Friday, September 30, 2011

Almost Time

Wow. My publishing company, Musa Publishing, is six hours away from opening.

I'm not going to blog much about Musa here. This is my writing blog, not my Musa blog.  But today is kind of a special day for me.  All those times I sat around in my darkened office, grumbling over a beer and a smoke and saying, "If I was a publisher, I wouldn't be THIS stupid." are coming back to haunt me now.  Now OTHER people will be saying that about ME.

Hopefully not.

At the moment, I think we're in outstanding shape.  We have a HUGE release schedule, going to 7 or 8 books a week by December.  We have a core of 80 authors and 24 staff members, and everything has been working so well. Everyone is excited and putting their best foot forward and we are turning out some amazing books. You can take a look at our initial offerings at to see what I mean.

AND, that includes the Aurora Regency imprint I slaved over the past year and a half.  We managed to buy the imprint from the original publishing company.  While it felt a little...erm...unfair that I paid to get my own work, I was extremely happy that the Aurora authors--all of whom are friends of mine now--were freed from the fiasco now ongoing over there.

I can't even express how much of a relief it is to believe in the publishing experience again.  The pressure is gone. The stress is totally different--still stress, but pleasant now. Everyone has been excited and just happy to be working to create something instead of trying to fix it.

Do I think we've solved all the problems of small press publishing? *snort* No. Duh. But I do think we've resolved the issues that were driving us mad at our previous publisher.  If nothing else, this company will never suffer from lack of communication, or transparency involving royalties, or books that don't come out on time. That much I can promise.

As for the rest? We'll tackle it as it comes.  Feeling optimistic for the first time in a long time.  If what we are doing helps to bring confidence and joy to the authors we publish, then that's more than enough for me.

Welcome, Musa.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

The Annual Autumnal War

Every year around this time I start getting antsy.

Part of it is the change of weather.  The nights are getting brisk, the sky takes on that deeper blue and the leaves start to turn.  I take my sweaters out of storage, do my fall housekeeping and hits me.

They are almost here.

They fall upon us like an annual first week of October zombie convention. They start showing up in town, hauling their bizarro trailers behind their ratty, duct-taped together circa 1978 Ford pickup trucks.  Chewing tobacco stores get low in the convenience stores.  Can't find PBR 24-packs in any of the drive-throughs.  Rally's starts to get really, really busy. Mothers start to herd their kids in from the backyard well before dark and I get really suspicious when anyone who looks like he might be one of them lumbers down the street in front of my house, heading for the Circle K and the 33 cent hot dogs.

An annual fog descends upon us, almost like a pre-autumnal stench, a miasma that overpowers the dusty smell of changing leaves and newly fired up fireplaces; an unusual smell that doesn't necessarily smell bad just...different.

Yep. I can smell it. 

The carnies are coming.

Oh, granted: I still have a week or so before they are all here.  Two weeks before the war begins.  I need to stock up. I need to be certain my bunker is adequately prepared for the safety of me and mine.  The conflict between us is of long standing.  They--the carnies--and I have a long, terrible history that goes all the way back to the days when I worked in the bar across the street from the fairgrounds and they invariably tortured me every night after the county fair closed down.  They came swaggering through the front door, their pockets crammed with the money they had taken from the unwary with their rides, and games, and freak shows, and candy apple booths.  Oh, I can spot a carny from a mile away. 

Yes, they brought the money of Fairfield county into my bar in their pockets, and I got them stinking drunk and took it all away from them! Took that money for my community!  For the town I love!  And yet they never got the hint.  Every year, like clockwork or a cabbage-smelling plague, they come back...looking for me.

So far, I've always won. So far, I've always managed to come out on top.  I have always emerged as the victor in the annual war with the carnies, like I'm the brave English and they are the garlicy French in our Hundred Years' battle over tip money.

But this year, they mounted a sneak attack.  They must have bribed someone very close to me considering the predicament I'm in.  This year, they are arriving in droves, scenting victory on the fall air.

This year...I have toddlers.

God help me.

The carousel.  The pony rides.  The little airplanes that go in a circle.  Not to mention the cotton candy, the funnel cakes, the hot dogs, the lemonade turn-ups, the sasparilla, the game where you throw a ring around a goldfish bowl or a bottle and get a live rabbit.

Oh...they are out to get me no doubt.  They are probably plotting right now in their pop-up trailers. I can sense it.

"That Celina woman is DOOMED.  Let's get one of those shoot the water into the clown's mouth games.  Those kids will LOVE those. Mwa ha ha ha ha."

I'll admit it; I've been a little apprehensive this year as we crept closer to Fair Week.  I've hidden as much of it as I can from the toddlers--no need to get them to be willing stooges of the enemy.  I detour around the Fairgrounds, so they don't notice the growing influx of campsites.  I hurry them back inside whenever a suspiciously bright-colored semi comes rumbling past on the road.  I don't allow them to watch any local television.  And yet, somehow the toddlers know, like all kids know, that a huge opportunity for mischief is on the horizon, one that will allow them to yell "Wheeeeeeeeeeeee!" for a whole two minutes per three dollars worth of tickets.

But I have a secret weapon, one that will see me through this annual battle with my customary aplomb.  One they will never expect.  One the toddlers will be overjoyed about.  Oh yes, I have my own secret weapon in this battle with the carnies that they'll never figure out--one that begins with a Z and ends with an O. 

No, I'm not going to tell you what it is, but I'll give you a hint.  It involves animals and a slightly better-dressed foe.

Heh. They will never see it coming.

*Celina's annual battle with the carnies was abbreviated last year, but there are years' worth of carnie-related posts  on this blog.  For previous installments, just check every October's first week of blogs. This blog post has been carnie approved.*

Friday, September 02, 2011

The Day You Never Forget

Most of the time, people think I'm a pretty tough kind of gal.  I am, I suppose, in a lot of ways.  I say what I think--sometimes at a cost to myself--and once I finally learned to be at peace with myself (a process I don't discuss with anyone other than my husband, perhaps, and my daughters) I was able to walk that fine line between assertive and bitch fairly well.

Unless I get mad, which is a whole other story.

I think every generation has a day they'll never collectively forget.  For my father and his siblings, it was Pearl Harbor.  What else could compete with that event marring their young lives? For my mother, it was a dual memory--the Nazis fleeing Paris and the Allies entering it.  There were several that vied for that title in my youth. I vaguely remember Watergate; I had chicken pox and was home from first grade and there was NOTHING ELSE ON TV.  Then President Reagan getting shot. And Pope John Paul II. And John Lennon.  Then, when I was in college, the Challenger disaster, brought home to me on a whole new level because the daughter of one of the crew members went to the same school in the same department that I was in and I knew her.

But will anything take the place of 9-11?

I'm not going to go into that particular day. That story isn't important.  But I'm sitting here now, ten years later absolutely glued to the television set watching all these terrible shows. I'm morbidly fascinated by hearing the experiences of these survivors and the stories of those who didn't.  I'm glued to the TV screen, listening to the analytical details of how the structures were compromised, how the passengers fought in Pennsylvania, how the firefighters in that one lone stairwell managed to walk away.  That day marked me in so many ways that even now, ten years later I can still feel all the shock, the horror, the absolutely gut-wrenching fear those events caused. 

And yet, I can't escape it, and don't even try.

In a way, that whole day is kind of a blur.  Our workplace didn't close, despite the whole state of Ohio rolling up like a big carpet.  I was stuck there, at Applebees, and only two tables came in. So we were sitting there, with all that news coverage on all those television sets. And that's when, to me, one of the most shocking things of that whole damn day happened.

I was watching the beginning of President Bush's televised address when one of the other servers came up and grabbed my arm.

"Hey," he said. "I need you to lead the birthday song for my table."

Do what?  This guy was a nice enough fellow, but he was also a member of a church that doesn't believe in celebrating birthdays.  The table he was referring to was a group of young women in their early twenties. All I could think of in that moment was the absolute irony, the insensitivity of his request.  I threw his hand off my arm and snarled, "No one will ever have a birthday on September 11 again, you *bleepity-bleep* moron. Sing it your own damn self if it's so important to you."

He looked kind of puzzled and said, "But I can't sing happy birthday--"

"God will forgive you for that quicker than for pretending that this--" and I pointed at the screen "--didn't happen."

He went away.

Strange.  Now I don't remember what the President specifically said during that speech. I remember the feelings I had as I watched it, and the tiniest little moment of reassurance afterwards.  I remember the phone call I got from a friend in New York who'd been off that day from work at Windows Over The World and thus escaped the destruction of the World Trade Center. I remember long hours of working to gather water bottles and shoes and non-perishable food and shipping it off to the rescue workers at Ground Zero. I remember the restaurant down the street, not two block from where I'm sitting now, pouring out every bottle of French wine from its incredible wine cellar into the street when France refused to cooperate in the allied war in the Middle East.

But instead of remembering what the President said to reassure the country, I remember that callous request, and the look of surprise on that young server's face when I yelled at him.  I was too immature to realize that maybe that callousness was the result of a young man in his early twenties, seeing the face of war rise over the horizon.  I was just mad--furious and seething and pissed off--and he was too insensitive to recognize that emotion swirling through all of us there that night.

My reputation was solidified in this town after that night. I was thought of as a bad-ass from that night on, something only reinforced by years of tending bar after that.

And yet, all these years later when I watch these shows, that grief hasn't really lessened.  I watch the Twin Towers come down, and the Pentagon security camera film, and all those poor, doomed people who chose the death of the freefall over the death of the flames and I still sorrow for them all. 

That day, 9-11-2001, marked not only MY generation, but my parents and my children's. Now my son-in-law is stationed in the Middle East, still fighting the war that began that day, while my daughter and her daughter live with me, and I realize that 9-11 has also affected my granddaughter's generation. She's been without her father now for half of her two years, and the first time I sang "Happy Birthday" again after that one day almost ten years ago, was last October for her first birthday.

Everyone has a day they'll never forget.  I have a feeling that when it's my time to go, no matter how old I am, and my life flashes before my eyes, I'll still see those incredible terrible pictures interspersed between all the lesser moments in my comparatively inconsequential life.  I have a feeling the rest of the country feels the same way--judging from the reaction America had to UBL's long-delayed demise.

Some days should never be forgotten. And in this country, apparently, never will be.

I guess I'm not so tough after all.  Everytime I see those videos, I still cry.  And I probably always will.