Author, Actor, Playwright, Excellent Parallel Parker

Rules of the Lake and Ashes to Water are now available for Kindle and Nook!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Dancing on the Widow Walk

On Saturday, The Mister left for six weeks. He's one of four crewing aboard a sailboat racing from the Canary Islands (off the coast of Morocco) to St. Lucia in the Caribbean. Others aboard Summer Song include Sam, the captain, Sam's wife, Alex (first mate, appropriately enough), Graham's nephew, Will (aka Galley Slave) and my husband, Graham, who for some reason, will answer to the  name of Powder Monkey.

 At 59, Graham is the oldest by a good 25 years. Although he has spent many an hour on the Chesapeake Bay aboard his own Hunter 34, and is no stranger to a 79 knot squall, the ARC race isn't on the Chespeake Bay. It's on the Atlantic Ocean. The deep part. Blue water.

There be Dragons here.

I get asked how I feel about this. I feel great! Those of you with a bucket list know the joy of realizing a lifelong pipe dream. By the way, what's a pipe dream and why is it called that? Anyway, yes, the trip is dangerous. (What isn't?) It will require endurance and courage. But I would no more interfere with his plan than he would object to me performing in a play Off-Broadway (which is a long held pipe dream of my own). As you might expect, they have safety and communication equipment out the ying yang so I expect to hear from him every few days, when he's not, say, climbing a mast with a knife in his teeth, or delivering gun powder to others defending the vessel from dragons.

239 boats from 26 countries will race. Summer Song, a Sandler 34, is the smallest. Graham says smaller boats go slower, so he doesn't expect to win the race. That's probably not the point, anyway. For me, it would be, but for Graham, it's all about the experience. If you'd like to follow along as Summer Song races toward the Caribbean, the captain's blog is an excellent way to do it. Sam and Alex have been at sea for several weeks already, and arrived in the islands a week early. They made good time coming down the coasts of France and Spain. Graham arrived last night (he called) and will spend the next few days taking some brush-up courses, learning things that would scare the bejesus out of me. But Graham is fond of saying, "The difference between an adventure and an ordeal is attitude."

How do I feel?

Not envious. Where attitude is concerned, I fall under the ordeal category. But I'm very happy for Graham, who gets to be inside something that will bind him to the others on board forever, and not incidentally, make him a better sailor.

How do I feel?

Excited. Anxious. Proud. I'll get lonely, sure, but I have a list of my own, and when he comes back, I'll roast a beast in his honor. In the meantime, I dance on the widow walk and play my pipe of dreams to the wind that fills his sails.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

How to Get Your Free Copy of RULES OF THE LAKE

RULES OF THE LAKE is the prequel to ASHES TO WATER. For a free copy, here's all you have to do:

1. Google the name of your public library.  Find the “contact us” link, or the “Ask a Librarian” link, and request they acquire Ashes to Water. Ask them to contact you when it comes in.

2. When the book comes in, check it out, read it, and write a short review.

3. Post your review online, either Goodreads, Amazon, B&N, or your blog.

4. Send me the URL of your review and your address.

And in return,

I will send you a free copy of Rules of the Lake, even if the review was negative. I hereby promise. Cross my heart, hope to die, stick a needle in my eye. If you are a book blogger, I will publicize your review on this site, FaceBook, and Twitter, with a link to your website.

You win, I win, and libraries win! You don’t have to buy anything, or do anything except request the acquisition.

You have questions, don't you? I knew it, because I have STP, and can read your mind. You're thinking:

But, Irene. What if I ask my library to acquire Ashes to Water and they say no?
Obviously, you weren't convincing enough. I suggest you put a quiver in your voice as you whisper, "It's for my Aunt Louise who doesn't have much longer to live." If that doesn't work, try yelling.

But, Irene. Can't I just borrow ASHES TO WATER from someone else?
Sure. And from you, I'll just borrow the book I was going to send you for free, and we're square.

But, Irene. I don't have a library card.
I'm going to pretend I didn't hear that.

But, Irene. I don't want to post my review online.
Oh, okay. Then I'll send you a book, but I won't put any postage on it.

But, Irene. I don't want a free copy of Rules of the Lake. I want a free copy of Ashes to Water.
What do I look like, a bookstore?

But, Irene. You're using me.
And you're using me. Feels good, doesn't it?

Are you in?

Monday, November 8, 2010

My Friend, M.

I've been thinking about my friend, M. She's a one-time best-selling novelist, just turned 72. She's  alone, not in good health, and doesn't have enough money saved to keep the cat fed. Her tiny house, worth little in this economy, has a bad roof. She has one friend whom she counts on in emergencies. She has a sister, but they don't speak.

M's last novel, a feel good story about resilient southern women, was released to small fanfare about seven years ago. Since then, she has been battling alcoholism, a poorly functioning respiratory system, and is becoming increasingly isolated. She was teaching at a local community college for awhile, but I get the impression she was not popular. Nor is she beloved by the locals. She talks about moving sometimes, but doesn't have anywhere to go. It seems she has burned every bridge she built.

She called me a couple weeks ago. She sounded pretty good, but whenever I asked about her health or circumstances, she made some macabre joke, then asked me how my book was selling. Her best selling novel came out in 1993. The Book of the Month Club picked it up, and that lifted sales of her previous books, which were also decent. Subsequent books have sold in the fair-to-middling range. When I told her Ashes to Water was not reviewed by anyone who mattered and was, therefore, dead in the water, she took proper umbrage and cursed the fates on my behalf. We shared complaints about the publishing industry and spat a few tacks. Then she told me she quit drinking.

I was heartened. The last time M visited, she came to see me perform the role of Sr. Aloysius in Doubt, a play she greatly admired. M had been an actress, and still gets residual checks for her role in the movie, My Fair Lady. She's one of the maids in the chorus. (She said she got the gig because she knew the musical had been based on Pygmalion.) When I watch the movie, I see in her young, heart-shaped face the funny, whip-smart woman I wish I'd known way back when. The night she came to see me in Doubt was a disaster. Falling-down drunk before she even got inside the theater, she was removed eight minutes into act one, which I witnessed from the stage. What followed was a series of events I won't go into here, but parking lots and policemen were involved. She didn't remember anything the next day. She was upset with herself, but even more upset about having missed the play.

I talked with M again the other day, and she told me she was still sober, and had found a therapist she liked. (She never likes her therapists.) She said she was going to write another book because she needed money. "I don't know if I can do it," she said. She was afraid she'd lost her momentum, the habit, not to mention the necessary braincells. I thought it was very brave of her. Here she is, attempting to put the brakes on a serious downward slide by writing a book! (The only thing scarier would be turning to acting.) Even if she completes this book, there is no guarantee it will be published. I don't know if her agent still represents her, or if her readers are still out there. But you have to love that she's clear-headed and driven, albeit not so much by the need to create, but by the need to eat.

My husband is a roofing contractor, so I know where I can get some left-over shingles. In January, maybe I can get G to drive down there with me, and get her roof squared away. She's going to need a clean, well lighted place in which to write. She's going to need encouragement.

She's going to need me.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

In Which Chilean Wine Makes Me Sneeze

Two nights ago, I was drinking a lovely glass of Chilean Carmera (from the Colchagua Valley, in case you happen to have your world atlas opened to page 108) and started sneezing like a ridiculous person, a rapid series of high-pitched snicks. I thought I was getting sick, oh la.

And last night, I'm cozied up with The Mister and a recorded episode of Masterpiece Mystery (okay, it was Project Runway, and okay, it was the dog), savoring a glass of Chilean Penalolen, and again with the sneezing. I was all "What's with the sneezing?"

I've concluded that I'm allergic to Chilean wine. Kill me now.

The Mister went to Chili a couple years ago and fell in love with the fruits of their vine, hence our small cache. I looked closely at the label: "In the mouth, the structure of the velvety tannins is overwhelmed by a voluptuous texture, offering a  precise architecture and a long, bright finish where the fruit pairs with spicy chocolate and tobacco."

Spicy chocolate and tobacco! No wonder I'm sneezing! I can't think of a more unappetizing pairing since Jack Nicholson and Helen Hunt.

My father is probably having the last laugh right now. My sisters and I like to make fun of the plonk he brings along when visiting. From the Winn Dixie, it comes in a bottle resembling a clay jug with a convenient screw-off cap. Dad savors a single glass of plonk at 5:00 each evening while sitting on the porch. A closer look at the label reveals its constitution:

"In the mouth, the ethyl-laced fumes compete with the sandpaper texture for dominance, suggesting an unsupervised fermentation, possibly by a person named Jasper, who undoubtedly dropped his spicy chocolate cigarette into the vat."

I can hear him now. "At least my wine doesn't make me sneeze like a ridiculous person."

Good point. But it probably does explain why he doesn't have any hair.