Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Greatest Hits from 2014

My 8-year-old son summed it up the other day when he was reminiscing about the New Year's Eve party we attended with family friends last year.

"Wow," he said. "2014 really flew by, didn't it, Mom?"

Exactly. I know I say that every year, but this year truly did fly by, and not without its up and downs. Our family faced its share of adversity, from the back windshield of our SUV shattering right before we had to drive home after a week's vacation at the beach to a pretty devastating job loss. I won't get into it all here, as I covered it pretty well in this post at WOW! Women on Writing, but on the eve of New Year's Eve 2014 I can't say I have too much to complain about as far as my writing career. Here are a few of my "greatest hits" from this year. (For a glimpse of me a year ago, see this post.)

Non-Fiction Writing
I continue to work as editor of Little Ones Magazine (recently celebrated three years!) and write regularly for Lake Norman Currents and Today's Charlotte Woman. I've come so far since working on the very first issue, but I know I still have a lot to improve upon.

Fiction Writing
This is probably where I've made the most strides. I'm almost done with the latest round of revisions on the YA novel I've been working on for the past few years. I took it to the SCBWI Carolinas Conference this past September and got some wonderful feedback on the first 10 pages from a YA novelist and literary agent, which really boosted my confidence. I hope to begin putting together an agent wish list in the next two months and start the submission process. I still need to work on revisions for my MG novel, and those are going to be pretty massive, so that's been put on the back burner for now. I participated in NaNoWRiMo 2014 and completed 50,000 words of a NEW contemporary YA novel. I'm super excited about this latest one and can't wait to get back to work on it.

Blog Tours
I continue to work as a Blog Tour Manager for WOW! Women on Writing, and a spectacular job it is. I've met so many authors I probably never would have met and formed some great relationships and professional connections, not to mention had opportunities to review and promote some fantastic books!

Blog Posts
I contribute to The Muffin, the blog for WOW! Women on Writing, and had the chance to get nice and creative this year. Here are a few of my favorite posts.

ADWD (Attention Deficit Writers Disorder)
Why I Love My Job as a Blog Tour Manager
Preparing Your Author Platform
Literary Heroes

Honestly, I can't wait to see what lies ahead in 2015!

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Guest Post by Author Linda Appleman Shapiro: Making Sure Depression is Given the Attention it Deserves

Throughout our lives each of us develops defenses and strategies that we trust will work to protect us. Yet, whatever psychological waters we have to navigate, we do so without much conscious awareness. What we live with is our norm and, if we’re lucky, we adjust to that norm as best we can despite our genetic wiring and or environmental influences.

However, if one succeeds – as children (and even adults) often do – in hiding the truth from one’s self or one’s family, demons fester. It often takes only a hair-line trigger to set them loose, and then it can be too late for any healthy intervention, as we’ve seen in the growing number of teen suicides, to highlight just one category of victims.

Since illnesses in general are no longer the taboo subjects they were when I was growing up in the 1940s and 50s and was so deeply affected by my mother’s mental illness, I appreciate how far we’ve come. But I also know how much still needs to be done to help others know how to recognize when help is needed, to seek it out and even fight for it, using whatever city, government, or private system is available.

​It’s a well-documented fact that secrets about an illness in any family is the breeding ground for a wide range of emotional problems including mental illness. As​ parents, teachers, and health providers we must, therefore, not be afraid to teach the “facts” in order to ​eliminate stigmas. We can't​ afford to ignore what we see and assume that by just wishing away strange and often aberrant behaviors they will not ultimately ​surface and cause irreparable damage.​
Underneath the umbrella we’ve come to label as “mental illness,” there exist many different conditions and diagnoses. If we look only at “depression” there are very specific signs and symptoms. Depressed people do not simply suffer as we all do from time to time from sad days or normal mood reactions to life’s setbacks. Depression includes: feelings of hopelessness; loss of interest in daily activities; appetite or weight changes; sleep changes; anger or irritability; loss of energy; self-loathing; reckless behavior; problems concentrating; and unexplained aches and pains.

Depression also looks very different in children, teens, men and women, and older adults.  Knowing what unique symptoms, causes, and effects exist can only help in finding the best trained professionals who are capable to offer the most effective treatment. And depression can most definitely be treated!

If it is not and a family remains in denial, that family will continue to foster unhealthy relationships ... and the result will be an unhealthy outcome for those whom they more often than not love the most. Avoiding conflict because of a fear of possible rejection accomplishes nothing​ except allowing stigmas and discrimination to abound; the sick become sicker and everyone suffers.

We must open our eyes and keep them open. Our goal must be – even in these very stressful days of 21st century living – to advocate for those in need and to act responsibly whenever and wherever it is humanly possible to do so.

About the Author:

Behavioral psychotherapist/Addictions Counselor/ Oral Historian/ Mental Health Advocate and author, Linda Appleman Shapiro earned her B.A. in literature from Bennington College, a Master's degree in Human Development/Counseling from the Bank Street College of Education, and a Master Certification in Neuro-Linguistic Programming from the New York Institute of N.L.P. She has further certifications in Ericksonian Hypnosis and Substance Abuse/Addictions Counseling.

Linda Appleman Shapiro is a contributing author in the casebook, “Leaves Before the Wind: Leading Applications of N.L.P.”

In private practice for more than thirty years, Shapiro also served as a senior staff member at an out-patient facility for addicts and their families. As an oral historian, she has documented the lives of many of New York's elderly.

Her first memoir, Four Rooms, Upstairs, was self-published in 2007 and named Finalist in the Indie Next Generation Book Awards in 2008. Her blog of three years, “A Psychotherapist's Journey,” named Shapiro Top Blogger in the field of mental health by WELLsphere.

Married to actor and audiobook narrator George Guidall, Linda Appleman Shapiro and her husband live in Westchester County, New York. They have two adult daughters and two grandchildren.

Linda Appleman Shapiro’s Website: http://www.applemanshapiro.com/

Linda Appleman Shapiro’s Email: beyondatrauma@gmail.com

Linda Appleman Shapiro’s LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/lindaapplemanshapiro41

Linda Appleman Shapiro’s Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/lashapiro1

Linda Appleman Shapiro’s Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/1698967.Linda Appleman Shapiro

About the Book:

She's Not Herself: A Psychotherapist's Journey Into and Beyond Her Mother's Mental Illness is a journey to make sense of the effects of multi-generational traumas. Linda Appleman Shapiro is ultimately able to forgive (without forgetting) those who left her to fend for herself--and to provide readers with the wisdom of a seasoned psychotherapist who has examined human vulnerability in its many disguises and has moved through it all with dignity and hope. The result is a memoir of love, loss, loyalty, and healing.

On the surface, her childhood seemed normal--even idyllic. Linda Appleman Shapiro grew up in the iconic immigrant community of Brighton Beach, Brooklyn, with her parents and a gifted older brother. But she spent her days at home alone with a mother who suffered major bouts of depression. At such times, young Linda Appleman Shapiro was told, "Your mother...she's not herself today." Those words did little to help Linda understand what she was witnessing. Instead, she experienced the anxiety and hyper-vigilance that often take root when secrecy and shame surround a family member who is ill.

She's Not Herself: A Psychotherapist's Journey Into and Beyond Her Mother's Mental Illness is available as an e-book and paperback at Amazon and is available through BN.com, Dream of Things.com and several other on-line book sites listed on Goodreads.

Paperback: 249 Pages
Genre: Memoir
Publisher: Dream of Things (September 2, 2014)
Twitter hashtag: #SNHerselfShapiro

Monday, December 1, 2014

Guest Post from Author David W. Berner: What Broadcast Journalism Taught Me About Parenting

I’ve been a broadcast journalist, either working full time or as a freelancer for decades and this means, many times, being live on the air. When I first started working in Chicago radio, I would occasionally start my early morning news shift from home. I’d first talk to the editor, do a little research if needed, and then begin the work of covering the story. Sometimes it would send me out the door immediately, depending on the nature of the coverage. But other times, I would need to report something on the air regarding the story before heading out to a location or to land an interview. This was in the early days of cellphones when the technology was in its infancy, so landlines were still the first choice for live reports on the radio.

One early morning, sometime around 6AM, I picked up my landline in my office in my home, telephoned the station, and waited on hold to do what broadcasters call their live-shot. I don’t even remember the story I was working on, but I do remember what interrupted my live report.

“Dad?” I heard a little voice say over the phone’s earpiece. “Dad, are you there?”

The question came from the tiny voice of my four-year old son, Graham. He had always been an earlier riser and on this morning he was right on schedule. What made him pick up the phone’s extension at the very moment I was delivering my report live on the radio? I’m not sure. But there he was.  

“Dad?” he questioned again. I attempted to ignore him and plow through the live report as if he were not there, hoping the copy I had written and the authoritative delivery I was giving my words would somehow drowned him out. None of this was working.

After another question or two to his father, Graham hung up the phone, a loud click radiating over the airwaves.

I completed my report, put down the receiver, and left my office to find Graham. He had made his way into the living room, still looking for his father, determined to find his dad. He wanted him right there, right then, right at that very moment.

“Graham, you know you don’t have to pick up the phone to talk to your dad, right?” I asked.

“But I couldn’t find you,” he said. “I needed you.”

There was nothing in particular he “needed”. Nothing urgent. No emergency. He just wanted his dad.

I recall this story now as I consider what my work as a broadcast journalist might have taught me about parenting. It’s simple really: be there, be there, be there.

In broadcasting, writing and reporting is only as good or relevant as the work you have done lately, sometimes with in the last few minutes. It’s that immediate. And this is how your children see their relationship with their parents. They want you with them immediately. They want you exactly when they want you. There is no time for patience. It’s exactly how broadcast journalism works. You have to meet that timely deadline. As a parent, you also have to meet another timely deadline. The element of time is the big issue for children. Be there. Be there. Be there.

Spending time, as much as possible, is addressed in my memoir Any Road Will Take You There. The story is about a 5000-mile road trip with my two sons that turns into an introspective examination of fatherhood. Time played an enormous part in the narrative. Not only the time we spent together on the long trip, but also the time my father had given me as a young man and how that still resonated for me, and the time I had given and hoped to give my children through the years. Sometimes as a father, as I wrote in the memoir, “you just have to show up.” It sounds simple, but it’s not always. “Showing up” doesn’t mean just physically being there, more importantly it means showing up emotionally. Time is crucial in all of its aspects.  

Many years after his early morning phone interruption, I reminded my teenaged Graham of that incident. Without hesitation he said, “I remember that. I don’t know what the big deal was. I just wanted my dad and I needed to find you anyway I could.”

Time. It’s important in broadcast journalism and it’s even more important for me in my role as a parent.

About David W. Berner:

David W. Berner--the award winning author of ACCIDENTAL LESSONS and ANY ROAD WILL TAKE YOU THERE--was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania where he began his work as a broadcast journalist and writer. He moved to Chicago to work as a radio reporter and news anchor for CBS Radio and later pursue a career as a writer and educator. His book ACCIDENTAL LESSONS is about his year teaching in one of the Chicago area's most troubled school districts. The book won the Golden Dragonfly Grand Prize for Literature and has been called a "beautiful, elegantly written book" by award-winning author Thomas E. Kennedy, and "a terrific memoir" by Rick Kogan (Chicago Tribune and WGN Radio). ANY ROAD WILL TAKE YOU THERE is the author's story of a 5000-mile road trip with his sons and the revelations of fatherhood. The memoir has been called "heartwarming and heartbreaking" and "a five-star wonderful read."

David can be found online at:

Website: www.davidwberner.com

Twitter: @davidwberner

Twitter: @anyroadbook

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/David-W-Berner-Writer/190345939480

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/david.w.berner

About the Book: 

Any Road Will Take You There: A Journey of Fathers and Sons is a heartwarming and heartbreaking
story told with humor and grace, revealing the generational struggles and triumphs of being a dad, and the beautiful but imperfect ties that connect all of us.

Recipient of a Book of the Year Award from the Chicago Writers Association, Any Road Will Take You There is honest, unflinching, and tender.

In the tradition of the Great American Memoir, a middle-age father takes the reader on a five-thousand-mile road trip -- the one he always wished he'd taken as a young man. Recently divorced and uncertain of the future, he rereads the iconic road story -- Jack Kerouac's On the Road -- and along with his two sons and his best friend, heads for the highway to rekindle his spirit.

However, a family secret turns the cross-country journey into an unexpected examination of his role as a father, and compels him to look to the past and the fathers who came before him to find contentment and clarity, and celebrate the struggles and triumphs of being a dad.

Paperback: 300 Pages
Genre: Memoir
Publisher: Dream of Things (September 23, 2014)
ISBN-10: 0988439096
ISBN-13: 978-0988439092
Twitter hashtag: # AnyRoadBook

Any Road Will Take You There: A Journey of Fathers and Sons is available as an e-book and paperback at Amazon

Sunday, November 30, 2014

NaNoWriMo 2014 - I'm a Winner!

I did it! For the second year in a row, I completed the challenge of writing 50,000 words during the month of November. The YA I wrote last year got some great feedback at this year's Society of Children's Book Writers Carolinas Conference and is almost ready for the submission process, so I decided to try my luck again this year.

How it Went: I started off strong during the first week. I had a magazine production deadline that hit the second week of November so I tried to make sure I was on track before that started. As I suspected, I fell behind during the third week and only had 20,000 words written towards my goal. During the week of Thanksgiving I had some volunteer obligations at my children's school and out-of-town guests one night, but I still managed to catch up by avoiding Black Friday shopping and writing for several hours on Saturday, Nov. 29. The result? I finished at just a over 50,000 words on Nov. 29--a day ahead of schedule! I really don't know how I did it. I started this book with a general plot outlined in my head and not much else. I knew how the book would start and how it would end. The rest, I had to come up with as I went along. Not the best way to write a novel, I know. But I'm proud nonetheless. I have a beginning, middle, and end, and as one friend pointed out to me, "at least you'll have a pile of pages to work with instead of a big pile of nothing!"

In the past three years I've written two YA novels and one MG that needs to be revised yet again. But you know what? I am glad I took the time to write them before beginning a full-fledged submissions process. I have learned so much about the craft and feel much more excited about the quality of work I'm producing now. I hope everyone else thinks so too when the time comes.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Just a Snippet - From NaNoWriMo 2014

We’d had the locks changed and started using the alarm system again. I stopped taking Peaches on her daily afternoon walks, unless my mom was home and could go with me. Every morning before I drove to school, I opened the back door of my car and made sure no one was hiding there. I never opened the blinds anywhere in the house any more. When I left work, I always had someone walk me out, even if it meant waiting around an extra 30 minutes before a co-worker was free. Before I got in, I checked the backseat again obsessively. I stopped answering the home phone. I quit eating. I couldn't sleep, because every little sound I heard woke me up and made me convinced someone was in the house. And I saw him everywhere, even when he wasn’t really there.
 That was how Dylan broke me down, piece by piece.

How is NaNoWriMo 2014 going for you? I've been perpetually behind for the last week, but hope to log in some extra words to make up for it this weekend.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

NaNoWriMo 2014

©  | Dreamstime Stock Photos
I completed a 50,000-word rewrite of a YA novel last November, so when this year's challenge rolled around, I signed right on up. Never mind that I have clients that need my attention for work booked well into February of next year, or the fact that the magazine I edit went into production on November 7. I've had an idea for a new contemporary suspense/thriller YA in my head for about a year now, and I thought National Novel Writing Month would be the perfect time to work on it. Did I mention I went into this thing without even so much as an outline? Probably not my best decision.

I'll be honest. It's been a tough go of it. I had forgotten how tired I get when daylight savings time hits and how I'm worn out from writing magazine copy during the day. And also how much shuttling around I have to do with my kids to their various activities. Though I started out pretty strong, last week I wavered, going several days without writing anything for the book because I had a more pressing deadline.

But I'm determined not to give up. The fact is, when I sit down to work on this novel, the words do come out, even if it's a slow start sometimes. This is a story that needs to be told and so far it is unfolding pretty organically. The main character in the book, a teenager named Cassidy, ends up being stalked by a male classmate who is initially very charismatic and charming. I personally was a victim of stalking two different times in my life, both while in college. I recognized the stalking for what it was when a classmate in my department major began doing it, but it took me years to realize the behavior of an older ex-boyfriend could also fall under that category. When it happened to me, I was too young and scared to seek out help, so I wanted to channel that fear into the main story line of this book. I hope I'm doing it justice--and it's also been therapeutic as well.

The stats as of Nov. 19, 2014:
22,011 words written
27,989 words to write by Nov. 30
I need to write around 2,600 words per day to finish on time.

Can I do this? Yes! I wholeheartedly intend to. Here's a post I wrote recently at WOW! Women on Writing about holding myself accountable for my writing projects (hint: this blog post is part of that).

Are you participating in NaNoWriMo this year? If so, how's it going?

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Celebrating a Love of Children's Books

My kids' school has an annual Parade of Fiction, where the students (and teachers!) in the elementary school all dress up as characters from children's books. I'm going to be honest and confess that earlier this week, I was lamenting the upcoming parade. After all, each year, the Parade of Fiction requires us to put together not one, but two different costumes for each child--one for school and another for Halloween. I'm also not very crafty, but luckily my husband usually comes through with the creative elements necessary for some of the costumes.

But this morning, watching the parade, I took in the fact that it will be my daughter's last year in the parade, as she heads off to middle school (sniff!) next year. I am now thankful for all my memories of the Parade of Fiction, the opportunity to embrace the love of children's books (a passion of mine) and for photos such as the ones below. Dr. Seuss truly had it right. "Oh, the places you will go."

Pinkalicious from Kindergarten

The solar system (class theme) from second grade

Raina Telgemaier from Smile

Jack and the Beanstalk from first grade

Flat Stanley from second grade

 Rodrick from the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series and Annabeth from The Lightning Thief, third and fifth grades.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Guest Post: Researching Historical Fiction--Can it Really Be Done?

I'm thrilled to host author Martha Conway as she promotes her latest book, Thieving Forest, through WOW! Blog Tours. Writing historical fiction is a topic that has always fascinated (and if I'm to be honest, intimidated me) as a writer, so I was excited when Martha agreed to write a guest post on the topic for my humble little blog. You can check out a fun interview with Martha at The Muffin, along with a list of her blog tour dates and giveaways for her book.

About Thieving Forest: 

On a humid day in June 1806, on the edge of Ohio's Great Black Swamp, seventeen-year-old Susanna Quiner watches from behind a maple tree as a band of Potawatomi Indians kidnaps her four older sisters from their cabin. With both her parents dead from Swamp Fever and all the other settlers out in their fields, Susanna makes the rash decision to pursue them herself. What follows is a young woman's quest to find her sisters, and the parallel story of her sisters' new lives.

 The frontier wilderness that Susanna must cross in order to find her sisters is filled with dangers, but Susanna, armed with superstition and belief in her own good luck, sets out with a naive optimism. Over the next five months, Susanna tans hides in a Moravian missionary village; escapes down a river with a young native girl; discovers an eccentric white woman raising chickens in the middle of the Great Black Swamp; suffers from snakebite and near starvation; steals elk meat from wolves; and becomes a servant in a Native American village. The vast Great Black Swamp near Toledo, Ohio, which was once nearly the size of Connecticut, proves a formidable enemy. But help comes from unlikely characters, both Native American and white.

Both a quest tale and a tale of personal transformations, Thieving Forest follows five pioneer women and one man as they contend with starvation, slavery, betrayal, and love. It paints a startling new picture of life in frontier Ohio with its mix of European and Native American communities, along with compelling descriptions of their daily lives. Fast-paced, richly detailed, with a panoramic view of cultures and people, this is a story of a bygone era sure to enthrall and delight.

About Martha Conway: 

Martha Conway’s first novel 12 Bliss Street (St. Martin’s Minotaur) was nominated for an Edgar Award, and her short fiction has appeared in The Iowa Review, The Mississippi Review, The Quarterly, Folio, Puerto del Sol, Carolina Quarterly, and other publications. She graduated from Vassar College and received her master’s degree in Creative Writing from San Francisco State University. She has reviewed fiction for the San Francisco Chronicle, The San Francisco Review of Books, and The Iowa Review. The recipient of a California Arts Council fellowship in Creative Writing, she has taught at UC Berkeley Extension and Stanford University’s Online Writers’ Studio. Visit www.thievingforest.com for more information.

Researching Historical Fiction: Can it Really Be Done? 
By Martha Conway

There’s something about the term Historical Fiction that still seems like an oxymoron to me. Yes, it’s set in the past, and part of the pleasure is transporting yourself to another, long-ago world, but it’s also fiction, so it doesn’t have to be entirely true.

Does it?

When I was doing research for my historical novel, THIEVING FOREST, I tried very hard to be accurate about many things: what a Potawatomi man might wear for his “everyday” clothes, what a Wyandot woman would do to prepare food for winter, how settlers would grind grain if there was no mill yet, and so on. But the biggest stumbling block, I found, came from nature. Which is crazy, because northwest Ohio, where the novel takes place, still exists.

In a way. Part of the reason I chose northwest Ohio was because I was intrigued by a huge swath of land called the Great Black Swamp. I’m from Ohio, and I had never heard of it before, partly because it pretty much no longer exists except for a few state parks. So how do I describe land that no longer exists, and that was, by all accounts, uninhabitable, which means there are no essays or journal entries (or at least very few) about it?

I was drawn to the Great Black Swamp for the very reason I had such a hard time researching it: it was unknown, it was thought to be unknowable, and I wanted a place where my character could get lost. And I did my due diligence: I walked through a few of the state parks and forests that still remained. But my experience was vastly different from what my protagonist’s would have been.

The trails were neatly marked, and the trees and bushes trimmed. The ponds and lakes didn’t bleed into the surrounding marshland but seemed very contained. My protagonist, Susanna, would not have been able to see where she was going because of the tall cattails. If the sun was hidden, she would have had a difficult time distinguishing the points of the compass.

It was no longer a wilderness.

I looked at some pictures of the Great Black Swamp, and I read the few journal entries that I could find about it, and then I had an idea.

I looked at swamps in South America.

Okay, swamps in South America are going to be vastly different than swamps in northwest Ohio, but what I wanted was the feel of being in a swamp. And I had a hard time visualizing that until I found places that indeed were true wildernesses and not state parks. (Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE that the state parks exist, and for myself I’m happy walking along the tidy trails!) When I got on the internet and found pictures of people canoeing along narrow rivulets in Brazil with dark foliage hanging overhead, or trying to set up camp in a marshy stretch of land, I found what I was looking for.

And in a way this experience symbolizes what I feel about historical fiction: you research the time and the place and the people, and then you find creative ways to make your story seem more true.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

New WOW! Blog Tour for Lifting the Curtain Starts in January

I'm excited to be working on a new blog tour for WOW! Women on Writing, especially given the timeliness of the topic. If you're passionate about the state of our educational system, you'll definitely want to be a part of this blog tour. We are looking for 12-15 bloggers to host author D.A. Russell with a mix of interviews, guest posts, book reviews, etc. Below is the tour information:

Tour Dates: Jan. 5 - Jan. 30

Title: Lifting the Curtain: The Disgrace We Call Urban High School Education
Author: D.A. Russell
Genre: Non-Fiction

Synopsis: KIRKUS and CLARION both praise this impassioned whistleblower book about the serious issues in today's urban high schools.

The quality of education in today's urban high schools is a disgrace, and both our high school administrators and career bureaucrats in Department of Education are remarkably effective at hiding the problems behind the curtain of the school entryway. Attending an actual class would shock most parents, revealing schools that are unlike anything that we experienced just 15-20 years ago. We might know about a couple bad teachers, or hear the incessant cries for more funding, or notice the building needs major repairs. But we can never get behind the curtain to see the real, systemic causes of widespread failures in educating our children.

About the Author: D.A. Russell has spent the last ten years as a math teacher in one of the urban high schools used as an example in Lifting the Curtain. He is an honors graduate of Dartmouth College, and received his master’s degree from Simon School, where he was valedictorian of his class. Russell is a decorated Vietnam veteran. He has two children that he treasures, and four grandchildren. His son is a police officer who served in the US Army in Afghanistan, earning a Bronze Star for valor. His daughter is a lawyer and his most passionate fan and honorary literary agent.

Russell has taught and coached children for decades. Few things are more important in his view than to cherish the children who are our real treasures in this world.

Website: http://liftingthecurtain.com/

Participate! Please email me at renee@wow-womenonwriting.com with your blog's URL and your available dates. We schedule 2-3 stops per week. You will receive a copy of the book! I look forward to hearing from you!

Friday, October 17, 2014

Retreat to Paradise - A Short Story

Have you ever written something and then completely forgot about it? I'm guilty of this myself. I found a short story recently and had to chuckle a bit. I remember writing it for Writer's Digest as one of the "Your Story" entries, where you come up with flash fiction piece based on a one-sentence prompt. I can't remember exactly what the prompt was now, but it had something to do with "seven people go out on a chartered boat and only six return." From there, I came up with the story below. I never heard anything back from Writer's Digest, and I did submit it to another flash fiction contest where it made the first round and then languished. Since then, it's just been sitting on my computer. I thought I'd share it here for fun--clearly I was reading a lot of chick lit back then.

Retreat to Paradise

Samantha leaned over the side of the boat and stared into the crystal blue water. She was thinking about him . . . again. At 32 years old, she hadn’t expected her life to turn out this way when she left him seven years ago. They met on a whim while she had been on vacation with a few friends trying to clear her head before figuring out what she wanted to do with her life. He struck up a conversation with her and three days later her friends had left without her.

At first, working side-by-side with him was a welcome distraction from the real world, and lying in his embrace at night under the midnight blue sky dotted with stars, she could lose herself in his tanned skin and warm brown eyes. But eventually, Samantha had tired of the isolation and began to long for the fast pace and endless possibilities of the city. He had tried to talk her out of leaving, but she had made up her mind and left before he could convince her she was making a mistake. She was certain moving back to the city, renting a loft apartment and taking on a “normal” job would all lead her down the yellow brick road to happiness, marriage, and children.

Now, she tried to ignore the sound of her colleagues talking about — what else? — executive presentations, the common ground that brought the seven of them to the resort in the first place. There was Richard, the undereducated and overpaid senior vice president and his twenty something assistant Phoebe, who didn’t even try to hide the fact that she had been sleeping with Richard since her first week on the job. Tom was a 55-year-old workaholic who had been stumbling around the conference in a fog since his wife had finally walked out on him the week before. Chantal, the stereotypical career woman who was more interested in climbing the corporate ladder than raising a family had brought her dowdy husband along on the retreat, but no one bothered to remember his name. And then there was Jay, whose silky voice and confident demeanor made him a no-brainer at leading sales conferences, but whose not-so-subtle gropes Samantha had grown tired of fending off. Today, they were taking the morning off to tour some of the local islands on a chartered boat, but that hadn’t stopped the conversation from turning back to brand management and corporate communications.

But she was still thinking about him. The memories often flashed through her mind as she worked overtime polishing the images of an impressive client list and eating Chinese take-out every other night with no Mr. Right on the horizon. She still lived in the cramped loft apartment. She did work for a great company with a competitive salary and benefits, and conferences to tropical destinations were definitely perks envied by many of her friends, but what else? She brushed away Jay’s hand as it ran up the side of her shorts again and looked at him sternly over the top of her sunglasses.

The boat docked and she stepped out on the sandy white beach, her eyes instantly drawn to the tiki hut at the water’s edge. A gaggle of bikini-clad women were crowded around the bar, sipping fruity frozen drinks. Seven years ago she had been one of them. His head was lowered, but she instantly recognized the hair she had run her fingers through so many times. He looked up, and his eyes met hers and he began to smile as the group walked toward the hut.

“What’s good here?” asked Richard, as Chantal gave a bored sigh and Tom attempted to wipe some of the sweat from his brow with the back of his hand.

“There’s a drink, the ‘Slammin’ Sam,’ that's pretty good,” her former love replied. “I'll make up a batch for your group. Miss, would you like to help me out?”

He held out his hand to Samantha over the bar. She hesitated for a split second, thought of her lonely apartment back home and catalogued file of take-out restaurants and gave him a slow smile in return.

“Why not?” she asked, as she helped her climb over the bar, and much to her delight, Jay’s jaw dropped to the ground.

Four hours later, after many rounds of ‘Slammin Sam’s’ and general sun-drenched relaxation, the group boarded the boat to head back to the hotel.

But this time, only six returned.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

What You Can Find on Your Hard Drive When You Really Go Looking . . .

If you're active at all on social media, you've probably heard about the importance of "curating content" for your blog, Twitter and Facebook feed, Pinterest, etc. It's something I've thought about quite a bit as I struggle with my own platform. Should I focus more on writing about pop culture? Do I need more blog posts about writing for children? Am I not posting enough book reviews?

But at the end of the day, I'm a writer, and I write many things. There was a time in my life when poetry was a favorite form. I need to put out a disclaimer here and say I've never formally studied poetry writing, and I don't' really follow any specific rules when I write it, but I've always felt the free verse is therapeutic for me. I've decided to start sharing more of my writing on this blog that hasn't been published anywhere and probably won't be anytime soon, such as flash fiction and poetry. Sharing my creative writing is always very hard for me, so hopefully this will get easier over time.

Autumn Calls, Once Again . . .

Fall brings a chill into the air

my hands

my stare

glazes somehow

as I reminisce about

this lost soul

kindergarten beauty queen


that is

homecoming in

my long plaid dress

unable to escape the flowers

in my arms

deep in the heart of Texas

night sky.

Autumn Days II

Blessed is the spirit

that wanders down this

dusty road and

memories of blond-haired

All-American boys sometimes

drift in and out of my

Zephyr state of mind

tornado drills

my swing under the oak tree

playing 45s all day long

with Billy and Blondie while

they’re all on the playground

white lies and yet

precious young minds

are so fragile

on the railroad tracks . . .

Friday, September 26, 2014

Quick! Name Your Favorite Book

I am honored to welcome author Sydney Avey to the blog today, as part of her WOW! Blog Tour for The Lyre and the Lambs. Sydney has written some fantastic guest posts throughout the tour so today I thought I'd go a little easier on her and ask her to name a few of her favorite genres to read. But for those of us who love books, that's not always an easy task!

About Sydney Avey:
Sydney Avey is an author of historical and women’s fiction set in California. The Lyre and the Lambs is the sequel to her first novel, The Sheep Walker’s Daughter, which won an honorable mention from the Center for Basque Studies (University of Nevada, Reno) in their Basque Literary Contest. Both novels were published by HopeSprings Books, a small publishing house that promotes realistic Christian fiction. 
Sydney and a lifetime of experience writing news for non profits and corporations. Her work is has appeared in Epiphany, Foliate Oak, Forge, American Athenaeum, and Unstrung (published by Blue Guitar Magazine). She has a bachelor’s degree in English from the University of California, Berkeley and has studied writing at the Iowa Summer Writing Festival. She lives with her husband Joel the Sierra Nevada foothills of Yosemite, California, and the Sonoran Desert in Arizona.
Visit Sydney at www.sydneyavey.com and sign up to receive her monthly News for Readers and Writers.

The Lyre and the Lambs:
It’s the Sixties. Modernity and tradition clash as two newlywed couples set up house together. Dee and her daughter Valerie move with their husbands into a modern glass house Valerie built in a proudly rural Los Altos, California neighborhood. When their young relatives start showing up and moving in, the neighbors get suspicious. Then a body is found in the backyard and the life they are trying to build comes undone.

Father Mike is back to guide Dee through a difficult time with humor and grace, even as his own life is unraveling. Now he’s going to have to take some of his own advice about love.

The Lyre and the Lambs explores the passions that draw people together and the faith it takes to overcome trauma.

Quick! Name Your Favorite Book
By Sydney Avey

The one question I am never prepared to answer is, “What is your favorite book?” Worse yet, being challenged to list my ten all time faves on Facebook and tag ten friends to tender their lists? Well, that makes me break out in hives.

When I was a child, choice was easy; Cheerios or Rice Krispies? Now that I have lived several lives, the information I am trying to access is not so easily retrieved. It is filed away somewhere in my brain, labeled with an obscure association. The conversation in my head goes like this:

Favorite book? My eyes dart to a corner of the room.

Hmmmmm. I like edgy characters. Olive Kitteridge! Who wrote Olive Kitteridge? My chin drops to my chest, feigning concentration, masking shame.

I know! I like beautiful words, spiritual insights, literary fiction; John Updike! Didn’t read the Rabbit series; what was the name of that obscure novel he wrote that I loved?

I am so impressed with my erudite friends who can pop out a list that demonstrates their impeccable literary taste, vast world awareness, and self-deprecating sense of humor. Their lists include books like War and Peace, Love in the Time of Cholera, and The Cat in the Hat. Bottom line, composing this list makes me feel like I’m overthinking SAT questions.

Along comes the lovely Renee Roberson who asks me simply to list a few genres I enjoy and give an example of a favorite book. I can do that!

I like books that make me think and feel. I love Edward Rutherford’s brand of Historical Fiction. Reading Rutherford is like taking a survey of world civilization class from a cast of characters who enfold you in their lives. My favorites are Sarum, Russka, and Paris.

Fiction like The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society with quotes that put my feelings into words: …if one cares deeply about someone or something new one throws a kind of energy out into the world, and “fruitfulness” is drawn in. Exactly!

I love engaging literary fiction. I was thoroughly drawn into the marital drama of John Updike’s Gertrude and Claudius and came away with a new understanding of Hamlet.

Sometimes a memoir captures my imagination. I am always curious to know how people survive threatening situations and thrive because of the experience. Best sellers like Jeannette Walls’ devastating The Glass Castle and more obscure books like the humorous The Motion of the Ocean: 1 Small Boat, 2 Average Lovers, and a Woman’s Search for the Meaning of Wife by Janna Cawrse Esarey give me faith in the resilience of the human spirit, a refreshing antidote to the evening news.

Thanks for asking, Renee! 

What are some of your favorite genres to read?