Farewell, California Contessa

When we met, I, just a teenager at the time, gazed up in awe at this beauty in her prime. Her youth behind her, my parents convinced her that an alteration of attire would benefit her greatly, and so it did. She went from the entirely inappropriate coloring of pink accessorized by baby blue to a more stately, perhaps even regal off-white accented with warm green, her strong iron jewelry all in black. This matched her terracotta bonnet, and she complemented her entire neighborly entourage.
My family loved her fiercely. We groomed her inside and out, restoring all those little corners and great rooms in a soul that people sometimes misinterpret. After all, her conception had brought together all the best that creative humanity could offer at the time; we would recover all we could of where she had begun.
For over forty-five years we loved her, depended on her, trusted her. Sometimes she let us down, but in the end it was we who brought her to where she lingers now. Unkempt, disheveled, she stands on her hill, filled with memories, more ours than those of anyone else she’s known. I sit with her on Sundays as I prepare to abandon her completely, and I remember. Oh, my dear God, how I remember. It halts me in my work.
Here we once put the Christmas tree, in front of the great, paned window in the massive living room for all to see.
And there, we painted the master bedroom on March 15, 1964, my parents’ twenty-third anniversary and the day that Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton married for the first time.
My balcony, a Romeo-and-Juliet balcony if ever there were one, turned out to be not nearly as well connected to her skeleton as it should have been. They had to tear up the floor in my bedroom and cable it to support beams in the far wall to make it safe.
Then there was the Sunday right before our first Christmas all together. I headed down to the basement to wash my hair and smelled the smoke. The Fire Department discovered the wooden framing for the cement catch below the fireplace, placed there thirty-five years earlier, had never been removed. An ember had caused the wood to smolder. The nice firemen put it out, then spent the next hour or so feeling walls for heat. Problem was that forced-air-heating ducts riddled the thick walls. Luckily we’d lived there just long enough to know where all those ducts belonged, and soon the gentlemen fire fighters departed, leaving my father to announce that not every kid gets a real fire engine for Christmas.
I feel her observing me as I think back. She remembers far more than I do, despite her dilapidated and slightly addled state. She watched as we moved in, and she’s watching as we prepare to walk away. It’s the right thing to do, I know. Her wounds and genetic defects will be healed once we are gone, and she will rise, a phoenix from the fire, unbearably beautiful in bright new feathers yet with a weathered eye. I will miss her terribly. I already do. But she will be the better for our departure. We have no money to maintain her. We cannot pay her taxes. It’s time to let her go.

Are We There Yet?

The rewards of all my work on my book, Fractured, flow towards me slowly, but they do flow.  I don’t know how to make the process move more quickly.  If I had more friends on Facebook, I’d probably be better off, but I don’t and that’s just the way I am.  And yet, the word moves, a person at a time, and I am being read, just not by millions.  Yet.

The interesting thing about marketing a book by an unknown author that appears to be just like any other young adult fantasy novel with a female hero but really isn’t—the interesting thing is that the few people who have read it are committed to it.  Admittedly, they are all friends, or friends of friends, or relatives of friends, so they took the risk on the book out of friendship.  But they come away with a real sense of my vision, and they care.  This means I’ve succeeded.  The words I put down on paper (or into the computer) have connected appropriately, as has my hero, Lisen.

Case in point.  One reader, a woman whose vocation I can only describe as somehow connected with helping people in third world countries because I don’t know much about what she does, admitted that while attending a conference (or seminar or some such), did something she never does; she missed a meeting, and she did so in favor of finishing my book.  That’s an amazing sacrifice made on behalf of a book by an author she’s only met once, an “unknown author” who is still struggling to get someone, anyone, to read her book.

Something in Lisen’s soul speaks to the reader.  Something in her journey stands out and offers readers a voyage of discovery.  Which is great!  It’s everything I wanted, and more.  Well, it’s almost everything I wanted.  I’d hoped to have a few strangers joining the rest of us on this road by now, but it’s possible that the strangers will show up after the second book is published.

Fractured blew the people I know away because they really hadn’t expected it to be quite that good.  The second book with its prohibited romance, life-threatening situations, murder and mayhem, and eventual clinging-to-the-cliff-by-the-fingernails ending should catapult my few very devoted readers into conversations with their friends and the young women in their lives about this gem of a storyteller and Lisen, the girl who does what she must to survive even when it may not be the most honorable path.

My reviews on Amazon—all four of them—are fabulous, and not because they are five-star reviews.  (One reviewer offered to give me four stars instead of five, even though in her mind I deserved five, so it wouldn’t look like what I believe she referred to as the “friend effect.”)  These reviews amaze me because each of these individuals GOT it.  They got why the book is titled Fractured.  They got Lisen’s broken state and how the mending is what this story is about.

One other thing these reviews have in common.  They want more.  All my readers want more.  They ask, “What happens next?”  They bug me to finish the second book (which is likely to leave them even more frustrated).  They keep me going when I feel like I’m getting nowhere.  Like children on a road trip, they keep whining from the backseat of the car, “Are we there yet?”  Soon, I’ll pull to a halt, put the car in park, set the brake and let them out to enjoy the next stop on the tour.

(With thanks to N. for the whining-kids-in-the-car metaphor.)