Springing into the new

Welcome to the world, Connor Thane! He’s my sixth grandchild, five are boys and his almost four-year-old big sister is my only granddaughter. So, here’s how his family transformed in the days before his birth.

They sold their house and it was a done deal ten days before closing on their new home.

On Wednesday, the papers were signed on the new house, fortunately vacant and move-in-ready. Funds were transferred (banking lingo) and they got the keys to their new home on Thursday.

Moving day was Friday and there’s a bunch of layered history as to why there was so much more to move out than when they first moved into that house four years ago. It was a long, exhausting and dirty day for a crew of friends and family.

New appliances and furniture were delivered Saturday at the new house while Connor’s daddy was completing the final clean up and clear out of the old house. Later that night the words were stated, “We’re probably going to the hospital –  soon…” Only one week early.

Connor Thane was born at 9am on Sunday, March 12th. Everything easy and healthy, according to textbook natural births.  Twelve hours later I was at their new home, to make sure the three dogs pee’d in their new yard and were again contained in their new beds so as not to destroy anything about their new home. The new family was home on Monday. Now, three weeks later, everything is wonderful.

I personally like when I’m a participant in a wild-life journey. While this schedule of events is a bit wild, even for my family, it’s also rare so there was more laughter than drama.

I have been working on books and our construction project is in the final stages.

The following clip is a recently posted book review I did with two delightful local authors. This was my first experience viewing myself on You Tube and it was fun.

Check out Caroline and Susan! These are two fascinating ladies and more of their book reviews are in the Video Vault.

Love in the Movies

Robbie's 2nd Birthday party!

Robbie’s 2nd Birthday party!

A few years ago I discovered our local Good Will store has a few shelves of DVD’s in their book section. I found some great movies to entertain my grandchildren when they were babies. Now I check those shelves monthly because I am building my library of feature films, comedies, and romances from the 1990’s and 2000’s. During an all day Story Mastery workshop a few years ago, Michael Hauge stated that Hollywood doesn’t make good romantic comedies anymore. I think I understand what he meant then. Studying classic movies is a great distraction from the current political news.

In my opinion, this current election season in America is being watched and analyzed by a lot of very smart people, especially college students, around the world. If you want a lighter side look – Mike Rowe gave a great recap in his “That’s Debatable” article earlier this month. If you don’t know Mike from the show Dirty Jobs, you may recognize his voice as the narrator for a few adventure shows on the Discovery Channel.

No matter who moves into the oval office in 2017, I expect that escapist fiction with uplifting endings will still be sought for entertainment. It amuses me that The Donald and Ivana Trump had separate cameo appearances as themselves in what are now classic comedies from the early 1990’s. A wonderful movie released in 2008 features the Clinton campaign of 1992, and beyond. I may not comprehend politics while it is in process but it does shape our lifestyle and history even in romantic comedies, and especially when the Tom Hanks character states he hasn’t been in the dating game since Jimmy Carter was president.

I don’t remember if I ever viewed a full uncut version of “Sleepless in Seattle” until a few months ago when I found a 10th Anniversary Edition for three dollars.  In the special features is a commentary by the director Nora Ephrom and her sister, Deliah, as they reminisce about writing and filming the movie as they watch it together ten years later. They don’t discuss plot-points or bloopers but how maps and magic were themes; and the importance of having action buttons to end a scene. They chatted about the color palette and specific use of red and how it was limited until a certain point in the story, and that Nora hates royal blue and seldom has any blue in her movies.

One comment Deliah made during the commentary of “Sleepless” is that we watch these romantic stories to fall in love again. We only fall in love once and go to the movies to recapture those feelings through experiencing others falling in love even though we know it is “love in the movies” and not love in reality.  I can relate to that concept personally. I specifically relate to romantic comedies when they include ensemble casts and I am fascinated when the settings are a character on their own, like how the Ephrom sisters include NYC as edgy and dynamic flavor for the story.

I was scanning through news headlines last week and noticed a tiny item relating to Nora Ephrom and that one of her sons has completed a documentary about her life and works. This was a delightful confirmation that learning about Love in the Movies is worth my attention.

Rite of Passage

Feb RCRW 005

My book and swag displayed at a cocktail reception.

This shortest month of the year, even with an extra day, has been flavored with activities sort of like it’s after graduation and I’m now doing the new career among my Romancelandia peers. The first event was getting seven romance novels to read and judge for the RITA awards which are presented like the OSCAR but for romance novels.

The second event was being on display as a romance novelist for a public event sponsored by my RCRW chapter. Both of these events activated my inner giggles while also requiring my time and effort to meet deadlines specific to my books and career.

As a contest judge, it was my duty to read some of the latest romance novels in my genre by unknown to me authors. Five of them were a thrill to read. There may be some networking with those authors in the future as I work forward on my WIPs. The arrival of these novels also made me reconnect with the local used bookstore that operates on an exchange credit and discount program. Instead of donating novels to the library, that has limited shelf space for genre fiction, local Paperback Exchange stores are great for readers to find new authors.

bus cards 001As I prepared for my first promotions in Romancelandia I wanted to do a give-away for readers and wandered around a local craft store. I decided to dress up my business cards with a pair of earrings. The front of these cards has my name, photo, tagline and website. The back has the cover of my novel and email which is what a potential reader needs as this wasn’t a book selling event. Fortunately my sister makes jewelry so I was confident she’d show me how to do it, except she ended up just making them herself. What do you think?

I’m really having fun with this promotional aspect of my career, and handing out books, and having readers ask for when they can get my next one. I promise, they are in process.

Imagining Literature

My love of reading began with Science Fiction and Fantasy novels and were one of the reasons I had no dream of being a writer as a child. I could not imagine building a whole world but have always loved experiencing other planets; and dimensions, and times, and species, and… This love as a reader has never faded and I am thrilled that this form of storytelling is finally being valued as literature.

Some of Ursala K. Le Guin’s quotes in her speech are stellar.

I rejoice in accepting it and sharing it with all the writers who were excluded from literature for so long, my fellow authors of fantasy and science fiction, writers of the imagination. Who, for the last fifty years watched the beautiful awards go to the so called realists.

Right now, I think we need writers who know the difference between the production of a market commodity and the practice of art.

Books are not just commodities; the profit motive is often in conflict with the aims of art.

We will need writers who can remember freedom.

Ursula included some very pointed comments regarding the business of authorship and publishing in her acceptance speech and I applauded them as if I was in the room.

Let’s Pretend This Never Happened

I recently read the final chapters of Let’s Pretend This Never Happened by Jenny Lawson, The Bloggess.

Jenny’s blog has an international readership and I am a fan. This made reading her book like a fan-girl experience for me, which is very rare.

Like most of Jenny’s posts, the stories and phrasing in this book triggered  some awe; there were many loud  guffaws, snorts, and more than a few cringes. Like some posts The Bloggess has shared through the years, there were stories where I shed an empathetic tear or two.

It’s a 5 star ribald and wandering open window into an alien world.  I personally can’t relate to anything Jenny presents in this memoir. I personally related to everything Jenny presents in this memoir. How is that possible? I’ve never been to Texas and only once stepped into a taxidermist shop.

That’s the beauty of good writing and great storytelling. The words on the page traveled through my psyche as a reader, a reader the author probably never imagined would read her book. It’s not that Jenny and I couldn’t be friends if we were neighbors or met at a PTA function but logistically that would never happen. She’s in Texas, I’m in Oregon and my PTA days were in New Jersey.

I now plan to have this book forever perched on my desk so any time I see one of those prompts to pick up the closest book and turn to page #, sentence #, I’ll have a random sentence and paragraphs to enhance the content. I usually avoid those prompts but now feel I’ll enjoy using this book.

This memoir allowed me to be a reader, and that’s a wonderful opportunity for a writer.  I am glad This Mostly True Memoir happened even if it did take eleven years, and I am totally glad I happened upon it in a local bookshop.

Books I Read Recently

I have a lot of “To Be Read” ebooks even though I am really selective about even the free or $0.99 deals. However, I have read some that I enjoyed enough to mark as “worth a reread” and so here are some of those:

[Disclaimer – I’ve used Amazon links because they usually work and you can read quite a bit of the book to see if it’s one you want to read.]

Secret Sister by Emelle Gamble

This was a rather eerie page turner. It is in first person and begins with a delicately described, though gruesome, car crash with a fatality.  I usually avoid first person stories because it means I am getting inside the head of an unreliable narrator. In this case, we get inside the head of more than one of those, and that’s just the beginning. Seriously, read the blurbs and reviews for this one. It’s really good and I was fascinated all the way through and pleased with the ending.

Son of Thunder by S. C. Mitchell 

This was a page turner because it’s a mash up action-adventure-romance-through-myths-and-legends, with a touch of fun and fantasy.

What I really liked about this story (I read these books months ago) is that it took me on a roller coaster ride through worlds and time and wild weather with a diverse and densely populated cast of characters, but I didn’t get lost. I did have to slow down my reading speed but I love it when a book makes me do that.

According to Legend by Gerri Brousseau

This is another first-person story and I was fascinated at how well I empathized with the main character as she traveled back and forth through time, and fell in love with two unique men, while her life was in jeopardy in both worlds.

These three books were all published by the digital-first boutique publisher called Soul Mate Publishing that released it’s first books in 2011. As a “boutique” they are small and exclusive to specific products which is “high-quality romantic fiction for readers around the world.”  I’ve read more than these three books and so far have been impressed with every one.  I’ll recommend more books soon.

This publisher is still building its brand, keeps adding books to the “shelves” and has polished up its web presence.  When I first learned about them, they were barely a year old and the website was pretty rinky-dink. But the founder and senior editor wanted to publish my book…

Now the website is a lot better and it’s a joy to see ME there. I do intend to have more of my books available there but they are still in process. That’s why I’m pleased to say — Check out other authors my publisher features, you’ll probably find some great reads!

Shorter Stories

File:Sleepless in seattle.jpgHere’s a fun coincidence: With the closing of the local Blockbuster Video Store I decided to start building a DVD library of my favorite Chick Flicks and “Sleepless in Seattle” is one of the primary classics I realized I’d only seen once yet it’s referred to so often. So I bought it and watched it twice, and a few days later I was at an author event at Powells Books, because Kristina McMorris is a friends of mine, and I met Sarah Jio. Her novel Morning Glory was inspired by the movie “Sleepless in Seattle” and years ago I spent a lot of time wandering around the floating homes on Lake Union.

Morning GloryI found this a highly enjoyable novel though I avoid 1st person women’s fiction because I find it more limited than intimate. But the point it amplified for me is that as an author I am no longer a “qualified reviewer” of romance or women’s fiction novels. But the beauty of my blog is that I can say whatever I feel needs to be said according to what I am living in the moment.

I’m not sure what type of practical spirituality in life and writing story that I’ll present on this blog in 2014 but for now I’m enjoying the holidays, and my new grammy-nanny Job! And that brings me to my new interest in short stories…

The Words Market by Jessica Glenn – this is a fascinating though eerie and highly creative story that I may read a dozen times and never really get the author’s whole intent. Hence the fascination. I feel the same way about poetry, it’s this elusive and artistic presentation that will forever challenge me. I love challenges…

Cynders and Ashes by Elizabeth Boyle – Tons of fun for me. She is just my fave must read.

All I want for Christmas is a Soul Mate  is a collection of short stories my fellow SMP authors.

The Girl Most Likely To… is shorts written by friends in my RWA writer chapter.

Sweetwater Springs Christmas: A Montana Sky Short Story Anthology is a collection of historical western short stories that I heard about because of my friend Paty Jager.

It’s a big deal for me, after decades of devotion to the delight and business of romance novels, which are riddled with coincidence magic, to be a marginal authority as an author. It’s super fun and it’s really two rights making a wrong. Now that I actually feel qualified to present my opinion on a story as having merit, my new status as a novelist means I have a “questionable” bias.

These are interesting times.

Launching a New Normal

My novel is now available in digital format. In this new world of publishing books, this stage is considered a “Soft Release” for quick promotion links through online reader/writer/reviewer networks. It’s a quiet version of what used to be called a “Book Launch.”

I’ve heard from friends and family who jumped onto Amazon and bought it, read it, and their comments have tickled my soul!  “A fun and fabulous read!”  “I’m ready for Book Two anytime, Mom.”  “You’re a better astrologer than you give yourself credit for…”  “I wasn’t expecting this depth of characterization, or story. Good Job.” I LOVE THIS, and look forward to writing that next novel…

Celebrating the book proof

The first time we both held the PROOF!

During these same weeks, there’s been a flurry of activity regarding the release of the AM101 Guide and Journal I coauthored with C. Morgan Kennedy. This book will be released in all types of formats, print and digital, in two weeks. This book will be “Launched” as we have four scheduled presentations and book signing events in the next few months.

I can’t quite describe what it feels like to hold an actual book, with your name on the cover, in your hand. But it is AWESOME!

We expected our PROOF copy to arrive while I was in Cleveland so it was sent to Morgan’s address. Except – there was a whirlwind of minor corrections for this book, and my novel, while I was out-of-town. So I had a dual taste of deadline frenzy, and for this book, a final delivery mix up. There’s always a bigger story behind the book. Authors share these with their secret handshakes, in the dark, behind bookshelves.

It’s not surprising that my first week as a published author included some last minute panics, a doctor visit, and antibiotics. My new normal includes baby sitting my newest granddaughter three days a week. She’s soft and not easy to release.  And it’s a great way for me to stay grounded. 😀

Now – I know some will ask, which fulfills me more, the grandchildren or the book deals. The answer is simple, it’s not a choice of either-or, they are both significant parts of my life… and I’ve never been normal.

Whispers from the Wild

Enter the world of The American Wildlife Foundation: A place where harsh realities are healed bu the magic of ordinary people.

Enter the world of The American Wildlife Foundation: A place where harsh realities are healed by the magic of ordinary people.

On our AM101 blog, we’ve often stated it takes 3 touches of interest before a sale, and I’ve often noticed, in my life, that when I get 3 nudges of coincidence it is time to pay attention!

I’ve met Jacqueline A. Carl a few times as she attends a woman’s writers group that I have been a member of since arriving in Oregon, but, as it’s not a social group, other than the writing piece being shared there’s little time for personal connection. I’ve been a sporadic attendee at these Wednesday afternoon meetings in recent years so have not been current on everyone’s projects.

A few weeks ago, Jackie had her book to buy and I bought a copy. But I didn’t start reading it – yet. We had chatted about marketing as she follows our AM101 blog. That point alone made me set her book in a different spot than on top of my to-be-read pile.

I’ve been reading novels to review and that’s when the 2nd nudge happened. I got an email from Oregon Women’s Report requesting my interest in brainstorming a new format – maybe with a book review flavor. In my reply I mentioned Whispers from the Wild  and its focus on stories from the American Wildlife Foundation in Molalla, Oregon. They were interested in learning about this book and wildlife center.

Today, Jackie and I chatted about writing stuff in those few minutes before the critiquing session, and I told her about this recent exchange. She was thrilled and yet I didn’t feel it was much as I hadn’t read the book, or looked over her website to offer any marketing pointers. We didn’t have another chance to chat again but I felt this was a 3rd nudge to Pay Attention.

So I started reading the book. Oh. Wow. I’m only on page 83, but have completed the first section of stories. There are 8 sections, and I know I will devour and endorse them all.

Written in a narrative style, these stories are engaging and I’m totally enthralled with all the characters presented, including Cyrano, the imprinted turkey vulture who is a personality!  Often gritty, and occasionally rancid, few of these vignettes will win literary awards but that’s not why they were written, or what compels me to read them.

Yeah, I’m busy with two books being released from two different publishers in the next two months. I’ve got a new granddaughter, and two week long vacations on my calendar before those books are published. I’m also weeding through an overload of email regarding by-laws and more for national and regional organizations because I’m on the board of directors….

But now I know why I’ve been nudged to Pay Attention. This is a book that represents the power of potential with a digital publishing format. It’s a story that needs to be told. Now, sales of this book will fund a valiant connection with different species on this planet. We can now buy and read a book that’s a win for the reader, and a win for the animals, and there’s few politics (though there is hierarchy and ego!) in the mix. When we reconnect with the laws of the wild, we become better humans.

So go buy it, read it, and know I will endorse it because I appreciate the Whispers from the Wild and they have never steered me wrong, even though it takes 3 touches for me to pay attention.

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