You know, 2016, you could have stopped at Prince’s death. On the heels of losing David Bowie, that was more than enough suckfulness for one year.
Nobody likes an overachiever.
But overachieve you did. Shamelessly. The hits just kept on coming. I won’t recount them, because we’re all overly familiar with the details. And then, you just couldn’t resist a couple last sucker punches on the way out the door: You had to take George Michael and Carrie Fisher, too, and then give it some finesse by having Fisher’s mother, Debbie Reynolds die in a fog of grief the day after her daughter.
If 2016 had an official mascot, it’d be the poop emoji. Yes, a huge, stinking mountain of feces. That said, for me personally, I was able to pluck two diamonds from the steaming pile of 2016. One was getting a horse. The other was publishing a book.
It was June when the Horse of My Dreams appeared in my life, through absolutely no effort of my own. I wasn’t actively looking for one, and in fact had filed the notion of owning a horse again under “Impossible and/or Insane,” right after snow skiing. But, for whatever reason, the Universe brought Pendragon and I together. We were meant to be.
I realized this while listening to an audiobook of Paul Coelho’s “The Alchemist” on a long solo drive last summer (something I recommend highly — the book and the drive). One part in particular was the epiphany. In the book, our hero — “the boy” — finds his true love as a result of a bizarre string of unusual circumstances, and no sooner does he find her than he is forced to leave her. But, he will be back, he reassures her, “because the entire universe conspired to help me find you.”
Me and Penn. We were brought together because the entire universe conspired for it to happen — just as it did to bring my husband (also known as “The Cutest Man in the World” for those who’ve been playing along over the years) and me together, because there’s no logical or rational explanation. He and I shouldn’t even know of each other’s existence, let alone be married.
The Universe did it.
That said, the Universe does not get the credit for publishing “Cats, Dogs, and Other Things That Poop in the Yard.” Nope, I powered through the bulk of that work myself because, frankly, I’m simply too OCD to let anyone else do it. S/he might put an apostrophe in the wrong place and then the whole thing will be ruined.
This is iPinion Syndicate’s second anthology, much bigger and beefier than the first, “Belly Shame — Stories from the Gut,” which was mostly an experiment to see if I could actually finish something longer than my weekly 1,000 words. Turns out, I can. I finally got over the “I can’t finish anything” hump. I’ll throw you that one bone, 2016.
“Cats, Dogs, and Other Things That Poop in the Yard” is a collection of stories about our furry friends, ranging the entire spectrum of emotions, from humor to grief, written by iPinion Syndicate contributors, including myself. You can find it, and us, at the Avid Reader on Friday, Feb. 3, 7-8:30 p.m.
The book is currently available exclusively at The Avid Reader, because CreateSpace (which is part of Amazon) finally became bookstore-friendly and now lets private bookstores purchase books at a reduced price. That’s great news, because when I attended a self-publishing workshop two years ago, one criticism of CreateSpace was that private booksellers won’t carry their titles because the books were only available on Amazon, the Death Star of independent bookstores.
Sounds like CreateSpace/Amazon wised up and realized that the more books they sell, regardless of where, the more everyone benefits. Awesome. When I was exploring the publishing frontier, there were two main choices: self-publish quickly and easily on CreateSpace, and keep a healthy chunk of the profit but be shunned by independent booksellers, or choose the conventional publishing route and die on the vine waiting and hoping to get noticed and, once published, reap about 7 cents on the dollar.
Me, I’m impatient and stingy. I went to the Dark Side because waiting around for a publishing house to accept you is a lot like waiting to be asked to dance at the high school prom, and I didn’t like it then, and I don’t like it now, and screw it, I can just dance by myself now. That said, I’m thrilled that you can publish on CreateSpace and still work with independent bookstores.
Speaking of bookstores — get out there and support them, people, before they go away too!
Besides getting your copy of “Cats, Dogs, and Other Things That Poop in the Yard” — get yourself an audiobook of “The Alchemist,” even if you’ve already read it. It’s narrated by Jeremy Irons, and the story sounds ever so much richer and silkier when spoken in his voice rather than the one in your own head. That’s my little gem for 2017, just in case it’s even darker and uglier than 2016 (quite a feat, given that the bar’s been set very high) — a little “Alchemist” wisdom to keep in your pocket:
* “Everyone believes the world’s greatest lie…” says the mysterious old man.
“What is the world’s greatest lie?” the little boy asks.
The old man replies, “It’s this: that at a certain point in our lives, we lose control of what’s happening to us, and our lives become controlled by fate. That’s the world’s greatest lie.”
* “The boy and his heart had become friends, and neither was capable now of betraying the other.”
* “He learned the most important part of the language that all the world spoke — the language that everyone on earth was capable of understanding in their heart. It was love.”
― Paulo Coelho, “The Alchemist”
Don’t believe the lie. Don’t betray your heart. Learn to speak the language.
Wishing you all good things in 2017.
— Email Debra DeAngelo at email@example.com; read more of her work at www.wintersexpress.com and www.ipinionsyndicate.com