But I forgot to look at the calendar and suddenly... boom. It was my turn. Who wants to hear about excuses? But frankly it's all I got. Anyway I'll use this time to catch up a little. A coffee klatch of sorts.
First off I got the rights back to all my novels and am planning on self-publishing so any tips you want to give me is wunderbar. I was initially resistant but now I'm excited about learning a whole new skill set and hopefully making some money along the way. I've always enjoyed the marketing aspect of writing.
Meanwhile I have a novel on submission and have been trying to increase my platform with nonfiction writing. I actually got an essay accepted at a pretty big media outlet (here's some hints: The nickname is Gray Lady or it is it Grey?) Regardless if all goes well it should be in this Sunday's edition.
Speaking of that novel on sub. I'll the share the description and an excerpt with you. It's a novel of my heart because it's based on real-life experiences. Sorry for the brief and hasty blog. I'll be better next time. XOXO
"Girl in Deep" is a coming-of-age novel set in the seventies about a Midwestern teenager who moves to Georgia and tries to break into the world of Southern gentility. The novel is reminiscent of Miss American Pie, Girls in Trucks and Zanesville and is drawn from personal experience. A description and first-chapter excerpt follows:
It is 1974. Denise Sherman has recently moved from Minnesota to the deep South and doesn’t fit into her new prep school. She’s a scholarship student who doesn’t own a single monogrammed accessory, and shares the same last name as the South’s most despised enemy, General William Tecumseh Sherman.
The majority of her female classmates will lead lifestyles with a predictable succession of milestones: social dance, Cotillion, Spinster’s Club, Junior League, and garden club. For several years, Denise tries to fit into their insular world, but as a middle-class Midwesterner, she isn’t welcome.
Denise assumes she will always be an outsider until she manages to attract the attentions of Nick Kendall, whose mother is doyenne of Southern society. His mother rejects Denise, but eventually the two women bond over a mutual love for poetry.
Adele Kendall indoctrinates Denise in the art Southern social graces, preparing her to be Nick’s wife. However, as Adele’s love for poetry reawakens, she begins to view her traditional Southern lifestyle as limiting and superficial. Adele tries to discourage her daughter-in-law from emulating her past choices but it may be too late. Has Denise delved so deeply into the world of Southern gentility she’s already lost herself?
Girl in Deep is an 85,000 word coming-of-age novel which aims to appeal to readers who enjoyed the collision of social classes and culture in The Yonahlosee Riding Camp for Girls and Prep or those who crave an insider’s view of the upper crust Southern social strata as in Girls in Trucks.
“There was a land of Cavaliers and Cotton Fields called the Old South... Here in this pretty world Gallantry took its last bow...
Cabin fever brings out the worst in people. One winter day in 1973 I was cooped up with my brother Eddie, and the way he tells it, I nearly strangled him over a Monopoly game. Actually I barely touched his neck, but he coughed and gagged so much you’d have thought he was spiraling into the bony embrace of Death.
Earlier that morning we woke to an oddly quiet world; the snow drifts against the house were so thick they muffled outside noises. My dad bullied the front door open with his shoulder, and an icicle--long and sharp as a dagger—exploded on the front stoop. My mom was listening to the radio in the kitchen and she said, “School’s closed today.”
We hardly ever missed school over weather. My family lived in Rochester, Minnesota, and I had to go to school when the temperature outside was fifteen degrees below zero. Do you know what happens when it gets that cold? If you take a whiz outside it turns into steam. If you throw boiling water into the air it turns into snow. And if the temperature plunges low enough, say to thirty-five below zero, the diesel fuel in school buses turn to jelly.
That’s when they finally closed the schools.
The mood in our house that day was festive: Mom made hot cocoa, and me and Eddie hung out in our pajamas. Later we watched back-to-back soap operas (“Dark Shadows,”“The Secret Storm” and “As the World Turns”). Around three o’clock, I suggested Monopoly. Eddie was leery; he accused me of taking board games too seriously. But I finally talked him into it.
The game started out friendly enough. I let Eddie have the little dog because it was his favorite. I also let him to be the banker because he took such earnest pride in the task, licking his fingers as he methodically counted out fake money. What I didn’t let him to do was win. With each transaction I forced him closer and closer to bankruptcy. Just as I was on the brink of my greatest Monopoly victory ever, Eddie up and quit.
Years later Eddie still likes to tell the story. He always says, “If Mom hadn’t come in the den to call us to supper I might not be alive today.”
My brother is such a drama queen. Like I said, my hands barely grazed his neck. Under normal circumstances, I doubt either of us would have remembered that particular Monopoly game. It only sticks out in our minds because of what happened next.
We were gathered at the supper table; Eddie was still smarting over his non-existent neck injury. He kept saying, “Are their bruises? Are their thumb marks?”
My mom ignored Eddie. She’d seemed preoccupied. Earlier she accidentally stirred strawberry flavored Nesquik into my dad’s glass of Schlitz instead of Eddie’s milk. A few minutes into the meal she said to my dad: “George. Isn’t there something you wanted to discuss with Denise and Eddie?”
“Now?” My dad used his index finger to jab his dark-frame glasses higher on his nose.
“Can you think of a better opportunity?” my mom said. She gave him an encouraging nod.
My dad took his time before speaking, methodically sipping his beer, (a fresh one) wiping his mouth with his napkin. “A week ago I was… Is there any more of this Frito hot dish?”
“George,” my mom said, sounding irritated.
“Yes, well…A week ago…”
My mom spun her wrist in a hurry-up gesture.
He eyed Eddie and me warily; my dad was obviously stalling. What terrible news was he about to deliver?
“A week ago I was offered a position as an administrator at a five-hundred bed hospital,” my dad continued. “I was hesitant at first but…your mother and I have discussed it at length, and even though we hate to uproot you kids, we think that…Of course it wouldn’t happen immediately. Not until the two of you are out of school but---”
“We’re moving,” my mom said. “In June.”
“Moving?” Eddie said. “We can’t move. What about Paul? I can’t leave him.”
“Now, Eddie,” my mom said.
“Everybody but Paul Peterson hates me!”
Eddie was twelve but looked eight with spaghetti arms and a pouty bottom lip. His head was oversized like a baby bird’s. My dad hated the way boys were growing their hair long, and he used an electric shaver to regularly give Eddie close crew cuts that made his head look even bigger.
“Nobody hates you,” my mom said.
That wasn’t technically true. Kids continually chased Eddie around the neighborhood, calling him girlie boy.
“You can’t make me go!” Eddie said.
My brother was a couple of lip trembles away from crying, but instead of crying he hiccupped. He frequently got the hiccups, and when he did, he always feared he’d end up like the Iowa preacher in the Guinness Book of World Records who’d hiccupped for sixty years without stopping.
I was almost as shook up as Eddie. Next year I’d be a junior in high school, and I was anticipating a lively social life. What if we were moving to a prairie town in the middle of nowhere? What if the only entertainment were 4-H meetings, Lutheran church suppers and the occasional date with a soybean farmer?
“Where are we going?” I said.
“Augusta, Georgia,” my mom said.
The news was enough to startle the hiccups out of Eddie. I, too, was temporarily stunned.
“Georgia,” I said finally. “As in the deep South?”
“Yes,” my mom said.
“I hate Georgia,” Eddie said. His hiccups resumed. Not that he’d ever been to Georgia. Neither Eddie nor I had been any farther south than Indiana, but I certainly had some preconceptions about the place. Images of Gomer Pyle, Minnie Pearl, and Foghorn Leghorn marched through my mind. And wasn’t the movie “Deliverance” set in Georgia?
“Augusta, Georgia?” I said. “What kind of place is that?”
My dad speared a lima bean with his fork. “Well….Augusta has a nearby military base. And a famous golf course called the National. There’s also a bomb plant nearby.”
“I hate bombs!” Eddie said.
If my dad was trying to sell us on the place, he was botching it.
“It’s very warm in Augusta,” my mom said. “People actually wear shorts and flip-flops in February.”
Now I was getting interested. In Rochester we couldn’t wear shorts until June. In February we lumbered about in survival jackets with fur-lined hoods that zipped up to our eyes. Our house had a mud room where we peeled off our snowy outerwear and heavy boots before we were allowed into the main part of the house.
“Augusta is also a beautiful city, filled with dogwood and magnolias trees and antebellum homes,” my mom said. “There’s an old-fashioned graciousness there that you don’t see in the Midwest. In fact---”
The power flicked off, leaving us in darkness. Eddie yelped, and my dad scraped his chair back from the kitchen table, saying “I’ll get a flashlight.” The house was quiet without the furnace, and I wondered how long it would be before the cold would creep in. One time last winter the power went out for three hours, and Eddie feared we would freeze to death overnight.
My dad assured him we’d be fine, just as long as we wore layers and put plenty of blankets on the bed at night. He said when he was growing up in International Falls, Minnesota the bedrooms were so cold his parents used to keep venison under their bed, and it would stay frozen until May.
Seconds later, the lights switched back on, and the furnace rumbled in the ducts. Eddie, still upset about the move, went running off to his room in tears and my mom followed. I stayed at the kitchen table, contemplating our move to the South.
Even though I’d been born in Minnesota, I’d never felt at home there. My tongue tripped over all the Indian names (Wayzata, Mahtomedi, Edina and Shakopee), I wasn’t a fan of lutefisk (fish that is soaked in so much lye it burns your eyes), and I could care less about lakes. (Minnesota boasts 10,000 of them.) Most of all I hated the bitter cold.
I’d always had an active imagination and when I was younger, I used to imagine that my mother had brought home the wrong baby from the hospital. She’d left behind her own child and accidentally picked up an infant from somewhere sunny and glamorous, like St. Tropez. (It wasn’t that farfetched. Rochester was home to the Mayo Clinic; we got visitors from all over the world.)
Instead of flying home to a luxurious villa on the white sands of the Riviera, I went home to a split level house, blocks away from a corn cob-shaped water tower. Instead of cutting my teeth on escargot and pungent fromages, I was raised on tater-tot hot dishes, and marshmallow topped strawberry Jell-O. In my baby pictures I wore a perplexed look on my face as if I was thinking, “Where are the beautiful people?”
Augusta wasn’t St. Tropez but at least it was warm, and it was different. I was sixteen and primed for a new adventure.