Wednesday, September 30, 2009

This is Banned Books Week!

Every year the last week in September is designated Banned Books Week by the American Library Association. To help us celebrate our freedom to read, the ALA event this year is September 26-October 3.

Begun in 1982, Banned Books Week serves to remind us all of our intellectual freedom and the right to seek information and read what we choose. A challenged book means there has been an attempt to remove it somewhere. Banned means material was removed. Here is just a short list of some well-known challenged and/or banned books:

The Call of the Wild
The Lord of the Rings
The Great Gatsby
The Grapes of Wrath
To Kill a Mockingbird
The Color Purple
Gone With the Wind

Authors and readers alike need to guard this freedom and treasure it. That doesn't mean we all need to read or even like the same thing, but we must protect our right to write and read the books of our choosing. Remember to thank your friendly librarian and bookseller for helping promote and protect this right, and celebrate your freedom to read!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Today my husband and I celebrated our 37th wedding anniversary. That seems like such a long time, and yet nothing compared to the couple I heard about who were celebrating their 80th. What a blessing for them to be together that long.
It will be 40 years come this fall since we first met when our two rival schools merged together to make one school. Two years later we became engaged while on a trip out West with a group of college friends. In the Grand Teton National Park! I guess that's why I still consider the Tetons one of the most beautiful places we've visited and why I chose to set Chance's Return there. It's been over 25 years since we last visited those mountains, but I haven't forgotten how majestic they are and how perfect a setting for a romance. I still remember the horseback trail rides we took, the scenic drives through the park, and the chill of 32 degrees on a mid-summer morning. We always camped, and it was a bit of shock to wake up to that. I remember walking around Jackson Hole and seeing the antler arch in the park, and stopping to visit the little chapel in the valley. I remember seeing those powerful rivers and reading about the settlers who had crossed them and made their homes in this northwest corner of Wyoming. Even then, I think I knew I would write about them someday.
I hope we can go back to the Tetons some day soon, because there are other stories I would like to tell about this magnificent area of our country, but I feel like I need an update that no amount of book or internet research can give me. I need to see that spectacular mountain range and feel the nip of a chilly mountain morning in July again. Maybe for our 40th? I can only hope.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Those last minute decisions...

Have you ever made a last minute decision that suddenly turned out to make a big difference in how your day went? One morning a few weeks ago, I was heading out the door for a job interview for a second part-time job. At the last minute I stopped and hurried back to my computer, remembering I'd wanted to send some writer friends an email reminder about an upcoming lunch date.

While I was quickly typing out that email, I suddenly heard a loud racket right outside my living room window. I couldn't figure out what on earth I was hearing, and when I looked out was surprised and dismayed to see several large branches falling from one of the old maple trees in our front yard. It had been windy the night before but the wind had died down some, so it seemed strange for the branches to suddenly break. What was even more unsettling, the branches now lay in the driveway, right in front of my van. Nuts, what was I going to do?

I finished sending off my email, grabbed up my purse and keys and ran out to figure out how I was going to get to the interview. While they really didn't appear to be very large branches, in truth they were pretty heavy, and I had a less than fun time moving them. But I did manage to get them out of the way and was able to make my interview on time. Of course the writer in me always has to wonder, what if? What if I hadn't stopped to send that email? What if instead I'd been in my van, driving out just as those branches were falling? Instead of going to my job interview, I might have been calling the insurance company to report damage to my van (which is 9 years old but is also paid up, and which I intend to keep driving for a few more years). I might not have made the interview on time and lost the chance to make some extra money to help pay for my trip to Washington DC this summer.

But as it turned out, my angel was watching out for me that morning. The worst thing that happened was I had to move the branches out of the driveway, and I wasn't even late for the interview. So, sometimes those last minute little decisions can make a big difference.

And oh yes, by the way, I got the job!

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Mother's Day 2009

This was a tough day to get through. We lost my mom two weeks ago and it was hard to know I couldn't see her today. We went to church and then took flowers to the cemetary. It was sad, but I got through it with no tears, and I know she'd be proud of me.
At 94, my mom had lived quite an amazing life. At least it seemed amazing to me. She was born of immigrant Italian parents who came through Ellis Island, before WW I. I remember when 9 years ago, how excited she was to see the dawning of a new century and new millenium. Having lived on a family farm and through the Great Depression, she was the queen of recycling before it was ever cool. We didn't throw things away because we, or someone we knew, might need them someday. That trait often drove me nuts, especially when I had to try to clean the house, but I find I now have to fight the urge to keep "stuff" just because I might need it someday.

My mom was a young wife and mother during the hard WWII years (I was a boomer and came along later.), and she worked in the war plants, keeping the family farm from falling into foreclosure. She cared not only for her children but her parents and worked while the men were away, just as so many women of her time did. She later raised her daughters as a single mother when she was widowed, and she did a pretty darn good job of it! She was the mother of three, grandmother to 14, great-grandmother of 38 and great-great grandmother of 14.

Mom taught us lots of valuable lessons such as:

No one is better than you, and you're no better than anyone else.

Perseverance is next to godliness, and the only way you fail is if you don't try.

Go through the water where it is the shallowest (or as they say today, take the path of least resistance.)

You catch more flies with honey than vinegar.

You don't need money to be happy, but it helps.

They're lessons that have served me well in my writing life, and I know she was always proud of my accomplishments. She taught me the love of reading, and I will always remember how we loved our romance novels. Mom loved the gothic romances of Victoria Holt and Phyllis Whitney, as well as Barbara Cartland's regencies. She read the inspirational novels of Janette Oake and Catherine Marshall's "Christy," but also the Appalachian crime mystery novels of Sharyn McCrumb. I remember she would often read until the wee hours when a book was too good to put down, and I don't know how many times she'd read the Bible. When her eyes failed her in recent years and she could no longer read, it was a huge loss for her. Now that she's in heaven, it's my sincere hope that there are plenty of books, and she can now read them all to her heart's content.

So here's a heartfelt wish to all the amazing women who went before us--Happy Mother's Day, and may we your daughters be as strong as you were in facing whatever life gives us.

May 10, 2009

Saturday, May 2, 2009

May 1 Release Day for Chance's Return!

May 1 was the release day for Chance's Return, the story of young widow Casey Girard and ex-rodeo champ Chance McCord. It was released from White Rose Publishing yesterday. While it's been up in print on Amazon and Barnes and Noble for a few weeks, this is the official and digital release for my inspirational contemporary western romance. Here is a short excerpt:

Chapter 1

"Chance McCord pushed back his hat with his thumb and lifted his weary gaze to the mountains up ahead. In the past half-hour, storm clouds had amassed over the Tetons, staining the sky a violent shade of purple. Thunder rolled across the valley, setting a nearby bunch of Herefords lowing nervously and a jackrabbit scurrying for cover. In a minute, it was going to pour buckets.

Chance didn’t mind the rain. The stretch of Wyoming highway shimmered under a sun that burned mighty hot and dry for this early in the summer, and he would welcome a rush of cool mountain air right about now. He just hated for his saddle to get wet. A fine cutting saddle, it had been a parting gift from his buddy Hank and, since the truck broke down outside of Boulder, one of the few possessions of any value Chance had left in the world. He’d thumbed the rest of the way and wished now he hadn’t asked the semi driver to let him out ten miles back. Did he think walking would make things easier? Give him more time to think about what he faced? He’d had plenty of time to think— five long years—and nothing in his mind had changed. Maybe walking was a form of retribution.A way to make amends. In truth, Chance knew it was just another effort to put off the inevitable.

He reached into his shirt pocket, drawing out a tattered photograph. He always carried it with him,right over his heart. As he studied the photo now, a memory pierced him so swift it took his breath away.Lately, those memories had begun to fade, taking with them some of the pain, but today he held onto the pain so he wouldn’t forget. Thunder rumbled again, and he slipped the photo back into its place, making sure his dusty denim jacket covered it. He lifted the saddle and rested it against his hip. The town of Jefferson Falls lay up ahead. He could sit out the storm there, but he’d never make it in time to beat the rain. He knew too well how fast storms moved out of the mountains, and this one wasn’t wasting any time.The wind picked up and sent a scraggly tumbleweed skittering across the pavement. Chance raised his face to feel the breath of the mountains on his damp brow. Then with a heavy sigh he pulled the brim of his Stetson low over his forehead, shifted the weightof the saddle, slung his duffel bag over his shoulder, and prepared to be drenched."

I hope you will enjoy Chance and Casey's story. Please leave a comment here, and I will enter your name into a drawing for a free digital copy of my book. Wishing you Happy May Day (a bit late!) and happy spring.


Monday, March 2, 2009

New Publishing venture for The Wild Rose Press

It has just been announced that The Wild Rose Press has launched a new second company, White Rose Publishing, All the White Rose inspirational romance titles will be moving there, so when you have a chance, check it out. It's a beautiful website! This is really exciting news for all the White Rose authors. My book Chance's Return is on the "Coming Soon" page at the new site.
I'm a longtime member of the Mid-Michigan Romance Writers of America, (and chapter president this year!), and in our chapter we talk a lot about never giving up when it comes to our writing and how perseverance pays off. In that vein of thought, I thought I'd tell you a little bit about the history of this particular book.
When I first wrote Chance's Return, I was very new to the publishing world. I had just sold a couple of short stories to Woman's World magazine, and though I'd finished several book length manuscripts, I'd had nothing but rejection letters for them. I joined RWA that year (1984) and attended my first RWA conference in Detroit, MI. I had an appointment with an editor there and when I pitched my manuscript to her, she loved it and asked me to submit when it was finished. I did and she accepted it. It was scheduled for release and even listed in that publisher's spring catalogue. Then, without warning, that publisher decided to cancel their line of romances. The rights to my book were returned to me and after submitting it a few more places, I gave up and put it in the file cabinet and went on with other writing projects. I sold more short stories and had other manuscripts rejected, and then I hit a very long dry spell. At the time, I was busy raising my family and working various jobs and after awhile I stopped submitting. But I didn't stop writing. I actually took a novel writing course by mail (this was of course way before online courses and workshops) and I kept going to chapter meetings and hoping someday I'd be published again. Then when my youngest went off to college, I decided to resurrect this book and rewrite it beginning to end. Took me a lot of late nights but I finally finished it (again!) and sent off a query. After a wait of several months, it was rejected. A short time later I heard of an epublisher that was starting up a new line for inspirational romances, so, what the heck I figured, and sent in my query. They ended up accepting Chance's Return and it became the launch title for their new line. It was an exciting ride while it lasted. My book garnered some wonderful reviews and won a CAPA (Cupid and Psyche Award) for best inspirational romance in 2006 from The Romance Studio and it was up against some very popular authors in this genre. Then a few months later that publisher filed for bankruptcy. The rights to my book were held up in the court system but eventually released when another publisher bought them up and released all rights to the authors. So once again the search for a publisher began. This led me to The Wild Rose Press and as you know, that had a happy ending, or should I say beginning? Chance's Return will be released in June and now will be a part of a new publishing venture. I keep thinking, the third time has got to be the charm for this book. It has come a long way with me, and in rewriting it several times, I have learned so much about the characters, ex-rodeo star Chance McCord and young widow Casey Girard. I hope you will enjoy reading about them as much as I've loved telling their story. In finding a home for this book, I've also learned a lot about perseverance and how it pays to never give up.