Sno Cone Blue sightings

Reading The God of Sno Cone Blue on the train.Gillian Flynn, the author of Gone Girl, once said that she had yet to see a reader enjoying her novel out “in the wild,” but that she’d love nothing more than to be able to “tap someone on the shoulder and say, you know, how are you liking the book?” I second that! While I haven’t seen my book “in the wild” either, I have had a few close calls, the closest just last week: my husband, Ed, on the train home from work. He noticed a woman nearby cradling a book. Nothing unusual there, of course, until he saw the title: The God of Sno Cone Blue!

Immediately following, he sent me a “Guess what?” text. Wait–no, I take that back, he texted the whole family, our two kids included: “The God of Sno Cone Blue is right next to me on train(!) A woman is reading it(!)” The exclamation points are mine. No idea why Ed left them out.

Naturally, I couldn’t let a moment like that pass: only a few colorless words on my cell phone screen? “Take a picture of it, by golly!” I texted back. Poor Ed. (And, yes, I really did text “by golly!”) Then I added: “Ask her how she heard about it and tell her you’re my husband!” Again, poor Ed. And poor woman!

Ed did take the picture, as you can see from the image above. Turns out my dear reader was a good sport and, I might add, has very good taste in books. A few days later, she sent a note to my Contact page identifying herself as the woman on the train and saying not only had she finished the book, but she “loved it!” Her exclamation point, not mine. It was, in the end, a very fine point on a very fine moment.

Marcia selling The God of Sno Cone Blue at HomeWord Bound.While I’m at it, I’d like to highlight another recent Sno Cone Blue siting, though it didn’t come, as they say, out of the blue. It happened at a literary event for Community Partners for Affordable Housing (CPAH) when I had the honor of joining eleven other Portland-area authors at a book signing and auction at the Oregon Zoo. 18 years in the running, the event celebrates local authors while raising funds to help alleviate our local housing crisis.

 

Sheila Hamilton and Mitchell S. Jackson.

 

Portland’s own Sheila Hamilton, All the Things We Never Knew, was the featured speaker, along with Mitchell S. Jackson, The Residue Years. We all sold stacks of books, got a chance to talk to avid readers, and watched CPAH race past its fundraising goal, which was really fun to witness. The Portland Society Page even posted an article on the event which you can read here.

 

 

I saw many copies of Sno Cone Blue roaming the auction that night, and a few cracked open, but, alas, I can’t quite call that “in the wild,” even if it was at the zoo.

Finally, here’s a list, with links, of the other Portland-area authors at the HomeWord Bound event. I’m sure they’d love for you to check out their books. Happy reading! David Banis & Hunter Shobe, Arthur Bradford, Valerie Geary, April Henry, Bart King, Margaret Malone, Liz Prato, Ellen Urbani, Ruth Wariner.

You’ve got (snail) mail

Carol's letter up close.Imagine you open your mailbox, and inside, among the coupons and bills and glossy fliers is an envelope addressed to you. Not only is your name front and center, it’s written in trailing ink, with the subtle flaws of actual handwriting. The envelope is thin, but weighty enough, and you recognize the return address instantly: a friend, maybe a lover, or maybe an enemy. The rest of your mail suddenly can wait—the rest of the world can wait, for you’ve just gotten a letter, and nothing is more important than tearing it open to read it.

Dying art

I love letters, even if, in this digital age, they’re a dying art. What could be more personal and heartfelt, than a beautifully-crafted handwritten letter? I love the thought of them, the look of them, the feel and even the smell of them, not unlike the smell of a book. Which is probably why I chose letters as a vehicle for my first novel, The God of Sno Cone Blue. (The second novel is coming along well, by the way, though never as fast as I’d like.) Those of you who’ve read my first book know that my main character Grace receives letters written by her mother before she died. I guess I always knew the mother’s story would be a source of mystery and interest, but I never anticipated just how much. The main comment I get from readers? “I can’t wait to read the next letter!” And yes, I get it.

Dracula book cover.

 

Oddly, letters aren’t as common in literary fiction as you might expect. Epistolary novels that come to mind include: Dracula (Bram Stoker, 1897), The Screwtape Letters (C.S. Lewis, 1942), Up the Down Staircase (Bel Kaufman, 1965), The Color Purple (Alice Walker, 1982), The Perks of Being a Wallflower (Stephen Chbosky, 1999), and The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society (Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows, 2008) to name a few.

 

Modern conveniences

text messaging on a smart phone.

Few of us bother with handwritten letters anymore. I’m as guilty as anyone. The most I write by hand these days is a list of to-do’s, a phone message or a miles-long grocery list. Today we use laptops, phones, email and text, which hardly come close. Scant effort in, brings scant reward: What time you off work? Five—you? Five-thirty. K, what’s for dinner? I thawed a chicken. K, see you then.

Sigh.

Yet we know there’s no turning back. We’re out of practice—and patience. And we love the convenience technology brings. Even now, if I’m sending a letter the “snail mail” way by US post, I type it up, to spare my fingers, and print it out. Did I just admit that? Yes, I did.

For posterity

Letters spread out on a table.But I’d like the think there’s still a place for handwritten letters, where the effort we put in truly counts. What if, as in my novel, we wrote missives to the people especially dear to us, to be opened after we’re gone? What better way to say I love you than I cared enough to put pen to paper, recount these memories, express these sentiments, in my very own handwriting, just for you?

It sure beats an email.

 

–As always, please feel free to comment below–

 

Small victories and Annie Bloom’s

Annie Bloom's bookstore.Do you shop at your local bookstore? If you want to support local businesses, it’s the way to go. I’m pleased to say that my novel is now in Annie Bloom’s, a beautiful, independent bookstore in Portland’s Multnomah Village.

It’s a wonderful place to shop for books and cards and everything in between–now add to that signed copies of The God of Sno Cone Blue. (Psst–Don’t tell anyone, but the price is lower than what you’ll pay online.)

It’s a small victory for self-published authors like myself to get their books on bookstore shelves. The publishing world has been turned on its ear by the digital age of online shopping, not to mention self and indie publishing–all of which makes it more challenging for ‘brick and mortar’ bookstores to thrive. So, if you haven’t been to Annie Bloom’s or your local bookstore in a while, pay them a visit. You’ll find something you love and gain the satisfaction of supporting commerce in your own neighborhood.

Small victories keep us going

Writing, like many endeavors, always takes longer than you anticipate. You know that dinner recipe that promised a preparation time of 20 minutes, then really took 40–or 60? That’s what writing feels like. I’m in love with the story of my second novel, and the chapters are falling into place–If only I could get them to fall faster! Alas, one of these days I will finish that final scene.

The God of Sno Cone Blue.In the meantime, small victories with Sno Cone Blue keep me inspired. More than a hundred reviews on Amazon so far give it an overall rating of 5 stars. And the novel continues to be a favorite with book clubs. Hard to believe, but I’ve had the pleasure of making more than 50 author visits to book clubs to date, and I continue scheduling them. Somehow we always manage to have a blast. Wine, women and great conversation–what’s not to like? If you’re interested in scheduling an author visit (or Skype for long distance), drop me a line on my Contact page. I’d love to hear from you!

Back to bookstores for a moment and one more small victory. For my readers who are local, I’m the featured author at Jan’s Paperbacks in the Aloha/Beaverton area this month. On Saturday, February 27th, I’ll be signing copies and chatting with readers from 11am to 2pm. I’d love it if you could stop by. Come get a signed copy for less than the online price. Bring a friend–or a whole book club!

It takes a neighborhood to raise an author

Cedar Mill Living review of The God of Sno Cone Blue.Word of mouth here, a thumbs up there, either globally or from one street to the next, that’s basically what I mean by It takes a neighborhood to raise an author. My latest example? A full page review saying, “The God of Sno Cone Blue will tickle your funny bone, exercise your love for twist and turn mysteries and cause your mind to race with questions….” It’s written in Cedar Mill Living, a publication with a small but focused audience–and I’m thrilled.

Why?

This is how word spreads about a good book: from reader to reader, publication to publication, and book club to book club. Because I’m self-published I’ve had multiple doors slammed on me–figurative doors, yes, but nevertheless, slammed hard all the same; if they’d been doors of solid wood, I’d look like a boxer after a 10th round knock out. This is despite the fact that self-publishing is the future of publishing. The good news is, there are other doors in this ever-expanding neighborhood of mine that keep flying open to reveal excited readers.

Examples please

Book clubs are first and foremost. They’ve embraced Sno Cone Blue like a long-lost cousin at a family reunion. And I’ve had a blast sharing my story with them, chalking up 45 author visits to various groups so far, most of them book clubs, but also civic-centered and philanthropic organizations as well. The women and men I’ve met along the way have been impressive: doctors, lawyers, educators, accountants, artists and authors–even a former bathing suit model. (Okay, I admit, I peeked at her photos.)

And my readers never cease to amaze me with their questions and insights. Believe me, no two book clubs are alike, nor do they operate the same way.  I continue scheduling, so drop me a line on my Contact page if you’re interested in an author visit. If you’re near Portland, I’m happy to come in person or, if not, I Skype for long distances.

Beyond book clubs

The novel continues landing excellent reviews. Besides the latest endorsements in print, Sno Cone Blue is fast approaching 100 reviews from readers on Amazon. The vast majority (83 percent) rate it 5-star and the remainder, 4-star, which is awesome. Based on the comments you’ll see there, readers are moved by the story, appreciate the depth of the characters and, best of all, don’t anticipate the twist at the end.

What’s next?

For Sno Cone Blue, I expect doors to keep opening… In the meantime, I’m staying busy with novel number two, progressing chapter by chapter as I look ahead to estimate editing and publishing dates. In fact, I just finished a shoot for a promotional video you’ll see down the road, probably in spring. Mum’s the word at this point what it will look like, but suffice it to say you’ll get a good laugh out of it–at my expense! Hints are buried in the novel’s subject matter and description of its heroine, a skilled cliff climber.

The next novel will be called Skipping the Light, and it’s a new genre for me: Dystopian society in the vein of Hunger Games, with the added twist of time travel–yes!–written for Young Adults with Adult crossover. How’s that for a change from a mother-daughter novel?! Not to mention it will be the first in a trilogy to keep me–and readers–busy for years to come. I’m excited and passionate about the story, so stay tuned for news on the new book as the chapters add up.

Thanks for being a part of my neighborhood, and drop by again soon.

Looking for some good summer reading?

Here are a few books I’ve got my eye on. They come recommended by friends, book clubs I’ve visited with or from Amazon reader reviews, and they’re all pulling four and five star ratings. I’ve grouped them by genre (in no particular order) and also included links (the blue book titles) where you can purchase copies or read more about each selection.

If you have a recommendation you’d like to add to this list, either something you’ve read or are dying to read, please reply in the space below, and happy reading!

Crime/Thriller

The Girl on the Train, by Paula Hawkins.

The Girl on the Train, by Paula Hawkins is a 4 star psychological thriller with an unreliable narrator, which tends to add a few goose bumps for an extra chill. My book club friends call it a page turner. The story begins after a passenger, looking out from a busy London train, sees something shocking that she reports to police. From there on out, she’s entwined in the suspense.

 

Every Man Dies Alone.

Every Man Dies Alone: A Novel, by Hans Fallada. This one truly breaks the mold: a novel written in 24 days by a German who had just been released (in 1947) from a Nazi insane asylum. Both the author’s life history and the novel are harrowing. In real life, Fallada refused to join the Nazi party, was arrested and suffered later from alcohol and drug addiction. The novel he wrote is based on the true story of a couple who chose the simple act of writing postcards to stir rebellion, and the terrifying consequences that followed.

The Devil in the White City.The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair that Changed America, by Erik Larson. Not the stuff of pleasant dreams, this is the true story of a serial killer who used Chicago’s 1893 World’s Fair to lure his victims. It just so happens that my husband read it and has been talking it up for months. He’s in good company among Amazon readers whose ratings average 4 & 1/2 stars.

Literary

All the Light We Cannot See.

All the Light We Cannot See, by Anthony Doerr. Another post WW II story, this one is both a best-seller and a Pulitzer Prize winner. The novel follows a blind French girl whose life converges with a member of the Hitler Youth. The story and writing are described as beautiful and stunning.

 

 

Go Set a Watchman.Go Set a Watchman, by Harper Lee. While I’ve fallen in love with many books, my all-time favorite and the one I’ve read most (without tiring of the story) is To Kill a Mockingbird. Now comes the surprise prequel-sequel with the publishing of Lee’s long-misplaced manuscript. Is there any chance it could be as good as the classic? Very soon we’ll find out. The book is in preorder until its publishing date July 14.

Sci-Fi/Action Adventure

The Martian.The Martian, by Andy Weir. Imagine you’re an astronaut in the near future. You and your crew are sent to Mars, but end up getting caught in a horrific dust storm. Your crew escapes, assumes you are dead, and leaves you behind! The story is raw and told first person. Scanning the reviews, I’d say it’s best suited for readers who love science and engineering and don’t mind profane language.

Romance

Written in My Own Heart's Blood.Written in My Own Heart’s Blood: A Novel, by Diana Gabaldon. The story picks up where the Outlander series left off. The golden and gorgeous Jamie Fraser returns from a presumed death to find his beloved wife, Claire, married to his best friend. Of course, if you haven’t read the Outlander series–a time-traveling love story–you may want to start there. Either way, you’ll get a satisfying dose of history along with a passionate–and often raw–love affair.

Nonfiction

The Information-A History, The Information: A History, A Theory, A Flood, by James Gleick. If you’re interested in learning the history of communication and information theory, then you may want to dive into this hefty book. Written by a science and technology journalist, it begins with a look at African drums and proceeds to cover everything from the telegraph and telephone to modern computers. It’s also chock-full of biographical information on a multitude of inventors.

Killing Patton.Killing Patton: The Strange Death of WW II’s Most Audacious General, by Bill O’Reilly and Martin Dugard. Part of the bestselling “killing” series, this book looks at the final six months of the war, Patton’s crusade against communism, his contentious relationship with General Eisenhower, and the seemingly low impact car accident that killed a tougher-than-nails general, asking the question: Was Patton assassinated?

Young Adult

Paper Towns.Paper Towns, by John Green. I enjoyed this author’s The Fault in Our Stars so much, I’d try anything he writes. Green is smart, witty and so honest in his prose, that his YA books end up with huge cross-over to adult readers. This story centers on a teenage boy and his childhood best friend, Margo, whom he’s been in love with all his life. Margo, who’s been distant for years, suddenly reappears, begging him to go on an all-night spree, after which she disappears again. The question thereafter: What has happened to Margo?

Golden.Golden, by Jessi Kirby. Another young adult choice, this one chalking up a 4 & 1/2 star rating a year out of publishing. This is the story of a high achieving high schooler who’s never been kissed or broken any rules. But her life takes a turn with one final school assignment that has her unravelling her town’s biggest mystery.

And one final category: I’ve read it, of course, but…

The God of Sno Cone Blue.I’m listing my own novel, The God of Sno Cone Blue, to extend the offer for an author visit or Skype with any book clubs interested. A little more than a year after publishing, I’m thrilled to report the book has 84 reviews on Amazon and is pushing a 5 star rating. So far, I’ve visited with nearly 40 book clubs and groups, and we always have great fun. I’m scheduling through the summer and fall, so drop me a line on my contact page if you’d like to get on the calendar. Then again, you don’t have to be in a book club to read it. 🙂

Thanks for stopping by, and, again, if you’d like to recommend a book, simply click on reply below.

A California writer and former prosecutor reviews Sno Cone Blue!

The God of Sno Cone Blue with BRAG Medallion.The latest about my novel appears online at The Review:

…rarely have I  found a piece of literary fiction as compelling as The God of Sno Cone Blue, a B.R.A.G. Medallion honoree. As suggested by the title, the book is a masterpiece of visual imagery but it is also a penetrating commentary on the human condition. It is a showpiece not only in the quality of its writing but in the author’s management of its sensitive content.

 

The reviewer goes on to say

When I learned it had been a selection of the Mother and Daughter Book Club, I was apprehensive it was going to be a two-hankie family saga, but it is far more complex than an intrusion into the misadventures of a dysfunctional family. It is a two-tiered mystery with a built-in tragic love story. Thanks to the author’s wordsmithing, none of the twists in plot seem contrived. Since one level of the story unfolds in the form of letters sent at intervals from a long-dead mother to her coming-of-age daughter, I expected a heavy dose of the paranormal. However, while the novel is highly inspirational it is not fantasy. The God of Sno Cone Blue is not a ghost story. Its devils are flesh and blood.

The writer is no slouch

Linda Root is the reviewer, a fascinating woman I would love to meet. As you’ll find online, she is the distinguished prosecutor of 140 trials, two of which became featured episodes of the TV series The Prosecutors and Arrest and Trial. She’s also the author of several historical fiction novels (see links below), has taught writing at the law school level, and writes reviews (along with other accomplished authors) for The Review.

Her writeup on Sno Cone Blue is not only thoughtful and lengthy, but also beautifully written with fine literary sense. Rather than attempt to paraphrase, I’ll include another excerpt from her review of my book.

More from Linda

While Grace is always the focus of the plot, both her story and her mother’s are populated with rich characters of considerable complexity, including one of the most despicable villainesses in my wide reading and personal experiences. The author’s mastery of the descriptive phrase allows the most jaded reader to build an almost uncanny desire to see Sharon and her progeny avenged.

It’s hard to know what to say except that I am deeply honored.

If you’d like to read the entire review, you’ll find it, plus The Review’s giveaway of a signed copy of Sno Cone Blue here. If you’d like to see more about Linda and her books, access her Amazon author page. Are you in a book club that would like a personal author visit or Skype? Just drop me a line on my Contact Page.

–Thanks for reading and, as usual, your comments are welcome! Just click Leave a reply below.–

Sno Cone Blue highlighted in another newspaper!

Southeast Examiner article on The God of Sno Cone Blue.“The emotional tug makes it an ideal book club read,” says The Southeast Examiner, and the words ring true as I continue visiting with book clubs. (Drop me a line if you’d like to schedule a Skype or personal author visit.) As the article points out, the success of The God of Sno Cone Blue “has been largely through word of mouth.” And what better way?

I talked with reporter Midge Pierce Continue reading

KXL stories on Sno Cone Blue!

Rosemary Reynolds at KXL radio station.In case you missed it on Portland’s KXL Radio, here’s the audio of Rosemary Reynolds’ coverage. She filed two reports, short and sweet, on The God of Sno Cone Blue. Continue reading

Sno Cone Blue on Portland radio!

Rosemary Reynolds at KXL radio station.Tune in to KXL (FM News 101) this Thanksgiving Day afternoon for a story on The God of Sno Cone Blue. I had a great time talking with veteran radio reporter Rosemary Reynolds about my novel, her voice so familiar, it was like chatting with an old friend. Continue reading

All I need to know I learned at the market

View of a holiday market with jewelry.The best lesson? How to see “No” as a positive, and I mean a really big positive. I’m talking sales and marketing, looking for a job or, heck, even finding a spouse (if you happen to be looking for one). Continue reading