Black Rose Writing

Release day for Requiem for the status quo

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Today is release day for my debut novel.

My horoscope that day

On December 29, 2012, I first sat down to write that novel.

On the day of the fifth anniversary of my father’s October 13, 2007 death, I decided to write a novel inspired by my caregiving experiences as his Alzheimer’s care manager. I was certain novel writing would be a huge undertaking because up to that point, I had never written fiction. Because of the enormity of said project, I figured I would wait until the beginning of the following year – you know, a fresh start and all.

But the universe had other plans. My December 29, 2012 horoscope was what the universe used as the catalyst to get my attention. More than that, it shocked me into action. The horoscope so alarmed me, I cut it out of the newspaper, typed it out in large font, and after writing my novel’s very first page, I framed all three to memorialize the outstanding coincidence of what my Taurus-scope said. Here, for your enlightenment, is its wording:

Now’s perfect to start a new writing project; no need to wait until next year. Put down your thoughts without worrying about form, one word at a time.

I showed the horoscope to my husband and if it at all possible, he was more shocked than I at the horoscope’s content. He left me alone the remainder of the day, knowing the horoscope meant business, and so did I. I closed the door to my office, sat at my computer and started typing.

I didn’t know what I was doing. As I mentioned earlier, I had never written fiction. At that point, my personal blog, Living: the ultimate team sport was filled with 100s of non-fiction pieces, most of which centered around aging, long-term care, as well as numerous posts about Alzheimer’s disease, other dementia, and the caregiving struggles faced by families. But to write prose – with dialogue!!!!! – was beyond my skill set, and remained to be for quite some time.

The short of the long of it is that Requiem for the status quo was not the first title for the novel, there were many, the first being Have we met? Aren’t you glad I changed it to its current one? Not only were several titles tried on but my magnum opus went through many rewrites, most notably and importantly, the first draft contained a whopping total of 140,000 words. You see, I had a lot to say and I just kept typing until I had nothing more to add.

That’s an excellent way to get thoughts down on paper, but the first draft is by no means the final product that is pitched to agents and publishers. My now published novel is less than 68,000 words. Yes, lots of cutting and slashing took place over the years, to the point where not only am I proud of the finished product, but a publisher is also proud of it, Black Rose Writing.

I will close this post by providing glimpses of my father to you over the years. I hope you enjoy this montage that includes, from top left: My mother and father’s wedding day, 1947; my wedding day 2000 (my favorite photo of my dad and I); and the Desonier family circa 1971.

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Club Alzheimer’s

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No one wants to be a member of a club characterized by a disease that robs a person of their cognitive function and is always fatal. Unfortunately, as of this writing, 5 million Americans (many more million in other countries) are living with Alzheimer’s disease or other dementias. Here are a few more facts extracted from the most current Facts and Figures document published by the Alzheimer’s Association:

  • In 2016, 15 million Americans provided unpaid care for people with Alzheimer’s or other dementias;
  • That equates to 18.2 billion hours of care valued at $230 billion;
  • 1 in 3 adults dies with Alzheimer’s or other dementia;
  • It kills more than breast cancer and prostate cancer combined;
  • Since the year 2000, deaths from heart disease have decreased by 14% while deaths from Alzheimer’s disease have increased by 89%;
  • Every 66 seconds, a person develops the disease.

My novel, REQUIEM FOR THE STATUS QUO, (Black Rose Writing publication, July 2017) spotlights one family’s experience in particular – the Quinn family – while also visiting other households affected by Alzheimer’s or other dementias.

  • Eddie and Katherine, a couple in their 40s. Katherine has a combination Alzheimer’s/Lewy Body dementia, a type of dementia that causes somewhat violent behavior and speech;
  • Frank and his son, Sean, the latter of whom suffers from a traumatic brain injury (TBI) incurred while on deployment in Afghanistan;
  • Victoria and George, a couple in their 80s, trying to crawl through the maze of George’s Alzheimer’s disease;
  • Rose and Sophia, sisters in their 50s, struggling with the effects of Sophia’s vascular dementia;
  • Donna and Kelly, partners in their 60s, experiencing the devastating effects of Kelly’s Parkinson’s disease and the dementia associated with her disease.

These are characters like you and I. They were living their lives the best they knew how, being good people and doing good for others, yet Alzheimer’s still managed to grab them by the throat and refused to let go.

The storyline is a difficult one but the way in which I have portrayed all of these precious people will touch your heart, and at times, your funny bone. No, there’s nothing humorous about the disease, but people will be people, and when they’re confronted with the impossible, they can find – or create – a bright side onto which they can find redemption and community.

I look forward to introducing you to my characters. Just a few more months before they’ll become a part of your life.

When worry gets in the way of Being Here

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My life took an exciting turn when I signed a book contract on February 17, 2017 for my novel, Requiem for the status quo. When I started to write this novel in December 2012, five years after my father died from Alzheimer’s disease, I had the goal of seeing it published and in the hands of readers everywhere. I thought I knew how difficult it would be to secure a publisher, but I was wrong . . .

I had no idea how difficult a task it would be. I was so proud of the story, a story that was inspired by my years of caring for my father with Alzheimer’s disease, that I figured if I loved it enough, others would love it too.

One hundred queries to agents and publishers later, it’s now slated to be published this summer.

Great news, right? Absolutely great news but then, as many authors will tell you, the real work began, and with that real work came real stress and worry. Those added ingredients to my publication status robbed me of enjoying the moment, of celebrating my accomplishment – of being here. I abandoned the comfort of the present, of being mindful of what was going on in my life, where I could celebrate and relish the attainment of my publication goal. Instead, I focused on the future where fear and worry reside. I was living in a time and space that didn’t even exist, and I resided there for an entire week, and suffered the consequences: lack of sleep, dis-ease, and distress.

But I’m back, and I’m accomplishing task after task after task and thoroughly enjoying the process.

I’m now reaping the benefits of Being Here, right where I’m supposed to be.

 

Kindness Fridays

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Caring gumby figuresThis week’s kindness centers around the dining industry where waitstaff work their tails off for us gastronome-wannabes and oftentimes receive little thanks for it, other than what I hope is a decent-sized tip for excellent service.

My sister is visiting me from California, and with her visit coming on the heels of my publication contract, (see Irene Frances Olson – me! – has signed with a publisher) she wanted to take me out to lunch to celebrate. In between touring the Seattle Art Museum and attending the Northwest Flower & Garden Show, both in downtown Seattle, we settled in for a delicious lunch at Palomino Restaurant.

Our server for the day was a fine gentleman named Sam. After he introduced himself, my sister announced that she was treating me to lunch to celebrate my book contract. He was astounded, genuinely impressed that one of his customers was soon to be a published author. (I wonder if perhaps he is also a writer – or perhaps an actor – and therefore fully understands the enormity of the situation. Writing is like acting: many people want to break into these industries, but find little success in doing so.)

He asked all the appropriate questions about manuscript publication, honing in on the details of my novel’s roll-out process. He then asked what we would like for our beverage and I chose a half diet, half sugar loaded, Coke. My sister also ordered a Coke. He walked away to get our orders but returned within a minute’s time and said, and I paraphrase, “Wait a minute, you got a publishing contract and a Coke is what you’re ordering to celebrate? You sure?”

Unfortunately, I was sure, because if I had imbibed on my 1st choice – a margarita – the remainder of my day’s efforts would have fallen by the wayside. He complied with my request, and throughout our time at his table, served us attentively (but not over-attentively … we all know what that feels like). At one point during our lunch I told him I would be featuring his kindness for my weekly Kindness Fridays column. He asked for my blog website address so he could have a look-see when it’s published.

Toward the end of my our lunch, he asked about the storyline for REQUIEM FOR THE STATUS QUO. He was touched by its origin, saying how intrigued he was by the story, and sorry for our family’s experience.

I guess the way I would describe that day’s kindness is that I felt important and appreciated. I felt special.

And who doesn’t want to feel special now and again?

 

 

A winner is just a loser who tried one more time

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success-620300_1280A winner is just a loser who tried one more time.

I am positive proof of that statement.

Confession time for me: after four years of pounding the pavement/internet trying to get my books published, I seriously considered walking away. I’m not proud of that revelation, but I think after awhile, the prolonged efforts in which many of us are involved start to lose their shine, don’t they? They feel cumbersome in their fruitlessness.

Until they bear fruit.

That is the simple lesson here: nothing comes easily. Nothing. There is no such thing as overnight success or instant stardom. The instances of such anomalies are so few, they’re barely a blip on the timeline of creation.

If you want to accomplish something as much as I did – for me it was becoming a published author – you must continue on that quest. Speaking personally, if I had given up on my goal of publishing a novel inspired by my experiences as my father’s Alzheimer’s caregiver, all the research, writing, and re-writing I did might have been considered a waste of time. It was a valuable and cathartic writing experience, to be sure, but its outcome – a published novel – would have never been realized.

What a shame.

My first novel, REQUIEM FOR THE STATUS QUO, was published on July 20th, 2017 and guess what? At the time, this first time published author was sixty-four years of age. Is my novel a resounding financial success? Not necessarily, but I did attain success which for me meant putting onto paper that which reflected my caregiving experiences so others might be encouraged and enlightened as a result. Family caregiving is difficult, so I figured if my novel could lessen even a few caregivers’ burdens, I will have accomplished much.

What does success mean to you? Whatever it might entail, don’t give up. I guarantee you’ll be glad you didn’t.

Irene France Olson – me! – has signed with a publisher!

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fullsizeoutput_31aI’ll let you collect yourself, calm down, and come down to earth before I go any further with my announcement …

Okay, that’s enough time. REQUIEM FOR THE STATUS QUO is slated to most likely be published by the end of 2017, thanks to Black Rose Writing. I submitted my novel to them in October 2016, and received an e-mail on Tuesday, February 14th, stating that they feel strongly that my project will make a successful addition to their publishing house. The owner of the company further stated, “I am excited about adding an author with such high potential to the Black Rose Writing family.”  I have been in contract talks with the independent publishing house the past several days, and I confidently signed with them this afternoon.

I suggest you go to their website to sign up for their newsletter to get free e-books, deals, and exclusive content. The opportunity to do so can be found at the bottom of their Home page.

REQUIEM FOR THE STATUS QUO is my first novel, inspired by the five years I spent as my father’s caregiver. Of my two completed novels, and one work-in-progress, this is the manuscript in which I have been most invested. I mean for gawd’s sake, REQUIEM is why I started on this anxiety-ridden writing journey back in December 2012.

All you writers out there know of which I speak when I say the road to publication is a pothole-filled one with Dangerous Curves, U-Turns, and Dead Ends that terminate many a writer’s quest to see their book in print.

I am pleased with all of my novels but late 2016 I recommitted myself – and redirected my energies – to getting REQUIEM published. I believe in the story and absolutely feel many current caregivers, and future caregivers, will discover themselves on the pages of the novel and realize their struggles are the struggles of many. They are not alone. Consequently they will find reason to hope, and even to laugh, when they read about Seattle, Washington’s fictional Patrick Quinn family.

So Don Patrick Desonier, this celebration centers around you, the father for whom I would embark on a caregiving journey all over again, just to have more time with you.

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 Now, if you’ll excuse me, there’s a bottle of tequila that’s waiting to be opened and enjoyed … it’s not gonna do it all by itself, ya’ know. I may not be available for awhile.