Category Archives: happiness

Spotting the better amid the worse…

To say that the last few months have been bumpy ones would be an understatement of the highest order. I’ve had my hands full on many levels, which would be more than enough as it is, but a brief glimpse of the news only underscores that these days there is no short supply of tragedy, on levels that should be unimaginable. I’ll admit, lately it’s been getting pretty overwhelming. But then, a moment of beauty and serenity sneaks up on me, and everything seems a little bit better.

Last night was one of those moments. I’d been down at the marina, and the snowstorm that had been moving across the country reached the Hudson valley as night fell, quickly blanketing everything in a soft layer of white that shimmered under the mercury vapor lights. Christmas lights hung from the mast of sailboat on the main dock, and everything took on a whispery quiet postcard perfection. My only wish was that my boat was already in the water, not only to be part of this lovely scene, but then because I’d have a mere walk down the dock to a warm dinner and cozy bunk, rather than a white-knuckle drive home. But even the slippery roads couldn’t diminish the beauty of the night. At a rail crossing the gates dropped, red lights flashing across the wind-swept whiteness, and a freight train emerged, headlight piercing the falling flakes as it rumbled past. Maybe it was all the visual input, or maybe it was the concentration the unplowed roads demanded, but as I drove home, for the first time in a long time, my mind shifted from all that has been occupying it far too much lately. And that felt good.

This year is almost over, with a new one closing in fast. If there’s one thing 2012 has taught me, it’s that things can always be worse. Much worse. And even when they are, if you take a moment, you’ll see there’s still plenty of ‘better’ to be found. Here’s to 2013 being a better year.

Happy New Years to all!

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Coolest birthday present in years…

Back when most kids were getting bicycles for their birthday, my parents instead presented me with a bright orange Snark, which was pretty much a Sunfish knockoff, constructed of styrofoam, covered in tough plastic. It was more or less an Igloo ice-chest in the shape of a boat, and at 45 pounds, it barely displaced any water. Considering I didn’t weigh a whole lot more, it had a tendency to plane along the surface, and while it was never designed for radical sailing, once I rigged it with a tiller extension and hiking straps, it was a blast to sail. In fact, in the many years and boats since that Snark, I’ve never quite matched the pure exhilaration I had aboard that little orange cork — and that even includes a Laser I sailed for several years. And in recent years, my lack of sailing has begun to wear on me to the point I’m climbing the walls.

Well, I can stop climbing.  The other day my mom called to inform me they’d found me the perfect birthday present. She needs a little work, but nothing a few evenings in the garage won’t remedy.  And yes, she presently lacks a sailing rig, but that’s easily remedied as well.

This is going to be fun!  (And is also the subject of today’s Write On The Water post.)

Shooter day…

Anyone who knows me also knows I don’t watch much of any TV, no less a women’s daytime talk-show that focuses on such things as celebrity rumors and drama, reality shows and like. So what on earth was I doing yesterday sitting in the studio audience, as a VIP guest, no less, at a live taping of ‘The View’?

Well, here’s the very simple, very awesome answer.

For anyone who reads my blog or Last Exit In New Jersey, you know I and Hazel Moran are both fans of Shooter Jennings, and my only disappointment after his fantastic show on March 5th was that I had forgotten to get a picture with him. But the other day, through his Facebook page Shooter announced he’d appearing on The View, and to my delight I scored the two tickets to watch him perform, then meet him after the show. And this time, I have a picture to show for it!  But the day was far from over, because Shooter put us on the guest list to watch him perform a show at the Gramercy Theatre that evening!

Needless to say, yesterday was a long, fun day, one that started well before dawn and didn’t wrap up until nearly midnight. We headed into the city early to drop my husband’s truck off at his job, then headed across to Manhattan just as the city was waking. That’s one of my favorite times of day. The subways aren’t crowded yet, and Central Park is alive with daybreak joggers, bikes, and countless dogs of every shape and size out for their morning play.

The station’s walls are covered in a mosaic depicting the Manhattan skyline, but as I fished out my camera, our subway was pulling in.

In another hour, this station would be solid with people heading to work. At this point I was informed I looked like a tourist, taking pictures like this. Yes, these sights are nothing new to me, but I realize with the thousands who visit my blog, these images aren’t what the media shows of New York City.

It’s playtime at the park!

We reached the studio well before we were due, but there was already a line of people waiting to see the show, (a line we didn’t have to wait in,) and by the looks of it some of them had been there for hours.  With more time to kill, we found a little diner and grabbed some breakfast. In Manhattan real estate is at a premium and old building squeeze on top of one another. Stores and restaurants must make the most of every square inch. As a result, access to restrooms can often be, shall we say, *interesting.* In this particular diner, I was warned the steps were ‘a bit steep’, and I’d have to duck at the bottom.

With a hearty breakfast out of the way, we returned to the studio, to the front of the line, where we were escorted in to the adventure of live TV.  It involves long stretches of waiting, broken by moments of being shuffled (herded?) by loud and perky interns, from one room to another. At one point Shooter and company passed by in a hall as we waited, and four of us, (myself, husband and a very nice couple from central Jersey who won tickets from a radio station,) took notice. The rest of the audience members, all discussing their favorite hostesses, asked, “Who was that?” The four of us explained, including that his father was Waylon Jennings, which rang a bell with a few of them. On his return pass, they all joined in on enthusiastically shouting out to him. Then finally we moved into the studio itself.

I’ll admit, I never understood why those studio audiences would be clapping madly, smiling like they’d all won the lottery even as the show just begins. But now I know.  The studio had a stand-up comedian working the audience well before taping began, warming everyone up, and let me tell you, he was good. Very good.  In his ‘routine’ he explains how things operate, working it for every laugh. Once the show began, the moment they’d cut to commercials and the stage crew scrambled through set changes he was right back at it, so as the cameras kicked on again and we were all clapping away, much of it was his doing. As I expected, the one part of the show we’d been waiting for was in the last minutes, and he performed “The Deed and the Dollar.” The show ended and the audience was instructed to remain in their seats — except for us. We were pulled to the side and escorted down the hall and into the elevator with Shooter and his people, headed to the ‘Green Room.'(Anyone know why they call it that?)

Not to go fan-girl, but once again, but how cool is it to hang out with a performer you’ve admired for years, for the second time in just over a month, no less?!  I nearly forgot all about my camera yet again, but my husband reminded me and took a quick picture. We talked about his latest album, Family Man, which I’m loving, and his upcoming release this fall, about my book sales, (fantastic — I’ve been hanging out on the high end of Amazon’s best sellers list for a nice stretch and selling an incredible amount of books!) and I really had a great time.  Shooter mentioned he was playing that evening across town along with Cody Canada (formerly of Cross Canadian Ragweed, another of my favorites,) somehow we’d missed that memo — but he said he’d have tickets waiting for us at the door!

Round 2 – The Gramercy Theatre!

After work my husband and I met up over on 23rd Street, but again we were early, so we decided to grab some dinner. I could have really gone for another round of Hill Country’s amazing barbeque, but that wasn’t an option. But we spotted something that raised our curiosity. I ask you, where else besides Manhattan can you find a Peruvian/Brazilian Sushi restaurant? (Apparently, according to their web site, in New York, Miami, Chicago, Las Vegas, and London.)  SushiSamba — unique, and excellent!

Then it was back to the Gramercy, where I gave my name but they couldn’t locate the tickets. Turns out we were “on the guest list.”  And in we went!

The Gramercy is one of those old theaters where most of the seats, save the balcony seating, have been removed, leaving an open floor in front of  the stage. My kind of place to see a band. In fact, I can’t remember the last time I’d seen any performance where the audience was confined to assigned seats.  Cody Canada and the Departed led off the evening, and I was surprised to see such a small turnout for such a powerful group of performers. I’ve been to a number of Cody’s performances with Cross Canadian, and he always rocks the house… only this time there wasn’t much house to rock. The performance was great, but the audience seemed disappointingly sparse.  Where was everyone? This is also around the same time I began to realize what I’d been suspecting recently; my old digital camera was having issues with low-light photos.  I did manage to get three semi-decent shots in before it quit completely.

Then Shooter came on, and from my low vantage point down in front of the stage it looked as though the place was really starting to fill up, and once he started rocking it sounded that way as well. And once again, he put on an exceptional show, and he treated us all to everything from some of his older songs to his latest and even some upcoming ones, (I can’t wait for the new album, which promises to be just as good as his latest, if that’s at all possible,) as well as performing his father’s music in a way that is both haunting and amazing. Shooter’s band, all New Yorkers (yay!) are exceptional — at times I was mesmerized by the blurring hands on the keyboard, or fascinated by the intricacies of the steel guitar. From beginning to end, this show was a perfect example of what real music is — true, pure, strong, and powerful. I know my tastes in music earns me a few odd looks from some people, but I don’t give a damn. It’s what I enjoy, and last night was yet another great show by a great group of musicians.  I only wish my camera had held out just a little longer.

Research…

These days, my life cycles between various modes: plotting, research, writing, and editing. And oh, the plotting I’ve been doing! Evacuation Route is looking to be a lot of fun, still dark and twisted, but in a more upbeat, caper-style way. Last Exit set the strange tone, and No Wake Zone, which picks up only weeks later in the time-line, is somewhat more introspective. The humor and violence are still present, (would you expect anything less?) but this is a point where my key characters regroup as they sort out recent events and they find themselves faced with new (old?) threats, and readers will see more of what makes Hazel, Hammon, Annabel and even Stevenson tick – and just how screwed up they might truly be.

Jump forward to the following summer. Things have been almost quiet, at least for a little while — but then the shit hits the fan fun begins. Murder charges, police investigations, a con, and a heist the likes of which I’ve never seen done before… a heist, Jersey-style. Yep. I’ve been plotting and scheming, and I’m quite pleased with the results. In fact, the last few days I’ve been walking around grinning and giggling manically. Which brings me to my current position: knee-deep in the research on a grocery list of top-secret topics (I could tell you, but then… well, they could be spoilers,) that will involve a truck-load of books and many upcoming road and water trips. Research is fun. Lots of fun. Especially with the things I’m researching – which is why I’ll stick to my variety of madness and mayhem over other genres.

Updating the playlist…

In fiction, I suppose it’s inevitable that a certain degree of the author’s personal reality will weave its way into the stories. A passage requires an old car or a small boat, and it’s only natural that the writer will resurrect some long gone clunker or a favorite little fishing boat. As a writer, we’re building this particular world, and we build from our imagination, combined with own experiences. I’ve often wondered about the story behind Travis McGee’s Miss Agnes, the electric blue Rolls Royce pickup. Last Exit In New Jersey is loaded with fragments of my personal history. Joe’s blue Buick. Kindling. Gary’s Dodge. RoadKill’s numerous quirks — all drawn together from countless beaters I’d owned over the years. Even my own boat sneaks in for a brief cameo. And the music mentioned throughout the story comes directly from my own personal collection –including the Shooter Jennings CD permanently looping on the radio in RoadKill’s cab. But last night, Shooter Jennings was playing somewhere else – right across the river in New York City – at Hill Country over on West 26th Street.

The food alone is enough to lure me in, but combine the most mouth-watering barbeque with exceptional live music, and you have one first rate destination. We’d been at Hill Country only days earlier with a group of friends to see a portion of the Randy Rogers Band, who put on a great show and played till around one in the morning. But last night was the record release show for Shooter’s new album, Family Man, out on March 13th. Needless to say, I was there. Quite early, in fact. I’d allowed for transit delays, but every train and subway transfer flowed seamlessly, and I met up with my husband in Queens and from there we arrived in no time. But this gave us plenty of time to eat and then settle downstairs… right in front of the stage. It was really early and the room was still fairly vacant, but among the few other bodies was Mr. Jennings himself.

And that’s when the nerves hit. You see, I’d brought along a copy of Last Exit in New Jersey, with full intention of presenting it to him.  I’d even bookmarked the pages with his name and music, (though I’d forgotten to grab post-its, and instead used coupons for a complimentary Lone Star Beer.) But now… what would I say? It was the perfect time: quiet, not many people around, everyone relaxing.  But still, I felt strangely self-conscious. I kept stalling – until my husband pointed out that Shooter was standing alone, right behind me. It was time to nut-up or shut-up. So I introduced myself, explained how I was a long-time fan, (and felt silly – of course I am, or why would I be there, well before the show, no less,) and how my husband had taken me to one of his father’s concerts back when we were first dating, (translation: many years ago.) Then I picked up the book, explaining how I’d mentioned his music in the story. And that’s when I learned I had something unexpected in common with Stephen King: mine was the second book to include mention of Shooter Jennings. It made my day when he asked if I’d sign on the first page where his name appears! My only regret, I wish I’d gotten the nerve to get a picture with him.  Maybe next time!

And finally the  room began to fill. This was everyone sitting behind me. In front of me… the stage. Sorry for the dark pics — my camera was being a bit cranky. But the night was only getting started, opening with a very talented trio known as Poundcake.

You could see they were having fun, which was infectious. They did some amazing covers and got the now-packed room going, and were even joined by Shooter’s pedal steel player. And yes, I added one of their CDs to my collection.

Then Shooter and his band came up and they put on one first-rate show. They moved between some of their more known material and played some tunes from his upcoming album(s) as well. Watching the performance, I was fascinated by the mechanics of creating such a range of sound from instruments, including the keyboard and steel guitar, which gave the music such variety and depth. (Boats, I know. Engines, I know. Music and instruments amaze and baffle me.) I had to smile when Shooter paused between songs to inform “the owner of the blue Buick, your car has been towed, and they found the body in the trunk.”  (Had he peeked into the pages of Last Exit?) Satisfying from start to finish, Shooter demonstrated impressive versatility, shifting from raw and gritting to soulful and introspective in a way that has me looking forward to his upcoming releases. Oh, and then in the encore he treated us all to Fourth of July — the very song playing in RoadKill’s cab in the start of Last Exit, and again at the end.

All in all, I couldn’t have asked for a better night to celebrate my own little personal launch, and it looks as though I’ll be adding a few new albums to RoadKill’s playlist.

Looking good…

This was me over the weekend…

Celebrating INDIE-pendence!

The 4th of July weekend is rapidly approaching, and once again I’m looking forward to my favorite holiday of the year. After all, what other holiday lets you barbeque and watch colorful explosions? (Alright. Anyone who knows me knows I celebrate Christmas the same way, but still, it’s not as warm and there are no fireflies at dusk.) And even though the boat is still ashore, this weekend I’ll be enjoying myself more than usual because I have so much to celebrate.  For me, this year’s 4th is more like Independence Day, Thanksgiving and Christmas all rolled together!

Back when I was considering this whole ‘Independent Publishing’ path, it was a bit unnerving, wondering if I had made the right decision. But I can say now that the last few months have far exceeded anything I could have imagined and I’m thrilled by how quickly my writing has risen in popularity, gaining so many new readers. Even with an inexplicably mis-formated description (Amazon assures me they are working on correcting the issue,) for the last week Last Exit In New Jersey ranked among Amazon’s Top 100 Bestsellers, pushing me past the 10,000 copies sold milestone. Every review, every letter I receive, and even the fan-art (!!!) makes me even happier, further fueling my enthusiasm as I write No Wake Zone. So once again, thank you all!

And for any readers looking to discover some other great Indie books, be sure to check out the Declare Your Independence Indie Author Giveaway Carnival at What Book Is That! Through the month of July, there will be reviews and give-aways aplenty; the focus is on some amazing indie books and authors (including yours truly) and this is your chance to stock up on your summer reading while supporting us Indies.

Have a fun and safe 4th!