What if it all went horribly wrong?
“I’d like to see if he’ll let us use his real name in the book,” Nicola said beforehand. She was calling from Auckland, where she’s the Publishing Director at Random House New Zealand.
“You can try if you want,” I said. I’d been blogging for four years at that point, and the entire time CJ insisted that in the blog I had to call him by his chosen pseudonym of ‘Rick’. I’d never really been comfortable with it. “I’d much rather call him by his real name in the blog and the book,” I told Nicola. “But he won’t let me.”
“Well,” Nicola said. “We’ll see about that.”
Although I’d signed a book contract with her, I’d never actually met Nicola in person. I wasn’t sure what to expect.
Publisher in the house
Nicola showed up at our door looking simultaneously sophisticated, casual and prepared for anything. She was impeccably dressed and her hair and makeup were perfect.
CJ had a roast chicken and vegetables in the oven and a green salad ready to go. The three of us began chatting casually in the kitchen as I finished mixing the frosting for my famous carrot cake. At that moment I made the mistake of thinking we might actually pull the afternoon off flawlessly.
No sooner had this foolish thought crossed my mind than there was an odd, burning smell in the air. Suddenly a great cloud of smoke rose from the electric hand mixer. Charming. Leave it to my trusty hand mixer to die the moment someone from Random House comes knocking at my door. I quickly mixed the frosting with a fork and spoon as best I could, frosted the cake, and tried to tell myself that the lumps in the icing were charming.
We wanted to show Nicola the property before we ate, so we stepped onto the front deck. It was a bright, sunny day.
Before I knew what was happening, CJ walked over to Nicola and shoved a bucket of cattle feed in her hands. “Will you please feed our cow?” he asked.
I laughed nervously. “Nicola doesn’t want to feed our cow.” What on earth was this man thinking!?
CJ ignored me. “She’s Blossom the Man-Hating Cow,” he said to Nicola. “She’s only been here a couple of days, and she’s a bit freaked out. She won’t let us go near her. I’m sure Blossom would be happy to see a nice woman in the paddocks.”
Nicola smiled graciously. “I’d be happy to feed your cow.”
I shook my head in disbelief. I couldn’t believe CJ was forcing the Publishing Director of Random House to feed our cow. What next? Have the Prime Minister over for drinks and make him clean out our chook house?
“Just let me get my gumboots from the car,” Nicola said. She really did come ready for anything.
I’m pleased to report that not only can Nicola Legat run a major publishing house, she can feed a cow brilliantly. Blossom let Nicola approach far more closely than she’d ever let CJ or me. Maybe it was the hair and makeup.
After that we strolled through the olive grove. I told Nicola about the trees and our extra virgin olive oils – the Full Moon Blend and the Crescent Blend. When we were done, I figured we’d head back to the house and have lunch.
“Let’s walk down to the river,” CJ said.
“But it’s a bit overgrown down there,” I said. “We haven’t really cleared the trail this year.”
“It’s not that bad,” CJ said. “Nicola, you don’t want to come all this way from Auckland and miss out on seeing our river, do you?”
“Well, no,” Nicola said. “I suppose I don’t.”
The trail started out fine, but soon CJ was leading us through a tangled, blackberry-infested, gorse-filled mass of dense bush. To her credit, Nicola maintained her composure the entire way. I am certain, however, that she began to wonder if she’d ever make it out alive.
If the cloud of smoke in the kitchen and the forced cattle feeding hadn’t put her off of entirely, I was certain this jungle trek would. She’d probably rush back to Auckland and immediately cancel my book contract.
Eventually we arrived at the peaceful spot down at the river, which really is lovely. Then we headed back. When we got out of that twisted labyrinth of thorny bush, I swear I saw Nicola look to the heavens and cross herself, but I can’t be sure.
Lunch is served
When we settled down on the front deck and poured Nicola a glass of local Chardonnay, she pulled a few brambles out of her hair. The roast meal CJ prepared was delicious. There was a light breeze, and the wisteria above us provided generous shade.
It was over the carrot cake that Nicola turned to CJ and said, “Now, let’s talk about your name in the book. Do we have to call you ‘Rick’?”
He stiffened. ‘Yep.’
“I used to work in journalism,” she said. “The only time we used pseudonyms was when there was something terrible involved, like a criminal background.”
CJ crossed his arms.
Nicola continued. “And in interviews we’ll be tripping over ourselves, trying to remember not to call you by your real name.”
It quickly became clear that not only was Nicola a wiz at publishing, cow feeding, and jungle treks, but she was a master of persuasion. She had one argument after another in favor of using CJ’s real name. But the one that won him over was this: “It will help to make the book seem more genuine. It will help Jared.”
With that statement, I saw CJ’s resolve fold. Finally he said, “I don’t want to be a barrier to Jared’s success. If it’ll help in any way, then you can use my real name.”
Nicola smiled. “Thank you.”
“It’s not for you, Nicola.” CJ turned to me. “I’m doing it for Jared.”
And so, when the ‘Moon over Martinborough’ book comes out in June 2013, it will not be about me and Rick. It will be about me and CJ.
As a result, I went back and corrected every ‘Rick’ in this blog. I didn’t want to confuse the situation by having ‘CJ’ in the book and ‘Rick’ in the blog.
There are many gifts that we can give the ones we love. We can give them flowers. We can make them things by hand. But if there is one gift I will cherish more than any other I’ve ever received, it is the gift that CJ gave me that day over lunch with Nicola, when he gave me the gift of his name.
What’s the most precious give you’ve ever received from your partner?
- A cow portrait for the neighbors – the story of Blossom
- Photo shoot in the olive grove
- Never give up: From blog to book