IT WAS MEANT TO BE

We recently traveled to southern California to attend the wedding of my husband’s nephew. While at my mother-in-law’s funeral, we learned of the wedding in San Diego and decided we would make the trip.

The decision to go turned out to be one of the best decisions we’ve made in recent years. There are times when the stars align, the heavens open, and serendipity ensues. Our visit proved to be one such time.

Since we were traveling so far it only made sense to see as many people as we could. Sixty years ago this month, when I was only four, my oldest brother married his college sweetheart, Joyce. My brother died ten years ago, but I have kept in touch with Joyce, who moved to Palm Springs several years after his death. I had been yearning to see her, so our trip would mean a chance to visit Joyce and see her new digs. Then there was the friend from our hometown who had been good friends with both my husband and another brother. His business is in Los Angeles. My husband’s cousin in Ventura was another chance to reconnect with a favorite relative. And finally, there was my very dear Sarah AKA S.R. Mallery who lives in North Hollywood. Was it possible for the two of us to meet in person after working together for years? I’ve edited and formatted most of Sarah’s books, most recently, Ellie & And the War on Powder Creek.

Wedding Day – Pacific Ocean roars behind us

The first part of the journey–the wedding–may have been the original impetus, but it may not have been the reason we went. Another family member who came to the wedding spent a day with us, mostly walking on the beach near San Diego. It turned out this person needed accepting ears to listen to his problems and concerns regarding a transitional period now facing him. We walked, listened, and hugged. We even found impossible-to-find parking spaces right on the beach (and for free) right when we needed it. Serendipity.

My very dear Joyce in Idyllwild

The visit to Joyce’s began in Idyllwild, CA, where she’d recently purchased a cabin in the mountains for the summer months. Cool temperatures, outstanding mountain vistas, and a rejuvenating visit with someone who has been a huge influence in my life. Joyce, who is eighty-one and laughs with ease, who practices yoga and lives in peace. We built fires in the huge stone fireplace in the living room. We made friends with Elvis, her Scottish terrier/poodle mix. And as we sat watching the flames in front of us one night, we felt the rumbles in our feet and heard the bomb blast outside–our first earthquake, a 3.3 minor occurrence, quickly over. We left from her home in Palm Springs after driving by Cary Grant’s former home and drinking beer while water misted over us at an outdoor bar on a 100 degree day. But, hey, it’s dry heat, right? No. It’s still hot, but the mists helped when the wind cooperated.

The other visits went well. We happened to plan our trip at a time when the friends in LA and the cousin in Ventura were present. The cousin and her husband had just returned from Australia and were headed out to Denmark in a few weeks. We caught them between their extensive travel schedule and even managed to meet two of their kids. The friend in LA only comes down from his ranch one week a month. That’s right, we picked the right week. Both visits cemented friendships and strengthened family ties.

S.R. Mallery and P.C. Zick do Hollywood.

And Sarah. What can I say about the phenomena of meeting someone who I feel is a good friend even without ever had hugged or looked at each other in the eye? It was wonderful. We just held each other at arm’s length for a few minutes before hugging for real. Then we went to the dining room where we were told to pick our table. Sarah and I chose a booth in the corner. A plaque on the table informed us we were sitting at a table where Walt Disney had often sat with members of his Imagineers team. They even carved some designs in the wood surface. Perfect because Sarah’s husband had been an Imagineer as a special effects designer. Both of our husbands have the scientific head for specifics and details, while Sarah and I are definitely the other end of the spectrum. Luckily for us, the two men bonded immediately and left us to our chatter about writing, marketing, and life. We couldn’t even stop to read the menu, but we had a lovely waitress who loved our story about meeting for the first time. She said it was like online long-term dating. All I know is the lunch ended much too soon, and we had to get on the road to avoid rush hour traffic in LA.

Our flights, both ways, were easy and efficient. Even our luggage arrived everywhere it should have arrived. And as much as I love Florida, I have to say, California wins the friendly tourist destination prize. Everywhere we went, we met helpful, kind, and friendly folks from our bartenders, waiters, drivers, flight attendants, and clerks. One day at Mission Beach in San Diego, we visited a beach bar with lots of craft beers. We had a couple and chatted with the bartender, Juan. When he gave us a bill, he’d only charged for one round. We pointed it out, and he said, “I just want you to enjoy your visit here in San Diego, so it’s my treat.” Can’t say I’ve had that happen at a beach bar in Florida.

And now we’re home, happy to be here, but extremely grateful we made the trip west. Sometimes, it’s just supposed to be that way.

 

 

TRAVELS ON ROUTE 66

Put down the pen someone else gave you.
No one ever drafted a life worth living on borrowed ink.
Jack Kerouac
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The Road Where Fiction and Reality Collide

By P.C. Zick (Originally appeared on Stacy Eaton’s blog Authors from Everywhere )

Jack Kerouac’s On the Road inspired me to take my own journey down the Mother Road in 2007. I knew I’d write something about the trip, but I wasn’t sure what it would be. I wrote some articles for the magazine where I worked at the time, but they were nonfiction travelogue pieces. They didn’t convey some of the hilarity and magic that happened when my friend and our two daughters hit Route 66, starting in Chicago and ending in L.A. nine years ago.

A year after the journey, I decided that fiction would be my vehicle for capturing the essence of the trip. I changed all the specifics, of course, but the spirit of that journey remained as I wrote Live from the Road, my tribute to Jack Kerouac and all road warriors who know the essence of any trip lies in the journey and not necessarily the destination.

The real story behind the novel Live from the Road began one night over a couple of beers at a local bar. It took more than a year to plan and pull off.

“You know what I’ve always wanted to do?” I asked my friend Joy one rainy night as we sat commiserating about our complacent lives. “I’ve always wanted to travel Route 66 from Chicago to L.A. But I’ve never found anyone who wanted to accompany me.”

“You’ve found her now,” Joy said, and thus began more than a year of plotting and planning our escape from our lives for more than two weeks on the road.

Romantic visions of Jack Kerouac and the open road, John Steinbeck and a dog named Charley, neon lights and roadside motels clouded our minds as the mundane details of the trip threatened to intrude on our starry-eyed dreams.

Our daughters, both in their twenties, asked if they could join us. We were astounded.

“Why would you want to spend your summer vacation with two middle-aged women?” I asked my daughter Anna.

“It’ll be a blast,” she said.

Joy’s daughter Hillary said something similar, and so we became a foursome of road warriors ready to set forth on one of the most historic roads in the world.

Simply saying “Route 66” conjures up visions of greasy hamburgers, neon signs flashing “No Vacancy,” characters out of a Sam Shepard play, and, of course, freedom to disappear into the gut of this country. Even though the trip occurred years ago, those visions still reverberate within my soul.

My journal became my companion on the trip, as well as emails sent to friends and family whenever we had the Internet. Serendipity and downright foolishness collided into one of the most memorable trips of my life.

Soon after the trip, I began writing the fictional version using the seeds of events from the journey. All I had to do was take a small event from the real trip and amplify it into a golden nugget of a story. Amazingly, there were many stories that never came close to appearing in the book because they were just too outlandish. Those stories remain sacred, only to be pulled out when the four of us reunite to reminisce.

Live from the Road—my fourth novel—became the first book I published as an Indie Author in 2012. My other books had been published traditionally. I even had an agent for a bit before becoming disillusioned with the world of publishing. This road trip novel also marked my return to writing in a very different world from the one I’d known. Since its publication, I’ve written nine more novels, with four more simmering on the back burner in my mind.

The characters from Live from the Road always repeat one ridiculous axiom throughout the story:  “Always head in the direction we’re going.”

That’s exactly what I continue to do every day as a writer. The world of writing and publishing is undergoing a revolution right now, and I’m happy to be a part of it. As I head in the direction I’m going, I’m writing and loving every minute of the trip.

May all your journeys be fruitful. And if you need to be reminded of the importance of enjoying the ride on the way to your journey, give Live from the Road a read. If nothing else, you laugh at the antics.

Excerpt from Live from the Road

 Chapter 1 – Lake Michigan to the Pacific

Route 66 – just the name conjures up visions of flashing neon motel signs, convertibles filled with carefree travelers, Jack Kerouac-like adventures, and John Steinbeck writing odes to a dog. Route 66 connotes movement toward unparalleled scenery, unexpected miracles, and dreams come true.

My best friend Sally and I heaped all those expectations on our own personal journey down Route 66 – the road Steinbeck dubbed the “Mother Road.” I’m sure the author never envisioned “mothers” such as us hitting the road to discover our own meanings of life. When our grown daughters decided they wanted to join us on our journey, we welcomed them aboard. From the beginning, I heaped plenty of expectations on that glory road. I’d been numb for five years, and I suspected my daughter lived in the same limbo. With Sally and her daughter, Ramona, as our companions, I hoped CC and I would be able to peer into the abyss of our sadness created when my son Sean died five years earlier. Whatever happened, I knew with a certainty my life would change during and after this trip. I never predicted it would turn all four lives upside down. It’s probably not surprising – the path Route 66 followed carried many lost and broken souls from the displaced Native Americans on the Trail of Tears to the Dust Bowl victims of the 1930s. Even Jack Kerouac faced his share of demons while traveling the Mother Road.

The road’s original goal – to link Lake Michigan to the Pacific Ocean 2,400 miles away – still remains, even though most of the original road does not. The four of us raced toward the charm of Route 66. We yearned to discover its magic as the glory road leading to salvation and the Shangri-La of America – California. We found the road paved, not in gold, but in broken pieces of asphalt and towns killed by the interstate. But amid the actual reality of the road, we found moments of inspiration and serendipity.

After months of planning, we flew from our homes in Florida to Chicago in early June 2007. When we landed at O’Hare Airport, I looked at my daughter CC with her backpack and sleeping bag on her back, torn black T-shirt advertising Eraserhead, dyed-red and spiked hair, and I knew the years had sped by faster than I ever knew possible. Recently divorced from her father, I was beginning a new era in my life as a 50-year-old single woman. I stared at CC, attempting to put it all together in my mind. Even though I didn’t look it, I felt as if I was the same age as my 25-year-old daughter waiting for her luggage to appear on the carousel. Was this really the baby I nestled at my breast all those years ago?

“Mom, watch out,” CC said as I almost backed into a stroller being pushed by a toddler. I looked down into the face of a tiny baby sleeping peacefully as the older sibling attempted to maneuver around the people waiting for the bags.

“I’m sorry,” I said to the mother walking behind the stroller and watching both her children carefully. “I wasn’t paying attention.”

“That’s all right,” she said. “I really shouldn’t let her do it, but she insists on doing everything herself.”

“Really? I wonder what it would be like to have a child like that,” I said as I pointed my thumb at CC. “This one has always done exactly what I have said.” I rolled my eyes.

The mother smiled at me, and then took in CC’s hair and torn shirt. She quickly looked down at her own daughter and then at the baby sleeping in the stroller.

“Enjoy them now,” I said. “They grow up so fast you won’t believe it, and then they’re gone.”
I turned away quickly so she wouldn’t notice the sudden tears forming. The words slipped out of my mouth without thinking much about them. Only when I heard them out loud did I realize what I’d said. CC was right next to me, but her brother Sean was not and never would be there again. I wanted to chase after that mother and tell her not only to enjoy, but also to hold onto them for as long as she could. It could be over in the time it took to tie their shoes.

“You okay, Mom?” CC asked. She was looking at me intently.

“Fine, fine. I was just remembering you and Sean at that age. It’s over so quickly.” I was fighting to keep control there in the middle of the airport.

“This trip is going to be good for all of us,” she said.

She gave me a quick hug, unusual for my daughter who usually abhorred physical displays of emotion. Luckily one of our bags appeared right then, and the moment passed.

Sally and her daughter Ramona stood on the other side of the carousal. I saw Sally’s bag with the pink ribbons on the handle go by. It was a gorilla of a suitcase – very hard to miss. Sally said she’d rather have one large suitcase rather than the smaller two or three bags the rest of us carried. Problem was she couldn’t get it off the carousal, so Ramona was left to recover it while her two bags passed by unnoticed. Thank goodness the gorilla had wheels.

Once we picked up our rental, a red mini-van, we loaded all of our belongings in the back. CC was the packer in the crew, and she told Sally that her bag would always have to go in first because it was too big to go on top of any of the other bags.

Sally took the driver’s seat – she always drove, and I never argued. It was her way of maintaining control. I took shotgun with the maps and directions and Route 66 books. It actually worked out better this way. I liked giving directions as much as Sally liked driving the engine. Ramona would be our tour guide as she read from the Route 66 books we’d been collecting over the past year of planning for this adventure.

“First stop is Wal-Mart for a cooler and two tents,” Sally announced. “Everyone keep your eyes peeled for a good exit.”

After settling in our hotel, we decided we would walk toward Lake Michigan and find a place for dinner and whatever else might grab our attention.

The full moon directed us downtown. We crossed over the Chicago River, reveling in Chicago’s architecture. Some dubbed it the capital of architecture and the birthplace of the skyscraper. Studs Terkel called it a “city of men.” And as I looked up at the dizzying heights of the buildings surrounding us, I could see why. We stopped often for pictures, asking people we passed on the sidewalk to snap a shot or two.

We didn’t know where we were headed until Ramona spotted a banner waving in the breeze over a balcony railing, advertising “Rooftop Dining.”

“That looks like the perfect place,” Ramona said as she pointed to the sign. “It’s even got a view of the Sears Tower.”

A small elevator meant for two people opened up in the lobby.

“Come on, Mom,” Ramona said when Sally hesitated to crowd into the small cubicle. “It’s just a short ride to the rooftop.”

“All right, but I’m finding stairs for the trip down,” Sally said.

Sally hated small confined places, but we crowded around her and exchanged one-liners until we spewed out to the rooftop, where a waiter stood ready for the energy of four females set loose on the road for several weeks of freedom. Freedom is just another word for doing whatever we pleased.

“I’d like to hear some blues or jazz tonight,” I told Sally as we waited to be seated. The full moon began its ascent over Chicago’s skyscrapers, providing a soft glow over our already glowing faces. “Johnny and I came here twice, but he never liked going to clubs.”

“Then we’ll do it tonight,” Sally said. “Anything is possible.”

“Do you really believe that?” I asked. Sally’s perpetual optimism never failed to amaze me.
“I have no choice but to believe it,” Sally said. “It’s the only way I can get up every morning and remain positive.”

The waiter, young, handsome and very Jamaican, was actually the bartender, but he had to fill in for the usual Friday night waitress.

“She had quite a hangover from last night,” he said. “So I’m going to sit you beautiful ladies right here where you’ll notice there’s an extra chair just for me.”

“I don’t believe it!” Sally said. “They have hot dogs on the menu.”

“Mom, you’re not going to order a hot dog on our one night in Chicago,” Ramona said.

“I most certainly am,” Sally said. “And I’d like us all to make a pact. No criticizing each other for just being ourselves.”

Ramona shrugged and CC rolled her eyes, but eventually both of them agreed. Then they all looked at me.

“It’s a part of my personality to make fun,” I said. “Does that count as criticizing?”

“You know what I mean,” Sally said. “If I want to eat five hot dogs for dinner no one is allowed to say anything.”

“What if it gives you gas and makes the rest of us sick? Can we say something to you then?” I asked.
Now it was Sally’s turn to roll her eyes. She ordered the hot dog with everything except sauerkraut.
“Does that mean I can’t tease you about all the hand lotion you put on your hands?” CC asked me.
“I have no idea what you mean,” I said as I reached around to my purse hanging from my chair to see if I had a bottle of Aveeno ready to apply when I was alone.

Our substitute waiter messed up the drink orders, but he was so cute and funny we forgave him. We ended up with an extra drink or two, mixing our red wines with the whites. Two margaritas, one with salt and the other without, magically appeared when no one had even ordered a margarita. It was that kind of night. The margarita glasses soon stood empty on a table overflowing with dirty dishes and empty glasses.

“So where can we hear some live music tonight?” Sally asked our bartender-turned-waiter. “We have a need of the blues.”

“You ladies couldn’t be blue if you held your breath for two days,” our fantasy man said. Even I laughed at that corny line.

He told us to head down to Buddy Guy’s Legends. Buddy Guy – the bluesman who inspired Jimi Hendrix and Eric Clapton – had a club on Wabash a few blocks away.

“Buddy sometimes sits in on a set or two, but no one knows when,” our waiter/bartender said. “He even comes here for dinner once in awhile.”

We didn’t care if Buddy was in the house or not; we just wanted to hear music live in Chicago. Sally and I headed to the bathrooms on the top floor while CC and Ramona raced down the four flights of stairs to the lobby.

All the toilets in the bathroom were close to overflowing. I chose the least full one which meant there was an inch from the water level to the top of the toilet. After I finished, I attempted to flush, and so did four other women who had come in behind us. The water in the bowl gurgled but didn’t go down. I shrugged my shoulders and left the stall. As Sally and I stood at the sink washing our hands, water began seeping out of all five stalls.

“Quick, let’s get out of here,” I said, not bothering to dry my hands so we could beat the other women to the small elevator.

I pulled Sally’s arm, and we ran. We jumped in the small box before Sally could change her mind.
As the door began closing, a hand reached out and shoved the door open. A small black man wearing a beret and a Hawaiian shirt entered the elevator behind us.

Sally grabbed her mouth and began gagging.

“Something the matter?” the man asked as the doors shut on the three of us now crammed together in the small space.

“We just had a trauma in the bathroom, and she’s claustrophobic,” I said.

“This place is notorious for overflowing toilets, and this elevator is more like a moving shoe box. Where are you two lovely ladies headed tonight?” he asked.

“We’re going to a club,” I said. Sally stood mute with her hand still firmly clasped over her mouth. “Some place down on Wabash.”

The elevator made a rumbling sound, and then jerked to a stop. Nothing happened for a few seconds. Sally moaned next to me.

“Now isn’t that something? I happen to own a place down on Wabash. Place called Legends. Ever heard of it?”

“That’s where we’re going!” I said. “Then you must be Buddy Guy.” I held out my hand, but Sally did not because she now had both hands over her mouth.

“The one and the same.” He clasped my hand then pulled me close for a hug as the doors opened onto the lobby where Ramona and CC stood waiting.

Buddy Guy continued holding me as Sally hurled chunks of undigested hot dog across the small lobby. CC and Ramona jumped out of the line of fire just in time.

“Been a long time since I had that effect on a woman,” Buddy said as Sally gasped for air and fell out of the elevator.

“Been a long time since I’ve done that,” Sally said as she reached for Kleenex in her purse. “I’m so sorry. Did I get it on anyone?”

“No, Mom, you hurled a pretty clean shot out the door,” Ramona said. “Not badly done either.”

“Route 66 here we come. This trip is off to a rip-roaring start,” I said as we headed out into the night with Buddy Guy as our very own personal escort. “I hope the old road can withstand the onslaught.”

“I’m sure you ladies will do it justice in the best tradition of road warriors everywhere,” Buddy said.

“On the road again, just can’t wait to get on the road again,” CC sang. “The life I love is making music with my friends. And I can’t wait to get on the road again.”

“You can really sing,” Buddy said. “You in a band?”

“Not really,” CC said. “Just fool around sometimes.”

“Let’s get you fooling around some tonight then,” he said.

The moon, large and orange, illuminated us in soft natural light as the lights of downtown led the way. The city of men merged with nature as we marched toward Lake Michigan.

“Ever notice how when the moon is larger, it’s actually smaller,” Sally announced.

Somehow, it made perfect sense on a night when sense had nothing to do with anything at all.

 

Also available in paperback!

 

#FREE FRIDAY

I’ve been running a “free” download campaign for my book of travel essays–both physical and personal–Odyssey to Myself this week.

Just wanted to let you know that today is the last day to download your FREE copy.

Click here to get your free copy today. Happy Friday!

Author Wednesday – Ebony Clark

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Today Author Wednesday takes a little bit of a departure and visits with Ebony Clark, the author of the children’s book, Sebastian Scouts . . . The 7 Wonders. The protagonist, Sebastian Scouts, and his friends take on an amazing adventure – and the chance to beat a world record – on their latest daring mission to see all seven World Wonders in three days. The book, for ages 3-10, is only available in hardcover, but at $9.99 on Amazon, it would make a fantastic gift for grandchildren! 

Click on cover to purchase hardcover edition

Click on cover to purchase hardcover edition

Welcome, Ebony. I don’t often feature authors of children’s books on my blog, so I’m very pleased to take a step out of the world of adult fiction and into the playful world of the child. Tell me a little bit about your inspiration. Who has most influenced your writing?

Children were the inspiration for the book but now, my two young sons (four and eighteen months) inspire me. I have always marveled in the wonder and boundless imagination and possibilities of a child. My hope is to foster that wonder (and hopefully wanderlust) for every child who reads my books. Often, I think children grow up too quickly. I hope to encourage and inspire children to be curious. Be adventurous. Dream big. Impossibly HUGE, and for as long as possible; they’ll have the rest of their lives to conform to the rigid constructs of reality.

Excellent. I love watching kids play, especially the youngest of them, who are still in the throes of life as magic. If you can inspire kids to keep that throughout their lives, you will have done a great service to the world. I sense that you’ll be writing more about Sebastian and his crew, so what will be the common thread?

The common theme is of adventure. Travel. Boundless curiosity. Every book in the series will focus on a world phenomenon, a country, a natural genre (space, oceans, etc.), and the excitement of becoming a citizen of the world.

Perfect. What made you choose this particular theme?

I’ve chosen not only to write about travel but also the incorporation of imagination because like I mentioned earlier, my hope is to foster wonder and wanderlust in children while they still believe that they actually can accomplish anything to which they set their minds – or imagination. I want to always cultivate their innate and infinite wonder, their sense of adventure, their curiosity, their limitless imagination.

I’m guessing setting must be important to your books.

The setting(s) is paramount; it is the sixth character in the books. Without the setting, Sebastian and his crew have nowhere to ‘scout.’

What kinds of techniques do you like to use in your writing?

For children’s books, I really like the use of rhymes. Not only does it make the content more palatable for the listener, but it also facilitates memorization. And since my books are what I lovingly refer to as ‘thinly veiled education,’ I use rhyming stanzas to very sneakily help children (unwittingly) memorize history, geography, science, and nature.

You trickster! I’m sure they’ll never figure it out. Are you planning to continue writing in the same genre?

Absolutely! As long as there are places to travel or wonders to explore, Sebastian and his crew will be there. The possibilities of the series are nearly limitless, like a child’s imagination!

I always tell writers they have to sell a book in twenty seconds or folks lose interest. So tell me the one sentence pitch for Sebastian Scouts.

Sebastian Scouts and his friends take on an amazing adventure – and the chance to beat a world record – on their latest daring mission to see all seven World Wonders in three days!

How did you choose the title?

Interestingly, the original title came to me in the middle of the night while sleeping, so I jotted it down in my phone. It was originally slated to have a young female protagonist with a very similar premise – going on imaginary adventures. But then I had my sons. So it was back to the drawing (writing) board for a title for the series that would feature a young male protagonist, with strikingly similar features to my son. Sebastian’s pronounced ears, for example, are one of a few little ‘Easter Eggs’ in the book to acknowledge my biggest (little) inspiration.

I get some of my best ideas while sleeping. I keep a notepad nearby just in case. How long do you estimate it took you to take the book from an idea to a finished, published?

Can I say ‘TOO DAMN LONG?’ If you ask my husband and my family, I’m sure that would be their answer. The idea and inspiration came to me maybe five or six years before I put pen-to-paper, so to speak. Then life, as it tends to do, got in the way of my best intentions. I got married … I had a baby … I started and left a lucrative career in sales and started my own business … then I had another baby. And I kept making excuses, kept procrastinating. Then – if I’m being completely honest and transparent – I wanted to have a third child. And my husband didn’t. So he set a few goals for me. Unfortunately for him (and fortunately for me), he underestimated my determination. One of the goals was to finish my book. He now admits that he expected that I’d hand him some folded construction paper with words and doodles. So my love of children LITERALLY inspired to me to stop saying and start doing. And incidentally, after exceeding each of the three goals he set for me, I added a fourth – to travel before having our third. So a trip to Spain is booked for this summer!

So a third child can’t be far behind, can it? That’s funny and a very good story to tell, especially when you read this book to No. 3. Is the book traditionally or self-published?

The book is self-published because, at least initially, I wanted to own and control its direction. I want to build my audience and brand before considering it dimensional enough for a publisher, if that even makes sense.

It makes perfect sense. And you may discover after all that the Indie Author route is still the best one for you. What is the message conveyed in your book?

Without sounding trite or overstated, I want it to encourage children to never stop dreaming, wondering, being curious. Maybe it should just be ‘Please – PLEASE – never grow up!’ since that is ultimately what I tell my boys every day. HA!

It will happen, but at least you’ll still have your books. And they will always be your babies, no matter the age. What is the best thing someone could say about this book?

The absolute best thing someone could tell me about this book is that it inspired them – it inspired them to learn more about the world around us. That it inspired them to travel more. That it inspired them to dream big – or – bigger.

Thank you so much for stopping by today, Ebony. You’re charming and well on your way to a successful career as a children’s author. My best to you on your travels and on the next child.

EbonyClarkAbout Ebony Clark: With a passion for weaving words and dreams into vivid imagery, Ebony Clark fosters the innate and boundless imagination, curiosity and wonder our little ones have about the world around us.

She has a degree in journalism from the University of Florida and with her insatiable wanderlust, she inspires little ones – including her two little sons – to become citizens of the world, following Sebastian’s adventures from space to sea, and every nook, cranny and creature in between.

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Author Wednesday – Rita Lee Chapman

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Welcome to Author Wednesday. Today I welcome Rita Chapman, or as she’s known in the writing world, Rita Lee Chapman. She added the “Lee” to her professional name so her books aren’t confused with another Rita Chapman who writes vampire stories. Rita’s first book, Missing in Egypt, is set in Australia and Egypt is a romantic travel mystery.ChapmanBookCover

ChapmanWinstonHer latest offering, Winston-A Horse’s Tale, is told through the eyes of Winston, the horse.

Welcome to Author Wednesday, Rita. I’m always interested in how fellow writers view their subject matter. I was intrigued when I heard Rachel Carson, author of Silent Spring, said she never chose a subject because as a writer, the subject chose her. Has this ever happened to you?

My second book, Winston – A Horse’s Tale, was the story I had to write. I have had a lifelong love of horses and wanted to write from the horse’s perspective, to try to help people understand what it is like when different owners have a different way of going about things, use different riding skills, or expect different things from the horse.

What message were you trying to convey through Winston?
I wanted riders to see things from the horse’s point of view, to try and look at why he does certain things which often stem from something that happened in his past.

What are you working on now?

My next book is a crime thriller, but I am only about four chapters in to it. I have had to put it aside for the moment to promote Winston – A Horse’s Tale.

Promoting is one of those necessary evils as are reviews. What’s the best thing said about one of your books by a reviewer?
This one, written about Missing in Egypt, I think says it all for me. “Good plot, good characters and well written. I look forward to her next book.”

That’s about the best that can be said about any of our novels. Bad reviews are also a part of the job, so what advice can you give to other writers about receiving a bad review?

Think about what has been said. Do the comments have any relevance? If they do, take them on board. If it is someone who is obviously jealous or nasty, quickly dismiss it.

Excellent advice. What’s your one sentence pitch for Winston?

One for horse lovers, from teenagers upwards.

How did you choose the title?

Actually, Winston started off as a grey called Monty. When I came to do the cover the photo of a grey horse I had in mind didn’t come up as well as I had hoped so I looked at the other photos I had, and he became a palomino called Winston!

What is the best thing someone could say about this book?

They enjoyed it!

If you could invite two other authors over to your house for dinner, who would you choose and why.

Kate Morton and the late Bryce Courtenay, both wonderful Australian authors.

 Is there one book or author with whom you identify or hold up as your standard-bearer?

I have only just discovered Brisbane-based author, Kate Morton. I read her first book Shifting Fog and just love her style of writing and the wonderful characters she created.

What do you do when you’re not promoting or writing?

I enjoy music, reading, playing tennis, walking and swimming. I live in a wonderful part of Queensland where I have the choice of walking by a river, a lake, or along the beach.

Thank you so much for stopping by today, Rita. I plan on giving Winston as a gift to several of my horsey friends.

???????????????????????????????Rita Lee Chapman lives in Australia. Her books are available through Amazon and Smashwords.

Links to books and social media sites

Missing in Egypt:
Amazon: http://viewbook.at/Amazon_Missing-in-Egypt
Smashwords: http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/263417
There is also a Large Print Edition at:
Amazon: http://viewBook.at/Amazon_Missing-in-Egypt-large-print

Winston – A Horse’s Tale:
Amazon: http://mybook.to/Amazon_Winston
Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/372140

Rita Lee Chapman website:  http://www.ritaleechapman.com

Book Review Friday – Split Second Lifetime

@PCZick

Book Review Friday – Split Second Lifetime by Denise Kahnsplit_second_cover

Music plays in the background of my life. Right now, I’m listening to Dixie Chicks because it’s just that kind of morning. Usually I prefer Mozart while I’m writing, but today it’s my Indigo Girls Pandora station where like-tuned musicians play.

I don’t know much about music except that I love it in all its forms. I dabbled with the flute in high school and college—still have an old silver plated instrument high on a closet shelf somewhere. I sang in choirs all my life until I reached the ripe age of eighteen and flew out of the safety net of my home. I love music, and I like to sing to it in the car, shower, and at my desk while I work. I love to dance to good music, which I do at my dance class and occasionally in the aisles of the grocery store. Yes, music lifts my mood, inspires me, and allows me the freedom to soar above the mundane.

That’s only one of the reasons I loved Denise Kahn’s Split Second Lifetime. The story revolves around music, which sits at the core of the novel. Kahn’s writing is lyrical and magical. Her main character Jebby is a music ethnomusicologist, and she takes the reader on a journey of discovery of the music of Uzbekistan in Central Asia. Jebby and her team are producing a series of CDs on native music from around the world. She meets Dodi on the plane to Paris before she embarks on her journey. The meeting is powerful, but the visions Jebby begins to see while on this journey are at once disturbing and intriguing. Those visions—set in the southwestern United States—haunt her as she attempts to figure out the connection. In Uzbekistan, it all comes together as she travels through the country with Dodi, her team, and escort.

Music creates the setting and influences the characters. Kahn’s descriptions of her surroundings are always at the forefront, whether in real time or in her visions of past lives.

The novel is rich in description, symbolism, and synchronicity. The two story lines—present day and past life exploration—eventually meld together as Jebby continues her journey in search of talented musicians and soul-lifting music.

I recommend reading this book if you are willing to transport yourself into an adventure beyond what can be seen right in front of you. Kahn knows her music and her setting, and she combines it all with a creative touch in her writing. I loved the story and the lyrical prose. I’ve already downloaded her latest release, Obsession of the Heart.

Author Wednesday – Denise Kahn

typewriter.jpg

Welcome to Author Wednesday. Today I’m very pleased to introduce Denise Kahn, an amazing woman and author. She was raised in a home filled with music; she’s traveled the world; and she’s a polyglot as she speaks five languages fluently. She’s held jobs with airlines and in the music industry. She incorporates all these loves and experiences into her novels. She’s written three novels so far: Split Second Lifetime, Peace of Music, and Obsession of the Heart. Peace of Music and Obsession of the Heart are part of a trilogy. They can be read as stand alones.  She is currently working on the third book of this series.OBS BookCoverImage Peace_of_Music_Cover_for_Kindle split_second_coverWelcome, Denise. I have so many questions for you, it’s hard to know where to start. So I’ll start with a very basic question about your writing, and we’ll go from there. What messages or themes do you try to convey to your readers? 

Spreading the power of music through words, as well as writing a good story that is both entertaining and informative.

Does this mean you incorporate this message/theme into all of your novels?

It seems that in everything I write music always finds its way into the pages.  I have always been in awe of this beautiful gift that is music, and have continuously tried to portray its magnificence and its incomparable power.  Music is probably the only thing nations have not gone to war over.  As in politics, nations might not agree with one another, but people of all countries still respect that other nation’s music.  How wonderful would it be to solve the world’s problems with music!  In all of my novels music is the ‘glue’ that keeps everything together.

That’s a very astute observation and so true. Music is a commonality we share with people of all races, religions, and cultures. With this in mind, how much of a role does setting play in your novels?

I lived overseas half of my life, in several countries in Europe, and traveled extensively.  Then I worked for the airline industry and did even more traveling.  I am sure that is why my settings are mainly in other countries, and from there characters of different nationalities unfold.

If you could invite two other authors over to your house for dinner, who would you choose?

Jules Verne and James Michener. I grew up reading their books, and we share a passion for travel and adventure.  Can you picture how much fun we would have between the poulet au champagne and the coconut ice cream!  But, as they are both deceased we would have to have this dinner in the ‘next life’.  However, contemporary authors would be P.C. Zick and Roz Morris, as I believe we have the same writing interests.  Of course, I would cook something amazing (love to cook), having thoroughly researched their favorite foods.

I like just about every type of food, Denise, and would be honored to sit at your table since I so admire your sense of description in your work. So since you write about music, do you listen to music while writing?

I like all music, well maybe Rap not so much, especially since you have to listen to the words so carefully.  It defeats the purpose of ‘zoning out’ which is what happens when I’m writing.  I get so focused that fireworks could be going off, and I wouldn’t hear them.  But my favorite kind of music is Spanish/South American (classical guitar/contemporary), but again, I love all music, from opera to traditional folk songs from different nations.  Something is always playing in the background.  I couldn’t imagine a world without music.  Something would definitely be missing.

I agree on all counts. I’m listening to New Age instrumental right now. I do love Latin rhythms, too, but when I’m writing I try not to listen to music with lyrics. If a movie was made about your success as a writer, who would play you? 

Meryl Streep because of her flawless accents (and who wouldn’t want to be played by the Great Meryl!?)  I am a linguist by trade and speak several languages, five of which are fluent, and all of them are with native accents.  By the time I was four I spoke four languages fluently, thanks to my dad, brilliant man that he was.  He knew the secret:  Expose your children to foreign languages at the earliest age possible.  They are like sponges and completely void of inhibitions.  I continue his legacy.  I always tell parents to speak their mother tongue to their child, especially if they are not from the same country.  If both parents are then I suggest the children watch cartoons, films and listen to songs from Spain or France, or whichever language they decide.

Good advice. Thanks for stopping by today, Denise. You’ve given me a thrill today because I can officially slip the word polyglot into this post.

Denise Kahn photoAbout Denise Kahn: My very first memory of life was the sound of my mother’s glorious voice singing to me, most likely a Brahms lullaby, and I’m convinced that is why music always has a delicious way of creeping into my writing and becomes one of the most important elements.

I spent twenty years in Europe because of my father, who was with the U.S. Diplomatic Corps, and my mother who was an opera singer. I worked mainly as a simultaneous interpreter and translator as I am a linguist and speak several languages.  I also worked in the airline and music industries.
I am a proud mother of a gallant Marine who served in Iraq, and among the members of our household you will find Louie the cat, so named because of his clawing love of Louis XV and XVI furniture, and surely thinks he must have been a fearless Marine in one of his former lives.

Links:

Split-Second Lifetime

Peace of Music

Obsession of the Heart

Website/Blog: www.4AGAPI.com
Email: Denise@4agapi.com

Twitter: @DKpolyglot

Goals 2013 – Mid-Year Review

By Patricia Zick @PCZick

It’s June and the mid-point for the year. I set my goals for my writing career back in January and have kept my eye on those goals as I’ve moved through the first six months of 2013. It’s helpful for me to see if I’m on track and what I need to do to meet goals not yet met. Two goals (#1 and #4 below) have been met so far this year.

Writing Goals for 2013

Goal 1: Launch Trails in the Sand. I published it on amazon and have a print copy ready to proof. I plan to do a big launch for the novel by the end of January.

As of June 9, 2013 – Trails in the Sand is published in both eBook and paperback formats. I’ve sold a mediocre amount of books through all the channels, including Amazon and Barnes & Noble. However, I am pleased with the sixteen reviews received on Amazon. I can only hope that somehow through this positive reviews, I’ll find a larger audience. I’ve been experimenting with different ways to price and market. I paid for an online book tour company to organize a book tour. At first glance it feels as if I wasted money because I didn’t sell many books or gain many followers as a result of writing seven guest blogs. I think I’d organize the tour myself next time. I’m proud of the book no matter how well the sales are going and that is the most important thing (she tells herself endlessly).

Florida's sea turtles saved from oil spill in Trails in the Sand

Florida’s sea turtles saved from oil spill in Trails in the Sand

Goal 2: Finish Safe Harbor. I started this novel in 2007 but stopped when I decided I needed to find a wildlife officer to interview. I left for the big Route 66 trip, which led to the creation of Live from the Road. When I returned from Route 66, I took a new job with Florida’s fish and wildlife agency and became very familiar with wildlife officers and experts. Now there’s no excuse not to finish the almost completed draft. I start by pulling out the spiral notebook where it’s housed and giving it a read. I always recommend that writers let pieces incubate, but five years isn’t what I meant.

As of June 9, 2013 – I’ve decided to rename it, either Native Love or Native Harbor. What do you think? I haven’t done much on this book, but feel I’ve been incubating ideas the past few weeks. I’m ready to start working on it full time.

Goal 3: Publish a book of essays on my travels. I already have a name: Odyssey to Myself. I have most of the pieces written in various stages. It’s a matter of pulling it all together into one cohesive story of my travels from 2004-2009 as I discarded an old life and moved into a new phase.

As of June 9, 2013: I haven’t done anything on this book yet. This goal may be pushed to 2014 so I can get my next novel published this year.

Goal 4: Pull together all of my gardening blog posts from my blog “Living Lightly Upon this Earth” into a book. I see it as a primer for gardening and preserving produce. Again, I have all the pieces here and there, I just need to pull it all together.

As of June 9, 2013: I’m happy to say that I’ve accomplished this goal. From Seed to Garden is now available as an eBook on Amazon.

From Seed to Garden

From Seed to Garden

Goal 5:  Read the pile of books on my desk, both fiction and nonfiction. Reading is an essential part of the writing journey. How fortunate for me to have a career that requires reading for improving my craft.

As of June 9, 2013 – Working my way through the pile on my desk and on my Kindle. I’ve been very good about not buying new books so I can catch up on what I have already purchased.

Goal 6:  Establish myself as a bestselling author. Every year this one makes it to my list. Here’s to 2013 as being the year it happens. For me, this goal refers to making a living as an author. I want to be able to pay more than the electrical bill each month with the proceeds from my storytelling.

As of June 9, 2013 – Still working on this goal. I believe with perseverance, my passion will not only satisfy me, but it will bring some monetary value to what I do.

How about your goals for 2013? How are they holding up?

Great summer read - only .99 cents for a limited time

Great summer read – only .99 cents for a limited time

 

 

Writing Goals for 2013

typewriter

By Patricia Zick @PCZick

As the new year approaches, I’m thinking about what I want to accomplish in 2013 as an author. Perhaps if I share these goals here in a public forum there will be more chance of keeping them. I’m writing this post from the road in Florida. I’ll return home on New Years’ Eve, refreshed and recharged from time spent with family and friends and the sun. When I return, I’m hoping I’ll be ready to tackle these goals, or I could come home with a revised list after time away. Travel always helps me focus.

I accomplished many of my goals for 2012. I began writing full time. I published a novel that had languished far too long in a desk drawer (Live from the Road), I began blogging on a regular basis and developed a modest following (thank you), and I finished Trails in the Sand, which is almost ready for its big launch at the start of 2013. The only goal that didn’t occur:  I didn’t become a bestselling author. . .yet.

Writing Goals for 2013

  1. Launch Trails in the Sand. I published it on amazon and have a print copy ready to proof. I plan to do a big launch for the novel by the end of January.3-D1web
  2. Finish Safe Harbor. I started this novel in 2007 but stopped when I decided I needed to find a wildlife officer to interview. I left for the big Route 66 trip, which led to the creation of Live from the Road. When I returned from Route 66, I took a new job with Florida’s fish and wildlife agency and became very familiar with wildlife officers and experts. Now there’s no excuse not to finish the almost completed draft. I start by pulling out the spiral notebook where it’s housed and giving it a read. I always recommend that writers let pieces incubate, but five years isn’t what I meant.

    manuscript waiting for its creator

    manuscript waiting for its creator

  3. Publish a book of essays on my travels. I already have a name: Odyssey to Myself. I have most of the pieces written in various stages. It’s a matter of pulling it all together into one cohesive story of my travels from 2004-2009 as I discarded an old life and moved into a new phase.

    Santiago, Chile

    Santiago, Chile

  4. Pull together all of my gardening blog posts from my blog “Living Lightly Upon this Earth” into a book. I see it as a primer for gardening and preserving produce. Again, I have all the pieces here and there, I just need to pull it all together.

    our garden

    our garden

  5. Read the pile of books on my desk, both fiction and nonfiction. Reading is an essential part of the writing journey. How fortunate for me to have a career that requires reading for improving my craft.

    just a few books to read

    just a few books to read

  6. Establish myself as a bestselling author. Every year this one makes it to my list. Here’s to 2013 as being the year it happens. For me, this goal refers to making a living as an author. I want to be able to pay more than the electrical bill each month with the proceeds from my storytelling.madwriter

 

In 2012, I finally believed in my success as an author. Perhaps that’s all that matters. The realization came twice. When I finished reading the final draft of Trails in the Sand, I cried happy tears because I loved the story I created, whether anyone else did or not. The second time occurred this past week. My husband was reading. He looked up at one point and said, “Now that’s good – that’s just plain good writing.” I wasn’t sure what he meant because I wasn’t paying attention to what he was reading. When I looked at him, I saw he had the proof copy of Trails in his lap, and he was tapping his pen on words I’d written. That to me is success, but I’d still like to pay more than the electric bill with my work.

Do you set goals at the beginning of each year? Does it help keep you on track?