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"My Mile High Adventure,"
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My Mile High Adventure
As we approached the plane we were taking to NY my husband asked if I wanted the center or window seat. Since we had paid for extra leg room, feeling generous, I volunteered to take the center seat. Unless the passenger in the aisle seat was unpleasant or excessively wide, the 2 ½ hour flight from West Palm to NY would be reasonably comfortable. Shortly after we were seated I attacked my crossword puzzles, oblivious to the gentleman on my right. I finished the puzzles 1 ½ hours later, just as the gentleman was closing his shiny new electronic device.
“It’s the new iPad,” he replied, to my inquiry. “I particularly like it for reading books.”
Books, I mentally cheered, fishing in my handbag. After studying the bookmarks I handed him, he had a hundred questions about me and my books. At this stage of my life, I have very few secrets left, allowing me to be utterly candid. And Rick Bleiweiss was an intelligent attentive listener.
I cheerfully disclosed that Forgotten Tales of China, probably the best book I’d written and yet was my worst seller, had taken ten years to write. He actually knew the second of three agents, the man who succeeded in getting the attention of an editor at Putnam Penguin. I shared the excitement I experienced when she called and showered Exceeding Expectations with praise. Prior to going to contract her colleagues had one caveat. They wanted me to change the time frame. (A difficult task moving WWII.) I wasted a year doing rewrites, before this highly respected agent was fired, which resulted in my book being delegated to the Dead Pile.
During our conversation, I learned a little about Rick. He studied Film at NYU. After retiring from the music industry, he moved to Ashland, Oregon, home to the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, a well-known repertory theater. Suddenly finding himself with too much free time, he took a job with an audio company based in Ashland.
As the plane was descending he said, “I plan to look into your books. Is your email address (on the back of my bookmarks) the best way to reach you?
“Yes,” I said, happily thinking that I had a new reader and guaranteed fan.
The following day, in our daughter’s miniscule Manhattan apartment, walled in by mountains of cartons, I sat down to rest and check my email. I had to read Rick Bleiweiss’ note three times. Blackstone Audio was offering me a contract, advance and royalties, for ALL of my books, including work-in-progress, The Second Best Time. Innately suspicious, I checked out Blackstone on the internet. It was possible that the company consisted of two guys working out of a garage. I’m thrilled to say that Blackstone, and the exceedingly modest Rick Bleiweiss, are take it to the bank, bet your rent money, first class genuine articles. (But don’t take my word for it. Google them!)
As of today, Dangerous Lies and Forgotten Tales of China can be purchased as downloads, CD's and MP3 CD's at Downpour.com, Blackstone's subsidiary and most everywhere audios are sold.
(Exceeding Expectations goes on sale March 1st, Paradise Misplaced, April 1st and The Second Best Time, May 1st, 2016.)
And if you’ve been paying attention to well-placed clues, you will have deduced the reason why Ashland, population 20,000, was the ideal location chosen to set an audio company. It has a constant source of professional actors/narrators appearing at the prestigious Oregon Shakespeare Festival repertory theater.
Did I make you smile? Hope so.
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Lisa April Smith is the highly praised author of Dangerous Lies, Exceeding Expectations and Paradise Misplaced, all in the genre she playfully calls “Suspense with Sizzle for Discerning Readers.” Her fourth novel, Forgotten Tales of China, is both new in format and genre for the author, and a logical shift considering her passion for archaeology, anthropology and China. Epic in scope, it skillfully blends scientific data with Smith’s acknowledged gift for storytelling. Reviews are outstanding.
Like other literary late bloomers, Smith grew up in a family of readers and dreamed of becoming an author. But necessity intervened and her formal education came in bits and pieces. Paying her own way through college at 17, she chose to leave two years later when she moved to Boston to put her new husband through graduate school. Later, when she could steal time from raising a family, she enrolled in any class that appealed to her wide range of interests, attending any college within an hour’s drive. Eventually, she received a BA in anthropology/sociology. A few years later, after attaining a degree in computer science she was hired by IBM. Ten years after that, she reluctantly left the company when she and her husband moved to Jupiter, Florida. Too young to retire, the yearning to write awakened and life for Smith forever changed. Combining corporate discipline, life experience and long suppressed creativity, characters and stories poured out.
Malcom Gladwell, in his 2008 article in The New Yorker asks “Why do we equate genius with precocity?” in his article “Late Bloomers” Gladwell says, “The Cézannes of the world bloom late not as a result of some defect in character, or distraction, or lack of ambition, but because the kind of creativity that proceeds through trial and error necessarily takes a long time to come to fruition.” Famous late blooming authors include: Henry Miller, Raymond Chandler, Joseph Conrad, Flora Thompson, Mary Wesley, Marquis de Sade and Laura Ingalls Wilder, who published her first book in her mid-sixties.
In addition to writing, Lisa and her husband support the community they’ve grown to love in a number of ways. As a sought-after speaker and lecturer, Lisa has a hard time refusing any non-profit organization when invited to share her wry wit with enthusiastic audiences. Classes she teaches include: "Building the Book," "Ancient China," and "Noted Late Bloomers." She and He-who-wishes-to-remain-anonymous are volunteer tutors and mentors at the West Jupiter Community Group, which serves at-risk students in grades K-5.
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Excerpts from a recent interview . . .
What’s the best part of being a writer?
Fans who stop me, or write wonderful emails, saying that one of my books kept them up until 1:00, 2:00, or 3:00 in the morning. Which is pretty amazing, since not one my characters gets stalked by international spies.
What do you enjoy doing when you’re not writing?
Spending time with friends and family, sight-seeing (but not the traveling portion), music (as a listener not a performer), visiting museums and making jewelry.
Which is more important in your books – the characters or the plot?
I start with characters and then develop an intricate but believable plot, that will test my protagonists in fresh ways, while remaining true to their personalities. For example, in Exceeding Expectations, I saw Jack Morgan as a living, breathing, complex person with weaknesses and strengths – likeable conman, womanizer and devoted father. So I invented a childhood that could produce those traits. The son of a hard-drinking widower, the youngest of four brothers all reluctantly raised by the sole female in the household, his overworked sister, Jack’s a man who likes being pampered by older women.
If you were writing a book about your life, what would the title be?
“A Work in Progress.”
What is your guilty pleasure?
Definitely, sweets, particularly chocolate. But I also love carrot cake and tiramisu, malted milk balls and funnel cake. So hard to pick just one.
What do you drive?
A sun-beaten ten year old Lexus with 38,000 miles on it. I have zero interest in cars, other than their ability to start, go and whether the AC works. AC is all-important if you live in Florida.
What juicy secret could your kids tell us about you?
Nothing, if they value their inheritance.
Is there any special goal you haven't achieved?
Tons of things. In tennis, for example, I never learned the overhead smash. On the other hand, I’m a legendary lobber. As for personal ambition, no matter how hard I try, I haven’t been able to get above 5’ 4”. But I haven’t given up. My goal is 5’ 8.”
What advice would you give to an aspiring author?
So many people tell me that they want to write or have a fabulous story to tell. What I’ve discovered is that you’re either an author or you’re not. If you have that article, essay, poem or book in you that has to come out, do it. Just don’t expect to make a living at it. It’s a tough business. Art is a tough business, but that didn’t stop Van Gogh or Gauguin.
What's the hardest thing about writing? The easiest?
Hardest first: deleting entire sections that I’ve slaved over for months. Authors sometimes call this “killing your babies.” In the process of writing my first book I estimate deleting 1,000,000 words – ten times the amount in the final book. Easiest and most fun: Talking with fans.
When you’re away from your desk and writing, what do you do to relax?
I love traveling – which we do from time to time, when I can convince He-Who-Wishes-To-Remain-Anonymous to cooperate. However, if you’re talking about everyday activities, I read, play golf, tend to my orchids and ungrateful cactus, visit museums, gab on the phone with my kids and do laundry. While most people consider laundry a chore, I find filling and emptying the washer/drier a satisfying element in my workout program. Ironing? Not so much.
You're abducted to a deserted island. What beauty product will you miss most?
My hair blower and sun block. The sun can ravage your skin.
What do you want readers to take away from your books?
When people tell me that they read one of my books some time ago and one or more of my characters continues to stay with them, I’m thrilled.
We've heard, when a hurricane is expected to hit Palm Beach County, you leave town. Besides the obvious necessities, what do you take with you?
In addition to my husband, who insists on driving, my phone, laptop, and family photographs – the glossy paper kind. People who grew up taking digital photographs probably can’t understand my attachment to paper photographs. But maybe I’m being unfair.
Wouldn’t it make sense to have your photos digitized?
I tried. I removed about a quarter of my photos, a stack twelve inches high, carefully noting what album and the page each came from, and brought them to a studio that copied them to disc. But the studio saw no point in concerning themselves with the sequence. The result was disastrous. Instead of growing, our kids shrank. My grandfather kept popping up 30 years after he had died. It simply required too much time and energy to straighten out the mess.
What book do you wish you wrote?
The Harry Potter series. Name an author who wouldn’t love that kind of success. That lovable wizard inspired millions of kids to read more. Now that’s a fantastic accomplishment.
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