Author Q&A, Round Five

A desperate fit of giggles sabotaged this interview by Kid Five. We cut them off of both ends of the video clip and even so,  you can hear the clothes dryer beep at the end of our author interview, sealing our fate as forever amateur fireside chatterers.

We’re going to make some new ones up in Idyllwild, outside among the pines. After the weather turns. You know my feelings about snow.

Although, now that I consider it, it’s hard to have a fit of giggles when you’re about to freeze to death.

Probably.

In this episode, Kid Five asks me about what literary success looks like. Moms everywhere will relate to my answer. Have I ever Googled myself? What is the most difficult part of my artistic process? Do I believe in writer’s block? How much content did I have to edit out of The Great Loveda Brown before publishing it?

This video was supposed to be three and a half minutes. We settled for short, sweet, and to the point. Then we went to fold laundry. Enjoy.

Author Q&A, Round Four

 

Do you remember the moment you realized you could read? It’s an intense memory I have. I remember looking around, seeing words everywhere, and understanding that they were all trying to talk to me. I imagine it was something like the time Kid Five put on his first pair of glasses and looked around at the world.

“So,” he said. “This is what the place looks like. I’ve never seen individual leaves on a tree before.”

He was twelve. And possibly he’s never forgiven me for being such a clueless mother. He held this interview like a pop quiz and enjoyed it so much more than I did.

Fair.

In this episode, Kid Five and I discuss the time I first realized I wanted to be a writer, my “absolutely must have” item or ritual when I write, where I get ideas for books, and what new and interesting parts of history I’ve discovered during research. (Hint: those go into my newsletter!)

1912 is the year the Titanic went down, the “S” corset went out, and Boston’s Fenway Park went up. The first Eagle Scout earned his rank, Theodore Roosevelt passed the presidency to Woodrow Wilson, and Harriet Quimby was the first female pilot to fly over the English Channel. Life Savers candy was invented in 1912.

Have I always known that I was a writer? Is this a trick question?

This video is around three and a half minutes. This is how long it takes to brew a perfect cup of tea. Not a coincidence. Enjoy.

Author Q&A, Round Three

 

I wonder whether other author interviews are quite this eloquent. Sophisticated. Whether the author demands to breathe into a paper sack before-hand.

One fun fact about my series is that it evolved from a previous project, an unpublished manuscript titled Horizons. In it, I follow a branch of my family tree out of Texas and into the solitary mountains of New Mexico in 1888. Their struggle for survival and the years leading up to World War I were vivid, and the year 1912 rose to the top as an incredibly interesting time to live in America. I celebrated my fascination with historical fiction by writing an article for the NaNoWriMo blog.

My family tree has enough skeletons to populate several series. Facts that inspire fiction? In the words of the great Dave Barry, “You can’t make this stuff up.” Idyllwild has a tantalizing history just begging for someone to gild it.

In this episode, Kid Five and I chat about the research behind The Great Loveda Brown, how many hours a day I sit at my desk, which character in the book I relate to the most, and a childhood author that influenced me. Kid Five follows these with wanting to know whether my written characters have historically based people beneath them and asking what I would tell younger and aspiring writers at the beginning of their writing journey.

This video is around three and a half minutes. This is how long it takes to brew a perfect cup of tea. This is not a coincidence. Enjoy.

Author Q&A, Round Two

In today’s episode, we chat about online reviews, how I stare down a book before I begin writing it, keeping characters fresh in the series, and trying to decide whether Book One was harder to write than the rest and why or why not.

Questions that should have been asked, but weren’t, include:

Q: Mom, did you seriously put bad words in your books? Mom…(utterly aghast)
A: Yes. Beginning on page one. Three different ones in here. You can read them to yourself, silently. But you aren’t allowed to say them.

Q: But…
A: These are grown-up books.

Q: (muttering) I’m twenty years old, Mom.
A: Potatoes, Pu-tah-toes.

Q: Are there other things in there…that are strictly for grown-ups?
A: It’s the Wild West. Everybody has guns. There’s violence and murders because—follow me here—these are murder mysteries. Political correctness is just called ‘manners’, and good luck with that. They cuss when it’s called for. They will drink when they want because prohibition hasn’t been invented yet. And babies are made in the usual way because storks haven’t been invented yet. Maybe you should simmer down.

When Kid Five agreed to host my author interviews about my book, The Great Loveda Brown, he told me we had to set up in front of the fireplace.

“Fireside chats, Mom. It’s all the rage.”

“For presidents, maybe. Can I hold the cat in my lap?”

“You have to hold your book.” Eye roll. “Mom.”

If I ever have to do this in public, you’d better believe I’m bringing the cat for moral support. I will wear him around my neck like an airplane pillow.

This video is just over three and a half minutes. This is how long it takes to brew a perfect cup of tea. This is not a coincidence. Enjoy.

Author Q&A, Round One

 

Some day, I will hold readings in cozy San Diego bookstores and sign my books in front of Bubba’s Books up in gorgeous Idyllwild, California. Some day, I will land a book on Reese Witherspoon’s Book Club List, Hello Sunshine. Some day, I will interview and be interviewed with grace and clarity, and exude an innate sense of curiosity that skims the edge of wild enthusiasm.

But this is not that day.

If we are reduced to little chatting boxes for now, so be it. After all, I can fit an entire world into a little paper book. It’s no substitute for living in 3D, but it is a place to get you dreaming about “some day”.

It’s a start.

My dashingly handsome Kid Five held a series of interviews in our living room last week and the results wobble between, “Oh, I really wanted to talk about that!” to “How would I know?” He pulled questions from his phone and threw them at me then laughed as he watched me squirm in the hot seat, trying to explain things verbally that are so much easier to explain in Times New Roman.

In today’s episode, we chat about the book blurb, the book cover, and choosing three words to describe The Great Loveda Brown herself.

Each video is around three and a half minutes. This is how long it takes to brew a perfect cup of tea. This is not a coincidence. Enjoy.

The Top Five Blogs of 2020

As if you couldn’t evacuate 2020 fast enough, here are some parting stories to keep you company till midnight.

The five most popular posts of the year according to my website stats are:

Five: The Maelstrom. Appropriate word for 2020, little did we know in February.

Four: Seattle Shenanigans. This was our first and only trip for 2020 (sob), but we all made the most of it.

Three: Murder Mystery Mayhem. We all began the Loveda Brown series together, and it’s been quite a ride.

Two: Mother’s Day Hotline 2020. In appreciation of moms in the weeds. Ain’t no hood like motherhood.

One: The Bottomless Bookshelf. I love that readers keep coming back for recommendations! What was your fave read this year? Add it to the comments.

And now, because I just can’t help myself:

The 2020 Christmas Newsletter

When Covid broadsided us in March, my family members reacted each in his own way, but that didn’t stop us from doing things. Special things. Things we just didn’t see coming…like this watercolor by Kid 5.

Hubby bought groceries. He bought them until our cupboards exploded and I took his Costco card away. Then he bought blocks. Eighty-pound keystone wall-building blocks. He hid his credit card from me and he won’t stop bringing more home. Hubby is building the Great Pyramids on our hillside property with his bare hands. Obviously, he has a better chance at stopping gravity than stopping any of 2020s dumpster fires.

I picked up a sledgehammer and demolished the master bathroom. All of it. I ripped the flooring out and you can stare into the basement if you don’t mind the funny smell. I left nothing standing but the toilet, only you can’t get to it because the floor is gone. This is fine because, conveniently, there’s a toilet paper shortage. I ripped out the dry-rot—the nasty slime that no one could see, but I knew it was there—because there was a lot of it swirling in the global atmosphere that I couldn’t reach.

Some day, Hubby will stop building walls and build us a bathroom.

But this is not that day.

Kid Numero Uno, about to turn a whopping thirty years old, created a plethora of art for people. Art makes people happy. That’s a big deal in 2020. He lives in L.A. and has gone all adulty on me. He calls on the regular to make sure we’re all healthy, wears his mask, visits people outdoors six feet apart, and to really understand the level of his shocking behavior: he exchanged Christmas presents with us. This is unheard of and I’ve asked him repeatedly to take his temperature and read me the little numbers on the thermometer.

Senorita Dos Equis, on her way to becoming The Most Interesting Teacher in the World, went back to school for her master’s degree in Education: Learning & Technology. She also works in the local school district: “I don’t always zoom with kindergartners, but when I do, they take naps on camera and there’s not a thing I can do about it.” I can’t help feeling like this is some new level of Jumanji where juggling swords on a unicycle will be required. I hope she wins.

Tres Leches Mija ghosted on us. She lives less than a mile away, but the only proof she’s alive is when she sends me hilarious memes at two in the morning. Although her plans with her sidekick, Alastor the Wonder Dog, were curtailed (haha), the two managed to win ribbons (Best in Class for “Who’s a Good Boy?”) and are in training to join CARDA as a search and rescue team. He’s already snoofed up plenty of hotdogs and rescued cats from boredom, so glory is in their future.

Quatro Corazones split the year four ways: college, work, girlfriend, and a brand new car. He passed his classes. He was promoted into a full-time position at work. I’m not sure his girlfriend knows that the Toyota 4Runner is for camping and boys’ trips, but we’ll do coffee soon and talk. He had his blood drawn last week and texted me: “I blacked out. But got a cookie.” Me: “Never watch!” Him: “I didn’t, I just tilted my head for a second and I couldn’t see anything. Good news tho, I don’t do drugs.”

Me: “Whatever. Just try not to slurp up any Covid while you’re in there.”

Cinco de Mayo Mijo is currently the favorite kid because he stays home and feeds me. He rode the restaurant industry rollercoaster all year, and it taught him that food could be used to steal car keys from parents. “Mother dear, I see that you are typing sideways and about to fall onto the floor on your face. Could it be that you haven’t eaten in three days in your effort to MAKE MORE WORDS?” Then, he slips a grilled cheese sandwich with a tiny dill pickle nose and a ketchup smiley face on it in front of me and runs away with my car key. I don’t even care where he’s going. I lick ketchup from my fingers and keep typing.

These are great life skills. Why he insists on staying with college, I don’t know.

Covid-Kitty Furrybutt Smoochin’ Sugarloaf Whiskerboy is doing fine, thanks. He misses his life on the street and plays Ninja-paws in the back alley once in a while, to hone his tough guy persona. I carry my scars with pride. I want to go on record as saying, “When the animals in this family get more stocking stuffers than the actual kids, it must be 2020.”

We’re all leaning a little sideways, and that’s okay. I celebrate your own flavor of crazy this holiday season and lift a virtual cuppa with you as we farewell 2020.

It’s been one heck of a ride.

 

Looking for Loveda Brown

 

Will the real Loveda Brown please stand up?

I spent the weekend holding interviews for my murder mystery novel. I’ve already hired an editor. A book cover designer is currently on board. The folks at Amazon don’t know what’s coming and frankly, I’m excited to walk into their site and let them know. Pinkies up.

No, the interviews of the moment are for the enviable honor of being on the front cover of my books. So many applicants. So little time.

Here’s the advertisement:

Wanted: Image of Loveda Brown, heroine of a new murder mystery series set in Idyllwild, California in the year 1912. Must own simple historical clothing and aura. Visual of face not necessary but an independent and saucy attitude in both features and pose must be apparent.

Hairstyle must be up, hat or pompadour optional. Visible button-up shoes a plus, and must own a pocket watch. Long term gig. Should be available for multiple books into next year and have the flexibility to change up clothing colors or share space with a variety of other characters or props, as needed. Should also be comfortable being reframed to a 5’4” height and a curly brunette.

Extra consideration will be given all applicants who can quote movie lines from Pollyanna, The Great Race, The Music Man, Somewhere in Time, or Season One of Downton Abbey.

Applicants who receive a call back will be asked to demonstrate ability to embrace dirt, gallop on a horse, drink tea, and shoot with both a pistol and a rifle.

It’s not much to ask.

Thousands of interviews later, I am down to the final five. This week, I put them through their paces, and may the best lady win! Stay tuned!

Don’t miss the fun of our cover reveal! Sign up for the Newsletter.

The Boxes

God is in it all. The mundane, the crazy, the life-altering zesty life things that come at us every day. But how often do we see it? This blog was about sorting boxes but the God Echoes would not stop coming. They are in italics. You can read this piece with them, or without them, either way.

Boxes. Boxes and boxes. In these boxes are memories. Baby shower cards and diplomas and finger paintings. Coins and yearbooks and a newspaper from the day each child was born.

I am not a saver by any stretch and my beloved children will tell you that I am practical to a fault. So why are there so many boxes on my dining room table?

In all fairness, I blame my mother.

Back in ye olde days of April, when the world was ending, my mother’s somewhat panicky voice – the one that lives in the back of my head – spoke up:

What if?

What if I lose the last fifty years of memories to fire or earthquake or some other chapter of Revelation? To locusts or rats, or *gasp* outdated tech?

What if the world ends and I haven’t organized it yet?

We can’t let that happen.

And so, in April, I gathered every box from the basement, attic, and closets. Cleared out under the bed and emptied my cedar chest with one goal in mind: turn all of this overwhelming why-did-I-save-that pile of flotsam into a future-proof time capsule.

A little Noah’s Ark.

When the world as we knew it was going to end, God thought it was important to bring the past forward into the new future, too. My fifty years counted. Noah’s 600 years counted. For better or worse, we can’t act like they didn’t happen. God does not erase our past, He offers a better future. The mosquitos and the ants were on the ark.

I opened the first box and lifted out an infant onesie, covered in tiny yellow bumblebees, stained on the front, snaps in place, and I was undone.

And now I know how Noah must have felt on the other side. And why he needed a drink. We don’t get to go backwards. Be still, my heart.

The child that wore this tiny scrap of fabric is no longer interested in it, but I was transported instantly to a place where he was. I was holding the memory for him. Literally.

If there are parts of our past that are too heavy to carry, poop that happened in the infancy of our relationship with Him, entire boxes of memories we would rather forget, know that He holds those closest to His heart because it represents how much you’ve grown. He wouldn’t trade that journey for anything.

My memories will never mean as much to anyone else as they do to me. And that’s okay. I would like to keep them, please, just not in so many boxes.

It’s nice to know God has an attic that stretches to infinity. I’ll let Him keep the boxes.

The next generation has no concept of my anxious task. Their memories go directly to the cloud.

You see? Safe. Likely decorated that attic door with a rainbow or two. Typical proud parent.

Mine are in a cloud, too. A dust cloud. I march my memories, two by two, across the scanner, and this, too, results in another memory.

The Year Mom Sorted the Boxes.

It took Noah over a hundred years to pull the ark together. He probably paced himself. I guess I shouldn’t whine about six months.

The little time capsule, filling and thrilling, reminds me that life is full of good memories when you stop and pay attention to them.

And now I can carry them on a lanyard around my neck, close to my heart.

Mom always said, “Look where you’re going.” Since the past is not where I’m going, I will only spend a little more time looking down instead of up. Whatever happens next, my past and my future sit safely in the cloud. And we will not be forgotten.

He gathers the lambs in His arms and carries them close to His heart. Isa 40:11

Covid Kitty Campaigns

 

For everyone who’s not quite themselves right now, I offer this cute picture of a cat. Because cat photos are the only thing left in America not full of controversy and political connotations. You can’t have a pet elephant or a pet donkey or let’s put it out there – a dog – these days because people will form immediate conclusions about what you probably eat for breakfast and I just can’t handle that level of stereotyping.

Stop judging me.

I did not ask for this cat, yet the cat is here. In my house. Shredding my curtains. Turning his elegant little whiskers up at the expensive canned cat food I was told I had to feed him. I worry every single day that he will push his way through our second-story window in his effort to eat a woodpecker flying by and while I am eager to feed him the feathery treat, I also don’t want to see the cat splat.

This cat is now personal.

I have some basic questions now that I own a cat.

But mostly I want to know whether cats have the same rights as dogs. For years I’ve thrown a little hissy fit when I see dog owners bring their dogs into the grocery stores, riding in the front of the cart like a kid. They strap the dog’s leash to the table leg in the patio of the cafe and never ask if anyone at the table next to them has a dog allergy. Or is maybe terrified of dogs. Assuming they keep their dogs on the leash, of course. They walk their dogs on the trails, watch them defecate, then mumble something about “picking that up on my way out”. Their dogs go camping with them, get pushed in strollers through the park, wear little “service animal” vests, are allowed to hump your leg and sniff your crotch upon meeting you.

You are supposed to take it for the love it is and say, “Good Doggy.”

Ahem.

While I am not proposing that a cat is the same as a dog is the same as an iguana is the same as a jackrabbit, I am suggesting that my cat should be able to party in the same circles. If my cat can play “fetch” and come when I call him and knows how to keep his little business in a litterbox, it’s only logical that he can go for walks on his leash, play at “dog beach”, or hang out with me at the swanky local cafe.

Wait.

Dog Beach? That feels a little species specific, don’t you think?

And those swanky little cafes have Pup Pops, Puppy Patties, yogurt frosted Pupcakes, soy ice cream cups, Canine Cuisine, and FREE PUPPUCCINOS. Kitty Menu much?

Nuthin.

Are you saying I have to go all the way to Minnesota to enjoy a cat cafe? And if I want to visit an actual beach just for cats, I have to go to Malaysia? Obviously, someone has to be the San Diego trailblazer.

Stop judging me.

Kitty + Harness + Catpack = Adventures

A Whole New World

One Small Step for KittenKind!