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Tag Archives: Tammy Robinson

Photos of You

When I started my own blogging, writing, indie publishing journey here on WordPress, I got to know a range of other bloggers and writers. A lot of whom were pursuing their own publishing dreams. One of my favorites over the years has been Tammy Robinson.

In 2013, she published her first book. Charlie and Pearl. It’s a tear-jerking story of love and loss. Once I read that story, I was absolutely hooked on what Tammy does even though, as I like to joke with Tammy, I am most certainly not the target audience for her stories. Cause you know, men aren’t supposed to like tear-jerkers. But the thing is, Tammy writes stories that create such a connection, such a feeling for the characters. Every story she has published is something that has left me both shaken and rejoicing by the end.

Over the years since Charlie and Pearl was released, Tammy independently published a few more books and eventually won herself a publishing contract with Hachette. The first book Hachette published was Differently Normal. The second was Photos of You, which was recently published in the United States.

Tammy lives in New Zealand, where the book was published first and it has ever so slowly moved across the globe, published in Australia, throughout Europe and, finally, landing on American shores earlier this month. It’s a book I’ve been waiting for, not so patiently, for more than a year.

I finished Photos of You last night and, once again, Tammy has done it. The book tells the story of Ava Green, a young woman who was diagnosed with breast cancer and beat it, only to be diagnosed with terminal cancer a few years later. She has barely begun to live her life before she receives this fatal diagnosis. Having spent her life imagining her wedding, she decides to have a wedding before she dies. Whether or not there is a groom involved. One thing leads to another and she meets the man of her dreams, and I’ll leave the story details right there. No spoilers here, but …

Here’s the thing. Once you’ve read a couple of Tammy’s books, you’ll know what’s coming. There aren’t necessarily any surprises. And on some level, that’s what makes her writing and her tales so incredible. Even though you know what’s coming, she draws characters and fills them with thoughts and feelings and experiences in a way that you can’t help but be sucked into their lives, and feel something for them while reading. When the inevitable ending comes, even though you knew what it was going to be, you can’t help but feel something deeply about the whole thing.

And this is what I feel when I read Tammy’s stories, including Photos of You. If you’re looking for the “happy ending,” you won’t find it with Photos of You, or just about anything else Tammy has put out there. What you will get though is real life, and characters who experience that life and still find something that we are all looking for before the end inevitably comes.

That is what I love about Tammy’s books and what brings me to tears whenever I have the good fortune to read her work. There is happiness in sadness and good things that happen even in the darkest of days.

Tammy — I hope you read this. You’ve once again written an incredible story that has left me in tears, but filled with hope. Don’t ever stop doing what you do.

On Books and Beer

I was sitting there having a beer, doing what I do. I had a book. Actually, I had three books. The only problem is that none of them were the book I was actually supposed to be reading.

Weeks earlier, I had bought six books in preparation for a trip to Arizona for Spring Training. Since then I worked my way through five books — all of which were interesting, compelling, and worth the read. Then I got to the sixth book.

We were in Santa Cruz for a few days of ocean, sunsets, and relaxation. The Queen Midget and I. I had that sixth book and I was gonna get it done.  Imagine Me Gone.  I was trying, but I was struggling. Then on Friday, we did the thing. The one she likes to do. We walked through downtown Santa Cruz, where there are lots of shops. Antiques and clothing stores.  And shoe stores.  Oh my!

We walked through one and afterwards my wife asked me about something she saw in the store. I mentioned that it may look like I’m looking at things in those stores, but, no, I’m actually not. It’s pretty much close to torture for me, this thing.

But at one point we walked by a book store. “You wanna go in?” she asked.  “Sure,” I replied. I knew what would happen. 20 minutes later, I walked out with three books, after finding about 8,763 books I would have liked to buy. When I was ready to check out and found my wife, I showed her books.  “I see,” she said.  “What? You know what happens if I’m gonna go in a book store,” I replied.

Even though I had bought Imagine Me Gone with us on this little side trip to downtown Santa Cruz, I left it in the car because I decided to try to do the walking/shopping thing with her instead of what I normally do. Which is this. “Oh look, a bar. I’ll go have a beer while you walk around.” She’s patient with me and says “okay.”

I had my three books, but we had plenty more walking to do. I went with her. I avoided the bars and restaurants and walked the streets and went into the stores. Until I could no more.

“I’m gonna go over to 99 Bottles now and have a beer.” We were going to meet my nephew there for dinner in a little bit. I thought I could have a beer and then hold a table in case the place got crowded. “Okay,” she replied.

I settled in at the bar. 99 Bottles pretty much describes the place’s approach to beer. It has at least 99 different options in the carbonated alcoholic beverage category.  Probably about 20-30 on tap and the rest in bottles. I ordered something and looked at my bag of three books. I pulled one out and started reading. The Revenant, which Leonardo DiCaprio recently starred in a movie adaptation of.

I read the first chapter. It’s short. And then set the book to the side. I talked a little bit with a guy sitting to my left. And then another guy pulled out the stool to my right. He pulled out a tattered piece of paper with all sorts of numbers and many of them checked off. “Let’s see,” he said to the bartender, “I think I’ll start with 47.”

The paper represented 99 Bottles ultimate challenge — to drink every one of the beers they have to offer. Check the number off each time and achieve fame on the walls of the bar. There are some people who have completed that little challenge more than 50 times. One or two have done it 70 or 80 times. Think about that. Do the math.

Judging from his paper, the guy to my right was about two thirds of the way through it.

We’re sitting there. Me, with The Revenant in front of me. Guy to my left who talked about history and how much he loved it and said something I thought meant he was a history teacher, prompting me to think that I should talk to my un-motivated older son who likes history to see if maybe he had thought about being a history teacher.  But later guy on the left revealed that it was his dad who was a history teacher. Guy on the left was, in fact, a long distance truck driver.

And guy to my right, with his beer-drinking challenge, who suddenly asked me, “How’s the book?”

To which I replied with a chuckle, “I don’t know yet, I just started it. Only finished the first chapter, but I’ll let you know once I read more.” Wink, wink. I then told him what the book was about — a true story about a man in the early 1800s who was attacked by a bear and left for dead by the trappers he had been with and who then crawled out of the wilderness to revenge their treachery. And as I finished this summary, I said, “And the first chapter ends with him beginning to crawl.”

I knew what I had to do when we got back to our room after dinner with the nephew. Go back to Imagine Me Gone. I was committed to the book, having got about halfway through. I read a bit more that night, but it was hopeless.

This is all a long way to explain why I never got to the 6th book in my Spring Training series. The next day, I moved on to The Revenant, because it seemed to promise something far more interesting and compelling. That promise was fulfilled. It’s a stunning story of survival and revenge. I highly recommend it. I won’t say more about it. Just go read the book.

Now, I have to decide whether to go back to Imagine Me Gone.

Truth is, I read another book in the in between. Differently Normal by Tammy Robinson. It’s a short, quick, easy read. She’s a self-published author I discovered through the WordPress blogosphere and my own self-publishing efforts. I love her stories and Differently Normal is no exception. She writes modern day fairy tales of two people finding companionship and love when they weren’t looking for it and weren’t expecting it. And frequently, rather than living happily ever after, Tammy is willing to give the reader an unhappy, bitterly sad ending and I give her great credit for that.

But now … it’s time to decide whether to go back to that other book. Or give up.

I’ll let you know what I decide.

Maybe It’s the Unanticipated Things

I got my quiet morning hours in.  Wrote 500 words on a new short story that I realized may just blossom into a very long short or maybe a novella.  It’s turning into something I’m enjoying writing because it doesn’t have the weight of my works in progress.  It’s a bit of a lark instead of a serious tale.  I may decide to post the first two thousand words below.  Or maybe not.

But, as the title says … the unanticipated things of this first day of my weekend far outshine the anticipated.

The youngest Princely Midget is going to Winter Homecoming with his girlfriend tonight.  Last night, he asked me what I was making for dinner tonight.  I told him I didn’t know.  See, I thought he and his girl were going out to dinner with some other friends.   With the older Princely Midget out tonight as well, I expected a quiet night at home or maybe a dinner out. Apparently, plans can change.  She came over for dinner and it was just the two of them.  Cue the violinist etching out a romantic tune in the corner.

“I’ll make whatever you want,” I told him.

“Can you make brown butter and mizithra?” he asked.

He loves this dish at Spaghetti Factory, which is another story for another time.  I detest the place as it represents the worst example of the Americanization of an ethnic food.  He’s my buddy, though, my bumble bee (another story for another day), and sometimes I gotta do what I gotta do.  After I sighed, I said, “Of course,” and I began planning the meal — a dish I had never made before.

In the meantime, as mentioned above, I got in some of my Saturday morning anticipateds, and a few unanticipateds.

My brother, who will turn 54 this year, was diagnosed with diabetes when he was 18.  He is now, very possibly, the healthiest 53-year-old diabetic there is in the world.  When he received his diagnosis he changed his life, becoming a fitness nut, devoted to exercise and outdoor adventures.  He backpacks and snowshoes and does crazy things like bicycle double centuries.  That’s 200 miles in a day, folks.  And for a few years, he made efforts to complete the Furnace Creek 508 — a September “race” in Death Valley that requires its competitors to bicycle 508 miles in 48 hours.  Here’s his story of those efforts.

He has decided to do the thing again.  As a result, he needs to train for it, and he needs a back-up bicycle, which is where I come in.  At the end of this month, he’s going to spend five days bicycling somewhere, putting some miles in and starting the long slog towards a September weekend when he will once again try to conquer 508 miles.  I have a bike that he loves and I hardly ride it at all because … insert whine here … it’s just not as convenient as running.

As I’ve struggled with my groin injury and my inability to run, I’ve known for a year now that bicycling would not be a problem.  I’ve tried and failed to get back into it.  Since the first of the year, weather willing, I have told myself ever week to get out there on the weekend and just start with a short ride.  In other words, to get back up on the horse.  I’ve always found reasons not to do it.

This morning my brother came over to check out my bike to make sure it was still in good condition and worthy of his efforts.  As we talked, I discussed my need to get back on the thing and get some riding in and then I gave him all the reasons I felt I couldn’t.  I need to spend time writing, my carpal tunnel syndrome in both wrists and how I’m not sure how holding the handle bars over a long bike ride will impact that.  Whine, whine, whine.

He left and I went back in the house.  I started putting together the grocery list, planning lunch and the ensuing nap, and thinking about how I would fit writing and blogging into an afternoon of cooking for my kid.  And then I realized something.  I had time for a bike ride.  No, not the two hour ride I wish I could do( but, in all honesty, really shouldn’t be doing at this point), but a 45-minute jaunt around the neighborhood.  Eleven miles later I was done.  And I realized something — I can treat bicycling as I did running.  When I was running, as long as I wasn’t training for a half marathon, I was happy with 3-5 miles, 30-45 minutes, several times a week.  I need to set my cycling sights the same.  Several 45-60 minute rides each week, with a weekend two-hour ride on the bike trail or along country roads, will get me back into some kind of reasonable physical condition.

And here’s where Eeyore steps in.  Ever since I got off the bike I’ve been barely able to walk.  My right knee has stiffened up massively and I have no absolutely idea why.  I’ve actually seen the doctor about my knee and the response was “don’t know, there’s nothing wrong, it’s just one of those things.”  There are times like this when I feel like my body has failed me and is in an irreversible decline.  Groin injury.  Check.  Plantar fascitis.  Check.  Carpal tunnel syndrome.  Check.  Tennis elbow.  Check.  Problem in the c-4 or c-5 vertebrae that sends pain signals to my shoulders and chest.  Check.  What’s next?  Yeah, the knee from a simple, unchallenging 45 minute bike ride.  Is there any body part left for me to injure?

I remain undaunted, however.  I now need to figure how to fit a couple of these rides into my week day schedule when the sun is dropping just a bit too early.

Bike ride over, I shopped, I ate lunch, I retired to my room for my nap.  The one that didn’t happen because I picked up my Kindle to read a little more of the novel I was reading.  Charlie and Pearl by Tammy Robinson.  I will write more about this later and post a link to her blog, but my nap went unslept because of this story.  It was one of those truly remarkable pieces of fiction that I needed to read to its end and when I got there, the idea of closing my eyes and sleeping seemed impossible.

So, I got up, did a few things on-line.  Did you know that people apparently don’t buy as many books on Saturdays as they do during the week?  My sales are down dramatically today from yesterday, but my rankings haven’t slipped that much.

Around 3:00 I started making dinner.  On one working leg.  Three hours and a few beers later dinner was served.

It began with making the dough for Parker House Rolls.  I found the recipe in Bon Appetit a few months ago and they have quickly become the favored bread in Midget land.  Maybe it’s the Crisco in the dough, the cup or so of melted butter that finds its way brushed onto the rolls at various stages, or the sea salt sprinkled on top before baking.  Here the rolls are before going in the fridge to be chilled before baking.

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And here’s the finished product.

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In between, I needed to make the pasta.  No store bought spaghetti for the Princely Midget and his girl.

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A few eggs, some olive oil, a little bit of water, flour and you’ve got your pasta.

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Homemade fettucini with brown butter and mizithra.  I asked the kids if I could sprinkle parsley on it just to give it some color.  Absolutely not.

Included with the dinner was caesar salad with homemade dressing, and salmon.

And through the three hours of preparation, I listened to this fabulous voice.  How the hell is she only sixteen?

So, there you have it.  My anticipateds for today didn’t all come to pass.  Instead they were replaced by things I didn’t know would happen that were far better.  A novel I finished reading that brought me to tears several times (it’s been far too long since I’ve cried in the reading of a story) and left me stunned with its elegant simplicity, a newfound story that may find space to grow in the days and weeks ahead that I’m excited to try to write, a short bike ride that told me it can be done, a new voice that fills my head with an incredible sound, lyrics and presence, and a meal I loved to prepare for two special people … oh yeah … here’s the happy couple…

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And, no, they don’t normally dress as cowboys.  Those going to the dance were supposed to go in matching outfits.  So, cowboy and cowgirl it was.

It’s been a good day.  Tomorrow will be better.

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