Guest Post: Poetry Tea-Time!

I’m guest-posting over on be, mama. be about a ritual we have in our house called Poetry Tea-Time.

For those of you who are intimidated by poetry and fearful I’m about to break out some Emily Dickinson on you, breathe easy. Although at one time I thought I’d pursue poetry, and not fiction, it became all too clear that I am far better at works with a higher page count!

No, my guest post is about a ritual I share with my children when our day is getting out of hand. And although we might read poems about love, a topic Emily Dickinson might have written about, fair maidens are nowhere to be found. Instead, the love poem we’d be likely to read might be about scaring the babysitter with a pet snake. Or perhaps an ode to Star Wars. The kind of love that appeals to my three sons.

Now doesn’t that sound like poetry which would appeal to the masses? Add tea and a sweet snack and who wouldn’t be eager to participate in poetry tea-time?

Head over to the LAST guest post of 2015 (at least on Cara’s blog) and show us some love. Be sure to leave a comment and share about rituals you have!

Thank you, Cara, for hosting me!

Advertisements

Book Club: Wilsonville, AL

In the past I’ve posted about attending book clubs on Facebook, but it occurred to me that I should take a moment and post here, too! And this past week I was lucky enough to attend a book club as “The Author.” (Put that way it sounds a bit pretentious, doesn’t it?)

Book clubs really are the best of inventions. How fun is it to sit around and talk about books with other book lovers? Plus, there is the delicious food and drinks to add to the whole experience!

The book club I visited this week has been meeting for about thirteen years! Isn’t that impressive? And Bree, this month’s host, and I met through the Mom’s Club when I first moved to Birmingham.  It was a lot of fun and we talked about a wide variety of subjects, from high school football to politics to kitten antics to Trespassers, of course. We even touched on my new work-in-progress and they weighed in on my tentative title. (Sorry, I can’t reveal it here. It’s a book club secret!)

A few members of the Wilsonville, AL book club

A few members of the book club

Thanks for having me to your book club, Ladies!

Celebrating an Accomplishment!

Image-1

Can you guess what this is, dear friends?

That’s right! It’s the finished draft of the novel I’ve been working on! Longer than my first novel Trespassers, it is over 400 pages and about 90,000 words. There was about a month when I was certain it was the very worst book ever written, but then I got over the hump and things started falling into place. (However, I’m not willing to share specific details about the book yet; what if it really is the worst book ever?!)

Typing finished is a great feeling, but with finished comes draft, which means the book isn’t done, just ready for revision. The pages are printed and now I’ll write all over it, crossing out entire pages, adding scenes, removing repetitive words…And once I’ve typed in all my changes, I’ll print it out again, go back through it for another revision and start thinking about the people I’ll ask to read it (scary thought!) for feedback. Will you be one of the lucky readers?

But until then I’ll just celebrate this accomplishment!

The Launch Party of Trespassers – 11.1.14

About the time I first learned to read is about the time I knew I wanted to be a writer. But if I’d known at the age of five that to be a writer I can’t just write books, but I must also promote myself and speak in public, I might have looked a little further into alternate potential career choices.

IMG_4359

The sign!

So it was with much trepidation that I approached my launch party for Trespassers. It didn’t matter that the majority of people there would be people who love me and wish me to be successful. I was still nervous. And then I discovered Barnes & Noble had not yet received my books. Funnily enough, that little bit of news was much less stressful than one would expect because my publisher had drilled into our heads that we must always have books on hand. Of course in the scenario she painted, the bookstores sold out of books, not that they had zero books to sell! Nevertheless, I had a box of books sitting in my closet just waiting to save the day.

Amanda and Robyn, the folks at Barnes & Noble, felt pretty awful for not having the books. But they were extremely kind and encouraging, assuring me I would be great. Amanda even told me that she’d read my book the day before and liked it! Now, if she was lying, I don’t want to know about it. It was exactly the kind of encouragement I needed. They also had placed a paper rose on every seat and filled a mug full of them for display on the signing table. In my book there are paper roses that are pretty important to the main character so I was really touched that they did that for me. Of course they didn’t know how to actually make paper roses so they put out a call over the loudspeaker asking if anyone in the store knew how to make them. One gentleman came up and offered his help. He ended up making a bunch of them and got a B&N gift card for his efforts!

IMG_4295

The signing table with books displayed and a mug full of paper roses!

There was a good crowd that turned out: my dad, who was in town visiting; my husband and kids of course; my dearest friends who have supported and encouraged me through this process; many of my friends from the book club I participate in; and quite a few of my husband’s employees, too! (You may think they were trying to earn brownie points from their boss; I appreciated their kindness and was so touched that they came.)

My captive audience!

My captive audience!

IMG_4344

My dad, me, my husband, my three sons. The mustache on my 7 yr old was in anticipation of the toast he intended to make.

Members of the Mt. Laurel book club

Members of the Mt. Laurel book club

But the rest of the details are completely fuzzy. My friend Julie introduced me (she was also my photographer for the day) and I remember being so touched with what she said, but I couldn’t have repeated it. I talked, but I have no idea what I talked about. Was I loud enough? I don’t know. Did my answers to the Q&A make any sense? I couldn’t tell you. Mary helped me at the signing table, which was a good thing because who knows what I would’ve signed without her post-its. I don’t remember what I signed. I hope I spelled everything right.

IMG_4307

Here is Julie introducing me.

IMG_4340

Here I am with Mary who is helping to ensure I get everyone’s names right!

IMG_4321

Reading from TRESPASSERS

IMG_4319

Wouldn’t you like to know what was said here? I sure do! 🙂

All in all I think it went well. I have asked my friends, my husband and they all said I did great. And I must rely on their word because I really have no idea.

Here are my two favorite pictures from the day:

He found a dollar bill on one of the bookshelves!

My 4 yr old found a dollar bill on one of the bookshelves!

IMG_4358

I love this picture. I don’t look nervous at all, but as if I’ve autographed books for years.

Guest Post: The Little Things

Brenda, a friend from my time spent in Seattle cyber-introduced me to Cara Meredith and I’ve loved getting to know Cara through her blog. And today I have a guest post over on Cara’s blog celebrating the little things. In “She Called Out to Me” I write about a woman I met while I was in college in Chicago.  Here’s a snippet:

She Called Out To Me

“Dearie, are you going across the street? Dearie, do you think you could help me cross the street?”

I turned to the woman who’d called out for help. She wore a red striped scarf wrapped around her head, only a thatch of white hair at her forehead visible. The collar of her black fur coat, knee-length and quite shaggy, was buttoned and hid her neck from the blustery Chicago wind. She was standing on the corner, holding onto the blue mailbox with one hand and clutching a cane with the other. I had intended to hurry past her as I mentally reviewed my recent ups and downs as a college student. “Of course,” I said, stepping over to her and putting my arms through hers, preparing us to walk down the aisle painted like a crosswalk.

To read more, visit me over on Cara’s blog and while you’re there you should check out some of her other posts!

Thanks for having me, Cara!

 

First Review on NetGalley!

My publisher forwarded my first review posted on NetGalley today and it is a good one! (To put it simply, NetGalley is a site publishers use to give booksellers, librarians, reviewers digital access to books.)

I know not everyone will like Trespassers – I’m trying to remind myself of that all the time – because no book can be liked by all people. Everyone has different tastes so it is inevitable that I’ll get some bad reviews.

But today it is good! I just wished the reviewer worked for Oprah. 🙂

I don’t even know if I’m allowed to share the review since it won’t be posted until closer to pub day (October 27th!), but a few quotes couldn’t hurt, right?

“…This book broke my heart…the writing is so real and deep…I have been waiting for a character like this since I read all of Gillian Flynn’s books…it was a perfect ending…This is a masterpiece that shows a new side of troubled that we haven’t seen in a while.”

If you aren’t familiar with Gillian Flynn, she wrote Gone Girl, which was a bestseller and is being made into a movie. I’ve only read that one of hers, but it was good!

This was exactly what I needed to hear. Some of the things the reviewer mentioned as positives (like the ending) were the very things I’d been second-guessing lately. I’m going to take this as a sign to let it go. The book is written; it’s too late to change it anyway. It is what it is. I could kiss that reviewer because now I can breathe.

The Size of the Effort

IMG_6807Last month I opened a box that had just been delivered expecting a gift for my youngest who turned four. Instead, I was quite surprised to see it was a box of books. MY books, or more specifically, my Advanced Reading Copies (ARCs) which I, or a publicist, send out to reviewers.

I wish I could say I became teary-eyed at the sight of them. Or that I jumped up and down and screamed. But I didn’t.

It wasn’t that I wasn’t excited or happy because I was. This should have happened years ago and I’m disappointed in myself that I took this long to make it happen.

But when I held it in my hand, I was surprised to see it wasn’t very big. It is a normal size book, of course, but it is so much slimmer than I’d anticipated. Two hundred and fifty-two pages don’t exactly make a phone book, but still I thought it’d be heftier.

Turns out the size of the effort is not always represented by the width of the spine.

IMG_6867

My Writing Process Blog Tour: June 2014

cropped-typewriter-10.jpg

This is my second writing process blog hop in as many weeks, but Tracy Guzeman, author of The Gravity of Birds: A Novel, asked me if I’d like to participate and how could I turn her down? She is a great writer and I am quite honored she asked! (Have you seen her book? It is gorgeous!) Plus, I do have another book I’m working on so the answers will be a bit different even if the questions are the same. See for yourself…

What am I working on/writing?

I have always refused to talk specifics about whatever book I am working on, feeling that talking about it alleviates the urgency to write it, but in May I wrote about a book I’m writing that deals with the trafficking of teenaged girls. And this month I’m eager to share I’m working on another book that is completely different. It asks the question: is the grass really greener on the other side? It explores marriage and friendship, small town mentality and the pursuit of dreams. I actually secretly call this “my break-out book” because I love it so, which I’m guessing is a bit nutty because I should expect my first book to put me on the map, not my third – or possibly second as it might beat the trafficking book to the bookstores. I could argue that I’m just being a realist, but no one has ever accused me of being realistic!

How does my writing/work differ from others in its genre?

This seems like such a marketing question to me and I’ve come to realize with the publication of Trespassers that marketing is not in my skill set. I hope the book will be better than what’s out there, that the perspective is fresh and the details are compelling. I hope that people are left with the understanding that everyone has hard choices in life and those choices are often handled differently that what others may perceive as the right way to live life.

Yeah, maybe we should just move on…Next question!

Why do I write what I do?

Many years ago, I got to experience an inside glimpse of a family where the parents divorced and the mother left the children with the father and moved to Paris. I didn’t know the family well enough to know the reasons behind this new family dynamic, nor could I ask. But the question really stuck with me. What would make the mother leave her children with the husband? Why did she give up custody? This novel tries to answer the questions I couldn’t ask.

How does my writing process work?

I started this novel years ago and I got about 125 pages in and stopped. I’ve picked it back up and tried to start again, but I’ve been so enamored of the beginning that I haven’t wanted to change it, which has made it hard to get anything new down on paper. But I think I’ve finally found a way to make it work and so I’m anxious to get started on it again. Part of my problem has also been that because I think of it as “my break-out book” I’m fearful that what I put on paper can not live up to how great it is in my brain. Talk about putting pressure on oneself! Of course there is that catch-22: if I don’t put it on paper, how will it ever live up to its nickname?

I used to think I could only write late at night because that’s what I did before I had a husband and kids. But this past November I participated in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) and wrote 50,000 words during the month of November. And I learned that I no longer need to have quiet and solitude. I learned that I can write while the kids are sitting next to me watching a movie or while my oldest is in his Tae Kwon Do class. This revelation has been a relief because I knew that by the end of the day when the kids are finally in bed, I wasn’t really at my most creative. And if I couldn’t find the energy at night, then logically I’d have to find it in the morning, but the kids are often up at 6 and I’m not exactly a morning person.

Also, I should probably mention that although I love the look of typewriters like the one pictured above, I write on a MacBookPro. So no need to start a crowd-sourcing event to keep me supplied with typewriter ribbon! However, crowd-sourcing to keep me in chocolate (and perhaps ice cream) is always an option!

Next week’s writer: Cara Meredith

CaraMeredithCara Meredith is a writer, speaker and musician from in the greater San Francisco area. She is currently writing her first book, tentatively titled, A Hundred Times an Hour: A Memoir of Belief and Disbelief, when she’s not on a hunt for the world’s greatest chips and guacamole. She loves people, food, reading, the great outdoors and her family. She and her husband, James, currently live in Pacifica, California, with their almost two-year old son, Canon, and a second little boy set to make his appearance in August.

Website: http://www.carameredith.com
FB: http://www.facebook.com/bemamabecarameredith
Twitter: @caramac54

Nothing Like the Life I’ve Lived

Often, a writer’s first novel is filled with many autobiographical elements. And when this is pointed out, it is not usually in a favorable light, but more a sign of their inexperience. That’s not to say that an author’s fourth or tenth novel doesn’t also have autobiographical elements within the pages, but they are probably better hidden, less obvious. Maybe.

My first novel, Trespassers, is about to hit the bookstore shelves this fall. It is a story filled with darkness, a story of an abused and neglected child grown into a woman who struggles with her past. Her mother is an alcoholic who favors her son over her daughter. She is neglectful and accusing and miserable.

She is nothing like my mother. But people read my first novel and they wonder. They look for possible autobiographical references. How could a seemingly happy woman write about such a dark subject? What must she know about a life of abuse, neglect, misery? But the life depicted within my first novel is nothing like the life I’ve lived. I am fortunate.

My mother is the kind of person who writes handwritten thank you notes, sends birthday cards through the mail, cooks and delivers meals for people within her community who are sick or recuperating. My mother will give things away to people because “they need it more than we do.” I get my love of reading from her.

Not to leave my father out, he is the kind of person who keeps a smile in his pocket and gives it out freely. He is always quick to help others and I am continually amazed at his wealth of knowledge. I can call him up and ask him the most random question and he almost always knows the answer. (My husband is like that, too.) He was the kind of dad who was very involved, getting down on the floor with my brother and I and wrestling or playing. And seeing him with my children, his grandchildren, I think I’ve finally decided the reason we always had rocking chairs was because he loved rocking us to sleep.

IMG_6299

Aren’t my parents adorable here?

When I was a little girl, sometimes after church we would have a few people over. We’d pick up donuts from a local shop, Larry’s, and when our guests arrived, the house would smell of fresh brewed coffee and donuts. The cinnamon twists were my favorite, but the glazed were also popular. On this particular morning, my mother was sitting cross-legged on the floor probably because the comfy seating was for our guests: my grandfather (my mother’s father) with his smiling eyes and easy laugh and an older woman, a close friend of the family whose name I cannot recall, but I remember she smelled strongly of flowers. My dad was there, of course, his tall frame towering over us, the china plate looking especially delicate in his large hands. There may have been others present, too, probably at least one pair of aunts & uncles, but no one else sticks out in my memory. Either my brother hadn’t been born yet or he was napping because I was the only child in the group. This did not bother me because I was allowed to join them. I was perfectly content to listen to their adult conversation and join in laughter amongst friends, even if I didn’t always understand the humor. There was the sound of fragile teacups placed on saucers and the warmth of sunlight streaming through the windows. I looked over at my mother, at her long brown hair ’70’s-straight and I was completely overwhelmed with my love for her. To me she was glamourous in that moment and it struck me speechless.

Of course I remember this moment so vividly because in my childish exuberance, I launched myself at her to give her a kiss, which could have been a sweet moment between mother and daughter, but actually resulted in a much surprised mother and a daughter’s sloppy, wet kiss smeared across her mother’s cheek. I suppose the only thing I can be thankful for is that I did not choose to fling myself at her when she held the fragile teacup to her lips or we both would’ve been burned with hot coffee.

Larry’s has long since closed and my grandfather and the floral-smelling lady have both passed away. I doubt my parents remember this particular Sunday decades ago when life was simple and the donuts were fresh. But I remember.

And I am grateful to have parents who loved me so completely, who encouraged me in pursuing dreams that didn’t always make sense and supported me when I did dumb things as we all do. They’ve driven across the country with me – more than once – and have spent a small fortune on me. They have laughed with me and they have consoled me. They are nothing like the bad adults depicted in my novel.

I wish there weren’t people who have experienced lives like the fictional one I wrote about in Trespassers. I wish we lived in a world where children were never hurt by those closest to them. I wish everyone could have loving parents like mine, who, although not perfect certainly did their best.

Perhaps my next novel will have parents similar to mine, but I can assure you my first novel is not autobiographical.