Posts Tagged Ripple

Ripple’s Release and What Really Matters


This is what we’re going to do this afternoon!

Ripple is live, and on sale at Amazon for a low introductory price of $4.99 on Kindle and $12.99 for paperback. I wanted to tell you a little about royalties and pricing before I move on to the advance reviews. At the price of $4.99, I make about $3.50 for each e-book I sell, and at $12.99 for the softcover paperbacks, I make about $2.50 in royalties per book. With a sunk cost of around $2,500 for publishing and editing costs (and I did not scrimp, at all, on anything, especially editing), I will need to sell about 825 books to break even. At some point soon, I will increase my prices, but I want to drive up volume first.

 And that, my friends, is where you come in. If you like Ripple, or even LOVE Ripple, please take a few minutes to tell your friends and family. And I’d be so very grateful for an Amazon review from you as well. Reviews help sell books, pure and simple.

It’s crazy. I didn’t send out a single query letter, and while I’m honestly not too worried about what happens, I do find myself occasionally missing an agent. My fate is entirely in my own hands, and I really do hate asking for help. Then again, I tell myself, I believe in my product. It can help heal broken hearts or just as important, it can provide a reader with hours of entertainment, and that’s maybe even more important than accomplishing any higher purposes.

Buy Ripple!

To my surprise, readers are liking Ripple more because it’s a good story than for its literary merits or its healing qualities. And you know what? That’s awesome! It means that I’ve done my job as a writer . . . and it takes the pressure off me. I don’t need to worry about how good it is from an objective literary standpoint. Whew! All that really matters is that it entertains its audience, and it is.

That brings me to reviews. Without further ado, here is a sampling:

I’m in the middle of the book, but had to pause to share my thoughts because this story is powerful! The female characters are real – fallible, sometimes irritating, always endearing. The villains are so evil, so creepy – Farris gives us insights into the twisted minds of predators right from the start, and it makes me bring my feet up on the couch whenever she gives me a glimpse . . .

 I will come back and add more to my review when I finish the book, but if you are debating about this one, I recommend you go for it!—Christine Morgan.

From the author of the excellent novel, Off Switch:

Farris draws from her former legal career and her former life within the legal profession to craft characters that fit perfectly into the story. They are real. They play their parts well. We see people who are more concerned with their careers; a district attorney who always stops to consider just how close the next election is before deciding what the `right thing to do’ is- managing partners at law firms whose employees are involved in the “scandal” as they call it- heaven forbid they call it a child being raped- who make decisions to terminate people from employment to distance themselves from any negative attention, all in order to protect their large, multi-million dollar books of business, and a detective on the case with ulterior motives for his own demented reasons. And folks- this is what makes this read so real. It shows one of the ugly sides of the American power class, where professions have become more important than people, and often, even when they are genuine victims, child victims at that, of situations that are completely out of their control.
As a man, I like how Farris does not demonize every living sapian with a penis. This is often the unattractive case with books in this genre, and Farris’ writing leaves no doubt that the savage beasts in this tale are evil because they possess evil in their hearts, not because they possess Y chromosomes.”Kevin E. Lake

 And another one:

Ms. Farris hit a home run her first time at bat with Ripple! From the ball-busting attorney Helen Thompson to the slimy detective, she portrayed each character so well they jumped right off the page. I had a very hard time putting this book down. Ms. Farris’s knowledge of the legal system is well-suited to writing a legal thriller. The topic was a very sensitive one and was handled carefully but came across as very realistic. She left herself open to a sequel here and I can hardly wait for it!—Heather Zwicker.

 Here’s one from another excellent writer:

Most legal thrillers treat the reader as if they can’t handle the nitty-gritty of a life in law, but this book gives the reader credit for understanding and appreciating being pulled into the reality of law. And a nightmare. Although this female protagonist is a driven attorney with a busy schedule that is dizzying, nothing can stop her when her daughter is at stake . . .

This is a tough subject to handle, and stories like this too often fall down the pit of pity and hammer readers over the head with how tough it is to be a woman, how unfair it is to be a woman, and how women are the prey of men. This book never goes down that trap, and I appreciated it. Evil walks this earth, and it does its dirty job in many different ways…but is always defeated by the human spirit and the strength of community.

The writer’s voice, pacing, and style are those of a seasoned professional and never get in the way of this challenging story. She knows how to build tension and suspense . . . She knows when to throw in a dash of humor to ease the tension, and she wakes us from a nightmare with the gentle shake of hope. She takes us through the struggle for recovery, showing that whatever the trauma, we can be active parts in the healing.”—M. Madsen.

I am so grateful for these reviews, and for many others like it.

I’m also grateful for how my son is doing. His blood pressure has trended way down, and while still higher than it ought to be, it is stabilized. We will be back into the hospital for more tests this week, and in a way, this scary personal thing my family is encountering is helping me keep this book release in perspective. I am not my book, and its success or failure does not determine how I feel about myself. After all, like the main character in Ripple, I am finding, albeit in a painful way, that my family trumps my career. Sometimes fiction copies life, and sometimes, I suppose, life follows fiction.

Thank you so very much for your support and most of all, for your prayers and kind thoughts for my family.

Buy Ripple on Amazon!

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When You’re Trapped Between Work and Family: A Writer’s Doubts

This morning, I really, really wanted to chew a head off, or at a minimum, a hand. This is the absolute bane of all small business owners, particularly artists and writers: setting up a new business. Yeah, yeah, it’s exciting and I’m grateful and, well, yada, yada. But when three children are yowling, busting heads and basically working through their Ophelia, Hamlet and Polonius routine and the man is conducting scientific experiments in the kitchen, the whole process of arranging a freaking PayPal button on WordPress becomes more a bloodletting experience than anything else.

Unsex me now, I’m screaming inside . . . aw crap. I’m mixing up Macbeth and Hamlet. Did I mention that my fourth grader has chosen the latter as her topic for a book report? And somehow, in this vast library of ours, we’ve lost all five copies of said Hamlet? Right. It’s completely disconnected to my efforts to install a freaking PayPal button on WordPress (for autographed, pre-release copies of Ripple), except that while glaring at JavaScript and Text Edit and related noxious, horrifying thingies on the Mac, the fourth-grader mentioned that maybe we could go to the library.

And no decent mom refuses to take a child to the library, right? Right, but only after I get my new page set up on WordPress: this one. But right now, I gotta confess something: I’m not feeling like a decent mom. I’m trying, but I’m also working as hard as I used to work when I practiced law. Don’t get me wrong: this time around, I love my job, but I’m getting too obsessed with line edits, double spaces after periods (damn my eyes, I’m switching to single spaces), proof copies, mailing advance reviewer copies, and a plethora of other small details.

Front and Back Cover

You see, even though I’m self-publishing, I refuse to compromise quality. I’m rolling the dice on my own name and reputation, and it’s not like I can blame a secretary or intern or junior associate or asshole client if anything gets messed up. This book must look as good as anything that is traditionally published.

And you know what’s getting sacrificed right now? Sigh. Yep. My family. Or as Helen realizes in Ripple:

 Excellence may not be about making beds and cooking brownies, but excellence was about more than rising to the top of your profession. She’d fucked up. She hadn’t meant to. She really hadn’t meant to hurt her daughter, but she had. Her own excellence had been achieved by sacrificing her family and now she was paying the price for it. No, now Phoebe was paying the price for it, she realized, and she winced.

 Sometimes fiction mirrors life; other times, life mirrors fiction. All I know is that I need to find a balance, somehow. It doesn’t mean that I should give up trying to create the best product I can, but I need to try harder here on the home front. These twelve and fourteen hour days, after all, are nothing to be proud of—not when those hours take too much time away from my children.

How do you all do it, your working moms and dads? Do you feel trapped between work and home? As if you constantly fail work or family at the expense of the other?

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Nixing Covers, Shedding Words, Font Confusion . . . as Ripple spreads . . .

Hey there (peeking up from my [can’t say the brand because it annoys some readers] keyboard, coffee mug in hand, looking a little wild-eyed. It’s been a crazy-busy month, and I’ve loved almost every minute of it, with that confusing sort of loathing, glowing love-fear-hate that all new business owners feel at the outset of their respective professional ventures.

Hmmm, that sounds both pompous and intimidating, but it’s also accurate. To do it right, to turn out a well-heeled, smooth final product, a self-published writer must take the reigns, learn the ins and outs of all aspects of publishing, or as I keep muttering under my breath in times of stress, “We’re going ALL-IN, baby!!!”

I keep trying to write an organized summary of what I’ve been doing, but that’s crazy, because it’s been a whirlwind, a cyclonic-blending of associated pieces of the crashing-wave-puzzle that is self-publishing. So here are a few pieces of it . . .

I have a friend who is a graphic designer and many other things extraordinary, and we agreed that the cover should look Salvador Dali-esque. Many private messages and phone calls later, and after many purchases of stock photo licenses, we ended up with the following, and we declared it beautiful. So did many-fold Facebook friends and followers. But then I got a message from a dear friend, and with some trepidation, this writer-blogger friend let me know that the traditional publishing house that put out Wicked used the same model with a different background.412645_439962252736043_1898737517_o

“What?” chuckled my graphic designer, and so did I. “You mean a super-rich publishing house bought the exact same photo I did? No wonder traditional publishing houses are dying!”

Even though we weren’t violating any intellectual property laws, we agreed, without a split second of doubt, to nix the cover. The new one will be based on an actual friend rather than a stock photo. We’re not taking any chances this time. And it should be ready in the next day or so.

I’ve spent hours and hours talking, mostly on my main social media platform, Facebook, to friends and acquaintances. I devised as part of my marketing plan a legion of advance reviewers who will read mailed or e-mailed copies of a not-yet final version of Ripple. After helping me print pre-paid postage mailing labels from on pieces of white paper and taping them to bubble envelopes, my husband, chuckling, and a little tired of packing books, wondered how big “El’s Army” was going to get.

I like the term he coined. I love the grassroots feel of how I’m marketing this first novel of mine. So far, the feedback has been wonderful, and I’m hoping and praying this translates to buzz and increased sales. Even if it doesn’t . . . I’m giving it my all and enjoying every minute of it.

What I haven’t enjoyed so much, wait, okay, what I deplored and resorted to hair pulling, teeth-gnashing and much cussing over because of has been CreateSpace. Great company—don’t get me wrong. But for awhile there, I spoke of it between gritted teeth. I would upload a file (versions 7.1 through 8.3 and on and on) and then would wait for their file review process. Again and again, it came back with margin and font issues. I went through at least twenty uploads before I finally just ordered a hard copy. Once it arrived, I got out a ruler, measured the margins, and then applied the measurements to my latest working copy of my manuscript. And I chose a number of different fonts, from Cambria to Garamond to Calibri . . . and each font change messed up my italicized passages until I figured out how to use a template for italics.

Right. It’s boring to write about and your eyes are probably blurring up . . . unless you’re also thinking about self-publishing, and if so, please feel free to ask me what the hell I’m talking about. The way I see it is that if my meanderings into the sticky-icky world of CreateSpace can save you some trouble, then please let me help you!

So that’s about the size of it. I could write another 700 words about El’s Army and CreatePurgatoria, but my graphic designer is on the other line and there’s a note from Amazon’s Online Store that I must attend to . . . something about how pre-orders can begin in a couple of days, in advance of the actual 1/21 release of Ripple. And that’s worth a Snoopy Happy Dance or two or three.

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Gah! I’m an Adult Now: Self-Publishing Fears and Related Woes

I’m thinking too much, too fast, too much, too fast.  Damnit.  What if it’s a really really bad idea to self-publish Ripple?  Should I have kissed many more asses?  Why didn’t I kiss more asses?  Who do I ask to do my advance reviews?  Is it any good?  I know it’s good.  But there are millions of would-be writers out there.  Am I just like the rest of them?  Am I really a loser?  A wanna-be, would be, could be but can never will never be?

Should I go back and try to be nice to the people I’ve been ignoring?  What about all of the pages that I’ve not been talking to because I’m talking to other pages and writers?  Should I be trying harder?  Should I be on my knees groveling, or at least gladhanding?  I have stopped interacting with so many pages and blogs and it’s all a kaleidoscopic mishmash of should-dos and can’t and won’ts and I have no fucking clue how to sort it all out.  Why do I have to be the one to handle this?

The real question is why do I need to be the adult here?  I don’t feel like an adult.  I don’t feel like I’m in control.  Not I.  Or not me, depending on how the rest of the sentence goes . . . no.  Not I.  Funny.  I never really studied grammar that much or even wanted to learn it.  I was above the rules but the real truth is that I always sensed, nay feared, that the rules were above me.

There.  That’s the truth.  Icky ugly truth.  I play this whole act, this “Your rules not mine” rebel act long and hard but you know what I’m hiding?  This deep fear that if I play by the same rules, throw the football on the same exact field with the precise dimensions and markings that all other writers obey, everyone will find out (who is everyone) that my writing just isn’t good enough.


That’s my icky ugly inner fear.  It’s fucking debilitating.  Should I stop cussing?  Just an aside, but is it?  Last night I made this poster, and I consciously went with the word “ass” as in “work your ass off,” because it was authentic.  But I also know that a lot of my inspirational friends won’t share anything that has a cuss word in it, and while 10,820 fans is plenty, every new fan equals a potential reader.  Then again, my freakin’ name has a curse word in it, so does that make me ineligible for being shared by the goody two-shoes of pages?

Not that there’s anything wrong with goody-goodies.  Oh my gosh.  Part of me wants to be a good girl and part of me wants to be a badass and those two sides of me will forever lay siege to one another!  Right?

And should I put one space or two after a period?  Am I the only old-school holdover who still goes with two spaces?  I like two spaces, not one, but I don’t wanna stand out, stick out, or run alone.

Or do I?

As far as the cussing thing, my characters cuss, and so do I but I’m also a born-again Christian and I need those fans—the moral majority (giggle) too.  I need as many fans and readers as I can get because hell, I’m trying to sell books, right?  But what’s the point of selling anything if I have to change who I am to make a sale?  How boring, stupid, phony, cruddy, pointless . . . is it to change who you are just to make a few extra bucks?

Speaking of a few bucks, what the hell am I doing self-publishing Ripple?  Seriously, what the hell am I doing?  Did I decide to ignore the traditional publishing houses for a reason other than I’ve been telling everyone?  Was it simply because I was scared Ripple wasn’t good enough?  Did I think that the rejection of everything that I am and want to be would be so awfully soul-crushing that I couldn’t chance it?  God help me if I have to face the exact same pain that every other writer faces.

Yep.  Maybe it always comes back to God.  And needing His help.  I’m scared, and I’m about to jump off a big limb that’s hanging over a muddy bank and into these swirling waters, and as much as I love crazy adventures and especially swirling waters, I’m so afraid that I’ll smash into unseen rocks and end up all bloodied and concussed and broken-hearted.

This is one of those times I wish I could call my mom.  But I can’t and I won’t but I will . . .

jump anyway.

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Ripple, or Women Helping Women: A WIP Blog Chain

As most of you know, I’m aiming for a Christmas release date for Ripple. My friend Deb Bryan linked to me on a chain that contains a few questions about my upcoming book, so here goes . . .

What is the Working Title of your book?

Ripple. Renée Jacobson came up with it while she helped me on the first draft. She told me to listen to the Grateful Dead song of the same name. The following lyrics inspired the name:

Ripple in still water,
When there is no pebble tossed,
Nor wind to blow.
Reach out your hand if your cup be empty,
If your cup is full may it be again,
Let it be known there is a fountain,
That was not made by the hands of men.

After considering a host of alternatives, I’m sticking with Ripple as the title.

Where did the idea come from for the book?

The characters came first and the plot followed. I used dialogue as a therapeutic device while in treatment for chronic PTSD. To help me unwrap my messy past, I wrote conversations between my adult self and my younger self, or “Little El.” Eventually, the name “Phoebe,” which means “Child of light,” entered my subconscious, and so little El became Phoebe. Before I composed the main plot of Ripple, I asked myself the following question: what do I wish my mother had done to my abusers? The instant answer was: I wish she had killed them.

And so the main character of Ripple, Helen, becomes the avenging mother I wish I’d had.

Meanwhile, the third protagonist, Cassandra White, was born one awful morning, when I awoke to “barf in the bathroom and a broken down bus,” which was the original working title. Instead of giving up her legal practice to raise kids and write, like I did, Cassandra practices law, and balances a busy practice with raising a family. The morning she awakens to the aforementioned disaster scene, she receives a phone call from a safe house for domestic abuse victims, which is where Helen and Phoebe are hiding. Cassandra becomes Helen’s defense counsel, and like me, battles her own demons even as she helps her client.

What genre does your book fall under?

I struggled with this one, because Ripple stretches across several genres. In some respects, it is a psychological thriller. Like Silence of the Lambs, it has a creepy sociopath stalking a little girl (seriously, you’re going to have to read Ripple to figure out who this is) and some passages that will make you cringe. Ripple could and should fall into the category of women’s literature as well, but I took care to create a few likable male characters.

And yet Ripple is neither a thriller per se or women’s lit: it’s a work of literary fiction, and clocking in at 132,000 words, it’s almost epic in sweep. Although it’s not a beach read, the nonstop action and constant motion leads to easy page turning. Readers who enjoyed The Color Purple or Lovely Bones will likely appreciate Ripple.

 Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

A movie producer-friend called me after reading the first few chapters of Ripple, and practically screamed, “Meryl Street must play Helen!” Indeed, the opening scene of Ripple features Helen, a high powered lawyer “who stands astride the legal profession” slamming a conference room door so hard the frame “shimmers and vibrates.” When I think of Helen, I think of the fashion executive from The Devil Wears Prada.

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

Oh no! I can’t . . . oh okay. Let’s see. A murder suspect teams up with a band of women at a safe house to trap a would-be rapist who is stalking her daughter.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency? 

I am completely stoked about my decision to skip the entire agency representation process and go straight to self-publishing. As I wrote to my friend, Deb Bryan, I want to retain artistic control over my product. Traditional publishing is run by “writamaticians,”—or folks that view writing more as science than art. The more I researched it, the more I saw that by and large, the only way some excellent novels get published is despite of the mediocre ministrations of a horde of agents and publishers and their minions. Instead of offering the public a true range of work, they act like politicians who form their beliefs only after using focus groups to determine what the public wants. Rather than gatekeepers for the public, agents and publishers act as low rent intellectual whores. And I want no part of it.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript? 

© E. L. Farris

Six months, give or take a year. I wrote the chapter about barf and the broken down bus a year before I was able to resume writing the rest.

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

As mentioned above, Ripple resembles Lovely Bones and The Color Purple, but it has a happy ending. Also, I adore William Faulkner, Harper Lee, J.D. Salinger and pretty much all writers who take chances.

Who or what inspired you to write this book?

My therapist, who helped me piece myself back together and escape the mental prison of my past, inspired me to show other women how they could find their way to health and a better life. Therapists and professionals who give their all figure prominently in helping Helen and Phoebe turn from victims into Rebel Thrivers.

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

© E. L. Farris, 2012 Zander’s inspiration

My characters move constantly, either on horseback, in vehicles, or running on foot on tracks, fields and cross country trails. Many scenes take place in conference rooms, where lawyers argue, negotiate and posture. My favorite character in Ripple, Zander, is based on my youngest son, Ben, and those of you who’ve read my blog entries about Ben understand just how entertaining Zander can be. My favorite scene in Ripple is when Zander climbs on top of a barn roof. He wants to see if his chickie can fly. You’d never guess who rescues him!

Thank you so much to my dear friend Deb Bryan, who tagged me in this blogging chain. Please mosey on over to visit the next link in the chain, my friend Stephanie Saye. The author of Little 15, Stephanie has completed one manuscript about a breakup gone really bad, and is working on another dystopian story about a man who gets pregnant after his wife is granted a wish by a psychic.

Before you go, do you have any questions or comments about Ripple?

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A Laundry Mountain, Falling Leaves and the Synopsis

I learned a little about the way I write this last week.  I like juggling several projects at once right up until the irreversible moment when I hit terminal mental velocity.  Then I drop all the balls and hide under the mountain of laundry piled on my bed, whimpering. 

It turns out that I write query letters and synopses in a state of complete and utter distraction.  To get in the mood to write something technical, which a synopsis is, I went through the writer’s version of a baseball player stepping into the batter’s box.  Minus the loogies and the crotch grabs.

I skimmed books and websites to learn, sort of, what I needed to write.  Then I got scared and thought about outlining Alien Enlightenment, but I don’t outline anything.  So I researched angels and demons and time space continuums some more.  And I drank way, way too much coffee and ate a pumpkin scone or two.

Then I started reading Brené Brown’s Daring Greatly and told my closest friends and about a thousand other people that they really, really needed to read it too.  I even made a poster of the Teddy Roosevelt quote that inspired Daring Greatly.  The first poster I made sucked, so I created a second one.  Here it is:

I started the query letter.

• • •

A few more days passed.  Every once in a while, I walked past the computer, glared at the query letter, and typed out a sentence or two.  I ran many miles, celebrated a fifteenth Anniversary and whined, a lot.  My husband told me I was doing a marvelous job and no, Cutie you’re not fat several times.

I skimmed, in no particular order, pages from a few more books on writing and several websites.  I asked a few patient friends like Astrea Baldwin, Deb Bryan, Doug MacIlroy and August McLaughlin for tips, help and advice.  Yellow leaves fell outside my window and the weather turned cold after a front blew through.  I opened a document and titled it: Synopsis/Ripple/Farris.

Two more days passed.

I reorganized all of the books on my desk.  More yellow leaves tumbled and danced and skated as they spiraled to the Virginia clay.  I contemplated the seasons and tried to stop counting the acorns on the deck.

I folded the laundry, went for a run, and took a hot shower.  Then I wrote fifteen words.  Man I hope my husband isn’t still reading this because when he got home from work yesterday, I told him I had worked nonstop all day.  I spent a half-hour whining on Facebook:

Help! I must finish this synopsis but it is as boring as writing a freakin’ legal memorandum. Ack! Groan. Wail. Teeth gnash. Fingernail nibble. Nervous pacing.

I wrote another fifteen words, ate a bowl of Kashi Go Lean Crunch cereal, counted twenty-seven yellow pen-oak leaves float past, and whined for thirteen minutes.  Just re-reading this makes me exhausted.  A gust of wind brought a bombardment of acorns against the rooftop of our Dutch Colonial. 

The laundry pile beckoned, but I resisted.  It was time.  My short, chubby fingers ran over the wireless iMac keyboard, lickety-split, staccato tapping echoing against a mosaic of alternative music.  Sentences split, fragmented, then wove together.

Eight hundred and thirty two words and a week after I started, and the first draft is done.  And now?  Now I fold laundry.

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Status of Ripple and Running Memoirs

This weekend I finished Draft Two of Ripple and I have sent it out much gratitude to my very competent beta readers, Deborah Bryan and Astrea Baldwin, as well as the world’s best writing partner, Renée Schuls-Jacobson.

Meanwhile, with the help of the gracious and brilliant Piper Bayard, I’ve drafted a logline, or 25-word plot summary for Ripple:

A murder suspect teams up with a band of women at a safe house to trap a would-be rapist who is stalking her daughter.

While Ripple is undergoing review, I am working on another big project: writing a book with the working title of either I Run, or Running with El. I am pulling together all of my blog and journal entries from 2011 that pertain to running. So far, I am looking at a 200-page book, and will publish this as an E-book in the late summer or early fall. Those of you who follow me on my Facebook Page know that Running from Hell with El applies both to my identity as an abuse survivor and as a runner.  For those of you who don’t know how important running is to me, I thought I would excerpt the first few pages of I Run.



            I started running when I was a chubby, fourteen year old fast pitch softball player and point guard.  Soon enough, I found that I loved running as much as I loved hurling a ball or shooting a layup.  After a month of running, I was hooked.  I could run just about all day, and pretty fast, too. I captained my cross-country team and could run ten miles in seventy-five minutes.

I ran fifty miles a week right through college, with a year off to gain my obligatory freshman fifteen pounds.  Unfortunately, the fifteen turned into fifty pounds, and losing that weight was its own odyssey.  I kept running fifty miles a week through my first couple years of law school. To my great regret, I did not run a marathon when I could have, because I was afraid.  Then, in my second year of law school, I broke my ankle, and was never the same athlete after that.

In my late twenties, I developed epilepsy, high blood pressure and an irregular heartbeat, and to this day, I take medications to treat these conditions.  From age 26 to age 33, I practiced law in Virginia and D.C.  I worked hard, but found the work soul crushing, boring and stressful.

Throughout my twenties and early thirties, I stayed in shape but struggled to keep my weight down.  I stopped practicing law when I bore my first child, and two more children followed, stepladder style, in the next two years.  While I stayed in shape and worked out, I ran only sporadically for the first three years after my third child was born in 2006.

In 2009, I started to train seriously again.  This time, I took to the pool, with the crazy idea of swimming across the Chesapeake Bay and then the English Channel.  By the fall, I was swimming 2-3 miles a day, running and lifting weights. I was back in fighting trim.

Then, on November 16, 2009, a Washington Metro bus struck my family’s SUV in excess of 30 miles per hour.  Miraculously, my three children escaped injury; unfortunately, I did not.  In that moment between living and dying, many highlights and lowlights of my life flashed before me.  I yelled at God to save my children, and promised that if he did, I would stop living my life in fear.  God heard me.  I was grateful to have another chance to live.  This time, it would be without regrets.

The accident left me unable to walk, run or swim without serious pain in my back, rib cage and left knee.  My dream of swimming the Chesapeake and the English Channel looked impossible.  By Christmas Day, 2009, I felt depressed and overwhelmed.  In search of hope, I formed an equally impossible dream: to run a marathon.

My husband’s response to this was, “Whatever you want to do, Cutie.”  And for the next eight months, he remained at my side as I worked at my rehabilitation for hours each day.  Eight months later, I began running in earnest.  In October 2010, I ran the Army Ten-Miler.  No longer could I run ten miles in 75 minutes.  Now, it took me more than 100 minutes.  I may have lost my speed, but in its place remained guts, determination and sheer endurance.

By the end of 2010, I had run 750 miles.  At no point was this easy or pain-free.  I received painful shots in my knee, feet and back, and underwent a rhizotomy on my back that burned the nerves in my facet joints at 300 degrees.  Throughout 2009-10, I fought through all sorts of back and leg pain.  I ran, and I kept running.

            In January 2011, I set a goal: to run 2,000 miles and ten marathons.  This is the story of how I chased after this goal: the joy, the pain, and the sheer craziness of all those miles on an aging athlete’s tired old legs.

I Run

            I run so I don’t have to stand still.  I run from the depression that ensnares me if I let its dense shadow catch me.  I run back to my better, stronger, happier self, to hold and carry her in spirit for a stride or two, until she leaps out of me and I realize that I must always chase her but never catch her.  I run for the little El who had nowhere else to go but far away from the only home she knew.  I run for tomorrow and yesterday and today.

I run for the smell of the dew on the fresh-cut grass.  I run for the glint of sun dappling through the towering pin oak trees.  I run because in running sometimes I find answers to questions I didn’t think to ask.  I run for the quiet, gentle burn in my chest.  I run for the dopamine and the endorphins, drugs stronger and healthier and safer than the drinks and drugs that destroyed my childhood home.

I run to silence the demons of my past life.  I run because I can run and I must run.  Some say this doesn’t sound healthy or wise or reasonable or sane but when I cannot run, I am none of these things either.

I run for today because there is nothing I can do to fix the mistakes of yesterday and there is no promise there will be a tomorrow.   I run for no one.  I run.

© 2012, E. L. Farris

What title do you like better? I Run, or Running with El?

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Dream Big: Ripple, Marathons and Swimming the English Channel

Hello my friends!  I apologize I have been so quiet, but I have been on a furious editing pace, trying to get Draft 2 of Ripple done by the end of June.  Ripple is more than 450 pages long, or 122,000 words, and I started draft two June 1st . . . so you get the idea.

I had a hard week, to be honest.  Some difficult things went down, and I felt like hell on Friday.  Pure hell.  Instead of surrendering to the fit of melancholy, I took my three kids to the pool and swam a quick 800 meters during break, and this got me thinking.  Before my accident in 2009, I was swimming two to three miles a day, and daydreaming about swimming the five miles across the Chesapeake Bay.  The bay, however, is not enough.  I want to swim across the English Channel.

Now, I get these bright ideas often, and my husband replies the same way each time.  He gets a gleam in his eye and his mouth turns up in one of his trademark half-smiles.  And then he replies, “Sounds great, Cutie,” or something sweet like that, and I grin at him.  That is how we ran two marathons together in 2011.  This is how my man and I roll.  And it might be what I love about him the most: I come up with some crazy adventure, some faraway dream, and he figures out how we can make it come true.

This is how I keep my “black dog,” as Winston Churchill called his depression, at bay.  I dream.  I dream big.  And with that dream, that goal in mind, I begin to work toward it, and with my energy focused on the future, my present troubles weigh on me less.

I don’t know when I will swim the English Channel, but it reminds me of the challenges I have both created and am overcoming in the process of writing Ripple.  This is not an easy first novel by any stretch of the imagination.  For one thing, a lot of characters live in its pages.  In addition, these characters move and interact at an increasing gallop throughout its pages and the topics addressed are weighty and emotion-packed. 

I wanted to share with you what the editing process looks like.  For your amusement, what follows is Draft 2, Page 1 of Ripple.  As you will see from the excerpt of Draft 1, page 1 of Ripple, almost nothing carried over from the first draft.

Draft 2:

“The trial is in a week, Ashtray,” thundered Helen Thompson, slamming the glass door shut so hard the frame shimmered and vibrated.  The young associate nicknamed “Ashtray,” from Baker, Pitts, Kenzey & Moore scurried out of the hotel’s conference room as Helen’s words echoed into the corridor behind him.  “I needed the witness list two hours ago!  If you can’t get it to me in the next fifteen minutes, you might as well grab a cab to the airport and catch the redeye back to D.C.”

Helen glowered, imperious, her auburn hair and bellowing tone resembling Queen Elizabeth I.  If Queen Elizabeth could make a man move before finishing a sentence, Helen could make him run.

Her eyes cut a slow arc around the conference room, searching for anyone who was not meeting her expectations.  One hand still on the gold-plated door handle, Helen made eye contact with a bemused, dark-haired senior associate named Carl Hansen, who had worked with Helen for enough years to shrug off her frequent explosions.

Helen waved her hand.  “Seriously, I don’t give a shit what’s going on in his personal life.  These pimple-faced recent graduates don’t pull their weight.”  Helen stomped from one end of the room to another, her 5’6” frame appearing much taller because of her ramrod posture, black custom suit and Manolo Blahniks heels.  A senior partner at one of the top law firms in the country, Helen stood astride the legal profession.  She did not suffer fools and within that category remained all recent law school graduates until they proved their mettle with years of hard-nosed toil.

        As you will see, not much of Draft 1 remained after my writing partner, Renée Schuls-Jacobson and I redlined it.  And for your amusement, I attach a picture I found on Facebook that channels Helen Thompson’s personality.  The only difference is the hair color of the speaker.

Draft 1:

“Ms. Thompson?”  Helen held up one hand impatiently and continued upbraiding her youngest associate, Alex Peterson.  “Seriously, Alex, I need that witness list and I needed it a half-hour ago.  I don’t give a shit what’s going on in your personal life.  Get me that fucking list NOW!”  The second-year associate jumped up from the conference room table, his shirt untucked from his suit pants, tie askew, and almost careened into the hotel employee who stood at attention with a phone in his hand.  “Excuse me Ms. Thompson for the interruption, but the Judge’s clerk phoned and asked to speak directly to you.”

“Hmm, the judge’s clerk huh,” Helen muttered.  “We don’t usually get calls from chambers.  Are you sure you got that right?”  The employee nodded politely and Helen thought about the studied good manners of all the employees at this swanky Chicago hotel and wondered if they went home at night and told their families what assholes the attorneys from her crack legal team were.

Inwardly she chuckled and realized she didn’t care.  At $500 a night, they can get it together to call us “Ma’am” and “Sir” and even open the doors for us.  It’s all covered in the rate.  “Yes Ma’am.  The clerk gave me the direct line for what he called, um,” he glanced at his notepad and continued, “Judge’s Chambers, U.S. District Court, Northern District of California.”  Helen’s eyes opened a little wider and she nodded and Carl Min, her crack senior associate, “Right, thank you so much.  I suppose that phone is for me?”  Helen strode across the room and pivoted, one hand gesturing as the other reached out for the phone.  “Yes Ma’am,” the employee replied, and with one hand one the door handle, waited for Helen to take hold of the phone before he let go and unobtrusively left the room as quietly as he had entered it.

Dreams, big dreams, take time and work and pain to bring to fruition.  Like running a marathon or swimming across the English Channel, there is nothing easy about editing Ripple.  And yet I am having the time of my life.

© 2012 E. L. Farris




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