Groundhog’s Day has always been one of my favorite holidays. I know, it’s not really what you consider a holiday. You don’t even get the day off from work or school. As a gardener, I find winters to be challenging, living on the plains of West Texas. The short days. The lack of warmth and sunshine. The demise of the perennials. Perusing seed catalogs only goes But Groundhog’s Day—whether the little furry fellow (are they always male?) sees his shadow or not– kicks off the beginning of the end of the dormant season for people and plants. After November and December rife with holidays and festivities, in January, we sit and wait—inside.
With Groundhog’s Day comes Valentine’s Day, the Day the Time Changes (my personal favorite), St. Patrick’s Day, and then we’re off and running again in the spring and the sunshine. As an author, Groundhog’s Day provides the perfect metaphor for assessing the work. In January I sit and wait and plan and write. By February 2, I are able to assess what I have done. When I come out of hibernation and observe the work I have written, sometimes I am comfortable with the craftsmanship and sometimes I see the glare of a lack of clarity and run inside the warren to revise.
I hope this Groundhog’s Day –and all of the ones going forward—provide you with a day to assess the new year, and to see if you’re happy with the direction you’ve taken, or if you decide to change course, it’s still so early in the year that your changes have plenty of time to take effect and be meaningful.
Cotton fields, pumpjacks, and Friday Night Lights defined the world KAY ELLINGTON grew up in West Texas. A gypsy of newspapering for three decades, her career took her from New York to California to the Carolinas–and finally, back home again to Texas to stay–and write.
Duet for Three Hands
Author: Tess Thompson
Release Date: February 13th, 2015
A story of forbidden love, lost dreams, and family turmoil.
The first book in a new historical series from bestselling author Tess Thompson, Duet for Three Hands is equal parts epic love story, sweeping family saga, and portrait of days gone by. Set against the backdrop of the American South between 1928 and 1934, four voices blend to tell a tale of prejudice, fear, and love. The Bellmonts are the epitome of the rich and elite in Atlanta society, but behind the picture-perfect façade are hidden moments of violence and betrayal.
After marrying into the Bellmont family, Nathaniel, a former concert pianist who is nearly ruined by his wife’s unrelenting ambition and unstable mind, finds hope in the promise of his most recent protégé. His brother-in-law, artistic Whitmore Bellmont, and the maid’s daughter, Jeselle, have a secret relationship despite their drastically different circumstances and shades of skin. Unfortunately, most of the world disagrees with their color blindness.
All four lives intertwine on a collision course, threatening to destroy, or liberate, them all.
About the Author
Tess Thompson is a mother and writer. She’s also a Zumba dancing queen, though the wearing of the crown is reserved for invitation-only appearances. Her creative life began as an actress, director and playwright but found her true calling in narrative fiction, specifically Women’s Fiction.
I have a guest blogger today, the lovely and talented author Tess Thompson, whose voice is remarkably like mine — honest, quirky, funny, and smart. I like her a lot. I hope you will, too. — jpt
“Hope” is the thing with feathers – That perches in the soul – And sings the tune without the words – And never stops – at all -“— Emily Dickinson
Tuesday afternoon I dress for a coffee date with a man. It’s a first date, if you can call it that, as I’ve never met him in person, only exchanged emails. His email was sweet and well-written – I won’t go into the details but he went to a lot of trouble to get my attention. We appear to have a lot in common. His pictures show a handsome, age-appropriate man. Also, it was obvious he actually read my profile as opposed to just looking at my photographs and sending a note like, “hey baby, your sexy” (yes, your, not you’re) like the 77 others I’d received since putting my profile up the week before.
Because of all this, I sacrifice writing time and agree to meet him for coffee. All I can think is, please don’t be a liar.
I do not have a full-length mirror so I stand on a footstool in my bathroom, perched precariously on the top step, surveying my outfit. On the bed behind me are the discards: a dress that gapped at the chest, jeans I decided made my butt look big, a blouse that felt scratchy. I’ve ended up with a short black skirt with tights and boots, and a soft sweater I found on the clearance rack last winter. A $14 sweater no one else wanted and boots from three seasons ago. Kind of like me, I think.
As I turn on the footstool, I almost fall. God, I hate this, I think. It’s a perpetual audition or job interview, this dating experience in my forties. I never thought I’d be here again, having paid my dues all through my twenties with liars and cheats and Peter Pans who refused to grow up. Then, at thirty-one, came my happy ending. Or, so I thought. But my dreams were false. The marriage didn’t work and our subsequent divorce robbed me of several layers of skin, leaving me with flesh and bone exposed to the elements. I’m vulnerable and frightened and tender-hearted.
And I’m forty-five, going on another first date.
I started dating about eight months after the split from my ex-husband. Encouraged by family and friends, I try online dating. This is how it’s done now, they all assured me. Since then, in my ever-hopeful and trusting way I’ve dated liars and cheats and players and crazies. I’ve genuinely cared for several men that I actually thought genuinely cared for me. Unfortunately, they were damaged in ways not at first evident. But, as the truth always does, their dysfunction and lies surfaced eventually. As my friend Jesse said each time. “You dodged a bullet with that one.”
Despite the dodged bullets, each experience changed me. I hate that this is true, but the trusting and warm woman I once was is now chipped and cracked like the china I inherited from my grandmother. It’s the lies, mostly, that did it. This high tech world we live in makes it easy to lie, easy to charm, easy to run double lives, or triple lives. So now I’m left skittish and untrusting, looking for untruths and dysfunction – trying to discern the cruelty that will come if I let my guard down before I let my guard down. Nice girls like me? Not made for this world filled with players and cheaters. It turns us into bitter, suspicious cat ladies. I hate it. I really do.
I’ve given up many, many times. No more dating, I tell my friends. I’m happy with my work and my kids and my family and friends. Life is good.
I’ve been on hiatus, concentrating on my work, friends, and my beautiful children. These last months I’ve reflected upon my choices and examined how my own behavior played a part. I see clearly when and how I overlooked red flags, made excuses for behavior and believed their stories when I shouldn’t have. But there’s also this – the men I’ve dated behaved badly. That’s just the truth.
I’ve vowed to myself and friends and my mother that I will never again compromise or lower my standards. In these past months, I’ve become really comfortable with the idea of being alone for the rest of my life. I know you all know this, but it’s better to be alone than with a man with so much baggage he can’t possibly lift a hammer to hang a full-length mirror in your bedroom.
But then, I look around me. I see happy marriages. I see true partnerships of couples who are both lovers and best friends. I see marriage proposals and anniversaries. I attend weddings of soul mates. And I think, why can’t I have that, too? I’m an interesting, successful and loving woman. I have so much to give to the right person. Why not me?
So hope begins again. I muster the courage to admit to myself the truth. I want love in my life. I want a man to grow old with. I want a sweetheart who will hang a full-length mirror in my bedroom so I don’t have to stand on a footstool. So I try. I go back online. I put myself out there for possible judgement, rejection, hurt. Ultimately, my desire for love outweighs my fear.
So now on a rainy day in late October, I stand on a footstool in my bathroom looking at my reflection and cringe. I’ve had two children, my face is thin and etched with fine lines. I don’t have long, flowing hair or long legs. My breasts are real. And yeah, I’ve nursed two babies. I’m flawed inside and out. This is as good as I can look, as good as I can be. Probably it will not be good enough. But I have to try.
I get in my car to drive to Starbucks and think, maybe, just perhaps, this man will be kind, generous, sensitive and honest. Maybe something about me will move him, shift his heart a little to make room for love, despite what has come before. Perhaps something about him will move me, will shift my heart to forget the pain of the last five years and fill in those cracks made from mendacity. Maybe our collective baggage will fit together. Maybe he’ll be able to love and accept an absentminded, overly sensitive writer who loves movies that make her cry, soft jeans, red wine, and spooning on the couch while binge-watching BBC shows on Netflix. Maybe he’ll see that my vulnerability, my soft heart, my bravery are a gift, not a fault. Maybe…just maybe.
I open the door to Starbucks one more time. The smell of coffee and hope greet me.
Hope, perched in my soul.
Tess Thompson is a mother and writer. She’s also a Zumba dancing queen, though the wearing of the crown is reserved for invitation-only appearances. Her creative life began as an actress, director and playwright but she found her true calling in narrative fiction, specifically women’s fiction. See more at www.tesswrites.com. She’s also on Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads and Amazon.
Thanks for stopping by my blog, and enjoy Veronika Layne Gets the Scoop. Some of the other participating blogs are still giving out their free gifts, so if you missed any of the days, go hop through and see what presents you can collect.
I’m in the midst of promoting one book and writing another, but, as is the way with life, other projects and adventures get in the way. And yet, they all lead back to writing, somehow.
Take our grand-dog, for example. I’m not a dog person; I am most definitely a cat lady. But the more time I spend babysitting Peanut, who’s a puggle (pug and beagle mix — who looks like a boxer!), the more dog-person-y I become. I take him for walks, I chat with him, I use a special “Peanut voice” when in conversation with him, I make sure he has water and a snuggly place to sleep, and so on.
I think I’m “not a dog-person” but, according to my Facebook friends, I am. I’m doggier by the day.
When I was writing Veronika Layne Gets the Scoop, I was pretty sure I was writing a chick-lit romance. Sex and the City! Hot sweet love! I like romance, but not so much on reading mysteries and suspense. I like a good love story. Who doesn’t?
But when the publisher set the BISAC codes for the book, I found that I had written a mystery-suspense-thriller.
I don’t read mysteries. I don’t write them. I don’t even like them. Except sometimes (Dick Francis horse racing thrillers). I filled in my love story with the adventures of a young reporter. That part kind of took over, until the romance was just about ten percent of the total story. The publisher said it no longer counted as a romance.
So apparently I wrote a thriller. And apparently I like dogs. One dog. Just this one. There’s a surprise.
In another example, we bought a crack house last summer. Not that we wanted a crack house, but it was a troublesome entity in the neighborhood, and out of frustration over tenants who trashed the place, we offered to buy it from the landlord, and, to our shock, he agreed. We suddenly found ourselves with another fixer-upper (koff, gasp, wheeze). We have been working our way through permit-red tape all through fall and have been having a survey done of the property.
We just found out a few days ago that the house is actually partially built on the neighbor’s land. Since 1940, that is (koff, gasp, wheeze). We kind of eminent domained, unintentionally. Once again, we thought we had one thing, and we ended up with another. We had plans. Big plans. And the map has changed. If that doesn’t sound like your latest writing project, then you must have a better plan than I do.
I’ve got a third example, and it isn’t pretty. I’ve been watching the events of Ferguson and New York, and everywhere else where there is police brutality, gun violence, and racism. A lot of arguments have played out in the streets, on Facebook, in the news, between friends and among family members. I’ve blocked people and rebutted trolls, tried reason and logic, written passionate replies and stood my ground. And I fear this is not going to end soon, though perhaps it will end well.
I am trying to have faith about progress of the human race.
Where this leads me is to truth. Truth can be ugly, but it’s better to see it than to hide it. It’s better to speak it than to lie.
Ernest Hemingway said of his work that as long as he could write one true thing every day, he felt that he was progressing. I am well aware of my privilege and intend to make use of whatever bully pulpit comes of it. It is my intention to write truly. The mot juste. The truth about whatever story or lesson comes my way.