Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Win a Copy! And...Thoughts and Inspirations for The Shell Keeper

Originally printed at: http://www.peekingbetweenthepages.com Visit this link to register to win a copy of The Shell Keeper!

I’m certain every author can relate an incident where their friends or family have attributed the feelings or actions surrounding their fictional creations to the author’s own life events. While my life inspires my writing, I don’t write about my life. I take those inspirations, stir them with the amply available ingredients I find in the world at large, and after hours at the keyboard, and many more procrastinated hours spent doing laundry/vacuuming/general puttering, my tale is born. It’s as simple as that!

Okay, maybe not so simple, or for that matter, maybe not so detached from my own reality. None of the three women whose stories I tell in The Shell Keeper are me, but parts of them may inhabit my soul. Unlike the sweet and na├»ve Del, I have not hidden out in the back yard on my kids’ swing set smoking Camels in a blizzard, contemplated the vast and colorful array of available condoms for purchase or even struggled to find my comfort zone sitting at a bar for the first time. But like Del, I have been a newly divorced mother of young children. Del is, perhaps, every insecurity I may have felt-times a hundred!

I don’t own a bakery, like Gwen, or worry about a loss of income if my husband’s union goes on strike. But I am a big believer in baking therapy, as my family can attest. Nothing hits the spot like late night brownies! Like Claire, I have been a Realtor. Her stress-filled life, with its endless paperwork, and clients that run the gamut from thoughtful to life threatening is most definitely inspired by reality, though not always my own. I definitely don’t have Claire’s style, unfortunately. She knows how to ‘work’ a wardrobe.

Clearly, I am not my characters, but my life is tucked in between the lines. The idea of The Shell Keeper evolved over time, but it got its start many years ago when a friend recommended a slim book by Anne Morrow Lindbergh: Gift from the Sea. Ms. Lindbergh wrote the book during an escape from her own reality for a long visit to the peaceful beaches of Captiva Island, Florida. While there, she considered the amazing variety of shells washed up on the shore and compared them with the phases of a woman’s life.

My copy of the book has been well read. Its pages are ambered with age, corners bent, multiple ink shades coloring the margins and underlining sentences from years of highlights and notes. Her words were, and are still an inspiration for all women. You might ask how a book written in 1955 could still speak to generations of women who weathered the feminist revolution and all its consequences. But it does, and the reason is the woman who wrote it.

Anne was no ordinary gal! She started life in a quiet and privileged home. Her father was an ambassador and a senator and along the way, in 1927, she met one of the most famous men in the world at that time, Charles Lindbergh. They fell in love, married and Anne soon shared his passion for flight. She was setting flight records alone, as well as with her husband.

Her first child, at 20 months, was kidnapped from their home in March of 1932, his body later found in the nearby woods. The search for the killer and the ensuing trial created a media storm probably beyond even contemporary standards. The heart rending tale even inspired Agatha Christie’s classic Hercule Poirot novel Murder on the Orient Express.

You’d think after that, that Anne would seek quiet and seclusion, and for a while she did, moving to Europe with her husband. But World War II brought them back home and they eventually settled on the island of Maui in Hawaii. After her husband’s death, she moved to Connecticut to be near family, and in 2001 she died at the age of 94. Life’s heartaches had not bowed her. She’d been a decorated aviatrix, multiple published author, and mother to 5 more children, after the tragic loss of her first born.

In my opinion, a woman with this sort of grit had something worthwhile to say to other women in any age. Gift from the Sea still speaks clearly all these years later. It inspired me to take the ups and downs of my life and create a story of three women struggling to overcome the challenges thrown their way. I like to think they did it with humor, grace and some of the occasionally minor insanity of life.

In Anne’s words, I decided to throw Del, Gwen and Claire ‘together on this island of living’ where they found unexpected friendship and support. Life’s a funny thing, the way we sometimes come upon our friendships in surprising ways.

If you have a special friendship you found unexpectedly, I’d love to hear about it!

Monday, December 12, 2011

Holiday Deadlines!

Whether you're making a living writing, or perhaps in an honorable profession (ha-ha, couldn't resist...) you may be juggling the normal workload on top of all the holiday's gaiety and insanity that ensues this time of year whether we like it or not. Somehow our best laid plans run up against end-of-the-year deadlines, expectations and traditions; it's a pressure cooker of a combination!

I used to play catch-up by working late into the night. The wee hours are a great time to get things done-no phones ringing, no last minutes issues at work, no one else up to get in your way except maybe the dog...but he's keeping your feet warm, so you can't really complain. These days, however, I find I'd rather be catching Z's than facing down a blank 'page' on my laptop. As much as I like that cocoon of privacy the nighttime offers, my daytime demands that I give my brain cells adequate rest.

I've toyed with rising early...it sounds so simple, but I've never been a morning person (even though I married one) just ask my family! That leaves the daytime and, like everyone else, I have to squeeze in the necessary along with all the extras that come along this time of the year.

So here's the deal...I'll cut you slack this month if you'll do the same for me. Maybe the best gift we could all give each other is a little less stress...and some sympathy. Hang in there, it'll be January soon enough, and we'd hate to miss out on the joy of the season!

(ps...I'd love to know how you keep your cool, decompress and juggle stress this time of the year-please share any wisdom in the comments below!)

photo courtesy of acelebrationofwomen.org

Monday, November 28, 2011

Pinterest Pastimes...

This was a low key Thanksgiving. I was reminded of Del in The Shell Keeper, who found herself attending rather than hosting the turkey dinner for possibly the first time in her life. On the one hand, there was the melancholy of parting with tradition...but on the other hand, there was a lot less work!

Of course, even though I wasn't in charge I couldn't resist making way too many desserts: apple and cherry pie, pecan pie squares, chocolate cake. Did I mention I love dessert? My time was well spent in lovely Breckenridge, Colorado, where our family convened for food, fun and general family mayhem.

It was also a time to put aside anything work related and do fun things...like pinning items of interest on my Pinterest board. I don't know who invented this idea, and at first I thought it was fairly useless. It is, after all, just a place to save ideas, dreams, designs and maybe plot some creativity. Nothing it actually done there.

But then I realized that pulling together those bits and pieces, then perhaps combining them into something concrete in your life is an awful lot like writing a book. And I would never say that was a waste of time...so I guess I'll go pin some more...

Photo courtesy of Pinterest.com

Friday, November 18, 2011

Editing, edditing, editting....

I'm on the home stretch with the final edits of FRAMED, my next book. It's amazing sometimes to see what still remains to be tweaked...when I think of ALL the eyes that have seen this manuscript thus far! FRAMED is a humorous mystery that readers of The Shell Keeper will also enjoy.

Here's a little sneak peek at what our heroine, Kay, thinks of her son's soccer coach, Gary Bell...

His mere physical presence, every muscle pumped to its max, was enough to intimidate even a naturally cocky, thirty-something, under-insured, single mother such as myself.

"You're late, Mrs. Conroy," he said in a guttural tone that reminded me of his Cro-Magnon lineage. The late afternoon sun was hot, and perspiration already glistened on Gary's well defined musculature. Clasping his hands behind his head, he revealed sweat drenched armpits. Where's an air freshener when I need one?

"Actually, I think we just made it on--"

"Punctuality teaches boys respect." He paused.

Bell wasn't tall, in fact he was well shy of six feet, but he had made the most of what God (or the other guy) had given him. Every pec and glute was visible beneath the flimsy soccer shorts and tank top he invariably wore to practice.

He surveyed my insolently late arrival with a proudly hulking elegance. I smiled, teeth gritted beneath my lips. All that stood between me and insubordination was my personal belief that Gary's brain pan couldn't have progressed much past that of his Paleolithic ancestors.

"I'm very sorry," I said, ignoring the pits as best I could. Could I have been any more sincere? I didn't think so. It was no secret I didn't like his militaristic style. I'd even tried, ever so politely, to point this out early in the season. Maybe Gary's inner child was insecure...maybe he was just an asshole. Whatever; he had not appreciated my constructive criticism. Generally, Bell flat out avoided me and I gladly returned the favor.

Hope you enjoyed the peek. I promise more to come as we near publication!

Saturday, November 12, 2011

So, every once in a while I have to go crazy and grab a fun read! This is a challenge for a writer, because we are masters of procrastination and can get 'Lost in a Good Book' just as easily as Jasper Fforde's delightful and determined Thursday Next character.

I try to stick to the classics when I'm actively writing-they seem to improve my 'voice' rather than trash it. But after a while I want to wallow in some fun fiction just like the next reader. That's why I was delighted when an unexpected trip to the local library found me in the temporary possession of Janet Evanovich's lastest Stephanie Plum mystery, Smokin' Seventeen!!

No need for Twizzlers today-I've got some fun Brain Candy to consume tonight!

(ps...photo courtesy of Janet Evanovich's site)

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

I TWEET...Therefore I Blog/Am!

Or is it the other way around? Either way, I'm learning they go hand in hand when it comes to getting the word out about anything! Being a Robin by nature, you'd think that little blue bird would come naturally to me. But being a writer, you'd be surprised how terribly difficult I find it to keep my thoughts limited to only a meager 140 characters!

When you are used to putting your thoughts into a format that runs to 80,000 words or more, sucking it all down to a tweet is a BIG challenge... Still, I think it's one that might make me a better, more succinct writer. Follow me on Twitter and let me know what you think. Just CLICK ON THE LINK TO THE RIGHT on this blog-see you there!

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Nook: PubIt? Love it!

Woohoo! The Shell Keeper is up and now available at Barnes and Noble for all you Nook readers! No HTML's were mangled in the process and very little Riesling was consumed in the aftermath.

Super kudos to the folks at PubIt who have designed the MOST user friendly site for publishers of all the epub sites so far. Note to Kindle...why can't you make it THIS easy?! Truly, after only minimal account entry, it's a one page project, and that's MY kind of tech challenge.

For Nook readers, purchase and download the book as you would any other book from Barnes and Noble. Still an e-reader virgin?? If so, the Nook is pretty cool, as is the Kindle. The basic readers without all the wingdings and dodads are finally priced fairly reasonably.

I love the hard, cool feel of paper as much as the next person...but be brave, dear readers! e-readers fill a gap in our reading lifestyle and make it easy to traipse all over creation with a good book close at hand!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

No No! NaNoWriMo!!

Across the fruited plain, and really, way beyond, writers are hunkering down today to meet the challenge of NaNoWriMo! Their goal: write 50,000 words in one month! During a slightly delusional moment when I considered joining the hoards, I broke it down; it came to 1,667 words per day. If you decide to take off weekends, that takes 8 days out of the mix and adds those to the 22 days left in your writer's workweek/month. In that case, you'll be churning out 606 words per day for a total of 2273.
Okay, so on a great day I can totally do that-and more. But who has 22 to 30 totally great days in a row?! Egads!! Still, if I made the commitment I would do my best and truly, I'd end up with most of a hopefully good, new manuscript at the end of the month.
Truly, I was tempted. Then I was reminded-it's NOVEMBER! What, am I nuts?! Holidays are coming, shopping to be done (before kids are out of school-if you have that concern), relatives coming for Turkey dinners-Turkey dinners! There's at least ONE Thursday I couldn't write and another 606 words I'd have to squeak in somewhere.
Honestly, I'm as good a procrastinator as the next writer, but as you can clearly see, I've got some points. Which leads me to wonder...
Why November, NaNoWritMo!? Why not...February? In February I'll be stuck inside with hot beverages avoiding shoveling and, as we know, no one does anything. Just ask that dang groundhog; he peeks out of his hole-almost always determines there are 6 more weeks of winter to go-and pops back inside, not to be seen again until spring. Maybe he's writing a good book!

Friday, October 28, 2011

Thanks to Miss Lynn's Books For a Great Review!

Writer's live what often feels like a solitary life, alone with our thoughts and characters. Naturally we're tickled when our stories and characters find a little sugar in the real world. So I need to thank Miss Lynn's Books & More for her very kind review-what a joy to hear how delighted she was with the adventures of Del, Gwen and Claire in The Shell Keeper. And of course I truly appreciate it's proliferation on many sites including Amazon and Goodreads! Follow the highlighted words to check it out for yourself!

Monday, October 24, 2011

Thanks to PPRW and Tebow!!!

A special thanks to Lana, Annie and all the folks at Pikes Peak Romance Writers for inviting me to participate in yesterday's panel on e-publishing!

It was fun to hear about the experiences other authors have had and to share my own. Amazing factoid: the most experienced panelist among us was DeAnna Knippling-with 6 months. That is proof enough that this is a new frontier for all of us. Milt Mays brought a different perspective, having worked with the more hands on folks at Telemachus-I'd never heard of them before!

We may all be Rookies, but I think we've got pluck and heart on our sides!

Speaking of Rookies with heart...fyi for you Colorado readers...no, I did not ignore Tebow's debut as our starting quarterback! I listened all the way down I-25 from Denver to Colorado Springs. What were all those folks doing on the road and not in front of their TV's? Clearly the Bronco Nation needs some fresh inspiration. I hope Tebow is it!

Monday, October 17, 2011

Signing Books...My New Frontier!

So I'm finding that occasionally someone will show up with a copy of my book that they'd like me to sign. And this sensation is...exciting and intimidating all in one! Oh, the history of book signing. When I look back at some of the exquisite signatures of my favorite authors, or the carefully plotted sentiments they expressed alongside their names, I feel the weight of a tradition pressing down upon me. And I feel an obligation to do it right! Or at least, in a way that's right for me.

Don't get me wrong, I have no illusions of greatness here. I simply feel that, when someone has gone to such great trouble and expense as to purchase my book and actually read it-AND they still want me to sign it, well, I want to do it right! I've been reading up on what others do, and thinking about myself.

I suppose it's not right to say, 'Thanks for buying my book!' though I'm sure for many authors that's the first thing they think-at least in the early years! But I also feel compelled to do more than simply sign my name behind a trite 'Yours Truly'.

I'm not a big signature collector myself, but then, I saw this one online (pictured here) and have to admit that Anne Morrow Lindbergh's signature (the author of Gift From the Sea) would be a treasure for me.

So, to each his own! If you ask for it, I'll do my best...just be patient with me, I'm learning!

Friday, October 14, 2011

Now Available on Nook, Kobo and More from Pit Bull Publishing!

Thank you to those who have patiently waited for The Shell Keeper's release in epub formats that are compatible for NOOK, Kobo, Sony, Palm and more! We do-it-yourselfers may take a little longer and climb a steeper learning curve-but we're persistent...in a very friendly, yet perhaps a Pit Bull kind of a way? Think of a Pit Bull with a little pink ribbon between her ears. But I digress! The point here is you can now get The Shell Keeper in all kinds of formats, easily downloaded! Check it out:

ps...thanks to photopost blog for that very cute picture...though I'll probably stick with my golden retrievers....

Monday, October 10, 2011

Twizzlers-Opium of the Masses?

Kipling was known to smoke opium for inspiration but these days I think most writers would agree that there are wiser-and safer choices out there!

My own personal favorite would be Twizzlers. Technically they are a non-addicting substance, which is a plus over Mr. Kipling's choice. But, like chocolate, I'd have a hard time going cold turkey. Plus, they're fat free-hey, you can't beat that! True...there's some sugar content that adds a few calories, but honestly, how many of these puppies would I have to eat before my normal, semi-workout routine wouldn't take care of the aftermath?

And of course they use up a lot of nervous energy that would otherwise make me want to do wacky things like clean toilets or do laundry, rather than stare at my uncompromising computer screen which takes all my inspiration and creativity while only giving me spam and errors in return. Oh, and hopefully a good book now and then!

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Yes, I can sign your Kindle!

It's become a bit of a joke with friends who ask if I can sign their copy of my book on their Kindle...but guess what, I just found out I can...sort of!

A new site called Kindlegraph enables readers to request signatures of authors who have submitted their books. Now, it's not quite my actual signature. I have the option of using a pre-created signature, or doing it myself with my mouse...which kinda looks like a 4th grader signed it. So I opted for the pre-created one. But the comments are my own, written by me and transcribed into a lovely script along with my signature.

To request a Kindlegraph, from me or any of the other participating authors, just go to their site, search for the book you want signed, and click on the Request Kindlegraph tab. The author is notified and once they create the autograph it's sent to your Kindle-Pretty Slick! Here's the link:

Thursday, October 6, 2011

ePublishing Panel on Oct. 23!

Here's something for all the writers out there. If you are in the Colorado Springs area on Oct. 23 check out this Pikes Peak Romance Writer's workshop on the The Many Roads to Publishing in 2011!

I'll be speaking, along with a couple of other local authors who have tackled this literary adventure: Deanna Knippling and Milt Mays. I expect I'll learn as much from them as they may from me. This is such a deep and extensive new frontier, we are all learning as well go.

Here's a link to their site for all the details: http://www.pikespeakrwa.org/

Hope to see you there!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Gift from the Sea

It seems only fitting that my first post should be a tribute to Anne Morrow Lindbergh's wonderful book, Gift from the Sea. True, it was written in a simpler time, when women's roles were more defined...for better or worse. But Anne was a worldly gal, and she got the big picture.

My copy is dog-eared and highlighted in multiple neon translucent shades. The first draft of The Shell Keeper actually had a quote from her wonderful book at the start of each chapter. Numerous edits determined....sadly, that it was better not to include them. But her voice stays in my mind and I hope its spirit is in my book.

Del, Claire and Gwen, my 'gals' in The Shell Keeper are all learning, in Anne's words, to live through the ebb-tides of one's existence. The shells Anne wrote about back in 1955, as concepts for the passages of a woman's life, also inspire Gwen as she captures their beauty and characters on canvas.

If Gwen had read Gift from the Sea she would surely have pulled out her hot pink highlighter to underscore this: And my shells? They are there to remind me that the sea recedes and returns eternally.