Healing Takes Time

Five days ago was the two-year anniversary of my mother’s death.

I didn’t think of it. Not once that day, or in the days that followed. Not until I was out in the yard this afternoon, watering plants, did it occur to me that the anniversary had passed without recognition.

I think that’s a good thing.

I believe it shows that I have no regrets; that Mom and I did the work together we were meant to do–the healing we were meant to do.

I sometimes wish certain things  had gone differently, but not to the degree that they keep me up at night or induce tears as they once did. Mom forgave me my foibles, and I forgave her in turn. It all worked out in the end.

Thanks, Mom.

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Oh, for anyone who’s interested: Virginia Dare Crandall Hersey Limbacher fought a valiant battle with Alzheimer’s during the last few years of her life. I invite anyone involved in a similar journey to check out my other blog: The Wild Ride – Caretaking Mom Through Alzheimer’s. Sometimes it helps to know you’re not alone.

The Joys of Book Promotion

Well, it was a hot day, but the breeze kept it from being oppressive and the beautiful shade tree kept us from overheating. Worst things were a) the mess of tent caterpillars, and b) the second set the band played. Otherwise, it was a fine day on the Colchester Green, promoting reading, Books & Boos Press, and our own creative efforts.

Colchester

Left to right: Terry George, Stacey Longo, g. Elmer Munson, and yours truly. Photo by Jason Harris.

Thank you, Wonder Woman

wonderbear

Picture courtesy of buildabear.com

This blog is not about the new Wonder Woman  movie, per se, but I owe it a debt of thanks because it brought me a new friend.

Let me explain.

 

I like super heroes. I grew up watching George Reeves as Superman, Adam West as Batman, Van Williams and Bruce Lee (Bruce Lee, fer cripes sakes!) in The Green Hornet. I read comic books–Kona, Monarch of Monster Isle, was a huge favorite, and I wish I still had those babies; they’re collectibles now.

The latest crop of super hero movies, though, has left  me … not cold, exactly, but maybe uninspired. I do have a certain affection for Chris Hemsworth’s portrayal of Thor, and Tom Hiddleston’s Loki, and I like Christian Bale’s Dark Knight well enough … but not near as much as I love Heath Ledger’s Joker.

But when it comes to female super heroes, they often seem pale shadows of their male counterparts — active, but not actually part of the action. Despite Wonder Woman’s fabulous reviews, I was feeling a bit apprehensive as we drove off last night to watch it.

But this blog isn’t about the movie. It’s about a boy named Bear.

I wound up with this five-year-old sitting behind me, and we got to talking before the film began. He told me his name was Bear (at least that’s what I think he said), and asked for my name. When I introduced myself, his mother smiled and said he was a huge Wonder Woman fan, and wanted to dress as her for Halloween, which I thought was hugely cool. Bear didn’t want to talk about that. Obviously we both loved Wonder Woman or we wouldn’t be there. What he wanted to know was my favorite color.

“Red,” I said.

“That’s my favorite color!” He made this odd waggling gesture at me with his fingers, then took a Star Burst Fruit Chew from his mother and carefully unwrapped it. “Do you like these?”

“I do,” I said. “But my favorite movie candy is Kit-Kats.”

“That’s what he wanted!” Mom spoke up. “But I wouldn’t let him have them because, you know, the chocolate.”

Bear raised his hand and made that strange gesture again. “What is that?” I asked. I tried to do it.

He nodded with all the wisdom of Dumbledore. “It means we’re connected,” he said gravely.

Bear’s mother casually mentioned that she wouldn’t let him bother me during the film, and I said he was no bother at all — and I meant it. I love interesting little kids. She smiled gratefully. “Most people don’t get him,” she said softly. I didn’t ask for details. Clearly, there was something “special” about this little boy.

He never made a peep during the movie. After it was over, I turned around to see him putting on his coat. “Did you like it?” I asked.

He nodded enthusiastically, eyes lidded with sleepiness. It was way past his bedtime. “Did you?” he asked.

“Oh, yes.” I motioned him over. “Will you do me a favor?” He nodded. “Go out and have a wonderful life,” I told him. “And don’t forget that you’re special.” And off he walked, hand in hand with Mom.

I’ll likely never see that sweet little boy again, but Bear’s right about one thing. From now on, we’re connected.

A Much-Needed Vacation …

…is what I’ve just returned from — six days at Yellowstone National Park. Yowza!

How it came about was this: my good friend Wendy, who I’ve known since 7th grade, decided it would be great for us, after all these years, to finally take a trip together. And what better occasion than to celebrate our 60th years!

Because we wanted adventure and something new — and didn’t care for the hassle of procuring hotel rooms, etc — we opted to travel with a group through Road Scholar, who did an excellent job providing us with accommodations, meals, transportation, and the very best of guides into the wild country of Yellowstone. For four days, we hiked the park in the company of 10 other travelers, our most-excellent drivers/guides Charlie Pyle and Zack Baker, group leader Cindy Sebesta, and instructor/naturalist Gene Ball.

It was an extraordinary experience, and I’ve definitely been bitten by the Yellowstone bug. Because, in this instance, words fail, I’ll let a few photos speak for me. Enjoy!

 

Favorite Animal Books

hanako1From the time I learned to read, animals were my favorite subject. I devoured their stories–fiction and non–with a hunger that couldn’t be quenched. Discovering the library at my elementary school was like opening the door to Aladdin’s cave. I chewed through stacks of books per week: Aesop’s fables; classics like The Yearling, Rascal, and Old Yeller; the dog novels of Albert Payson Terhune; the wilderness tales of Ernest Thompson Seton.

Over 50 years later, that love of animal stories is undiminished. They remain my favorite topic, my boon companions. And so, this: a list of ten beloved animals books, in no particular order.

  1. King of the Wind (Marguerite Henry) – though I loved others of her books, this story of the Godolphin Arabian remains my favorite.
  2. A Wish for Wings that Work (Berkeley Breathed) – A gentle life-lesson delivered by two of my favorite people – Opus the Penguin and Santa Claus.
  3. The Snow Goose (Paul Gallico) – The Hallmark movie of the same name was my introduction to this story of crippled artist Philip Rhayader, orphan girl Fritha, and the bird they love. SPOILER ALERT: I recently learned that Gallico was made to change his original ending–wherein Rhayader and Fritha, now grown, fall in love and share a brief time together–because publishers felt that the reading public would oppose the notion of a deformed man united with a healthy woman. Such nonsense! (Oh, and for anyone interested, Gallico’s The Silent Miaow, Thomasina, and Jenny are also excellent.)
  4. The Catwings series (Ursula Le Guin) – a darling set of books with lovely illustrations about an alley cat who gives birth to a litter of kittens with wings.
  5. The Whales’ Song (Dyan Sheldon) – What first drew me to this story of little Lily’s communion with whales were Gary Blythe’s astounding illustrations. The story is an added bonus.
  6. The Book of the Dun Cow (Walter Wangerin) – The stirring tale of the rooster Chauntecleer and loyal companion Mundo Cani in their battle against the evil Cockatrice. One of my all-time-favorite books.
  7. The Incredible Journey (Sheila Burnford) – I have Disney to thank for first introducing me to this story–NOT with the most recent incarnation (which, I’m sorry, is an abomination)–but with their original movie in which the animals never speak because, thank God, they’ve no need to; they’re quite good actors without dialogue.
  8. Born Free (Joy Adamson) – Oh,  how I wanted to grow up to be her! Who wouldn’t want to bottle-raise a lion cub, raise it to adulthood, and reintroduce it to the wild?
  9. The Mouse and the Motorcycle (Beverly Cleary) – Adventurous Ralph the Mouse receives the gift of his dreams and ultimately saves the life of the boy who gave it to him.
  10. All Creatures Great and Small (James Herriot) – by far the strongest book in the series, this story of the English veterinarian gave me hours of enjoyment and laugh-out-loud moments.

    There are others books, of course–Stuart Little, Charlotte’s Web, Doctor Rat, The Poky Little Puppy, Gorillas in the Mist–but I’d be here all day listing them. What are yours?

Time Off

I’m going dark for the next week; off for a bit of renewal time with a friend from high school, a chance to girl-talk, woman-talk, and get my head focused again so I can throw myself back into the writing when I return – with, I hope, renewed vigor.

Before I go, I’d like to honor Memorial Day and all those who have given their lives in service of this country. In particular, I’d like to honor the memory of my cousin, Durward Limbacher, who died in Vietnam at the tender age of 21, serving as a medic. I did not know him – there was 10 years between us, and he lived far away – but I met him once and remember him to this day. He was that sort of person.

Durward

New Book Release Coming Soon!

Three on a MatchHere’s the latest from Books & Boos Press on the release of Three on a Match, the second book in the Terror Project series. I’m proud to be part of this endeavor–Thanks, Guys!–and to share the spotlight with Kristi Petersen Schoonover and g. Elmer Munson.

Patrick Rea–director of Nailbiter and Arbor Demon–calls it “…a frightening menagerie of horror that offers a shocking blend of well-crafted tales to keep you up at night.”

Of my story, “Thicker Than Water,” Mr. Rea writes: “Crandall has a knack for description … [her story] is a literary mash-up of 18th century vernacular and conversational rhythms with a modern, present tense narrative and some WOW Factor special effects. In Crandall’s skilled hands, it all works.”

Thank you, Patrick!

How to Keep Writing in the Face of Rejection

personalization-personalities-writing-desk

Photo via Visual hunt

   If you’re a serious writer–and by that I mean someone who writes damn-near every day and consistently submits work in hopes of making a sale–you’ll receive rejections.

And if you’re in the game long enough, you’ll likely reach a point–probably more than once–where the latest rejection is the one that makes you consider giving up forever.  

I hit that wall this week.

I’m not a candy-ass when it comes to rejection; it’s part of the game and I don’t take it personally. I’ve cultivated broad shoulders and a thick skin. Anyway, it’s only one person’s opinion of one piece of writing. No editor can accept everything they’re sent. 

Does rejection sting? Of course, it does. No one likes having their child kicked to the curb, but in the face of all the competition, it’s inevitable. The heartbreak of receiving one rejection after another wears on you, eroding the sand of your self-confidence. But if you’re going to write–if you’re called to it–you’d better come to terms with that reality and accept it as part of the game. 

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I love the work involved in writing. I’m the sort of sick individual who takes pleasure in editing–honing, cutting, tightening a narrative, killing my darlings (those lines or scenes I love, but which accomplish little)–for the sake of crafting a better story. What drives me mad, is when the issue with a piece of writing is something I can’t address.

Case in point: 

My agent, Bonnie Solow, is shopping around a book of mine; narrative nonfiction. Over the past few weeks, several editors have expressed interest. Exciting times! One editor in particular was on fire about the project. She really loves it. She presented it to her editorial group, and they loved it, too. But issues arose because I don’t have a “platform.” What that means to you non-writers out there, is that I’m not a noted authority in the field, a celebrity, a household name, or have a blog or website or Twitter-feed with tens of thousands of followers, i.e, a ready-made market.

It’s a sort-of catch-22. To be published, I need to already have a market, but I can’t grow a market unless I’m published. Frustrating? You bet. For the editor, it means she has to turn down a book she believes in, a book she wants. For readers, it means that the circle of books made available will grow smaller and smaller if the chief criteria is whether or not the author is already popular. For me as the writer, it’s maddening to know there’s little I can do to remedy the situation. A manuscript issue would be easy to fix, but this?

Can I build a following? Theoretically, sure. (See the catch-22 above.) Problem is, I have difficulty blogging or tweeting just to hear myself talk. I’m no good with idle chit-chat. I’m weak in marketing know-how, I admit, but willing to learn if someone will give me the chance. This book is my baby, and I’m ready to work my butt off to see it succeed.

The frustration of being told my book was good, but … (the second time this has  happened to me), made me wonder why I bother; why I persist in the face of what often seems insurmountable odds. The truth is, I keep going because I’m stubborn. And because I’m tired of being told what I can and can’t have.

But the biggest reason is because I was born a writer. It’s who I am, and what I do. To not write would be to commit suicide of the soul.

There are no guarantees, but I’ll take the odds. I can do no less.