The Book Pixie has spoiled Deb Joelle with a whole lot of great coverage this week. First she gave RH a fantastic review, then she chose passages she thought you might like to hear from the book, and after that, she let Joelle blather on about her favourite utility. And to top it off, she’s even giving away her ARC of Restoring Harmony!
The Debs are thrilled to welcome Misa Ramirez, the author of the Lola Cruz mystery series: Living the Vida Lola (January ’09) and Hasta la Vista, Lola! (2010) from St. Martin’s Press Minotaur. A former middle and high school teacher, and current CEO and CFO for La Familia Ramirez, this blonde-haired, green-eyed, proud to be Latina-by-Marriage girl loves following Lola on her many adventures. Whether it’s contemplating belly button piercings or visiting nudist resorts, she’s always up for the challenge. Misa is hard at work on a new women’s fiction novel, has developed a middle grade series for girls, is published in Woman’s World Magazine and Romance Writers Report, and has a children’s book published. Visit Misa at misaramirez.com and and at Chasing Heroes (chasingheroes.com)
Misa, welcome, and thanks for blogging about snow!
The Beauty of a Snow Flake
First, let me say that I love quotes. I find them inspiring and thought-provoking, and when I have dreaded writers-block (or worse, procrastination syndrome), you can often find me perusing quotes in one of my many quote books, or online at quote sites (of which there is an abundance).
When the Debs were kind enough to welcome me as a guest and I found out the theme of the week was ‘snow’, I was momentarily stumped. Lola Cruz Mysteries are, well, mysteries (with yummy romance thrown in to spice things up). They take place in Sacramento, California where you can fry an egg on the sidewalk in the summer and freeze your toes off in the winter. They are sexy, sassy, and smart. It doesn’t snow in Sacramento (at least not that I’ve ever experienced). Lola Cruz, the private eye heroine of Hasta la Vista, Lola!, has only seen snow on the ground when she’s gone up to Lake Tahoe.
Snow. Hmmm. So I scratched said head and…you guessed it…turned to snow quotes. Yes, there are quite a few quotes involving snow, believe it or not. Voila! I had a spark of an idea.
The quote that spoke to me is: “To appreciate the beauty of a snow flake, it is necessary to stand out in the cold.” I have no idea who said this, or what inspired it. At first glance I agreed with the statement. Yes, absolutely, you have to be outside catching snowflakes to really see their beauty.
But then I remembered a children’s book I have (a Caldecott winner) called Snowflake Bentley. It is the true story of a man who spent his life photographing snowflakes. It’s a fabulous book and one we read every holiday season.
Okay, so what does all this have to do with writing? Just this. So much of what we, as writers, strive for is an end goal (read: publication). If I take this quote and turn it into a statement about writing, it would read something like: To appreciate the beauty of a book, it is necessary to go through the (sometimes excruciating) process with the writer.
And this is where I get lost. See, I don’t agree with that at all! As a reader, I can absolutely appreciate the beauty of a book without having personally struggled with the plot, the revisions, the character development, or any of the other myriad of challenges entailed in the book-writing process. In fact, the best books are like a gentle snow where the words and plot and characters flow together so seamlessly that before long the whole landscape is dusted in white and fairly sparkles. I can curl up and enjoy a book like this, getting lost in the magic that an author created. That’s an amazing beautiful experience.
Isn’t it the same with a snowstorm? Do I really have to stand out in the cold to know that no snowflake is identical, to realize that snowflakes are C.O.L.D., to take in the beauty of a flurry of snowflakes? No! I can stand at my window and know the truth about snowflakes, and appreciate their beauty (while staying warm). We did this for the very first time this Christmas. It snowed in North Texas on Christmas Eve. As recent transplants from California, we were awestruck by the storm, the falling snow, the breathtaking beauty of it all. It was fabulous to see it from inside our house, and we fulling appreciated the beauty of each snow flake that fell.
Now, if I choose to go outside, my experience will be different (as it was when we all bundled up and went out to build tiny snowpeople and tried to sled–it wasn’t that much snow!). I’d find a different kind of beauty. It’s like being Snowflake Bentley and wanting MORE than the beauty of the storm. He wanted to take the storm apart and look at the pieces. That’s what writers do when they craft their books. We take one snowflake at a time and piece them together into a sparkling landscape of white. Our hope is that readers will appreciate the beauty of the flurry and not be able to pick apart the plot, or see it as only pieces of a whole. It’s my hope with every book I write, and I think I’ve succeeded.
So, what do you think? Do you have to be outside in the cold to really appreciate a snow flake?
If you’d like a Lola Cruz recipe card, be sure to visit my website and sign up for my newsletter! Here’s to living like Lola!
When I lived in England after college, I worked at Outward Bound in the Lake District. The closest town was called Penrith, and I would go there on my days off to eat at tea shops and browse the local bookstore. It is a lovely shop, still there nearly twenty years later, called The Bluebell Bookshop (the link is not for the store, just their address as they don’t seem to have a site).
One of many treasures I found there was a whole shelf of John Rowe Townsend books, a writer I posted about here already. They have a great Young Adult section for such a small store. The rest of the shop is packed with wonderful books on the Lakes, England, Scotland, art, photography, poetry, and fiction. Not surprising, this shop is one of the first places I took my husband to in 2004, when we went to visit.
As I perused the YA upstairs, he drifted around, looking at this and that, a bit of everything. When I came downstairs, he had a small, white* book in his hand. “We have to get this,” he said, holding it up. Well, it’s not like I really am one to say no to any book purchase, and so we left the store with it.
That evening, he was so engrossed in the little book that neither I, nor my friend Carole, could get a word out of him. When he was done, he said, simply, “You have to read this.” And so I did.
What he gave me was a novella called Snow by Maxence Fermine. It is one of the most beautiful, lyrical, and loveliest books I’ve ever read. On the cover, it says: and they loved each other suspended on a thread of snow
Frankly, I think that should be enough to make you go straight from here to order a copy for yourself. But if it’s not, just try and resist this:
Yuko Akita had two passions.
On coming of age, Yuko is expected to become either a monk or a warrior. He decides instead to become a poet. And to write poems about snow. But to become a master poet he must also master the arts of painting, and of music, and of calligraphy.
And lastly, the art of love…
*I know this cover is pink, but the one we bought is white.
Q- How do you tell a snowman from a snow woman?
My apologies for the juvenile one-liner.. for some reason it’s the first thing that comes to mind when I think about snow. Now just in case you don’t know, I just moved back to Manhattan after escaping from the frozen tundra about 4 years ago. We went back to balmy Miami where people complain about excessive humidity and mosquitoes the size of my husband’s ginormous head. (Seriously, I’ve seen watermelons smaller than his oddly-shaped noggin!) So what was my response when my husband told me we had to move back to New York for his media job? Stunned silence, followed by tears, and eventually….a plan to fake my own death. Unfortunately, my husband’s large head also comes equipped with sonar hearing and he caught wind of my crafty plan.
So as you’ve probably figured out I L O A T H E cold weather…and as lovely and magical as falling snow can be, once its on the ground -and turns to rock hard ice- it becomes a glaring reminder that frigid weather is made for polar bears and penguins.
My young son seemed to be very much like me. He thrived in Florida’s excessive warmth, played every sport created by man, sweat buckets in the hot sun, and loved nothing more than jumping in our pool after a scorching day. I thought moving to New York would be devastating for him. Well folks, I’ve been betrayed. My kid caught sight of those first snowflakes while witnessing his first blizzard last month, and he was hooked. I’m sure the aero-dynamic snowboard his father bought him for Hanukkah didn’t help, but he’s been begging for more snow ever since. After Christmas my son and I built our first snowman. It was pathetic. The snow was so fluffy it JUST WOULDN’T STICK! I caught myself yelling at the snow, wondering why it refused to fulfill its destiny. Finally, I told my son we would have to settle for a much smaller version of the large snowman we envisioned. In the end, our snow-mess turned out pretty cute, my son was happy, and I guess I like snow a little more.
Then my enthusiasm for snow waned, possibly because I’ve lived most of my adult years in and around Philadelphia, where the general attitude is, Warmth will return. Until it does, stay inside. (My college roommate was from Buffalo, and she and I were kind of snow snobs, amused by Philadelphians’ alarmist response to even slightly snowy weather forecasts.)
The past few years, I’ve had a rough time with the colder, darker months, as I blogged about earlier.
But this year⎯thankfully⎯snow seems to make the colder, darker months more bearable. Somehow, snow appeals to that part of me that loves a cave⎯a warm isolated place where I can curl up and nap. I love soaking in the tub and reading a book as snowflakes stick to the other side of the windowpane. I love logs crackling in my parents’ fireplace as white stuff piles up in the woods behind the house.
What’s your attitude toward snow? Is it a friend? An enemy? Or perhaps a frienemy? What’s the general attitude toward snow where you live, versus where you grew up?
When I was young, I loved sledding – and I loved coming in from the snow just as much, sighing in exhaustion and peeling off my wet mittens and socks, then curling up in a blanket by the fire and sipping cocoa (my Mom made the kind from a packet with mini-marshmallows, but she always used milk instead of tap water. It made all the difference. And if I sighed theatrically enough, I might even get a squirt of Redi-Whip.)
The best place to sled was at our elementary school, and you could find dozens of kids there, zipping down the big hill on trash can lids and sheets of plastic and Flexible Flyers – the kind with the really pointy metal tip. Nothing was worse than being at the bottom of the hill and seeing a Flyer tip pointed directly at you, and knowing you were about to be speared.
I still love sledding with my kids, and these days, instead of rusty metal points, sleds have soft, rounded fronts. But I make the hot cocoa the same way as my Mom. Some things are better left unchanged…
What’s your favorite memory of snow?
A little less than one year ago, England was snowed on. It was just a few inches but it was the most that had been seen here in 18 years. Because it’s so rare, they have no plows. The transportation systems freaked out.
We were on our way home from Paris (where the morning snow had given our boys their first shared snowball fight). The Eurostar handled the weather fine. But then we had to get another train, from King’s Cross in London, back to Cambridge. It had been hours since a Cambridge train had come through, and the commuters waiting with us multiplied.
King’s Cross station is a dreadful place to wait. First of all, the ladies bathroom is down a long flight of concrete steps, which I have unfortunately experienced with heavy suitcases. That’s ridiculous for a station that routinely expects international travelers to be mixed in with the daily commuters. (And what do wheelchair users do? And can I do it too??) Then, at the bottom of those stairs, you’re expected to pay for the privilege of a toilet. Wait–there’s more! It requires exact change!! Argh!
King’s Cross is dreadful also because they keep the assigned platforms secret until the trains are ready to board. It would by MUCH nicer to calmly find one’s platform ahead of time, and first-come-first-served would be fair. Win-win. But no. King’s Cross keeps everyone waiting in a common area, and then flashes the assigned platform at the last minute. The crowd surges toward it, and only the unencumbered are fast enough to get their choice of seats. In this case, to get seats at all. We had both children and luggage; there was no chance.
We’re not fussy. We hadn’t had seats on the Cambridge/London train on our way to Paris either. We’d been fine rocking and balancing in the little standing-room-only luggage area between cars, and the kids happily sat on the floor. But on that snow day on the way home, the floor would be covered by a deep, dirty slush from the feet of those who were faster than we. We couldn’t let the boys sit. How the three year old was going to balance in that I had no idea.
We got to the train, predictably among the stragglers, and tried to find a reasonable place to put ourselves. I’m amazed and humbled to report that several strangers made sacrifices to give us all seats. We weren’t together, but we were in the same car. My husband stayed with the little one. A few rows away, I sat behind our older boy. Our bags were stashed willy-nilly. The aisles filled with standing passengers. It was only one hour to Cambridge.
About halfway along the journey, our then seven-year-old popped his head over the back of the seat in front of me. Blood splashed from his mouth and his little red-smeared hand showed me the cause, pinched between his fingers: he’d lost a tooth, in the most dramatic and grisly fashion possible.
The coats of innocent commuters pressed close on both sides of him. I was happy for him, but keen not to repay the kindness of strangers with blood streaks on their clothes. I had no access to our bags, and felt like one of those heroines who resorts to tearing off strips of petticoat in an emergency. But, I had no petticoat.
I had a half-eaten bagel.
I used that bagel to wipe and soak up as much blood as I could, and get him clean enough to not be a danger to the clothes of those around him. I stashed the tooth in my jeans pocket, and kept my tone upbeat: “Isn’t this fun! I’m so proud you lost your tooth! Please don’t touch me with your bloody fingers! Nooooo! Don’t touch me!! Don’t touch anything!!!”
We got home, got him cleaned up, and happily built snowmen even though it was already getting dark out.