Tuesday, July 19, 2011

No man is an island entire of itself- John Donne

Today my computer whizz son is uploading my book so that the rest of the world can read it. My talented daughter made the front and back covers. The picture on the front is of my youngest daughter and we took the photograph on my friend’s stairs. (Eventually, we didn’t use Molly’s staircase, but it was nice of her to let us pose around her banisters.) Miranda, my daughter the model, is holding a necklace that we borrowed from her friend, Summer.

I started Stealing Mercy about eighteen months ago. I had a goal of winning the Romance Writer’s of America’s Golden Heart award and to help me meet that goal, I asked a friend and prolific romance writer to help me. Which she did. I didn’t win the award and (even though there might be some of you who don’t believe me) I’m grateful for that fail as it would have put me on a different path.

I belong to Orange County Fictionaires, a writer’s group made up of incredibly talented and diverse writers. I’m honored and humbled to be among them. I like to think their wit and intelligence has made me a better writer (and person.)

Wendy Moon edited my book. Many people have read it, and although I’m not going to list them all, I want them to know how much I appreciate their helpful feedback and encouragement.

I’m also indebted to my sister-in-law, Cynthia, who helped me to see a bigger picture and a better plan than the one I’d been pursuing. One weekend at her home changed my perspective and my career objectives.

And, while I’m passing around my gourd of gratitude, I have to mention my husband. He’s been holding my hand for twenty-nine years. I know he’ll never let go, no matter what insanity comes our way, and for that stability and security I’m profoundly grateful.

Finally, I have to thank the source of all good ideas. I believe there’s a muse for every creative endeavor and I pay humble recognition to mine. I had the idea for my very favorite scene in Stealing Mercy while worshipping in the temple. While my mind was supposed to be occupied on more spiritual things, I had the idea of Mercy baking tarts laced with a sleeping potion. I stopped believing in coincidences a long time ago and started having faith in a God that’s concerned with giant and important things and who also has a sense of humor about stories, tarts and sleeping potions. I really can’t adequately express my appreciation for His guidance in my life.

So thank you, all of you, for the gift of this novel. I hope in some small way, it repays the tremendous debt I owe to the world for all I’ve been given.

Stealing Mercy will go live within a few days.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Book Blurb

My children are brilliant. I won’t even mention their tests scores or GPAs, because you probably wouldn’t believe me. You’d think I’m lying, because, after all, I do write fiction. Still, despite all their smarts, they’re lacking in experience.
For example, Jared, who graduated with all sorts of honors once said, “Make ice? You can’t make ice!” In Jared’s experience, ice comes from a lever on a refrigerator door, a machine in a hotel lobby or a soda machine. Ice tray? What’s that? And how do you get the ice out?

Natalie, who reads Austin and Dickens for breakfast once said, “There are no leaves on any of these trees! Look, not one of these trees has any leaves.” It was December and we were in Utah. Natalie had spent every winter of her life in Southern California. After all, unless you ski, why go to Utah in the winter? Unless, of course, you must. I’m sure that at some early point in Natalie’s vast and impressive education she learned about deciduous trees, but in sunny California, trees have leaves and blossoms pretty much always. In Natalie’s experience a leafless tree was a dead tree.

Lately I’ve been working self publishing my book and I’m wading in new waters. I’m discovering ice trays and barren trees. Weeks ago I set the goal to have my book up and out before my dad’s 90th birthday party. I broke the project into small goals. Finish book. Have it edited. Get feedback from readers. Write back cover blurb. Make front and back covers. I set deadlines and I made every single one.

Which means that I now have no excuses.

Except, of course, that I’m doing something that I’ve never done before. It would be comforting if I could practice, but it appears that practice swings are okay in golf and baseball, but not indie-publishing. Once I self publish, the book is out there for anyone to see. Warts and all.

Tomorrow, I’m going to self publish a short story. It’s a little less daunting than an entire novel, but until then, take a look at my blurb for STEALING MERCY and tell me what you think… before it’s too late to change.

Stealing Mercy
After a night of terror, Mercy Faye flees New York. Disguised as a boy, she sets sail for a new life in Seattle, but her nightmare, Mr. Steele, follows close behind. Armed with only her chocolates, laced tarts and wits, Mercy sets out to destroy Mr. Steele and his Lucky Island brothel.

Trent Michaels is searching for his missing cousin. He can’t afford complications--or romance--yet, at every turn he finds Mercy Faye. The night before the Great Seattle Fire of 1889, flames spark between Mercy and Trent leaving the life they know and the city they love in ashes.

Their story reaches forward through time to Bette Michaels, a genealogist, struggling with grief after the sudden death of her husband. Although generations apart, as Bette unravels Mercy’s story, she learns that a life can be rebuilt--even after everything is lost.

Through Mercy, Bette learns that sometimes the only way to find happiness is to steal it.

Friday, July 8, 2011


I recently read and loved Taken by Storm by Angela Morrison. Here are a few of her reviews:

A moving novel...Morrison conveys underlying tensions that threaten the teenagers' relationship and test their moral codes...she handles the topics...gracefully without passing judgment. --Publishers Weekly, starred review

"One of the most breathtaking and romantic-to-the-point-you-cry books I've ever read." --The Reader

"There are moments of yearning and transcendence that took my breath away." --Susan Fletcher, author of Alphabet of Dreams

"An amazing story." --Jack Weyland, author of Charly

I met Angela a few months ago and I'm thrilled to have her visiting my blog. Please join our discussion!

Tell me about your decision to use poetry and “chatspot” for prose.

is what one of my fellow YA authors calls a collage novel. I originally wrote it with dual first-person narrators--Michael and Leesie. I came up with the idea of putting all of Michael's narration in journal-type dive log entries, and I loved that and even had editors love it, but I couldn't get Leesie's part right. She was always a poet, but in the early drafts, I only let her write the poem about her grandmother that she emails to Michael. Ah-hah! Eureka. Let her narrate in poems. For the third piece of Michael and Leesie's puzzle, I pulled out their online chats, that I'd used like dialogue, and put them in as chat transcripts. It was a challenge to get all the pieces to fit together, but when I was done, I was excited. And then I found an editor who is a poet, too.

What are some of your favorite authors? Tell me about their influence on Taken by Storm.

I adore Markus Zusak--especially THE BOOK THIEF. SCBWI Germany hosted him for a workshop when I lived in Switzerland, and I got to go to it. He was amazing. I was astonished that a guy that young had so much confidence in exactly how he wanted his book to look on the page and the pieces he wanted to use to tell his story. It was after his workshop and reading THE BOOK THIEF that I decided to collage my novel.

I'm a huge TWILIGHT fan, too. Stephanie Meyers had a different type of influence on TAKEN BY STORM. She expanded the appetite for YA books in a huge, huge way. Pre-TWILIGHT I could sell TAKEN BY STORM. After, I got a two book contract with Penguin--about a book that has abstinence for one of its main themes. Many of my friends got contracts, too. The YA phenomenon that is still growing owes a huge debt to Queen Stephanie.

I love the symbolism of Michael’s drowning in grief. Tell me about your experience with scuba diving. Were you a diver before writing Taken by Storm?

Yeah. I got the idea for TAKEN BY STORM on a dive trip with my husband to Cozumel. You've got to go to my website and read the whole tale. Check out Storm's Story. But I didn't know anything about free diving. On a trip to Grand Cayman, my husband and I took a free dive certification course. He was great at it. I was awful, but I aced the written test and--and you should have watched our instructor dive. Poetry in motion. For real.

When in Michael’s point of view, he refers to himself as “i” as opposed to the capitalized “I.” And then at some point, Michael switches to the capital “I”. Tell me about that decision and exactly where the change begins.

He uses "i" after the hurricane. He's so shattered that "I" is too much for him. The "I" that he's always been is gone. I worried that an editor would smirk and think that was too artsy, but my wonderful editor was a poet and made sure we kept that. It's kind of tricky to tell you when the change happens without spoiling the ending of TAKEN BY STORM . . . but look for it there. I'm sure you'll figure out why it changes back to "I."

I think you did a lovely job of portraying Michael’s secular upbringing opposed with Leesie’s more spiritual foundation. As a Mormon, I can relate to Leesie, but I’m curious as to the reaction of those who don’t share my faith. Can you share any feedback you’ve received about Michael and his point of view?

My readers adore, adore Michael. They fall totally in love with him. I've heard from readers of all different faiths and belief systems--from atheists to Moslems to Catholics and Mormons, who enjoyed TAKEN BY STORM. They were with me through UNBROKEN CONNECTION, but some didn't like the path Michael takes in CAYMAN SUMMER. I didn't see any other way for it to go--but that's because of my beliefs. And I had lots of readers who cheered every step Michael took.

One of my favorite lines in the book is “a hundred thousand virgin kisses.” Do you have any particular favorite lines?

Oh, that's one of my favorites, too! I also like it when Leesie says, "I'm much better online than in person."

There’s a line from a song that goes something like this “that same small town in each of us,” that I relate with, since I’m also from a small town in Washington. Tell me about the influence of Tekoa in your work.

I had to find a place to send Michael after I killed of his parents and all his dive club friends. I couldn't send him back to Phoenix to the arms of Caroleena and familiar places. Too easy. Not enough pain and suffering. Yes, we authors are totally sadistic. I needed a place I knew well. I lived in Canada at the time and wanted an American setting. I settled on Tekoa. I didn't realize it, but I was homesick. I couldn't go home in real life, but I could go there in my imagination every day.

Are the Salmon people a figment of your imagination, or is it a Native American legend?

The reservation across from Grand Coulee Dam is called the Colville Indian Reservation. I had a mentor at Vermont College tell me that didn't sound like a Native American name and I needed to change it. She didn't care if that was what the Native American tribes there went by. So I did my homework. The reservation took the name of a nearby fort--named after a British guy. Remnants of many tribes lived there on the shores of the Columbia River. They had a good life--compared to so many Native American tribes who ended up on reservations--because they could still fish the river for salmon. They did worship the salmon. And when Grand Coulee Dam went up, they did hold a Ceremony of Tears. I found pictures of it in my research. In their native tongues, they referred to themselves as "the people" or "salmon people," so I used that in the novel. The buff warriors riding salmon in Michael's nightmare are from my imagination--but they echo what I learned about the real salmon people.

My absolute favorite scene in the book is near the end when Michael has a vision of Leesie “standing in front of her white temple snowflakes falling around her—pure, untouched, holy—“ When did you know you’d have to write this scene? Did you foresee it from the beginning?

No. I wrote that scene as part of the very last revision before it went to the copy-editors. My editor actually came up with the idea.

What was your favorite scene? Which was the most difficult to write?

I love the very last scene in TAKEN BY STORM. That stayed virtually the same through all the revisions--years and years of revisions. I foresaw that from the beginning.

Please share why you decided to self-publish Unbroken Connection. Has this been a good decision? Tell me about the pros and cons of self-publishing versus traditional publishing.

My wonderful editor left Penguin right before my second book with them, SING ME TO SLEEP, came out. SING isn't related to TAKEN BY STORM. It's romantic and even more tragic, but different characters, different inspiration, very different story. I'd submitted UNBROKEN CONNECTION to them because I had a very stringent option clause in my contract. They rejected it, but I had all these wonderful readers and bloggers who wanted to read it. They started a FB and a blog campaign in support of UNBROKEN CONNECTION. In the middle of all this, my agent bailed on me. I knew no other publisher would be interested in the publishing a sequel to a Penguin release, so I decided to get it to my fans as fast as I could. I released it first as an ebook, but they wanted a paperback, too, so we did a POD version. And then, as a gift to those same readers, I wrote CAYMAN SUMMER, with them cheering and helping, on my blog, http://caymansummer.blogspot.com. You can buy it now, but it's still available to read for free on the blog.

With a giant traditional publisher like Penguin, you get an advance, professional editors, designers, copy-editors, a PR rep, marketing and sales people. My Penguin releases got reviews in most of the major review magazines--which helps a lot with school and library sales. But you don't have as much control over things like the title, the cover, even the content and length. I enjoyed the freedom I had with my indie releases--especially CAYMAN SUMMER. My sales are much lower, but more and more TAKEN BY STORM readers are discovering UNBROKEN CONNECTION and CAYMAN SUMMER, and I'm in no hurry. The books aren't going anywhere. They always be available. With a traditional publisher they might get your books on the shelves at B&N but they only stay there a few weeks unless it becomes a big hit or wins awards. Books--even though as readers and authors we might think they last forever--have a really short shelf life. Amazon and B&N.com are changing that, but its a shocking reality for the new authors. .

Friday, July 1, 2011

Girl's Camp

It’s day three of girl’s camp. Most are at the lake, but I’ve stayed behind for those that are hanging in their tents. I can hear their laughter, but they might as well be on a different planet for all our interaction. Still, if they need me, they’ll call and I’ll answer.

We hiked this morning—seven miles, but after about two I returned to camp with Alicia, a small for her age cancer survivor, weakened and forever medicated because of her years with chemo. I wondered what we would say to each other on our oh-so-slow return, but we easily chatted about movies and books. We have similar tastes. But, we’re not similar. I’m healthy and strong—I’ve always been so.

I like watching my daughters. They’re tall and beautiful in a raw, naked way that they don’t even know or recognize. They offer meaningful prayers and are open-armed friendly. Bold, honest, quick-witted. Nothing like me at age sixteen.

Thirty-seven girls and not one remind me of my younger-self. My mother died when I was fifteen. I think back to the people who loved me and I wonder why I couldn’t see or appreciate their concern. I didn’t want their pity. I was so much more interested in my peers. Boys. I was an empty hole of hurt. Emotionally vacant. Not really knowing where I belonged or fit.

The camp director grew up with two of the girls I knew on Study Abroad. London, 1981seems like a life time ago. The girls and the camp director are from Newport Beach. Back then, I thought my dad was rich, and for Arlington, he was. I hadn’t any comprehension of Newport Beach wealth. I only knew the Arlington haves and haves-not and in Arlington, you didn’t need a lot to be a haves. I had everything I wanted and didn’t know the world held so much more.

And less.

So many of the people I’ve loved have been lost, one way or another. Marriages that I thought would always last end. Friends turn into strangers. I wish I could take my daughters and shield them from addictions—substance addictions, sexual addictions, addictions to toxic relationships—but I can’t. No matter how strong I’ve always been, I can’t be strong for them. I can only answer if they call. I hope I can do at least that.

Someone once said that we learn more from our mistakes than from success. I still prefer successes to mistakes. I like to think that with faith I can avoid the big mistakes, the destroy everything I value and have worked so hard for mistakes, but I’m not sure. Although, I’m quite sure that mistakes will happen, no matter what, because deep down inside I’m still that young girl carrying emptiness, sometimes too caught up in myself to see the vacancies in the people around me.

About a mile from camp a man with a tractor pulled up beside Alicia. He held out a long, dark feather. Alicia didn’t take it, but I did and after thanking him, I handed it to her. Now, as I sit in the sun, still far away from the girls and their giggles, I see that Alicia has stuck the feather in her braid. It points up to the sky.