Sunday, February 26, 2012

Buy this book: The Hurricane Lover

The Hurricane Lover, in part, is a story about bad, murdering weather. Weather that’s named Katrina in this case, and what happens when people, when entire cities, don’t pay attention. It’s about how some people get off on danger. They want to go out and howl. They want to hurl themselves at it and into it. As an entire city is brought to it’s knees by some of the most dangerous weather ever, they use it to make something and take something … like some hapless victim’s identity, even their life. Shay Hoovestahl just wants to report it. You know, the pretty details, like how to lash down your patio furniture so the big wind won’t blow it away. Shay’s got no idea as she does the last of her puff pieces before the lights go out what’s ahead of her when the big wind reaches its full terrifying force, the levees break, and the filthy, debris-choked gulf water rises in the city’s streets. She is as ill prepared as New Orleans and when she finds herself on the trail of a psychotic killer, she’s got to face facts: that puff just won’t cut it.

Gulf Coast climatologist Dr. Corbin Thibodeaux tried to warn her. Prior to Katrina’s landfall, he struggled to get folks to understand the massive threat Katrina posed. But few listened judging from the alarming tone of inanity and ineptitude that’s indicated in the spate of email correspondence that came down from FEMA head Michael Brown. And not even Corbin realizes the unwitting role he’s playing in abetting the killer’s plan as they play hide and seek in the churning walls of one hideous monster of a storm.

The Hurricane Lover is a taut, seductive thriller that reads like the finest in docudrama. The atmosphere is eerily real and the  characters are fully and richly drawn. Relationships are poignant and compelling with an undertow of dark humor that comes on like the best of surprises. Joni Rodgers is a masterful storyteller with a gift for writing dialogue that will leave you breathless. I loved this book and highly recommend it.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Hush, don't tell.


Emily was at home when Shannon came over to confess she was pregnant. The girls were best friends, barely 17, and had just started their senior year of high school. Shannon was a class beauty. She was a homecoming queen nominee. But it was the Sixties; nice girls—class beauties, homecoming queens—didn’t get pregnant.
There had to be some way to take care of the problem. The girls drove the dusty back roads to the smaller towns around the metropolitan area where they lived naively assuming they could find a doctor who would rid Shannon of her difficulty. All declined. Back at Emily’s, Shannon lay down alongside Emily’s bed. Her plan was for Emily to jump from the bed onto her abdomen. The mistake would then be expelled and Shannon could return to being the carefree teenager she was before having unprotected sex with a guy who supposedly was in love with her but, after all, didn’t care. Emily refused. Shannon’s class beauty picture was removed from the high school annual. Shannon herself was expelled and forced to leave home. Frightened and alone, she gave birth in a strange place under the cold, judging eye of relatives who disapproved.

Katherine had a roommate who came to be in a similar situation. Donna managed to hide her condition from her employers until two weeks prior to her delivery date. The only doctor she saw during the term of her pregnancy was the one who confirmed her condition. Again, the father of the child, who had professed love, didn’t. Donna took a leave of absence from work; she gave birth to her baby in a home for unwed mothers. Denied the right to even see the child, she gave it up for adoption. She returned to work. Donna and Katherine never spoke of it, but the silence and the sorrow weighed on them and eventually eroded their friendship.

Vicky’s roommate Tanya also hid her condition. Only Vicky knew. Tanya carried her baby to term. The girls, twenty-somethings, had no plan other than Vicky would drive Tanya to the hospital when her time came; she would deliver her baby and then decide whether to keep it or give it up. Other than that, the matter wasn’t discussed. It was as if by ignoring the fact, it might disappear. It didn’t. When Tanya’s water broke, she found Vicky across the hall watching television with her boyfriend. The boyfriend drove the girls to the hospital, but after that, he never spoke to Vicky again. The fact that Vicky associated with, lived with a girl who was pregnant out of wedlock tarred her with the same brush, and in his eyes, the “sin” was unforgivable. Tanya’s baby was stillborn. The hospital staff insisted she give it a proper funeral or the baby’s soul would be lost in purgatory and when she refused, they shamed her.

These stories are true. Only the names and certain facts have been changed to protect privacy.

I ran across these accounts while doing research for The Volunteer after my character Sophia got herself into this same predicament at age 16. Her mother turned her back and what happens as a result, while realistic, is terrible, even horrifying. Because regardless of our beliefs on the issues of premarital sex and pregnancy, silence is not the answer. Neither is judgment against or consignment to hell. That was life before birth control. I don’t think we want to go back to that. To the lies and the secrecy, the labeling unfit, the name-calling. But the stigma continues to exist. To some degree, girls are still shunned when compassion is called for; they and the services that are in place to guide them are consigned to hell by religions that claim love and human kindness are their foundation and with devastating consequences. In The Volunteer, the consequences for Sophia span a lifetime and the truth, when it is finally exposed, will shock her to her core.

Posting a link today (3/14/12) to yet more foolishness regarding this issue: An article in the e-zine Jezebel that reports Arizona's latest bid to ban contraception as a method of birth control. It would be laughable if this same attitude hadn't had such tragic consequences in the past.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

When books get wings, they fly....

Within an hour or so of publishing The Ninth Step last August, I was elated to see a few sales. I (naively) imagined the trend would continue and figured I would just keep writing another book while The Ninth Step flew off the virtual shelves. Hah! I was wrong of course, but then I have always been enamored of Pollyanna and I loved the movie Field of Dreams and its message “if you build it, they will come”. In a sense writing and sharing my work with others is my field of dreams and even now six months later, I’m loathe to relinquish the notion that if you create something out of a vision you hold in your heart and mind, that it won’t draw attention. It’s a simple enough idea on the surface, to make a thing and assume its success in the marketplace, but almost nothing will fly on its own. Even the Wright brothers’ machine had wings and a propeller. And of course the Wright brothers persisted; they wouldn’t take no for an answer; they had tremendous determination. So these are a few more things you need in addition to your burning faith and desire.

And once the thing is made, there’s another essential element to the process if your goal is to bring interest and attention to your creation. You’re going to need visibility, preferably of the sort that is targeted to your particular market. There are a wealth of resources available in the indie publishing world, and one of the most valuable are book bloggers and reviewers who out of their sheer love for books devote so much time and care to reading every sort of book, fiction or non fiction, and then generously share their thoughts across a network of virtual venues.

Jersey Girl Book Reviews is the creation of Kathleen Higgins Anderson. I was lucky enough to find her website almost immediately after publishing The Ninth Step and I was drawn in first by the artwork on her site and then by the genuine warmth of her reviews. She provides such full-bodied and richly detailed commentary that in no way reveals too much of the story, but rather it fuels your desire to read the book for yourself. When I contacted her, she got back to me immediately and was so gracious in her response. I was new to the indie publishing game and a little nervous; her professionalism meant a lot. Today her review of The Ninth Step is one of the books featured on Jersey Girl Book Reviews and she has included my guest post on her blog. I am fortunate that she has given wings to my novel and to my hope of sharing it with a widening circle of readers. Many thanks, Kathleen.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Persistence: Another four-letter word that isn’t

I ran across this quote a few days ago: The art of love … is largely in the art of persistence. Albert Ellis said it. And it is sticking in my mind, sticking to it in much the same way oatmeal sticks to your ribs. At first I thought of writing, how it is an act of love and how persistence is such a huge part of that love. I remember, vividly, painfully, the first time I was invited to join a critique group. They asked that I come to the meeting with a sample of my writing that I would be prepared to read out loud, in front of strangers. I worked hard and managed to produce one page of the novel I had in mind to write, that I thought might be fit to read, but when my turn came, my voice faltered. My mouth was so dry. I can’t imagine how I got through the ordeal. It was worse than the public speaking class I took in college where I was the only girl student in a roomful of guys. Who would want to endure that experience again? Much less week after week? Yet I did. I went back to the critique group and over time, I learned the craft of writing—through persistence. Was it me or was it the love for the art form, for the work itself, in me?

Then I extrapolated … what of my love for my children? How much of loving them was/is persistence? The moment they were settled into my arms after birth, I melted. I thought my heart would explode, I was in such awe, but then there were days. You know the ones. Those tests of love days. I would think: I am going to lose it here! I would go into the bathroom, shut the door and sit on the closed toilet lid and I would talk myself down, return to the fray, mete out whatever discipline was required. When everyone was calm again, we talked about what happened. It was an act of love, but wasn’t it also an act of persistence?

You fight with your spouse, you walk away and come back, talk it out. Isn’t that persistence? Love is like a visitor knocking on your door, persistently knocking until you open it and allow in the flood of inspiration, revelation, joy … the treasure that is there, that is inside you. We recognize that in each other and we persist in every way we can to connect with each other. We persist in loving one another, and our work, if we’re fortunate in that regard and often it is in the face of what seem to be insurmountable odds.

Oh, that single page of that novel?—the one I persisted through huge resistance to write? It’s titled The Last Innocent Hour and it’s free for one more day, today. I’d love it if you’d download it … read that first page, imagine a mouse squeaking out the words. I’m sure that’s how I sounded!