Tag Archive for: Beautiful Disaster

Let Me Tell You a Story…

By Laura Spinella
Today I’m celebrating the release of PERFECT TIMING, my second book!  Here’s a little behind the scenes peek at how this novel came to be:
Backstory often ends up being the
most interesting part of publication. Of course, while it’s happening, the
author never realizes backstory is backstory. In the thick of things, backstory is the malaise of the process—or, more accurately, the one step forward, two steps
back shuffle of book writing. There’s amazement and achievement when a novel
clears all the hurdles, the hard revisions, and labor intensive rewriting of
pages that were briefly, dreamily deemed perfect.
But after a book sells and edits are finalized, there is time to reflect. Traditional publishing comes with a wait time of a year or
more. And it was in this holding pattern that I started to think about backstory,
how and why I ended up writing the book I did. While my first novel, BEAUTIFUL
was a product of past environment, PERFECT TIMING is
anchored to my present. I’m almost as fond of its backtory as I am the result. In a phrase, this is the story of the little trunk novel that could.
readers are important readers, and PERFECT
 had more than a
few. Among them was my oldest daughter, Megan. She was this book’s first fan,
and Aidan and Isabel remain her favorite characters. Her interest fueled a lot
of drive during the novel’s rough “I
can’t do this”
Yes, Megan listened to her fair share of whining as I wrote, and rewrote, this
book.  But she also insisted that if I was malevolent enough to create
such heart-wrenching conflict, I’d better come up the right resolutions to see things through.

(Since PT contains a few steamier scenes, I should mention that
Megan is 24) Writing to satisfy her demand was a challenge, and winning her
approval an achievement. She’s a tough editor and a scrupulous critic. In the
end, I believe she got the book she wanted. I know she’s pleased by its
dedication page. There was the trial and error of two manuscripts after BEAUTIFUL DISASTER, at which point Megan insisted I revisit the story and characters she found so endearing. Clearly, sometimes, you should listen to your kids.

At a glance, it’s
true that PERFECT TIMING’s protagonist is a rock star. That part
is intended to take the reader away from the ordinary.  And I do think, in
his element, Aidan Royce earns his ovation. But that’s not what this story is
about; it’s about the rhythm of lasting friendship, and the beat of a love
story subject to incredible odds. It’s about family and figuring out what makes
you truly happy, then being brave enough to embrace it. PERFECT TIMING is relationship fiction set to the
sometimes extraordinary and always precarious tempo of life.
When I look at this book’s perfect cover, there is still the awe that comes with a second book, the surprise that it even exists. But I’m also pleased and confident in this story’s backstory and the way life influenced PERFECT TIMING.
Laura Spinella is the author of the newly released PERFECT TIMING and award-winning BEAUTIFUL DISASTER. Visit her at lauraspinella.net 

An Exception to the Rules of Perfect Timing

By Laura Spinella
Amazing how the second Friday of the month (my high-heel
post day) sneaks up on me! A quick blog, as
Clarabel and Robert, September 24, 1949

Mother is visiting this weekend. If
you know Mother, you also know that my hands are filled with dust mops and
disinfectant, and that I have no time to devote to cleverness or chatty banter.

So I will keep this blog simple and relevant, noting first
and foremost that the Stiletto Gang has expanded their social media horizons by
creating a Facebook page!  I’m excited
about this new venture, and hope it will offer greater opportunities for us to
interact with Stiletto Gang followers, as well as with each other.  Please come by and “like” us!
If you haven’t heard, I have a new book out in a few weeks, PERFECT
! As excited as I am about the Stiletto Gang’s new digs, I’m
maybe a hair more stoked about this. Honestly? 
I believe the book’s existence can be traced to blood being drawn directly from
a vein—one in my neck. This is my second published novel, and I am excited to
share it with readers. One-thousand-and-one iterations later, the back cover
blurb goes like this:
There’s rock,
there’s a hard place, then there’s Aidan & Isabel

What’s a Jersey Girl to do when she moves to Catswallow,
Alabama? Isabel Lang finds the answer in friendship, an unlikely bond with the
musically gifted Aidan Roycroft. The two share everything from a first kiss to
startling family secrets. But when Aidan is accused of a violent crime these
inseparable friends flee to Las Vegas. The move seems like a jackpot win as a
long-awaited romance ignites and a major recording label offers Aidan a deal.
But Vegas luck doesn’t last when circumstance interferes and Isabel’s future
comes tumbling down.
Seven years later the past is history. That includes any
yesteryear bond with Aidan Roycroft—an entity better known as Aidan Royce,
Alabama’s own Springsteen. Isabel is busy running a radio station and closing
in on a commitment with Nate Potter, a guy who defines ideal. Life seems cozy
until new station management demands a sudden-death ratings grabber, putting
everyone’s future on the line. What should be a simple solution leads to a
stunning revelation as Isabel is forced to call on the past and the only rock
star she
If that tickled your
reading fancy, you can pop over to Goodreads where there’s a giveaway going on,
courtesy of those nice folks at Penguin. 
If you’d like to read a little more now, you can find the first chapter
on my website 

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Perfect Timing by Laura Spinella

Perfect Timing

by Laura Spinella

Giveaway ends November 09, 2013.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter to win

Wishing you all a
wonderful fall weekend! Many thanks for visiting with us at the Stiletto
Gang while I visit with Mother!

Laura Spinella, a RITA
finalist, is the author of the award-winning novel, BEAUTIFUL DISASTER. PERFECT
TIMING is available November 5th!  

The Mindboggling Goal of Perfect Timing

 By Laura Spinella
Are you a writer who sets goals?  I
know lots of writers do this: daily word count goals, drop-dead date goals,
NaNoWriMo inspirational goals. Right now, I’m more about the let-me-get-to-November-without-my-head-exploding
goal. I’m seven weeks out from pub date, and if you’re an author, I don’t need
to say any more. But in an effort to fill this box, allow me to elaborate.
            A year ago, I had a
workable mental plan for the weeks leading up to PERFECT TIMING’S pub date—NOVEMBER 5th. Okay, so maybe
it wasn’t a plan. Maybe it was more like…a vision. Yes, that’s what it was, a vision.
A place in my mind where book bloggers would seek me out and drive my Penguin
publicist nuts in anticipation of my sophomore novel, my inbox so filled with
pre-pub requests and kudos that I could barely keep up. Fine. So it wasn’t
exactly a vision either—it was, maybe, more like a fantasy. As the months have moved
forward, the fantasy has faded.  The
reality of having to haul ass myself to keep this book afloat has sunk in. Of
course, I knew this would be the case. I did as much for BEAUTIFUL DISASTER, and
while the book held its own, I wasn’t foolish enough to believe that Oprah or
even the local library would come a-callin’, not without some serious effort on
my part.
            As early as last spring,
I had this future requirement, this goal, fixed in my head. It was about that
time the novel I’d started writing late last summer took flight. You know how it
goes. You knead and knot words, vacillating between love and hate—scraping
dead-end ideas and pitching yourself fresh ones.  Brand new people arrive, like houseguests on an extended stay, people who, quite frankly, take over your life. Like real houseguests,
they also don’t cook or clean. Characters are dropped like confetti into a
whirlwind of circumstance, and as the days go by you fear any readable rational
outcome will require an MFA (which I don’t have), a hundred years (which I don’t
have), and a decoder ring to result in a narrative that resembles a novel. In
the meantime, a few million other authors, all of them your closet Facebook
friends, publish brilliant books, accepting a flood of adulation with poise and
Suffice it to say it was a long spring and an even
longer summer.
Then, around the first of August, I started to hear time
tick. That pub date was creeping closer. Yet I couldn’t fathom abandoning my
new novel—I love this story way too much.
So much so that I couldn’t stop to pay attention to what now seemed like the old novel. I’d go to my little critique
group, and they ask for PERFECT TIMING updates. I’d look at
them, squirrelly-eyed, and say, “Yeah, I know… that’s coming up soon, isn’t it?”
Then I’d hand them the next installment of my shiny new novel, anxious to hear feedback.
(Tell me this is not a drug) I wrote harder and raced faster, making August 31st
my drop-dead date. Come Hell or high water, on that date, I’d turn my new novel
over to my agent.
Well, wouldn’t you know, August 31st was a
Saturday. I mean, there’s no sense in emailing your agent on a Saturday.
Everybody knows that. So here we are on Friday the 13th—  September 13, which might be a fun, fate tempting,
sort of day to send a manuscript on its way. But everybody knows people in publishing
don’t work on Fridays. What would be the point in sending a manuscript on a
Friday?  On the other hand, I know none
of these excuses will prevent Monday from coming. And I swear, on Monday, it
will go. At least I think it will. As far as I know Monday isn’t a national or
religious holiday. Realistically, I suspect as soon as it’s gone… out of here…
on its way, things will smooth out and find a proper path. I know this
because the way I feel about the new book was exactly the way I once felt about
a story called PERFECT TIMING.         
Laura Spinella is the author of the award-winning novel, BEAUTIFUL DISASTER and the upcoming novel, PERFECT TIMING. Visit her at lauraspinella.net

Smile, You’re On!

By Laura Spinella 
My first public reading was nothing short of a disaster. Trust me; there
was nothing beautiful about it.  The
moment was so bad I couldn’t even articulate the aforementioned pun at my own
expense. (See Beautiful Disaster, Penguin, 2011) It was a packed library, which I wasn’t expecting. The sight of the
room was promptly followed by a panic attack, which I definitely wasn’t
expecting. In an aftermath of humiliation, I was left to wonder why such a
thing would happen to me. Theater was my passion in high school. I had no
problem getting up in front of a packed auditorium to belt out scenes and songs
from some of Broadway’s best shows. It’s particularly puzzling when you
consider that I am a far better writer than I am a singer. (Should you disagree,
no need to email) Yet that awful library moment ties with my five worst
publication experiences—thus far. A woman who came to a book club meeting, just
to make sure I understood her loathing of romantic Southern set novels, is a
close second.
            I would like to file
these experiences under live and learn. But with PERFECT TIMING out this
fall, my chances of avoiding public speaking and the occasional bitter book
club member are a moot point. In fact, I’d probably be wise to garner what I can and make an attempt to learn from it. So, what’s up with the public library debacle? A freak incident? Maybe. Was it the awkwardly timed realization that my words were suddenly out there for
the world to comment on at large? Could be. Or it might have been this: A
character that appears on stage comes with a predetermined script. While I
could certainly script my speech, there was no character involved. It was just
me… behind a podium…. a very undersized podium from what I recall.
            Many writers wear public
speaking like a second skin. They read fluidly from their books, conveying a story
as though the audience were a mesmerized group of kindergarteners. Speeches are
effortless, drawing in listeners and making them feel comfortable. These
authors segue from the written word to spoken the one as if public speaking were
their native tongue. To me, it’s a foreign dialect for which I don’t have much
natural talent. However, I do excel in group-specific public arenas. I’m great at book
clubs, almost entertaining—even if you don’t love romantic Southern fiction.
There’s something easy about sitting around with a group of women, even if you
don’t know a single one personally, and just chatting. On the other hand, I’m
stunned by the idea of getting up in front of that same group and being the targeted
center of attention.
Targeted center of
… perhaps therein lies a clue.
            Interestingly, I do have
a middle-of-the-road experience when it comes to public gatherings. More than
once, I’ve been asked to speak to my college alumni. I wasn’t flawless in these
instances, but I was certainly more comfortable than a generic public setting.
I suppose it has to do with camaraderie. While the alumni I spoke to were
individual strangers, we shared a common bond in having attended the same
university. My mind translated this as friendly territory, trickling down to my
nerves, which, in turn, did not fray. Had I sought professional help, I’m sure
this would have been the diagnosis.
            So tell me Gang members
and readers alike, how do you handle these situations? Are some of us just
naturally gifted when it comes to public gab? Or is it a skill that evolves
over time—like most things. You have captive audience here, please drop me
comment on public speaking 101.      
Laura Spinella is the award-winning author of BEAUTIFUL DISASTER and the upcoming novel, PERFECT TIMING. Visit her at lauraspinella.net  

My Game of Thrones Non-Blog

 By Laura Spinella 
Earlier this week I posted at the Girlfriends Book Club. It’s another
water cooler blog, a virtual coffee klatch where women share the angst, joy, trepidation
and insight of their experiences as published authors. Like the Stiletto Gang,
we also share sidebar posts that might not have a single thing to do with writing
or books. Not infrequently, much humor and knowledge is gleaned from these left-of-center
pearls of wisdom.
I didn’t write that kind of blog at GBC, and I won’t get to write one
here today. My calendar insists that I have no time to write personal essays
about my favorite fodder: my kids, or to pen breezy posts about pop culture. Although,
seriously, have you watched Game of
this season? I could easily do a 600-word diatribe on how those
fire-breathing dragons should incinerate the all the characters—the aimless
dirty, sometimes handless, wanderers of the realm.  They have become characters without a kingdom
or meaningful storyline.  But, as I
mentioned, I can’t write about that. I can’t because the ready-set-go bell of
publishing has rung! Six months out from my pub-date and it’s time to start
pressing the flesh and get in the game.  
Although, really, let’s think about the irony of my
predicament. It goes like this: A few years back I wrote a simple story about an
ingénue character, Isabel Lang, and her musically gifted best friend, Aidan
Roycroft.  My oldest daughter, then in her
late teens, loved the story. I thought about making more of it, but as the
publishing gods would have it, BEAUTIFUL DISASTER sold in the same moment. I
tucked that manuscript in a drawer and forgot about it. I wrote another book.
It was a long book with a busy storyline and characters I never really fell in
love with. But I thought it was the book I was supposed to write, so I pushed
on. Turned out my instincts were on target. The agent took one read and sent me
straight back to the blank screen. With my ego thoroughly bruised—I don’t know,
maybe I was trying to stick my head in the drawer—I came across that shorter story
titled THE IT FACTOR. Sure, it needed polish and a better, more mature plot,
but I loved these characters, and I remembered that. Things were looking up. I
spent a year massaging the manuscript, deciding if I really could pull off a
story that involved a rock star. I mean, who does that?
            Well, apparently, I do.
While the finished product took sweat equity and significant swearing, the
book sold right away—last summer. That’s when the elephant-like gestation
began. But we’re nearing the homestretch, passing the anticipated milestones:
cover art, back cover blurb and title. Things were inching along and I assumed
my title, THE IT FACTOR, was set in stone. Not so fast. In a phone call it was
re-titled ISABEL’S RHAPSODY, then a generic Aidan & Isabel marker through an
idea-less winter, and finally PERFECT TIMING.  Edits and ARCs are within spitting distance, as I
put another piece of the puzzle in place this week. AuthorBytes launched a shiny
new website for me. I think it’s really keen, but I also must confess that the
uber-author web developer is my afternoon gig.  It’s kind of like needing a new car and being
married to Detroit. They’re just going to insist on a Cadillac. Many
thanks to the talented team who pushed my site out the door in record time and
with optimal precision.
            So it all turns out to be my fault. If I hadn’t written a burgeoning sweet story, or a not so great book in between, who knows
what I would have written today. It might have been a romp through
the perils of securing summer employment for the nearly educated or spicy
banter about my Mother’s Day gift—tickets to the Goo Goo Dolls. But shhhhhhh, I’m
not supposed to know that! Instead, I’m here to talk about PERFECT TIMING!  Blah, blah, blah… Hey, how about hopping over
to Amazon and pre-ordering your copy? 
Laura Spinella is the author of the award-winning novel, BEAUTIFUL DISASTER and the upcoming novel, PERFECT TIMING, visit her shiny new website, www.lauraspinella.net

Fun & Name-Games

By Laura Spinella
Imagine if Dickens had penned Otto instead of Oliver, or Jane Austen
found herself smitten with Doolittle before Darcy ever crossed her mind.  Would these grand works of literature have
been influenced by something as basic as a name? Fast forward to modern times and
it’s clear that name choice is no less critical. Had Margaret Mitchell been in
more of a Susan mood, Scarlett might
not have resonated in quite the same manner. And what about Scout? Her name feels
like a fingerprint on Harper Lee’s character, a curious tomboy through whom the
reader views the world. While all the parts have to come together, nothing cues
the music or gets us on board like a character’s name.  It’s one of my favorite parts of the writing
process, and something I stumbled on by accident… or error.
Years ago, my staple income was writing for a regional magazine
in Salisbury, Maryland. After yet another yawning interview with hospital’s latest
CEO, or maybe it was the manager of a restaurant in town, I did what I always
did. On the drive back to my desk, I recast the subjects. Along with savvier
bios and backgrounds, I gave them far more illustrious names. They weren’t
necessarily exotic or catchy, just a better fit for the personal history I’d embellished.
This was all fun and games until an intriguing alias ended up in the piece I’d
been assigned. I told the proper story about the new director of parks and
recreation, but I’d accidentally given him the name I conjured up. Yeah, it
wasn’t good. You can misspell someone’s name, an unprofessional but forgivable faux
pas. But dish up a Sunday spread, photos included, and call him something other
than the name his mama gave him and, well, it’s an embarrassing clue that maybe
you’re not cut out for real news
      It’s all good now as I’ve traded those
tarnished credentials for the kind of writing that embraces a bad habit. Deciding
a character’s name is one of the perks of the job and, I think, one of the most
critical elements.  I don’t revisit a
character’s name once I’ve handed a story over to my editor or filed a wannabe
book in a drawer, but in the moment nothing seems quite as important.
was fortunate to have a Madonna moment—no, not an epiphany, just a character strong enough to stand on one name: Flynn. He actually has a first, middle and last name, but Flynn’s
single call sign ended up being as integral to his character as his dark past
and questionable psyche. There’s an interesting footnote here and why I mention
it, perhaps highlighting how deep the name process goes. Flynn’s name was fashioned
after a professional baseball player I admired as a teenager. The book’s
protagonist and real-life Flynn have about as much in common as a Kardashian
and Supreme Court Justice, but that just demonstrates how something so small
can trickle down to the heart of a novel.  
With my current WIP, the name hunt is no less intense, as
if I might have to swear to it on a bible. Some of those names—Levi St John, a surname
my husband suggested over burgers at the British Beer Company, Aubrey Ellis, swiped
from an author I admire, and Frank Delacort,  guttural and obstinate—floated in on a breeze.
Others, like Dustin Byrd, had to be coerced and cajoled. It was an effort to capture
the right combination of syllables and sounds to attach to his quirky
character. Curiously, Violet Byrd, Dustin’s mother, also plays a part in this
book. As I wrestled with this task, casting and deleting a dozen possible choices,
it occurred to me how much easier the name-game would be if I could have just
asked her.  
Laura Spinella is the author of the award-winning novel, BEAUTIFUL DISASTER and upcoming novel, PERFECT TIMING. Visit her at www.lauraspinella.net       

Solving My Murderous POV!

By Laura Spinella
In the thick of storytelling, the nitty-gritty, nose-to-the-grindstone
act of putting words on a blank page, there are bound to be roadblocks. If
there aren’t, you’re not doing it right. That’s not to say there’s a magic
bullet or formula. It’s just that you can’t get from point A to point B without
hitting a few glitches and in some instances a landmine.
I am in the midst of writing book seven. Lucky seven. If all goes well, it will
be the third book to make it onto store shelves. Of course, that doesn’t lessen
the learning curve of those trunk novels. Surely, I garnered more from the misfits than the books that had legs and, eventually, a spine. The premise for
my new book came fairly easy, so I came prepared for some other sort of problem.
Perhaps my pace would be off kilter and my love story tepid at best.
But no, that wasn’t it. I sailed into midpoint, anxious as a reader to find out
how it all works out for Aubrey and Levi. My research has gone well
too. My former editor-in-chief has graciously allowed me tap into his vast newspaper knowledge. That’s a great thing, helping me fine tune character and storyline details. In fact, the biggest challenge had been physical. The mind is willing. The
body not as able as it used to be. My arthritic neck and a nagging pinched
nerve (paints a lovely haggard witch picture, doesn’t it?) have decided that sitting
for hours is not in their best interest. But physical pain is not as compelling
as mental anguish, and I was having hard time accepting it as this book’s
issue. Frankly, I worried that the process was going too well.  
Then, last week, everything changed.  I just didn’t step on my landmine, I fell face first into it. The problem came
into focus as I backed the truck up and decided to read my WIP.  There it was, crystal clear: the POV in the past
portion of the story is a hellacious mess. It truly, absolutely, completely
sucks. Seriously sucks. For the most part, my writing relies on a
back-and-forth method of storytelling. They’re not flashbacks but an
intertwining of chapters moving between two distinct periods of time. I’ve been
asked if this is intentional. It is, but only as a means to an end. It’s the
way my mind or muse conveys a story. In BEAUTIFUL DISASTER and PERFECT TIMING,
the past storyline is mostly about the romance. In this book, it chronicles the events
leading up to a murder. It also includes a darker, somewhat twisted romance. Initially,
this is what intrigued me, writing a socially unacceptable love story and
seeing if I could get readers (not to mention my agent & editor) to buy
into it. For that part, we’ll see. Right now, my problem is a murderous POV.
 I thought an omniscient telling would be the key to these in-the-past chapters.  I like the distance that an omniscient POV provides.
There’s no need to get too chummy with the characters here. But an omniscient
POV doesn’t come naturally to me, a fact proven when I reviewed my WIP. An out
loud reading left me queasy and looking for a quick exit.  The dogs, my captive audience, practically howled in protest.  I didn’t recognize the writer, the voice tip-toeing
between characters and that removed but all-knowing presence.  My go-to fix might be multiple POVs separated by scene. It
would keep things rolling along, although I don’t know if it would be admitting
defeat. I don’t like to lose. But I also like climbing into my characters’ heads, one at a time, rooting around for their side of things. This is what I’m good at.  Those
voices come clearly, and it could be that I’m shooting myself in the foot by trying to prove I can do it. For now
I’ve abandoned the problem, pursuing forward motion with what is working. But
before long I will have to revisit Missy and Frank and the ensemble that awaits
me in Surrey, Mass, circa 1993. I will have to decide.  
So I’m wondering Stiletto Gang writers of mystery—or
anyone who has a thought on the subject—what POV works best for you. Do you
venture outside your comfort zone if the story dictates? Should I stick with my
omniscient effort? Am I doing what’s best for this story, or am I only being
stubborn about mastering a skill that doesn’t come naturally to my set? Like any good editorial, opinions are welcome!         
Laura Spinella is the author of the award winning novel, BEAUTIFUL DISASTER and the upcoming novel, PERFECT TIMING. Visit her at www.lauraspinella.net

Mother’s Day

By Laura Spinella

**This is an updated rerun of last year’s post on the occasion of my mother’s 84th birthday! She is happily celebrating with two of her grandchildren while I nurse a nasty pinched nerve. It’s kept my blogging/sitting/typing skill set to the bare minimum. So my apologies for the repeat, but I’m sure Mother doesn’t mind! Happy Birthday! 

There are certain things you can’t imagine in life, like how you might prefer summer to winter, and big holy crap things like a published book. The premise of this blog, I think, falls somewhere in between. Today is Mother’s 84th birthday. Last year we marveled over her Friday the 13th birthday, Downton Abbey-like manners, and sharp wit. This year we celebrate the same, less the black cat calendar date and with the addition of my book two later this year. Don’t tell, it’s a surprise, but we’ll be uploading ISABEL’S RHAPSODY onto her birthday present come November. By then I guarantee Mother will have mastered the 21st century instrument of the printed word.

And by the way, it is Mother. Let’s get the terminology correct. Every year I look at rows of greeting cards marked Mom, and wonder, “Who would I send that to?” The card is a struggle on a lot of levels. We’re not an outwardly demonstrative group. I know lots of writers who’d use a card or blog to gush at length. They’d post gooey Facebook notes about how much Mom means and mark it with endless emoticons. While I’ve been known to tug at the heartstrings when it comes to my characters, it’s just not the way we do it at my house. Think more the decorum you’d display for the Queen. So, I thought, instead, I’d share a little with you about Mother (also never preceded by a possessive pronoun) who lives in Pennsylvania with my father. He’ll be 87 next month; he calls her Tootsie.
Mother’s name is Clarabel, which never struck me as odd, but you can bet spell check just marked it with a big red line. She was born prematurely, and for all the fuss and care taken with preemies today, let it be known that they stuck her in a coal stove. Eighty-four years later, and she’s happy to tell you the story. Her father was an interesting self-made man who, during the Great Depression, built houses and roads in Pennsylvania. Driving down any of those winding macadam-covered paths, she’ll say, “Your grandfather built this.” She attended a one-room school house that still stands next to a chapel. A painting of it hangs in her dining room. She is the middle daughter, of a middle daughter, of a middle daughter. My sister, Christine, got to be the next middle daughter, her daughter, Keryn, wise enough to be a middle daughter too, keeping that genealogical marker going. Mother’s mother was named Nora, which rhymes with Laura, and I like to think was subconsciously intentional on Mother’s part. Interestingly, this came full circle with the titling of ISABEL’S RHAPSODY. Mother remarked, “Well, that’s almost like Clarabel’s Rhapsody, isn’t it?” Mmm, perhaps.  But I doubt Mother was on my mind as I worked a steamy Chapter Twelve! 
She didn’t go to college, and I think this has always bothered her. But post WWII wasn’t an era in which women and higher education were encouraged. On the other hand, do not confuse this with any mark of intelligence or drive. Mother attended Central Communications and Airlines Academy in Kansas City, MO, going on to become one of the first women in management at TWA. To do this, she had to move to New York City, quite an adventure for an 18-year old girl from rural Pennsylvania. There she met my father, whose job wasn’t nearly as important. (No worries, he makes his mark a little later in life. Perhaps his birthday falls on my next blog date.) Men significantly outnumbered women in the workplace, and Mother had her pick of suitors. She even brushed elbows with Howard Hughes who immediately washed his. As for my parents, the story goes that Mother had a date to meet a guy named Charlie Hiney under a clock in Times Square. My father showed up early and told him to get lost. My sisters and I are grateful for this intervention and a guaranteed childhood of torment!

The next thirty plus years take place on Long Island, where tradition was at the heart of most everything. Mother sewed like a five-star seamstress.  She could make doll clothes and real clothes and costumes and slipcovers. I’m not sure how this skill befell her, but I bet I had the best-dressed Barbies on the East Coast. I know I had the most incredible Halloween costumes. When I was eight, she broke her leg while ice-skating.  Mother never missed a beat, wearing a thigh-high cast from February to July. The Sound of Music is her favorite movie, and if you’re not of a Fox News, conservative mindset… Well, it would be my best advice you keep that information to yourself. I do.

My parents have traveled over the years. She’s enjoyed places like Italy, Israel and Austria. She’s not a resort type of person, though they did take a cruise last winter. She’d kvetched about the excursions, not the destinations or cost—well, maybe the cost—but mostly Mother was perturbed by the age restrictions. Apparently, cruise lines were not that excited about folks over 75 participating in their day trips. When she told me this I laughed under my breath, thinking: Good luck to whoever is running that show. Apparently, they hadn’t met Mother.

While that merely scratches the surface of Mother, I’ll leave it there, wishing her a happy 84th birthday and many more!

Laura Jean

Laura Spinella is the author of the award winning novel, BEAUTIFUL DISASTER, and the upcoming novel, ISABEL’S RHAPSODY. Visit her at www.lauraspinella.net   

Title Me This

By Laura Spinella
Titles are interesting things. Often, they grow organically out of a work
in progress, popping up on a dusty, finger-smudged screen, the author shouting,
“Eureka! That’s it, that’s the title!” At least, that’s how it usually plays
out for me.  I don’t think much about the
title going in. Compared to the angst of getting a whole book on paper, the given
name for any blood, sweat and tears of mine seems like well-earned dessert for
eating all my peas. I’m partial to titles that play out in the narrative, so
much the better if it shows up in a pivotal segment of dialogue. In BEAUTIFUL DISASTER, my protagonist gets the cue. He poses the phrase as an inner
thought on the precipice of an intense romantic scene:
Flynn realized he’d said the last part with his eyes closed. When he
opened them he was startled to find Mia two steps from his face. What the hell
was she doing there, so close to him? She was so goddamn beautiful, and this…
This showed all the signs of a beautiful disaster.
He repeats it out loud
near the book’s climax, as he leaves Mia for what appears to be the last time,
“I shouldn’t have come back here.
Let it go, sweetheart. It… it was never anything more than a beautiful
I remember
typing those words, unsure if my novel would ever find a publisher. I did know,
however, that I’d found my title. I had similar experiences with my trunk
novels, as well as the novel that comes out next year.
THE IT FACTOR is a phrase
that personifies the idea of possessing every element necessary to succeed. It’s
spoken first by the novel’s antagonist, and later used by the protagonist in
what I saw as a clever play on words.
Turns out it’s not as
clever as I thought. A few weeks ago my editor emailed, asking if I would
consider changing the title. This came as no shock; publishers change titles
all the time. In many cases, contracts stipulate that the publisher gets final
say. It’s simply the way it works. I was lucky with BD, the title fit like a
glove. And while my publisher toyed with the idea of changing it, everyone
ultimately agreed that it was most representative of the story. Apparently, for
the new book,
THE IT FACTOR wasn’t quite the complement they had in mind.

So this was new for me,
having to replace a title that was familiar and set. Without exaggerating, the
feeling wasn’t too terribly different from someone asking me to change one of
my kids’ names. Sometimes, I’d like to change their last name and address, but
that’s a different blog. The point is I had few options other than to do this,
to change
 This is where the real problem came in.  For a person who claims a fairly fluid imagination,
I was embarrassingly stumped. Editor and agent alike offered numerous
suggestions while my friends, boss, relatives and next-door-neighbor chimed in
with theirs. It became the center of every discussion and an ugly argument at Thanksgiving
dinner. But no, nothing was right. Nothing sounded like the book I wrote or the
point I wanted to convey. I was ready to give up, ready to give in to a
sorta title. Honestly? I didn’t think I
was off to a very good start with book number two.

Disappointed, I mentally
abandoned the problem, though I couldn’t shake the wise words of my agent. As
we weeded through and rejected title after title, she kept one thought at the
forefront, “Does it speak clearly about the novel… or to the audience?” Well,
certainly nothing I’d dreamt up did. But then I began to think about the
message, the story my protagonist was trying to tell. Well, Aidan Royce was a
musician. Everything he conveys is set to music. He’s in love with a girl named
Isabel, lyrical enough in its own right. From there I Googled musical
terms until I stumbled across the word
narrowing it down to its dictionary definition:
a highly emotional work. And there was my Eureka! ISABEL’S
. While it was methodical and meticulous—hardly the romantic
process I would prefer—the title,
ISABEL’S RHAPSODY, seems to fit like a
Laura Spinella is the author of the award-winning novel, BEAUTIFUL DISASTER and the upcoming novel, ISABEL’S RHAPSODY. Visit her at lauraspinella.net            

The Places We Will Go, So Call Me Maybe

Boston Skyline

By Laura Spinella
It’s been a curious couple of weeks. Not only from a writing perspective but from an everyday, tie your shoes, change of season point of view. Fall does that in New England, Maine to Connecticut selling the scenery with everything living up to the hype and gloss of a travel brochure. It’s quick and it’s bright, and you have to hurry if you want to bask in a Robert Frost moment. If you live here you notice the trees, but mostly you anticipate all the raking.  Unlike spring, a season that meanders in like royalty arriving, fall is more of an abrupt nudge to the shoulder, “Hey, I’m here—enjoy the foliage on that road not taken. When I leave, old man winter settles in for the long haul.”
In addition to crisp air and apples, a few things have made this fall different than the others I’ve spent in Massachusetts. I’ve had a friend visiting from the South. At my age, as friends go, suffice it to say she’s one of my oldest. We met under circumstances that still leave me, the writer, chagrinned. Kimberly and I were both being considered for the same job at the Union Recorder newspaper in Milledgeville, Georgia. The position wasn’t even in the editorial department, though I felt my shiny journalism degree should have easily won me the job. Not so fast. Kimberly, admittedly a more vivacious soul than I could manage if I underwent serotonin injections, got the job. Weeks later, the newspaper hired me for a different position, and after some wound licking, a friendship was forged that has lasted longer than either of us cares to note. I like the serendipity of it all, especially when you consider that we only lived in the same state for a year. Minus serendipity, we would have stopped exchanging Christmas cards decades ago.
It’s fun when Kimberly visits. After her short career in newspapers, she discovered her real passion, living the word entrepreneur by becoming the most enterprising female contractor in North Carolina. The photos here show the little mountain house she rehabbed before arriving on my doorstep. Basically, when she visits we feed her well and pick her brain about what project we should tackle next in our 112-year old Arts & Crafts rehab. Tomorrow, she heads home, though clutched in my greedy grip is a plan for a customized master bedroom closet. It’s been low on our to-do list, though her brilliant design is sure to make the California Closet folks look like casket assemblers.
While I’m tickled by state-of-the-art storage, that’s a small bonus to a Kimberly visit. Having her around is more like a direct line of adrenalin to the vein. Kimberly is a doer of the highest order, making you think thoughts that seem too adventurous for an ordinary Tuesday and go places that would normally fall—well, somewhere below the urgency for a customized closet. She has a can-do attitude that, frankly, makes me want to tie her to a chair, though because she will laugh at that idea it also makes her one of my favorite people on the planet.
When considering the cathartic aspects of a visit with an old friend, I’m not entirely sure what Kimberly gained. We did tune her into Gilmore Girls and turned her onto those Harvard baseball boys—trivial pastimes for us, a fresh note of fascination for someone who doesn’t dabble in pop culture. For me, however, two things occurred that made this visit memorable. The first is completely selfish in that she insisted on, and I allowed, a cold read of THE IT FACTOR. The fragile writer ego lives for that validation, and this stamp could not have come at a more critical juncture. It’s a long road from here to next fall’s publication, and when someone sits in your chilly sunroom, demanding more tea and silence, it will make you nod with relief and say, “It’s going to be all right.” Even better is when you overhear—okay, outright eavesdrop—on a conversation that said reader has with another friend, someone you don’t even know, and is heard saying, “It was so good! I think I loved it more than BEAUTIFUL DISASTER…” As any author will tell you, this is necessary friendship fairy dust tamping down unavoidable doubts.
In addition to the places we will go when Kimberly visits, which does leave you with a slight Dr. Seuss rhythm ringing in your ears, there’s the pay-it-forward effect. Yesterday, we took the cursory trip into Boston. I enjoy this when out-of-town friends’ visit.  Mostly because it reminds me there is a beautiful city that is as much meant for residents as it is tourists. During a stop at Faneuil Hall, Kimberly hunted for the mandatory Boston sweatshirt. A bundle of energy in most regards, she is also a scrupulous shopper. I’ve learned it’s best to let her peruse at her own pace. A decision will be rendered only if and when she finds exactly what she wants. On the other hand, I like to think she uses this same careful attention to detail when choosing her friends. That or I’ve just had a lot of time to stand and think while Kimberly shops.
My point is this: I’d wandered in another direction, where my son was admiring a Berklee College of Music sweatshirt. Now, I understand what it takes to get into a place like Berklee, the bestseller kind of sales I’d have to achieve to afford this pinnacle of music education. I know that Grant is a 15-year old boy, who while talented, does not currently possess a Justin Bieber work ethic. He quietly admired the sweatshirt, only commenting on a price tag that even he construed as tourist gouging. I said, “I think we should get it.” He shook his head, tossing the remainder of his equally exorbitant Panini into the trash. “Nah, I don’t need it. Besides, I have as much chance of going there as I do Harvard.” He motioned to a rack of crimson embroidered sweatshirts, and I hesitated. While he could give the Call Me Maybe baseball boys a rhythmic run for their money, Ivy League is probably not in his future.  Instead, I took a Kimberly stance with him. “No, we’re definitely getting it. Berklee College of Music no crazier than, ‘Hey, I think I’ll write a book…’” He tugged it over his head, asked the clerk to cut the tag, practically wearing it to bed and again to school this morning. For anyone who doesn’t have a Kimberly, you’ve no idea what you’re missing. She is the road less traveled, and it does make a wicked cool difference.
Laura Spinella is the author of THE IT FACTOR, fall 2013, Penguin, and the award winning novel, BEAUTIFUL DISASTER. Visit her at lauraspinella.net