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The Roaring Twenties
This was supposed to be my year! The good stuff started off early even before the new year with the Mesdames of Mayhem book launch for their music themed anthology In the Key of Thirteen, where I had my story “The Moonlight Sonata”. This is the first of their anthos that I have been in so I was very happy to be included. The good times kept rolling right along with my trip back to Costa Rica in February, a place I love, where I lazed about and read and thought about writing as I swung in my hammock on the beach. And then we came home. A week later, the dreaded plague struck and we were all in lockdown.
Nevertheless, the writing went on and so did the good stuff, although adjusted to this new way of living. The staying inside part was nothing new, since I live this way anyway, hunkering down as I write, but watching all the highlights that give me such joy disappear one by one, that has been hard. First the opera cancelled the rest of the season. Then the ballet. Then one by one all the appearances I was to make at panels and readings and other events–gone.
Worst of all–– I have two new books coming out. I was looking forward to launch parties, which I haven’t had for a while for one reason or another. Marlo’s Dance is a new
adventure for me. Although it is set in my world of the Merculians, it
introduces a new character and a new kind of story–– a police procedural kind of mystery. Marlo Dasha Bogardini is an investigator and is involved right away with finding the dead body of a young dancer. It’s available for pre-order now but I will talk much more about it later.
My second book will be coming out on September 15. The title is Dancing With Chairs in the Music House, from Inana Publications. This, too, involves murder. Set in Toronto in 1949, it’s the story of a 10 year old girl, living in two rooms with her eccentric family in an old rooming house on Jarvis street. She spends her time wandering around, listening at doors, watching through windows and trying to make sense of what she sees and hears. Eventually she sees something not meant to be seen which changes her world.
But really why am I complaining? Isn’t most of this good news? Yes! It really is. And more good news is that I am writing, working on the last Merculian novel and making notes on another possible novel that will be completely different.
So although the twenties may not have begun to roar in the best of ways, it has plenty of time to change its tune to a more cheerful mode. And we can help by just keeping on keeping on. Write on! And most importantly, read on!
When I found I could no longer drive, I was strangely relieved. Yes, I realized this would make some things a little harder, but really it was only the short trips that seemed a problem; those quick runs to the store which is just a little too far to walk to now. The bank I do nearly entirely online, and my ever faithful chauffeur is usually on hand, or eager to run the errand himself, so problem solved. I also admit that at first as we Übered alng, I was forever checking side mirrors and turning to see if a cyclist might be coming. My right leg would stiffen, knowing the brakes should be applied. Now!
But little by little I am relaxing as I discover I no longer need to watch the road. Instead I check email, text , look at FaceBook, or even read, though That onlyv happens if I bring bmy Kindle. Yesterday I made notes with my trusty botebook from Lisbon and my little pink pen. Story ideas, naturally.
So yes, I am now living the Über life and enjoying it. Tomorrow I am going to the opera and don’t have to worry one bit about which route to take to avoid the marathon or roadwork or anything else. I will be relaxing in my chauffeured car, checking up on the story of Rusalka in the back seat. And all for little more than the opera parking!
The Downside of Writing
Usually during the summer I read, and read, and read. When I go to the cottage the first thing I pack is a milk crate jammed full of books. And in case I run out, I gave a Kindle, also fully loaded. I look forward to these long hours when I have nothing more to do than read. But this year nothing like this is happening. Why? Because my poor brain is on a full boil, completely focused, blinkered to the life around me. In other words, I am living on Merculian.
This has happened before but never to this extent. Usually when I write I can take a break from time to time and read a book. Now, when I try, (and believe me, I have tried!) I feel antsy, anxious and frustrated. I can’t concentrate on what is going on with the plot. And these are good books! It’s not that. It’s just that someone else’s world cannot hold my attention because I want to go back to my world. The one in my head.
You might get the idea from this that I am pounding on the old laptop from morning to night but nothing could be further from the truth. I can barely eek out one scene a day. But in my head, the story lurches on, unrolling in my mind every night when I go to bed. I actually look forward to these times the way some sane people might look forward to a favourite TV show. And every morning I make some notes and write another scene. Or part of a scene, or I go back to add some witty dialogue that came sauntering through my head as I was falling asleep. The wonder of all this is that I do remember it. Most of the time I can barely remember what I came downstairs for!
The writing life is odd. We all work in different ways. But underneath the differences is that same urge, like an underground river, forcing its way into the light. We wouldn’t have it any other way!
Living in Your Head
I suppose all authors live in their heads as they write the current novel. We fall in love with our characters and sometimes have a hard time making bad things happen to them, feeling rather apologetic as we put them in danger and anguish and occasionally have to kill them off. When I wrote my first Merculian novel many years ago I fell in love with a whole world! It was, I thought, a Star Trek novel. Alas, Paramount did not agree and I have their kind rejection letter framed on my wall. Looking back I am really glad! But my Merculian characters lived on quietly in my head, biding their time.
Meanwhile I wrote more novels, which were published, finally, where I explored other genres and their worlds; mystery and erotica , literary short stories and a coming of age novel. But from time to time I remembered my Merculians and at last it was time to revisit their world. I wrote first one book, then two, then three. I took another break and then along came a Merculian mystery, and finally, my work in progress, The Colony Dancers, which is, in a way, a study of what family means.
So far only The Danger Dance and The Abulon Dance are in print, but The Memory Dance just came out in ebook, and the print edition will follow soon. Each of these books is complete in itself, but many of the same characters appear in all of them.
Who are these characters I love so much? They come from a world where the arts reign supreme. They are emotional and pleasure-loving and very sensual. They are small-ish and hate the dark. They are funny…well, some of them are…and thir impetuous natures lead them into a lot of trouble. And they are loyal to a fault…well… most of them.
Will you love them too? Maybe. Maybe not. But their adventures are complex and intriguing and many of the questions tackled in these pages are those asked by many of us. Take a look. Step into the world in my head! You might really like it there! And if you do, there are five books to explore! So far….
Notre Dame Memory
Like many others, I have visited the cathedral of Notre Dame every time I am in Paris. Except the last tine. I regret that now, that I wa s too lazy or too blasé to bother. However, I do have great memories. My first visit I was still stirred by Victor Hugo’s great saga and the history of the place. Always the thought of the generations of workers it took to get these great gothic arches in place, the small pieces of stained glass stitched together with hot lead, the way the artists poured their soul into the work with no thought of recognition, inspired me and filled me with awe.
But what I remember best about Notre Dame is from when I was thirteen, living with my mother for a while on the Isle de la Cité, and going to mass one Sunday in the cathedral. Suddenly the main doors opened and the emperor Haile Selassie came in with an impressive entourage of cardinals and bishops and such, incense swinging as the great organ thundered. The Conquerng Lion of the Tribe of Judah struck me as quite handsome, looking every inch an Emperor! That was the only time anywhere that I have seen the main doors of a cathedral open.
I love those grand old many-storied Churches of Europe, the wonderful stained glass, the soaring archways, the lingering smell of incense and the beeswax scent of many candles. I was shocked to discover lately that some places have switched to ghastly (but much safer) flickering battery operated things. No soul. Little ritual. Bah. Humbug. The way it should be, however, lingers on my memory.
A Brand New Year!
Yay! A new year! Gaudeamus! Odd how that a change in the calendar , a simple turn of the page, can lift one’s spirits. A new year offers possibilities that in the old year seemed impossible. Doubly odd since 2018 had some wonderful high points amongst the sorrows to look back on: the publication of PEOPLE LIKE US, the writing of a new and completely different sort of book, a wonderful trip to Lisbon with Adrienne, and to Seville on my own. And right near the end, I signed a contract with Inanna for my novel DANCING WITH CHAIRS IN THE MUSIC HOUSE. Last but not least, an offer to translate one of my Kyle Stone novels into French, which is much appreciated.
In 2019 will see the emergence of three Merculian novels, startng with THE DANGER DANCE. (First pubbed in 2007) And here is the new cover! Cover design by the inimitable Istvan Kadar from original art by Grey Cross Studio.
I love this cover, with its hint of motion, its suggestion of one of the main characters and the swirl of space. My dancing hermaphrodites will be happy!
There will be a fourth Merculian novel eventually, and this one is a mystery, a sort of odd take on a police prceedural. But more on that later.
And there will be trips! More of that later, too. This is just a quick tip of the hat to the new year and good things to come!
Every day we go to Marc’s apartment and sift through the remains of his life, an odd assortment of the quirky, the beautiful and the banal. It is difficult but oddly helpful to have this physical task, one last thing we can do for him.
Most of this I am prepared for. There is the closet cramed to the ceiling with empty boxes, everything he ever bought can be traced here, even though much ot has long gone. Gary is working his way through this, methodically cutting every box up into manageable pieces for recycling. This is mostly what he does for two hours. There is the linen cupboard with two shelves full of luxurious towels, the kind you find in 5 star spas: large serving dishes and a splendid wooden salad bowl fit for a party, though he never entertained; Calvin Klein sheets; an electric fireplace wirh a lovely mantel. Everything is covered with dust.
But it’s the little things that catch in my throat and brings on the tears. I find plastic Halloween pumpkins with lights to make them glow in the dark. He would never open his door to strangers, so it was just for himself. There is an autumn wreath of maple leaves and red berries, Christmas ornaments and candles. Some Christmas gift bags saved from long ago that I recognize.
This is the photo that hangs in our living room of Marc when he was in his twenties. Someone had suggested he could be a model, since he wore his clothes so well. Of course this would be imposdible, but he loved the idea and I tried not to be too negative. When I said he would need some headshots, he agreed to pose in his apartment for a friend of Adrienne who was into photography. It was a difficult session, I gathered later. Marc was very jumpy and nervous since he did not know the guy, and they had to cut things off early. Of course nothing came of this idea, but I love the photo in spite of all its flaws. It is very revealing. I see the sadness and vulnerability. And I see the small scar above his chin from a childhood spill, witness to a happier time of carefree fun.
The removal van is coming on Wednesday and then the cleaners move in, erasing all signs of his life in that apartment. And he is really gone.
A Death in the Family
These words bring to mind the loss of a dear parent or perhaps an ancient aunt or uncle, someone who will be missed but whose life was winding down. But parents are not meant to outlive their children. This kind of death is such a shock to the system that there are no words to describe it, that hollowed out feeling, the shell-shocked numbness and confusion. The utter disbelief.
I know that feeling because on Saturday afternoon June 2, my son Marc, age 45, died of a massive heart attack in the ambulance on the way to the hospital. I was in London, looking after my brother when I got the call.
Marc hated having his picture taken as he got older, so this is the best I can do, strange filter and all.
He was a happy, sociable outgoing boy whose life gradually moved into the shadows of mental illness. But in spite of all his battles with demons, he lived on his own terms, enjoyed shopping and dressing like a preppy fashion plate and surrounded himself with items he considered luxurious, like crystal decanters, even though he did not drink, and a grandfather clock, although time meant little to him. No matter when I arrived at his door, always unexpectedly because he could not tolerate a telephone in his apartment, he was up and impeccably dressed.
We used to go out for lunch in good restaurants, then less and less often as his tolerance for such places decreased. I wrote him little notes every week, often enclosing a treat of some sort. In lieu of lunches out, I began taking in prepared dinners we would share.
His death was sudden and quick, for which I am thankful. HIs absence is loud in my heart, his loss a hard, physical thing I had not experienced before. But I comfort myself knowing that at last he is at peace. The service on Wednesday was a private family affair. Donations in his memory can be made to CAMH.
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Year of the Dog
You might think that a year named after the dog would be a great year for me. So far you would be wrong! 2018 is not bringing much joy. Reeling from losing a dear university friend in December, I staggered into January and fell afoul of the flu, which ebbed and flowed for weeks.
Then, just as I was rejoicing in renewed energy, I heard my oldest friend from junior school, who greeted me on my first day with the promise that we would be best friends, had died. I had been thinking of her often lately but had not seen her for years, since she had been lured off into a cult-like form of Christianity and was gradually isolated from everyone from her past. I had always hoped there would be a way to connect again. Alas, this is no longer possible.
Meanwhile down in London, Big Brother was rushed to the hospital with some kind of serious intestinal blockage. Then followed a week of tension while they figured out how to deal with this without operating, since he already has scaring from previous operations and radiation as well. He is slowly recuperating at home with nursing care and physio.
Back on the home front, Henry, the most beloved hound in the world, aka the Million dollar dog, was moaning and not himself. He ended up having a serious operation to remove a large tumor and his pancreas. Oy! By this time I have eaten my way into five pounds. Henry is doing quite well, however, though is not a good patient at all!
The glimmer of good things to come is that my new book, PEOPLE LIKE US, will be coming out in the spring! Cover reveal coming soon. Things may be looking up!