Das Lächeln früherer Tage

I got this about a month ago, but it wasn’t set in stone. Now it is, and I’m free to share Bastei Lübbe’s gorgeous cover for The Bar Harbor Retirement Home for Famous Writers (and Their Muses.)

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Bastei Lubbe

Das Lächeln früherer Tage translates to, The Smiles of Former Days. I’m completely in love with this cover. It is so completely different from the William Morrow cover–which I also adore. Whereas the American cover evokes the warm, cozy, magical atmosphere of the retirement home, the German cover picks up the ocean, the seashore, the lighter side of this marvelous old mansion on the Maine coast. Both give off that love of books, words, writing. As far as I’m concerned, both publishers nailed it, in completely disparate ways.

I don’t have a date for this release outside of Fall 2018 or early 2019. The translation takes time, and both my German editor and translator are working very hard to make it fabulous. I have all the faith it will be.

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It isn’t every day…

It isn’t every day a writer gets to share space with one of her favorite writers, let alone with one of the biggest books out in years; color me thrilled.

Bookbub says, “If you liked [Fredrik Backman’s] A Man Called Ove, read The Bar Harbor Retirement Home for Famous Writers (and Their Muses) by Terri-Lynne DeFino.”

Well how about that, huh?

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Waking Savannah

The book published (Lyrical Shine/Kensington) in October 2016. I honestly have no idea when this review happened, but I imagine it’s been a while. I’m THRILLED to have a Romantic Times review! So I’m putting it here.

“DeFino brings readers a touching story with memorable characters, Savannah and Adelmo. Adelmo is charismatic, yet genuine, and the romantic connection between him and Savannah feels organic and sweet. The residents of small-town Bitterly make an entertaining backdrop against the love story. Beautiful, heartfelt storytelling expresses a well-developed plot with the perfect blend of tension and emotion.” ~Romantic Times Magazine

waking-savannah-highres

Waking Savannah, Book 3 of The Bitterly Suite

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Kismet and Love

I met Diana a dozen years ago, at a week-long science fiction and fantasy writing workshop on Martha’s Vineyard. It was kismet, and love at first sight. She’s been my soul sister ever since. We’ve been through a lot together, heart to heart. One of the top ten favorite days of my life was spent walking Central Park with her on a glorious September day, handing out (begging people to take) flyers for a book fair. She lives in the wilds of Pennsylvania; I live in the wilds of Connecticut. I had an orange Jeep Wrangler; she has a purple one. She is part of my every day, even if we don’t talk or see one another online. She’s just always there, a part of me. That’s what a soul sister is.

We do Virginia Beach together, and Christmas in NYC. But we don’t spend all that much time together, face to face. The day after Christofer died, I was on my way out of the house to take my daughter back to Brooklyn, and Diana walked in the door with a box of donuts, and a box of my favorite chocolates. Three hours in the car, not even knowing if I’d be home. “I just needed to see you.” We didn’t get to spend much time together, but it was–gads–I’m not sure she even knows how much it meant to me. That gesture of love, of sorority, that burst of brilliant light in one of my darkest days not only helped me get through then, it sustains me even now.

There have been a lot of really…insane events over the years. Kismet. A psychic link of some kind. Just KNOWING what the other needed, when. We connect in ways that prickle under the skin and raise the hairs on the back of the neck. It happened again, just a couple days ago.

I’ve been contemplating a tattoo since Chris died. He designed a beautiful tree of life bear paw with my amazing tattooist, and had it tattooed on both biceps. When he died, I wanted to get the same tattoo, but I really didn’t know if I could handle having HIS bear paw. So I waited.

Now, Diana–she has no tattoos, but has wanted one for almost as long as I’ve known her. The right inspiration just hadn’t struck.

Until last Friday.

She texted me: “Figured out my tattoo,” and then sent me the poem, I think we need a password by Daniel Ladinsky. (translated, Hafiz.) In it are the words, love kicks the ass of time and space. She wanted those words, in a heart.

And then, so did I, but not in a heart, underneath Chris’ bear paw. Without coordinating, or even discussing it beyond, “Oh, wow! I want this before we meet in VAB!” we both ended up getting them today. Me this morning. Diana this afternoon.

 

 

I didn’t want to steal Diana’s mojo by having the whole text. And, more importantly, the anagram (which also appears in the poem) just seemed more right. A sister tattoo to my soul sister’s tattoo. This woman who was there for me, not just after my son died, but in all the time before. Through the years of his pain and addiction, his anxiety. And I was there for her through…so much. You know what they say about friends made in battle–they’re bound in a different kind of blood.

And here we go again–as I was writing that last line, she texted me, “Now we’re blood sisters!” And that’s what I mean about skin-prickly-hair-raisy. Things like that happen all the time.

Virginia Beach is only 28 days away. We have about ten hours in the car together, just my soul sister and me. DB fries, Diana! Here we come.

 

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A Book With Creased Covers

“A book is like a woman. She should leave your bed with her hair tangled and her clothes on backwards. A book without creases is a book that has never known passion.”

~Alfonse Carducci 

The Bar Harbor Retirement Home for Famous Writers (And Their Muses)

(My daughter Grace’s ARC. I think she liked it.)

BarHarbor_PB_Final

Coming June 12, 2018

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Less

It doesn’t happen as often now,

those moments rolling

into tidal waves.

When they do, they hit harder

knock me

to my knees

hands clutching at my throat

trying

to keep air in my lungs.

*

It doesn’t happen as often now

those dreams of visiting

in familiar places.

When they do, I know

you’re not

really there

just the wishing in my head

flying

free as you are.

*

It’ll never not happen,

I’ve tried

to fit those moments

those dreams

into memories of who you were

in your best times

even in your worst.

I’ve tried being grateful

for the time I had,

that your pain is done,

about your next adventure.

I try and I try, and sometimes

succeed, and yet,

there are those moments.

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What I learned these last two days…

  1. Going ten days without power in October is a lot less harrowing than two days in March.
  2. I have the most amazing, generous friends.
  3. There’s nothing quite so useful as a child, who has not lost power, living in town.
  4. The lengths I will go for a hot cup of tea.
  5. When you’ve read all you can read, and gazed into your beloved’s eyes quite enough, Solitaire can keep one from going stir crazy.
  6. Sleeping in 55 degrees is lovely.
  7. Sleeping in 43 degrees is not.
  8. Cats make nice bed warmers. (I’ll be kinder when they’re taking up all my foot room from now on.)
  9. Eating breakfast, lunch and dinner out actually does get old.
  10. Having a Halo is the difference between, “This isn’t so bad,” and “I’m going to bite the next person I see.”
  11. Writing beside the fire isn’t just a romantic notion; it’s rather special.
  12. Cold makes the cats (and Frankie D) hyper.
  13. Betta fish can survive 55 degrees, not 43. Boo.
  14. Enforced time away from a novel in progress, while frustrating, can create magic.
  15. Frankie D is still, after nearly thirty years, the one I most like to spend time with.

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And here it is…

Ready for release, June 12, 2018, wherever books are sold. Be still my heart!

BarHarbor_PB_Final

A whimsical, moving novel about a retirement home for literary legends who spar, conjure up new stories, and almost magically change the lives of the people around them.

Alfonse Carducci was a literary giant who lived his life to excess—lovers, alcohol, parties, and literary rivalries. But now he’s come to the Bar Harbor Home for the Elderly to spend the remainder of his days among kindred spirits: the publishing industry’s nearly gone but never forgotten greats. Only now, at the end of his life, does he comprehend the price of appeasing every desire, and the consequences of forsaking love to pursue greatness. For Alfonse has an unshakeable case of writer’s block that distresses him much more than his precarious health.

Set on the water in one of New England’s most beautiful locales, the Bar Harbor Home was established specifically for elderly writers needing a place to live out their golden years—or final days—in understated luxury and surrounded by congenial literary company. A faithful staff of nurses and orderlies surround the writers, and are drawn into their orbit, as they are forced to reckon with their own life stories. Among them are Cecibel Bringer, a young woman who knows first-hand the cost of chasing excess. A terrible accident destroyed her face and her sister in a split-second decision that Cecibel can never forgive, though she has tried to forget. Living quietly as an orderly, refusing to risk again the cost of love, Cecibel never anticipated the impact of meeting her favorite writer, Alfonse Carducci—or the effect he would have on her existence. In Cecibel, Alfonse finds a muse who returns him to the passion he thought he lost. As the words flow from him, weaving a tale taken up by the other residents of the Pen, Cecibel is reawakened to the idea of love and forgiveness.

As the edges between story and reality blur, a world within a world is created. It’s a place where the old are made young, the damaged are made whole, and anything is possible….

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Looking Out the Window on a Rainy Day

*1*

It is ingrained in our DNA. Hide pain

so we don’t get eaten, picked out

of the herd, sent to

the bottom of the pack. Primitive instinct

at the core, always evolving.

*chorus*

We don’t want you to know.

We don’t want to see it in your face,

behind your eyes every time

you look at us. We don’t want conversations to stop,

or fall away when our subject is touched.

Eyes averted and cheeks pink, tongues stammering into silence.

We don’t want to be There but by the grace of god go I! 

In your hearts and in your minds. But we are.

We are. Compassion and pity are so difficult to tell apart.

*3*
We don’t want you to know, to hate

those we love, who cause us pain, and so we hide

what they do from you. We want

them to have a place in your heart when the chaos is over.

If it’s ever over. Sometimes it never is.

Fractals growing ever inward, ever outward.

*repeat chorus*

*4*

We hide our pain to spare ourselves, to spare

you the sometimes silent, sometimes shouted fury, to spare

us both pretending condolences don’t infuriate as much as

the blame, the co-dependent tags, the if-only-you-hads.

It all results in the same unavoidable circle.

You can’t do right. You can’t do wrong.

And so we hide behind smiles, behind tears, behind our own

averted eyes and pink cheeks and stammering tongues.

“I’m so sorry,” you say.

“Thank you,” say we.

Today, it may be just right. Tomorrow?

Maybe not.

*repeat chorus*

*5*

You don’t want to see our truth; trust me on that

You want us to hide; trust me on that.

Trust me. Trust me. Never trust me.

Pain hidden is an ugly thing, hideous, snarling

It’s contradictory and mean, pitiful and powerful.

Without an outlet, it’s deadly. This is mine, all

Mine. Borrow it if you need to, I give it freely, but don’t

worry it away from me. Don’t make me go silent. Don’t force me

to hide.

*repeat chorus*

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Flowers From A Friend

I got a card in the mail last week, from a friend I hadn’t seen in years. I was so happy. We set up a coffee date. That was yesterday.

We met as volunteer Daisy moms when our girls were in kindergarten. Those girls–who once went around her neighborhood “raising money for Girl Scouts” by selling rocks they painted in her garage–are now twenty-six. We didn’t stay close, despite those Girl Scout years. Our kids went in different directions, and thus, so did we. There are hugs when we see one another in town, what’s news and how ares. The regular stuff of friends grown apart.

During those Girl Scout years, both our boys were unofficial Girl Scouts. Her son was a few years younger than Chris, so Chris got to be the “big boy.” They’d play, sometimes do activities with the girls. As they got older, they stopped coming to meetings, but that connection remained.

Not long after Chris’ accident, while he was still wheelchairbound and trying to process what life was going to be, I saw an archery competition set up to take place nearby. It was a local club thing, but open to the public. Chris had an eye! Whew. First time I ever took him to shoot, he got a bulls-eye. He could still shoot from his wheelchair. I thought it would be good for him. And it was. He out-shot all the other archers, grown men who’d been shooting most of their lives, and won two pumpkin pie trophies. It was a great day for him.

My friend’s husband and son were there that day, too. It was the first time the boys had seen one another in a few years. It was adorable, watching the old dynamic reassert itself. Her boy’s little bit of hero worship; my boy showing hers how to do something with his bow. My friend’s husband and I watched them a minute or two, chatted. There was nothing significant about the moment. Or so it seemed, at the time.

It wasn’t long after that her son died. Chris took it hard. He would have, anyway, but he’d recently seen him, and that connection was still there, and he was trying to process the death of his own identity. How he cried.

Fast forward ten years, and Chris was gone too. I’d seen my friend as I always had over the course of years. At the gym, in the grocery store, at Village Fair Days. As it had been with Chris and her son, the connection was always there. And now, we’d both lost our boys, those boys who used to be unofficial Girl Scouts. No one wants to have that in common.

She brought me flowers, and cookies she’d baked. We sat together over coffee, talking about this and that. Every now and again, one or the other of us would say something about our boys. They were tentative steps toward sharing deeper hurts neither of us can quite express. I might do fine on these pages, but only because the brain to fingers connection is far more adept than the connection brain to mouth.

And maybe we don’t have to actually say anything. We both understand the other’s pain, and sometimes just being in the presence of someone who truly knows is enough. It’s a relief.

This thing we have in common sometimes makes interactions with family and friends uncomfortable. They don’t know what to do when we’re sad. Do they talk about our missing sons? Pretend there isn’t an empty place at the holiday table? Talk about their own kids, thriving and growing up? Downplay all their familial happiness to spare us? They act from a place of kindness, of course, and that ramps up the pressure, because we’re the cause of their discomfort. And while I’m so very, very grateful few of them will actually understand, they will, nevertheless, never understand.

We all need those people who get where we are, with whom we don’t have to explain things, or tip-toe around, or endure getting tip-toed around. It’s not about like minds, but like experiences. Whether a mommy/daddy group or a writing group or a survivors-of-something group, those who understand our experiences intimately are vital to navigating this world. It’s not a place to dwell on the pain, but a place to be liberated from it.

Find your group. Free yourself. And in the process, free others.

Peace.

flowers

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