Quixotic Drama

I rarely bring up Goodreads or Amazon reviews here on this page. It breaks an unspoken rule, and that fourth wall between writer and reader. Do you hear a but coming? Today, I found something amazing in the review section on Goodreads, and it struck me so completely I had to immortalize it here.

(Not the full review–just the pertinent part)

“What is real; to what extent do we live our fictions; what should be real? Wonderful characters whose souls are stirred by death and words and a past built upon more words and immortal youthful misdeeds. […]this is a book for the spirit and the mind. It is also a paean to the passing of an age of great authors who lived immortally, if not tragically. Kudos to DeFino. I call this category of fiction, Quixotic Drama.”

Quixotic* Drama. As Linus Van Pelt is prone to exclaim, “That’s it!”

This is exactly what I do in all my writing, whether fantasy, romance, fairy tale, or contemporary fiction. Quixotic drama. I have a name for it now. And you know what the old tales say about naming something–there is power there. Great power. I can already feel it thrumming in my fingertips.

In googling the term, I see it’s not quite unique to the world, though I don’t find it in reference to fiction. Whether a thing or simply new to me, it’s magical. The connection to Don Quixote, in all its facets, pretty much says it all.

Peanuts1

*quix·ot·ic
kwikˈsädik/
adjective
  1. exceedingly idealistic; unrealistic and impractical.
    “a vast and perhaps quixotic project”
    synonyms: idealistic, romantic, visionary, utopian, extravagant, starry-eyed, unrealist unworldly.
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A Moment to Reflect

Life has been coming at me super-fast these days. Only two weeks left until we move from our log home on the river, to the townhouse in the woods. I went up to Framingham (Boston area) for a signing, was interviewed for an article, agreed to a whole bunch of writerly events from local book clubs to a library in Maine. The rest of August, September and October are almost completely booked by trips to the beach, appearances, and moving.

And then there are the grands who love to come over and swim.

I’ve had very little time to reflect on all the changes in my life since June saw The Bar Harbor Retirement Home for Famous Writers (and Their Muses) release into the world, and the sale of our home. This quiet Sunday morning, I sat with my coffee, reflecting.

I thought I’d be okay staying here if the house didn’t sell, but I was wrong. I didn’t know that until today. I’m so ready. To go. To leave behind this house, let go this dream, and step into the next phase of my life. Staying here isn’t going to change the fact that life here didn’t work out as we anticipated. It won’t bring my son back. It doesn’t even keep him close to me. It’s time, and I can’t even be sad about that.

It’s going to be hard to close the door that last time. Knowing I can’t go back inside, see the rooms we lived in as a family, the roof over the walkout that Chris built with a shattered ankle, from a wheelchair; all my word art; the mural I painted when we first moved in; the gardens I planted; the trees grown so tall; the table where we all played Loaded Questions, laughing so hard over the bawdy and bawdier answers we came up with; the kitchen where fifteen years of Christmas cookies have been baked with Jamie and her friends–a tradition that goes back to her junior year in high school; the “grow room” Chris and Scott worked in together; the turtle WWF sticker on the wall in Grace’s room that I’ve never had the heart to scrape off; the fireplace that kept us warm when the power was out for over a week.

My writing loft.

So much happiness here. So much sorrow. A piece of life lived, and now, let go.

51yt7dpRFZL

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One of those heart-stoppy ones

From blogger, living read girl.

“Now, I did intend to read one of the other books on my High Summer TBR pile but alas, my attention was lured away to one of my recent library loans and I really don’t regret that at all.

Terri-Lynne DeFino’s The Bar Harbor Retirement Home for Famous Writers(and Their Muses) is the true definition of an enchanting read. While the main action of the story is set in 1999, where legendary author Alfonse Carducci arrives at the title location to live out his last days, a good chunk of the book is set in the 1950s.

That portion is a work in progress, as the ailing Alfonse regains his desire to write again due to Cecibel Bringer, a young woman working as an orderly whose scarred face matches the emotional scars on her soul. At first, Alfonse keeps his work a secret but then one of his contemporaries, the still feisty Olivia Peppernell , is asked for her opinion on his story and winds up adding a few chapters of her own.

The spark of literary inspiration jumps to two more of their fellow residents(one of which is an editor suffering from early memory loss) and Cecibel is given the chance to read along as they write along. You’re not only following the lives of Alfonse and friends, you’re also following the forbidden romance of Aldo and Cecilia, who are trapped by their social roles in the fifties to be together and yet always apart.

Both stories come to a moving and thoughtful conclusion, giving the reader a double blessing and a few surprises for each set of fictional folk. It may be bittersweet at times but DeFino balances the changing tones of both stories with a sure hand and infinite grace. If you haven’t read this book yet, I strongly urge to do so as soon as you can. A good story that showcases the joys and sorrows that real love possesses is a pearl that needs to be treasured, even if it’s just the once.”

Swooooooooooon!

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Fishing

There’s a fishing pole in the rafters
out on the front porch of this house on the river
He bought it one day, convinced it would quiet the chaos
Give him some zen
A fly rod, dancing the line out over the water
Enticing bass
He tied a few flies. I wouldn’t know
If they’re any good. But he was proud of
Those lures.
He only went a couple of times. The zen didn’t happen
The calm didn’t come
But he had one perfect day on the water
With his dad, casting the line
Casting, dancing, searching
One day is something, at least
The rod stays with the house.
It’s where it belongs. Here in this haven that was his cage
His safety net
His noose.

flyfishing

TLD

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So I Can Find It Again

The author posted this on my Facebook timeline yesterday, but I wanted it here, where I can easily find it again. I wish I could put ALL my (good!) reviews here, but that would be obnoxious. Modesty may be for suckers, but obnoxious is as obnoxious does, right? 😉

Beyond The Cover Review

Having read fantasy and romance from DeFino, I wondered how a straight up fiction novel of hers would be. I know that DeFino dislikes being pigeon holed into genres since she sees so many books falling into more than one. Which is exactly the case with The Bar Harbor Retirement Home for Famous Writers. In fact, her straight up fiction book has both romance and fantasy neatly inserted within its pages.

Set in, yes, (you guessed it), Bar Harbor at, yes, (you’re right again), a retirement home for aging writers, DeFino quickly introduces a cast of diverse and thoroughly developed characters. Of the writers, there is Alfonse, a sort of elderly Dos Equis man, the most famous of the authors. Then, there is Olivia, his ex-lover and quick-witted marijuana smoker; Judi, the group stenographer who laments the realization of her increasing dementia, and Switch, the taciturn, good hearted spoil sport. On the employee side, there is Dr. Kintz, kind and flustered, as he tries to manage these aging autocrats as well as his trove of damaged employees. And, Cecibel, the physically marred orderly who becomes Alfonse’s muse; Sal, the massive black nurse who moonlights as Wispy Flicker, the drag queen; and, Fin, the convicted murderer. Yep, I have that right.

As his last hurrah, inspired by Cecibel, Alfonse begins writing his final novel. It becomes a group project as the authors each take their turns adding to the story. How it evolves and ends and how all these characters interact with one another is part of this story’s magic. And, true to her roots, DeFino works in bits of romance and fantasy. There is a dream like quality to the relationship between Alfonse and Cecibel which goes well beyond patient and caregiver. At first, I was a little unnerved by the sensuality between these two, but DeFino’s writing simply exposes love that exists in places we often fail to look. And, also, who’s to judge what’s appropriate when it comes to love better than the lovers themselves?

DeFino’s timing between the story unfolding at the retirement home and the one that the authors are writing is pitch perfect. Just as you’re about to reach the cathartic moments in each story, she switches you to the other such that you have to keep reading to find out what happened in the previous plot line.

DeFino’s “jump” to fiction is seamless because it really wasn’t a jump at all. She brings together the best of her different story telling techniques to yield a lovely book that addresses dark issues but leaves the reader feeling hopeful and filled with love.

The retirement home for aging writers is a figment of DeFino’s imagination but I can picture it perfectly and hope that maybe, at some point in the future, there might actually be such a place.

Published: 2018
Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks

Elizabeth’s rating: 4 stars

BarHarbor_PB_Final

Coming June 12, 2018

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Friday the 13th

“It’s marked as deceased. No one can do anything with it.”

Those words, overheard just now, they

hurt. Sorrow welled up and

out of my throat.

I covered my face so

my husband wouldn’t hear, wouldn’t

know, because those words hadn’t hit him

The way they hit me.

 

Two nights ago, a phone call from Texas:

“I’m calling for Christofer J. DeFino,

About a car he just asked about online.”

“He’s gone three years now. It couldn’t have been him.”

“I’m sorry, so sorry.”

My husband said it was our boy pulling a prank, letting us know

he’s still around to do so. I feared someone using

his name,

his identity.

That’s where we are, now. Him and me,

He and I,

Us.

“It’s marked as deceased. No one can do anything with it.”

Social Security, moments ago, assured my husband on the phone.

Upstairs, writing at my computer, I broke

into silent tears. He’ll read this and

He’ll know, silent will no longer

be silent.

They’re here, on this page, screaming.

~TLD

images

 

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Boxes, Needles, and Dust

We sold the house. Move date is nebulously the first week in August. The new owner wants to move in here August 15. Much packing has been in the works. The dust in a well-kept house makes me shudder to think about how it would have been had I been less diligent about it. Boxes and boxes and stuff and stuff and donations and donations. I am wildly, brutally purging, and still I have too much stuff.

I put off doing Chris’ room (aka, Frank’s den, aka, the hoarding room) for as long as possible. The house is as packed up as it can be while we’re still living in it. It was time. All the things I put in the closet of that room-waiting (the Curaleaf Tshirt, the weightlifting trophies, the cards and notebooks and poetry and equations) needed to be packed away.

We bought bins. (Bins. My son’s life condensed into bins.) That alone is enough to make the lump rise in my throat, the tears sting the back of my eyes. I tried not to look through things as I packed them away. (The marvel of those pages of equations that meant something to him. To other minds that work like his.) I put on his shirt and wrapped up in a sheetboth still Chris scented. I cried, and I put them away. I grabbed his gym bag, that sweaty, battered gym bag, and put it in last.

Two needles fell out.

The fury. The fury. At him for doing what he did. At myself for not seeing what I should have seen, knowing what I should have known. Please don’t tell me I couldn’t have, or that it wouldn’t have mattered. Logic has no say in anything sometimes. Today, I know he was always going to be a step ahead of me. Today, I know it might not have mattered then, and probably wouldn’t have in the long run. But those needles fell out of his bag, and the fury rose and rose and rose, accompanied by its best pal, guilt, followed behind by the soul-ripping sorrow that’s always going to be lurking inside me, waiting for an opportunity to stretch and claw its way out.

Its all packed away. The brilliance and the scents and the memories, good and bad. I considered keeping those needles, a morbid thing to consider. I snapped off the tips. I bent them in half. I threw them into the firepit and watched them burn.

We’re moving. A new phase in life, begun the day he died (the day he fell, the day he first used, the day he broke his ankle, his spirit) is well and truly on. I hope this log house on the river, in the woods, this house I’ve dreamed of as long as I can remember, gets to be what it deserves to be in my memory. Only leaving it is going to let that happen. I want to remember all the good times we had here, the beauty of this place, the peace and the love. Once the shadows are no longer hovering every day, I think it can be.

I suppose we’ll see soon enough.

 

grief

Melancholy by Albert György in Geneva, Switzerland

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The Maine Edge

The Maine Edge is an online news outlet, in their words: Successfully targeting a younger, professional and more savvy demographic than the traditional newspaper, while also catering to the need for a lifestyle, cultural and entertainment-based publication across all demographics in the greater Bangor market, The Maine Edge has redefined the role of what a newspaper can, and should be.

They did a feature on my book that, quite honestly, made me cry yesterday. Bad? No. It was that good. It’s the kind of review I’ll take out years from now to bask in the glory days, perhaps like Olivia or Alfonse did, in the Pen.

Posted here in its entirety:

Assisted Living for Authors: The Bare Harbor Retirement Home for Famous Writers (And Their Muses)

Assisted living for authors - 'The Bar Harbor Retirement Home for Famous Writers (and Their Muses)'

There’s a big difference between literary fame and literary greatness.

There are plenty of writers who are great without being famous and more than a few who are famous without being great. A very specific confluence of circumstances is required for an author to achieve both. But even the greatest, most famous writers come to the end of their story.

Terri-Lynne DeFino’s novel “The Bar Harbor Retirement Home for Famous Writers (and Their Muses)” (William Morrow, $15.99) takes a speculative look at what that ending might look like, creating a vividly detailed place where literary giants might spend their final days, swapping stories and generally accepting that the heady heights of their younger days are permanently behind them.

In the late 1990s, Cecibel is an orderly at the Bar Harbor Home for the Elderly, a retirement home set up by literary legend Cornelius Traegar in an attempt to give his fellow wordsmiths a place uniquely their own in which to spend their twilight years. Despite the physical and emotional scarring, Cecibel is a beloved part of the community; the many writers and editors find her to be both a competent caregiver and fine company.

But Cecibel is thrown for a loop when a new resident arrives at the home (nicknamed “the Pen” for obvious reasons). Alfonse Carducci is a true giant in the world of letters, one of the most decorated authors of his generation and the most famous resident ever to move into the Pen. He’s also Cecibel’s all-time favorite writer – one to whom she has been devoted for most of her life.

Carducci is very much at the end of the line when he arrives, but being in the presence of old friends like Olivia Peppernell, a former peer (and lover) helps a little. Still, it’s the friendship that blooms between him and Cecibel that truly reinvigorates him. Yes, he is old and tired, but as he spends more and more time with the lovely, damaged orderly, the itch to create comes back.

And he’s not the only one.

Doors long thought forever closed begin to creak open once again, letting loose the words and emotions and stories – truthful and fictional (and sometimes both). Some are inspired to embrace a future they once believed did not include them, while others begin to consider letting go of pasts that haunt them. And at the center of it all is the unlikely friendship between a broken young woman and a sick and aging legend.

It’s interesting to consider what happens to writers when their stretch in the sun finally passes by. Even the greatest of the great will eventually fade into the shadows. “The Bar Harbor Retirement Home for Famous Writers” offers a charming, compelling glimpse at what might happen to such luminaries.

The writers who populate the Pen display precisely the sort of quick and acerbic wit that you would expect to get from aging wordsmiths. These are people who defined and redefined literature for their generation – that power doesn’t just vanish when you reach a certain age. The jokes and jibes are well-crafted and genuine, creating a sense of reality that informs the dialogue.

The central figures – Cecibel and Alfonse – serve as dual focal points for the narrative, providing the polestars by which the story is navigated. The quiet complexity of Cecibel, the constant avoidance of certain uncomfortable truths … she’s fascinating. Meanwhile, Alfonse hides behind a façade of bombast and bluster, all the while uncomfortably coming to terms with the looming specter of his own mortality. His works might be immortal, but he himself is not.

(It’s at this point where the story-within-the-story needs to be addressed. Over the course of this novel, a new story begins to take shape; said story is shared with the reader intermittently throughout the course of the book. We can talk about how delightfully meta it is to have a work in progress being written by the writers who are characters in a book about writers – and it really is – but the truth is that what could have been a gimmicky device actually turns into an engaging tale in its own right. No need to discuss the specifics – who writes it, what it’s about, that sort of thing. Just know that it’s very good and a vital part of the larger narrative.)

DeFino has a wonderful ear, finding ways to craft dialogue that feels both true to the characters and true to life – a surprisingly difficult feat with which plenty of otherwise great writers struggle. She builds thoughtful, rich inner lives into her ensemble, as unafraid to point out her characters’ flaws as she is eager to celebrate their merits.

“The Bar Harbor Retirement Home for Famous Writers (and Their Muses)” is an ideal summer read, breezy enough to be consumed lightly while still providing narrative and character depth. To paraphrase an old adage, old writers never die – they just fade away. What Terri-Lynne DeFino has done is give us a look at a place to where those writers might fade.

~Allen Adams/The Maine Edge

 

Click here for the actual piece, if you are so inclined.

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As Seen In The Wild

Thanks, everyone who sent me a pic of The Bar Harbor Retirement Home for Famous Writers (And Their Muses) as seen in the wild. Keep them coming! I’ll add them to the slide show.

 

 

 

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Because I REALLY Needed This Today

As tomorrow (Chris D-day) approaches, emotion is precariously close to the surface. Every. Minute. Of. The. Day. The strangest things will set me off. Completely unrelated things. An oriole flying across the front yard. A commercial. My grandson explaining a game neither of us has any idea how to play.

And then, this morning, there was this:

The Bar Harbor Retirement Home for Famous Writers (and their Muses) is a book set in the latter part of the nineties in a retirement home that is especially for famous writers, editors, publishers etc. The home was dreamt up by two writers, one who has passed and who one has finally come back to the mansion to live out the rest of his days among his contemporaries. In this story we follow a few of the writers, namely Alfonse Carducci and Olivia Peppernell, lovers in the past and good friends now and one of the orderlies named Cecibel who lives on the grounds and is dealing with issues of her own. She forms a camaraderie with them and serves as the muse that ignites their passion for writing again as they deal with the breakdown of their bodies in the aging process.

This book is probably a contender for being one of my favorite books of this year, for sure. I loved everything about it. I loved the writing style, which was elegant and just evoked the feeling I love to get when reading a great piece of literature. There are alternating perspectives all told in the third person and I loved following different bits of the story from each of the characters. UGH THE CHARACTERS…they were so good and I love them all to bits and I just want to gather all of them up and hug them to me forever. This story was beautiful and tragic, comfortable and romantic. These are literally all of the things I felt when I curled up in bed and read this book. It was a gloomy, rainy day out when I read it which was just absolutely perfect. After reading this book I was torn between reading one and writing one.

I really loved that this story was told through our main narrative but also includes the story that our characters are writing interspersed throughout. It was a wonderful thing to be able to experience that alongside of these characters. Ugh I loved this book if you can’t tell and I can’t wait to read it again. As someone who loves to write stories, I enjoyed every single moment where the lives of the aging writers was discussed and I loved reading about them writing. I could go on and on but I won’t, I’ll let you read this book and discover it’s magic yourself. If you love stories about writers and beautiful characters, read this book!! 5 stars from me!

Ms. Nose In A Book (reviewer)

Niagra Falls, Frankie Angel. (If you get the reference, you get a gold star!)

I don’t share all my reviews, but this one? I had to. And I wanted to put it here where I could go back and read it FOREVER!

download

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