Tag Archives: Susan Surman

Excerpt From “West Palm Gig” by Susan Surman

Amid swaying palm trees, lush gardens, and the blue ocean, Valeska Bernhart, a faded Hollywood film star; Glick Glickman, a has-been Broadway impresario; and Jon Sullivan, an out-of-work New York actor, meet at West Palm Acres, a retirement community in West Palm Beach, Florida, and reinvent themselves for a new chance at hilarious happiness.

EXCERPT:

“Mister Goldberg, it’s time to take your pill,” Jon shouted through the dark green steel door. 4-G.The brass nameplate readHarry Goldberg andOscar Shapiro. Getting no response, Jon knocked on the door. Not so much a knock knock, but rather a light rap. Still getting no response, he banged three times with a closed fist before shouting out the next directive: “Mister Shapiro, it’s time to take your pill.” Jon waited. Pressing the bell would have been easier, but it was an absolute last resort. Something to do with the shrill sound of the buzzer startling the folks with sensitive ears; maybe faulty hearing aids. A hand knock, then the brass knocker only if necessary. No bell. He didn’t question the direction. Per his training, he did as he was told.

So far, his first day on the job at the place was going satisfactorily. Actually, he didn’t know if it was going satisfactorily or not, never having been a medical clown before. No one in management knew if it was going well or not. The launch of a new experiment to remind residents to take their medications would take time to assess. It wasn’t so much the reminder, but the take on it. Medical clown was a good description.

New York based actor Jon Sullivan was standing in the fourth floor hallway or, as the residents labeled it, ‘the penthouse,’ of Building G at West Palm Acres in West Palm Beach, one of Florida’s premier retirement communities and he was dressed in a costume knocking on doors reminding residents to take their pills. A clown costume. Jon Sullivan. Never say never in life because this was something he would have said would never happen to him.

The décor had a dizzying effect; repelling, yet, he had to admit, strangely attractive. It was the same on all the floors. The walls were papered in floral prints of bright shades of emerald green, orange, yellow, and varying shades of purple to blend in, more or less, with the varied color of the doors. The floors were covered in a thin carpet of a pattern in corresponding colors. Only in Florida. Jon learned that the wallpaper would soon be replaced by a simpler pattern of swaying palm trees on a white background. Nice. He also learned this was a rumor started and spread around for many years by a longstanding resident.

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Boston-born Susan Surman lived abroad for over twenty years in London and Sydney as an actress and playwright (Gracie Luck / Susan Kramer), performing on stage, radio, and TV. Author of Dancing at all the Weddings, Max and Friends, Sacha: The Dog Who Made it to the Palace, and numerous short stories, she lives in North Carolina where she is working on her new novel.

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Interview with Susan Surman, Author of Dancing at all the Weddings

What is your book about?

Vivacious and talented Elaine Richman is faced with choices: A risky life in the New York theatre; an exciting life with college sweetheart, actor/director Jake Applebaum in Hollywood; a secure life in Boston with predictable lawyer David Alter, the match anointed by her domineering mother because ‘he’s the kind you marry.’ On the way to a dream, it is possible to collide with another dream’s seduction, only to learn there is no fulfillment on the path to safety. Elaine goes through the wringer to meet herself, proving there is no expiration date on talent or true love.

How long had the idea been developing before you wrote it?

I had an idea for a short story – this was maybe 4 years before I expanded it –

The character was the same, but had a different name, etc. Title: Where in the World is Mary Reynolds? I invited an audience to a reading to get some feedback. There were 35 people there at Altair Casting Agency Studio in Winston-Salem. I knew it was the germ for something more which had to be developed. That story actually is in the book – it covers several chapters.

Why this particular story?

Ernest Hemingway said you must write what is burning up inside. I knew the theatre from the inside; I had been writing novellas; it was time to write a full-length novel. I had so much to put into this book from personal experiences. (Only the names have been changed to protect the innocence, as the saying goes)

How much of you is hidden in the characters?

For those people who know me well, not so hidden. It’s the same with all my writing. I have no imagination. Why invent when all I have to do is remember? Born in Boston, I moved to London, then Sydney, as an actress and writer as Susan Kramer or Gracie Luck. I traveled the world, returned to the US – what I’ve done really with all my books is fictionalized fact.

How long did it take to write Dancing at all the Weddings?

This particular book took about 2 years – I kept expanding. And it just wasn’t finished until it was finished. I had to let it go. That’s it. You just have to let all these people you’ve invented go out and live their own lives by getting out there……

What did you do for research?

I use a lot of the places I’ve been, but to be sure I had updated information, I had to research – online; magazines; talking to people. For example, I don’t know anything about small private aircraft, so I found the person online who owns and sells what I was writing about. We communicated and I had my answers. Mostly, I was really writing what I knew about and one of the main male characters is based solely on a real person. Perhaps the novel depicts the way I would have liked it to turn out with him. That’s why it’s called ‘romance.’ It can be anything you like. Romance, I mean.

What was your technique to stay on track and develop your story?

It was very hard to keep track of the ages. I’d never done anything like this before. One year was usually my time frame. This book spans 28 years. I had to go back to the 1970’s. I kept lots and lots of notes. As math isn’t my strong suit, it wasn’t easy figuring out their ages at any given time, but I did it. I worked backwards with ages and found it the best way to do it. I went over and over it.

Since writing your first book, what has changed?

That was ten, twelve years ago. My first book, Max and Friends, was anthropomorphic for children of all ages; the second book, Sacha:The Dog Who Made It To the Palace, also anthropomorphic, but for adults. I needed to keep going. I needed to keep writing to find out what else I could write. A lot has changed since then. Now I’m introduced as the author or the writer – I guess with the fifth novel coming out, you earn the title. I like that. People treat you differently when they hear you are a writer. It was like being an actress in Europe. You get to the head of the line in restaurants. That type of thing. A little side story about Sacha. He was my dog in London. When I left, I had to leave him. My friend happened to be the florist to the Royal family. She would take Sacha with her. One day the Queen Mother looked out the Palace window, saw the dog in the van and told my friend to bring him in. And that’s where Sacha spent his mornings for a long time. I wrote to Queen Elizabeth that I would be in London (2004) and would like to deliver a copy of the book. It was affirmed I was to enter by the side of Buckingham Palace via the staff entrance. A few weeks later, I got a letter thanking me for the book and saying Her Majesty was most interested in the inspiration for the book about my little dog.

What is the most difficult part of the writing process?

The idea. Coming up with the idea. Then the doing of it. Finding the word; then finding the exact word to describe what you mean. Writing is intellectual prison. I’ll do anything NOT to do it; then once I begin, I can’t do anything else. When in the creative mode of the work, I say ‘no’ to a lot of social invitations. This is very hard because I’m basically a gregarious person.

Does writing come easy?

Sometimes; usually not. But you keep going. It has to become an obsession. You become addicted to your own words. And it flows.

Where do you keep future ideas? Computer? Notebooks? Pieces of paper?

I’ve lots of notebooks with ideas. Big notebooks; little notebooks. And scraps of paper. Will I ever get to them? Who knows? Maybe just one sentence from something looms, and I’ll use it, once I can find it.

What is the best writing advice you ever got?

Stop writing on your Brother Electronic typewriter and buy a computer. The best writing advice was from author, screenwriter, Joe Schrank. When I first started writing or rather ‘thinking’ I was going to write, I didn’t really know how to do it. He told me, because he liked the title: “If you don’t do something with it, I’m going to do it.” I didn’t like that, so I got busy. He also said, “Put aside 2 hours a day to start. That’s all. Clear everything off the desk, and just do it.” I did. By the way, the title rarely came first after that time. Usually, there’s a provisional title and then after the work is finished or nearly finished, the real title comes to me.

What is the first story you remember writing?

I remember the first story – I was 13; 1953. I don’t remember what grade I was in. I still have it. I got an A minus. “The Will to Dance.” I don’t know where it came from because it’s about a ballet dancer. I’m not a ballet dancer. Anyway, I actually used it in my Sacha book! So nothing is wasted.

What other books have you written?

Max and Sacha, of course, and The Australian Featherweight; The Noble Thing. Plays: George; In Between.

What last words would you leave?

I think you mean literally the last words and not the last words of this interview. In my book, Dancing at all the Weddings, my main character is at her mother’s side as she is dying. Mother’s last words to her daughter: “If you use a public toilet, remember to hover.” My last words will be: Stay curious.

Click here to read the first chapter of: Dancing at all the Weddings

Click here to read an excerpt of: Dancing at all the Weddings

Click here for an interview with: Elaine Richman, Heroine of Dancing at all the Weddings

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Contests, Contests, Contests!!!

Contest! To celebrate the release of Noah Baird’s new book, Donations to Clarity, he is hosting a contest to name a character in his book and to come up with a name for a really bad 80’s rock band! Click here for rules and further information: Don’t Read This Buhlog.

Contest! To celebrate the release of Susan Surman’s new book, Dancing at all the Weddings, she is hosting a writing contest, “A Healthy Divorce.” Please write a very short story or a real life anecdote about a healthy divorce — if there is such a thing! Click here for rules and further information: A Healthy Divorce Contest.

Contest! To celebrate the release of Calvin Davis’ new novel, The Phantom Lady of Paris, he is sponsoring a contest. All you have to do is tell us in 50 words or less what is the most memorable thing that ever happened to you in your life. Click here for the rules and further information about: The Most Memorable Thing that Ever Happened to You Contest.

Contest! Dellani Oakes’ new novel, Lone Wolf is set in the year 3032. To celebrate the release of Lone Wolf, Dellani is sponsoring a contest. All you have to do is answer these questions: What do you think will be the best thing in the future? What will be the worst thing? Click here for the rules and further information about: The Best and the Worst of the Far Future Contest.

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Celebrate Our New Releases with Contests, a Giveaway, and Lots of Fun!

Contest! To celebrate the release of Susan Surman’s new book, Dancing at all the Weddings, she is hosting a writing contest, “A Healthy Divorce.” Please write a very short story or a real life anecdote (no more than 500 words) about a healthy divorce — if there is such a thing! Click here for rules and further information: A Healthy Divorce Contest.

Contest! Dellani Oakes’ new novel, Lone Wolf is set in the year 3032. To celebrate the release of Lone Wolf, Dellani is sponsoring a contest. All you have to do is answer these questions: What do you think will be the best thing in the future? What will be the worst thing? Click here for the rules and further information about: The Best and the Worst of the Far Future Contest.

Contest! To celebrate the release of Calvin Davis’ new novel, The Phantom Lady of Paris, he is sponsoring a contest. All you have to do is tell us in 50 words or less what is the most memorable thing that ever happened to you in your life. Click here for the rules and further information about: The Most Memorable Thing that Ever Happened to You Contest.

Giveaway! Please leave a comment on this blog telling us which of our four new releases you’d like to read, and four lucky people will win a coupon for a free download of the book they chose. Giveaway ends September 15, 2011.

Fun! Click on any of the following cover photos to find a wonderful surprise.

New Releases:

Dancing at all the Weddings: Vivacious and talented Elaine Richman is faced with choices: A risky life in the New York theatre; an exciting life with college sweetheart, actor/director Jake Applebaum in Hollywood; a secure life in Boston with predictable lawyer David Alter, the match anointed by her domineering mother because ‘he’s the kind you marry.’ On the way to a dream, it is possible to collide with another dream’s seduction, only to learn there is no fulfillment on the path to safety. Elaine goes through the wringer to meet herself, proving there is no expiration date on talent or true love.

Click here to read the first chapter of: Dancing at all the Weddings by Susan Surman

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Lone Wolf: The year is 3032 and mankind has expanded far beyond Earth’s galaxy. Matilda Dulac is a member of the Galactic Mining Guild. With her lover, Marc Slatterly, she works in a small mining ship in deep space. Their well ordered life if suddenly thrown into chaos when one miner arrives with a load of Trimagnite, a highly toxic liquid ore. Enter the Lone Wolf. Wil VanLipsig, known as the Lone Wolf, arrives to take the Trigmagnite off their hands. Is it a coincidence for him to show up on Marc’s ship years after Marc thought he’d killed Wil? Or is this the beginning of something far more insidious? Lone Wolf is the first book in a new science fiction series by Dellani Oakes.

Click here to read the first chapter of: Lone Wolf by Dellani Oakes

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Donations to Clarity: The plan was simple: hoax Bigfoot, then sell tours to Bigfoot enthusiasts. The plan wasn’t brilliant, and neither were Harry, Earl, and Patch. The three chemical-abusing friends only wanted to avoid the 9 to 5 rat race, but their antics attract the attention of a real Bigfoot. When the misogynistic Earl is mistaken for a female Bigfoot by the nearsighted creature and captured; it is just the beginning of their problems.

Between bong hits and water balloon fights, Harry and Patch come up with a plan to save Earl and the lovestruck Bigfoot. Where do you hide a giant, mythical creature? In an insane asylum, because who is going to listen to them?

Click here to read the first chapter of: Donations to Clarity by Noah Baird .

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The Phantom Lady of Paris: In 1968, a year of worldwide explosive protests, Paul Lasser, an American educator, ventures to Paris on sabbatical to write a novel. There he encounters the mysterious “Phantom Lady of Paris.” Though cordial, she conceals a shadowy past that will change Paul’s life forever, a secret history which unfolds amid a backdrop of café bombings, Sorbonne student riots and the drug overdose death of an American “flower child.” But in spite of these events, there blossoms a soulful relationship between the American educator and the walking enigma, The Phantom Lady, all taking place in the metropolis for lovers and dreamers…Paris.

Click here to read the first chapter of: The Phantom Lady of Paris by Calvin Davis

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Thank you!! We hope you enjoyed celebrating the release of these four wonderful books.

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Contest — “A Healthy Divorce”

To celebrate the release of Susan Surman’s new book, Dancing at all the Weddings, she is hosting a writing contest, “A Healthy Divorce.” Please write a short story or a real life anecdote (no more than 500 words) about a healthy divorce — to help you think of a subject, here are the stages of a healthy divorce: Denial, depression, anger, acceptance, reorientation of lifestyle. Or you can read Susan’s book to see how her character, Elaine, goes through her divorce.

Post your story here on the blog or send it to: secondwindpublishing@gmail.com. The winner, chosen by Susan Surman, will win a signed copy of Dancing at all the Weddings. Deadline for entries is September 15, 2011.The contest is open to anyone, but if the winner resides outside the United States, the prize will be a coupon for a free ebook download in the format of your choice. So . . . get ready, set, write!

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Dancing at all the Weddings: Vivacious and talented Elaine Richman is faced with choices: A risky life in the New York theatre; an exciting life with college sweetheart, actor/director Jake Applebaum in Hollywood; a secure life in Boston with predictable lawyer David Alter, the match anointed by her domineering mother because ‘he’s the kind you marry.’ On the way to a dream, it is possible to collide with another dream’s seduction, only to learn there is no fulfillment on the path to safety. Elaine goes through the wringer to meet herself, proving there is no expiration date on talent or true love.

***

Click here to read the first chapter of: Dancing at all the Weddings

***

Boston-born Susan Surman, author of Dancing at all the Weddings, lived abroad for over twenty-three years in London and Sydney as an actress and playwright (Gracie Luck/Susan Kramer), performing in London’s West End, Edinburgh, Sydney Theatre Company, Ensemble Theatre before returning to the States. Surman has also written Max and Friends; Sacha: The Dog Who Made It to the Palace; The Australian Featherweight; The Noble Thing. Plays include: In Between; George; The Australian Featherweight.

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Coming Soon From Second Wind Publishing: “Dancing at All the Weddings” by Susan Surman

Vivacious and talented Elaine Richman is faced with choices: A risky life in the New York theatre; an exciting life with college sweetheart, actor/director Jake Applebaum in Hollywood; a secure life in Boston with predictable lawyer David Alter, the match anointed by her domineering mother because ‘he’s the kind you marry.’ On the way to a dream, it is possible to collide with another dream’s seduction, only to learn there is no fulfillment on the path to safety. Elaine goes through the wringer to meet herself, proving there is no expiration date on talent or true love.

EXCERPT:

Elaine stared at the flames in the fireplace, unable to look at him now. All the romance had gone out of those crackling logs burning in the fireplace.

Jake broke the awkward silence. “You’re choosing your talent as a haus frau in Boston with David Alter over the bright lights in Hollywood with Jake Applebaum.”

“Sometimes on the way to your dream, you can fall into an even better one.” Did she mean it? Was she still sitting on the fence? Did she want him to imitate the final scene of An Officer and a Gentleman when Richard Gere picks up Debra Winger and carries her out of the factory?

“Elaine. Elaine. Elaine.” He wasn’t ready to end this. “This isn’t only about your career. It’s about being with the person you love. I thought that was me.”

“Sometimes love isn’t enough.”

“I thought you told me you weren’t getting what you needed out of the marriage.”

“The receiving is in the giving.”

“You didn’t learn that from me.”

“It’s very Zen.”

“It’s very bullshit.” It wasn’t in Jake’s nature to beg, but he wasn’t giving up so easily. Not like before. “I believe that love is all there is.”

Why did love hurt so much? She loved him with all her heart. But she had other responsibilities. She knew she was turning her back on the true love of her life. Maybe all women had a guy like Jake in their lives. The love they had tucked away so they could move forward and lead sensible, sane, and ordered lives. The lives their mothers picked out for them because they knew better and only wanted their daughter’s happiness.

“I don’t want to re-create you. I won’t make you into who I think you should be. I’ll continue to develop myself; you’ll continue to develop yourself. We’re good apart, but we’re better together. If that isn’t love, my sweetheart, I don’t know what is.” Jake spoke from deep within.

“You can’t dance at all the weddings.” God! Her mother’s words and now hers.

“Where did you learn you can’t have it all? Who taught you that crap?”

Elaine realized she already had the thing she’d been searching for. Constancy.

She would be forever grateful for this time with Jake instead of going through life wondering what might have been. There would always be a place in her heart for Jake Applebaum. But he was her past, not her future. Her mother had been right. David is the kind you marry.

Outside the inn, the cold air stung like an ice pack on their faces. Despite all that had been said, he couldn’t believe it was over. “I have this image of us each going through our lives with other husbands and other wives and then at the end, we’re together.”

She couldn’t let herself be swept up in his movie-esque fantasy. She had made her decision. “We have to go now.” She couldn’t look at him. If she had, she would have seen his lovely green eyes filled with tears.

They sat for a while in the car, watching the ocean waves beating against the sand. Every now and again, the back of their hands brushed lightly, but they didn’t look at one another. They caught the deep orange and blood-red sunset, like none they’d ever seen before. It was an awesome sight as it shifted into amber and then pale apricot before fading away.

Boston-born Susan Surman, author of Dancing at all the Weddings, lived abroad for over twenty-three years in London and Sydney as an actress and playwright (Gracie Luck/Susan Kramer), performing in London’s West End, Edinburgh, Sydney Theatre Company, Ensemble Theatre before returning to the States. Dancing at all the Weddings will soon be released by Second Wind Publishing. Surman has also written Max and Friends; Sacha: The Dog Who Made It to the Palace; The Australian Featherweight; The Noble Thing. Plays include: In Between; George; The Australian Featherweight.

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