Author Interview: Kayla Dawn Thomas

I'm happy to share an interview with my friend, Kayla Dawn Thomas, today.  Actually, Kayla and I have only met through social media (primarily Twitter and Instagram), but that is about to change. Because this summer, she and her family are visiting Portland.  And on July 23rd, the two of us will be doing a reading at a cool local bookstore, Another Read Through on Mississippi, one of Portland's happening neighborhoods.  I love this bookstore, and I love that the owner, Elisa Saphier, is a huge supporter of local authors.  So come on out and join us on the 23rd at 7 PM.  And even if you can't come that night, please do drop into the store if you live in town or are visiting. And now, without further ado, let's find out more about Kayla Dawn. KaylaDawn

Tell us a little about yourself. I’m a family, book, wine lovin’ lady. My husband, daughter, and I are living a mostly peaceful, quiet life in Eastern Washington (Go Cougs!) 

How and why did you get started writing novels? 

It was something I wanted to do since about second or third grade. That’s when the reading bug really bit me, and I wanted to make cool books like the ones I was tearing through. I wrote stories in one form or another all the way through high school. Some harsh college professors slashed my writing confidence, so there was about a decade where I didn’t write anything. Then one day in my early thirties, I started journaling. I was battling anxiety and depression. The idea was to work through that, but what ended up happening was a novel! My childhood dream came true in the midst of that darkness. It’s amazing how life works.

Please tell us a little bit about each of your titles.

Swept Up is my first novel. It was the result of scribbling in that journal. The process of writing broken characters and working them through healing, and of course, falling in love was very cathartic.

TS Cover finalThe Jenna Ray Stories have been a hoot to write. It all started when a Twitter friend posted a picture of a note he found in a library book that read: Have a stranger come to the bar-tell her he loves her-asks her to go to Chicago with him the next weekend-she doesn’t go. I let my imagination run wild and created a woman vigilante who’s life’s mission is to put an end to wandering penis syndrome (AKA cheating husbands). After writing Narrow Miss on a whim, my husband encouraged me to make it a series. Currently I’m working on the fourth installment. At the moment, I believe there will be five total.

 Tackling Summer is my newest novel. It’s very near and dear to my heart as it takes place on a cattle ranch very similar to the one I grew up on. It was fun to revisit childhood memories and the beautiful mountains that left their indelible mark on me. There are so many adventures one can have out in the sticks. I have a feeling there will be more books in this type of setting. 

 Why did you decide to go the indie publishing route?  Do you plan to continue in this arena? 

Ahhh, the million dollar question. First off, I’ve always wanted to work for myself. After doing LOTS of homework and realizing I could turn my passion for writing into a viable business, there was no question of the direction I would take. The idea of skipping over the gatekeepers and doing things my way was beyond exciting. At this time, I plan to continue with indie publishing.

 Who inspires you?  In the same vein, who do you like to read? 

 It’s tough to narrow down who inspires me the most! First off, my mom and sister. They are both successful entrepreneurs in different fields, and it’s been very inspiring to watch them grow their businesses. Toby Neal and Shanna Hatfield are the two female indie authors I want to be when I grow up. They’re producing great work, run impressive businesses, and are downright good people. They always make time to answer my newbie questions and have been so encouraging to me.

I read a little bit of everything except horror. I hate being scared and/or grossed out. I like happy endings. I turn to Shanna Hatfield when I want something light and friendly. Janet Evanovich is my got to when I want to laugh. Toby Neal and J.D. Robb/Nora Roberts oftentimes take care of my need for a mystery/romance combo fix. I guess there’s a common thread running through that list. I like a good love story, and they can take many forms.

 Writing plans for the future? 

I’m working on the fourth novella in the Jenna Ray Stories. I’m hoping to have that out in early fall. I’m also sketching an outline for a novel based around Webb Baker’s sister, Celeste, from Swept Up. I knew the moment I typed “the end” on that manuscript that Celeste had a story to tell.

Where can we connect with you? You can find me over at my website My monthly newsletter is the best way to keep up with my new releases, sales, events, special giveaways. I also spend a fair bit of time on Facebook

Kayla Dawn Thomas writes general and women’s fiction, as well as chick lit novels and novellas. Her mission is to give her readers an escape, from a chronically busy, overwhelmed world offering them the opportunity to settle in and discover someplace new, maybe crack a smile, and find a little romance. She’s been a storyteller all her life. Before she knew how to write, she told stories to a jump rope. Thankfully that stage ended once she learned how to work a pencil. Now she’s blessed to be able to write full time and looks forward to sharing her crazy ideas with readers. Always a romantic, Kayla managed to marry her high school sweetheart. They have a very bright, active nine-year-old daughter.

When not writing or being mom, Kayla can most likely be found in a cozy spot with a good book. Reading, sunshine, and hanging out with family and friends bring her joy.

Book Review: Step Out of Your Story

Step Out of Your Story: Writing Exercises to Reframe and Transform Your Life by Kim Schneiderman

Bookcover1-194x300Once again, the wonderful folks at New World Library have offered me a book to review.  And once again, I'm making slow progress through it because I keep stopping to ponder and do the exercises. I found the receipt of this book particularly serendipitous because shortly before it arrived, I announced that I was pondering offering a class on a similar topic.  (And I'm, um, not anywhere near being done with that little effort.)

So, I bet you're dying to know what the book is about, aren't you?  It is called Step Out of Your Story: Writing Exercises to Reframe and Transform Your Life by Kim Schneiderman.  (While it cursorily discusses the various aspects of writing a story, this book is aimed at you rewriting your own life story, not the Great American Novel.)

Since I'm making slow progress through the book (a good thing), I decided to offer you and interview with the author, who can talk about it better than I can!  Here goes:

 What does it mean to “step out of your story?” and how does one do that?

As I write in the opening chapter of my book, “every life is an unfolding story, a dynamic, unique, purposeful, and potentially heroic story with bright spots, turning points, and abounding opportunities for personal growth and transformation.” Most people, when I present this idea to them, accept this to be true. And yet, many people don’t think about what that means. Until something happens that challenges their outlook on life, few take the time to explore the character they’re playing, what their story is about, who’s writing their script, and how the challenges they face can help them develop the insights and skills they need to move to the next chapter.

Stepping out of your story means being able to step outside your life to view it from a novel perspective, both literally and figuratively. That means seeing yourself as the hero of your story, and understanding how all of the classic story elements, especially your antagonists, might be conspiring to help you grow, as many protagonists do over the course of the narrative. Looking at your life this way can also help you embrace plot twists as opportunities to change your life.

Does how we tell our story matter? And if there are infinite ways to tell our stories, is there a best way?

Absolutely. Telling our story is a fundamental way that we come to know ourselves and make meaning of our live. We are constantly sifting through various competing narratives to make sense of our world for ourselves and others. Whether you consider yourself a heroic figure overcoming obstacles or a tragic victim of destiny often depends on how you choose to read the text of your life and the way that you tell your story. We might even describe suffering, in part, as the result of a storytelling deficit, a failure to find a good filing system that organizes the details of one’s life into a meaningful cause-and-effect narrative, which results in an incoherent or distorted story.

While there may not be a best way, there are certainly better ways to tell your story than others. My book proposes telling your story as a personal growth adventure, using the classic story structure to reframe challenges as stepping-stones to a more authentic self and richer life. The classic story elements - protagonist, antagonist, plot, climax, etc. - serve as the architecture of a story. Once we understand how each element of the story scaffolding supports directs and supports the protagonist’s character development, we can use “the story lens on life” to reconstruct a powerful, coherent narrative from the raw materials of our lives.

What does it mean to become a good reader of the text of our lives and how can that help us?

How we “read,” or rather interpret, our story affects how we feel about ourselves, which can influence how our lives unfold. For example, reframing the story of a cancer diagnosis as a tale of finding new sources of resilience and deeper connections with loved ones feels very different from telling the story as one of divine punishment or meaningless misery. In fact, studies show that a positive narrative, and the feelings they engender, can influence prognosis. Similarly, seeing a failed relationship as a lesson in intimacy, resilience, and humility will make us feel a whole lot better, and emotionally ready for our next relationship, than shaping the story as one of self-sabotage and personal worthlessness.

This interpretative lens implies that we value character development in ourselves as much as we value it in the books we read and movies we watch. It entails seeing every person and situation that shows up in your narrative as a personal growth opportunity and recognizing the subtle, often unrecognized personal victories that build character — such as facing a fear, changing an attitude, or kicking a bad habit. This is not necessarily how society traditionally measures success. But or psychotherapists and writers, these kinds of changes mark meaningful progress in someone’s lifelong development, whether that person is a client or an imagined character.

Here’s an example. Let’s say you’re unemployed, and you tell yourself the story that this is just another crappy situation that defines your very difficult life. You ask yourself, “Why does this always happen to me?” Then you finally land a job interview. What happens? If you haven’t eradicated your victim story, it may unintentionally seep out during your interview through your tone and word choice, or you may secretly sabatoge yourself. This may lead you to botch the interview, which causes more suffering and only confirms your negative story.

However, what if you saw the antagonist (in this case, unemployment) of the current chapter in your life (a chapter you might entitle “A Thousand Resumes”) as the necessary force that is pushing you to grow in new ways: perhaps that you are in fact ambivalent about this career path or that you tend to get easily discouraged. In a way, this antagonist is like a personal trainer, and this conflict is the force challenging you to develop your confidence or to become clear about your career direction.

Suddenly, as you exercise control over how you view your situation, the time between jobs becomes an invitation to work on yourself and build your muscles. Through this lens, you might say to yourself, “If I were reading this chapter in a book about the story of my life, I might appreciate that unemployment is nudging me — the protagonist — to get more organized and keep persevering in the face of adversity. I can choose to embrace that challenge, and forge ahead, or drain myself of valuable energy by sinking into discouragement.” Cast in this light, the power of interpretation via the story lens on life offers a powerful elixir for heartbreaks, disappointments, and existential angst.

Does putting a positive spin on your story make it less truthful?

We spin our stories all the time. Every time we open our mouths we make choices about how to tell a tale. Depending on your audience, we may emphasize certain aspects of the story over others, or omit certain details that seem irrelevant, inappropriate, or too complicated to explain. As we tell it over and over, we might remember certain parts we had forgotten initially, or new insights might lead us to spin the story in a totally different direction.

Is one version more truthful than another? Who’s to say? And how does one define truth? Is the objective experience of the things that happen - what I call the “outer story” any more truthful than the feelings we have about what happens - what I call the “inner story?” Some people tend to favor one of these two storytelling styles. But both are “true,” as far as they are meaningful, when it comes to understanding the totality of a person’s experience. That’s why for me, it’s less important whether a story is truthful, than whether it’s personally constructive.

Finally, there are ways to find the redemptive storyline without whitewashing over unpleasant circumstances, repressing feelings, or discounting important life lessons. By reframing your story as a personal growth adventure that identifies the ways you’ve grown as the protagonist of your narrative, there is room for all manner of feelings and experiences, which imbue the story with richness and texture. And the fuller the story, the more it approximates something resembling the truth.

Is there any research to support the efficacy of the third-person storytelling exercises in Step Out of Your Story?

A number of psychological studies in recent years illustrate that recalling past events or thinking about yourself in the third person helps you see yourself through kinder, more compassionate eyes. The reason is that the third person voice creates emotional distance between you and the circumstances of your life, enabling you to see the larger story with greater objectivity. For example, University of California and University of Michigan researchers used a psychologically distancing vantage point when asking participants to reflect on negative memories. Not only did participants report less emotional pain, less rumination, improved problem solving, and greater life satisfaction when discussing matters in the third person, they also gained new insights into those memories without feeling as emotionally overwhelmed. Similarly, in a Columbia University study, students were asked to describe recently upsetting thoughts or feelings, and these bad memories were recalled with less hostility by those using the third-person perspective. In an Ohio State University study, students who recalled humiliating moments in high school in the third-person narrative were more likely to describe themselves as having overcome obstacles than those who recalled similarly embarrassing moments from a first-person perspective. The study concluded that feeling like you’ve changed gives you the confidence and momentum to act in ways that support a perceived new and improved self.

It’s also worth noting that all of this research is aligned with narrative therapy technique known as “externalization,” which uses psychological distancing techniques to prevent people from over-identifying with their problems.

Do people need to be good writers to do the exercises you offer in your book?

No. As I tell my students, your masterpiece of living doesn’t have to be a masterpiece of writing. The exercises are designed for anyone who can compose a simple sentence. The goal is not writing well; the goal is self-discovery. The goal is to write powerfully and authentically. In my experience facilitating workshops, I’ve noticed that the written equivalent of stick-figure drawings may actually teach us more about ourselves than carefully crafted (and controlled) adult sentences. Words-smithing can be about the ego, which I’m trying to help people transcend via the third person narrative. That being said, people for whom writing comes naturally sometimes use the exercises as prompts to get really creative, and have subsequently written some beautiful pieces.

Obviously, no one can predict the future. How then is it possible to predict your own character arc?

One of the ways I help readers get a sense of their character arc is by completing a character sketch of themselves in the third person narrative, assuming the role of both author and protagonist. A character sketch is a technique that helps authors flesh out the personalities and interior world of the protagonist before embarking on a novel. It involves answering a series of imaginative questions that paint a holographic picture of how the protagonist might evolve over the course of the plotline. The character sketch presumes that the protagonist is the soul of every narrative and the engine that runs the story. So, too, I want my readers to understand more deeply who they are as evolving protagonists. The more they understand about who they are, what they’re made of, and what’s driving them, the more they’ll get a sense of where they’re heading.

How can the antagonists of our stories help us grow? Can’t they also bring us down?

Many of us don’t think twice about pushing ourselves to the point of pain and exhaustion at the gym. Yet when life pushes us to exercise our emotional, spiritual, and mental muscles, we often would prefer lighter, gentler, no-impact routines. However, until we are willing to build these character development muscles, we will remain somewhat stunted in our growth, unable to actualize the full strength of what we are capable of, whether in our career, relationships, or communities.

That’s why antagonists are an important part of our story. They are like the personal trainers who push us beyond our perceived limitations to develop our flabby, underutilized emotional muscles. As with a personal trainer, we might openly swear or grin through gritted teeth. We might assign the person sadistic aspirations, thinking the trainer wants to harm or destroy us. But if we read between the lines, whether we like it or not, our antagonist can help us strengthen the underdeveloped areas within ourselves. By definition, they force us to stretch beyond our perceived limitations to discover the true depth of our own capacity to love, succeed, and overcome obstacles.

That’s not to say that we should seek out conflict for personal growth’s sake or use character development as an excuse to endure chronically painful or unpleasant circumstances. Constant pain is a sign that something is amiss. Yet any workout should include a little discomfort so we increase our flexibility to handle more intense situations with greater degrees of ease. It reminds me of something a dance teacher once told me: “Sometimes, when you begin to stretch, your muscles scream ‘no, no, no’ — they don't think they can handle the tension because it's never been asked of them before. But as you gradually ease into the pose, they relax and discover an untapped capacity for elasticity.”

Why do you ask readers to focus on the current chapter, rather than asking them to reframe something that happened in the past or look at their whole life?

While exploring the influence of the past on the present can help us understand ourselves better, we can also get bogged down in old storylines — instead of visiting the past, we might pitch camp there or continue to circle the same old beaten tracks.

The present, however, is the place where change becomes possible. It is the precise moment in the story when you, as the protagonist of your story, can take action and grow. One of the foundational exercises I ask readers to complete is to name and describe the current chapter. From there, I help them reconstruct their story element by element. Eventually, they reassemble these pieces into an empowering new narrative about where they are and where they’re heading. And here is the beauty of this process: once we name our current chapter, distinguishing it from previous chapters within our larger narrative, we may see how the present moment offers possibilities to embrace a new reality and further develop our character. This new awareness can help us get a fresh perspective on areas where we might feel stuck, reframing life's inevitable trials and tribulations as purposeful experiences that won't last forever.

Kim Schneiderman, LCSW, MSW, is the author of Step Out of Your Story. She counsels in private practice and teaches as a professor and guest lecturer at venues including New York University. She also writes a biweekly advice column for Metro Newspapers and blogs for Psychology Today. Visit her online for more information.

Books I Read In May

Nightingale_hc_lgI can't figure out what's going on.  I know I read a ton last month, but I can't seem to bring any of the titles into my mind.  (As soon as I press publish on this post they will flood into my brain.)  So here's a quick list of the books I remember:

The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah.  This is on the best-seller lists and is getting a lot of buzz, and deservedly so.  It's quite good.  I learned history from it, too, such as the fact that gazillions of people evacuated Paris when the Nazis first occupied it.  And I was reminded of the hardships that Europeans faced during World War II.

That's the only novel I can think of that I read recently, and I usually inhale novels like crazy.  But, I have been dipping in and out of a lot of writing books.  I don't so much read them cover to cover, because they have inspiration and exercises in them that lead me to the page.

Wild Women, Wild Voices by Judy Reeves.  I wrote a whole review of this book here.  I'm still working with it for journaling ideas and I like it a lot.  Its not so much a book that's going to help you with plotting or characterization, but more the basic writing stuff, like expressing yourself on the page.

The Plot Whisperer by Martha Alderson.  This is a book that will help you with your plotting (and there's some info on characterization as well).  I bought it on a trip to Seattle and wrote more about it here.

Naming the World, edited by Bret Anthony Johnston.  This is most definitely not a book you sit down and read cover to cover, because it is a book of writing exercises.  (Although each exercise is preceded by an essay from the author who submitted it.)  Good stuff in here.

Into the Woods by John Yorke.  This is a book on structure and I am loving it.  I ordered it from a bookseller in England (through Amazon) and it took forever to get here and then my husband set the envelope aside under a pile of mail so it took even longer for me to actually find it, but it was worth the wait.  An amazing, excellent book on structure, and its readable, too.  I embedded a video below of him relating "how all storytelling has worked since the beginning of time" at Google UK.

All this reading on story structure has led me to another activity: going to movies.  More on that in my next post.  In the meantime, what have you been reading?

Previous months posts are (which I offer in case you need recommendations):

Books I Read in April (and Part of May)

Books I've Been Reading

Books I Read in January

Interview With Debut Author Amanda Michelle Moon

 Allow me to introduce you to my former student and now friend, Amanda Michelle Moon.  Her book, Stealing the Ruby Slippers, was just released, and I can't wait to read it! I'm so excited about everything she's doing that I asked her if I could interview her and she graciously said yes.  Read on! And check out her Kindle Countdown Deal that starts today (details at the end of the post).

New-ePub-Cover-200x300CRD: Your book, Stealing the Ruby Slippers, was just released. Can you tell us a little bit about it?

AMM: Jared Canning is in over his head with gambling debt, and has a bookie on his trail. He gets an opportunity to earn the money he needs by breaking into a small-town museum, stealing Judy Garland’s Ruby Slippers, and selling them to a buyer in New Orleans. The robbery goes off perfectly. But Hurricane Katrina wipes out New Orleans, and his buyer, and Jared is stuck—both with the shoes and with a debt he can’t pay.

CRD: Did I see somewhere that this is the first of a series?

AMM: I wrote it to be a stand alone book. Then, while out walking the dog exactly two weeks before the release date, the major plot details for a sequel came to me. Right now I’m working on outlining and doing character sketches for the sequel.

CRD: Where did you get the idea for the book?

AMM: I grew up in Hill City, Minnesota, fifteen miles south of Grand Rapids, where Judy Garland was born. The museum there was the summer home of a pair of Ruby Slippers she wore in The Wizard of Oz. In August of 2005 I was newly married, living with my husband in Nashville, Tennessee, watching coverage of Hurricane Katrina when I saw the headline across the ticker at the bottom of the screen: “Ruby Slippers stolen from museum in Grand Rapids, Michigan.” I freaked out. Grand Rapids, MN, is really small, and almost always confused with Michigan. I called my parents (they still live there) and confirmed what actually happened. The two events, while in reality have no connection what so ever, have been linked in my mind ever since.

CRD: Can you share a bit about the publication process? You indie published, correct? Do you recommend this route to other writers? AmandaMichelleMoon

AMM: I’d had the idea for this book in my head for years, but I’ve been (and still am) working on another novel, so I didn’t actually sit down to write it until November of last year. It took 21 days to get the first draft done, but I had a very detailed outline. 2014 is the 75th anniversary of The Wizard of Oz and I knew that releasing the book to coincide with all of the festivals would be the best free publicity I would ever get, so I worked my tail off to get it completed. With a timeline that tight, indie/self publishing is the only option. I didn’t have time to query agents or publishers, or to get on a publisher’s schedule or timeline. Indie publishing is a lot of work. I was lucky—a teacher at Hamline put me in touch with a former editor from one of Minneapolis’s publishers, and he talked me through the whole process. A friend of mine, Joe Hart, has had great success self publishing and he gave me a lot of insight and resources. I’m still working on/struggling with marketing and getting the word out. I have a great base of friends and family, and there is a wonderful Wizard of Oz fan base that I’m tapping into. But wider visibility is hard. If you are willing to give up half (or more) of your writing time to the business side of publishing, I do think indie is a good option. I have a history in the music industry and have seen the shift there from the major labels to indies and how good that has been for the artists. Everything we’re seeing in the publishing industry now I saw when I was at labels in the early 2000s. That’s not to say the major houses are going away—or that the prestige of publishing with them is any less desirable—but I know, at least sometimes, it’s a better move to go indie, retain control, and work your butt off.

CRD: When you're not writing novels, what do you do?

AMM: I’ve got two kids, Lily is six and Austin is almost five, so they keep me busy. One of them is always home. I can’t really even imagine what life is going to be like when they’re both in the same school at the same time next year. I’ve also got two dogs, a husband, and a jewelry line ( When I’m not busy with any of that, I’m enjoying life in Minneapolis. This town is awesome. From the lakes to the Institute of Art…I love it here. Oh—and yoga and Pilates. I used to teach Pilates and might start again when the kids are in school next year.

CRD: You're currently working on your MFA at Hamline. You and I worked together at the Writer's Loft in Nashville. How has going to school affected your writing?

AMM: I’m a lot more critical, which isn’t a bad thing. I hate the whole editing process. I write really fast, and it’s not awful, and for a long time that was good enough. But having to turn things in for grades and comments…I had to make peace with editing because getting minor issues pointed out is embarrassing. Also, deadlines are awesome for getting work done.

CRD: Having worked with you in the past I know you produce prodigious amounts of writing. Can you tell us a bit about your schedule?

AMM: Well…for a while I was working a retail job with a completely erratic schedule that meant both of my kids were in daycare and the days I had off I could focus on writing. Those days it was common for me to knock out 7-10K words. Ahhhh…the good old days… Now, with at least one kid home at all times, and a husband who is self employed and works from the basement, I’ve had to get more purposeful. Until 9:00am is my time every morning. For a while I was getting up at 5:30 (it was required to get StRS out on time) but I need more sleep than that. So most days I’m up around 6:30 and in my office, working, by 7:00. I have several projects I’m working on now: a sequel to this, the aforementioned novel, a YA book, and a collection of short stories. I break my time out into chunks and dedicate a certain amount to each project. I use a lot of the time management tools that Kimberly Wilson talks about at Tranquility Du Jour, and I recently discovered Nozbe, which I think is going to help with the organization a lot.

CRD: What is your best advice to other writers?

AMM: I have two: 1) Find a writers group. You need to get regular feedback (and camaraderie) from other writers that you trust. Writers can spot problems with your work that your beta readers don’t. (let’s face it—your beta readers are there because they like what you write.) 2) Have more than one project going at a time. That way, when you get stuck, you won’t just give up, you can move on to something else. At the same time, if one project is going really, really good, (provided you’re not missing any deadlines) let the other projects drop away for a bit. Find the best time of day for you to work.

CRD: Anything else we should know about your book, your writing, or you?

AMM: My blog is You can see a lot pictures of my kids and dog if you check out my instagram (amandamoon) and on Facebook (AmandaMichelleMoonWriter) I actually post about my writing.

CRD: Thanks, Amanda and good luck with the book!

If you'd like to buy the book, Amanda is running a Kindle Countdown deal the next few days. Details below.

Stealing the Ruby Slippers will cost:

0.99 Thur-Sunday, June 19th-22

1.99 Monday & Tuesday, June 23 & 24

2.99 until 11:59pm PST Wednesday June 25

Regular price (5.99) 11pm PST on June 25.

Interview with Helene Dunbar, Author of These Gentle Wounds

I'm so excited to introduce you to my friend Helene Dunbar and her book, These Gentle Wounds, which releases this week. Helene and I met in Nashville, back in the days when I was on the staff of the Room to Write writing retreat, and we've kept in touch ever since.  I've been eagerly awaiting the publication of her novel, and the time is finally here.  Read on to learn more about it--and her.

These Gentle WoundsThese Gentle Wounds
comes out May 8.  Can you tell us a bit about it?

These Gentle Wounds is a story about a teenage boy named Gordie Allen who survives an almost unspeakable act on the part of his mother. Five years later he’s reached a place in his life where he can keep things almost in balance, but then his father reappears and throws it all out of whack again. It’s about being stronger than you think you are. It’s about brotherhood and the roles we sometimes get trapped into. And it’s about first love and learning to rely on other people and learning to let them rely on you.

The book came out of a number of freelance articles I’d written for an education publisher on the cases of Susan Smith and Andrea Yates, two mothers who killed their children. In January 2011, a mother in New York State drove her four kids into a river, killing three of them. I became curious about what sort of life the surviving child would have and so I started writing about it.

I was also interested in exploring the life of a teen who had survived childhood trauma. Not much has been written about post-traumatic stress disorder in non-military terms.

What attracted you to writing YA?

The only fiction I’ve ever written is YA. I spent a lot of time as a teen reading, only YA wasn’t really such a “thing” then so I read a lot of speculative fiction. I tripped across Melissa Marr’s Wicked Lovely series at a time in my life when, for the first time, I really wasn’t doing a lot of reading because nothing really seemed to make me feel anything. That opened up the whole world of YA. I think the intensity of being a teenager lends itself to fiction, particularly if, like me, you like the books you read to really affect you.

Have you written in other genres?  Any desire to?

Um….well… first manuscript was a fantasy. My second was magic realism. I think promised myself that I was sticking to contemporary. However…’s possible that I might be working on a magic realism book right now….possibly….

What are your release celebration plans?  Events?  Hoopla?

I’m having a release party at Parnassus here in Nashville on May 17, at 6pm. Parnassus has been amazingly supportive of the local writing community here and I’m still in awe of the fact that they’re willing to let me launch there. I’m still looking into other dates as well, so stay tuned.

What's up next for you? Helene

Oh how I wish I had a Magic 8 ball that would tell me? :)

Anything else you'd like to add?

For those who read it, the recipe that Gordie and his older brother Kevin made (pea balls!) is a real thing. The book also has a killer playlist that I’m going to be blogging about soon. Thanks for hosting me, Charlotte!!!!!

Helene Dunbar usually writes features about fiddles and accordions for Irish Music Magazine, but she’s also been known to write about court cases, theater, and Native American Indian tribes. She's lived in two countries, six states, and is currently holed up in Nashville with her husband, daughter, two cats, and the world’s friendliest golden retriever.

Guest Post, Book Launch: How Getting Coached Saved My Sanity

I am thrilled to introduce you to my friend Lisa, a fellow Portlander.  Her fabulous debut mystery, Kilmoon, A County Clare Mystery, just released last week.  She's got an interesting take on how to get organized for a book launch.  Take it away, Lisa!

Book Launches: How Getting Coached Saved My Sanity Kilmoon_72dpi

by Lisa Alber

My debut novel, Kilmoon, A County Clare Mystery, came out on March 18th, and if anyone six months previously had told me how nuts the ten weeks before launch would be, I would have shrugged. No biggie.

Uh-huh, right. Come to find out that I have two things going against me when it comes to being a coolly together person:

* I suck at long-term planning and nit-picky organizational tasks.

* I’m a tad neurotic so I get overwhelmed and stressed out easily.

I managed to sail along in the land of delusion until January 1st hit, and then I panicked. I had less than three months until Kilmoon launched. How was I to begin the process of organizing myself, much less actually accomplishing tasks? I didn’t know where to start.

The extent to which I suck at organizational tasks and time management is outstanding. I really am a seat-of-the-pants, wing-it kind of person. But, and this is a big but, if you want to launch your novel with any kind of buzz at all, whether you’re self-publishing or going traditional, you have to have your shite together.

Lisa Romeo, my coach, specializes in writers. Hallelujah! The first thing she had me do was break down the zillions of to-dos zinging through my brain into five categories. These are your primary goals for the book launch. Priorities are good! For example, you might have:

1. Blog tour / book tour

2. Launch party

3. Newsletter/mailing list

4. Promotional giveaways (Goodreads, LibraryThing, Facebook parties, Twitter chats, etcetera)

5. Appearances and conferences

For each category, brainstorm every task you can think of. Go for it. No need to be organized yet. Remember that tasks often have sub-tasks, which have sub-tasks. List them all.

Here are some other tips and tricks that kept me sane:

1. Print out a separate calendar just for book launch tasks and then plan backwards. If you know when you want your launch party, then what are the goals leading up to that? Note the sub-task deadlines. Seeing the tasks visually was so helpful for me. This especially helped me keep track of deadlines for guest posts (blog tour category).

2. White board! I set mine up in the living room where I could see it every time I passed by. For each category, I’d list the tasks for that week. I’d get these tasks from my calendar and also my brainstormed task lists.

3. Each Sunday, look over your lists, revise your priorities as needed, and write out your next tasks for the coming week. You might find that creating a mailing list and a newsletter can wait until after the launch. Perhaps developing a new website has become more important. This is OK!

4. Cheat a little. There are always more tasks that come up along the way. I added another column on my white board for “miscellaneous.” This column might include random tasks such as updating your Facebook banner to include your cover art or ordering bookmarks.

5. Be realistic about how much time you have to devote to book launch tasks. You can’t do everything. This lesson was one of the best things I got out of coaching: let stuff go. I was batty enough as it was without trying to be Ms. Perfect Book Launch Mama.

6. Give yourself a mental high-five when you cross a task off your list. You’re doing it!

I’m here to tell you that if I can make it through launch, then you can too. I’ve found that most people are either less charmingly neurotic than I am, or more organized—that is, most have an automatic heads up on me. But I survived! And, my launch went well too.

You’ll learn some things about yourself along the way. I learned that I suck at follow-through and quick decision-making, but, hey, that’s OK. I’ll factor that in for the next launch. Next time, I’ll hire a coach four months ahead of time. That should do the trick, don’t you think?

About Kilmoon.

Merrit Chase travels to Ireland to meet her father, a celebrated matchmaker, in hopes that she can mend her troubled past. Instead, her arrival triggers a rising tide of violence, and Merrit finds herself both suspect and victim, accomplice and pawn, in a manipulative game that began thirty years previously. When she discovers that the matchmaker’s treacherous past is at the heart of the chaos, she must decide how far she will go to save him from himself—and to get what she wants, a family.

“Brooding, gothic overtones haunt Lisa Alber’s polished, atmospheric debut. Romance, mysticism, and the verdant Irish countryside all contribute to making KILMOON a marvelous, suspenseful read.” —Julia Spencer-Fleming, New York Times & USA Today bestselling author of Through the Evil Days

“This first in Alber’s new County Clare Mystery series is utterly poetic … The author’s prose and lush descriptions of the Irish countryside nicely complement this dark, broody and very intricate mystery.” —RT Book Reviews (four stars)

Lisa_new_edit_color300dpi_optLisa Alber received an Elizabeth George Foundation writing grant based on Kilmoon. Ever distractible, you may find her staring out windows, dog walking, fooling around online, or drinking red wine with her friends. Ireland, books, animals, photography, and blogging round out her distractions. Lisa lives in the Pacific Northwest. Kilmoon is her first novel.

You can find Lisa at: website | Facebook | Twitter | blog

How about you?  Have you ever used a coach for any aspect of your writing career? Please comment!

Trust the Reader

I was on the phone with one of my writing coaching clients (who just so happens to be a kick-ass SciFi adventure writer).

"I'm enjoying your book," he said.

I thanked him.

"I think my wife is enjoying it even more.  She keeps stealing it from me."

I allowed as how this didn't surprise me, seeing as how the novel is most definitely women's fiction and my client's book is more of a rough-and-tumble type romp.

"She told me last night that she thinks she's just gotten to a place in the book where she is less irritated with Emma Jean and is beginning to see her change."

I loved hearing this, because it means that my client's wife got Emma Jean.  Yes, Emma Jean is self-absorbed to the point of cluelessness at the start (I believe one reviewer said she "wanted to take her by the shoulders and shake her") but there's also a deep woundedness inside her that makes her act this way.

I've always trusted my readers to get that. To get irritated with her, and want to shake some sense into her but still be willing to go on her journey with her--because they understand that she will transform at the end.

I'm not going to give away the ending by saying how she transforms, but suffice it to say she does transform.  That's what I love about women's fiction--its characters go on journeys of transformation.

The funny thing is, I had numerous agents tell me that Emma Jean was too "unrelatable."  And yet, over and over again, I get comments from people who tell me how much they love her, how they empathize with her, how they know someone just like her.

I'm glad I trusted the reader.

In what ways have you learned to trust the reader?

A New Wrinkle on a Lifelong Love Affair

School-study-person-10504-lI've been a reader all my life.  I'm sure you have, too, since if you're reading this blog, it's because you're interested in writing.  And if you're interested in writing, odds are good that you came to your love of writing through reading.

Maybe you, like me, usually have something like five books that you're reading at one time.  (I always have at least one novel going, maybe two.  And probably for sure something on spirituality.  Maybe another on self-help, and often a business or other non-fiction book as well.)

Perhaps you, like me, enjoy nothing better than an afternoon spent reading a juicy novel by the fire, or a late night when you're kept awake turning the pages of a mystery.

I wonder, too, if, over the last few years, you've not had as much time to read.  It's been the case for me.  Life got busy with children, then grandchildren, career, friends, housework, you name it.  And my lifelong love affair with reading was threatened.  It wasn't that I wasn't reading, because I always, always, always have a book going.  It was just that I wasn't reading as much.

But all that has changed.

Because I bought a Kindle. And it has revolutionized my reading world.  Already, since just last week, I've finished one full novel and am halfway through a second.  Plus, I've read sample chapters of two others and begun another one.

I've done more reading in the past few days than I've accomplished in the last month.

There's something amazingly simple about picking the little tablet up, turning it on, and reading a few pages when I have a spare five minutes.  The device makes me read faster.  I'm a visual scanner, meaning I take in a whole paragraph or sentence at a glance (which is why I'm worthless if someone spells a word or reads me a string of numbers--I need to see the whole), and something about the size of the Kindle's screen enables me to inhale words in huge gulps.

I love it.

And it is good for my writing, as well.  Reading is part of the job description for any writer, and it is an excellent way to teach yourself to write.  You could do worse than to begin your education by sitting down and reading 100 works in the genre you wish to write in.  When I read, it's almost as if the words I inhale rearrange themselves inside me and spit themselves back out on the page.  I think I've written more on my novel in the few days I've had the Kindle than I have this entire year.

Words in, words out.  It's magic. 

It puzzles me why the publishing world is so threatened by the digital revolution.  Anything that makes people read more should be considered a good thing, right? One would think so.  Another benefit to the Kindle or its pals is the ease with which you can order books.  One click and there you are, ready to read.   This is a fantastic, thing, people.

I bought the absolute cheapest Kindle available, the one with special offers and ads on it, because I wasn't sure I was going to like it.  Turns out I even love the ads, which have introduced me to a new author already.  For the record, the special deals generally feature classic authors like Paul Bowles or C.S. Lewis, so its not a bunch of crap by any stretch of the imagination.

One caveat: think hard about what you want your tablet to do.  After much thought, I realized that what I really wanted was to read on the device, period.  Which is why, despite the siren song of the Ipad, I didn't bite.  And now I'm glad, because if I had a full-fledged Ipad, I'd be checking my email or reading HuffPost.  I know myself.  I am weak.  I succumb to such temptations easily.

So that's my story about my new love affair.

How do you read--on an Ereader or with a traditional book?

Publishing Really Is Worth It

Flower_soft_play_250199_lTo paraphrase the immortal words of Sally Field:  I like it, I really like it.

What is it that I like so much?

Being an author.  Let me explain with a couple of stories.

Story #1. Years ago, I began working with a coach.  I told her that my deepest desire was to publish a novel.  My coach mentioned that she'd worked with another client who had published a book and decided she didn't like it.  Didn't like the hoopla that went with it and decided to not write any more books.  I took this under advisement, willing to be open to the fact that I might not like being published. 

Story #2.  Also years ago (I've been at this game a long time), I read an interview with a best-selling author, whose name now escapes me.  She said something to the effect that she really liked--and missed--the "scrappy little life" she enjoyed before she got published.  Once again, I was willing to be open to the fact that this might happen to me, too.  That I might prefer my life before I was published.


I adore being published.   I love reading reviews of my work, and I love hearing through tweets and emails that readers have enjoyed my book.  Unlike that client my coach told me about, I'm loving this stuff.  I loved my virtual release party and my in-person party.  I loved signing books.  I've got a reading coming up and I anticipate loving that. 

Let's be clear: I still have a "scrappy little life," one that I love.   But publishing a novel has just made it a better scrappy life.  Because, here's the deal: writing is an act of communication and when nobody reads the words we write, part of the loop is missing.  Which is why, I believe, we worry so much about publishing.  Why some writers put the cart before the horse and worry about publishing before they've finished writing.

Because we yearn to communicate.

And let me tell you, it is worth it.  So for those of you in the middle of writing a novel, despairing you may never get to the end: keep going, it's worth it.  For those of you sending out query after query, and piling up the rejections: keep sending them out, it's worth it.  For those of you who've had blips in your publishing process (I've heard of two recently): keep going, it's worth it.

For anyone struggling to get their creative work out in the world: take heart, it will all be worth it.

I promise.

Where are you in the creative process?  Starting out?  Finishing a project?  Marketing?  Leave a comment, I'd love to hear about it.

As The Hoopla Winds Down

I owe you guys a blog post.

I've been guest posting and interviewing all around the internet (thank you, everyone) and, indeed, I have one more interview coming up on Tuesday, one I'm very excited about.  But in the hoopla around my book release I've not spent a lot of time, here, at home base, except for brief posts directing you to other blogs.

I tell myself that a guest post or interview is still me on the page, it's just at another venue.

But still, it feels odd not to be spending as much time here.

And so on this Saturday morning, I will write a bit about where things stand.

My local book release party was Thursday night, the bookend to the virtual release party I hosted a week ago.  We held it on the second floor of one of my favorite local brewpubs and I had a blast.  I think at least 60 people came.  I sold out of all the books I had on hand, and took orders for more. I spilled wine all over everything at the book signing table, including three just-signed books, and several people in attendance got very, very drunk. 

And most of all, I felt like an author.  It's hard not to when you're sitting behind a table signing books.  I think this is a thing that I will grow into more, because I realize  even as I type this that I still have a bit of anxiety around the whole thing.  Stepping out with my novel feels very different than the other writing and writing-related work that I do.  It feels like I'm putting more of me, myself and I out there--which is kinda funny because I strive to do that all the time on this blog.

So maybe it's a matter of getting accustomed to different writing venues.  When I first started writing this blog, come to think of it, I was very shy about sharing it.  I remember telling my family that I'd started a blog and then saying, "But don't go read it yet."  Which is probably hard for you who have read me here regularly to believe.  And I remember even farther back to when I first started getting articles published in magazines how I'd never actually look at them in print.

All of which is odd for a writer, but I don't think I'm the only one who deals with this.   We writers spend so much time alone crafting words that it's a bit of a shock when we realize that others are actually reading them.  But then, that's the point of what we do.  It's just that it sometimes take so long to get our words out there that we get used to nobody reading them.

And getting used to readers reading my novel is a wonderful problem to have.  As far as I can tell by obsessively checking my Amazon sales rank, the novel is doing okay.  Lots of you have said you've purchased it--thank you so much--and as I said, I sold a lot in person.  So I'm happy.

I'm also ready to get back to my so-called normal life, like writing regular blog posts and being on time with critiques and responses to people.  Don't get me wrong, I'm loving everything that has happened, and I'll be talking about my novel in a variety of venues for the forseeable future.  But perhaps we can turn out attention to other things as well. I promise to be here more regularly.

Have you experienced anxiety when getting your words out to the public?  Does it vary with different genres?  I'd love to hear your response.  (And by the way, if you've commented recently and it didn't show up, I'm aware of the problem now, and I think I know how to deal with it, so comment away!)

(You can buy Emma Jean at all the usual outlets, by the way, and I'll be eternally grateful if you do.)

Countdown to Release and Life Lessons from Emma Jean

First of all, I've got a guest post over at Always Well Within today.  If you don't know Sandra's blog, you should.  She writes about spiritual and personal development matters in a way that always makes me feel calm and peaceful.  Just going to her space centers me. 

The topic of my guest post there is 10 Life Lessons From Emma Jean.  Sandra suggested the title and I immediately loved it.  And then I stressed a lot a bit over the writing of it, because I loved the topic so much and I wanted it to be right.  It ended up being a lot of fun to write, once I got over my angst, and I'm happy with the result.  I'd love it if you checked it out.

And, tomorrow is the big day.  It is the official release day of Emma Jean's Bad Behavior (although the book is already available everywhere, except in the Kindle version which I can't quite figure out).  I'm celebrating with a Virtual Release party, which you can still sign up for, and I'll be back tomorrow with a post about the release process.

Please go read Sandra's blog!


Interview with Emma Jean (Yup, Emma Jean)

I've got a series of interviews and guest posts scheduled for the next couple weeks, all of them celebrating the release of my new novel, Emma Jean's Bad Behavior.

The first of these is today!  And I couldn't be happier that it is with my dear friend Karen Caterson, who blogs at Square-Peg People.  Check it out I think you'll enjoy it.  Karen has a whole series of wonderful interviews with Square-Peg types and I got to one of them....except that bossy ole Emma Jean herself came in and took over the interview.

Let me know what you think!

And don't forget to sign up for the Emma Jean Virtual Release Party.  There will be prizes.

A Couple of Quick Reminders

Just popping in to remind you of a couple of things:

This is the day that the Next Big Thing taggers post! As a reminder, I answered 10 questions about my WIP last Wednesday and tagged four other writers to answer the questions today.  Go visit them!  Here they are:

Candace White

Leisa Hammett

Sharon Henry-Jones

Mandy Webster

Beverly Army Williams

NOTE: Some of these authors may choose to post their answers a different day, but this is the day I'm choosing to introduce them to you.  So it's a win-win.

And, the author who started it all by tagging me:

Reavis Wortham

There's still time to sign up for my Virtual Book Release Party.  I really want to give you prizes, like signed copies of my novel and one free admission to my Get Your Novel Written Now class.  But you gotta sign up so I can send you the information.  Click here to do so.

And now, we can return to regular programming.

Why Write a Book Proposal?

Paper_papers_letter_237662_l I attended a party over the weekend, where I was introduced to a couple of other writers (we already have plans to do Happy Hour together, we had so much fun).  But one of them asked me, "You mean people still have dreams of getting their books published?  Are any books even being published these days?"

Yes, ma'am, they are.

When I looked up statistics on how many books are being published a year, I came up with this statistic: in 2009, 1,02,803 books were published, according to Bowker, an industry analyst.

Um, in my world, that's still a lot of books.

And if one of those books is a work of non-fiction, the way you sell it is through a book proposal.  Odds are really good that even if you have your entire non-fiction book finished, an agent or editor will ask for a proposal.  I know this because it has happened to friends and clients of mine.

Which is why I'm all about writing a book proposal.  Because why not do what agents want in the first place?  And besides, the really cool thing about a book proposal is that its like a plan for your book.  So when you've finished the proposal, you know everything about the book: its structure, its content (down to chapter by chapter synopses), its flow.  And, guess what else?  You also know everything about where the book fits in the market and how you are going to position it.  So on the off-chance that the publishing world doesn't see the brilliance of your book idea and you decide to publish it yourself, you're all set.

Either way, its a win-win.  So what are you waiting for?

Oh, you don't know how to write a book proposal.  Well, the good news is that I do, and I'm once again offering my class on it.  Not only that, I'm offering crazy fast-action bonuses if you act now: a whopping $170 off the price and a one-hour coaching session to the first five who sign up. 

But.  (You knew there was a but.)

These enticements expire soon.  The crazy $170 off the price of the class expires at midnight, August 17th.  That's this Wednesday.  And your chance to nab a coaching session ends at midnight on August 24th. 

The other cool thing is that the class begins at the end of September.  Because I know we're all still in summer mode and don't really want to think about learning and writing and doing--that is September back-to-school energy, for sure.  But if you buy now, you get all the bonuses and the great price break.

So, check it out here.  You know you want to.  Oh, and by the way, if you have any questions about book proposals, ask them in the comments and I'll answer.


Photo by mordoc.

My Grandfather, the Author

My grandfather, who died before I was born, was an author.  GrandpaRains

I didn't know this until yesterday.

Not only that, he marketed his book himself, and wrote some pretty awesome direct mail copy to sell it. (You can see some of it in a brochure he wrote in the photo above.) If he were alive today, he'd be an internet information marketer, for sure.  He'd be harnessing the power of the interwebs with gusto!

Jesse Lewis Rains was a doctor, first in Grangeville, Idaho, then Oakley, Idaho, small towns which are still really, really small towns.  I know, I've been to both of them.  My grandfather was a doctor and a Presbyterian.  Nothing wrong with that, right?  Well, if you lived in small towns in Idaho there was.  Because in every small town across the west you'll notice one thing--a Mormon church.  In some of those small towns, the Mormon church is the only church in town.

Thus the problem with being a Presbyterian doctor.  Since my grandfather was not Mormon, nobody would use his services.  So off to Seattle they moved.  Specifically, a small town south of Seattle called Foster, currently the location of the sprawling Sea-Tac mall.  (When I was a child, they razed the houses in the area in order to build the mall and we combed through the ruins.  All I remember is my aunt finding quite a treasure trove of bottles, which she collected, in the detritus). 

But apparently, even being a doctor wasn't enough.  He wanted more.  This could be the mantra of the entire lineage of the Rains family, myself included: more!  And so he did what any self-respecting human desirous of more does.  He wrote a book.  His was called Profitable Practise: A Service Book For Physicians, and told doctors how to charge more for their services.  

Jesse's copy would probably convert fairly well today.  Here's a sample:

Yes, indeed! Profitable Practise tells you not only how to treat your patient and receive due renumeration for your services--it also tells you how to make your patients feel so grateful to you that they will "boost" for you and send you other patients.  And why not?  Why shouldn't you get a legitimate return from your practise?

This sounds remarkable similar to many of the internet marketing courses I study today, all of which sound the same theme--we deserve to get paid handsomely for what we do.  (And, for the record, I'm not mocking it, because I share this belief for all of us.)

I found my grandfather's book in a moldy old cardboard box I'd hauled out of my Mom's house last year, in the crazy months when my sister and I cleaned out 70 years of accumulated stuff before she died.  Yesterday I finally finished sorting through the papers I brought home from her house.  They are now at least safely confined to protective plastic tubs and stowed in our storage unit.

It was so amazing to me to learn that not only was my grandfather a published author, he was a inveterate writer.  In the box were piles of old torn files, which held several more handwritten manuscripts he apparently intended to publish.  I didn't have time to go through them all, but one of them caught my attention.  He was writing a manual on sex advice!  On one piece of paper was written the following, which I suspect he planned to use for his advertising copy:

You only go through life once!  Why not make the most of it?

I really wish I'd known my grandfather, but he died long before my father even met my mother.  However, having his books and papers allows me to get to know him through the medium I know and love the best--writing.

And what could be better than that?

Oh, and by the way, I've not even begun to delve into the writing from my Mom's side of the family.  My grandmother Hoho, who died when I was three, wrote in a journal every day of her life and I happen to have 50 years worth of her journals in my possession.  To say nothing of every letter anyone ever wrote my Mom, including the ones from her various suitors during World War II.

I love that I have this amazing legacy of writing from both sides of my family.  But my question is: what do I do with all this material?  It seems so vast and overwhelming to me.  Suggestions?  Have any of you ever dealt with written material from your family?  I'm all ears.

Guest Post: Authors Blaze Social Media Path

This is a guest post from my new Nashvillian friend Leisa Hammett, an amazing author, speaker, and disability advocate.  She dragged treated me to a five-mile hike on Sunday at Shelby Bottoms on a glorious Nashville day and we discussed blogging, writing and life.  More on that in a future post.  For now, enjoy her take on Social Media.  And visit her blog!

Social Media. Why bother? If you are a writer in this millennium and even more importantly, a book author, to not be doing social media is to be a dinosaur. Jus' sayin'. And even if you are not a writer but own a business or offer a service, social media is fundamental to your marketing program as well. (If I could grab some of my beloved nonprofits by the collar and shake this important message into them, I would.) Social media is not just time-twiddling Facebook fluff. It truly works in communicating your message and grooming loyalty and drawing in patrons and earning consumers. If you doubt--trust me. (And Facebook is not all fluff, either.)

So, my eyes are perpetually fixed on successful authors who are using social media to promote their work. Susan Gregg Gilmore--Looking for Salvation at the Dairy Queen and the forthcoming The Improper Life of Bezellia Grove--is a superior example of working it to spread her message.

Last September I reviewed here Building a Home with My Husband by Rachel Simon, another writer to watch. In an e-blast from Simon, I received the following delightful and most clever video of her book.

Bravo! And, yes, an excerpt from yours truly's review is embedded. Rachel also has a new novel expected out spring or summer 2011. Like her books Building a Home with My Husband and Riding the Bus with My Sister, Rachel's latest book either weaves into or directly focuses upon issues affecting those with disAbility. The author's sister has an Intellectual Disability and is the subject of Riding the Bus with My Sister , which was also made into a Hallmark Hall of Fame  movie starring Rosie O' Donnell and Andie McDowell.   

Hats off to Simon and especially newcomer (albeit not-so-new now) and trailblazer Susan Gregg Gilmore for clearing a path in this new terrain of must-do social media for writers and authors and others.

Why You Need A Book

In the most recent edition of my newsletter, The Abundant Writer, I wrote a feature article called 7 Books_library_resources_267560_l Simple Steps to Write Your Book.  (For those of you who don't subscribe to the newsletter, there's a spiffy little box on the upper right-hand corner of this page.)  I based it on the new free report I'm working on.

But the thought occurred to me this morning that perhaps I should remind you why you need a book.  Because, in this day and age, everyone needs a book, whether it is an Ebook or good old-fashioned hard-cover book.  Why?  Let me tell you:

1. Instant credibility

2. Your book is your business card

3. Source of authority

4. Personal satisfaction

5. Share an important story with the world

6. Accomplish a lifetime goal

7.  Communicate with clients

8.  Boost income

If I had more time, I would go into each point in detail.  However, I am at the moment in Nashville, and constantly and happily getting distracted by friends and clients.  It's a tough life...However if there is enough interest, let me know and I'll expound on each of these points in future posts.  Y'all know how much I like to expound.

So what do you think?  Do you long to write a book?  Yearn to hear more about the benefits of writing a book?  Want to know how in the hell you write a book in the first place?  Do tell. Comments are open.

A Very Glittery Book Review

*Note: after you read the review, please scroll down to the end of this post and answer the question I've asked.  Thank you, beloved readers.

Waking Up in the Land of GlitterGlitterCover

by Kathy Cano-Murillo

I've followed Kathy Cano-Murillo for quite some time on her crafting blog and lately her writing blog.

Why?  Because she is a person who knows herself through and through and puts that self on the page (and the canvas) over and over again, without fear of what others think.

Man, do I ever admire that.  It takes real courage just to be yourself, so much so that I believe it is our most important emotional and spiritual quest in this life.  (And, by the way, this topic seems to be the subject of nearly every piece of fiction I write, Emma Jean's Bad Behavior included.)

I've read about Cano-Murillo's craft product launch (glitter and paints and other cool stuff) and her excitement over the release of her upcoming novel.  So, of course I jumped at the chance to review said novel.  (Note to the FTC: yes, I accepted a free book to write this review.)

Here's my test of a good book: whether or not it passes the Lunchtime Reading test. Since I work alone, and at home, I eat lunch in my kitchen, and there's always a stack of magazines in there that I'm trying to catch up on--O, The Food Network magazine (love that thing, even though I hate cooking), People, Outside, Poets and Writers, Shambala Sun. I love buying magazines and lunchtime is when I read them.  If I have a really great book, I shun the magazines and read my book instead.  But it takes a lot to drag me away from my magazines.

Waking Up in the Land of Glitter is a sweet, fun book that I gobbled up in a couple lunch-time readings.  And a few nights lying in bed.  It takes place in Phoenix, and is the story of Star Esteban, a young woman who is a bit, how shall we say this, ditzy.  She works at her family's restaurant, which sounds like the most fabulous place on earth, a cafe that sells amazing Mexican food and Margaritas, plus an art and event space, but she really longs to be an artist.  Because she is, um, scatter-brained and undisciplined, she never fully commits to her art.  Up until now. 

Along the same lines, she never fully commits to the man who loves her, Theo Duarte, until early on he gets sick of her shenanigans and ditches her.  Then things get worse. Because of an act of vandalism Star commits on a drunken evening (it sounds worse than it is) her family tells her she can no longer work at the restaurant and has to make her way on her own.  So now she is job-less and boyfriend-less.  And then the glitter shows up.  Over three hundred pounds of it, ordered by mistake (she thought she was ordering 3 pounds).  And somehow she has to find a way to use it and pay for it before her family finds out.

Enter Crafty Chloe, the local TV crafts expert, and Star's best friend, Ofie, an obsessive crafty of hideously ugly knicknacks.  Together they hatch a plan to make centerpieces for the Crafty Olympics.  But first they have to learn how to get along...

Like I said, its a fun read.  And honestly, who would have thought you could create a plot for a novel around glitter?  Only Kathy Cano-Murillo.  I had a few quibbles with the writing here and there (I'm a writer, I'm highly critical), particularly the author's habit of dropping in huge chunks of narrative backstory.  But the charm and verve of the story more than made up for that.

So if you are looking for a novel to pass your own version of the Lunchtime Reading test, give Glitter a try.

*And now for the above mentioned question: a couple weeks ago I wrote a blog post asking readers for reccomendations on books.  Would you like me to compile this list in a post before I leave for Nashville this week?

Bonus question (I just thought of this one): What is your version of the Lunchtime Reading test? 

What's Your Favorite Book?

Book_books_pages_265007_l I have a reason for asking the question in the title.

I've been going on and on about how I'm re-organizing my office, down to sorting through the oldest papers. And the work continued this weekend.  I'm down to a box of old CDs to sort, which I'm not entirely sure what to do with, and a pile of papers and notebooks and files which constitutes all the info I've collected to write my Ebook.  Pretty cool, huh?

But here's the coolest thing.  I sorted through my books and came up with three boxes of them to sell.  I used to have a really hard time getting rid of books, whether by giving them away or selling them.  I wanted to hang onto every book I've ever laid hands on.  And if you could see the overflowing book shelves in practically every room in my house, you would think I had.  But it finally occurred to me that by letting go of books, I was actually allowing more to flow into my life.  And also that letting go of them allowed someone else to read them. 

So I've come to peace with periodically sorting through books.  And luckily for me, here in Portland, we have Powell's books, the biggest bookstore in the country, which also buys books.   When you sell them your books, they give you the option of either taking what you've earned in cash or in a book credit.  If you choose the book credit, you get more. 

Now, let me tell you, many's the time we've taken books to Powell's when we were so broke we didn't have any choice but to take the cash.  But this weekend, when we took books in to the warehouse to sell, I was able to choose the book credit.  So...wait for it....I now have a book voucher worth $144 in books to spend at Powell's.

I about passed out with joy when they told me.

I've been collecting some titles that I really want to read--a couple new novels, one called Angelology and another called The Irresistible Henry House, and there's a new book on writing a novel in six months by John DuFresne.  Okay, so that's a pretty good list.  But I may get to Powell's and decide none of those look good.  And I'd like to bring home some juicy non-fiction, too.

I want more titles to peruse, a long, long list to ponder and think about and take with me so that I can pull books off the shelf and think hmmm, yes, or ick, no.  So help me out here, will you?  Tell me your favorite books.  They can be classic or contemporary, fiction or non-fiction, written by male or female authors.  I love books in the self-help and spiritual genres, but really, I'm game for anything.   Send me one title or a dozen, I'm not picky, just lay 'em on me.

I can't wait to read what your favorites are.

Sunday Afternoon Style

I'm re-reading Richard Goodman's book, The Soul of Creative Writing.  I'm reading the book because I'mRgoodman-210-exp-Soul_of_creativ going to interview Richard next Saturday morning, as part of his appearance at the Writer's Loft, so it is something that I had to do.  And now I'm glad I followed my instincts and told my partner Terry that I would happily take on this job, because all of Richard's books are excellent (you should also check out French Dirt).

Earlier today, I re-read Richard's chapter on style.  This is the first chapter of the book, and it is called The Music of Prose.  In it, he makes the point that "the sound a writer makes on the page is music."  Goodman says that we, as humans, are innately musical "for the simple, profound reason that we have a heart."  All of us live with the steady rhythm of our heart beating within and thus come by music naturally.

Goodman then goes onto cite different kinds of musical prose: lyrical writing, comedic writing, detective fiction, and government writing.  (Don't get the wrong idea here, when he says government writing, he is talking about the likes of Thomas Jefferson.) Goodman talks about how an essential aspect of music is rhythm, and in writing, rhythm comes from sentence structure.  Varying sentence structure is a key way of creating a rhythm for your writing.

I've seen this over and over again with some of my student's work.  I often start out reading manuscripts and writing the same thing over and over again--"Vary sentence structure!"  One of my favorite students wrote a whole manuscript in the same cadence over and over again, using the same structure for every sentence: subject-verb-object.  I probably wrote that phrase, "Vary sentence structure!" a hundred times when we first started working together.  But she was an eager student and soon got what I meant.  She revised the book and went on to sell it to a national publisher last year.

Goodman references the famous point made by Eudora Welty, that when we read, we hear the words in our mind, almost as if someone is speaking them to us, and he says, "To be conscious of the music in your writing is merely an acknowledgment of how we read, of how we absorb words." Good writers "hear" their style as much as anything and this is one reason why it is a good idea to read your work out loud.  This facilitates getting the rhythm of our work deeply inside us, inside our minds and hearts, because, really, this is what it is all about.