Because no writing is ever wasted.

Earlier today, I read a post from my dear friend Jennifer Echols on the wisdom on never, ever, don’t-even-consider-it, throwing away any bit of writing. Go. Read. I’ll still be here. Promise.

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So. You see what good can come from never, ever, don’t-even-consider-it, throwing away any bit of your writing? I mean, you just never know. As for myself, I’ve long been a proponent of the school of There’s No Such Thing As Wasted Writing. Because again, you just never know. So in that vein, I decided to go digging into my own vaults and pull out a piece of writing I love (of which I have many) that fits nowhere in particular (much like Jenn’s) but that I absolutely love and that I can’t seem to let go. I completed this entire manuscript but as Lovely Agent kindly put it, it read like two different books—the first half vastly different from the second.

She’s… not wrong. So it lives on my hard drive, waiting for me to decide how best to revise, but in the meantime, I still think the first chapter, which I dashed off in literally a couple hours when the idea hit, still remains one of my favorite pieces of writing that I’ve ever committed to (virtual) paper. So I decided to share it.

And I hope you like it.

Chapter One of my 1960s-set story, Between Here & Gone

© 2012 Barbara Ferrer

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CROWD HAILS CASTRO AS HE REACHES U.S.  FOR AN 11-DAY VISIT

The New York Times

April 16,1959

One

April 1959

“Talia, I’m going to be sick.”

“Oh, no.  Otra vez?  How can you even have anything left?”

But Carlito was already leaning against me, the harsh, dry rattle of his heaves contrasting with the cold wet sounds of the waves slapping against the sides of the boat.  While he gagged and jackknifed into my lap, I desperately groped for the bowl we’d tried to keep handy ever since we ran out of the Coca-Colas that we’d saved for him and his delicate stomach.

I was too late.  He was losing what little remained, nothing but bile at this point, soaking through my skirt, hot and smelling acidic and faintly, ridiculously, of maduros.  Probably nothing more than a product of exhausted and overwrought imagination.  Wistful memory of the meal served at home before we left, colluding with the future.

Nothing out of the ordinary.

Everything out of the ordinary.

None of the servants any the wiser that it would be the last time they’d be cooking for us, serving us, cleaning up after us.

Or maybe they’d known.  No one could trust anyone else any longer.  I wonder how many of them at least suspected?  Might have been watching, waiting… Papi must have sensed it was close.

We should have just flown.  We should have left—long before this.  I tried telling them.  I had desperately wanted to leave.  Almost as much as I wanted to stay.  Wanted things to be the way they’d been, childish pipe dream that it was.  Wanted to curl up and die.

But Papi insisted that not only could we bring more with us on the boat, but that it would also serve us well in bringing extra money since we’d be leaving almost everything behind.  What we still possessed was tied to the country in ways that would all too easily rouse suspicion if we tried to make substantial changes.   Another reason we’d taken so long to leave.  Gathering money and items in small increments, all very cloak and dagger in a way that might have been thrilling and exciting if not for the sheer terror overlaying every step or word.

So not only was La Damisela a beautiful cruiser, meticulously maintained, but for los americanos—they would appreciate not only the beauty and craftsmanship, but also find the notoriety of what it represented entirely too delicious to resist.  All certain to add up to a nice sum.  Not that he directly said so.  At least, not to me.  Just la niña—la princessa—no need to worry my precious little head with such trivialities.

What a joke.  Everything was already different.

Yet so typical that he’d still think of me in such a way.  Attempting to keep me locked away and preserved in some airtight box.  Even after all that had already happened.  So willfully blind to the fact that I’d left innocence behind in one shattering moment weeks ago.  Although how could he be so callous?  Who knew?  Perhaps it was for his own benefit.  Protecting himself.

Mami and Abuela had always said it wasn’t that the men in our lives didn’t care or weren’t aware.  Just simply that they couldn’t handle our pain.  It overwhelmed them.  So instead they focused on pretending we were delicate flowers requiring protection.  That we were the ones who didn’t understand.  Even when they knew better.

Cause for more wisdom from Mami and Abuela—that, of all things, we were the ones who had to be strong.  For them.

I wasn’t sure I could do it.  I didn’t want to be strong.  I wanted to howl and scratch and spit and rip flesh from bones and rail at the inhumane unfairness of it all.  Perhaps I was better at this pretending than even I had imagined.  Because they—Papi, Mami, Abuela, Carlito—every one of them thought I was strong enough to cope.

Using a clean section of my skirt, I wiped Carlito’s mouth, dabbed the perspiration off his sweet face, trapped in that shimmering moment somewhere between boy and man.  Pobrecito—there was so much he’d be missing.  So much he should be experiencing that wasn’t this hell.

“Let me get you some water, hermanito.

“Don’t go.” His voice cracked.  Definitely more boy there, as his arms tightened around my waist—afraid I’d leave.

“But it’ll make you feel better.”

“It’ll make me throw up again.” Shades of a deeper tone.  A surety.  Almost against my will I smiled.  So stubborn, my little brother.  Since the cradle no one had known him as well as he knew himself—as he took every opportunity to remind us.

But I not only wanted to get him water, I wanted to change my clothes.  Get out of this dress with its soaked, filthy skirt.  Never mind that in sacrificing clothes in order to leave room for other items and the fact that this wasn’t the first time that I’d held Carlito through a bout of nausea, I didn’t have much left.  At the very least, I could always borrow a pair of Carlito’s pants and a shirt.  Anything would be better than sitting around in sodden, smelly cotton, clinging to my thighs, bare, since I’d discarded my girdle the first hour out.  It was just too damp to be wearing the close-fitting torture device.  Besides, clinging to social niceties was a waste of time.

“Carlito, m’ijo, I have to change my clothes.

“Stay.” A command, coming easily from the young prince accustomed to getting his way, easy for me to ignore until his gaze fixed itself on my face, eyes enormous dark smudges in the pale oval of his face.  So deceptive, since those eyes, in the light of day, were the same pale, brilliant green as Papi’s.  The “eyes of the San Martín men” as Abuelita proclaimed time and again from her spot of honor at the foot of the French mahogany table.  But in the dark, the color was inconsequential—overwhelmed by fear.  Ignoring the wet and the stink and my own terror and fury, I gathered him close, my little brother, taller than me now, the future man of the family, forever the baby, holding him as the yacht bobbed quietly along the waves.  We were saving our last bit of gas, I knew.  For when we got close.

I closed my eyes and turned my face into the breeze drifting through the cabin’s open door, breathing deep—sea air always helped.  Even under these circumstances.

“Natalia—”

I blinked, not sure if I’d drifted or not.  But I must have, because where before there had been nothing but endless dark—

Lights.

Through the window—tiny pinpricks of light in the distance, piercing the dark, gracias a Dios.

Finally.

Lights that appeared to be standing still, only their reflections bobbing and weaving the slightest bit on the dark water.  Looking like fireflies.  Difficult, but not impossible to catch.

Beneath the smooth leather soles of my shoes, I felt the engines rumble to life, the distant lights continuing to beckon, reaching out, guiding us in.

“We’re here,” Carlito whispered, struggling to sit straighter.  “Natalia, we’re here.”

Yo se,” I whispered absently.  But where? Continue reading

Emmys Fashion Roundup

We got the depressing, down-in-the-dumps post out of the way, so now we can return to what’s really important: my thoroughly matters-in-no-way-to-no-one burblings on red carpet fashion. I mean, I’m realistic about it—I’m not as funny as the Fug Girls nor am I as influential as Tim Gunn. All I’ve got is the perspective of someone who grew up in the high fashion industry and who, when occasion has called, has managed to dress herself reasonably well.

So then. shall we? Make sure you’re buckled securely into your seats and keep your hands and feet inside the ride at all times.

I’m sick, so I’m feeling pretty lazy about uploading—all images referenced can be found on the following sites.

People Magazine Red Carpet Arrivals

HuffPost Style

(I may sneak a photo or two in…</rebel>)

Lot of yellow on the red carpet tonight. Lot of yellow. Look, I’ll be honest right up front. It’s not my favorite color. It’s a difficult color for most people to wear and let’s face it, judging from what I saw tonight… yeah, still difficult. Julie Bowen’s neon yellow, Claire Danes’ sack dress (honey, you’re pregnant—this is no excuse for a mustard-shaded potato sack), Julianne Moore’s very very-OMG-she-skinned-Big-Bird yellow, and Leslie Mann’s daisy yellow were the four, erm, standouts. Of the four Leslie Mann was the closest to pulling it off, mostly because the gown isn’t all yellow—the white bodice manages to offset all the yellow, not to mention, the dress fits her. This goes a long way towards making a dress work, regardless of color.

Speaking of dresses that didn’t fit well (aside from Claire Danes…) two that drove me bananas yet will undoubtedly show up on all the Best Dressed lists were Zooey Deschanel and Kat Dennings. Anyone who’s read my rants on strapless gowns knows how I feel about having them properly fitted to the Girls. Kat’s came closer than Zooey’s, but the bodice wasn’t long enough for her torso and let’s face it, Kat’s got some Bodacious Girls. They needed to be treated with more respect. I did absolutely adore the deep bordeaux color on her though, far more than Zooey’s powder blue. Darling, the Fairy Godmother called—Cinderella’s gonna cut a bitch if she doesn’t get her gown back.

Speaking of strapless gowns… Well, Christina Hendricks’ gown fit her well enough, although I wasn’t a fan of the belt cutting her in half and I really wasn’t a fan of the non-color. Yes, it made her hair stand out like a gorgeous beacon, but it otherwise washed her out. I wonder if maybe the belt had been a contrast color if it would have helped or hindered? Not sure. Overall, just meh on the look.

Her castmate, Elisabeth Moss, showed up as a blonde. I didn’t much care for it. I did, however, like her gown, considering it was a print. I liked the hi-low cut of the hem and the black and green color scheme. I do wish she’d done something about her tan lines.

Speaking of prints and tan lines… Julianna Margulies, what were you thinking? First off, honey, stealing the brocade off a Baroque sofa is so not done and secondly, TAN LINES: do something about them, please.

Continue reading

Another Day, Another Rejection (or two)

In light of all the publicity regarding the whackaloon wannabe writer who attacked the literary agent who rejected his work, I thought I’d offer my own response in the form of how I react to rejection.

You see, six months ago, I made the decision to apply to a writing residency program—the Television Writers Program sponsored by the National Hispanic Media Coalition. Five weeks in Los Angeles, five days a week spent in the company of other writers, creating a product. It sounded fun. I mean, five weeks in LA, for one. I have a ton of friends in Los Angeles and the opportunity to see them on something of a regular basis was super tempting. Not to mention, the opportunity to be on my own for a bit. I’ve never, in my life, lived on my own. Went from Mom’s house to dorm, to shared apartments and houses, to living with the boyfriend who became the husband. The idea of flying solo for a month? Yeah… love the husband and the family dearly, but I can’t deny that idea held its own appeal. 

Then there was the basis of the program itself— the opportunity to learn to write for television—that was pretty attractive. You see, it was television that drew me back into writing in the first place—that started me on my path to becoming a published author. (Those of you who know me well, know it was my love for the crazy talented writers Joss Whedon employed on BuffyAngel that made me think, “Hey, I can tell stories like that.”) Of course, I very quickly discovered that I’m a wordy bitch and I like narrative and internal character motivation a hell of a lot and all of that adds up to “Write novels, dummy!” So I did.  And I’m pretty damned good at it, even if my sales haven’t exactly reflected that. At any rate, I applied to this program not so much because I want to be a television writer, although God knows, I wouldn’t say no to an interesting opportunity to write for pay. It’s what I am, after all, and let’s face it, I’m spectacularly unqualified for almost anything else, but more than anything else, though, I wanted something new. New skills, new tools to add to the arsenal. I wanted something that would get me excited about writing again. To jolt my ass out of the Pit of Suckagetude in which I’ve found myself mired lately (which is a post for another day).

The application was pretty rigorous and involved, requiring multiple forms and notarized releases and writing examples (I sent in When the Stars Go Blue figuring it for a great example, given it’s an adaptation) and a lot of attention to detail. Good thing I’m a Virgo, yeah? The application window was ridiculously broad, stretching from mid-March to mid-August; being me, my application was posted by early April. Participants would be announced September 17th. So I sat back and waited. And waited. And waited some more. Kept fairly quiet about it, because I didn’t want to jinx it. I also didn’t want to face a lot of “Why would you want to do that?” inquiries, and frankly, I didn’t want to hear that maybe I was out of my gourd crazy for doing this. (I’ve had that happen before—I’ve sent in proposals and been immediately hit with “Why on earth did you send in that idea?” which results in the Doubt Monsters breaking into a spirited rendition of Numfar’s Dance of Kill Your Joy. Did. Not. Want.)

I just wanted to live on quiet hope and also not get anyone’s expectations up too high on my behalf, lest it get my expectations up too high. Expect nothing, regret nothing, right? I had run the suggestion past my writer’s group and a few other close friends whose opinions I trust, and as time went on, I let a few people know that I had applied for a writing residency program, but no details beyond that.

Anyhow, due to a large number of applicants, they posted a message that the announcement would be postponed until the 18th.

Which came and went without word. (Damned watched email never boils or summat like that.)

Finally, this morning (the 19th, Talk Like a Pirate Day, arrrggghhh), I sent an email to the contact liaison. Within an hour I’d heard back. I hadn’t made the cut.

I wanted to be sanguine about this. I knew it was a longshot going in for a lot of reasons, not the least of which was my utter inexperience with the medium. God knows, I’ve dealt with a lot of rejection in the past thirteen years. Certainly a hell of a lot more rejection has come my way  than praise. I know how to handle it. I know it’s not personal. It’s not an indictment on me as a human being.

Didn’t stop me from crying. Rather a lot, as a matter of fact.

Not the throw-myself-on-the-ground-pound-my-heels-on-the-floor-scream-and-rant tantrum sort of crying, mind. While there are times I wish I could, simple fact is, I suck at that. In fact, I abhor most self-pity, at least where I’m concerned. I’m remarkably forgiving of anyone else’s need for pity/support, self or otherwise, for myself, I can’t fathom it. The husband puts it more bluntly—he says I suck at wallowing.

He’s… not wrong.

But this one has broken me a bit more than usual. I don’t know… I generally don’t allow myself to dream outside of the confines of my own stories. For my characters, I allow my imagination to take flight — no dream is too grand or goal too unrealistic or impossible to achieve. Dreaming for myself, on the other hand? I’m about as good at that as wallowing. For me, it’s never been about the seven-figure contracts or #1 Bestseller status, although I certainly wouldn’t say no to either. I’m a pragmatist—not a Puritan— fer chrissakes. No, all I’ve ever wanted is a nice, steady career as a writer. Not an easy task, especially in this day and age, but certainly not grandiose.

But this program… yeah. I let myself dream. And maybe that’s why it hit harder than it might have otherwise.

Because I’m a sucker for punishment, I pinged my agent to ask about the status of another project that was out on an exclusive submission.

Yeah. Another rejection.

Oddly, this one left me more meh than anything else. It’s part of the game, right? The rejection letter was head-scratching in that way that rejection letters are and again, allowed me to be meh about the rejection on the whole. I mean, I don’t like it. I’m not a masochist (at least, not any more than anyone else in publishing), but it’s hardly devastating. I believe in my project. I know it’s a really fucking good concept and with the insight and advice I’ve received from the beta readers, I’ve certainly made it a stronger project than it was at the outset. Like so much else, it’s the sort of thing that requires the Right Person see it and I have to believe the Right Person is out there somewhere.

More than anything, though, it was something my agent said in her email to me that allowed me to put everything into perspective:

I think that sometimes we’re denied an opportunity to explore something to show us how much we actually value it, and that it goes beyond curiosity. Maybe that sounds trite but if I know anything about you, it’s that if you’re passionate about something you really go for it.

Now mind you, she said this with respect to the Writing Program rejection, but the end result was it immediately sharpened my focus and strengthened my resolve with respect to…

Writing.

Just writing.Telling the stories I love—the stories that need to get out or else they’ll drive me crazy(er).

It’s what I do. I really, really  fucking love what I do. Not only do I not want to do anything else, I simply can’t imagine doing anything else.

Something like ten years ago, after I’d started sending out queries and receiving rejections, but before I’d been published, I happened to stumble across an interview with actor Timothy Omundson where he spoke about pursing a career in the creative arts and some of what he said resonated with me—even then—to the point that I printed a pair of the more relevant quotes out and have kept them on my desk ever since.

One of those quotes is especially relevant today:

I really, really love what I do and for me, this work… there isn’t anything else. I’ve always been really driven. I think that is the most important aspect of my success… it comes down to how much I like it. I really think it has to be one of those things where doing it is the only option.

If you can do anything else, I’ve always thought you should go do it because this is potentially too hard a life.

No kidding. Today’s definitely one of those days where I idly wonder if it’s too late to get an accounting degree, never mind that no one wants anyone with my math skills balancing their books—trust  me. But after the tears dry and the inevitable trauma of “They hated my baby!” passes, all I’m left with is a sense of resolve (amidst the “You really are a sick glutton for punishment you crazy lady,” feelings).

I write. I’m pretty fucking good at it.

And I’ve got a couple of damned interesting stories to get back to. Anyone in publishing interested, give me or my agent a call.

I’ll be ready.

Guess what I did?

So yesterday, I pledged a considerable amount of money to Janice Whaley’s latest Kickstarter campaign. Yes, I’m privileged to call Janice my friend and so of course, I’m going to support her in any way I can, but more importantly, I think of her as a kindred spirit and I believe in what she’s trying to achieve. Like so many gifted artists, Janice once had a dream she thought might be impossible to follow—but she realized music was literally her life,  took the bull by the horns, and Made Things Happen. And while some amazing successes have come her way, the sad and simple fact of the matter is, in music, like in any other entertainment medium, it takes exposure to Make More Things Happen and in today’s media-happy climate, exposure tends to occur more readily with the benefit of large pots of money (or at least having the support of someone with large pots of money).

How cool is this, really?

Initially, Janice was going to use this Kickstarter in order to raise money for a publicist—luckily, a fortunate windfall has allowed for her to hire the publicist and now, the Kickstarter is going to offer some really cool things that showcase her immense talents and the fruits of her labors the past couple of years.

I’ve been told I can’t possibly be as supportive and happy for friends who experience successes as I appear to be, especially when the past couple of years have been so hard for me career-wise. Yeah… those people can bite me. Truth is, I fervently desire the success of people who are gifted and work their asses off, like Janice, just as much as I fervently desire my own success. (Hey, I’m no martyr. I hope it’ll happen for me, too.)

So yeah, I gave  to Janice’s Kickstarter campaign—and if you love really unique, beautiful, amazing music, you might consider giving too. Look, let Janice tell you all about it. *points down to link*

Janice’s Kickstarter

 

Everyday Sexism, Part Who-the-Hell-Can-Keep-Track-Anymore?

This past week, writers Eileen Cook and Mere Smith (@eileenwriter & @EvilGalProds, respectively on Twitter- go, follow, I’ll wait) wrote some remarkable posts on their blogs dealing with, in Eileen’s case, owning the term “bitch,” and in Mere’s, two that dealt with sexism. The first was about Everyday Sexism and connected to the Everyday Sexism Project while the second had to do with the equally insidious if more outrageous Fucking Egregious Sexism and her own recent experience with said FES.

*waits*

Yes, you should go read them. Like, now.

‘kay then.

As with much of both of these ladies’ writing, it stays with me for hours, if not days afterward—a) because they’re both funny as hell and I find myself giggling like a loon at the most inappropriate times (Seriously, Mere’s vagina blog nearly got me in trouble so many times, I can’t even begin to tell you.), and b) because they’re both insightful as shit and amidst the LOL humor, there are some amazing thoughts happening. So it’s probably because these posts were still rattling around in the gray matter that I even took notice of what happened today beyond, “Geez, what a douchecanoe.”

So, what happened today? I imagine you asking.

Lemme ‘splain.

My local bookstore called (yay!) to tell me a book I’d ordered had finally arrived (yay!). Because I had a migraine and wasn’t getting bubkes done on the writing front, I decided to brave the Great Outdoors and go get my book (yay!). And because it’s a bookstore, I didn’t just go to pick up that book—no, no… I lingered, I read pages, I checked out new releases and browsed the stacks to see if there was anything absolutely calling out to me. Finally, feeling calm and filled with the peaceful goodwill that wandering a bookstore tends to engender, I made my selections and ambled my way up to the front of the store where they were holding my ordered book (oh, research books, how I adore thee… but I digress). Now, the front of my charming and surprisingly large indie bookstore has a lovely selection of tchotchkes and old-fashioned games and candies, as well as cards and journals and writing papers and the like, so again, I browsed for a few moments. Finally ready to check out, I moved into the waiting area, glanced up, and one of the two cashiers caught my eye and waved me forward.

Now this is where things got good.

As I was asking my cashier about my reserved book, a man—probably around my age, maybe a few years older—strode behind me and walked up to the neighboring cashier. I wasn’t really paying attention until I heard him say rather loudly, “Guess you didn’t see me waiting there… in line… ready to check out.”

I glanced to the side and found that he was looking right at me. Okay, look y’all, I was raised in the South (as was Mere)—I am never intentionally rude to anyone unless of course, they ask for it. I certainly don’t do cutsies in line or deliberately ignore people (unless, of course, they ask for it). Realizing I had cut in front of this gentleman, I was, of course, mortified. So, like any good Southern-bred girl, I smiled and said, “Oh, I’m so sorry, I honestly did not see you there.”

And proceeded to dismiss the incident, because to my mind, hey, there had been another cashier immediately available, and he was helped at essentially the same time as me. No harm, no foul, right?

You’d think.

As I continued to conduct my transaction, this guy kept going on—not exactly in a sotto voce tone, if you dig—

“Yeah, you know… I was standing there for a couple of minutes waiting to be helped, no one took any notice of me, I must have been invisible or something.”

My first impulse was to apologize again, but even so, it was tinged with a hint of annoyance, because polite or not, I have a strong streak of reason lurking within which was muttering, “Dude, you were helped at essentially the same time—if you didn’t get noticed, then it’s because you weren’t proactive—you were just standing there, waiting to be—oohhhhh…”

That’s when it hit me. He wasn’t irked simply because he thought I’d cut in line—he was irked because he hadn’t been noticed. He was upset because he’d felt invisible. He even said it himself. He had expected to be noticed by one of the two female cashiers who had actually both taken notice of me first. Why? Who knows. Likely, because I stepped forward, made eye contact, and smiled, making it clear I was ready to be assisted while he… hell, I don’t know what the fuck he was doing. Hand to God, I never noticed him standing there and it’s not as if the waiting area for the line is all that spacious. Clearly, neither of the cashiers noticed him either.

But he had expected to be noticed and was bothered because he’d been rendered Invisible.

Dude, cry me a fucking river. I grew up an introvert in a family of extroverts, coupled with an inherent shyness that renders me decorative wallpaper in most large groups. Plus, you know, I’m a woman who’s been involved in male-dominated activities most of my life. I know from Invisible, Sparky. I’d wager most women have experienced Invisible at least once in their lifetime, if not at least once a week.

But this guy, man… he’d been made to feel momentarily invisible and clearly, it was a foreign concept and it seriously ruffled some feathers, because even as I was coming to this realization, he was still going on… and on… and on… in that ingratiatingly pleasant tone designed to let people know he’s doing everyone a favor by being pleasant but he’s really annoyed with the situation.

So, rather than apologize again, as I’d been prepared to, I looked at him and said, “Okay, you’re bothered you weren’t noticed—we get it. You’ve received your apologies, now man up and accept them like someone who wasn’t raised in a barn.”

My cashier may have choked a bit. His cashier had the more difficult task of keeping a straight face as she stared resolutely down into the register tray. As for him?

Wait for iiiitttttt…

“Bitch.”

Oh, please—as if that was the first time I’d ever heard that. Honestly, I’d hoped for something more original. Which was the gist of my response as I calmly signed my receipt.

“Honey, if that’s the best you’ve got, it’s no wonder you aren’t noticed.”

(Drawled in my best Southern, of course.)

Look, I’m no one’s shrinking violet—I certainly don’t shy away from confrontation, yet at the same time, I don’t go out of my way to instigate it. I probably wouldn’t have given this clown another thought beyond, “Geez, what a douchecanoe,” if I hadn’t had Eileen sitting on one shoulder and Mere on the other, prodding me with their stabbity little pitchforks comprised of their brilliant words and experiences.

So Eileen, Mere, and all the rest of you gorgeous ladies I’m privileged to call friend, this one’s for you—today, I owned (as I am wont to do) my bitchness and simultaneously struck a tiny-yet-needed blow against another instance of Everyday Sexism.

Ironic I’m working on this today…

What with Isaac making himself known and seven years on from Katrina- this passage from the Work-in-Progress is feeling especially poignant.

Initially, it had been the latter, by way of Mac and his weekend hobby, that had drawn Alex to Mère’s. Still relatively early in the post-Katrina recovery, he’d suggested she drop on by. Listen to him play his guitar and if she had a mind to, maybe help him lend a hand because at Mère’s, in those days, they’d needed all the help they could get.  It’d been that rarity: never once closing because of the storm, surviving on generators, charcoal grills, and a wing and a prayer. A loosely organized host of volunteers had cooked, cleaned, and procured supplies from God-only-knows where—best not ask what you really didn’t want to know—while overseeing it all had been Mama  Earlene and Lucille, her trusty twelve-gauge.

She’d offer food and drink to any who needed, take what payment could be offered and if none could, simply scribbled out an I.O.U., assuring the customer she was confident the debt would be paid. Even now, five years on, folks regularly eased in through the palm-shrouded entry, bearing their tattered half of a ticket along with payment while at least once a week an envelope would drop through the mail slot,  bearing postmarks from as nearby as Slidell or as far away as California. There was even the memorable instance  of a case of fresh-smoked salmon from Alaska that had landed on the doorstep with a simple “Thank you, Mama” scrawled on the side.

One gesture of generosity in exchange for another—one that may well have saved a life.

That was the thing—people remembered.

Even if they no longer lived here—forced out by circumstances beyond their control—they remembered their city and the people in it.

This city, it had a way of holding a body’s heart. Every time she crossed this threshold, Alex was reminded how she, herself, was living proof of that fact.

From A Tempestuous Noise

Welcome…

BetweenHereAndGone_coverLARGEHi 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 and 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, there’s Between Here and Gone, the story to which Publisher’s Weekly gave a starred review as well as naming it one of its Best Books of 2016, calling it a, “lush portrayal of a joyful, painful, complicated life.”

READ THE FIRST CHAPTER HERE

I can also be found on Facebook, and Instagram as the more up-to-date ways with which to keep up with me.

 

Barb

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Photo credit: Adam Emperor Southard

Lyin’ Games…

A couple weeks back on Twitter I alluded to something fun/happymaking that had happened recently that boosted my faith in my abilities. Now I can finally ‘fess up- not that it’s a huge thing, but it is fun. And happymaking. Which I know I already said. Deal.

Anyhow, as I’ve mentioned ’round these parts before, I’m a fan of the Pop My Culture podcast, hosted by Cole Stratton and Vanessa Ragland. It’s all kinds of naughty, silly, and hellaciously funny. I’ve learned not to be drinking anything while listening. I’ve also learned to make certain the rugrats aren’t too close by, since a few minutes of listening to PMC and one starts sounding like an extra from Deadwood.

Anyhow, some time ago, they hosted actor Timothy Omundson, whom many of you might know from Psych… or maybe Jericho… or maybe Deadwood… or… hell, you get the picture—he’s been in a lot—but for our purposes, we’re going to refer to his gig as Detective Carlton Lassiter from Psych since that was the impetus for his appearance on PMC.  Anyhow, Tim told the tale of his First Big Lie—the one where, because he totally bullshitted his parents and got away with the Big Lie, he knew he was meant to be an actor. If I recall correctly, it involved a BB gun and a sliding glass door and was a fairly impressive piece of utter horsehockey.

So Cole & Vanessa decided that would be the prompt for a contest—tell the tale of your First Big Lie and if they liked it, you could win a Season Four DVD set of Psych defiled, erm, signed by Tim.

Of course I gave it a go—but not because of the reasons you might imagine.  A) I’m not one for autographs and B) I already had all the DVDs, because my husband, who is always desperate for gift ideas (something about me being difficult to buy for…) had given them to me for Christmas.  So no, I wasn’t in it for the DVDs—I merely wanted to share the story of my First Big Lie because it’s a really good one and I wanted it documented somewhere.  I tried to include a version of it in a manuscript once, but my editor made me take it out as too unbelievable. *roll eyes*

Anyhow, I wrote it down and promptly forgot about it… until I received an email from Cole informing me that he and Vanessa had chosen my Big Lie as their favorite.  Color me boggled, y’all. I mean, there were some good ones submitted—I seriously only wanted my Big Lie documented and acknowledged. Somewhere.

So… what was my lie?  I’ve included it below, typos fixed, even. You’ll have to tell me if you think it’s a worthy lie.

Okay, admittedly, I’m a professional liar, too, as a writer, however, this story about my first big lie is absolutely true and yet when I tried to include a version of it in one of my books, my editor made me take it out because she said it was too unbelievable. (As a writer, I’m also long-winded…) So I’m putting it down not because I want the DVD (already have all of them), but because I want this story documented somewhere, dammit.

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Really? Do I look like the reunion type?

The other day, my older sister asked if I had any plans to attend my high school class’ twentieth reunion. After I pointed out that my twenty-fifth was two years ago (and waved the smelling salts under her nose to revive her) I got to thinking. Yeah, yeah, I know—dangerous. But I couldn’t help but ponder my utter lack of interest in attending a high school reunion. I mean, yeah, I went to my tenth. Mostly because my high school best friend also went, so it was a nice chance to reconnect, but honestly, my attendance was driven more from a morbid sense of curiosity. I wanted to see who would choose to attend and yeah, I wanted to see who had changed—for better or worse.

I’m the short one in the middle. I’m still short.

A little background: I graduated from North Miami Senior High School, enrollment 2500, Class of ’85, 520 strong. I was not, despite my involvement in band, much of a joiner. Didn’t do clubs, Student Government, yearbook, newspaper, or anything else. My interests were so focused—i.e. music, music, and more music, in the form of band, drum corps, and the practice required for a concert pianist, that it simply didn’t leave time for any other extracurriculars. Because of the involvement in band and drum corps (in particular) I had a small group of friends with very specific interests and who were spread across a wide age spectrum so to say that I wasn’t in step with the majority of my cohort would be… understating it.

Convoluted way of saying I didn’t fit. And because at that time I was so practiced at being a chameleon and blending into my surroundings, I had no sense of anyone actually knowing or giving a rat’s behind who I was—and this was despite the fact that by senior year I was the drum major of our very successful award-winning marching band.

But you know, boiling it down to its absolute truth—outside of the friends I had in band (and they were pretty few, as well), there weren’t that many people I actually liked in high school. And the other absolute truth is, the converse was true. This isn’t me pity-partying it or looking for hairpats. Just is what it is—I was an oddball who walked her own path during a time when homogeneity is valued and to boot, wasn’t a particularly warm-and-fuzzy person to start with.So no, it was not the time of my life—it wasn’t happy—it’s really not anything I particularly care to revisit, even on an intermittent, allegedly celebratory basis.

But I’m a curious sort (comes with the writer territory) and so when I received notices about my twentieth (how they found me, I have no clue), I kept half an eye on the proceedings. To see who was planning on going and then after the fact, to see the pictures. Yes, I wanted to do a compare and contrast. So sue me, I’m human, y’all.

Basically, the Usual Suspects again. Student Gov, clubs, athletes, extracurriculars, cheerleaders—in short, the Beautiful People. And judging from what little I saw of the proceedings, high school was their highlight and they were trying their damnedest to relive it. Give them props, too—if they’re going to live the cliché, at least they’re committing to it completely.  Another point of interest, considering I went to school in Miami and many of these folks appear to have remained there (which begs the entirely different question of Dear God, why?) I noted an awful lot of Botox and surgical enhancements. A lot. Of course, to balance that out, there were also a fair number of guys who I recalled as being considered hot back in the day, who are now balding, have beer guts, and a lot of mileage on the faces, yet clearly look in the mirror and still think they’re that hot guy from high school.

Oh, Sunshine—that’s so adorable…

So yeah- not feeling as if I missed a whole lot there. I honestly can’t imagine that I would have any more in common with these people than I did back then.

Something to be said for being a late bloomer.

Because my high school apparently wasn’t all that great at engendering a lot of school spirit, the alumni couldn’t even muster enough interest to organize a proper 25th reunion. Instead, they had a multi-class reunion for the classes of 1981-86 that happened to fall in line with my actual 25th.

Nope. Didn’t go to that either. Saw the pictures. Usual Suspects. Acting much in the way they did in high school.

I don’t know—maybe when my 30th rolls around, I’ll consider going. Just out of curiosity’s sake.  Maybe see what the reactions are to me, if any.  If anyone actually remembers me.  Frankly, I’d be shocked if they did.  I suspect you’d see a lot of wrinkled brows as they take in who I am now and try to force a recall that just isn’t going to come.

Or  you know, maybe I’ll just stay home and wash my hair.

On Paying it Forward & the Power of Social Media

Yeah, yeah, I’m posting another blog. I can see you gaping from here. But this is important. Even more important than breaking down who wore what to the Oscars or the Golden Globes or shilling a new release.

I’ll wait for you to pick yourselves up off the floor.

We good now? Okay.

So, I’ve had this thing that I’ve done, ever since I sold my first book (going on *gasp* seven years ago, now) and that’s find a charitable cause to which to contribute. It’s not something I tend to make a big deal of because like religion, politics, & birth control, I find it a sort of private matter (sorry Rush, you lard-assed windbag, no videos for you).

Some years, it’s been a big thing—remember my RITA gown from 2007? The Maggie Gyllenhaal Oscar gown?

As some of you know, I won that in a Clothes Off Our Backs (now sadly defunct) charity auction, with the thought that I might one day, if I was really, really lucky, be able to wear it to a RITA ceremony, you know, if I ever finaled. Little did I know it would be that year and it wound up being my lucky gown, since I, you know, won. *pauses to preen just wee bit*

Most years, though, it’s been little things—small donations to multiple organizations, usually to theatre groups like Red Dog Squadron a not-for-profit theatre company or my own local Seattle Theatre Group or, of course, supporting museums, like Seattle Art Museum or the Experience Music Project Museum (look, I live in Seattle- how can I not?).

Thing is, while donating to these causes are, indeed, charitable, they’re generally also to my benefit—having a beautiful gown to wear, having theatre and museums to attend with the rugrats—let’s face it, I definitely get a pretty good deal out of it.

But now, things is a little different, children…

(And this is where we come to the Power of Social Media portion of our program.)

I’ve mentioned lately that I’ve been hanging more on Twitter than blogging, mostly because I’ve been so buried in the writing that my attention span away from it tends to be better suited for short bursts of, oh, 140 characters or so. Actually, it’s been beneficial from other standpoints as well. With Twitter, I’ve been able to expand the scope of the creative folks I come in contact with, from artists (@loveandcapes) to musicians (@janicewhaley) to actors (@chris_gorham) to writers of many, many stripes, across varying genres and media (Mediums? Media. Whatever). It stimulates my own creative juices (which sounds vaguely naughty) and stokes the excitement I feel for my own work in addition to helping the plot bunnies procreate. Hey, I never said I was completely altruistic—I’m completely open about what I get out of this.

I’m rambling, I know. Okay, I’ll get on with it. One of the actors I follow, Timothy Omundson (@Omundson) from Psych happened to mention he was guesting on the Pop My Culture podcast (@pmcpodcast).

(Hilarious podcast, highly recommended, but if you have kiddies, I suggest listening to it after dark or with headphones, lest the little darlings overhear. Five minutes of PMC and they’ll wind up sounding like extras from Deadwood. You’ve been warned.)

Anyhow, Tim also happened to mention that oh, by the way, Vanessa Ragland (@vanessaragland), one of the hosts, has got a charity thing going on. Goes to show how buried I’ve been, lately, since I follow both the podcast and Vanessa on Twitter and this had somehow slipped past. *shamefaced*

End result is, I checked it out and this is where I get serious, folks—it’s a big deal. Vanessa is in the running for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s Woman of the Year

And this is why:

Guys, you know me—inveterate smartass, can make a joke about anything, but you know, cancer is no joking matter to me. It’s an insidious motherfucker that has messed with my own family and has hurt way, way too many people who I love, taking their loved ones from them, far too soon. It even permeated my professional life in that I wrote Breathe, the manuscript nearest and dearest to my heart, in part to express those feelings of helplessness and loss that cancer can generate. It remains my biggest professional regret that it never found a publishing home; too many publishers scared off by the cancer-centric storyline. Too dark, too real, too… scary.

Too bad. Cancer is scary. It’s dark and it’s real and it can strike anyone, including little girls and their daddies. So yeah, I donated, immediately, to Vanessa’s cause. And now I’m asking you, my awesome friends, to help out. If not by donating, because God knows, I know times are hard across the board, then by at least spreading the word, via your blogs, Twitter, Facebook, Google+, Tumblr, Pinterest, whatever floats your boat. You wanna rent a plane and fly a banner over South Beach, go for it (although I think the money would be better spent on a direct donation).

Vanessa has until April 25th to raise lots and lots of money and even if she doesn’t win, which, of course, we want her to, she’ll win, because she’ll have raised lots and lots of money. You see where I’m going with this, y’all?

She also has another secondary, equally important, reason to raise lots of money: her dad. It’s a tragedy, really—Vanessa’s dad, Larry Ragland, for reasons unknown, decided to grow his hair. It’s apparently quite scary. Don’t believe me? Watch:

So there you have it. If Vanessa can raise $5K by the end of the campaign, then Dear Old Dad will have to part with his ponytail. If you don’t do it for the children, then do it for Larry.

Donate. Or pass the word.

Please.

Love you all.

LATE BREAKING ANNOUNCEMENT!

This week only, FightCancer with CHARACTER(s). if you donate $50.00 or more to the Leukemia Lymphoma Society ROB PAULSEN ( Or Yakko! Or Pinky! Or Raphael!) will record a personalized outgoing message for your phone!