Sad to See Summer End

With the temperature at 109 degrees, it’s hard to believe that it’s nearing the end of summer. However, the beginning of school and appearance of Halloween paraphernalia in the stores say otherwise. At least my summer vacation ended with a bang: a wonderful trip to Oregon and the eclipse!

Well…actually, we returned from Oregon a few days BEFORE the eclipse. But we saw plenty of preparations while we were there, including lots of stores stocking those special sunglasses everyone was talking about. My husband and I missed all the traffic, and got to enjoy the gorgeous Oregon coastline virtually by ourselves, and still got to view the partial eclipse from home.

We kicked off our road trip by viewing a fabulous staging of Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar at the famous festival in Ashland, a production which showed just how timeless that classic is, and how endlessly creative talented theater folk are. It has been a couple of decades since I’d been to Ashland, which happens to be one of a handful of charming small towns that inspired the village of “River’s Bend” in my first novel, “The Jewelry Case,” and part of the plot as well. If you read it, you’ll know what I’m referring to! 🙂

We were hoping for cool weather as we wound our way up toward Washington and the Olympic peninsula but unfortunately, the heat wave followed us. Counter to my expectations, we encountered exactly zero rain. Still, it was refreshing to see all those green trees and the unbelievable ocean views as we drove up from Coos Bay to Astoria … and then, crossing into Washington, the beautiful scenery continuing all the way to Gig Harbor, Port Angeles, and Bellingham.

Here’s a few photos of our trip.

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I hiked down to this waterfall near the adorable town of Sliverton. You can walk behind it, too. This might make a good setting for a chase scene in one of my future books.

Ashland, OR

Me in front of the theater where we saw Julius Caesar. If you haven’t been to Ashland yet, you should definitely put it on your bucket list. Unforgettable experience.

Oh,

I hope your summer was equally memorable!

 

 

 

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The Big Secret is Out!

Full confession: I’m not very good at keeping a secret, so some of my closest friends already know this, but here goes: I have signed a contract and am officially working with Cedar Fort Publications. When I got the call from Cedar Fort’s wonderful acquisitions editor, I had an out-of-body experience while desperately trying to sound calm and professional and as if I wasn’t about to faint.

As an independently published author, over the past few years I had pretty much figured I would continue self-publishing my own books, following the example of some of my favorite authors who have left traditional publishing to do so. But I will not lie. It has always been my dream to be picked up by a “real” publishing company.

As they say, making the cut definitely gives a sense of validation. My husband humorously referenced Sally Fields accepting her Oscar after he heard the news: “They like you! They really like you!”

A huge thank you to those readers who have left reviews on Goodreads and Amazon Books. I am positive your support helped make this dream come true. And another huge thank you and big hugs to my amazing critique group partners and beta readers, for your invaluable feedback and encouragement. I love you guys!

The only down side is that I have taken my books off Amazon pending their re-release by Cedar Fort. The first book or two should be available this spring. Please keep posted for updates on this exciting journey, including the cover reveals, sample chapters, and snippets about the characters and conflicts, hopefully whetting your appetite.

Now excuse me while I go dance around the kitchen again.

Good Times

Wow! What an exciting month! This July has been a great one for me. First, it’s vacation time, so I’ve had lots of time to write for long stretches of time and still catch up on all those little things that pile up around the house during the school year. Second, I’ve been having a blast meeting the public at the California State Fair. This is my first time there, and it’s heartening to see how many readers are out there.

By the way, today’s my last day: 12-8 p.m., building A. If you happen to be in the Sacramento area, please come and visit! There are books for every taste, and lots of wonderful authors to meet.

My only regret about the booth–and it’s a big one–is when a visitor chatting with me at the Authors Booth said if he wrote a book about his life, no one would believe it…I failed to ask him “why.” I think I had some idea about respecting his privacy, and that if he wanted to tell me, he would. Ever since, I’ve been wondering,  was he a member of the mob? Kidnapped by Central American terrorists? The first to climb Mount Everest with one hand tied behind his back? Marilyn Monroe’s love child?

On top of all that, I have some VERY EXCITING NEWS which I will announce next week. All it can tell you right now is that it is a dream come true, one I have waited for for many years. I am so very happy and excited! 🙂

 

 

Oh My Gosh, Is That What’s His Name?

Okay, I’ll confess right up front: I can’t remember names. I must have inherited this disability from my mom, who called me by my sister’s name almost as often as she called me by my own. Still does, by the way. (Hi there, Mom! Love Ya!)

My own kids, bless their hearts, had to grow up hearing me run through everyone else in the family’s name before I got to theirs. It was there in my head somewhere, but I just couldn’t pull it out immediately. I’ve even called my husband by my brothers’ names (and vice versa), my daughter by her aunt’s name…well, you get the gist.

When I have to introduce people, even people I know extremely well, my brain freezes. I grin, and say, “Hi, this is__________” (hopefully remembering at least one of the names). Then there is a long awkward pause while I wait for the the other person to step forward and introduce himself to the other person, which after a moment, they usually do.

I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one to suffer from this disease. I’d just like to know how other people deal with it!

 

 

 

Happy Independence Day!

For much of the 1970s, when a lot of national bitterness lingered on about the Vietnam War and it seemed like American patriotism was at a low (equaled only in recent years), I was living in Rabat, Morocco, next door to the American Ambassador’s residence, and my father worked at the American Embassy a few blocks away, literally a little piece of our homeland, where Old Glory flew overhead and the Marines stood on guard, and everything seemed homelike and familiar.

US Flag

As beautiful as that North African country was, with its Mediterranean climate, Roman ruins, and intricately tiled mosques, its delicious fruit, sandy beaches and fascinating history, I remember being amazed at how unappreciative my compatriots were of our own country. Or so it seemed to me. When I returned for visits, I was amazed at stores that were clean, with endless aisles of products to choose from, how big everything was, and especially the fact that everyone spoke English with an American accent.

Times have changed. So has America in some ways, for better or worse. People may debate the reasons and meaning of those changes, but whatever we may wish were different, we are still fortunate enough to have the oldest functioning democratic republic in the world, the highest rate of charitable giving in the world, the biggest economy, the most global influence, and the strongest military–whose members sacrifice all to protect Americans and others, often for no reason except that it is the right thing to do.

On the Fourth of July, I believe it is appropriate to spend some time appreciating the good about the United States, the country that did away with the concept of inherited Monarchy (sorry, England!), and brought the ideal of democracy to the modern world.

Today I am proud to be American, and at the same time I wish the best to all our wonderful friends in other countries around the world.

Happy Independence Day!

Book Bub Rocks!

If you’ve read any of my posts, you know I don’t chat much about my pet (although my beloved Storm is the best cat ever), or my vicissitudes in life (way too embarrassing, you really don’t want to hear about that stuff. Or if you do, I don’t want to tell.) But today I’m going to talk about something very exciting that just happened.

Here it is….

Being a rather private, even shy person, I have found it super hard to do what it takes to market my books. Oh, I know what I’m SUPPOSED to do (blog tours, book launch parties, Instagram, etc.) but when it comes to actually doing it… well, I always find something else I’d rather do instead. Like snack on chocolate moosetracks ice cream, or clean out the garage.

Well, I finally got around to doing something I’ve been planning to do for a couple of years now. I got an account on Book Bub. Just so you know, this is not a paid advertisement for that website, but the next weekend when two of my books went on promotion…WOW! People finally knew that my books existed! How exciting!!!

So, dear reader, if you happen to pick up or download one of my novels and enjoy it, please take a minute and post a brief review, or just give it a few stars. It would be so nice for more readers to know my stories are out there. Hopefully the books will entertain or even inspire them. THANK YOU SO VERY MUCH!!!

And oh yes, here is my sweet cat, Storm. 🙂

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Magical Meal

IMG_5236I’m lucky to live in a town with lots of entertaining things to do. Recently, my husband and I went to a new venue that recently opened, called Mystique Dining. It is basically a dinner theater with close-up magic, which, if you haven’t seen it before, consists of a magician doing card tricks and other magic, not up on a stage but a few inches from your eyes. No matter how closely you watch, it is impossible to tell how they do it!
At least that was our experience. We were lucky enough to attend the Magic Castle in Los Angeles years ago, and were just as amazed. My husband went home and immediately went online to find out the secrets. I prefer not to know! The food (prime rib) and hilarious patter from the magician were just as good as the magic. It was a splurge, but well worth it. If you’re looking for something different to do, try a fabulous magic show!
I’m currently working on a Young Adult fantasy story about a young man who is learning to be a REAL magician, because, of course, magic is even better when it’s the real thing. Haven’t come out with a title yet, but this book has been in my mind since I was a teenager, long before Harry Potter. A lesson in not procrastinating: from the beginning, my main character’s name has been Torb, but I just learned that there is a videogame that has come out with a character using that name. Grrr!

How to Fix Boring

What to do when you’re reading a book that is “well written” in the sense that the author can put a decent sentence together, but it’s just so boring that you have to force yourself to keep reading? I’ve read several books like that recently…well, the truth is that I’m STILL reading them because I just can’t seem to plow through them without effort.

This is a contrast to the kind of books you can’t put down, that you stay up late reading so you can find out what happens next even though you have to get up early in the morning for work.

What’s the difference between a worthy effort by a writer who is obviously intelligent and well-educated, and a great story with wings? Sometimes the writer without the polished grammar or amazing vocabulary is the one who wows me with their story. Why?

I’ve given this some thought and came up with the following conclusions. (I don’t claim to be the first one to come up with these ideas, but they are certainly true).

1) The main character is bland.
I can just hear the author say, “But they’re realistic!” Ironically, to make a character seem more “real,” it may actually help to caricaturize them a bit, exaggerating one or two unusual traits so they stand out.

My favorite literary characters are Amelia Peabody and her husband, Emerson, in a series by Elizabeth Peters. (If you haven’t read them check the books out!) They have exaggerated traits that make them stand out from most other fictional protagonists: a passion for Egyptian archaeology, stubbornness, and a competitive spirit. Their over-the-top characteristics make them lovable and real, and anything but flat or boring.

Think about it. All literary characters who stand out have something extreme or unusual that sets them apart. Sherlock Holmes has many: his arrogance, his violin, his pipe, his misogyny. Nero Wolfe has his love for orchids, his refusal to ever leave his house, and his reliance on that womanizing sidekick, Archie Goodwin. Madame Bovary has her vanity and longing for romantic adventure. Captain Ahab has his vengeful monomania. None of them are “normal. Each is extreme! Extreme! Extreme!

2) Nothing is at stake.
Another problem that can derail an otherwise promising story is when there’s no ticking clock, no sense of impending disaster. Yes, there may be a mystery to solve or a bad guy to stop, but the reader doesn’t feel much will happen to the protagonist if he DOESN’T figure it out. Even if we know something terrible might happen to another character if the problem isn’t stopped, it must be someone close enough to the hero for the reader to share his desperation.

That’s why so many movies, both good and bad (Die Hard, Air Force One, Paul Blart, San Andreas) involve a protagonist who must accomplish something before a loved one is killed. Even though this trope has been used over and over, it always keeps me on the edge of my seat. That’s because the hero’s success MATTERS.

3) Too many digressions from the main plot.
I love a good subplot or two, but sometimes rather than adding tension, an uninspiring subplot can cause a reader to feel the main character is wandering around at random instead of focusing on the job at hand. That defuses the tension. At such times my mind meanders while waiting for the story to get back on track, and after a while I forget what the story is about and set the book down.

There is likely much else that makes a book a page turner (or not), but any author would benefit from working on these three—including myself! Namely: colorful characters that capture our imagination, a sense that something truly important is at stake, and forward momentum that keeps us reading to find out what happens next.

New Book Out – Phew!

The best thing about self-publishing is no deadlines. The worst thing is…no deadlines! That means tinkering around making endless changes to the story, starting other projects, and, without oodles of self-discipline, what is intended to be a few weeks can stretch out to… Well, never mind. It’s done! Over! Finished.

Yes, my long-awaited (by me, at least) western is finally out. I don’t really consider the novel a “western” but rather a historical that happens to be set in the western United States immediately after the Civil War. There are horses, bandits, six-shooters, and American Indians, yes, but it’s mostly about three displaced young persons finding “home.” And of course there’s a love story in there too.

Many thanks to my wonderful friends and critique partners who helped me whip it into shape. I could not have done it without you. And thanks to my daughter for the new banner featuring my book covers, including my next historical with romantic elements, New Hope, which should be out in a month or two.

If anyone’s in the mood for a fun story with lots of action, Chance’s Bluff is available as an ebook or paperback at https://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=chance%27s+bluff

(If you like it, please post a kind review. Thanks!)

Love & War Anthology

I have just finished an anthology of novellas, written with three of my friends as a salute to soldiers and veterans of different wars. A sampler with the first chapter of each story is now available on Amazon for 99 cents. Love & War Anthology shares the stories of soldiers and veterans of the U.S. Civil War, World War I, World War II, and the war in Afghanistan. The full-length anthology is soon to follow. Keep posted!

Love and War Anthology (1)