Cello Babies.

(originally published 4/22/2018)

In my early 30s, I fell into an unlikely obsession with all things cello. I couldn’t have told you why at the time, although I’d identified a nagging sense of unfulfillment within myself, one I didn’t want to attribute to the correct cause. As it will do, life prodded me back onto the self-honesty platform… and the cello became my conduit, not that I understood back then how my preoccupation would develop.

But. It was a grand love affair that began with lessons on a starter cello marked with tape on the neck so I could learn to play in first position. I’d had ten years of voice and eight years at the piano, so I wasn’t as unschooled as I could have been, but I was still awful. With time, though – and, on a few occasions, earplugs – I managed to improve. Over the years, I progressed to a better cello, then to another; until eventually, I commissioned a custom instrument from American luthier, Chris Dungey. My baby was stunning and perfect and I named her Annabelle. I felt like the luckiest girl on the planet to get to play her.

My hidden unhappiness did not disappear despite my efforts and good musical fortune, however. My solution? Study harder! Broaden my cello horizons! Through the lens of relative sanity today, I can laugh at the absurd lengths I went to, from unearthing obscure video performances by Yo Yo Ma, Pablo Casals, and Jacqueline Du Pré (which led to a trip to London with my mother once and a search through Golders Green for Du Pré’s grave); to a private session with Minnesota’s former principal cellist, Bob Jamieson, wherein I was given the very undeserved opportunity to play his Montagnana and was rightly admonished afterwards to spend more time practicing, less time on history.

Outside of these shenanigans, my husband and I both worked for a living, in the same way people trying to advance do, which is to say excessively and perhaps desperately. We were also frustrated at the time that we hadn’t had children, even though initial tests revealed no reasons against parenthood for us. I thought it was perhaps my travel schedule or his, which often enough had us in different zip codes during key times of the month. I took a different job, and Mike started his own company to stay closer to home.

Toward the end of my thirties as we remained childless, I came to understand exactly what my focus on the cello distracted me from, and as rich as the study was, it wasn’t taking the place of what I really wanted. I began consulting with a fertility specialist, underwent three cycles of entry-level, drug-supported protocols. No dice, or rather, ‘dice’ in the form of an ectopic pregnancy and a burst fallopian tube, but no infant. The next step was invitro fertilization, which we tried and failed at. Did we want to try again? It was expensive, but we did want to try. I sold my cello on a gamble, knowing I might end up with no cello and no baby.

I remember with brutal clarity how my M.D. greeted me in the waiting room before the ultrasound and blood test that would confirm that next success or failure for us. I’d been giving myself hormone shots for over a year by then, had committed all of our emotional and financial resources toward the possibility of motherhood… and I was admittedly unstable. I barely controlled myself when Lisa took me, shaking and tearful, by the hand toward the imaging room. She hadn’t seen me since the day of the transfer, but she was optimistic. “You’re going to like what you see, Errin,” she promised. I didn’t and still don’t know how she could be so confident.

But she was right. One of our two embryos pulsed away on the monitor, and my blood test predicted viability. I was stunned. I was euphoric. My husband wept. Within a year we had our gorgeous, healthy little boy.

I haven’t touched a cello in years, but two months ago, my former teacher reached out. Her last student recently stopped playing due to health issues but wanted to know her cello was being used by someone. It was at our preferred luthier’s shop at the moment having some work done. Would I like to take it home and play it? The owner would be grateful.

Now, I’m just waiting for the call to go get it. I’ve dusted off my score of the Bach Cello Suites (and have my earplugs at the ready!), and I’ve dragged out my cello chair and music stand, putting them in the same corner of the front room where I used to practice. I’m looking forward to relearning the prelude for my son, who’s never heard me play. I’m grateful for the chance to change that situation.

Curious what my cello babies look like? Here they are. I love one a great deal more than the other… but apparently for now, I won’t have to choose between them.

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Smashwords, Anyone?

(originally published 4/14/2018)

There is seriously always something to learn in this ever-changing but opportunity-filled world of publishing for little folks like me. To whit, although I’m published on the IngramSpark platform, the ebook side of their distribution doesn’t cover the whole wide world as well as others do… have I lost anyone yet? Why should you care, you ask? You shouldn’t! You should dream your way through the process of reading and not pay one tiny bit of attention to the nonsense that goes on to throw a book out there! I really believe this.

I offer such musings with an intention and an offering, however. My point (it arrives!) is that I started offering both Updriftand Breakwateron the Smashwords platform as of last Sunday… and today I generated a coupon by which the interested can download e-Updrift at a reduced price starting tomorrow (April 15)through May 14. The coupon code, which is not case sensitive, is as follows: ZR64C  Redeem and share at will.

Want the link? I have that for you, too! https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/812828

For the Audiobook-philes Among You…

(originally published 2/23/2018)

I recently had both of my stories produced on audio, and in my opinion the world will want to hear the killer baritone of the guy I hired to voice them. Fortunately, you can do that! I’m on a little audiobook tour for the next couple of weeks, which includes a giveaway folks can sign up for, too. 🙂 Swim on over! The full tour schedule is toward the end if you want to peek: http://dazzledbybooks.com/2018/02/updrift-errin-stevens/

The Shape of Water!!!

(originally published 1/31/2018)

I’ve seen this movie three times. *covers face with hands* It’s so beautiful. I’m not just saying this because of what I write – run, don’t walk/there’s a reason it’s been nominated for so many awards! Of course, Updrift would make a lovely follow-up read, though. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt5580390/

Audible: http://tinyurl.com/lhayfcj
iBooks: http://tinyurl.com/mm9gk3g
Barnes & Noble: http://tinyurl.com/mfam47f
Amazon: http://tinyurl.com/kro64ew
Book Depository: http://tinyurl.com/lye3uo2
Kobo: http://tinyurl.com/nyvqwth

Because who doesn’t need more social media?

(originally published 12/1/2017)

I may be a bit behind, but apparently some folks are excited about a new romance site called Books + Main Bites, which focuses on excerpts and new book content spanning the romance genre. I may not stay, but I hunted around a little the last couple of days and thought I’d share for others of you who might be interested. Here’s a link! https://bookandmainbites.com/users/27573

Mermaids: Myth or Fact?

(originally published 7/28/2017)

Every time Animal Planet runs its 2011 mockumentary, “Mermaid: The Body Found,” their web site heaves under all the views they get. It was the most successful series Animal Planet has ever run, and repeat airings still pull in a crazy level of public attention according to Nielsen.

And if you haven’t checked it out, you should. It’s this fabulous blend of myth and supposition that feels perfectly real, presented in a cinematographic package of wonderfulness. But. Should we all go on a mermaid hunt?

As a writer of stories containing mermaids, my opinion is ‘yes’… but not in the actual ocean, where sharks could eat you or jellyfish poison you or hypothermia cause you to drown. (Picture me wagging a motherly finger in your face and warning you to keep that wet suit in the closet.) Scientific evidence, the fanciful exposition by Animal Planet notwithstanding, is overwhelmingly against the possibility… and again, the research could kill you!

Mermaid MYTHOLOGY is a different proposition, however, and it will not actually deep-six you to consider it. Independent populations all over the globe have rich, developed, gratifying narratives absolutely worth our attention as reader/thinkers. In addition to my own novels – Updrift and Breakwater – there are so many riffs on the theme out there for those interested, from Carolyn Turgeon’s “Mermaid” to the “Of Poseidon” series by Anna Banks; to the classic lore contained in Brazil’s “Sirena” or Guam’s “Lara” stories. Or (of course) the widely read Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale.

So, by all means, be a believer, and happy exploring… but I think we should put our belief in the “true” stories here, which are in books, not the sea.

(The link to the Discovery Channel feature – and it’s pretty fun – is here if you want to take a peek: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z1L4oCVj-vM )

Writing on the Sly.

(originally published 7/19/2017)

I’m not going to write a fourth. I’m just not, even though I’ve been thinking about it for six months and have opened up what I call a “slushy pile” of notes and bits of narrative – and even though I’ve already picked out a name for it and have an outline. Because writing books is a pain in the a– and I refuse to do it and will stop right after I launch the third. Yep.

HOWEVER, just to keep this little lie I’m telling myself afloat, I’m including a tiny bit of set-up for the fourth in my third. By doing this – and by sharing an excerpt here, I shall exorcise myself once and for all of this ridiculous endeavor! So let the exorcism begin:

***SPOILER ALERT ***
PROLLY DON’T WANT TO READ THIS IF YOU HAVEN’T READ THE SECOND BOOK, BREAKWATER ‘CAUSE DEAD CHARACTERS SHOULDN’T TALK.

Chapter Whatever

Xanthe approached Griffins Bay – and the real object of her visit, Peter – from the ocean, having decided to search out her former colleague for a chat about her unrelenting work problems. No, that wasn’t true. She hadn’t decided anything, was following this particular urge on instinct, not reason, although she thought a conversation with the former prince might resolve her ever-deepening anxiety over the shifting center of her life. And Peter knew her and her professional commitments as well as anyone.

Earlier that day, she’d sensed he was near the Blake home, and this thread of perception, slight though it was, had given her adequate impetus to leave her offices on Shaddox and undertake her current swim. She’d had to be sneaky in her escape from the palace since others there continued to ask her about him, hadn’t stopped since they’d learned of his resurrection seven years earlier. Peter apparently didn’t want to communicate with anyone, which stopped none of them from trying to wheedle a meeting with him out of her.

They were kind of cute, often inventing some weak but plausible need for reconnection with their one-time regent – would he like any personal items from his life before exile? So-and-so had been an intimate and was frantic with worry for him, and could he or she get in touch? Surely she, Xanthe, could facilitate an encounter.

She couldn’t, but she didn’t blame any of them for trying. She understood their artless attempts, which were a combination of genuine concern and rabid self-interest none of them could help, both of which would be alleviated if Peter would deign to visit the seat of siren government and show his face. He wouldn’t and didn’t.

At first, she’d tried to persuade him by contending he’d be left alone sooner if he’d cater to his former subjects in this matter, if he’d let himself be seen and answer a few questions to allay everyone’s curiosity. “You’ve been the center of our common life for over a century, and the drama surrounding your return is too seductive,” she’d argued. And it was true: even the most stable among them yearned to ferret out for themselves the truth in this part of their collective history, to establish a more definitive resolution than the one they’d been given. Or at least come up with a palatable way to consider all that had happened since his faux suicide.

Peter hadn’t disagreed, but neither did he comply with his community’s requests for an audience. “I’ll think about it,” he’d answered off-handedly, in a way that made Xanthe believe he couldn’t care less what anyone else wanted, her included. After her attempts to lure him into a public appearance failed, she hadn’t known what to say to sirens who solicited her for a connection. At this point, she just wished they’d stop pestering her.

“I have no influence on him,” she’d stated again and again. “I don’t know when – or even if – he’ll visit Shaddox. Ever.” Their eager nods were not acknowledgments because they acted as if she hadn’t spoken. She continued to be approached by folks who thought she had a unique in with Peter Loughlin.

She suspected she had more of an in than Peter let on, though, since while she never had any indication where he was when others asked, she did sense him when she wished to locate him herself. Perhaps because he allowed her this access? She wondered.

“Why can I always find you?” she’d inquired.

“I will talk with you anytime,” Peter replied… and that was all he’d say on the subject. She studied him to determine what he might be hiding.

She couldn’t tell if there was anything, couldn’t be sure of his motivations. Although he’d confessed he’d been lonely for his own kind when she’d come upon him murdering their viceroy all those years ago. He drew her attention back to him. “You have nothing to worry about from me, Xanthe,” Peter claimed. “We’ve known each other a long time, and talking with you is a pleasure of mine. My motives are that simple.”

“If you say so…?” Since she also felt the easiness between them, she was inclined to believe him. Although she couldn’t help but feel wary around him given his past, epic deviances.

“Truly. You are always safe in my company,” he insisted.

“Mmm,” she responded uncertainly.

But back to her current personal crisis and the reason behind her impending visit to her one-time boss. She’d elected to search for him in Griffins Bay on the same whim that brought her to him every time, no matter where he was, although she was aware he often dropped by the Blakes’ to check on Gabe, Kate, and little Henry. And sometimes Carmen and Michael when they were beachside, which they usually weren’t since they’d moved to Shaddox.

Just outside the reef protecting the bay, Xanthe grabbed a waterproof pack with land supplies from one of the designated caches in the rock face.

She saw Peter from underwater just before she surfaced… and she felt his grin, his anticipation. He sat on the end of the dock by the Blake house in Griffins Bay, shirt unbuttoned, pants rolled up as he dangled his feet in the sea. “Ah, moonflower, it is lovely to see you,” he told her when her face broke the waves. She hooked an arm around one of the dock posts to anchor herself.

The overhead sun left his face in shadow, making her unable to read his expression. But this time, she didn’t need to rely solely on her observational skills to determine his frame of mind, because she absorbed his emanations cleanly. Peter’s emotional output today, usually missing altogether, was almost like that of a normal siren.

And he really was pleased to see her. She was awash in the loveliest tenderness from him, a restorative balm that blanketed her and soothed away the worries she wore these days like a second skin. When she reacted with her own sweet outpouring – an automatic response usually not possible with Peter Loughlin – she perceived a freeness within him she’d never felt before. He was relaxed… and almost open.

This was not anything she attributed to their rogue, duplicitous prince, so she stilled, combing him with her intuition for evidence of deceit. She inquired within herself as well, checking for the backlash of emptiness, the sour echo of loneliness she considered a trademark of any interaction with Peter. His usual impediments weren’t there this time, or maybe they were, but penetrable for once.

“You’re happy,” she remarked with surprise.