Saturday, October 31, 2015

Sneak Peek Week! MISSING IN MANITOWOC #2

Hello all!  

I know on Tuesday that I promised you five days of previews of my new novel, which will be available on Amazon.com TOMORROW, November 1, and is available in print for in the Create space store RIGHT NOW BY CLICKING HERE.  Unfortunately, my beloved grandmother passed
away yesterday.  Thursday I was able to go see her one last time and she had a most amazing last day with family all around her. Her mind, though she was weeks away from her 99th birthday, was sharp.  Finally it was her body that wore out. She was actually a little miffed, I think, at God for not taking her on Wednesday when she collapsed in the bathroom, but God knew her family needed one more day with her. So tomorrow, Sunday, we put her to rest next to her husband of nearly 70 years.

That said, I am managing to give you a few more pages of MISSING IN MANITOWOC right now. I'm so excited to start on this journey with Nora Hill, a woman who has been tested by God in so many ways.  I hope you enjoy it too.

Again, this book will be available for kindle on Amazon tomorrow. I'm hoping all other digital platforms will also be ready to go today or tomorrow, and that includes Nook, Apple, Kobo...all of those.

Meanwhile, here's another few pages to whet your appetite!  Enjoy!

“Is that your Subaru?”
            I look at the mechanic in his coveralls. I wonder if his wife even attempts to wash the grease and oil stains out of the heavy denim union suit. Maybe she makes him leave it outside on the back porch.
            That’s what my mother would do. “Germaphobic” is a huge understatement for her dedication to avoiding all things filthy. Probably why she married a minister, thinking he’d never come home with anything worse than maybe a small purple stain from serving Communion too vigorously.
            She lived in a very tidy world, my mother did, until I came along. My two older sisters, born in her own image, never gave her a minute of grief. I swear, if you believe anything those three tell you, they were toilet trained immediately upon exiting the womb and never left a trace of themselves anyplace in the house.    Call it my creativity, call it a willful streak, call it Original Sin…I was that kid in every family who was always three degrees off. You know, the kid who always had a scraped knee. The kid who always spilled something at a family reunion or church pot luck. The kid who was always tearing a hole in her ‘Sunday best.”
 I never felt like I was born into the right family, you know?  At  my eight Christmas during the big family dinner with all the relatives there as witnesses, I asked if I was adopted. I mean, it’s a logical question. My sisters are seven and nine years older than I am. They are both tall and well built women. I’m short and frail looking. Kinda like one of those kids on those Christian Children’s Network commercials, the ones where kids are starving and have no clean water to drink, but a buck a week will keep them fed for a year.
So I asked the question. By the time I was eight I knew there was definitely something different about me that had little to do with my physical looks. It was clear, from the shocked reaction of those around the table, I’d struck an uncomfortable chord. True to my nature, however, I managed to spill an entire bowl of black olives on myself. So before anyone could think of a good answer to my question, the tension melted into laughter. Well, except for my mother. She dragged me into the bathroom to wipe the black, oily, juice off my Christmas dress.
My questions about why I’m so different from the rest of my tribe never have been answered. I dropped the adoption question that Christmas Day when Mom growled at me, “Don’t be ridiculous, Nora.” Some time ago I just accepted it. I’m that dirty kid every family has, the kid that is just never quite clean.          Or normal.
Since then I’ve put distance between my family and me. It’s better this way. At first, sure, they protested. I shouldn’t be traveling alone. I might get hurt. I wasn’t being safe. I would one day be found dead in a ditch.
“Dead in a ditch.” That’s my mother’s biggest worry for all of us. Didn’t return a phone call? “You might have been dead in a ditch for all we knew!” Came in late after curfew? “You had us so worried that you were dead in a ditch!” When I started traveling for work, that was her biggest, and only, concern. “Nora, you have to promise you won’t camp out in your car. I couldn’t bear it if you were found dead in a ditch.”
I promised her I wouldn’t camp in my car anywhere near a ditch. She didn’t see the humor in that.
 Sure she protested. I mean, I’m her kid, right? Of course she loves me. I’ve noticed, she has returned to her tidy way of life now that I’m not living there full time. She’s as happy as a clam. I don’t go home often. I don’t like to wreck her bliss.
            Wow, I’m off track. Now is not the time for these sorts of thoughts. Now is the time to get my car out of this garage and get out of this town before anyone recognizes me. Over the years I’ve changed my look, what woman hasn’t?  But I’m still me…no matter how hard I try to change the fact.
            “Yes, that’s my car.”
            The mechanic wipes his hands on his coveralls and stares at my car as if seeing something rare and strange. While Subaru Foresters aren’t that uncommon in most of the world, around here it is. It’s not a pick-up truck, and there isn’t a boat hitched to the back of it. I don’t have to dig too far in my memory bank to recall my high school days when everyone drove a pick-up truck. Everyone, of course, except for me. Back then, the Forrester was new, a gift from my parents for my sixteenth birthday. While not wealthy, my father was one of those rare people who just knew how to save a dollar and turn it into five dollars. Each of us girls, first Rose, then Lily, then me, got a new car on our sixteenth birthdays. Rose and Lily have long since traded their cars in for an upgrade, of course, but I’m still driving mine. Some call it loyal, some call it cheap. I call it not wanting to clean out the car and put my stuff in a new one.
            “Haven’t seen a Surbaru in a long time. Most people around here drive pick-ups and minivans. I do remember this one girl in high school…”  With that, the mechanic’s voice drifts off and he turns his attention back to me. He stares at me. Hard.
            I feel the start of a headache…the kind I get when I know something I don’t want to happen is about to happen.
            “Do I know you?”
            And that thing I didn’t want to happen is now starting. My headache is getting worse. We are about to get into an uncomfortable spot here. He’s recognized me.
            “Nora?”
            That’s it. I officially want to fall through the floor. I want to hide away and not continue this conversation. I’ve had this dialogue a hundred times with people who knew me growing up, but I have absolutely no recollection of them. I remember places, experiences, and feelings with super high-def clarity. I can recall names, lists and lists of names. But faces, faces I can’t remember at all.
            It’s not laziness on my part or a quirk I have. It’s not like those funny mental ticks we all live with, like how my brother-in-law never knows where his glasses are or how my oldest sister goes through the names of all of her kids before hitting the one she wants to yell at. It’s a medical thing. I have something.
My “something” has a name that’s a mile long: prosopagnosia. That’s what they call it on the health channel. Most people call it face blindness. Simply put, I don’t remember faces, even those of people close to me. If I see someone, and then they leave the room for five minutes or so, I completely forget their face.
            This includes my mother’s face and my father’s, when he was alive, my sisters’ faces, too.  Plus, while I can differentiate between male and female voices, I have trouble sorting out specific voices. Not uncommon to us face blindness folks.  Most of us have some other “thing” along with the prosopagnosia.  It’s like God sent us through the neurological cafeteria before we were born and wasn’t just happy with us having the main course.  I’m “face blind with a side order of distorted hearing.”  Others might have Asperger’s or autism.  There’s no end to the fun combo packs available.
            When I’m home, I’m able to sort out my mom and sisters out, so long as they’re sitting in a certain spot. It has nothing to do with their faces, but rather whether or not they’re  in their favorite chairs. Lily likes the green love seat. Rose curls up in my father’s brown recliner. Mother seats herself in the white wing backed chair, a chair so pure white only she could sit in it, by the way.
If my mother ever gets new furniture, I’m doomed.
As you can imagine, this causes problems at family gatherings and whatnot. I can’t count the number of times I hear the whispers, “Oh, that’s Nora…she’s terrible with people.”
I’m not terrible with people. I’m terrible with faces.
Then again, it’s almost better to be thought of as careless and rude, as some of my relatives do, than to be thought of as mentally deficient, as some of my other relatives do. Seriously, I think everyone in my extended family would just feel more at ease with me if I got a seeing-eye dog or a helper monkey or something. I know, ridiculous. But still, it’s family, right?
            “Nora Hill, is that you?”
            The mechanic is still looking at me and I really, really want to run away. I have nothing to say to this person who may be a friend, but right now is a stranger to me.  And since he recognizes me and knows my name, I’m already at a huge disadvantage.

            This is why I don’t like being around people.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Sneak peak week! MISSING IN MANITOWOC! Part 1

Good evening!

Here we are, first snippet of my new novel, due for release on Sunday, November 1.  

Enjoy!


FRIDAY 5 PM
            If it’s true what they say, that God has a sense of humor, then He’s having a huge laugh at my expense right now.
            Fifteen years ago I swore I would never come back to Manitowoc, Wisconsin, so the fact that I’m standing here in an auto repair shop can only be attributed to some kind of twisted Divine sense of humor. That’s what my father would probably say, anyway. My mother…well, my mother would probably scold me for thinking blasphemous thoughts. She didn’t exactly share Dad’s more lighthearted approach to the Almighty, which is odd, since he was a minister. You’d think the opposite would be true.
            Meanwhile, I’ve been here for an hour. There’s no Wifi, which isn’t quite the big deal for me as it is for most people. It’s not like I spend a ton of time on social media. I’m not that social. But I could be doing some online research for work. Work would help pass the time I’m forced to spend sitting on an orange molded plastic chair circa 1977.
Oh sure, I could access the Internet with my phone’s data plan, but my phone is dead. I haven’t been able to find my charger. This, again, is not the disaster it might be for most people. It’s not like I’m going to miss some life or death text if I don’t have a charged phone for a couple days. My mother and sisters are used to not hearing from me every day. My agent is really the only person who gets frantic when she can’t reach me.
            No, my biggest problem at this moment, other than not being able to escape Manitowoc before anyone manages to recognize me, is that I’m bored.
            I’m not bored often. When you’re in my line of work, if you get bored, you get up, walk around a bit, or maybe get in your car and drive some place. Do something to change the scenery, and
then get back to work. And when I’m really into it, if I’m really in the writing zone, boredom is the least of my problems. Remembering to eat is usually a bigger issue.
Besides, I’m not built to be bored. If you’re a person who believes in Divine Intervention, you’d know what I’m talking about. God saw to it when He made me, He made a person who simply had zero chance of finding the world dull or tedious. Terrifying, yes. Bewildering, absolutely. Never boring.
            And yet, here I am. Maybe it’s some sort of evil spell that hangs over this city on Lake Michigan.
            No, that’s not the case. I don’t have to go back too far in my memory to realize that ‘terrified’ and ‘isolated’ are really the only two things I took away from my time in this burg. I was too busy being tormented to feel anything other than those two emotions. So, hey, there’s that silver lining my sisters are always telling me to look for.

Right now the one thing that’s saving me from sliding into a brain dead coma is the television in the corner of the waiting room. Granted, it’s tuned to local news and the local anchor, complete with that North Eastern Wisconsin accent, is telling us all a delightful little story about some seventh-grade school group having an exciting day at all the tourist attractions along the Lake Michigan shore. The story is pure fluff and I have zero interest in local news, school groups, or Lake Michigan while my vehicle is being poked by strangers.  But TV noise is better than the sound of a mechanic telling me my beloved Forester is dead.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Sneak Peak Week! "MISSING IN MANITOWOC!"

Good evening all!

Some of you know I've been working on the first novel in a series and that I'd hoped to have the first book out earlier this year.  Well, my friends, as a self published author, I have a team of critique partners, line editors, and beta readers (most of whom are close friends and even closer family) who help me make sure my book is interesting and readable and free of most spelling and grammar errors.

What my team can't help me do is get it right.  That's true for anyone who writes something.  The only person who can get it right is the writer.  And when it comes to my character, Nora Hill, it's got to be right, because I have a feeling Nora is going to be in my brain for a pretty decent amount of time.

That said, I'm so pleased to announce that the first book, "Missing in Manitowoc" will be available on November 1st.  (If it kills me or not.  And it might. But this can't bleed into National Novel Writing Month  ((Nanowrimo)) because I'm using November to get a solid start on the SECOND book in the series, "Superhero in Superior" which I hope to have out late Spring 2016.)

This week I want to give you all a five day sneak peek at Nora Hill and her world.  Each day this week I'll share and excerpt from the book in the hope that by Sunday you'll be so geeked out to find out what happens you won't be able to contain yourself, you'll just HAVE to buy it!

Nora and "Missing" is a big step aside from what I've done in the past, and so I'll be writing under a slightly different author name.  This isn't a romance, and this isn't humor, although those elements are present in the book, albeit faintly, in the case of romance.  No, the most concise definition I can put on this book series is that it will be Christian Cozy Mystery Series.

I've wanted to write in Christian/Inspirational fiction for many years, but I never landed on quite the right concept.  Three years ago I scanned the shelves of Christian Contemporary/Inspirational fiction and I saw a lot of Pioneers and Amish novels.

Nothing against those authors, but I don't write historicals (mostly because the research would kill me) and if I'm looking for something to inspire me spiritually, it's not going to be from the days of a bygone era.  I felt there was a gap for readers who wanted something compelling to read that was also Christian/Inspirational in nature, but was also current.  I found a few authors who fit the bill and I read their work.  The novels I read were compelling, and current, but again I felt like the character's ability to go to God in prayer was just too easy, too normal.

I teach a Bible study to junior high students.  These are not people for whom the concept of prayer comes easily.  They are on the cusp of the eight years of their lives where they will make some of the biggest decisions they will ever make, and many of them will make those decisions largely without even thinking about prayer.  They will muddle through, some will go to church and go through the motions, but few will give religion deep thought.  I know I didn't, during my high school and college years. So my focus during this Bible study is not how great the people of the Bible were and how faithful, but really how flawed those heroes of faith were.  Think about it:  Adam, a weakling who tried to blame sin on his wife.  Noah, drunkard.  Abraham...bigamist.  Isaac...Dad picked his wife, but he picked his favorite child.  Jacob...ah, Jacob.  Jacob who wrestled with God.  Jacob who had a temper, made mistakes, had a favorite wife, but wasn't above begetting children with four women...this is the type of guy I love to highlight in Bible study with my junior high students.

My own children are pretty much grown up but they are in those frightening years and they are wrestling with God in their own ways, just as I did at their age.  And I look at their friends, and I see a generation of younger adults who are searching for something beyond the black and white judgement of a CHURCH. They are looking for a God who loves them as they are, flaws and all and they aren't satisfied with "Just believe."  They are searching for the face of God.

It was that idea, a believer wrestling with God to see Him and gain His acceptance that brought me to Nora.  Nora Hill is a woman in her early 30's.  She is a successful young adult fiction author.  Her father, now deceased, was a minister. She has a mother and two sisters who are several years older than she is.  

She also has prosopagnosia, which you might know as face blindness. She was born with it, but was not diagnosed until she was late in her junior high years. Her parents thought she was autistic or just a naughty girl, and her childhood was less than ideal because she never felt like she measured up to her sisters or belonged.  Even as an adult she isn't comfortable with her family and she has few friends because face blindness is a disorder that isolates people. Without the ability to recognize and remember faces, how can we make social contacts?

Nora is a woman who is searching.  She is searching for a place to lay her share of her father's ashes to rest. She is searching for a church home where she feels comfortable and accepted.  She is searching for the face of God, a face she prays she can recognize.

She is also always searching for lost children.  Where ever her travels take her there seems to be a child who is not only missing, but is also in grave peril for one reason or another.  Finding such children has been a talent, a gift, or a burden for Nora since she was very young.  She cannot explain how she knows where the children are, she just does.  And because such an ability tends to throw her into a very bright spotlight, she is uncomfortable with it and wishes she didn't have to be the one who finds the children.

Starting tomorrow and through the week I will share excepts of the first book in the series, "Missing in Manitowoc."  I hope you enjoy sharing this adventure with me.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Here's what I did this summer...how about you?

Hello everyone!

So this year I decided to do something a little different with my marketing.  Rather than just blog about writing, and put notices out on Face Book I decided to actually get out there and SELL my books.  Okay, it was mostly my mom's idea because she's got this hobby where she takes old costume jewelry and breaks it down and then frames it. She started with grandmother's stuff (my grandmother was one of those grand ladies who got a new necklace/earring/broach set every time she got a new blouse.) and she made framed art for everyone in the family. That branched out to something even bigger and now she trolls Good wills in the area for costume jewelry and shadow box frames.  (She also does custom orders. If you're interested, contact me here and I'll be happy to give you her info.)  

Anyway, Mom came up with this idea that we should sell her art and my books at a booth in a couple Farmer's Markets in the area.  So, the first weekend in May, we showed up at 5 AM (really 4:45, we got to watch the City of Waukesha police department remove cars from the Market site.) to get our first crack at selling our artistic expressions to the public.

Our booth at City of Brookfield.
Since then we've been to the Waukesha Farmer's Market seven times and the City of Brookfield will be five once we hit it next weekend, which will be our last weekend of the year.

It's been fun. It's been a lot of work, but we've learned so much about what we should do when selling and what's not a good idea.  If you look at the picture, you see we were using big buckets of cat litter to weight down our shelter. We don't do that anymore.  They are bulky, they take up a ton of room in my car and little kids put their snacks on them.

I've loved this summer, meeting readers, talking about my craft, getting to know what people say when faced with a real live author.  Hint:  Some of it is not so polite.  Mostly I've loved sharing my stories with people who, if I hadn't been out there at the crack of dawn on a Saturday morning, probably would never know my name.

It's not about name recognition, not for me really. It's about sharing my passion.  I have a passion for story telling, a passion for sharing those stories with others.  I may never be a New York Times best selling author. Doesn't matter so much as the woman who was one of the first to buy "Dream in Color" and every time I saw her this summer she'd yell, "I LOVE THAT BOOK!"

It's October now and the summer is long gone.  If today is any indication of what we're in for next weekend, I'm going to need
 mittens and thicker socks.  Next week at City of Brookfield (2000 Calhoun Road, Brookfield, WI) will be our last of the season. We have a craft fair planned in November and a church event in the spring.  I plan to release the first two Nora Hill Mysteries by then ("Missing in Manitowoc" will be out in a few weeks. "Superhero in
Superior" will be out closer to Easter as we have it planned now.)  But I've enjoyed my time on the road with readers...and non readers who were quite blunt about how they felt about reading and books and authors...I'm definitely going to do it again next year because it's a blast and I've had fun with my parents in a way I probably would not have.


So that's what I've been doing all summer.  How about you?  Read any good books?  Like maybe the ones there on the right?  Go ahead, click on the links...it won't hurt!