On May 12 Don and I took the ferry to Victoria. I visited my mom, and Don and I had a cozy dinner, topping the evening with a brisk game of Dutch Blitz.
Don left at the crack of dawn the next morning for Toronto. He had once again been nominated for the White Pine, Forest of Reading Award. This go-around was for his newest YA novel, Dan vs Nature.
Then he was traveling on to Rochester, New York for another book festival he had been invited to.
I had planned to go with Don and join the ranks of his enthusiastic fans. But then I received an invitation from Netflix to attend the “War Machine” screening in New York.
Well, what would you choose?
When my husband leaves town, I eat total junk. After Don left for the airport, I wrote for a few hours, fueled by fistfuls of candy. I struggled for several hours in front of my computer, trying to get words on the page without much success. I decided to change course. Do something useful, pack my suitcase, while waiting for the words to come.
I was going to be in New York May 15-19. Normally my clothes for that length of trip wouldn’t even fill a small carry-on bag. But I was going to be staying with my sister, Jennifer, in her apartment in Chelsea. Two weeks ago, during her last visit here, Jennifer had gone through the hassle of putting together outfits for me. It meant a lot to me, and I wanted to bring a bunch of them to New York.
I put everything in my suitcase but the kitchen sink. No surprise—it wouldn’t shut!
I had popcorn and a chunk of cheddar for dinner and went to sleep.
The next morning I looked at my overstuffed suitcase. I could either dump it all into an even bigger suitcase, or I could cull.
Did I really need to pack the four different ensembles for the “War Machine” screening that Jennifer had helped me assemble?
I did not.
Two would suffice.
But how to choose which outfits would stay in my suitcase and which wouldn’t make the cut?
Easy-peasy! There were two glamorous cocktail dresses, which my sister said absolutely had to be worn with the sexy, velvet high heels with dainty straps that crisscrossed around the ankle and buckled on the side.
Granted, the shoes—a gift from Jen—were pretty amazing looking.
I strapped them on and hobbled to the mirror to see how the ensemble looked. Meanwhile, the balls of my feet were screaming for mercy. I knew I would never be able to get through an evening wearing them.
I figured if two outfits had to go, they might as well be the ones that required the precarious and painful shoes. So out went the two cocktail dresses, the velvet shoes and the accessories that went with them.
Then I ate some chocolate covered Bing cherries and felt immensely better.
I made myself some tea and wrote for a few hours, then returned to my bedroom to cut the remaining clothes in my suitcase by half.
I only had a few things scheduled: the “War Machine” screening and after party, a spot on a TV show, a dinner with the one-and-only Eloisa James regency-romance-writing goddess. So, practically speaking, all I needed was a grand total of three nice outfits. I threw in a couple extra in case of spillage, and a few comfy outfits for cozy sister time with Jen.
Once my suitcase was loaded, I laid out my clothes for the next morning, had dinner, washed my face, brushed my teeth and went to bed. Even though I was tired, sleep eluded me. I was too excited about my adventure to come …
We took the ferry into town. I visited my mom. Put on latex gloves and massaged her swollen, purple feet and legs, trying to get them to a more natural color. I filled up her candy bowls, and we sang.
It was one of her better days. She remembered me. Was able to do harmonies. No matter how she’s feeling, or how foggy her brain, music always seems to call her back somewhat. Soothe her.
Some days are better than others. Tears always seem to hover, just beyond her shoulder. Sometimes they alight. Unexpected things can be the trigger, and they descend over her crumpling body and face, like fast moving clouds.
But today was a good day. No tears. She knew who I was. Life was being gentle on both of us.
I went home, a little tired, as always, after a visit with my mom. But glad, too. For having visited.
If I hadn’t had all this work piled up, I probably would have gotten into my pajamas and crawled into bed and pulled the covers up over my shoulders for a half hour or so. But I couldn’t. No time to baby myself.
Samantha and Ron were coming over for an early dinner, then we were going to attend the George Saunders reading of his new novel, Lincoln in the Bardo.
George Saunders is one of my husband’s all-time favorite authors. Don’s been flying high for the last two weeks, so thrilled to have scored tickets to this event.
Don started cooking shortly after 1 p.m. I was happy he’d volunteered to make the bulk of the dinner—the main course and veggies. All I needed to do was the mashed potatoes and a batch of cookies. Easy. Thank goodness. I’ve been crazy busy these final days leading up to my novel’s release.
So busy in fact that I briefly flirted with the idea of bailing on the reading to gain a few more hours in my day.
I didn’t, of course.
This reading was a BIG deal to Don.
But in my fantasy world, for a second, I bailed. It’s not something that I’m proud of.
As I worked in our makeshift study, longing for my writing room at home, the fragrant smells of my husband’s braised short ribs danced enticingly around me. But I stayed in my chair. Didn’t go in to taste. Ate some more jellybeans and continued to work.
After a while, he poked his head into the study. “Honey?” he said, “you still planning on making the mashed potatoes?”
“Yeah. Why?” I said, dragging my mind away from my computer screen to focus on him, leaning up against the doorframe. “What time is it?” Never mind that the time is always in the right-hand corner of the computer screen. I wasn’t raised to tell time by computers and phones. Habit I guess. I’m always looking for clocks on the wall and watches.
“Ten after four.”
ZOINKS! Our guests were going to be here in fifty minutes, and I was wearing saggy drawstring sweats and a baggie shirt. I needed to peel, boil, mash, and season a bag of potatoes, make a batch of cookies, and get changed.
I flew around like a whirling dervish. I was doing great! I was some kinda super woman! I peeled those potatoes in record time. I had those suckers in the pan, and while they were cooking I whipped up the cookie dough. While the oven was heating, I ran upstairs, washed my face, changed into humanoid clothes, then sprinted down to the kitchen.
“I’m an amazing, modern, multi-tasking woman,” I thought proudly as I lobbed off a large hunk of butter and poured a few glugs of milk into the pot. I flung some salt in and pepper. I was feeling pretty pleased with myself, until I tasted them.
The flavor was good, nice and buttery, but that is where the goodness stopped. Too much salt. WAY too much salt. The potatoes were not salvageable.
I am a terrible cook when I am deep in a book. It’s like the writing takes all the creativity and finesse out of me. It’s weird.
We had to make noodles. Dinner was late. But we made it to the reading in time.
George Saunders did not disappoint. The venue was packed. He was funny and sweet and witty. We had wondered what in the heck he was going to read, since the book is told from zillions of voices. But George was ten steps ahead of us. He had a bunch of local volunteers up on stage with him, reading the various parts.
It was a wonderful example of excellent problem solving. A good time was had by all.
I will confess, though, the chairs were rather hard, and I’d been sitting at my desk all afternoon. So, although I was enjoying the reading and basking in all the gloriousness that is George Saunders, my butt was very relieved when it was over and I could stand and shake out the stiffness.
We talked and laughed on the way home, the night air whooshing past. When we arrived at our place, we didn’t want the good times to be over, so we walked our friends down the hill to their car, the moon, a blurry mist through the clouds.
When we got home, our dog greeted us in her usual manner, her body one joyous bundle of wiggling warm dog and fur. I nestled my face against her little body. I could feel her heart pounding against her tiny ribs. I felt lucky.
I went to the study to finish the piece I’d been working on that afternoon.
I flipped on the computer.
There was an email, from Nancy and Cissy.
An email with a subject line that read: Guess who you’re getting a cover blurb from?
I clicked open the email and nearly FELL out of my chair!
Because the cover blurb that was contained in the email was from none other than the world famous, New York Times Bestselling Author, Jayne Ann Krentz. JAYNE ANN KRENTZ! Whose writing I LOVE and ADORE! Whose newest novel, The Girl Who Knew Too Much, I have been restlessly waiting for. That Jayne Ann Krentz!
And she wrote … “Sara Flynn’s SOLACE ISLAND is a high-energy page-turner that delivers a feisty heroine, a sexy hero, a lot of warm-hearted romantic-comedy and some very chilling suspense—all done with a fresh, modern edge.”
Best. Day. Ever. The author, Jayne Ann Krentz, aka Amanda Quick, aka Jayne Castle—whose regency novel, Rendezvous, I tried to read aloud to Don when our relationship was in the tender fledgling stages, so he could see why romance novels were so much fun—liked my writing! She blurbed my book.
And for those of you who were wondering, no, I didn’t convert him with Rendezvous, so I tried with Mistress.
But then, he’s crazy about all those super hero movies. And me? Not so much. So, I guess we are even.
The good thing about him listening to my Jayne Ann Krentz gushing over the years is that he knew what a big deal this was to me.
For as long as I live, I will never, ever forget this day—or Jayne Ann Krentz’s generosity! Taking the time in her busy schedule to read this brand new author’s book.