GETTING IT ALL DOWN ON PAPER

In some family businesses, the accounting can be rather slipshod. Many of the figures might be stored in someone’s head, rather than on paper. Or on random slips stuffed in a cigar box. Or even scattered around an office. Maybe it’s just one of the hazards of being your own boss.

In my new novel, What’s Left, her grandfather, Stavros, continued some of that custom, but not nearly as much as his parents and their business partners, who happened to be siblings.

When her uncle Dimitri returns to town with a Masters of Business Administration in hand, he needs to get those numbers in order quickly if there’s to be anything of the restaurant and its investments for his brothers and sisters and himself to inherit. It’s a race with time, even before his parents die in their prime, victims of a late-night car crash.

~*~

From what Nita’s said, I’m sure Dimitri was putting in much less – formally, at least. My guess is that he was always thinking about our venture, and many of the social events he attended were primarily for schmoozing. I’d ask Barney, if he’d only answer his phone. And these days, whenever I run into him somewhere, I feel the brush-off. As for knocking on his door? Not as things stand now. Oh, well, maybe someday.

~*~

Maybe we’ll always have things we’re supposed to do but shrug off all the same. Put them aside, unfinished. Simply ignored them. And then there are the emotional blowups. (I’ve been accused of being stuck at age 14 or 17 on that front. What’s wrong with that?)

Have you ever wanted the adults in your life to be, well, more grown up? Like even answering your questions?

~*~

 

In my novel, the family restaurant could have been like this.

Miss Mendon diner, Worcester, Massachusetts, by Liz West, Boxborough, Massachusetts, via Wikimedia Commons.
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FAMILY IS MUCH MORE THAN BLOOD AND FLESH ALONE

One thing her great-grandparents Ilias and Maria introduce to my new novel, What’s Left, is the acknowledgement of how much of the family’s business success results from the members who’ve joined in freely, rather than been born into its tree.

Their daughter, Bella, certainly reinforces the triumph, as do Graham, Pia, Yin, and Cassia’s father a generation later.

So where will it go from there? Is there even really room for more? What if the new members don’t get along?

~*~

In recent years I learned that my own family history would have been much different if two of the wives had not conflicted with each other. Do you know of similar discord?

At one point, Cassia admits being a bit jealous of her brothers’ girlfriends. Have you ever felt the same?

~*~

Veiled head for insertion in a female statue. The nose, the back of the head, and a section near the right ear were affixed. Marble. 2nd century BCE. Archaeological Museum of Rhodes. (Photo by Jebulon via Wikimedia Commons.)

Cassia’s roots included inspiration like this.

LOOKING FOR TRUE HOME

In “Golden Age of Grease,” the second chapter of my new novel, What’s Left, I compress a background history of three generations that lead up to Cassia herself. Thanks to her father’s collected photographs and her aunt Nita’s guidance, she and her best friend forever, cousin Sandra, get a sense of what so attracted him to the entire family. What he saw when he arrived was his vision of an ideal hippie commune working around Carmichael’s, their landmark restaurant. Man, was he in for a surprise!

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THERE ARE GOOD REASONS I KEEP STICKING WITH NITA

Nita Zapitapoulos is a special character for me. Long before she becomes Cassia’s aunt, in my new novel What’s Left, she appears in all four of my Hippie Trails volumes as a guardian angel and colleague for Cassia’s future father. She also appears obliquely in notes to my Hometown News novel as a journalism professor.

The character was loosely inspired by a sidekick’s descriptions of the girlfriend he’d come to visit. I may have even met her at the time, although I’ll confess she wasn’t of Greek descent at all. I wish I still had the letters with his lavish descriptions of what so attracted him in his whirlwind adventures. She and I may have even passed each other in the same newsroom while working in different departments; I, though, have never been a photojournalist.

A few years ago, far from where all this took place, a mental connection flashed for me during a conversation after a committee session. “Did you know …?” Yes, she remembered him. We’d both lost contact with him decades ago.

In real life, she’s quite different from the impressions that prompted my fictional character. Still, from everything I see now, I’d say they’re both pretty amazing.

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WHERE’S DADDY?

In my newest novel, What’s Left, the common image of a nuclear family is punctured when her father vanishes in an avalanche halfway around the globe when she’s 11. Daddy’s no longer present in the family picture. Only her mother, two older brothers, and Cassia herself. (Plus her aunts, uncles, and close cousins, who completely alter the picture.)

Her obsession to rediscover him brings her face to face with much more than her loss.

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WE HAVE TO BEGIN SOMEWHERE

In picking up on the ending of my first published novel as the starting point for my most recent work, 50 years later, I’m given a foundation to build on. There’s a set of central characters (five siblings plus our hippie-boy) within existing situations (the tragic car crash, the restaurant, the campus). Can you also see this as presenting a larger puzzle to work out? How many more pieces will be required? Just how big will it be? Will it really fit on our table?

There’s also a backstory, one that can’t be ignored even when the new book is expected to stand on its own rather than as a sequel. In this case, a backstory with parts I feel need to be downplayed or softened. After all, some of it’s downright embarrassing! Go take a trip with Subway Hitchhikers if you want to know why.

Still, one thing that pleases me with my new novel is how much of that past recedes into the background. This is the daughter’s struggle, after all, years later. What’s Left is ultimately about what’s happening with her as she relates it, even when she’s looking at old photographs or asking questions. Here she makes her debut as an 11-year-old when her father vanishes and moves forward.

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AND NOW, FOR A COVER!

Thanks to everyone who responded to my earlier invitation for comments regarding a few possible covers for my newest novel.

The survey ended in mixed results and prompted some heated in-house discussion, ultimately sending me back to the drawing board for a more compelling design.

Just what do we want as a cover, anyway? Are people’s faces a help or a distraction? Does a jacket work best if it somehow reflects a scene in the story, as my earlier mock-ups attempted to suggest? Or is reaching for a less constrained, emotional reaction more effective?

What’s Left

As you see, I’ve opted for the later. Here the image invokes a sense of being broken out from a protected shell and falling through space. It’s also appropriate for a family that owns a restaurant – food being a theme running throughout the story. Will this cover encourage a browser to open the book to discover, in effect, just what happens to the yolk? Where it will land?

That, of course, is my goal. To see if it fits, go to Smashwords, where you can order your own Advance Reading Copy for free. The offer will expire after 90 days, when the first edition comes out at $4.95, so act now.

Your early reactions will be most welcome in preparing for that release.