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Blog: Michele Scott
Welcome to my blog. I hope you will come back frequently and check out what is new. I’ll be covering a wide range of topics from the world of writing and things going on in my world as well as hosting guest bloggers and some other fun things.
Today I want to introduce you to a very talented author Reina Lisa Menasche. I met Reina and her very talented adolescent son at the Southern California Writer’s Conference last year. We met and talked, and we could relate to each others’ personal stories around our writing careers. I encouraged her to go indie, and am pleased she’s taken my advice. Without further ado… Here is Reina’s story.
This was the question that inspired my new novel, TWICE BEGUN. As a social worker, my job duties have always required me to go a lot of places to witness and assist the people “at bottom.” For instance, right out of grad school I drove a van full of substance-abusing teenagers to Twelve Step meetings. Although I’m not an addict myself, I felt surprisingly drawn into the experience; touched by the small miracles of hope that rose out of those smoke-filled ritualistic gatherings (“Hi, my name is John and I’m an alcoholic.” “Hi, John.” You get the idea!). Many a grizzled old man, haggard middle-aged woman with few good teeth, and hardened, cynical, withdrawn and wounded young person surprised me by standing up and bravely opening wounds in front of anyone who cared to listen.
To me, these “confessions” sounded, well, familiar. Okay, I didn’t and don’t know what it’s like to be desperately addicted to something that costs money as well as my health, self-respect, and the loyalty and sometimes even love of my own family. I’ve never been homeless (though in this economy just about everyone I know worries about the very real potential for bad luck and financial destitution). I certainly don’t know what it’s like to go to prison. I’ve never been in a gang. Well, I did hang out with a gang of kids in high school who called themselves “The Piddles” because we loitered on the doorstop of Dr. Piddle, a dentist on Main Street, Central Islip, New York—but there were no guns involved, and no fear or terrorizing anybody). In fact I’ve never witnessed or committed violence, and haven’t been treated as subhuman because of my less-than-humane behavior toward myself or others.
In short, I’ve been blessed with a loving family and a good chance at life. I had a fairly sheltered childhood and an adventurous but “normal” adulthood (so far). But…the recovering addicts in these AA and NA meetings seemed to know me anyway. They spoke of pain that was hard to discuss. They revealed their search for meaning, often in the wrong places. They shared universal truths about love and loss and shame. They admitted anger and expressed confusion. They wove dreams from shreds. Most of all, they continued to show up and display their vulnerability. Men cried. Woman talked about their children hating them. Slowly, over time, I found in these stories lessons to take home with me and cherish. These clients were teaching me. Of course I hoped I was teaching them too, but that’s another blog entry. The story I wanted to tell in my novel was how absolutely inspiring the place at the bottom can be—despite the rank and stink of some of its details.
TWICE BEGUN was more directly inspired about five years ago while working in a program with men just out of prison. I was teaching a class on Stress Management when one of the men showed me a book of poetry he had written while “in the pen.” Yes, this tough looking man covered with tattoos had a soft spot eloquently expressed. Just one more example of the same lesson: Don’t pre-judge people or keep them in their categories.
Ironically, the same day, another client asked to show me a song he’d written, a blues song, which he proceeded to sing “a capella.” His voice was stunning, his desire to carve a new life for himself as a singer rather than a gang member even more so.
And so my novel was born.
My thought was: what if the “good guy,” the “perfect guy” in the story, has a thousand hidden dragons—and the “bad guy,” the “burnout guy or loser” is someone to admire and learn from? Choosing Paris Jablonski, Social Worker, as protagonist was just plain fun. Making her eccentric family an echo of my own made me giggle out loud. But creating a romantic relationship between a social worker and a client made me…uncomfortable. No, very uncomfortable. Anyone in the helping professions knows what an ethical no-no that is (for excellent reasons!).
Still, this is fiction. And fiction provides us with the luxury of thinking outside the box, breaking taboos, or playing with fire (speaking of fire, I thought that San Diego’s wildfires would make a fitting background for this plot). In the end, Paris Jablonski chose her own responses to her ethical dilemma. I just wrote it down.
Categorizing my book for selling and marketing purposes turned out to be another thorny dilemma. TWICE BEGUN has love in it, but is it a romance? It has some intense social issues in it, but it is certainly far from any kind of rant. It’s a story about finding comfort and love in unlikely places. It’s about love never quite defining itself. It’s about people transcending their categories, or trying to. It’s about change and hope, and of course about beginning again: a timeless theme, in my opinion.
Why did I decide to publish this work independently? One publisher called the story original and powerful—but worried that it has too much cussing in one of the scenes for a romance novel (for the individuals involved, cussing is realistic, right?). Another publisher just plain came out and said that the story doesn’t fit any particular category, the hero isn’t quite right for a romance, and the novel will thus be tricky to market—but could they see some of my other writing?
So…the book itself is like the story it tells. I chose to try to transcend the existing categories, or create new ones, or just use whatever categories my work happens to fall into very, very carefully.
I’m beginning again, independently, just like Paris Jablonski.
Please check out Reina’s book on Amazon. It is receiving excellent reviews and is one of those books not to be missed. Come support a fellow indie!
First off, I want to thank everyone for their condolences and thoughtfulness in regards to my Dad’s passing. It has been difficult, but your kindness has helped ease some of the pain.
The positive is that I am back writing–and writing a ton! My Dad taught me work ethic and to reach for your dreams. I am also coming out punching a bit these days. He taught me tat fighter spirit as well.
I have on occasion expressed my dismay with the Big 6, but I have typically tried to be as diplomatic as possible. I am done being a diplomat.
Here is where I am at. I started out in publishing with THE WINE LOVER’S MYSTERIES. MURDER UNCORKED was my first book and it did quite well. It wound up with 9 printings, some foreign rights sales, etc. Now, you can’t find the book anywhere in print, or the second book in that series MURDER BY THE GLASS. They are officially out of print and have been for over a year! And, for a year now, I have requested reversion of rights. I receive e-mails from readers asking me where they can buy the books on a regular basis. Not everyone has an e-reader. I was offered to buy the books back at a 35% reduction off of list price when they took the books of print. That is standard.
I’ve asked nicely. I’ve been a good author. Now, I am pissed. The responses I get basically tell me that the process takes 2-3 months (mind you I have been asking for a year with no response), but they can take up to 6 months to respond. The e-mail intimated they would be taking the full 6 months.
This makes no sense to me. I have had books make it into top 10 bestseller lists on amazon, Wall Street Journal, etc. I know this series is one readers enjoy and want to read more of. The publisher would still own the rights to 4 of the other books in the series. Wouldn’t it make good business sense for them to give me back my rights, allow me to publish indie and do what I know how to do to get books into the hands of readers? In turn, the 4 books they own rights to would start selling again. It would be a win/win. They don’t do anything to sell the books. They’ve moved onto the next thing. If these guys would pull their heads out they could start making some money on the back list they own and stop seeing tried and true authors go indie, or sign with Amazon (which I have recently done and am very, very happy because THEY GET IT). Amazon gets it!
I think this is a game with the Big 6. They clearly don’t care about making money on the extensive back list they own. They seem to enjoy keeping writers hostage. Come on! Get smart! You’re going to need cash flow, Big 6, for all of the huge advances being plunked down for the successful indie authors that are being cherry picked after they have done all the work themselves to get to the top. I suppose the publishers pockets are so deep that they don’t care. To me, that is arrogant. All I want are my rights back, and so do a ton of authors (yes–WE TALK and there are many of us who are grumbling). If I get my rights back, Big 6 publisher and I can make readers happy, and make a little money together. Novel idea, huh?
I realize that this is a battle I will not likely win, so writing this may be a waste of my time and just a rant. However, maybe it will wake someone up.
Rant over. I am now going back to writing.
Have a wonderful day!
Yesterday was my Dad’s memorial. It was a very difficult day for me. I still can’t believe that he is gone. I know that it will take time before I ever really feel normal again–if ever. My dad was my biggest influence. He believed in me even when I didn’t and always encouraged me to keep writing.
I gave his eulogy and kept his photo with me as I read it. It wasn’t easy but I really wanted to do it to honor the man I was so fortunate to have as my Dad. I had several people come up to me afterward at his celebration of life and ask for a copy, so I told them I would post it here. Thank You all very much for your love and support and friendship.
Good morning. My family and I thank you for your support and out pouring of love during this difficult time. My dad would be humbled and grateful.
My Dad never complained about the disease that took over his body, and in fact, up until the day he passed away he would say things like, “When I get better I am going to do this or that.” He was always a positive light, always embracing the good in people and life. He inspired everyone he met. That was just who he was. He started writing a book not too long ago about his ventures as an entrepreneur, a guide for others who maintained an entrepreneurial spirit. So, I want to start off speaking about my dad from his own very recent personal words.
He started with a verse from the Bible out of the book of Romans chapter 8 verse 28.
“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” I want to side note here because he explained to me what this verse meant to him. As a boy, my dad had wanted to be a pastor, and at that time and for many years he thought that this verse was about being called to preach the word of God. But he recently told me that his interpretation of the verse is that we are to live a purpose filled life. We are to live our lives to fullest, for our lives are a gift. We are to discover our purpose and live that. My dad knew his purpose was to help horses and also to inspire people. He did this.
He went on to write: I’m not a Bible thumper, I promise. Though beginning with this verse may suggest otherwise. I haven’t graced the pews of God’s house in the past twenty years except for the occasional wedding or funeral. Regardless, I’ve always held this verse to be true. And though my actions may not always reflect it, I’m a man of faith, both in God and myself. Faith carried me through a childhood education riddled with intellectual self-doubt, eventually leading me to drop out of high school, through a series of failed inventions and business endeavors to finally realizing my dream of entrepreneurial success in an industry I love.
Eventually, I realized that my faith was the result of giving credence to my day dreaming. It’s something that I’ve done constantly throughout my life and for a long time completely unaware of its power. It’s a tactic that coaches and psychiatrists call visualization. To me, it’s just day dreaming.
For those looking to find success, the process is as simple as the one alluded in the Biblical verse. Have faith, find your purpose and assume your calling. The key is to dream before determining the details. It’s counter intuitive but an unhindered way of thinking that banishes self doubt before it can kill a great idea. Essentially, it’s learning to put the cart before the horse.
That is just a little bit of what Dad wrote down, but it shows what kind of man he was. He was a dreamer and doer. He chose how to live his life by dreaming how he wanted it to go. He set forth goals and dreamed about them, and then he did everything in his power to achieve them.
Dad wasn’t someone who just talked the talk. My dad was a man of action who showed me and us how life should be lived. I really grasped this as he became sicker over the last two years. What I learned from him is that life is all about choices. We get to choose how we want it to go. Sure things happen to us and sometimes they are not great things, but it is all in the perspective. It is all in how we view it. Dad could have viewed his disease as limiting, but he didn’t. He chose to continue to live his life as fully as he possibly could. He continued to joke and laugh, he continued to want friends and family around, he continued to create ideas and share them with us. He didn’t just allow a disease to take him willingly. That was exactly who my dad was—a chooser of the good things, and a man who focused on the positive, a warrior for the light in this life.
There were some fundamentals that Dad taught me that have helped shape my life, and I am sure there are those of you here who would say that he did the same thing for you as well. I am certain that if he had had the opportunity to finish his book that he would have included these keys to living a life successful and fulfilled.
The first key to living a life fulfilled the way my dad did is to live your passion. Find what you love and delve in with all of you, even if it is scary. A life fulfilled is going to have some fear in it, but if we don’t live our passions and live them passionately what is the point? We know my dad’s passion was finding ways to make the lives of horses more comfortable. He and my mom created an entire industry from his passion. Think about that for a minute. To me, it is completely inspiring. My parents created an industry out of my dad’s passion for the horse. They’ve employed people, they have donated scholarship monies, they have helped thousands of handicapped riders, and they have truly made the lives of hundreds of thousands of equine athletes and their human partners more happy and comfortable. That is a legacy, and a life fulfilled.
The second key my dad taught me in order to live a fulfilled life is to maintain an ethic of persistence. It is true that nothing worthwhile is easy to gain. Hard work, a sound mind, a good attitude and a willingness to strive for your goals is exactly what made up the man who was my father. He would tell me to set a goal, visualize how I wanted that goal to be achieved, see it happening, feel it happening, and then set another one, because the initial goal would occur and be a bit anti-climatic because I had lived it over and over again already in my mind—so his constant message was to go for it—reach for the stars and when you get there, reach even further, reach even higher. I think by the testament of all of the people he loved and who loved him back that he reached for the heavens. That is a life fulfilled.
The third key, dad taught me was to have patience. Not everything happens on our time clock. In fact, it usually doesn’t. And I have learned to trust that there are reasons why things happen when and how they are supposed to. I don’t always have the answers or know the reasons, but I have learned that through the patience my dad suggested to maintain in my family life and in my career that he has always been right. It always does work out the way it is supposed to. Again maybe not in the time desired and maybe not in the ways expected, but with a little patience when the sweetness in life does occur, it is even that much sweeter and memorable.
And finally, Dad taught me that peace in life is a key element. I did not completely understand that one until just two weeks ago, right after he passed away.
Two days before Dad left this world, he said to me. “I have all the answers to life.” I said, “You do?” And he said, “Yep. I do. I know all the answers now.”
I said, “What are they?”
He replied, “Love, family and peace.” I smiled and gave him a kiss on the cheek and said, “Yep, Dad. You got it right.” At the time, I really didn’t think much about it. I thought it was sweet and pretty much an easy answer.
But I have thought about his answers, and you know what I believe he was right. I believe the answers are that simple. We come here to love one another and make certain that we share our love with other people, animals, all life—an appreciation and gratitude is an expression of our love. One of my dad’s favorite things to remind was, “Keep an attitude of gratitude. There is always something to be thankful for, even in our darkest hours. There is always a flower to smell, the whisper of a hummingbirds wings, the mane and tail of a horse flying through the air as it sails across a pasture. Find what makes you thankful and maintain that attitude of gratitude.”
Family. Through the grace of God we are given family. Some of our family is blood related, some we choose such as our friends. My dad had a huge extended family from his friends and employees who he loved to his animals, especially his Ziggy dog. Sharing our love with our family is living your life and Dad did that.
And finally, peace. The one key I never really understood until after Dad passed, and now I believe that I do. If we live a life giving and receiving love from the family we are born into, to the family we extend our hearts to, then we can end our days peacefully. I was with Dad when he passed away and I assure you it was peaceful as my mom held him in her arms. And if you knew my dad you loved him, and I know that you knew he loved you. He let people know exactly what he felt.
To really sum up exactly who my Dad was to so many people, I want t read from an e-mail that was sent to me right after his passing from our good friend Don Trotter. Don wrote: I didn’t really ever get to know your dad that well as a dozen or so meetings doesn’t really constitute a relationship. Yet I’d like to take this opportunity to use a bit of “license” to express how he touched my life.
The first time I had the privilege of meeting your Pop was last year at that burger joint in Ramona with John. He said something to me that resonated, and will resonate with me for the rest of my days.
“Don, I can die a happy man knowing that I’ve made millions of horse’s lives more comfortable.”
That statement of a life mission…. accomplished, was something another man of vision cannot ever forget. I won’t ever forget it, of that I am sure. Your father was a heroic figure to me. A man who, despite whatever foibles he may have had, saw his life in terms of his good deeds. That’s my definition of a mensch. His death does not signal the end of his life, but the beginning of his legacy. That legacy will live on, in no small part, in me as I attempt to accomplish a life’s mission. I’m certain the same is true for many other men whose lives he touched.
The truth of the brief time I knew him is that he was an inspirational figure who left a bit of his wisdom linger with everyone he met. He certainly did that with me. I am grateful to you for introducing him to me and will always remember him as “That Guy”, the one who had the rare ability to truly inspire others to be better than they thought they were capable. This is, in fact, a time to mourn, but I see it more as a time for action. For me, his passing signals a moment of remembrance and sorrow and a lifetime of celebration and motivation to be a better human being. Heroes only come around every now and then; he was most certainly one of them.
My dad was a hero. He was someone who inspired, who truly cared about others. And obviously, he was a man of faith. He believed in himself, he believed in others, and he believed in God. And I believe he is with God and us right now. A week before he died, Dad was looking up at the ceiling and holding his arms up and out, a smile on his face, and tears streaming in his eyes. Two days before he passed he looked up again from his chair and was staring. I said, “Dad? What do you see?” He looked at me and said, “Something so pretty.” I asked him what it was and he just smiled and said, “It’s just so beautiful.” I knew right then that Daddy was being called home by the angels.
I keep having this awesome image of my Dad now. He had this little black quarter horse named Smokey while I was growing up. My dad was always a giver, but this horse was his special guy to him. If he let you ride old Smokey, you knew you were special. When his horse died, my Dad was devastated. He adored Smokey and Smokey adored him. I now like to day dream as my dad taught me. I visualize my dad being met by the angels and Smokey. He’s sitting up on that horse, his big smile on his face, his blue eyes twinkling, and he’s waving to us. He’s saying, “Don’t be sad, my friends. I’ve got new adventures ahead. It’s time for me and my boy here to wind on up the mountain to explore. But when you get here, I’ll wind on back down and meet you. It’s been fun and it’s been fulfilling and one heck of a ride, and I will see you again on the other side.”
I will leave you with one last thought. We may have lost a husband, a dad, a grandpa, a friend, a mentor, an animal advocate, and an amazing business man on this earth. But I know in my heart and soul that God just got himself one amazing angel in his Heaven, and that angel, my Dad, is watching over all of us and wanting all of us to live like he did—a life fulfilled.
I think it’s no secret to my readers that I love horses. I’ve been truly blessed to have had these amazing animals in my life since I was about five-years-old. There is something sacred and powerful in having a relationship with a horse. At least for me it is. I started really thinking about my relationships with each individual horse in my life, and like a good friend, each one teaches me something on a regular basis about life, family, love, my writing, friendship, etc…
I thought I’d share what I am learning from my family of four-legged kids over the next few days. I’d also love to hear back from you as to what the animal kingdom has shared with you.
I thought I would start with Krissy. Krissy is my nineteen-year-old Thoroughbred/Warmblood mare. Krissy came into my life five-years ago. I purchased her from a jumper barn where she had been a pretty successful show jumper. My hope for her was to continue jumping with me, but at lower levels than what she had been doing. I figured she would be a great teacher, and she has been. Just not in the way I expected.
Krissy and I quickly bonded. She is very sweet and kind, and we immediately became friends. Not long after bringing her home, I would notice on occasion that she was a little off. For the non-horsey folks here that basically means that she seemed to be having some lameness issues. I had the vet out and we did various tests on her to determine where the lameness was coming from. Long story short, after two years of ups and downs, we discovered that Krissy is a wobbler. This means she has a neurological condition stemming from the vertebrae in her neck. It could be hereditary, but with this horse most likely it was caused by an injury.
I retired Krissy and was pretty devastated. However, little did I know what this mare would now become for me. She has become a teacher in patience and acceptance. Her diagnosis paralleled my Dad’s diagnosis of multiple systems atrophy, a neurological disease as well.
Now, I have had people ask me why I keep the horse around. She costs me a lot of money to feed and keep. There are some who have even suggested having her put down. Some horse people feel that unless a horse can be ridden, then he is no longer useful. I disagree.
Krissy has shown me in her own way that every living being is of value. When I go out to see her, she always, always nickers at me showing me that she is happy I am around. She always puts her head down for me to scratch her face and tell her how much she is loved. But it isn’t a one way street. Love translates in all languages (animal and human. In fact, there is a dog licking my toes at the moment. Oh wait. That is because there is a bone near my feet). I can actually feel the love and gratitude that Krissy has for me. It is through her that I have learned to accept that not everything in life is going to be the way you want it. Not everything is always “peachy keen.” There are ups and downs such as my dad getting sick, my mare getting sick, etc… However, it is in how you handle those things. Drama does nothing for us but bring on stress and discomfort. Staying grounded in the face of things that we can not control helps us move through the difficult times.
Right now as my Dad deals with a disease that has imprisoned his body, I see how he has gracefully accepted what he has to deal with. In some ways, he reminds me of Krissy who just allows and yet still loves, still shares and teaches me everyday that life is always good. It’s just a matter of how you view it.
Krissy and me
I thought I would write a bit about one of my thrillers today and why I wrote the book that I did. MOMMY, MAY I? is a book that either readers seem to love or hate. There aren’t too many who are in between about it. I think those who love it are fascinated by the development of a serial killer, and those who hate it abhor such a topic. I do warn readers that it is graphic and disturbing. It is about a serial killer!
When I wrote the book I had recently finished a handful of thrillers that focused on the killer, but the thing that left me questioning always was; WHY? How does someone become so heinous, so evil? Are they born that way? Does their environment create them? I didn’t know the answers, so I started doing a ton of research. It was disturbing research and the answers were equally disturbing. Environment seemed to play a lot into what creates a serial killer.
I read books and essays, watched documentaries and even discovered there was a serial killer in my family’s genealogy, who I don’t really want to name as the guy is still alive and has tried to contact my uncle several times. YUCKY SCARY!
Anyway, after all of this I decided to write a book that intertwined the lives of some good characters with this horrible killer. The most important aspect for me was to detail out how this killer grew into what he did. It is disturbing. It is compelling form my point of view. It is a combination of research and imagination that make up the bulk of the book. It is certainly not a book for everyone. There is some animal cruelty in it, which was extremely difficult for me to write because if you know me then you know that I am a huge animal lover and have a bunch of animals who I treat like family. However, many of these types of killers begin their spree on innocent animals. That is the reality of it. There is a reference to incest. Again–not easy to write but a reality that many of these killers were abused as kids. And, I am certain what is most offensive is the fact that the killer in the story is a necrophiliac. Yes–disturbing, but not something I just pulled out of a rabbit hat.
Serial killers are sick, disturbed and completely heinous individuals. Writing a book with a character like this was not easy, but the story did come to me and the good characters in it are heroic and show the other side of humanity. There is plenty of evil in the world, but I also believe it to be true that there is more good.
I hope you have a wonderful week.For anyone who wants to read Mommy, May I? it is FREE for Amazon Kindle right now. http://www.amazon.com/Mommy-May-I-ebook/dp/B004L2LJCG/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1335206433&sr=1-1
One of the things that I really love about the new world of Indie publishing is the support authors give one another. We have come together to help each other get good books into the hands of the readers. The other thing that I really love is that good books that the Big 6 or agents overlooked are getting into the hands of readers and heading up the bestseller lists!
I am happy to have been one of the authors to experience this, and I am also happy to share great books with other readers. I have a diverse taste in my reading. I read everything from R.J. Parker’s non-fiction serial killer stuff, to a good old fashioned Nora Robert’s romance. Speaking of fantastic adult romance…
Today I want to share with you a beautiful book written by a talented author who has also become a friend of mine. Tracey Garvis Graves’ book ON THE ISLAND has hit that top 10 Amazon list and has been strong there for weeks now. With 327 five star reviews you can’t go wrong with this one!
I had the pleasure to interview Tracey. I hope you enjoy and please check out her books.
Tracey Garvis-Graves lives in a suburb of Des Moines, Iowa with her husband, two children, and hyper dog Chloe. On the Island is her first novel. She blogs at www.traceygarvisgraves.com using colorful language and a snarky sense of humor to write about pop culture, silly television shows, and her suburban neighborhood. She is hard at work on her next book. You can e-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org. She’d love to hear from you.
Can you tell us a bit about yourself?
I’m a new author and On the Island is my debut novel. When I’m not writing I like to curl up with my Kindle; it’s one of my most prized possessions. Add a glass of wine and I’m instantly in my happy place.
When did you begin writing?
I’ve always been interested in writing and took a few fiction writing classes in college. I started blogging in 2008 and decided to try my hand at novel writing in 2010.
Do you write during the day, at night, or whenever you can sneak in a few moments?
I prefer to write early in the morning. I get up at 5:00 a.m., take a quick shower, pour a giant cup of coffee, and power up my laptop. I write until about 7:00 and then finish getting ready so I can be at work by 8:00. I also try to sneak in as much writing time as I can on the weekends.
What is this book about?
Here is the description from Amazon:
When thirty-year-old English teacher Anna Emerson is offered a job tutoring T.J. Callahan at his family’s summer rental in the Maldives, she accepts without hesitation; a working vacation on a tropical island trumps the library any day.
T.J. Callahan has no desire to leave town, not that anyone asked him. He’s almost seventeen and if having cancer wasn’t bad enough, now he has to spend his first summer in remission with his family – and a stack of overdue assignments – instead of his friends.
Anna and T.J. are en route to join T.J.’s family in the Maldives when the pilot of their seaplane suffers a fatal heart attack and crash-lands in the Indian Ocean. Adrift in shark-infested waters, their life jackets keep them afloat until they make it to the shore of an uninhabited island. Now Anna and T.J. just want to survive and they must work together to obtain water, food, fire, and shelter. Their basic needs might be met but as the days turn to weeks, and then months, the castaways encounter plenty of other obstacles, including violent tropical storms, the many dangers lurking in the sea, and the possibility that T.J.’s cancer could return. As T.J. celebrates yet another birthday on the island, Anna begins to wonder if the biggest challenge of all might be living with a boy who is gradually becoming a man.
On the Island is a full-length adult romance novel. It explores the human need for more than mere survival, the meaning of bonds formed in isolation, and the ways those bonds are bound to change.
What inspired you to write it?
I love, love, love the desert island premise. I’m a big fan of the T.V. show Survivor and I’ve seen every episode of Lost. I have fond memories of my mom taking me to see The Blue Lagoon when I was thirteen. I enjoyed the movie Castaway but felt the premise was underutilized by placing Tom Hanks on that island all alone. Think of the possibilities if they’d put someone else there with him (I’m not sure I ever really bought the attachment to the volley ball). When the idea of writing a desert island book first came to me, I thought it would be interesting to put two people on it that shouldn’t be together and then see what would happen.
Who is your biggest supporter?
My husband, without a doubt. He’s a great sounding board and he’s wonderful when I need the male perspective. I think he thought I was crazy when I first told him what I was going to write about. Actually, everyone probably thought I was crazy but they were too nice to say anything. My other biggest supporter is my friend Elisa Abner-Taschwer. I refer to her in my acknowledgments section as my de facto publicist. We used to work together thirteen years ago and even though we don’t live in the same city anymore, she works tirelessly to promote On the Island. She’s absolutely wonderful. My critique partner, my twin sister, and my dad are also infinitely supportive.
Who are some of your favorite authors?
There are way too many to list, but if there’s one author who influenced me the most it would be Stephen King. Although I’m not a huge fan of horror novels, his book The Stand is my all-time favorite book. Once a year I reread the same beat-up paperback copy that my dad gave me when I was twelve. It’s just an epic book. My favorite genres to read are contemporary women’s fiction, contemporary romance, and most commercial fiction.
Where can readers purchase a copy of your book?
Amazon (the e-book and paperback are available now and the audiobook will be released in the next week or so), Barnes & Noble, and Smashwords (which distributes to Apple, Sony, Kobo, and Diesel).
Do you have a website and/or blog where readers can find out more?
Do you have a video trailer to promote your book? If yes, where can readers find it?
April Haug, one of the bloggers that hosted a stop on my A Tale of Many Reviews blog tour made a trailer for On the Island which was incredibly nice. I certainly don’t have the knowledge or skill to do it myself, so I think it’s great that she did it for me.
What is one piece of advice you would like to share with aspiring authors everywhere?
If you want to write a book you’re going to have to sit down and write. Don’t worry about it being perfect right out of the gate (that’s what multiple drafts and revising are for). You can’t edit a blank page so just get the words down. It took me twice as long to revise On the Island as it did to write it. And the most important advice of all: write the book you want to read. Forget about trends because they’re constantly changing.
My next book, Covet, is a contemporary women’s fiction novel although it will be heavy on the romance. Here is a brief description:
What if the life you wanted, and the woman you fell in love with, belonged to someone else?
Chris and Claire Canton’s marriage is on life support. Downsized during the recession, Chris copes by retreating to a dark place where no one can reach him, not even Claire.
Daniel Rush had it all, until a tragic accident took away everything he cherished. A chance meeting with Claire sets in motion a chain of events that will leave three people questioning their choices and dealing with the aftermath of their decisions.
Is there anything you would like to add?
Yes. I’d like to thank readers everywhere for embracing On the Island, taking the time to review it, and telling their friends and family members about it. It’s a word-of-mouth book and I feel strongly that without these positive reviews and personal recommendations, it might never have found a wide audience. I’m eternally grateful and blown away by the readers and wish I could thank them all personally.
Tracey Garvis-Graves lives in a suburb of Des Moines, Iowa with her husband, two children, and hyper dog Chloe. On the Island is her first novel. She blogs at www.traceygarvisgraves.com using colorful language and a snarky sense of humor to write about pop culture, silly television shows, and her suburban neighborhood. She is hard at work on her next book. You can e-mail her at email@example.com. She’d love to hear from you.
I’ve been getting a ton of e-mails regarding the next Michaela book. I promise it is in the works and will be out this summer. Here is a sneak preview. Also, be sure to check out my new book The Grey Tier: A Dead Celeb Mystery. http://www.amazon.com/Grey-Tier-Celeb-Mystery-ebook/dp/B007R98NYM/ref=pd_rhf_gw_p_t_2
Have a great day and enjoy!
Michaela Bancroft had to be crazy. What in the world had she been thinking? Who decides to get married during the holidays?! Oh yeah, she and Ethan, that’s who. “Let’s get married on New Year’s Eve,” she’d said. “It’ll be like starting over, with a clean slate.” He’d happily agreed, and the rest, as they say, is history. But now, just a few weeks before Christmas and up to her neck in holiday planning, it didn’t seem like such a great idea. Michaela smacked herself in the head. Brilliant, Michaela. Just brilliant.
The baby monitor suddenly crackled to life as Josh whimpered softly in his crib. She set the box of Christmas ornaments aside and headed toward the nursery. “I’m coming, little man.”
Truth be told, her best friend Camden was to blame for this whole mess. If she hadn’t insisted on having a mai tai bar for her Hawaiian wedding and if Michaela hadn’t caught the bouquet…although in retrospect, she was damn glad she had and even happier at the grin on Ethan’s face when she turned to look at him. Then there was the slow dancing and the kissing, and the passionate interlude back in their suite at the resort. Well, after all that, a New Year’s wedding seemed to make perfect sense. Until now. Why hadn’t she suggested a good old-fashioned elopement? To Vegas? But Ethan had already been there, done that with Summer, his ex-wife and Josh’s mother. And that ended with Summer ditching Ethan and her infant son for another man. Apparently being a wife and mother wasn’t her forte.
Michaela opened the nursery curtains and lifted Josh from his crib, cuddling the toddler to her chest. As hard as it had been to watch Ethan deal with Summer’s abandonment, she couldn’t help but be glad things turned out the way they did. She now had Ethan—her childhood friend and lifelong crush—and Josh, who was by every standard (except biological) her son. Life was good. So, in reality, when she thought about it, a New Year’s wedding wasn’t such a bad idea after all. The holiday trappings would go along nicely. Everything would be perfect. Sure.
“Hello? I’m here,” Camden’s voice rang out from below. “Where’s my god son?”
Michaela carried the drowsy, blue-eyed boy down towards the open arms of his godmother. Camden’s latest hair color was bleached blonde and she’d pulled it straight back into a high, tight ponytail. She’d taken to wearing Wranglers, cowboy boots, and a silver belt buckle. Being married to Dwayne, Michaela’s right hand man at the ranch, had obviously turned haute couture Camden into a true blue cowgirl. She even rode on a regular basis—something Michaela never expected to see.
Josh adored Camden as much as she did him. He reached his pudgy arms out to her as she cooed his name, “Joshy, Joshy boy, come to Auntie Cam.” The little boy almost leapt into his godmother’s arms and snuggled into her soft denim shirt.
It never ceased to amaze Michaela just how much Camden loved Josh. Yes, he was an adorable little guy, but Camden wasn’t exactly known for her maternal ways. Her idea of a home cooked meal was Hamburger Helper, packaged salad, and a frozen margarita. All Michaela could figure is Dwayne had something to do with it. Since she’d married him, Camden had started cooking (real, albeit not gourmet, food) and had fallen hard for little Josh.
“I’m feeling a little second fiddle here,” Michaela said wryly.
“Don’t be silly. He knows who his mommy is.” Camden’s eyes locked on Michaela’s. Neither one said what they were both thinking. Michaela was hoping to adopt Josh after she and Ethan married. It was clear to all involved that Summer didn’t want to be his mother. She’d abandoned him as completely as she’d abandoned Ethan. But all the same, when it came to signing away any rights to the little boy, Michaela wondered if Summer would go through with it.
“He knows exactly who his mommy is.” Camden tickled Josh’s tummy and he let out a squeal of delight.
Michaela smiled and glanced down at her watch. “Okay, I should be home by lunch time. I’m going to run over to Winsor and take a look at that horse Devon called me about, and then swing by the florist. If I have time afterwards, I may try to squeeze in some more Christmas shopping.”
“Oh honey, it’s eight already. You’re going to need more than four hours to do all that!”
Michaela raised an eyebrow. “I thought you knew me better than that. I don’t need four hours to decide whether or not a horse will fit in my program or choose flowers for my wedding. As far as Christmas shopping goes, I already know what I’m buying everyone. I’ll be in and out in a jif.” She snapped her fingers. “Now if it was you, it’d be a whole ‘nother story.”
Camden shrugged. “What can I say? Auntie Cam likes to shop. Josh doesn’t think it’s a problem. Do you Joshy?”
The little boy giggled.
Michaela kissed him on the cheek. “Okay, be back in a bit. And remember, do NOT let him watch those reality TV shows.”
“Oh come on, he loves The Housewives of OC! Those L.A. broads are crazy!” She circled her index finger by the side of her head.
“No. I mean yes, they’d have to be crazy to be on that show. But no, I don’t want him watching that stuff,” Michaela replied. “Nick Jr. or Discovery Kids if you have to. Actually, I’d prefer no TV time. Play with him.”
Camden rolled her eyes. “You know I will.”
“Ok, ok. Be back soon!”
Michaela headed out and did a quick walk through the breezeway of the barn. Her three-year-old, Leo, had cast himself the other night in his stall. She’d had to poultice and wrap him to help sweat out the swelling. Dwayne would have already checked him and likely rewrapped him when he fed Leo that morning, but it was rare for Michaela to leave the house without a quick hello to her horses. Today was Monday—a day off for everyone: the horses, Michaela’s students, and herself.
Michaela trained horses with an emphasis on reining, but she’d ventured out her comfort zone recently when one of her clients had brought over an appendix filly she wanted trained as a hunter jumper. Michaela had done some jumping throughout the years but explained that it wasn’t her strong suit. The owner didn’t care. She’d heard wonderful things about Michaela, going so far as to call her a horse whisperer. Michaela still cringed a little when she thought about that. She just did what she did best—train using empathy and kindness, setting boundaries where needed.
Leo stuck his head out of the stall as he heard his “mom” approaching. “Yes, I have a treat for you.” She rubbed his face and kissed his nose, his hot breath puffing on her face and hands as he sniffed for the treat. Michaela reached into the front of her jeans pocket and took out a handful of carrots. He nuzzled the palm of her hand as he sucked them up. “You’re not a horse. You’re a vacuum cleaner.” She undid the latch on his stall and went inside. The woodsy smell of shavings mixed with earth and horse smelled better to her than any perfume ever could. She bent down and checked Leo’s wraps. As suspected, Dwayne had beat her to the job.
Speaking of Dwayne, he was probably back in bed. He also took Mondays off and, according to Camden, typically spent them watching reruns of old shows like Gilligan’s Island, Three’s Company, and I Love Lucy.
Michaela closed Leo’s stall door behind her and continued down the breezeway. Immediately the young horse started banging against the door of his stall with his hoof. “No more. Knock it off,” she scolded him. His ears pricked forward and his eyes widened. She shook a finger at him. “You heard me.”
There were twelve more horses to kiss and hand treats to. Some were there for training and some for her lesson program. Michaela gave lessons to kids. She’d also developed a program for autistic children. Nothing gave her more joy than the moment when a kid had a breakthrough because of a horse. Horses were gentle souls who, for the most part, seemed to understand how to help a person grow, heal, and be nurtured.
After her brief visit with the horses, she headed out to Winsor. Winsor Riding Academy was a nearby high school prep academy and riding school that educated both local and out-of-state kids. It definitely wasn’t for families short on cash. Most of the kids at the school trained in three-day eventing, which Michaela loved to watch, especially the cross-country jumping. Those riders had some serious cajones! Galloping through a course, jumping over stationary obstacles—usually wooden logs that jarred both horse and rider if they hit.
Devon Winsor, one of the owners, was an acquaintance and had given Michaela a call the other day about an older gelding in their stable. Apparently he was also an appendix—half Quarter horse, half Thoroughbred—and although he’d been an excellent eventer and a good school master, he was at an age where he needed to be taken off the jumps. Devon felt the horse would be a perfect fit for Michaela’s program. Michaela liked the idea of adding a gentle soul to the barn, one who could teach the beginners and also be great for her special needs kids. This horse sounded like a good fit, but she wanted to see him up close and personal—preferably without Devon hovering—to make sure. She didn’t know Devon that well and before Michaela plunked down a few thousand dollars on a lesson horse, she needed to take a peek at him. His name was Silverado and per Devon, he was stabled in barn three. The horses had name tags on their stall doors, so she figured it wouldn’t be a problem finding this one.
Cruising slowly down the long driveway leading up to the academy, Michaela noticed how empty the place was. Most of the kids had gone home for the holiday break. And while there were a few local boarders around, the place was pretty deserted.
Michaela smiled as she pulled up in front of the barns. Dr. Grace’s truck was parked out front. Grace Morgan was Ethan’s business partner. He’d recently bought into her veterinary practice when he’d decided to make a move from his old partnership. Ethan’s former partner wasn’t willing to learn new techniques and his bedside manner was far from pleasant. That was enough for him to buy the guy out and find a new partner. When Dr. Grace mentioned an opening at her practice, Ethan jumped at the opportunity.
Grace was well respected and renowned for her veterinary skills in Indio and beyond. She was cutting edge and did a lot of lab work and looked deeper than most to get to the bottom of a number of horse ailments. She cared deeply for the animals and it showed.
Maybe Grace could vet Silverado for her. She called out the doctor’s name as she entered barn three. No answer. She called again into each of the barns. Still no response. Maybe Grace was up at the main house with Devon? Michaela checked her watch and realized she only had a few minutes left to check out Silverado.
She found the grey gelding down the aisle of barn three. He stuck his nose out to greet her. “Oh you are a cute guy, aren’t you?”
The horse in the opposite stall banged against the door just like Leo had done earlier that morning. “Ah, another begger,” she said, turning around to see what she guessed was a Dutch Warmblood. He was huge. At least seventeen hands, and had a wild look in his eye. He snorted, weaving his great head back and forth.
Michaela turned back to the grey gelding. “Looks like your friend has some issues to work through. But you, on the other hand look very sweet.” She liked his soft, kind eyes. Devon said he was eighteen, but there was no sway to his back. He had great muscle tone and a very pretty face. She’d have to ride him to see how his disposition was. But so far, so good.
The wild guy across the way though—he was something else entirely. He became more agitated as she stood there talking to the other horse. She finally took a step toward the large animal and spoke in calm tones. “Hey, hey there.” She squinted to read his name plate. Geronimo. Should’ve known. “Hey Geronimo. It’s okay. It’s alright, bud.”
The horse blew out another snort and held his head high and out of reach as she went to try and stroke him on the neck. It was then that she caught a glimpse of what was making him crazy. She took a step closer and the horse backed away. She closed her eyes and shook her head. This could not be happening. She swallowed hard.
“Oh my God.” Her voice came out in a croak. It didn’t sound like her at all. She stared down at a sight she was certain she’d never, ever forget. Dr. Grace lay sprawled on the floor of Geronimo’s stall—dark patches of dried blood all around her.
I have posted this before over in EquestrianInk, which for the horse lovers here, I suggest you check it out. We have some great bloggers/horse women and writers on that site.
I think most of my readers know about my love for horses. Here is a short story as to why I grew up loving them so much. I owe a huge credit to my Dad. Hope you enjoy!
The Billy Dal Gang
We called ourselves “The Billy Dal Gang.” Four ten-year-old girls, their horses and my dad.
My dad Dal was, of course, Billy Dal. There was Billy Stace, Billy Renee, Billy Laura, and me Billy Shell. While grooming and saddling up our horses, we’d get into character. Billy Dal would set up the scenario. “Okay, girls, we got three bad guys, and I mean bad guys on the run. They stole a lot of money from that there bank.” He’d point to our house. “Now we gotta go find them and arrest them, and bring ‘em back.”
“Yes we do, Billy Dal!”
“We gotta be real careful and sneak up on ‘em. They’re armed and dangerous.”
We would giggle at my dad’s silly antics, but once we were up on our horses it was a different deal. We were playing the roles. Dad had a sure-footed Quarter horse named Smokey that led the gang. He was a horse with sharp instincts. Several times as we would wind down single file from the mountain, the thick chaparral smelling sweet and earthy, surrounding us on the rocky trail, and occasionally, Smokey would stop on a dime. Billy Dal would turn around bringing a finger to his lips, his blue eyes tinged with a stern warning for us to not move. Our adrenaline pumping as we’d come to know before we ever heard the zing and rattle of the snake that Smokey had spotted a rattler.
We would wait for the snake to back away before clucking the horses forward, as Billy Dal’s constant rule was to leave nature alone. He didn’t believe in killing the snakes out on the trail as many others did. “They were here first,” he’d say.
Making it down off the mountain we would ride through what we learned was former Indian grounds in San Diego county. As we descended into the foothills, we passed a crumbling stone wall built hundreds of years ago, ancient remains at the bottom of the mountain. Danger lurking around every corner, on every trail. It always seemed as if a slight breeze was blowing through that passage, even on days when there was no wind. It was the kind of breeze that carried a whistle on it, and would make the hair on the back of the neck stand on end. It was easy to let our young imaginations get the best of us, wondering if someone was watching us as that feeling of an other worldly presence remained strong until we got down onto the flats. We would all grow quiet passing through the open crevice in the stone wall. In a word, it was spooky. And Billy Dal loved to add to the mystery of it all.
Once we past the cobblestone wall and entered the flats, Billy Dal would again bring a finger to his lips and shake his head. We all understood that this time it wasn’t a snake. He’d point straight ahead and mouth, “Bad guys.” In retrospect I think my dad was just trying to get all of us little girls to stop yapping our mouths because we could make a lot of noise, particularly my friend Billy Stace and me.
Billy Stace and I had a kind of competition between us. It was called, “My horse is faster than your horse.” This debate could take up the entire three hour trail ride if we didn’t have the distraction of The Billy Dal Gang. Stace had a petite grey Arabian mare named Zelle. Zelle was a little loose in the brain. Okay, she was nuts much of the time, but, yeah, she could run. My horse was definitely faster, though–definitely. I’d had the good fortune to raise this mare from a yearling when my dad had her delivered for my sixth birthday. He bought her for a hundred dollars without ever seeing her. He coined her ugly duckling when she stepped off the trailer. But to me she was the most beautiful horse in the world, and she was by far one of the most patient animals I’ve ever had. This mare as a two-year-old would let me lay on her back while in her corral. I’d climb all over her. I have no clue what my parents were thinking, but thank goodness the horse was as sweet natured as she was.
Full grown Dandy stood over sixteen hands. She had only two spots on her rear, but apparently that was enough to be a registered Appaloosa, and this horse could haul butt! Stace and I liked to get down to the flats and race each other. I can still hear the argument now. “I won, Shelly. I did. You started before me, so technically I won and you cheated.”
“No way. I started when you started and I won fair and square. My horse is faster than yours,” I’d say.
“No she isn’t.”
“Wanna make a bet?” And this was how it went. We started bringing stopwatches with us, but the argument to this day (thirty years later) still has not been decided. Both Stace and I (we are still great friends) have agreed to disagree on this count. Dad wouldn’t let us race each other when he was with us, but on those days when he couldn’t go, we were all about getting down onto the flats and moving out.
Dad also liked speed and, as Billy Dal, he added a bit more tension to our game besides only seeking out the bad guys. My father, as you’ve guessed by now, is quite a storyteller. We’d be riding along down on the flats with cottonwood trees on either side of us. Many times cotton would blow in the wind and we might suggest it was snow falling, even in eighty degree weather. Each of us with long hair hanging down our backs, our faces turned up to soak in the sun, and all of a sudden Billy Dal would say, “Oh no. Oh no. We gotta get outta here!”
“What? Why?” the Billy Dal Gang would squeal.
“It’s the hoop snake!”
“The hoop snake?”
“Oh yes. The hoop snake. You don’t know about the hoop snake?”
Billy Dal would point up. “Look up there at the top of the ridge. Don’t you see it? He’s the color of coral with black rings every few inches on his diamond back skin. He’s related to the Diamond Back Rattler, but he’s much deadlier. And he’s after us.”
“What do you mean?” one of us would ask.
“I mean he’s spotted us and in a minute if we don’t get out of here, he’ll be down off that mountain so fast and bite your horses and have us all for dinner.”
“He’s a snake, Billy Dal. He can’t eat us all for dinner.”
“He’s not just a snake. He’s the hoop snake. He rounds himself up like a circle, takes his tail in his mouth, and rolls down the hill. His prey are horses and their riders, and believe me he could eat us all up. We gotta go. Now!”
Billy Dal would put Smokey into a gallop and we’d all follow suit, laughing and squealing and carrying on about how we’d better hurry so we didn’t become snake food. I don’t know how many times we played out this scenario. It could have been a hundred or more. It didn’t matter. It was so much fun and we’d add to it, change it up a bit, but it always came down to pure ecstasy and freedom on the backs of our horses.
After a good gallop and getting away from the hoop snake, there were all sorts of other “enemies” we had to keep an eye out for. There was a pack of hostile Indians we had to watch out for who, if we weren’t careful, could track us and we’d wind up scalped. We had to watch out for all sorts of wild animals and of course, those bad guys. Any chance we had to “getaway” from anything considered an enemy, we did, and we did quickly.
Our trail rides typically wound up at “the saloon.” We’d ride along a trail that would take us through a golf course. We’d only go onto the course if it was later in the day and Billy Dal scoped it out to make sure there weren’t too many golfers on the course. I still have no clue how we never got kicked off that golf course. We’d ride through on the cart trails and on up to the bar, where Billy Dal would order us all Shirley Temples and he’d have a beer. I think part of the reason we didn’t get kicked off is we were sort of entertainment. I’d learned how to stand up on Dandy in the saddle and I was even able to do a headstand on her. We were like a regular circus show. Looking back, I have to wonder how I made it out of childhood.
“Okay, gang, we’ve had our refreshments and now we gotta get back out there and track those bad guys.”
“Yes, sir, Billy Dal!” And we’d be off again and back out onto the trail. If the day was a hot one and the river bottom had water in it, we’d many times head over to the river, we’d untack the horses, slide off the their backs as they went into the water and hang on to their tails and swim with them. Of course there were always “dangers” in the river bottom, too.
“Watch out for that crocodile, Billy Shell,” one of the other gang members would yell.
“Yeah he’s gonna eat you.”
Fits of laughter would break out amongst us as we truly were having the best times of our lives.
We also had names for our trails. Our favorite was the jumping trail. My mother would never allow me to jump as a kid (guess what I do now?), so I’m pretty sure if she knew about this trail she’d have come totally unglued.
The jumping trail was covered with brush and cottonwoods. Talk about a cross-country course! Jumping the trail was always precluded with another story, like almost everything we did as the gang. The best part is that with all of the trees and brush there were shadows that filled the area. Imaginations ran wild, and even on days my friends couldn’t join us, I could come up with all sorts of fantastical story ideas. As far as I was concerned, fairies hid underneath the rocks that lined the trail, elves played in the shadows, and trolls hid underneath the logs we jumped, waiting to surprise us with their snaggly teeth and green, grotesque faces. They never did, but it was great to imagine that they might.
And of course, there were the horses who were characters in their own right. They tolerated our fantasies. Dandy was never one to spook or do anything flighty. She was calm, strong, and patient for a young horse. Smokey was the leader, like Dad—both wise. Billy Stace had Zelle who ironically enough was a lot like my friend—both a bit hyper and strong willed. Billy Renee had an older Thoroughbred who tolerated whatever was tossed his way without much ado, and Billy Laura had a Buckskin gelding who wasn’t the best mannered animal of the group (loved to nip others’ rear ends), but all the same he followed the pack and no matter what, we knew when we set out on those horses with my dad that we weren’t going to be disappointed.
The only disappointment came when we heard those words, “Well, Gang, we better head home. The mother folk will have dinner ready and it’s getting dark.”
A collective sigh would ring out and we would head back up the hill and into our neighborhood.
There are days now, as I learn more about the horse than I ever learned as a kid, that I wished I’d participated in Pony Club or horse shows, other than the little backyard shows I’d occasionally do. At times I feel ignorant about these amazing animals. But as I reflect back on my childhood and how horses were such a huge part of it, I realize I wouldn’t change it for the world. I may not have understood the mechanics of the animal, the right feed to give them (we were known for feeding them coffee cans filled with grain daily with their hay—the horses loved it), what the right lead was, or the right diagonal, or any of that. That all came as I grew into an adult. But what I did learn, what I do understand, is that to me the horse represents far more than being an animal who tolerates me up on his/her back. To me, the horse represents family, friendship, imagination, and total fantasy. The soul of the horse has driven me to explore who I am as a creative person and that comes from the animals I enjoyed as a kid and the father who was never too old to be a kid himself, but always wise enough to be safe, loving, nurturing, and fun.
The Universe has an interesting way of showing you direction sometimes. As a now happily independent author I am always thinking of ways to get books into the hands of readers. With the ever changing face of publishing these days, I’ve noticed a few trends that helps authors do this. One of them is cross promoting. A few weeks ago I started looking at books that were in the same genre as mine. My thinking was that it would be great to have a support system and to build the alliance with another author(s).
As this train of thought was going through my head, life got busy as it always does and I let the idea go for a bit. However, The Universe must have liked the idea because a few days after I had started thinking about it I received an e-mail from another author who had the same idea and was wanting to do some cross promotion with me.
As we started trading e-mails and I read his book (which is an International bestseller and is currently on the top 15 Kindle list), we learned a few things about each other. One is we live a mile apart–and we live in the middle of nowhere. Not many out where we live. He also has four dogs and two horses! We decided to meet and talk shop.
It didn’t take long for either of us to realize that two minds like ours (demented) could get together and write one heckuva dark and twisted thriller together.
I am pleased to announce that Andrew E. Kaufman my neighbor and partner in crime and I are going to be releasing a co-authored psychological thriller together.
Stay tuned as more announcements will be coming.
If you have not read Andrew’s latest thriller (THE LION, THE LAMB, AND THE HUNTED, I suggest that you do. http://www.amazon.com/Lion-Lamb-Hunted-Psychological-ebook/dp/B006HWXKD4/ref=zg_bs_digital-text_15
Also, COVERT REICH will be free for Kindle tomorrow and Sunday. If you like a little conspiracy with your suspense, give it a try. http://www.amazon.com/Covert-Reich-ebook/dp/B006BHWSJM/ref=pd_sim_kstore_3?ie=UTF8&m=AG56TWVU5XWC2
I thought I would do a little Friday promo in celebration of a few things. First off, Daddy’s Home remained on the top 10 Kindle bestseller list for a month, even coming in at #4 for a few days directly behind Suzanne Collins “Hunger Games.” It is now at #15, and I can’t complain. Check out the press release about the film/TV and foreign rights as well. http://www.prweb.com/releases/2012/2/prweb9172034.htm So, to celebrate my readers I am giving away a $25.00 Amazon Kindle gift card. Just leave a comment in the comment box over the next week and I will pick a winner next Friday.
I am also really excited that I will be releasing a new book (mystery series) next month. THE GREY TIER; A DEAD CELEBS MYSTERY. This series will be under my name Michele Scott, and although is has the humor and romance that the Nikki books do, there is an added element of paranormal and urban fantasy to it. It’s a bit different for me, but I have had a blast writing this book and my fingers are crossed that readers will enjoy it as much as I have enjoyed writing it. Here is a bit of a preview. Check back over the next few weeks for more chances at Amazon gift cards, and pre-postings of the new book.
Have a wonderful weekend!
My name is Evie Preston and I hang out with dead rock stars. Oh, and the occasional dead movie star or two. I know, weird, huh? Trust me, I think so, too. I’ve actually came home to witness Janis Joplin strumming her guitar and singing along with Bob Marley. And that is only the beginning of what happened that night! I’ve learned quite a bit about those who live on the other side over the past few months. For instance, they aren’t all ghostly and transparent-like. Oh no. The ones I see tend to be in full-color 3-D except for when they exert, ah…certain energies. Then they go a bit hazy. I will get to that. And they prefer to be called spirits.
I know, I sound completely insane, right? Like “commit me” insane. But honestly, I am not crazy. Okay, maybe a little bit, and believe me, the first time I saw Bob Marley in my place (technically not my place, not even close to being my place, but I’ll get to that) in the Hollywood hills getting high and singing ‘Buffalo Soldier,’ (sans Janis) I thought I was either dreaming, hallucinating from a bad meal at Denny’s, or, yes, completely nuts. None of that was the case. Bob is a very real, very dead guy who likes to hang out with me, along with a handful of other deceased, famous rock musicians (and a few who never quite made the charts, one of whom I’m currently developing some feelings for. But more about him later, too). So, not only do I hang out with dead rock stars, I also think I am in love with one or, at least, in lust…which makes me totally screwed up. But I am not crazy.
Before I go any further, though, I need to go back a few months to the day after my twenty-eighth birthday in Brady, Texas: population 8,000. The signs were everywhere. Signs, that is, to get the hell out of dodge.
I was at Mrs. Betty LaRue’s place which smelled of fresh laundry, home cooking, and mothballs. She was comforting me over the dismal turnout of my Mary Kay presentation, which she’d kindly hosted—my latest attempt at becoming an entrepreneur.
We were drinking apple-cranberry tea, her Lhasa Apso, Princess, curled in a ball under Betty’s chair, and my dog (of indeterminate breed…possibly part-coyote, part-lab, maybe a dash of border collie in there), Mama Cass, lay across my feet. I loved how Betty always let me bring Mama Cass in the house. Cass went everywhere with me, but not everyone is as gracious about her as Betty.
“I really thought this would go much better,” I said, bringing the warm tea to my lips.
Betty smiled, the fine lines in her eighty-something-year old face creasing deeper into her skin, “Oh honey, I don’t know what happened to my girls today. I am so sorry. I thought there’d be at least ten of us. They all love my snickerdoodles. But you know how some of us old gals get; we forget things.” She twirled a yellow-white wisp of curled hair around her finger. The rest of it was pulled up into a loose bun (or chignon as Mama calls it). She’d obviously been in to see my mother that morning for her weekly hair appointment.
I nodded. “It’s okay, Betty. Thanks for hosting anyway, and the cookies were delicious. Three isn’t such a bad turnout.” Thing was, only Betty bought anything. Her friends Margaret and Hazel only came for the cookies and samples. “And I made about ten dollars, so that will buy me a couple of meals. You’ll love that anti-wrinkle cream.”
Betty ran a hand over her face and laughed sweetly . “Child, there is nothing gonna work on this here face at this stage. And I’m proud of these lines. I earned them.”
I laughed back. “So you only bought the cream because you felt sorry for me?” Mama Cass’s ears perked up and she lifted her head, which I bent over to scratch.
Betty sighed. “Evie Preston, I have known you since you started kicking up a fuss in your mama’s belly,” She winked at me. “I have watched you try so hard to be exactly what your mama and daddy wanted you to be, especially after all that bad business. And there was that little faux pas with—” she paused briefly, “What was his name?” She brought the cup to her lips, her hand shaking ever so slightly. I sighed, knowing exactly what bad business she was referring to. As for the faux pas, he was the star quarter back my senior year and the lucky recipient of my virginity. Sadly, he was also the jerk who then decided to share the news with the entire town. Thank God my mother was able to intercept that little tidbit before it could reach my father’s ears.
But as far as the bad business, neither of us wanted to go there.
Betty waved her free hand carelessly in the air as if to brush the painful thoughts away. “But I know you wanted to be a good Texas girl and marry a good Texas boy and have babies and run a family like your folks did. However, dear girl, then you got real lucky, didn’t you?”
“What do you mean?”
“You got a God-given talent.” She tried to set the tea cup down on the side table. I reached over and took it, setting it down for her. She beamed at me. “Thank you, honey.”
I looked down at my dog, now licking my toes sticking out of the only pair of high-heeled sandals I owned. “No, I don’t, Betty. I know I’m good, but there are a lot of good musicians out there.” Now I was twirling the ends of my hair, but there was no way my mother or even myself would ever put it up into a chignon. It was stick straight, long—just past my shoulders, dark brown, and baby fine but silky, which is good, I suppose…the silky part, anyway. The closest I ever get to pinning my hair up is a ponytail. Everything else just slips through the hair ties.
Betty waved her hand again. “Nonsense!” Placing her hands on the sides of her chair, she pushed herself up and ambled over to the white-bricked mantle. She grabbed an envelope, brought it back, and handed it to me.
“What’s this?” I asked.
“Your birthday was yesterday, wasn’t it?”
She frowned. “I may be old but I don’t forget my favorite people’s birthdays.”
“I’m one of your favorite people?” I mused.
“Oh Baby Girl, you know you are. You got spunk. Had it since you came out ass-backward showing the world what you thought of it.” She was referring to my breech birth.
“Thank you. I think.” I couldn’t help smiling. Betty was the only one I knew who spoke the truth without holding back. She didn’t tip-toe around stuff. Very different from my family. Tip-toeing was what we did best.
“Open it! I don’t have all day. It’s about time for my nap.”
I tore open the envelope and found a check inside for five thousand dollars made out to me. I gasped. “Betty! What…” Cass jumped up, her huge ears pricked forward, tail wagging, watching me like a hawk. “It’s okay, girl.” She lay back down.
“I was twenty-eight once too, you know, and I had dreams, big dreams.” Her blue eyes glazed over for a moment. “I wanted to be a movie star, and I could have, too. I was damn good, like you are at what you do, and I was once beautiful, believe it or not.” She winked at me, but there were tears in her eyes. I knew about Betty’s dreams from long ago. I also knew that there was a part of her life that hadn’t been so good, and it was that part, which had changed the course of her life. If only I had known her back then, but I hadn’t been alive yet. I could have made it easier for her. Although, it had been decades since the trauma she’d endured had passed leaving a large scar on her heart, I could still help in a small way. I laid my hand on top of hers. Ten seconds later, her tears were gone and the scar from the past was lessened and she continued.
“But then my folks, like yours, had other ideas and I decided to play by their rules. Now, I don’t regret it . . . maybe I do a little. Thing is, Evie, you can sing like a nightingale and you can play the guitar like nobody’s business. You need to get the hell out of this town before you wind up like every other girl here—knocked up, changing dirty diapers, and cleaning up after some idiot male who spends his nights with a beer in one hand and a TV remote in the other.”
I frowned. I’d already seen almost every girl from my high school graduating class living out the life Betty had just described. The lucky ones skipped town and went to college. I hadn’t been quite that lucky for a variety of reasons. I could have. I had the grades and the desire, but life had other ideas. On the positive side, which is where I like to go, I at least had not had the misfortune of marrying some guy who didn’t appreciate me, expected his dinner on the table when he got home from his shift at the local textile factory, and wanted his wife and children to obey, just because he said so.
“It’s amazing it hasn’t happened to you already,” she continued. “My guess is you were either smart enough to use birth control, smart enough to not date one of the goof-offs in this town, or scared to death by your daddy’s brimstone and fire sermons.”
“Pretty much all of the above, but still, I can’t accept this.” I held the check up.
“Yes, you can, and you will. Go live your life, Evie Preston. Pack up that van of yours, your guitar, Mama Cass, and head west. You sing your heart out in every bar, every café, every church—I don’t care where you go, but go and sing. I know one thing: you have what it takes to be a star. Forget all about them cosmetics you’re trying to pawn…”
“Mary Kay,” I interrupted. “It is a really good line. Mama swears by them.”
She frowned and waved that hand at me. “Just forget it no matter what, because you and I both know that won’t get you nowhere. That kind of thing is for people like Shirley Swan up the road trying to make an extra buck to take care of those four kids of hers. Not for you. Take the money, cut your losses, and run. Go live your dream, child. You gotta stop living for your mama and daddy. You didn’t cause what happened and you can’t ever change it.” She shook her head vehemently. “Now your parents, they have to get on with their lives, honey, and if they don’t, I hate to see you waste yours. So go on and live life. Do it for me. Go live my dream. Humor an old woman. Please?” Her blue eyes watered and the creases around them crinkled as she choked back emotion. “You go do this for Betty La Rue.” She shook a bent finger at me.
How could I refuse after a plea like that? I tried one last time, for the sake of courtesy. “But my daddy—”
Betty dabbed at her eyes with a kerchief. “He’ll get over it. And your mama is gonna secretly be cheering you on. It’ll be hard on them, but this’ll be the best thing for all of you.” She sighed heavily. “Especially you, Evie. Especially you. Trust me.”
So I did. I trusted Betty LaRue.
The next day I packed up my 1974 VW bus, a suitcase of clothes, my Rosewood Gibson acoustic guitar, and Cass. I pulled out of my parents’ driveway while Daddy waved his arms wildly in the air, yelling, “You’re gonna ruin your life out there, Evangeline (he’s the only one who ever calls me by my full name)! Los Angeles isn’t the city of angels. It’s a city of heathens and devils!!”
I knew he was just scared. My leaving was breaking his heart. I’m pretty sure if I looked closer, I’d see tears in his eyes. God, I felt so heartless, so cruel, but…I knew Betty was right. This was something that had to be done.
I could see tears for sure in my mother’s big hazel eyes, the same color as my own, as she mouthed, “I love you.”
I rolled down the window, choking back my own sobs. “I love you, too. I’ll call. Don’t worry. I’ll be fine. I really will.”
With blurred eyes, Mama Cass’s head in my lap, a Patsy Cline cassette in the tape deck (Thank God for eBay. You have no idea how hard it is to find cassette tapes these days), I headed west to the City of Angels. For the first time in sixteen years I felt like I could finally breathe again. I was leaving behind the only two people around me who I had never been able to heal even a little bit, and I didn’t think I ever could.