Apr 262015
 

My friendship with Ken Jolly goes back to my high school days. He was in a local rock band. I was a fan. I’d met him and the band, the Moderns of Rockville, Connecticut, at a battle of the bands that I helped organize in my hometown. They did not take the top prize that night but we found ourselves all at an after party event. That was the beginning of a fun couple of years becoming friends, dancing the nights away.

I went to school at UCONN; Ken went to Vietnam. We lost track of each other.

Fast forward through decades. On my ramblings through Facebook I occasionally try to find old friends but never had any luck with Ken. Entering his name yielded a wild-looking guy with long white hair and beard — in Tennessee. I gave up  until one of my friends from those days said she’d connected with him on Facebook. Back I go. I look again. Look at his eyes. Damn it was him.

We exchanged brief life synopses. His wife, my husband. Our rescued dogs. Our work. He was still making music, though now it was blues and country leaning, in Tennessee. I’d been a journalist and PR person and migrated to Massachusetts. We tended to “like” each other’s posts. I also became friends with his wife–when NEELIE’S TRUTH came out, she invited me to do a book club discussion. And to my surprise, he offered a song.

Then I waited. It’s been just about a year. There were two rounds of lyrics, very different from each other. A mention earlier this year that he was booking studio time. Then, last week, a head’s up that he was in the studio recording.

An MP3 arrived by e-mail. “Neelie’s Theme.” I had been enjoying my meditative morning coffee with my dogs doing their yoga stretches on the carpeting in front of me. I had no idea what to expect when I clicked on the file. It had been a long, long time since I heard his voice. I remembered his covers of Mustang Sally and When a Man Loves a Woman.

I held my phone up, the better to hear. Guitar, sweet and thoughtful, played out around me. Then Ken singing about Neelie’s secret, her story, her loss.   I listened with tears.

I’ve been grateful for so much: the art for Neelie’s Truth designed by a good friend; the enthusiastic reviews by other authors and readers; the love and support of my husband, daughters and extended family. But as the song sighed to a close, I was also grateful for the sharing of this fictional person who is real to me. And real in Ken’s singing.

Somewhere, I’d saved his cell number. He’d given it to me when we were talking about the lyrics. I’d never called because I decided that the lyrics were his, not mine. No editing. I dialed the number now.

“Thank you thank you thank you,” I said.

Betsy

P.s. “Neelie’s Theme” by Ken Jolly will soon be available for download. I’ll be sharing updates.

Photo credit: Ken Jolly 2015, John Nicolosi, Niko Records Studio

Jan 312015
 

For many of us, writers especially, rejection can come like a stab through the heart and descent into despair. What if we rewrite that script?

I just heard–yes NPR, of course–about Jason Comely, a Canadian IT guy, who has come up with Rejection Therapy as an antidote to his stifling fear of getting the thumbs down. He’d been left by his wife and the fear of rejection made a virtual recluse of him. NPR’s Invisibilia does a great job with his story, and here is the take-away. Commit to being rejected at least once a day. Eventually, the fear takes a back seat and life gets more interesting.

Jason inspired a following. Jia Jiang launched his own fear-buster of 100 days of rejection. He video-taped and posted the asks. He’s been rejected when he asked a stranger for $100, but in a happy turn of events a Krispy Kreme employee agreed to produce an Olympic symbol made of donuts. He asked to make the in-flight announcement and if he could play soccer in a stranger’s backyard (Yes to both!). His 100th ask was to President Obama (still waiting on that).

I’m feeling inspired by Jason and Jia and their followers. No matter where you are in your writing life–starting, in the middle, or one of the lucky ones at the top of the game, there is possible rejection for you. It’s what you do with it. BTW, you don’t need to be a writer to give rejection therapy a try.

no

There’s the easy (not really) way. Send out a manuscript every day and watch the form letter  e-mails roll back in. We all know how to do that. Get creative, have fun with it. I’m thinking more of things like:

 

 

 

  1. Ask your fire department if you can do a ride-along for research.
  2. Write your favorite author and ask if they will blurb your book.
  3. Ask someone in line if they would “like” you on Instagram or Facebook or Twitter.
  4. Ask for a feature story in your local paper.
  5. Ask a Chipotle employee if you can write something for their  Cultivating Thought series.
  6. Ask a stranger if they’d like your autograph.
  7. Ask a Starbucks  barista if you can name a character after her.
  8. Will your supermarket add an “author” reserved parking spot?
  9. Recite a favorite poem to the “I’ll be your server” person.
  10. And yes, ask an agent, editor, publisher to consider your work …

Like Jia Jiang and Jason Comely, you may get a yes somewhere in the mix–but not until you start asking. The theory is that you can take away the sting of rejection by repetition; our hearts will be open to the idea of asking. The possibility of being surprised.

Betsy

P.s. If Mother Nature can get her plans rejected by a Groundhog, heck we can all do this! Happy GHD to you.

Sep 292014
 

I was in a deep coma of a sleep. I’d worked a long day. The equinox has tipped its hat and that black velvet of nighttime wrapped tight around me. In other words, perfect sleep.  Why would I wake up?

I’d felt the eyes on me. Waffles, my mostly Lhasa Apso, was sitting on the floor next to the bed. Staring at me.

waffles summer10_sm

I learned about this phenomenon when my children were young. When they were old enough to climb out of their beds, and young enough to want to climb into mine, they would stand in the doorway of my bedroom. That’s all it took. The stare. It woke me every time. Sometimes I’d manage a mumbled conversation about bad dreams and going back to sleep. Mostly, I’d lift the blanket and they’d crawl in for the rest of the night.

Waffles doesn’t want to crawl in bed at 5. He has the luxury of sleeping with my husband and me. Waffles wanted me to get up and take care of him. If I ignore him, he goes from silent stare to a quiet clearing of his throat, a soft purr of a growl. It has a pleading sound that, combined with those soulful eyes, is impossible to ignore. Usually, the eyes have it.

I’m not a late sleeper. Most days, I wake by six. That extra hour is the time where I dream the heaviest. The time when I sort out life’s thorny problems through dreams. It is the sleep I hate to give up.  

Cutting off the extra hour means than I stumble from bed, treading carefully over dog toys and my husband’s socks that never make it all the way to the laundry.

 In my sleep dazed state, I’m only conscious that I don’t want to cause harm to myself by doing going for the pup. I make it to the kitchen, with Chickie, our newly rescued Cockapoo, trailing. She goes instantly awake and does a happy dance, Snoopy style. FOOD! FUN! EARLY! Woohoo.

By the time they are fed and take a short scamper around the yard, I have coffee made. My husband asks why I don’t just go back to bed. I’m awake…and as much as I hate losing the sleep, the annoyance quickly turns to gratitude.

The sun is up. I’ve gained an hour today. In a life where, it mostly feels like I’m running hours behind, the gift of time is rare. So this morning, I’ve time for a blog. Waffles and Chickie are sleeping at my feet. Yes, they do go back to sleep. Just like my daughters, rescued from their nightmares.

Of course, the next time I feel the eyes on me, I’ll try to talk him out of it. With most likely the same result.

Betsy

Aug 042014
 
Summer Romance

I’m having a love affair with #summer. It’s always a slow dance through June and July, but come August, I’m smitten by the sun. The miracle of food appearing on vines, stalks, and branches makes me giddy.  I love a great market as much as the next foodie. But I grew up with a huge backyard garden and orchard. We would feast on the best of the crop, sometimes extravagantly so. When the green beans were at their peak, my mother would serve a platter of beans, sometimes with a bit of bacon, sometimes just naked. That was it. Beans. […]

Jul 032014
 
Rolling Thunder Review

Lightning strikes again and again and again. In my life, anyway. In the midst of a three-day run of thunderstorms, I can’t help think of the close calls. The house where I grew up was set on a pocket of cornfield next to my grandparents’ small farm. Connecticut River Valley rich soil, gentle rolling landscape, it was beautiful. It was apparently also some ind of geo-hot spot. I’ve got no scientific backup, just the facts. In my relatively short time living there, I left when I was 18, here’s a rundown of strikes that I remember: Dog — typically my […]

Jun 212014
 
Sun of the Solstice

The Summer Solstice arrived at 6:51 this morning. Unlike Christmas when children wake before dark to rush out to their stocking treats or Easter when those same children scamper to find their chocolate bunnies, many of us were still asleep. What a shame. Mother Nature threw us a big party and we lazed. Maybe we need a place to properly mark the day, as the Brits have their stone circles. A while back I visited Avebury in Wiltshire, England. On that same day I also visited Stonehenge. Stonehenge, if you’ve not visited lately, requires tickets and reservations. Those who arrive without planning are left to gaze […]

Jun 172014
 
Getting Comfortable With Creative

You wrote the book. That may seem like the easy part as you begin to face scores of decisions. Front matter and back matter. Author photo. Editors, overall and copy. Proofreader. Promo team. Perhaps the biggest…book cover design. My decision for NEELIE’S TRUTH cover design was made early.  A graphic designer I’ve known for many years said he’d like to work on the cover. For me it was a non-decision. I trusted him. I knew I could work with him. I also knew I wanted a cover that honored the story with a clean, strong design. For many indie authors, […]

Jun 142014
 
Chipmunk Walks Into a Room

Country life means that sometimes the country comes inside. We’ve been visited by field mice (no big surprise), voles, birds, frogs, chipmunks, neighbors’ dogs who discover the dog door, likewise cats, and of course creepy crawlies. Chipmunk #1 – discovered when I stumbled out of the bedroom at 5:30, with our dogs, Waffles and Chickie. Eyes barely open, I caught a tiny brown blur racing ahead of us. In a nanosecond, the dogs pursued.  Through the family room, kitchen and into what we call the music room (really our library with overstuffed chairs, books, and the complex-beyond-words music system my husband has […]

Jun 092014
 
The Truth is Out

The best writing comes from that place deep inside, unknown until it is set free. So it is with my new novel, NEELIE’S TRUTH. I did not plan to write a book that was controversial. I met Neelie James sitting on the back step of her family home. I stood behind her and followed her gaze. Her father, who trapped to earn extra money, was skinning muskrats. He’d sell the dried pelts. There was nothing new for Neelie–she lived in rural Connecticut at the cusp of change, the late 1950s.  And so the story began. I wrote around 270 pages. […]

May 302014
 
Hallelujah, Praise Cohen

The wonder of Twitter is that I find myself spending moments in splendid reflection. Truth is, I also find myself wondering why I have a follower that promises non-surgical face lifts; and why does one click go through to porn?  But, back to splendid. A new follower from Ontario. On his profile, a link to Leonard Cohen. And here I sit on a far too chilly May day, listening to Hallelujah. Leonard Cohen, with his bottomless voice that reads between a purr and a growl, is giving me the best moments of my day. I can’t remember ever seeing him […]