What’s Going On, Lisa?


Thanks for asking. It’s been a while, so I figured, what, with this 3-day weekend upon us, I may as well catch you up.

I spent three weeks in northern California this summer and it was an altogether fabulous holiday. Among my many adventures, I

  • visited my girlfriend Lela, the doctor who delivered Loy. She opened a new ob/gyn practice in Santa Rosa with an attached spa that offers skin-altering facials, one of which Lela treated me to. After the machine sucked out the toxins and the aesthetician rubbed some magic lotion on my skin, I positively glowed. For a few days, anyway, I looked a decade younger.
  • ran into my old boyfriend, Doug, of Modern Love, Rejected fame. (Still happily married, he did not take notice of my shiny countenance.)
  • hiked 8 miles (and 1545 feet of elevation gain) up a mountain dyingafter both mistakenly taking too much of my ADHD meds, and not bringing along enough water in blistering heat. I almost died.
  • reconnected with friends from our former lives in Nevada City which made me consider moving back there again.
  • enjoyed two blissful weeks in Lake Tahoe, writing, cooking, hiking, swimming, reading, and hanging with my BFF Lori. I sort of never wanted to leave.IMG_0133

But leave I did and once back in Vermont, I got back to work. Yeah, writers do more than just stare off into space, conjuring up fantastical plots and wondering what to name their fictional characters’ dogs (I did actually spend a lot of time doing that). Among other things I

  • listened to 8.5 hours of the first run-through of the audio version of RASH, stopping every 22 seconds to note mistakes made by the narrator, most of which were Bahasa and Balinese mispronunciations. Granted; I should have recorded it myself, but Sharon Larson, the producer I chose, lives in Idaho and it was easier to let someone else take it on. Sharon is working on the final edits and the audiobook should be available in the next month or so.
  • finished the final edits on my domestic suspense novel Love Lies Here. I am now composing the ever-important query. I never had to write a query before: my previous agents came to me through introductions. I follow this guy, Nathan Bransford, an ex-agent turned writing blogger. He offers in-depth, accessible advice to newbie writers, as well as to old hands like me who still need some help. As to query writing, Nathan says:
Writing a query is such a tricky balance. One the one hand, you have to condense an entire novel into a few dozen words. On the other hand, you want your query to reflect the uniqueness of your book and stand out from the pack. You need to be general, but you also need to include detail. You need to be clear, but you need to be original. You need to give flavor, but you can’t get bogged down. How in the world do you do all this at once?


Now then. Besides the query-writing I

  • flew to Florida to check on my mother. I’d like to be the bearer of good news where she is concerned, but, unfortunately, this is not to be. (Have I mentioned that the heat of Florida in August is not that different than the heat in Bali anytime?)
  • fretted over the fact that my daughter, Loy, just started her senior year of high school. I miss her even though she’s still here and now my head and heart are swirling with a kaleidoscope of
    1. sadness
    2. pride
    3. wonder
    4. questions about my own mortality
    5. time
    6. success: what does it even mean?
    7. #metoo
    8. motherhood
  • made reservations at various Airbnb’s around the US in advance of the many colleges Loy and I will check out together in the coming months. Her heart is set on Barnard, but hearts, as we well know, are made to break.
  • sifted through boxes of recipes, pulling out the non-meat ones since the high school senior has just informed us she is a vegetarian.
  • dwelled far too much in past memories and fantasized far too much about what I want my future to look like.
  • filled out the volunteer application for the local food shelf but didn’t yet turn it in.
  • wrote a polite thank-you note to a book blogger who reviewed RASH in a most favorable fashion.
  • considered re-organizing my office.
  • meditated daily with soothing meditation teachers.
  • made a list of writing residencies I was absolutely going to apply to, then missed half the deadlines.
  • saw Tony Bennett perform at the Flynn and waxed nostalgic about my dead father who was a huge fan. I am constantly amazed by music’s profound ability to unmoor me.  As the late Oliver Sacks wrote in his book Musicophilia: “Familiar music acts as a sort of Proustian mnemonic, eliciting emotions and associations that had long been forgotten, giving the patient access once again to moods and memories, thoughts and worlds that had seemingly been completely lost.” Interestingly: my mother has lost so many of her memories due to dementia, yet, when old-time crooners swing by her facility to entertain the residents, she sings along to every song, remembering all the lyrics.  Apparently, this is because
Musical memory is considered to be partly independent from other memory systems. In Alzheimer’s disease and different types of dementia, musical memory is surprisingly robust…
  • fell out of love with Facebook while spending hours scrolling through Instagram, alternately experiencing boredom, awe, and FOMO.
  • connected with an old housemate from when I lived on Balboa Island and attended UC Irvine. Debbie found me on FB, and after I told her I based a character in my second novel on her, I noticed my Amazon sale numbers shot up precipitously.
  • binge-watched Crashing (the British version), Fleabag, and The Handmaid’s Tale. Victor and I are presently ensconced in season 2 of Billions. I can watch Paul Giamatti tie his shoes and still be riveted. If you haven’t yet, you must see his series, John Adams. Both he and it are phenomenal.
  • starting reading Kristin Neff’s Self-Compassion so that I may learn how to give myself more of that.
  • wrote this blog post.















6 thoughts on “What’s Going On, Lisa?

  1. Pingback: What’s Going On, Lisa? Part 2 | Lisa Kusel

  2. Hi! Thank you for passing this on to me because, of course, I always want to know what’s going on with you. Even though I don’t connect too much I think of you often. It was sad to say goodbye to you at the airport. You looked so chic. Did you get an upgrade? I don’t like saying goodbye. I much prefer hellos. In person. When are we going to Japan, by the way? Next fall, right? After the girls are in school. Perfect.. XoS

    From: Lisa Kusel <comment-reply@wordpress.com>
    Reply-To: Lisa Kusel <comment+rf5kh90lqedz2kvlgv7ef2b@comment.wordpress.com>
    Date: Sunday, September 1, 2019 at 10:19 AM
    To: Susan Zlimen <susan@zlimen.com>
    Subject: [New post] What’s Going On, Lisa?

    lisa_kusel posted: “Thanks for asking. It’s been a while, so I figured, what, with this 3-day weekend upon us, I may as well catch you up. I spent three weeks in northern California this summer and it was an altogether fabulous holiday. Among my many adventures, I visited”


  3. Hey love,
    Just read this, so interesting re the music and memory thing. I have often wondered how it is I remember lyrics from the 70s and can’t remember what I did a week ago.

    I can relate to all of your feelings re Loy. I felt the same when Hay left home. It will feel very odd at first and yes you will cry and feel lonely at times. We are tough bitches though.

    I am in bed with a bad case of Bali Belly. Had a quad bike thing planned but nope. I think I have crapped my insides out. Such bad cramps too. Ron is fine, I think it was silver classes coffee. This hardly happens to me here, so annoying.

    So what is happening with Mum? It is great news Rash audio is happening. How are you feeling……I am getting a vibe you are sad.

    Take care.
    Speak soon xxxxx

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Loved the update! Also really enjoyed reading the Queen Mary post. Fascinating what you real writers do to make a story worth reading.


    Sent from my iPhone


    Liked by 1 person

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