Holding the Grail

18 10 2013

Last Tuesday night, magic happened.
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First, a bit of history. For as long as I can remember, I have made up stories. I decided long ago I was going to be a writer, and so I was. But art seeks an audience, and as anyone who has tried to fulfill that dream knows, the road to publication is fraught with peril and discouragement. No humble hero on a great quest in epic fantasy ever suffered or struggled as much as a writer does seeking the grail of success.

I am fifty-six years old. And finally, after all those years, detours, distractions, failures and frustrations, I found a publisher. My novel, Archimedes Nesselrode, has been released by Double Dragon. It is available as a paperback from Amazon and as an ebook through most major distributors, as well as at your public library (sorry, at this point the patter is compulsive).

On October 15, at 7:00, I held a release party. And here’s where the thank-yous start. If Maureen Mann hadn’t come into the library one day after hearing of my success, and insisted that I had to have a release party, I likely wouldn’t have done it. Who would come? I thought. I’m small potatoes. Not Stephen King or J.K. Rowling. My publisher isn’t Random House; it’s an independent Canadian outfit. Yes, it’s my lifelong ambition realized, and the first step (I hope!) towards more publication and greater fame. But who else would care?

Maureen did. And so did my boss, Evelyn DeCota, who was happy to let me use the library for the party. Then my husband, Larry, began promoting the event on Facebook, and to my amazement, a whole lot of other people seemed to care. My colleague and friend Elaine Isaak made me a winged snake to wear at my readings. My friend and beta reader Dana van der Bijl talked up the event and offered to help with refreshments. More and more people said they were coming.

Oh, but people are polite, well-intentioned. They probably won’t actually come, I thought. I’ll maybe get ten or so. Nobody would really care about showing up to such a thing.
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I was wrong. People from our local on-line paper, The Forum, came. Library Trustees brought cookies and other treats for the refreshment table. And Patrice Kilham from the Deerfield Writer’s group, who helped me bang the original draft of Archimedes Nesselrode into shape. And Connie Stone, who I knew from our old days at the UNH library. Library patrons came. Dear Diane Valade and Cathy Shigo. Butch Kennett came and sat in the front for my reading, and bless his heart, he’s deaf! (Although very good at lip reading and much better at understanding me than I am him.)

Annie Vennerbeck came with Mike Driscoll, the artist. (And if you live in the Greater Deerfield area you must stop by his studio during the Arts Tour this weekend; his work is delightful. I’d love to have him design a book cover.) Adi Rule was there, daughter of fellow author and state treasure Rebecca Rule, the Moose of Humor. Adi has been a family friend for years, directing #2 son in a play a while back called “Shoes.”

Driving all the way from Worcester, arrived no less a person than Trisha Wooldridge, president of Broad Universe, the international organization for woman Speculative Fiction writers that I belong to. She’s become an Archimedes Nesselrode fan from hearing me read excerpts at conventions. Elaine Isaak, another Broad and multiply published author, creator of the winged snake, arrived with her father Jim, who is in my present writers group. Elaine had to bow out of other commitments to be there, and I was very grateful she did. She has been my patient and wise mentor for many years.

My sister-in-law is struggling to raise two boys while taking care of ill and aging parents, and dealing with a hellish divorce that never seems to end. Yet she came with my nephew. Two of my oldest friends, who I seldom see outside of Facebook, both came to buy copies and listen to me read. As I stood before them reading, with my Winged Snake wrapped around me, I looked out onto row after row smiling, familiar faces.
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I sold book after book, stuffing checks and cash into my pockets, trying to think of the best way to sign each book, wishing I could be more eloquent, more witty, expressing how much this meant to me. And it was not just friends; a wonderful woman I had never met before found the book on Amazon after reading about it in The Forum. She bought three copies. I was overwhelmed.

While I babbled my way through my authorly duties, my husband Larry captured the event on camera, and my two boys, Max and Alec, manned the refreshment table and set up chairs. When the whole circus was over with, they played roadie and took down the set and packed up, leaving me free to wander around in my dazed stupor, thanking people and saying good-bye.

Today is another day. I have to tend to chores, laundry and chickens, the ordinary mundane details of life. But I feel differently. I write about a wonderful, whimsical kind of magic in my book, but that night was real, made possible by real people who cared and came to show it.

A book is nothing without readers. It is a lovely song sung with no one to hear it, a story whose evocative eloquence is wasted with no audience. To you, my readers, friends and supporters, I offer my heartfelt thanks. I hope you get as much joy out of reading the book as you have given to me.

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