and step out of our comfort zones, yada, yada. See, to me, this list represents someone else’s idea of Comfort Zone (and let’s face it, Misha has no personal boundaries, so…). I mean, every time I step onto a ballroom floor, I’m stepping out of my comfort zone. Every time I go to an event where I have to meet strangers, I’m stepping out of my comfort zone. Hell, every time I submit a new manuscript or story, I’m stepping out of my comfort zone. Who the hell is anyone to tell me that’s not enough pushing the envelope?

Now, I will fully admit, I have a knee-jerk reaction when someone tells me I must do something, which generally involves hissing and spitting and backing away like a cornered badger. But despite the occasional flashes of resentment, I acknowledge that there are always new boundaries to conquer and that even repeated stepping out of a comfort zone can, in and of itself, take on the feel of a comfort zone. (Devil you know and all that…) Which is probably why in the end, G.I.S.H.W.H.E.S. is a good thing for someone like me.

Now, reading over this, I realize I must sound like a total Negative Nelly and that’s actually not my intent at all. As I said, my emotions were mixed and I suspect  a good deal of that has to do with the timing of this year’s event which, from my perspective,  was not good, seeing as it came directly in the wake of a ballroom competition, meaning I was already physically and mentally exhausted going in. Plus for this classic introvert, my people tolerance, after having to be “on” for nearly four days straight, was more than a little tapped out. Generally, post-ballroom, I strip off the makeup and fancy dresses, put on my pajamas and avoid people for at least a week. I didn’t get to do that this week, so I felt stretched pretty thin and rubbed more than a little raw. Also, I felt as if I wasn’t capable of contributing as much as I could have to my team, which makes me feel twitchy and uncomfortable, as I hate letting people down.

Especially the people on my team who were the most amazing, creative, lunatic lot I’ve ever had the privilege of working with. The extent to which these individuals were willing to push themselves makes me wish I’d done better for them and yes, will bring me back next year because if there’s anything I hate, it’s not feeling as if I gave it my best effort.

To Team Inevitable Innuendo—I Heart You Guys mightily.

148- Parental Advisory Album

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