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The Sweet Spot

Something Ever After

My characters live with me long after a book is finished. And it appears that’s true for some of my readers, in particular, those who finished my recently released The Sweet Spot. They want to know if I will write another novel about Edie.

Edie St. Claire is the main character of the novel, set in a fictional town in Western Massachusetts. She’s the young widow of a soldier killed in Vietnam and a caring mother to their daughter, Amber. Most people love Edie, who knows how to have fun, whether it’s working at scan TSSher in-laws’ general store, playing softball or kicking back at the Do-Si-Do Bar. She is good to her father, a cantankerous old coot who runs the town dump, and her aunt, a woman with no brake on her mouth.

But all is not rosy for Edie, who still grieves for Gil, who by my accounts was a sweetheart of a guy. And then, there is her secret affair with his baddish brother, Walker, which ends tragically. We learn about Edie’s strength when that damn little town blames her. She also has the support of her family and Harlan, the stranger who moved next door.

I admire Edie’s spunk. So have my readers. They ask if there will be a sequel. Funny, I mentioned that possibility to my former agent one time, but he didn’t get it. I had a vision of Edie bringing Amber to the Vietnam Memorial Wall to find her father’s name. I wondered if the townspeople ever forgave her. Did she and Harlan make it?

Does Edie live happily ever after or is it something else?

I am considering it, but I am in the midst of another sequel — to the mystery Chasing the Case that I completed in March. Right now, it’s in the hands of a few publishing house editors. But I am so taken by the characters, including journalist-turned-sleuth Isabel Long, and her 92-year-old mother, who’s her Watson.  They solve a 28-year-old case of woman who went missing in her town. It was Isabel’s first big story as a rookie reporter. Yes, the mystery is set in Western Massachusetts.

Among my other books, I have turned two into series. I am two-thirds of the way through the fourth book in The Twin Jinn series, as yet unpublished. I have two more books for the Los Primos/The Cousins bilingual series.

As for Edie, I definitely can see spending time with her again, her rough-and-tough family, and the other characters. I had such a good time with them.

Want to get your own copy of The Sweet Spot in paperback or Kindle? Here’s the link:The Sweet Spot on Amazon

ABOUT THE PHOTO ABOVE: That’s a mural at Bowlin’s Mesilla Book Center in Mesilla, New Mexico, where we attended the New Mexico Press Women’s conference. “The Cousins and the Magic Fish/Los Primos y el Pez Magíco” was the second-runnerup for the Zia Award.

 

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The Sweet Spot

Readying for a Reading

I will be sharing something I love — the written word — at a book event in Taos on Saturday, March 25. Specifically, I will be reading from my recently released novel, The Sweet Spot.

The reading and signing will be held 2 p.m. at Op. Cit. Books in the John Dunn Shops in downtown Taos.

For those who don’t regularly follow my posts on this website, The Sweet Spot is the first of my hilltown novels to be published.

Here’s the two-sentence synopsis: Most in Conwell love Edie St. Claire, the widow of a soldier killed in Vietnam, until her affair with his married brother ends tragically. She tries to survive this small town’s biggest scandal through the help of her rough-sawn family and a badly scarred man who’s arrived for his fresh start.

At readings for other novels, I’ve been interviewed by a fellow author and had a friend play music — The Beatles on the bassoon no less. I’ve served brownies sans pot. Once, I had a slideshow of images taken from a middle grade book. This time, I will be strictly chatting and reading aloud.

Right now I am deciding the passages I want to share Saturday. I want people to get to know Edie St. Claire, the novel’s main character, so I might start with the opening scene.

There are two more crucial characters in The Sweet Spot. One is Edie’s married brother-in-law Walker St. Claire. Their affair ends horribly for both of them. Then there is Harlan Doyle, the scarred stranger who moves next door for his fresh start.

The Sweet Spot has two fun characters: Edie’s father, who is a delightful old coot, and Leona, her no-holds-barred aunt. They offer a humorous counterpoint to the novel’s tragic elements. Plus, they are wonderfully rough-sawn in a hilltown kind of way. I must find a way to share them with listeners.

I am fond of one scene I find hilarious — when Edie’s softball team debates what constitutes a good man. Would listeners be lost because it has so many characters? I will have to figure that one out.

Although there are scenes later in the book I’d love to read aloud, I don’t want to give anything away, so I will stick with those in the first part.

My job for the next few days is to rehearse the selected passages. I want this to be a fun event.

For those who live in Taos, I hope you’ll join me Saturday. Live too far away? Please be there in spirit. I could use your support.

And here’s the link to The Sweet Spot on Amazon

 

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The Sweet Spot

My 25-Year Writer’s Block

People ask if I ever have a writer’s block. My answer is no although I did have one that lasted 25 years. That’s an awfully long time, but I put it to good use.

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But to inject optimism into this post, the block did break and since then I’ve been writing like crazy and have published three books, including my latest, The Sweet Spot.

I discovered my potential as a writer in college, focusing on poetry largely because I didn’t know how to sustain a thought in prose. I am not making this up.

Then I started having babies, lots of them by modern standards. I don’t blame my six kids for my writer’s block as I happily spent my creative energy loving and caring for them.

Yes, I did make attempts at writing prose and a bit of poetry, a genre I’ve since dropped. I even attempted novels. But, alas, I got nowhere.

Funny, I still thought of myself as a writer, so instead I decided to learn how to be one.

The first thing I did was read what others wrote. I brought home piles of books from the library wherever we lived.

Then I got a job as a correspondent for a daily newspaper in Western Massachusetts. (I had only five kids then.) I reported on the town I lived, Worthington, population about 1,200. It has one store, one stoplight, one church, one school, and one bar. But the hilltown generated a bit of news as I covered government meetings, profiles of interesting country folk, and whatever news, say a house fire, happened.

Soon I was covering three hilltowns plus handling regional stories, including one that took me to the White House. (The hilltowns of Western Massachusetts are the setting for The Sweet Spot.) At first I was paid by the inch, then by the  story.

Reporting was the best thing I could have done. I listened to the way people talked and watched how they behaved. I paid attention. I wrote that all down.

I found stories wherever I went.

So when did my writer’s block end? After I became an editor. Being a reporter sucked a lot of my creative energy. Manipulating other people’s writing — I have a light touch — didn’t. One day I began writing fiction, yes, prose, and it became a part of my every day.

The writer’s block broke about 16 years ago like an ice dam in a river after a profoundly cold winter. One could say it was the winter of my discontent, with apologies to Steinbeck. Since then I’ve written five adult novels, three in a middle grade series and three in a bilingual series for young readers. Three of those have been published.

Currently, I’m in the midst of a mystery (a first solid draft completed) and the fourth in the middle grade series.

Thankfully, I won’t experience that winter again.

Speaking of The Sweet Spot, here is that novel’s quick synopsis and a link to it on Amazon.

Most in Conwell love Edie St. Claire, the widow of a soldier killed in Vietnam, until her affair with his married brother ends tragically. She tries to survive this small town’s biggest scandal through the help of her rough-sawn family and a badly scarred man who’s arrived for his fresh start.

ABOUT THE PHOTO ABOVE: That’s me in college when I was convinced I would be an author.

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The Sweet Spot

Ah, the Business of Writing

As I often tell would be authors, there’s writing and then there’s the business of writing. When I began writing novels in earnest 17 years ago, I had one model in mind: I get an agent, the agent gets me a contract with a publishing house, my book is a hit.

As for that model, I made it to the first step twice and almost to the second. Yes, I expended a lot of energy trying that route and querying indie presses.

Ah, but the industry has changed with eBooks and the ability to self-publish successfully. So for the past year I’ve been doing it myself with the encouragement of a fellow author who’s been successful at it.

(By the way, my lack of success achieving that model didn’t stop me from writing even though until last year, I had full-time jobs as a journalist. Besides the three I have published, I have three other adult novels, a middle grade series, a bilingual series for young readers, plus a mystery I’m working on now.)

I’ll say up front self-publishing is a lot of work. And the big lesson I learned from the first novel is that I need help marketing the second.

Here’s what I’ve done in the past year. I published in paperback the first of a bilingual series for young readers, The Cousins and the Magic Fish/Los Primos y el Pez Mágico, with a translation by another author friend Teresa Dovalpage. It’s a bit of magical realism with characters one might find in Northern New Mexico where we live.

Next came Peace, Love, and You Know What, a fun romp inspired by my own experiences in college, in eBook and paperback.

Did I make any money on Peace, Love, and You Know What? In terms of what I dished out, I would say I broke even. Of course, I’m ignoring the reams of paper and printer ink, plus the countless hours I spent writing and rewriting the novel.

Admittedly, the writing and rewriting bring me such great pleasure, so I am still ahead.

I am grateful to those who have read the novel and even posted reviews because they enjoyed it. (It has 11 five-star reviews that were unsolicited.)

I just released The Sweet Spot, the first of my hilltown novels. (I’ve included the synopsis below.) For the paperback, I opted this time for a matte cover, paid for an image I felt represents the novel’s contents, and chose a slightly bigger font. As I’ve posted before, I read and reread that novel countless times as my own editor. Of course, my designer worked her magic. It’s a pretty book for those who like paper in their hand or on their screen.

I followed suggestions of having a great cover and posting social media leading up to the launch and after. The blog posts on my website featured characters and themes with excerpts from the novel. I scheduled a reading in Taos, where I live, for later this month. Copies of my novel are in the local stores.

So how’s the business of writing going? I’d say on the modest side. But this time, I don’t plan on being so stubborn about it.

Upon the recommendation of yet another author friend, I have turned to BooksGoSocial, to get the word out. This outfit, based in Ireland but with an office in the U.S., aims to gives an author’s book a much broader reach via social media than certainly I could ever muster at what I believe is a reasonable price. (My attempts at Kindle and Facebook ads were flops.) It also offers training in marketing via social media.

The BooksGoSocial promotion for my novel The Sweet Spot started March 10. They will be tweeting the heck out of it and giving advice on what I can do. I will let you know how it works out. My mission: more readers and income from my writing.

By the way, I am giving a presentation on publishing options at the inaugural Taos Writers Conference by SOMOS, the next day, March 11. I will be glad to pass on the lessons I’ve learned.

As promised, here’s the synopsis for The Sweet Spot:

Edie St. Claire is smack in the middle of what’s going on in Conwell: her in-law’s general store, the Do-Si-Do Bar, and this small town’s biggest scandal in years.

Her father is a crusty so-and-so who runs the town dump. Her wisecracking aunt is as fiery as her dyed red hair. Both live next to Edie and her young daughter.

Edie is a woman on the go, pretty and direct, but she holds onto an old sadness: the death of her husband in Vietnam. She tries easing her grief with his married brother, Walker.

But when the affair comes to a tragic end, Edie does her best to survive the blame with the help of her rough-sawn family and a badly scarred man who’s arrived for his fresh start.

Here’s the link on Amazon:The Sweet Spot

 

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The Sweet Spot

What She Feels

Real people have real feelings. And since the characters of my new novel The Sweet Spot are real to me, I believe it applies to them.

Actually, the novel is filled with emotion. Love. Joy. Humor. Grief. And then there’s the ugly stuff. Jealousy. Anger. Hate. Oh, there’s more than that certainly.

But let me focus on Edie St. Claire, the novel’s main character. She’s a young widow who still grieves for her husband, Gil, who was killed in Vietnam eight years earlier. (The novel is set in 1978.) I don’t blame her. He was a sweetheart of a guy. I should know. I created him.

They were high school sweethearts who married young. Gil was taken by Edie’s fun-loving spirit. She adored his tenderness. They would have had a wonderful future together, except he pulled a low number during the 1969 lottery and had to go to war.

I’ve never been a widow. But the blessed part about being a writer and a person with a creative mind is that I can imagine it.

When The Sweet Spot starts, Edie raises their young daughter by herself. She does her best, whether it’s helping her crusty old father or her fiery aunt who live next door. Still, she knows how to have a good time, whether its playing softball — the camaraderie and banter among her teammates are a lot of fun — or hanging out at the local watering hole, the Do-Si-Do Bar. These are simply ways for her to escape her grief.

Then, there is her affair with her married brother-in-law, Walker, who could never replace his brother although he sure keeps trying.

I can’t give away the rest of the book, but things turn out badly for Edie and Walker.

Now Edie must deal with different emotions like shame, hatred and pride. How does she handle them? Let’s say I’m rooting for her.

Want your copy of The Sweet Spot? It available on Amazon as a paperback or eBook. Here’s the link: The Sweet Spot on Amazon. If you enjoy the novel, I’d love a review. Thanks for your support.

ABOUT THE PHOTO ABOVE: I’ve become hooked on making sourdough bread this winter. I was inspired by Michael Pollan’s book and documentary series Cooked. I follow his recipe, which takes two days as long as you have an active starter. The bread keeps getting better and better as I learn. Sort of like writing.

 

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