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Happy New Year!

Wherever you are, I hope your 2012 is joyous. Thanks for spending a slice of this year with me.


What Are You Doing New Year’s Eve?

I’m going to ask this guy to a New Year’s Eve party, and I swear to everything that’s holy, if he doesn’t go, I am done with him. DONE! I mean, two-and-a-half months is plenty long enough for a man to make some overture of greater interest. No holding hands. No KISSING. What lukewarm-blooded-man doesn’t like kissing, for crying out loud? Dead men probably like kissing. Andra, calm down. Just send him an aloof e-mail acting like you really don’t care if he goes with you. Then, we can get all in a tizzy and be done with him. Okay?


In his fetching manner, he replied that he usually went out of the country for New Year‘s. Luckily for me, he continued, his passport was expired. Since he couldn’t go anywhere foreign and exotic, he might as well squire me to this soiree.


I hightailed it back to the mirror. What kind of freaking answer is THAT? OHMYGOD! He said YES! Does that mean he really likes me? Andra, this is madness. Pull yourself together. After all, you have nothing to wear. OHMYGOD! I HAVE NOTHING TO WEAR! WHAT AM I GOING TO WEAR?! (Insane rifling through closet.) Ew, grandma. Doyoulikemedoyoulikemedoyoulikeme? Hello, I’m a hooker. Take me to bed or lose me forever, you big stud. NONONO. That will never do, Andra. Pull yourself together or you’re going to blow this date before it starts. Go buy a simple, demure black party skirt, because your crazy self is going to have to spend hours on the mammoth Coiffure Ritual of the Proper Southern Lady.

Somehow, I managed not to trip over my skirt as I made my entrance into the restaurant for our pre-party victuals. He seemed appreciative and attentive, but in his usual distant (maddening) way. I began to worry (despair) that this whole thing really was nothing, that it would never BE anything more than pleasant small-talk and casual flirting.

An hour into the party, something happened. The man held my hand. I stood there, not hearing a word some party-goer opposite me was saying as I played my blasted internal dialogue. Do not squeeze his hand too hard, Andra. It will look desperate. Stop flushing. You don’t want him to know how much you like holding his hand. OHMYGOD, I am orbiting planet earth because this man is HOLDING MY HAND. Stopitstopitstopit, Andra. You are an almost thirty-four-year-old woman. Act like a grown-up.

I don’t know how I managed to keep my hyperactive mind pulled together enough to convince him to kiss me at midnight. It should’ve been the last thing he wanted. But, he looked at me. For the first time in our almost three-month-long little tete-a-tete, he started my 2003 with the urgent hurricane of a kiss. It wiped my slate clean, swallowed my soul, and altered the trajectory of the orbit of my life.

It was some Happy New Year.

Whatever your celebrations hold tonight, I hope you find the swirling typhoon that propels you into 2012 with renewed purpose, a calm center, and the drive to make all your dreams come true. I’d love to know what you’re doing to celebrate if you care to share it in a comment today. Let’s rock 2012, everyone.

How To Give The Help

From the author's web site

A couple of nights ago, I finished the book The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks. It was science. It was highly involved. And, it was one of the most intrinsically human books I’ve ever encountered. I never expected a book about the largest set of human cells growing in culture, cells that were removed from an African-American woman’s cervix without her knowledge or informed consent, to move me to tears.

Of course, the writer, Rebecca Skloot, defied expectation. She spent more than a decade of her life researching the book and interviewing the confusing web of Henrietta’s family. Another couple of years went into rewriting, editing, fact-checking and editing some more. Three agents walked away from her before her book found a home with a champion agent and publisher. It’s won awards, and it deserves its listing on more than sixty critic recaps as one of the best books of 2010. I don’t just recommend it. You MUST read it. Click here to buy a copy.

I spent more time poring through the acknowledgements. Being a year into my own journey to get my novel published, it boggled my mind that a writer could spend more than a decade of her life championing one story. Numerous people probably looked at her like she was crazy as she continued to run up credit card debt and take out student loans to follow her dream into the forgotten tobacco fields of Virginia and the rundown slums of Baltimore. Her passion for Henrietta’s story probably drove scores of people screaming from her life, much as thoughtless “helpful” comments likely destroyed her own feeling for people she once considered friends.

What struck me was the village of people who helped her realize her dream. If I could ask her one question – JUST ONE – it would not be will you lead me to your agent? or would you read a few pages of my novel and send them along to someone – ANYONE – in the literary field? It would be HOW did you bewitch people to help you?

I suck at asking for help.

Before I ask for yours, Dear Reader, allow me to give you a little book update.

I completed one round of submitting my finished book to agents. Two have yet to reject me, though I have learned that doesn’t mean anything positive. I got numerous rejections indicating that I can actually write or encouraging me in some way, leading me to believe something was intrinsically wrong with the book. Before Christmas, I gave the book to a former editor at Random House and an accomplished author in her own right, hoping something in the story would brainwash her to want to edit it.

She enthusiastically took my project. I’m going to have a lot of writing to do in the coming months, and I’m very excited about what working with someone of her caliber will do for the story. I hope to have it ready to resubmit by mid-2012.

If you enjoy my writing, spend time on this blog, or are a person who believes helping others is the greatest means of paying it forward, please help me reach my goal. I cannot count the number of people who have told me they know published authors. Published authors are the most direct means to an agent. If you know one and are willing to help me meet him or her, please contact me privately so that I can start the process of convincing them to read a selection from my book when it is complete or endorsing it up the chain.

Likewise, being able to drop a known name in the literary field helps with an agent query. I know lots of people who say they know literary types, but actually securing the right to drop the name is what will help me. It opened several key doors for me in the last round.

Yes, I realize I can self-publish an e-book, publish overseas, or print copies of the book myself and accost people with it and be a ‘published author.’ I self-publish every single day. I know how hard I work at it, between the writing, the facilitation of community and the self-promotion that’s required. We both know what you pay to read it. Now, we all know what I make. At this point, I still believe in my story enough to want someone to say my company will invest in this novel.

If you visit this blog regularly but are not subscribed to it, please subscribe.

If you have not Liked my Facebook author page, please find the widget on the right sidebar and click ‘Like.’ Your name will not be used for marketing purposes, and it will not be linked to ads on Facebook.

If you are feeling really magnanimous, I have one fail-proof method of asking for additional Facebook ‘Likes’ that will take about 30 minutes of your time. Indicate your interest in a comment, and I will message you privately with the particulars. And, if you have your own author or blog page and I read you, I will be happy to return the favor for you.

Getting this book published is the only thing I professionally care about for 2012. It’s a story that will shine a light on others more than it will ever benefit me. If you help me, I will never, ever forget. If you’ve spent any time on this blog, you know I have many other stories to tell.

Thank you for breathing life into the words I write.

Where To Slide That Dollar Bill

A wedding gift from my cousin and her Dad.

And now, one of my favorite stories of 2011. No, it isn’t about strippers.

My family is full of stories. Full of them. Maybe I’ll tell them all someday. All of it. All the way.

Today, I’m going to tell just one yarn about one of my cousins. My cousin is the daughter of my Mom’s brother, my uncle.

My cousin came into his life via being birthed by his second or third or fourth wife. That I just wrote that many numbers hopefully demonstrates, without my delving into it, that my uncle was a character; that he had multiple wives (not simultaneously); and that her childhood did not always include the presence of her father, who she rightfully adored. My uncle was a charmer.

When my cousin was separated from her father, she missed him, and they were apart more than they were together. I’m not even sure my uncle always knew where she was. Anyone who’s been through divorce can appreciate how things can sometimes degrade to undesirable, even ugly, places.

After a particularly drawn out stretch of fractured longing, my cousin – then a little girl – decided to do something about her aching heart. She found a dollar bill, and she wrote a message on it, a note to her daddy asking him to find her. I think she even had the wisdom and maturity to include where she was. And, she signed it using her full name.

With a childish leap of faith, she spent that dollar bill. Maybe she bought candy, or a yo-yo. A meaningless thing that passed through her life, consumed in seconds and summarily forgotten. I don’t know if she spent that dollar and then waited for her daddy to find her. I like to imagine she did.

Sometime later, in another state, her daddy went to buy a pack of cigarettes or a candy bar. A fleeting, pointless thing. Instead, he counted his change and found a dollar bill. His daughter’s dollar bill, with her pleading message that carried the weight of her heartbreak within it.

Spurred on by the blazing lightning bolt from out of the blue, he found his precious daughter and forged a bond that I admired and sometimes envied. I cherish the one thing – a vase – that I know they picked out together for me, because it is the perfect representation of who they were united.

Is too much good luck just enough?

Still My Naked Obsession

After all this time, this one thing of my father’s is still my naked obsession. Only now, it belongs to me.

If you’re offended by naked photos, go ahead and click elsewhere now.

You were warned.

For much of the time I was small, my father smoked. I think it was a carry-over from his days in the Army, where almost every photo of him contained a cigarette stuck somewhere. I ogled photos of my young, fit father as a little girl, asking my mom why he had all these cigarettes everywhere. “He was just posing with them,” she replied. “It’s fake.”


By the time I came along, he smoked pipes and cigars but had given up cigarettes entirely. I still walk into tobacco shops sometimes just to relive sticking my whole face in his stash of pipe tobacco and inhaling as deeply as my little lungs could. I adored the smell of his smoking supplies – before he lit them.

He had several pipes, but my favorite was the Naked Lady Pipe. He inherited it from his great uncle, Thomas Jefferson DeFriese, who had it hand carved especially for his smoking (and other) pleasure. Mostly, my dad left the Naked Lady Pipe mounted on the wall as a conversation piece when people came over. He would laugh his distinctive brand of mirthful emission, and he would watch people, inevitably from church, squirm and yet try to act blandly polite as he rhapsodized about the origins of the pipe. To this day, I think it was a way for him to reconnect, fleetingly, with who he had been when he was young and carefree.

My favorite memory, though, is of him actually smoking the thing. I don’t remember who dared him to do it, but he couldn’t resist the challenge. He took Naked Lady down off the wall, removed her from her moorings, loaded her to the brim and lit up. He was laughing so hard he almost choked on the smoke, like pulling from the Naked Lady had to be one of the most filthy things he’d ever done. I’ve seen my father laugh a lot in my life, but I will never forget the glee I witnessed on his face that day.

That was the sole reason I had to possess the Naked Lady. Dad’s fumblings with her when I was pre-kindergarten are part of him, something I will be able to conjure every time I glimpse her displayed prominently in my own home. He gave her to me this weekend. Yes, I am obsessed with mounting her somewhere in the house and continuing the tradition of telling her story to victims, I mean guests, who come to call. I hope, in some twisted way, he sees my behavior as an honor to him.

I love you, Dad.


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