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Sunday, May 29, 2011

Dear Mr. Deaver

Jeffery Deaver is one of my favorite authors. If I’m in the mood for a great crime drama, full of more twists and turns than a roller coaster, I pick up one of his books. However, he is not my favorite author just for his writing. A few years ago, I had come across a Reader’s Digest Condensed Book. It consisted of two books that were edited and complied into one volume. One of these books was Jeffery Deaver’s The Stone Monkey. For the life of me, I cannot recall the other book, obviously, it did not make such an impact with me.
 I had never heard of Jeffery Deaver before I read The Stone Monkey. However, from the first chapter, I was intrigued. This is my rule of thumb with books—if I’m not hooked by the first chapter, I stop reading it. The characters were vivid, the mystery was intense.  The grittiness and violence of the book was toned down (it was, after all, a condensed book), but the basic story was strong. It held me captive from beginning to end.
The book resonated with me so much, I decided to write a fan letter. I had never wished to do this before with any other book I’ve read before. I was always under the assumption that authors were inundated with fan mail to even notice.  However, I enjoyed this book so much, I took a chance. His website was listed in the About the Author section on the back page of the book.  I visited his website and wrote an email, sharing that I thoroughly enjoyed his book. 
To my surprise, a few weeks later, I received a response email. This email thanked me for my comments, signed Jeffery Deaver. I stared at the screen in disbelief. I wasn’t expecting a reply to my fan note, but I was delighted. I like to think that Mr. Deaver personally wrote the email, but even if he didn’t, it doesn’t matter. I was touched by the appreciation.  From that day forward, I continue to be a fan.
I get such a rush when I receive comments on my writings. I love the connection that I’ve made! I’ve decided to pass along this good feeling and let an author know that I’ve enjoyed his/her book. Just because authors are famous doesn’t mean they don’t appreciate the feedback.  I’ve written fan notes to other authors (recently Christopher Moore, John Elder Robinson and Leopoldo Gout) via website, blog or Facebook.  I’m happy to report that they have acknowledged my posts.
In this day and age, we may think that technology has made us more distant. I have to disagree—I feel technology makes it easier for us to connect. After all, is it a coincidence that Facebook gives us all the options to “share”, ”comment” and “like”?

Sunday, May 22, 2011

A Chance Meeting

Isn’t it amazing how a chance meeting will make you have a flashback on an incident in your life? This sort of thing happened to me one evening. I was out with my husband and son when my husband got a maintenance call at one of the chain of convenience stores that he works for.  He drove out to the call and left our son and me in our mini-van.  He proceeded into the store to fix the technical problems they were having. 
            My son and I decided to pass the time by using his pack of Yu-Gi-Oh! cards as a makeshift memory game.   We were having fun, a good mother and son bonding moment.  He was getting a kick out of how I was stumbling on the characters names that he knew by heart.
I then noticed out of the corner of my eye a woman coming our way from the parking lot.  She stopped at the driver’s window that was partially down.   For some reason, I just knew what she was up to--she was going to beg for money.
 Being from a large city, I have had my share of solicitors.   I’m sorry to say that on the news we were warned of “professional” beggars.  They would dress in rags by day and stand at the corner for spare change.  Once their “day at the office” was done, they would get into their car and go home.  It makes a person pick and choose whom to help out with a contribution.  We were told to only contribute to charities, not to the random beggars on the street.  However, my experiences with refusing to offer spare changes to these the beggars on the street were not the greatest.  They became very belligerent when I would refuse or ignore their solicitations.  I began to just hand over a dollar to get them away from me, not feeling the least bit charitable or caring about my fellow human being.
            These memories began to well up in me when this woman approached our van.  I felt myself tense up and become angry that she was interrupting our bonding time.  I debated if I should just dig in my purse for a dollar or say I had no change and honk the horn if she becomes a problem. 
Then she began to speak.  “Excuse me, Miss.  Could you spare some change so I could get something to eat?  Oh, I see you have your child with you.” 
After she made this observation, her eyes started to well up with tears.  I was struck with the thought that this could be a ploy to get sympathy. However, I saw something in her eyes that told me she was embarrassed that her life was now reduced to begging money from strangers. 
I dismissed the thought that she was acting and gave her a couple of dollars and wished her well.  She thanked my profusely and, true to her words, walked into the convenience store to buy some food.  For once, I didn’t second-guess myself giving a couple of bucks to someone who truly needed it. 
By now, my husband came out of the store and we were on our way home.  Many different thoughts tumbled through my head.  I hate to say, but my first thought was I was so grateful that I was not in her position. I vowed I would never let myself be put in that predicament.  Suddenly, I said a quick prayer for the woman, hoping that she would somehow turn her life around and make good choices.  Then, I realized that I wasn’t as cynical as I thought my past experiences had made me.  Before, I would always chide myself for being too soft-hearted by letting someone else’s troubles affect me.  Now, I noticed I still had compassion for my fellow person and that makes all the difference.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Warming up America one Granny Square at a Time

My earliest memories of my grandmother are of her crocheting. She would make intricate, delicate doilies and table covers. I was fascinated how she was able to wield the slender crochet hook and create these lacey items. My mother also crochets; her specialties are afghans, and sweaters.  I figured I would never carry on the tradition of creating with yarn—this was based on my attempt at knitting. I only knitted one item, a lavender scarf that started being about six inches wide and ended up doubling its width. How I did that, I will never know!
Then years later, at work I saw a co-worker by the name of Sophie crocheting. I remarked to her I could never do that. She responded that was nonsense, and offered to teach me.  During our lunch breaks, my fumbling fingers tried to get used to working with the crochet hook. Sophie was always encouraging and patient. Eventually, I was able to produce stitches that resembled something other than a large knot. Once I was able to maneuver with the yarn and the crochet hook as an extension of my hand, there was no stopping me!  It was near Christmas, so everyone in my family, whether they wanted one or not, got a crocheted scarf that year. During that winter, I crocheted two afghans, which got displayed on my son’s bed and the couch respectively.
I have to admit, with each project, I did improve at crocheting. My son’s teacher was going on maternity leave and I used my new talent to crochet her a baby afghan.   She absolutely loved it and couldn’t believe I made it by hand.  I felt by far, this was my best work.
Then, I fell into a rut. What else could I crochet? One day, I thanked Sophie for teaching me crocheting. She informed me that another co-worker, Catherine, was collecting granny squares for Warm up America, which provides woolen afghans, scarves and hats for nonprofit organizations such as Women and Children’s Alliance, Special Olympics and veterans, to name just a few. She is always looking for help in this great cause.
 Finally, I could put the bags of yarn to good use! But granny squares? I panicked—I didn’t know how to make one of these. Catherine, like Sophie, patiently taught me how to make granny squares. Sometimes, I would produce granny pentagons or octagons, but I kept trying. Catherine never refused my squares, even though they were not my A game. She always found a spot in an afghan she was working on. Just like everything in life, the more I practiced, the better I became. I was able to advance to mixing colors, making the squares resemble a wooly kaleidoscope. Our group even was featured on the local news. We were filmed sitting around a table crocheting, having fun and good conversations.
Granny squares are by far my favorite.   I love the fact that they are created by yarn that normally would have been discarded.  Then, put together, they can be made into something bigger than its original self.  

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Paging Dr. Leo

One of my favorite authors is Dr. Leo Buscaglia. However, it wasn’t always that way. I remember when I was pre-teen, my mother watching The Phil Donahue. His guest was Dr. Leo Buscaglia, who taught a class on Love, a first of its kind, at USC. My mother had read many of his books and was an avid fan.  As I watched the show, I was puzzled by him. Here was this man talking passionately about how we all need to show we love each other, both strangers and family. He had walked through the streets of Chicago (where the Donahue show was filmed) wearing a button that said something to the effect “Hugs for free.”  I was positive he would be avoided like the plague in such a big city. To my surprise, he regaled how many people stopped him in the street to give him a hug. He couldn’t contain his joy, his arms flapping about, looking like he would burst through the TV screen. Frankly, I was embarrassed by him. I shook my head, dismissing him as a kooky guy.
                Years later, out of the blue, my mother sent me Dr Leo’s book Living, Loving and Learning. It sat on my shelf for a while--I was still questioning why she sent it to me in the first place. Everything was fine in my marriage and we were expecting a baby. One day, nothing was good on the TV. With a sigh, I picked up his book, which was collection of his lectures on his favorite subject, love.  As it turned out, much to my surprise, I actually enjoyed the book.  I found him to be funny, entertaining and wise. I literally could feel his love for life pouring through the pages.
 Why was it now I appreciated him, when before I didn’t want anything to do with him?
  As I ponder this, I have come to the conclusion it has to do with timing. When I first saw Dr. Leo on TV, I was at an awkward age where EVERYTHING embarrassed me.  Also, my mother was a fan of his, so that made him completely uncool.
One of the many things he taught me is as you share and give love, it grows and comes back to you.   After reading his book, I put his lesson to practice. No, I didn’t run around town wearing a “hugs for free” button! If I encountered someone at work whose dress I liked, I told her so. Spontaneously, I would grab my son and give him kisses on top of his head (which I must say I need to get on my tip toes to reach his head now!) By sharing joy, I would see their positive reactions and that would feed my soul again.   
I believe that’s the reason my mother sent it to me-- without it I would have missed many happy life experiences. Though Dr. Leo is no longer with us, his lessons live on. I like to think he’s found a place in Heaven with a large forest that is in perpetual autumn, surrounded by all the foliage he could ever want. What do I mean by that? I guess you’ll have to read one of his books to find out!

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Yes, it's finally happened!!

I wrote Eye of Leomander back when I was 13 years old. My father was my editor and my mother was my proof-reader. Throughout the years, I would take it out of the drawer and revised it, hoping one day the opportunity would come along to publish it. When I got married 10 years later, my husband read the manuscript and thought it was great. He urged me to publish it. So, I sent out query letters to many publishers, but received no responses. I think that was worse than receiving rejections--at least I would know they read the letter and the sample chapters! I got discouraged and stopped. A few years later, after our son was born, I tried again with the query letters, and heard nothing back. My husband had suggested subsidiary publishing, but that was way out of our price range.

I never gave up my dream to publish this book--I just didn't know how to do it.

Then, last year, I saw an advertisement in the window of the dry cleaners. It read at the top "Attention Writers". Literally, I stopped in my tracks, dry cleaning in hand, and read the ad. It was a seminar for writers to help them get published. A few weeks later,  I went to the seminar and got talking with Maryanna Young of Aloha Publishing. She read my sample chapters, liked them and agreed to work with me. Yes, I am a writer, not just in my mind!

Now, I am so proud to say that finally, Eye of Leomander is seeing the light of day and is available on Amazon.com!!!!!

This journey has re-awakened my writings, for example this weekly blog. Also, I am working on a prequel to Eye of Leomander. However, I don't think that will be sitting in a drawer for the next 20 plus years!