Dad Didn’t Die

A few weeks ago, my father was seriously ill and also 1,243 miles away. While flying to him, I thought back to our conversation mere weeks ago, when I was in Florida for the winter and we saw each other at least once a week, just the two of us sitting in chairs at my sunroom table where we enjoyed the majestic palms stretching down the boulevard. On these visits, Dad became softer with me, more open emotionally, and I felt I could talk to him about anything.

I asked him about my grandmother, his mother, who had died in Florida when I was a teenager. I remember my father in 1971, dressed for his flight down south. In his sharply creased trousers and his caramel colored sweater with the black strip over a crisp white shirt, he looked as handsome as a movie star. His normal handsome was James Dean but this handsome was toned down, more serious and refined, as befitted the occasion. I asked him to take me with him and he said it wasn’t possible.

I loved my grandmother so much, and had missed her since she’d made the permanent move south. I’d been down to see her a few times, she’d been north a few times, too, always with crates of oranges and grapefruit, but this was different. This might be the last time. But when Dad said no, he meant it. I mourned for her from afar, the only person who’d ever shown me physical affection when I was a child. She hugged me tight. She held me in her arms. She kissed me and told me she loved me. She put her hand in mine and held tight. Nobody else in our family did those things. Not my parents or my maternal grandparents. For a long time, I thought that meant Grandma Hines was the only person who really loved me. And she was dying. Or maybe already dead.

“I never made it in time,” my dad confessed almost fifty years later as we sat in the same Florida sun where many generations of his mother’s family had been born and raised. “She was dead when I got there.” We sat in silence, remembering the robust six-foot tall woman with the warm heart and arms that wrapped around you like a love package. I noted the guilt in my father’s voice as he recalled his inability to see his mother one last time. He’d been unreachable for awhile, working out of town or maybe just unavailable. We weren’t a real family then. Neither Dad nor I lived with my brothers and mom. Mom had a habit of kicking us both out with regularity, but the shadow of death had brought the whole family together for a little while.

Now I was flying to see my father under similar conditions. Would I make it in time? It had been such a difficult decision to go back to Florida. I’d only been home from my extended winter stay for two weeks. I’d sorely missed my husband those winter months. I didn’t want to leave him again so soon, but remembering the regret my dad had held on to all these years made me determined to see him, maybe for the last time.

My brother came down too. I got to St Pete just a bit before him, rented a car at the tiny airport, and dumped my bags in the condo. Then I went to the hospital. My dad was not my dad. He was in intensive care, as his vitals were not good, he looked so pale, hooked up to many machines that jabbed him with needles up and down his arms. His eyes were closed. I told the nurse I’d just sit with him. I’d made the right decision to come; he wasn’t dead yet, but he looked terrifyingly near it.

My hand reached for the one part of his arm that wasn’t taped to his skin with an IV. His eyes fluttered open. When he recognized me, his whole face smiled. We chatted in our familiar way. The doctor came and listed the possible grim outcomes. It could be this or that or the other or a combination. But they had a plan and were giving medication and running tests. I was warily optimistic. My brother joined us and soon I left so Dad and Bob could have some one on one time.

And thus we went on, my brother and I making sure each day one of us went to the hospital early and the other later. We’d then debrief each other via phone or text. My brother was staying at my dad’s condo, but he came to mine one day and we sat and talked about a lot of difficult things, including our mother, politics and religion.

Since Trump has been elected, I’ve wanted to know what his supporters think of him now. But I didn’t want to risk the friendships that had survived the election, so I had stayed silent. Bob said “I hate his ego but I love the economy. Nearly everybody has a job. The market’s doing great and thank God we aren’t granting asylum to busloads of thugs who not only get medical insurance but Social Security! Did you know Mexico supplies bus transport and pays their fare to our border?”

I didn’t and still find it difficult to believe that last one. I need Snopes for that. But, aside from saying having a job was not the same as earning a living wage, I was able to agree in theory with the rest of it. Our views on both politics and religion differ wildly but somehow that day we found common ground.

I’m not one to try to convince another they should see things (like the inexplicable workings of the universe or our current president) as I do. But my brother, a religious scholar of the evangelical sort, who studies both Hebrew and Greek, the better to translate God’s Word, has a more open line to the Holy Spirit than me. I told him our octogenarian father had heartbreakingly confided, during one of our weekly winter talks, that he was afraid of dying. I asked Bob if he knew of a way to help ease our dad’s mind on that. If Dad was afraid when he was healthy, what must he be suffering now? My brother agreed to have a chat with Dad about Jesus.

Every day we watched our dad improve bit by bit. The first bite of food. The first successful procedure. The final diagnosis, which was not as bad as we thought. He needed to heal from an infection and, in due time, have a gall bladder operation.

Whoosh, the relief.

Another blessing, my brother had felt the spirit come upon him and had talked to Dad about life after death. Dad, who moved from atheist to agnostic as he aged, heard the good news that heaven was real and awaited him whenever his sojourn on this planet ended.

The next day during my hospital visit, I said, “So Dad, Bobby tells me he talked to you about God and heaven.” Dad, still in a world of hurt and under the influence of heavy pain killers, said “Yes, and it was good news, but, Cindy, what about the frog?”

“Frog?” He had me stumped, so tried to explain further. “You know, the one that you say we all came from.” Ah, I got it now. Dad meant the primordial soup that created single cell organisms from which, over millennia, humanity evolved. My brother and I had not discussed the frog. Bob had agreed with me when I said I didn’t think religion and science had to be irreconcilable. “Absolutely,” he’d said, “they complement each other.” We talked about black holes and dark matter and the Great Attractor, all of which to me seem cohorts of a mysterious, maybe even benevolent, universe. But we didn’t talk about the frog. I knew my brother takes the Bible quite literally and that there was a line at which we could meet and where that line could not be crossed.

I had explained evolution to Dad during one winter visit. Neither of my parents finished high school, as they were very busy being teenage parents, so biology and the origin of the species is not something on their everyday minds. Dad found all of what I’d said interesting but pretty darn unbelievable. He didn’t like thinking he was descended from mud, but neither did he absolutely believe the Bible, which he had read some years ago, perhaps in an attempt to lift the burden of disbelief. “Some of those guys were nuts,” is the way Dad put it.

“Dad,” I said, “I know Bobby thinks the earth and all its creatures were created in a single week. But Einstein’s time-motion theory of relativity proved that everything that has ever happened or will happen in the future is also happening now, all at once.” His eyes wandered to the clock on the wall. I tried to simplify the explanation. “Time, as we think of it, is a human construct that helps us make sense of our lives in the world now. But time, when considered with motion over the broad range of the known universe, really is happening all at once. God’s ‘week’ could have been billions of years. God could have dabbled with his creations for an eternity.”

Dad closed his eyes for a minute. Science is a wearying subject for many people, particularly those flying high on opioids. When he opened his eyes again, he said, “But Cindy, you have to admit, most of us don’t look a damn thing like frogs.” Dad was back. And he wouldn’t be dying any day soon. He had too much thinking to do, sorting out the universe, frogs, and his own sprogs.

 

 

 

 

What About Audio Books?

IMG_4519I’m so glad it’s raining today, because I have an audio book to listen to. 30% of “readers” these days are actually listeners. I’m not usually one of them, but this is different. It’s one of my books I’ll be listening to. This is part of the contract among my publisher, Amazon and me. I’ve got a few audio books out there now. All of my books with The Wild Rose Press, including my upcoming release, have been contracted for audio.

I don’t know much about the financial side of what it costs to have a book recorded, as I don’t pay a red cent. The $$$ is between Amazon and my publisher, but one friend who writes indies looked into getting her books on audio and she was quoted upward of $3000 per book. I feel lucky my savvy publisher won a great deal for me (and all their authors) with the audio book trend being so hot. There are even audio book bloggers!

perf5.000x8.000.inddMy main job is to listen to the recorded books for errors. At first, I worried about this as I am addicted to my Kindle and not an audio book reader. I still read print books, too, but Kindle is so much easier on my eyes. I was also a little worried for another reason. By the time my books are published I’ve read them at least ten times. Probably more. So I don’t read them once they’re in print. My main worry going into the first listen, which happened to be The Paris Notebook, was Would I hate it? Would my words sound silly or off or what if the story just did not stick together?

Ha. Much to my surprise I have loved listening to my books so far. *blush* One of the first things I did after signing the contracts was fill out an info sheet about each book. One of the questions was “Do you prefer a male or female reader?” I decided to have a guy read Luke’s #1 Rule but I went with females for the rest of the books. Then came Charlie. He contacted me via Facebook and said that he’d just sent in his audition for Blue Heaven.

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He gave me the link to his website and I checked out his impressive credentials and his voice clip. Yes, he was a guy, but I liked how he read. A lot. So I quickly wrote our PR whiz and said “I know I said I wanted a woman, but I want this guy to read Blue Heaven.” Then Charlie and I talked a little more and he said he’d be willing to read any other books I still had open for audition. I had one more–Love and Death in Blue Lake. He promptly signed a contact for that one and we have a verbal agreement that he’ll read Lily White in Detroit when it comes out.

The very best thing about this teaming up with Charlie, besides his incredible voice, is that he is reading the three books of Lily. What does that mean? Lily is introduced in Blue Heaven as a teenage runaway and believe me she tried to run away with that book. Then in Love and Death in Blue Lake, Lily returns and her storyline drives the suspense. She tracks the murderer and brings him to justice. Yes, she got even closer to stealing the show, but she was a damaged young woman, and she had to heal before she got her big break and starring role in Lily White in Detroit.

I just feel like it is neat symmetry that Charlie is going to be reading those three Lily books. And I feel, too, that audio books are only going to get more popular. I’m just lucky that I don’t have to try to indie publish an audio. It’s not just the money. It’s the voice actors. It’s the whole business side of things. Frankly, I’d be crap at that. But luckily I’m pretty good at listening to my own stories.

Sand Castle Marketing

IMG-4574In the past week, when thinking about PR and marketing my upcoming book, I’ve become a bit depressed. The more I search out, the more it feels I’m building castles made of sand. Everything online changes so fast, by the time I decide to use a marketing tool, will it have melted into the sea? What set me off this week was hearing from many writers (via email and posts on Facebook) talking about a new rule: writers who set up mailing lists, like for newsletters, are subject to new rules. They have to be transparent about how they will use reader information. These letters and posts I’m seeing ask contacts to sign up for their list again and agree to a privacy policy that meets new standards.

It’s a bit confusing, just one more of the many marketing “tools” that flow like sand through my fingers. Then there’s the persistent rumor that Facebook business pages (for authors these are known as fan pages, and yes I have one) will cost authors, thus we should drop our fan pages in favor of group pages, which are free and better.

I don’t have a newsletter and have never collected a mailing list which lets me out of the first headache of crafting and sending out an email to my readers, asking them to re-sign. As I understand it, websites and Facebook page notifications are not included in the new rules. It’s just if you send a newsletter. Plenty of people have encouraged me to send a newsletter through the years as a marketing tool. I never did it and now I’m glad. I feel like everything people need to know about me, they can find out on the website, on Facebook, or on Twitter.

As to the mob saying “Don’t use Facebook business pages and pay to advertise your books, instead use Facebook groups where advertising is free.” Just like I didn’t see myself sending out newsletters, I don’t see myself having a Cindy Harrison Group, ever, on any platform except this one. I’m an writer who just wants to write. Every year or two I want to talk about my new book, but only to people who are interested. I can do that here. So, after all the hoopla, here’s my plan, as least this week:

I will work with my publisher’s marketing guru on my Facebook business page. I’m still going to advertise when the new book is released even though it has costs associated with it. And I’ll still post a link to my weekly blog there, which is free. I don’t see writing my blog as advertising. I don’t use my website to advertise anything but my books. I write this blog because I enjoy talking about writing and books and relationships. And yes once a year or so I do promote a new book. I’ve been blogging a long time (since 2002!) and it’s nice to have a few places to drop the link, like Twitter and Facebook.

I’ll ask my web manager if I should put up a privacy policy on the landing page of my website assuring people I will never use their personal information. I never have used anybody’s email to send them anything, let alone unsolicited “news” about a new release, so I think people who do read the blog or visit the website already know that I’d never use their personal information for spamming, which is really what the new ruling is about. I’m all for stopping the spammers!

I’ve settled into the slightly more upbeat view that NOT being a hard-core marketer who uses every tool available will, at times, work in my favor. Perhaps the answer is really that simple: only do what I like doing. It’s always been that way. If it makes me feel uncomfortable, I don’t do it. The exception is I’m going to do public appearances, despite my aversion to public speaking, but that will be fine. I know those ropes really well as I had to learn to handle them when I became a teacher many moons ago.

After much ado about nothing, I’ve reached a place of peace with it all. For now. xo

 

 

 

Will Work for Key Words

perf5.000x8.000.inddAfter I finished Lily White in Detroit, I made a promise to myself to become better at the other part of my job as a writer: marketing. This is embarrassing to admit, but I bet I’m not alone. In fact, I know I’m not. I have published novelist friends who don’t have websites. We are writers, not salespersons. This is not a slam on marketing as a career. It’s just, I know how to write. I don’t know shit about SEO. That promise to myself means I’m learning a new job: PR. I knew it would be difficult. Parts of it would possibly be over my head. It would take time and money. I might find PR tedious as well as difficult. Is PR synonymous with marketing? I don’t even know that much. I think of it as The Art of Selling Stuff.

Stuff being my soon to be released novel. And possibly my backlist, especially Blue Heaven and Love and Death in Blue Lake because Lily appears in both those novels and I had to work to keep her from stealing the show. But maybe it’s not good PR to say “read these other two while you wait for the new release” … because it might imply that Lily White cannot stand alone. She can. She does.

What am I learning? First, I talked to the publicist at TWRP about a Facebook ad and we are set to do that. Also, I promised a friend I’d go on her local cable television show  despite my performance anxiety. It turns out I have a hot topic theme, because the book is set in Detroit and you can’t write about Detroit without getting into race. Lily is white in a black city. The other main character is a black male. I write from both points of view, which is hot topic number two for interviews.

After I realized my novel may well be controversial, and I would have to deal with that, I switched gears to fun stuff: changed my website to convey my transition from romance to mystery. Hired a designer who made the header for my website. She put that header on my new business cards, as well as my Facebook, and Twitter accounts. I’m following NaNoProMo. Taking notes. Reading books. Next step, look at my analytics. Word Press makes it easy, but I have an aversion to charts and stats. Still gonna do it.

Here is the silver lining to all this. I get to share a scary new journey with you. And if you know any marketing to PR tips, please share.