Maybe it was the fish tacos and too much pinot gris at dinner. Or the craving for dark chocolate and crushed peanuts that followed. Who know why I, or anyone else, spent Tuesday night tossing and turning between fits of waking and sleeping
That was the night I found myself in the living room of an old two-story house with a stoop, its exterior shingled in navy squares of asbestos. Inside was a group of people who were dressed as though they were going to church, one that required dresses for women and suits for men. A woman in a royal purple wrap and black patent leather pumps, sat on an olive green couch. She looked familiar, much like someone whose face I knew from Goodreads.com but had never met in real life.
I didn’t know what I was doing in this place more than an hour from my house and feared it was a start-up church, the kind that focused on the Old Testament, perhaps used the New Testament in ways Jesus would not have liked. I’d been done with bad news churches for decades and had no interest in squirming through a sermon that would leave me snippy.
Now, the good news in this story is that these people, all middle-aged and white, had gathered in the middle of nowhere in a starkly furnished house to play a kind of charades that involved no alcohol or shouting. Even the silent gestural clues were modest. Such civility intimated me into silence. I had no idea a party game could be so dull. When there was a break, I plotted my getaway and stood to leave, but something amazing happened before I acted on it. As I opened to door to leave, President Obama and the First Lady came through up to the door and entered. I decided to stay a while longer.
Rather than shake hands or politicize, the Obamas, too, came to play charades. They were crazy about the game. Before taking a seat, Michelle said to me, “I heard about your novel, Cooley & Rose. I want to read it.”
Thrilled – how did she know me? – I excused myself to go to my car to grab a copy, even though, until that moment, I had no idea how I’d driven there. Dreams are like that. Details come when you truly need them. All the way to the car and back, I reminded myself to take a photo of Michelle holding my book, to ask someone to take a picture of the two of us. Once I was inside, however, I was so awed by the power of word-of-mouth, especially the mouth that knew a First Lady, that I forgot my intentions. I left with no recorded memory of the moment, and nothing to help sell my modest indie undertaking. The disappointment was crushing.
And it was the next morning, too, when I woke from my dream. I still wanted those photos.
A week ago I underwent more vibrational testing for my Lyme’s Disease and started a homeopathic treatment to kill off the borrelia burgdorferi bacteria in my muscles, plus other stuff in my brain and CNS that you don’t want to read or hear about. All of this is progress, but by noon I am so weary that all I can do is sleep. So, please excuse the absence of my regular blogs. I’ve started three, have completed none.
Also, Cooley & Rose is available as an e-book and as a paperback. For the time being, the latter is only available through Amazon.com. I should be promoting this like crazy, but that, too, will have to wait.
Spring is here, and I am happy the pollen has come and gone with the heavy rain. Today, despite predictions otherwise, the sun came out. Soon there will be beach days ahead, I hope.
Happy May days to you all. Talk at ya soon.
While doing this, I struggled with my Lyme brain where years ago babesia bacteria took up residence, wreaking neurological havoc in so many ways, especially on my ability to recall words. This is a challenge for a writer. Amy Tan and Rebecca Wells have written about their experiences. When Wells created Ya-Ya in Bloom, the sequel to The Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood, she had already developed advance neurological damage.
My brain was already frazzled by the time I started working on the novel-version of Cooley and Rose. Still, I pushed on and finished that, then wrote The Wyatt Sisters Songs of Sorrow, a story that is even more complex than the one that I’m hawking these days.
People say, “Oh, everyone forget words now and then.” True, but I will give you two brief examples of what happens with a Lyme brain.
Yesterday I was telling my husband about my new cell phone and all the tricks it could do and how I carried the instruction book around to read whenever I had to wait somewhere, like the drive-thru at the bank or a doctor’s office. He cocked his head and squinted his eyes and said, “You have a clock that does all that?” Years ago, I would have accused him of losing his hearing, but now I know better. Even though my brain thinks one word, often another comes out. This happens everyday. Unless I can’t find any semblance to the word I want. Then I just shut up. And sometimes he’s grateful for that.
A couple of days ago I came across “squawling babies” in Cooley & Rose and decided to look up the word “squawling” but could not find it. Then my mind told me to look up “squalling,” hoping it had a secondary or tertiary definition that would fit my meaning. I had no luck there with that either. Then I started going through the alphabet, and when I came to “B”, I stopped. “Brawling babies,” I said and imagined two little diapered fatties, lying on their backs, flinging their arms and kicking their legs. I was wrong again, but the strain of thinking was exhausting me. And then the word came. “Bawling.” It was the right word although a bit bland. I had to jot it down, because my brain kept insisting on returning to “brawling.”
With this path of thought written down on paper, it came to me that somewhere in my mind, the words “squealing” and “bawling” had merged to become “squawling.” Now, after having taken care of my corrections, I wished I’d stayed with the original because even though it’s not a legit word, it seems more expressive than “bawling.”
What do you think?
My novel, Cooley & Rose, is now available as a paperback from Amazon.com and as an e-book from Amazon, ITunes, Sony, Kobo and seven other online sites, including one specific to the United Kingdom. Both reader and mobile formats are available.
Included at the end of Cooley & Rose is a book club guide. For those groups on the southside of Hampton Roads who decide to read this novel and would like me to attend their meetings, I’ll be glad to do so. By the way, the novel begins and ends in South Norfolk, Virginia, and, with the help of historian Raymond Harper and my aunt, Ruby Ene, I tried to capture the essence of that area as it was in 1948. I’ve also tried to do the same with the other settings — Clinton, OK; Los Angeles; and Palm Spring, CA.
As I write this blog, I feel almost too calm, especially since I wrote the first pages of this book almost 20 years ago. I should be punctuating this entry with a lot of exclamation points !!! But a lot has happened during that time. More than enough for a book or two. But none of that matters now.
After the death of my second agent, I decided to take on publishing Cooley & Rose by myself, and I don’t regret it for a moment. That decision pushed me to start this blog, something I had thought about but had lacked the energy or motivation to do. In the few months that it has been online, more than 2,500 people from at least 49 countries have visited this site, accidentally or not. Still the idea, that as an electronic community we are one, awes me.
I’ve also received several dozen comments on my blog and many more emails from friends and strangers with kind words and, sometimes, their own stories, which I greatly appreciate.
So far this is one wondrous ride.
Now, before I end this buy-my-book blog and return to story telling next week, I ask those of you who read and like Cooley & Rose to post reviews or ratings on the site from which you purchased your e-book and on Goodreads.com. It’s not easy for an indie to market her work, but your words could help a lot.
I had in mind to write about the frenzy over cat this and that, especially videos. Then, while studying how to promote an e-book, I read that an author is supposed to blog about his novel and post comments on social networks as the book takes shape and makes its way into the market place. Sigh. I learn this in the last month of a writing project that has taken years. As most everyone who knows me will attest, I have no gift for timing, except on the dance floor.
So here goes.
Next month, as long as that wicked non-planet Pluto and his two moons are not hanging over my head, Cooley & Rose will be published as an e-book that will be compatible with all makes of readers, plus I-Phones, Droids and computers.
I’ve yet to write the zingy blurb for the distributors to use as a sales tool, but this novel, set in South Norfolk, VA during the summer of 1948 is about a married couple who part ways after their love sours. Rose takes off to start a new life in Hollywood; her husband, Cooley, goes to visit his girlfriend, LaBelle. Erle Stanley Gardner, Bob Hope, Louis Prima and a young Keely Smith make cameo appearances, as do an Indian preacher and thieves posing as rich Southern Baptists. But more on that at another time.
For now, I offer the following:
From Janet Peery, National Book award nominee:
“This eminently readable story is a romp in the tradition of Crazy in Alabama and a love story as rewarding as Cold Sassy Tree.
“Cooley & Rose is imbued with place and period but never at the expense of story. As these original and unforgettable characters explore the vagaries of love and the boundaries of connection, they leave their marks on the reader’s imagination, providing the best that can be asked of a good book; a feeling that we’ve encountered people we thought we knew but now more fully understand, the sense that – like family, whether near or far – they’ll stay with us, ours for life.
“Terry is a gifted storyteller with an eye for detail, an ear for the rhythms of what’s said as well as what’s unsaid, and a heart for character depth. I hope you’ll give her a read.”
From Bob Shacochis, National Book Award winner:
“I loved reading Terry Perrel’s first novel, Cooley & Rose. And feel that it’s a wonderful . . .work of comic Southern literature. And it goes without saying that Terry is a terrific writer.”
A third author, who read Cooley & Rose in a shorter form, said it has “echoes of Anne Tyler, Flannery O’Connor and Eudora Welty.” I told this to my agent before he died last year, and he thought the comparison was a bit over the top. Ha! What an understatement.
By the way, the photo at the top of the page? That’s my writing shed that my husband, one of my brothers, a few of our friends and I built. That’s where I work and nap and, sometimes, hide out.
UPDATE: Cooley & Rose is available as a paperback from Amazon and as an e-book everywhere!