Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Santa Put "What" In Your Stocking?

Bad kids get lumps of coal in their Christmas stockings, right?

And good kids get…well, for good kids the sky's the limit. Or so good kids desperately hope.

So before December 25th arrives, you do a short review, just a brief precautionary survey, to check on how you stack up in the all-important good kid-bad kid sweepstakes.

Let's see, during the past twelve months you weren't a serial killer, not even a sort-of-nice-one, like Dexter. Check.

You didn't buy up companies, strip them of their valuable assets and sell off the rest, sending hundreds, if not thousands, of jobs to India or the Philippines or some such place and forcing an equal number of workers onto the unemployment line. Check.

You didn't mistreat helpless animals…kick the old, frail, pregnant or incapacitated to the curb to reach that empty cab first…spread vicious rumors…pick pockets…or set fires to collect insurance money. Check…check…check…check…and double check.

So all things considered, you were a pretty good kid. Which means…at least you hope it means…Santa will fill your Christmas stocking with some really nice goodies.

Then Christmas comes, and the long-awaited moment when you can dip into that stocking and tally up your loot is finally here.

Okay, not a single iPad, iPod, iPhone or Mac-anything in sight. But there is a basic laptop.Your first one ever. So far, so good. There are also gift cards. No question about it, you can always use those. And beautiful flowering plants as well as boxes of rich Italian pastry and creamy chocolate candy.

All in all, not a bad haul, and you go to sleep that night with a smile on your face and a twinge in your gut (when will you learn that one thick slice of tiramisu is more than enough, and two thick slices will come back to bite you every time?)

Then Christmas is finally over, and as you prepare to pack away the Yule decorations, you suddenly realize the most important thing Santa put in your stocking—not this year's stocking, but last year's edition. It's a gift you couldn't see back then, a gift you can only recognize in hindsight, and it's the most valuable gift of all.


365 days of it. 

A full year of pretty good health, enough money to pay your bills, and even a dream or two that finally came true.

So even if that billion-dollar bank balance remains forever elusive and the castle in Spain, the Rolls Royce and the eat-all-you-want-and-never-gain-an-ounce diet never materialize, you still (in the most literal sense imaginable) received the gift of a lifetime.

It's what you hope is in your stocking again this Christmas, the same gift you'd like for everyone else as well—another year of life, love, laughter, good health, and dreams fulfilled.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

What's Past Is Prologue

     As with so much else he did, Shakespeare had it right when he penned that pithy phrase for “The Tempest.”

     The past can indeed set the stage (or provide the prologue) for the present and hence the future.

     The same applies to prologues in books.  They’re scene setters that explain what brought the protagonist to his or her current predicament. 

     Of course, a lot of readers actively dislike book prologues.  They consider them unnecessary and just want to jump into the action of the main plot itself while the writer judiciously sifts in any important bits of backstory at the appropriate time.

     It’s a valid point of view, and after writing the prologue to “Finding You Again,” I did try a prologue-less beginning.  But somehow it didn’t feel quite right to me, and since the prologue is just 293 words and (in my opinion, at least) sort of amusing, I decided to stay with it. 

     So here it is: the short prologue (the past) that provides the background for what sends Maggie Demarco, the heroine, on her journey (the present) into the future:


At one-thirty on a beautiful afternoon in early June, Maggie Demarco stood in the small anteroom at the rear of St. Athanasius Church, wearing a magnificent white gown and waiting for the moment when her father would walk her down the aisle and deliver her for all time into the tender arms of her groom, the love of her life.

At one forty-four, Maggie was still waiting.

At one fifty-nine, the entire assembled wedding party finally realized Maggie was still waiting. And so were they.

At two-twelve... That’s right. Still waiting.

At two-sixteen, calls, e-mails and instant messages began going out to the groom to alert him that he was, umm, just a wee bit late to his own wedding.

At two-twenty-seven, Maggie’s father, the wee-bit-late-groom’s father, the best man, and the ten groomsmen all set out in search of the love of Maggie Demarco’s life.

At two-forty-eight, it finally became evident that the groom hadn’t been in a horrible auto accident on his way to church. Nor had he suffered a near-fatal heart attack, been snatched by kidnappers, or developed a sudden case of amnesia. He had simply turned tail and left town for parts unknown without bothering to inform his bride that he’d experienced a last-minute change of heart about their happily-ever-after.

At three-o-five, belatedly admitting to herself that her perfect wedding was toast, and so was she, Maggie Demarco ripped the tiara veil off her head and ran from the church. Caught between cathartic tears and even more cathartic anger, she vowed, so help her God, that she would never marry anyone—no way, no how—and if she ever found her former beloved fiancĂ©, she would whack the lily-livered louse senseless with what was left of her five-hundred-dollar bouquet.

To Blurb Is Human

        All right, I admit it.  I’m not sure whether blurbing (i.e.: devising a tantalizing thumbnail sketch of a book’s storyline) is human or not.  But since as far as anybody knows, no other life form on earth does it, I suppose it must be. 

The one thing I am sure of with complete certainty is that it’s a necessary and valuable part of putting out a book.  Which meant it had to be done for my novel, “Finding You Again.” 

So I dutifully set about doing it.

Ask many writers and they will probably tell you that in terms of instilling dread, writing a blurb is second only to writing query letters to agents and editors or putting together a 5-page synopsis that will adequately describe your 350-page book.

But after many less-than-glowing attempts, I finally managed to produce a blurb that, with only a few minor changes, won the approval of the Wild Rose Press Blurb Committee.  Yes, blurbs are so vital that TWRP really has a Blurb Committee.

And here is the blurb the committee members decided will be featured both on the book itself and in all promotional materials:

“Maggie Demarco thought she’d have the perfect wedding…until the groom backed out without even saying goodbye. So she packs a bag and flees to the town where she grew up to heal and prepare for the rest of her life.
Eric Holt is surprised when he learns that Maggie’s back in town. He’s never forgotten the hours he spent in high school introducing her to the joys of sex. Of course, he’s also never forgotten the pain of her rejection. But he’s still willing to help her recapture the sexual mojo she lost waiting for her AWOL groom, and he proposes a no-strings-attached affair to prove how desirable she still is.
Neither expect the unintended consequences, when old hurts resurface, new problems arise, and simple sex threatens to turn into the craziest complication of all: love.”