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The Sweet Spot, Western Massachusetts

Read The Sweet Spot for free

Before Isabel Long, there was Edie St. Claire, the lead character in my novel, The Sweet Spot. Edie doesn’t solve mysteries like Isabel. She’s not part of a series. But she gives readers a different take on the hilltowns of Western Massachusetts that I love to write about.

And for three days — April 24-26 — the Kindle version was free on Amazon.

Before I tell you more about The Sweet Spot, I’d like to thank those who got their copy during the free weekend promo. The book did very well: #1 in Women’s Literary Fiction, #2 in Contemporary Literary Fiction and #8 in Contemporary Women’s Fiction. Now if people had paid outright for the book and those were the rankings, I would be over the moon. But I do get paid for each page if people who have signed up for Kindle Unlimited start reading the book. We’ll see if it pays off as it did when Chasing the Case, the first in my mystery series.

But back to The Sweet Spot

Edie’s family has lived in the town of Conwell forever it seems. They’d what I call rough-sawn. Her father runs the town dump. Her aunt, who lives next door, has no brakes on her opinions or mouth. And Edie is usually in the middle of whatever fun there is in this town of about a thousand people — the Rooster Bar, the local softball team and her in-law’s general store. But still, she can’t let go of a deep sadness — the death of her husband in Vietnam. Gil was a sweetheart of a guy and together
they had a little girl he never met.

Edie tries to ease her pain via an affair with his married brother, but when that ends tragically, she attempts to survive the blame with the help of her family and a badly scarred stranger who arrived for his fresh start.

More about The Sweet Spot: The year is 1978. No cell phones or email or home computers. The Vietnam War ended officially three years earlier. The characters are locals, except for one important newcomer.

When I started writing this book years ago, I typed the first draft of The Sweet Spot with only one hand. It was summer 2004, and I was recuperating after getting hit by a car as I walked across the street. (The driver claimed he didn’t see me in the crosswalk.) The impact threw me into the air and broke my collarbone. It could have been much worse and I used that experience in the second book of the Isabel Long Mysteries Series when Isabel was banged up after a car crash.

I remember coming home and letting the words flow one after the other. I don’t know where they and this story came from, but there it was, 80,000 words later.

I also got quite good at typing with only my right hand.

Two agents tried to sell the book, and there it sat until I published it myself.

Those who have read the Isabel Long Mystery Series — thank you — will find a different tone in The Sweet Spot. Although Edie is a lively character, she’s not a smart-ass. She makes mistakes and pays dearly for them. But I sure love that woman’s determination.

Here’s the link to Amazon: The Sweet Spot

 

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The Sweet Spot

Let me tell you about The Sweet Spot

I published The Sweet Spot 18 months ago. I did it on my own — a long story there. And for three days, Dec. 7-9, you can buy the Kindle version for 99c/99p because I want more people to read it. (More below.) If I say so myself, it’s a damn good book about what can happen in a small town when somebody makes a big mistake.

It’s the first book I published that’s set in the hilltowns of Western Massachusetts where I now live. scan TSSAnd its characters, starting with Edie St. Claire and her rough-sawn family, have stayed with me like old friends, even the ones that are not so nice.

Let me share a post I wrote about Edie. Here goes.

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 who runs the town dump 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. The man 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.

BUY MY BOOK: Well, unless you know somebody who has a copy, you need to buy my book to be able to read it. Those who read Kindle have an advantage for three days. The Sweet Spot is also available in paperback. Here’s the link to Amazon: The_Sweet_Spot

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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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