Join us at Dogs Rule Cats Drool for a book Giveaway of The Dog That Talked to God, a women’s fiction novel by Jim Kraus.
Enter here at Dogs Rule Cats Drool
Giveaway ends July 6, 2012.
Join us at Dogs Rule Cats Drool for a book Giveaway of The Dog That Talked to God, a women’s fiction novel by Jim Kraus.
Enter here at Dogs Rule Cats Drool
Giveaway ends July 6, 2012.
Today we are starting the month with a birthday party for the main character in Thwarted Queen and hosting a book giveaway. Cecylee is the apple of her mother’s eye. The seventh daughter, she is the only one left unmarried by 1424, the year she turns nine on May 3, 1424. Our guest is Cynthia Haggard, author of Thwarted Queen. We will be giving away a copy of Thwarted Queen on May 25.
To become eligible to win, all you have to do is ask a question or leave a comment. One lucky reader who comments with their email address is put in a pot to win the book.
Cecylee is the apple of her mother’s eye. The seventh daughter, she is the only one left unmarried by 1424, the year she turns nine. In her father’s eyes, however, she is merely a valuable pawn in the game of marriage. The Earl of Westmorland plans to marry his youngest daughter to 13-year-old Richard, Duke of York, who is close to the throne. He wants this splendid match to take place so badly, he locks his daughter up.
The event that fuels the narrative is Cecylee’s encounter with Blaybourne, a handsome archer, when she is twenty-six years old. This love affair produces a child (the “One Seed” of Book II), who becomes King Edward IV. But how does a public figure like Cecylee, whose position depends upon the goodwill of her husband, carry off such an affair? The duke could have locked her up, or disposed of this illegitimate son.
But Richard does neither, keeping her firmly by his side as he tries to make his voice heard in the tumultuous years that encompass the end of the Hundred Years War – during which England loses all of her possessions in France – and the opening phase of the Wars of the Roses. He inherits the political mantle of his mentor Duke Humphrey of Gloucester, and become’s the people’s champion. The rambunctious Londoners are unhappy that their country has become mired in misrule due to the ineptitude of a King prone to fits of madness. Nor are they better pleased by the attempts of the King’s French wife to maneuver herself into power, especially as she was responsible for England’s losses in France. But can Richard and Cecylee prevail? Everywhere, their enemies lurk in the shadows.
This book is filled with many voices, not least those of the Londoners, who forged their political destiny by engaging in public debate with the powerful aristocrats of the time. By their courageous acts, these fifteenth-century Londoners set the stage for American Democracy.
Purchase your copy of Thwarted Queen.
Follow the tour at Pump Up Your Book.
Richard urged his palfrey into a gallop so that he could catch up with Gloucester, riding east to the city. What is he going to do now, thought Richard, following Gloucester along the Strand towards Saint Paul’s Cathedral. As soon as they got to the churchyard, Gloucester vaulted off his horse, threw his reins to a groom, and mounted the steps of Saint Paul’s Cross.
The Londoners were enjoying themselves in the spring sunshine, it being that time of day after the main meal when people come out to pay visits, shop, and enjoy a fine afternoon stroll. In one corner of Saint Paul’s churchyard, a number of well-dressed citizens fingered the leather covers and the crisp pages of those new-fangled printed books. There were goldsmiths and silversmiths. There was a woman selling spring flowers. There was even a horse merchant, whose restless charges stamped their feet, tossed their heads, and added a pungent odor to the scene.
Just outside the door of the church stood a group of London merchants. The soft leather of their boots and gloves displayed their wealth, as did the exotic and colorful material of their robes, their jewel-encrusted collars, and the many rings on their fingers. They were outdone only by their wives, who wore as many necklaces, rings, and brooches as possible crammed onto their costumes. Richard bowed to one beldame passing by. She had so much cloth in her headdress, her husband must belong to the clothier’s guild.
As Gloucester arrived at Saint Paul’s Cross, the people immediately began to gather, separating Richard from his mentor. “Good Duke Humphrey!” they shouted. “‘Tis Good Duke Humphrey!”
Gloucester bowed. A tapster from a nearby alehouse ran up to hand him a mug of ale.
He looks years younger, thought Richard, glancing at his friend basking in the approval of the crowd. How ironic that it is the people of England who respect him, not his aristocratic peers.
The crowd gathered around Saint Paul’s Cross, buzzing with excited anticipation as the horses neighed.
“I wonder what he’s got to say,” said the bookseller.
“I’ve never seen anything like it,” said the flower seller. “Most of them fancy people never bother with the likes of us.”
“Duke Humphrey, he’s good,” said the horse merchant. “He talks to us. Tells us what’s going on.”
“He’s become a champion of good governance,” said a well-dressed gentleman.
Duke Humphrey held up a hand, and the crowd fell silent.
“My friends, I have come here today to tell you about a piece of treachery. Nay, I can scarce believe it myself, and if any of you had told me this, I would think I had had a bad hangover from the night before.”
Some youngsters in the crowd erupted into laughter. Their elders grew watchful and silent.
Richard accepted a tankard of beer and stood by Gloucester. He looked at the faces tilted up before him. They don’t seem overawed, he thought, sipping his beer. This country is not like France, where the common people grovel before the aristocrats. These people seem to know that their voices count for something.
Gloucester raised his hand again. “Would you believe it, but in return for Margaret of Anjou, the Earl of Suffolk negotiated a marriage settlement in which we give away Maine and Anjou to the French.”
The crowd recoiled. “No!” they shouted.
Richard grew uneasy.
“Yes, good people. Yes: I am sorry to tell you so, but there it is.”
“What does this mean for trade, sir?” asked a man, a fashionably dressed woman on his arm.
“You lose the revenues from the counties of Maine and Anjou,” replied Duke Humphrey. “You lose revenues from wine.”
“Is our wine trade going to dry up?” asked one merchant with a red nose.
“Not unless we lose Bordeaux. So far, we are just talking about Maine and Anjou.”
The crowd responded with a harsh bark of laughter.
“But I can tell you,” continued Gloucester, “that the loss of Maine and Anjou means the loss of goodly fruit.”
“No more pears!” exclaimed a young girl with golden hair hanging out from an upstairs window. “But that’s my favorite fruit.” Her high voice sailed over the noise of the crowd.
“No more Anjou pears, madam,” said Gloucester sweeping her a low bow.
“Jacinda, do not shout out of the window. It is not ladylike.” A woman with an elaborate horned headdress appeared and gently pulled the child away. “Please accept my apologies, my lord Duke,” she called down. “She is very free.”
“Do not worry, madam,” said Gloucester bowing again with a flourish. “You have a charming daughter.”
Applause and cheers greeted this remark.
“What about the landowners of Maine and Anjou, my lord?” asked a merchant dressed in fine crimson silk, rubies winking from the collar around his neck. “What about their lands and holdings?”
“A good question.” Gloucester held up his hand to still the whispers and murmurings of the crowd. “They will be obliged to give up their lands. They will be forced to come home with nothing and start afresh.”
The crowd erupted into boos and murmurs, which grew louder. Richard looked at his friend.
“I see you look puzzled, good people,” remarked Gloucester, as the restless crowd grew silent. “Let me spell out the terms of the Treaty of Tours by which our king gained a wife. By this treaty, we give up Maine and Anjou. In return, we get exactly—nothing. That’s right. Nothing. The queen did not even bring a dowry with her. Can you believe it? Can you believe that Suffolk would be so stupid, so asinine, so treacherous, as to throw away something that we gained in a fair fight for nothing in return?”
Their roar threw Richard backward. He moved closer to Gloucester. “They’re getting upset,” he hissed.
Gloucester ignored him. “And all for a queen worth not ten marks,” he remarked, holding up his tankard of ale. “I feel personally betrayed.”
“We are betrayed!” roared the crowd. “A queen worth not ten marks!” They turned and hurried down Ludgate Hill in the direction of Westminster, shouting as they went.
“What are they going to do?” asked Richard.
Gloucester chuckled. “They are going to Westminster Palace, to shout insults at the queen.”
Born and raised in Surrey, England, CYNTHIA SALLY HAGGARD has lived in the United States for twenty-nine years. She has had four careers: violinist, cognitive scientist, medical writer and novelist. Yes, she is related to H. Rider Haggard, the author of SHE and KING SOLOMONS’S MINES. (H. Rider Haggard was a younger brother of the author’s great-grandfather.) Cynthia Sally Haggard is a member of the Historical Novel Society. You can visit her website at: http://www. spunstories.com/
Helen Fairchild, is leading a privileged Pasadena existence: married to a pillar of the community; raising a water polo- playing son destined for the most select high school; volunteering her time on the most fashionable committees. It only bothers Helen a tiny bit the she has never quite fit in with the proper Pasadena crowd or finished that graduate degree in Classics or had that second baby. The rigid rules of society in Pasadena appeal to Helen, the daughter of Oregon “fiber artists”, even if she’ll never be on the inside. And then along comes a Rose Parade float, killing her philandering husband and leaving Helen broke, out of her “forever” house, and scrambling to salvage her once-rarefied existence. Enter Dr. Patrick O’Neill, noted archaeologist, excavator of Troy, and wearer of adorable nubby sweaters. A job as Dr. O’Neill’s research assistant is the lifeline Helen needs to re-invent herself professionally, personally, and romantically. Helen’s world widens to include a Hollywood star, a local gossip columnist, an old college nemesis, a high-powered Neutron Mom, an unforgiving admissions director, the best Armenian real state agent in the biz, and, of course, the intriguing Patrick O’Neill. While uncovering secrets about Ancient Troy alongside her archaeologist, Helen discovers something much more: a new sense of self and a new love.
1. Helen worries about everything, from her weight to whether her teen son will be soon be sniffing glue.
2. Helen is intimidated by here mother-in-law. And, if you met Mitsy Fairchild, you’d be intimidated, too, by this powerful Pasadena matriarch, ready on a minute’s notice for a game of doubles or a charity ball.
3. Helen wonders what happened to her own pursuits while she was busy being a wife, mother and community volunteer. Sometimes she thinks, “Where did I go?”
4. Helen gets by with a little help from her friends, one a disgraced Rose Queen and the other a certified helicopter parent/life coach. One 45 minute walk a week and they can figure most of life out together.
5. Helen has a love/hate relationship with the scale. Mostly hate.
6. Helen can multi-task like a pro, but never gives herself the credit she deserves at being a leader.
7. Helen prefers yoga pants to pencil skirts, clogs to Choos, and chocolate to sex. Okay, maybe not that last one.
8. Helen panics at the idea of learning to date again mid-life, especially when the object of her desire is her boss. Thank God for alcohol.
9. Helen loves her 13-year-old son even though he is driving her crazy.
10. Helen sometimes sits in the car, listens to the radio and cries.
11. Helen deserves a little romance in her life, because we all do.
12. Helen learns that life doesn’t come with a To Do List. Sometimes, you have to make it up as you go along.
13. At the end of the day, Helen enjoys a good book.
Lian Dolan is a mother, wife, sister, friend, daughter, novelist, writer, and talk show host. She writes and talks about her adventures in modern motherhood for her website, http://www.chaoschronicles.com and her weekly podcast, The Chaos Chronicles. Lian has always used her voice to take on all aspects of motherhood, from common-sense parenting to all-consuming school volunteering to overcoming handbag envy. She is known for her humorous take on the day-to-day issues that face women everywhere. The Chaos Chronicles is currently being developed by Nickelodeon as a half-hour comedy.
Prior to The Chaos Chronicles, Lian spent a decade hosting Satellite Sisters, an award-winning talk show that she created with her four real sisters. Satellite Sisters has won 11 Gracie Allen Awards for Excellence in Women’s Media, including Talk Show of the Year in 2006. On air, Lian has interviewed everybody from Bill Clinton to Nora Roberts to Maya Angelou. Lian is the Executive Editor of the Satellite Sisters website.
In addition to her work on air, Lian is a writer. Her first novel, “Helen of Pasadena” will be published in November, 2010 by Prospect Park Books. She is also weekly relationships columnist at oprah.com . Previously published books include “Satellite Sisters UnCommon Senses,” published in 2001. Her writing has been featured in many national magazines including regular columns in O, The Oprah Magazine and Working Mother Magazine.
Lian has appeared numerous TV shows including The Today Show, CBS Sunday Morning and The Oprah Winfrey Show.
She lives in Pasadena, California with her husband and two sons. Her dream is to ride on a Rose Parade float.
To read more about Lian Dolan, please visit http://helenofpasadena.com
Website Address: http://www.helenofpasadena.com
Join Sally Koslow, author of the women’s fiction book, With Friends Like These (Ballantine Books August 2010), as she virtually tours the blogosphere in August on her first virtual book tour with Pump Up Your Book!
When Quincy, Jules, Talia, and Chloe become New York City roommates in the early nineties, they become fast friends despite their drastically different personalities. Now, nearly twenty years later, their lives have diverged as much as they possibly can within one city: Quincy is mourning a miscarriage and lusting for the perfect Manhattan apartment; Jules, a woman with an outsize personality, is facing forty alone; Talia, married and the mother of a four-year-old, is her family’s reluctant breadwinner; and Chloe faces pressure from her hedge fund manager husband to be more ambitious. As these women grapple with the challenges of marriage, motherhood, careers, and real estate, they can’t help but assess their positions in life in comparison to each other–leading them to envy and disillusionment. Honest and entertaining, and written in Sally Koslow’s trademark wry, vivid prose, With Friends Like These asks serious questions about what makes female friendship endure, and to whom a woman’s loyalty most belongs.
Sally Koslow’s books….
SALLY KOSLOW is the author of The Late, Lamented Molly Marx and Little Pink Slips. Her essays have been published in More, The New York Observer, and O, The Oprah Magazine, among other publications. She was the editor in chief of both McCall’s and Lifetime, was an editor at Mademoiselle and Woman’s Day, and has taught creative writing at the Writing Institute of Sarah Lawrence College. Her latest release is With Friends Like These. The mother of two sons, she lives in New York City with her husband. You can visit Sally Koslow’s website at www.sallykoslow.com.
“A fax hit my desk for an apartment that isn’t officially listed yet–you must see it immediately.” Horton’s voice was broadcasting an urgency reserved for hurricane evacuation. But in 2007, anyone who’d ever beaten the real estate bushes would be suspicious of a broker displaying even an atom of passivity. Shoppers of condos and co-ops in Manhattan and the leafier regions of Brooklyn knew they had to learn the art of the pounce: see, gulp, bid. Save the pros and cons for picking a couch. Several times a week Horton e-mailed me listings, but rarely did he call. This had to be big. “Where is it?” I asked while I finished my lukewarm coffee.
“Central Park West.” Horton identified a stone pile known by its name, the Eldorado, referring to a mythical kingdom where the tribal chief had the habit of dusting himself with gold, a commodity familiar to most of the apartment building’s inhabitants—marquee actors, eminent psychotherapists, and large numbers of frumps who were simply lucky. With twin towers topped by Flash Gordon finials, the edifice lorded it over a gray-blue reservoir, the park’s largest body of water, and cast a gimlet eye toward Fifth Avenue.
“I couldn’t afford that building,” I said. If Horton was trying to game me into spending more than our budget allowed, he’d fail. While the amount of money Jake and I had scraped together for a new home seemed huge to us–representing the sale of our one-bedroom in Park Slope, an inheritance from my mom, and the proceeds from seeing one of my books linger on the bestseller list–other brokers had none too politely terminated the conversation as soon as I quoted our allotted sum. What I liked about Horton was that hewas dogged, he was hungry, and he was the only real estate agent returning my calls.
“That’s the beauty part,” he said, practically singing. “You, Quincy Blue, can afford this apartment.” He named a figure. We could, just. “What’s the catch?” In my experience, deals that sounded too good to be true were–like the brownstone I’d seen last week that lacked not only architectural integrity but functional plumbing.
“It’s a fixer-upper,” Horton admitted. “Listen, I can go to the second name on my list.”
“I’ll see you in twenty minutes,” I said, hitting “save” on my manuscript. I was currently the ghostwriter for Maizie May, one of Hollywood’s interchangeable blow-dried blondes with breasts larger than their brain. While she happened to be inconveniently incarcerated in Idaho rehab, allowed only one sound bite of conversation with me per week, my publisher’s deadline, three months away, continued to growl. I hid my hair under a baseball cap and laced my sneakers. Had Jake seen me, he would have observed that I looked very West Side; my husband was fond of pointing out our neighborhood’s inverse relationship between apartment price and snappy dress. As I walked east I called him, but his cell phone was off. Jake’s flight to Chicago must be late.
Racing down Broadway, I allowed myself a discreet ripple of anticipation. Forget the Yankees. Real estate would always be New York City’s truest spectator sport, and I was no longer content to cheer from the bleachers. Two years ago, my nesting hormones had kicked in and begun to fiercely multiply, with me along for the ride. We were eager to escape from our current sublet near Columbia University. I longed to be dithering over paint colors–Yellow Lotus or Pale Straw; flat, satin, or eggshell–and awash in fabric swatches. I coveted an office that was bigger than a coffee table book and a dining table that could accommodate all ten settings of my wedding china. I wanted a real home. I’d know it when I saw it.
Horton, green-eyed, cleft-chinned–handsome if you could overlook his devotion to argyle–stood inside the building’s revolving door. “The listing broker isn’t here yet,” he said, “but you can get a sense of the lobby.” A doorman tipped his capped head and motioned us toward armchairs upholstered in a tapestry of tasteful, earthy tones. Horton unfurled a floor plan.
I’d become a quick study of such documents. “It’s only a two-bedroom,” I said, feeling the familiar disappointment that had doused the glow of previous apartment visits. Was the fantasy of three bedrooms asking too much for a pair of industrious adults more than twelve years past grad school? Jake was a lawyer. I had a master’s in English literature. Yet after we’d been outbid nine times, Jake and I had accepted the fact that in this part of town, two bedrooms might be as good as it would get.
“This isn’t any two-bedroom,” Horton insisted. “Look how grand the living room and dining room are.” Big enough for a party where Jake and I could reciprocate every invitation we’d received since getting married five years ago. “See?” he said, pulling out a hasty sketch and pointing. “Put a wall up to divide the dining room, which has windows on both sides, and create an entrance here. Third bedroom.” He was getting to how cheap the renovation would be when a tall wand of a woman tapped him on the shoulder.
“Fran!” Horton said as warmly as if she were his favorite grandmother, which she was old enough to be. “You’re looking well.”
The woman smiled and a feathering of wrinkles fanned her large blue eyes. The effect made me think that a face without this pattern was too dull. “Did you explain?” she said. Her voice was reedy, a piccolo that saw little use. She’d pulled her silver hair into a chignon and was enveloped in winter white, from a cape covering a high turtleneck to slim trousers that managed to be spotless, although they nearly covered her toes.
“We were getting to that, but first, please meet my client, Quincy Blue. Quincy, Frances Shelbourne of Shelbourne and Stone.”
I knew the firm. Frances and her sister Rose had tied up all the best West Side listings. I shook Fran Shelbourne’s hand, which felt not just creamy but delicately boned. She stared at my sneakers and jeans long enough for me to regret them, then turned her back and padded so soundlessly that I checked to see if she might be wearing slippers. No, ballerina flats. Across the lobby, elaborately filigreed elevator doors opened. Fran turned toward Horton and me and with the briefest arch of one perfectly plucked eyebrow implored us to hurry. When the doors shut, she spoke softly, although we were alone. “The owner’s a dear friend,” she said. “Eloise Walter, the anthropologist.” She waited for me to respond. “From the Museum of Natural History?”
I wondered if I was supposed to know the woman’s body of work and bemoaned the deficiency of my Big Ten education.
“Dr. Walter is in failing health,” she continued, shaking her head. “This is why we won’t schedule an open house.” Every Sunday from September through May, hopeful buyers, like well-trained infantry, traveled the open-house circuit. Jake and I had done our sweaty time, scurrying downtown, uptown, across, and down again, with as many as a dozen visits in a day. Soon enough, we began seeing the same hopeful buyers–the Filipino couple, the three-hundred-pound guy who had the face of a baby, a pair of six-foot-tall redheaded teenage twins who spoke a middle-European tongue. By my fifth Sunday, in minutes I could privately scoff at telltale evidence of dry rot. Silk curtains draped as cunningly as a sari could not distract me from a sunless air shaft a few feet away, nor could lights of megawatt intensity seduce me into forgetting that in most of these apartments I would instantly suffer from seasonal affective disorder.
“You’ll be the first person to see this one,” Horton added by way of a bonus. I could feel the checkbook in my bag coming alive like Mickey’s broom in Fantasia.
When we stepped out of the elevator on the fourteenth floor, Mrs. Shelbourne gently knocked on a metal door that would look at home in any financial institution. From the other side, a floor creaked. A nurse in thick-soled shoes answered and raised an index finger to her lips, casting her eyes toward a shadowy room beyond. The scent of urine–human, feline, or both–crept into my nostrils, followed by a top note of mango air freshener. “Doctor’s sleeping.” My eyes strained to scan a wide room where old-fashioned blinds were drawn against the noon sun. An elderly woman, her hair scant and tufted, was folded into a wheelchair like a rag doll, despite pillows bolstering her skeletal frame. Dr. Walter looked barely alive. Mrs. Shelbourne placed her hand on my arm. “We shouldn’t stay long in this room. I’m sure you understand. Alzheimer’s.”
“I do–too well,” I said, rapidly beholding the high ceiling and dentil moldings, while memories of my mother, scrupulously archived yet too fresh to examine, begged for consideration. I pushed them away even as my mind catalogued herringbone floors withan intricate walnut border and the merest wink of a crystal chandelier. Mrs. Shelbourne grasped my arm and we hurried into a small, dark kitchen with wallpaper on which hummingbirds had enjoyed a sixty-year siesta. In front of the sink, which faced a covered window, linoleum had worn bare. There were scratched metal cabinets and no dishwasher, and I suspected the stove’s birth date preceded my own. I thought of my unfinished chapter, and cursed my wasted time.
Halfheartedly I lifted a tattered shade. “Holy cow,” I said, though only to myself. Sun reflected off the park’s vast reservoir, which appeared so close I thought I could stand on the ledge and swan-dive into its depth. Far below, I could see tree tops, lush as giant broccoli. The traffic was a distant buzz. I felt a tremor. The subway, stories below? No, my heart. Picking up my pace, I followed the brokers through the spacious dining room and down a hall where I counted off six closets. I peeked into a bathroom tiled in a vintage mosaic of the sort decorators encourage clients to re-create at vast expense. We passed through a starlet-worthy dressing room and entered a bedroom into which I could easily tuck my current, rented apartment, with enough space to spare for a study. As Mrs. Shelbourne pulled the hardware on draperies bleached of color, I could swear that a strobe had begun to pulse. From the corner of my eye I saw a black cat slink away while Horton kicked a dust bunny under the bed, but I took little note of either. As I stood by the window, I was gooey with the feeling I’d experienced when I first laid eyes on the Grand Canyon.
The silvery vista spread casually before me might be the most enchanted in the entire city. I closed my eyes, traveling through time. Women were skating figure eights in red velvet cloaks, their hands warmed by ermine muffs. Bells jingled in the evergreen-scentedair as horses waited patiently by sleighs. I blinked again and the maidens wore organdy, their porcelain skin dewy under the parasols shielding their intricate curls. I fast-forwarded to my girlhood and could imagine the large, glassy pond below was the crystal stream beside my grandparents’ log-hewn cabin in Wisconsin’s northern woods, the bone-chilling waters of Scout camp, perhaps Lake Como of my honeymoon scrapbook.
Beside this champagne view, the fifty-four other apartments I’d considered seemed like cheap house wine, including the possibilities that cost far more–almost every one. I pulled myself away from the window and looked back. Walls were no longer hung with faded diplomas, nor was the carpet worn thin. Mirroring the reservoir, the room had turned gray-blue. I saw myself writing at a desk by the window, lit by sunbeams, words spilling out so fast my fingers danced on the keyboard like Rockettes. This time my manuscript wasn’t a twenty-year-old singer-actress’ whiny rant. It was a novel, lauded by the critics and Costco customers alike.
I could see myself in this room. My face wore deep contentment. The bed was luxuriously rumpled, since a half hour earlier Jake and I had made love, and now he was brewing coffee in our brand-new kitchen, as sleekly designed as a sperm. Perhaps he’d already gone out to bike around the park or was walking our shelter-rescued puppy. Tallulah, the little rascal, loved to chase her ball down our twenty-foot hall.
In every way, I was home. Then I snapped out of it. I was wearing my real estate heart on my sleeve, all but drooling. Quincy Blue, you dumb cluck. I sensed Horton looking at me as if he were a cannibal in need of protein, and checked to see if he and Fran had excused themselves to decide whether they should triple the apartment’s price or merely double it. We walked past another bathroom, this one housing a tub as long as a rowboat, ambled back through the dim hallway, and ended in the living room.
“The view’s even better from here–a pity we can’t pull up the shades,” Mrs. Shelbourne whispered as she walked toward the statue slumping in the wheelchair and greeted her. “Hello, Eloise dear.” She took the woman’s listless hand. “It’s Frances. I wish you could sit at that piano”–she pointed to a piece of shrouded furniture–”and play me Chopin.”
The woman emitted a dry rattle, craned her neck toward Mrs. Shelbourne, and smiled. She was missing several teeth.
“If you wish,” she said clearly. Suddenly Dr. Walter tried to raise herself in the wheelchair. “If you would be so kind as to assist me.” The nurse lumbered to her side. On her aide’s sturdy arm, Dr. Walter walked toward the piano, her posture better than my own. She settled on the cracked black leather stool and stretched her knobby fingers. I covered my mouth with my hands, afraid I might gasp. Her hands fondled the ivories and began to play an unmistakable Chopin mazurka. The Steinway was out of tune andthe pianist wore a faded housecoat, but Dr. Walter’s rendition pleased her audience to the point that even Horton was wiping away tears. The concert continued for almost twenty minutes and then, as if someone had pulled a plug, the pianist’s hands froze. Like a small child, she looked around the room, confused. I was afraid she, too, might cry.
We clapped. “That was exquisite,” Mrs. Shelbourne said hoarsely as the nurse helped her patient back to the wheelchair. “Simply exquisite.”
Dr. Walter closed her eyes and in less than a minute was sleeping. Mrs. Shelbourne thanked the nurse and hurried Horton and me to the elevator. I waited for his chatter, but it was she who spoke. “Tell me your story. I can see from your face that you have one.” She looked at me as if she were the dean of women.
Paperback Writer welcomes women’s contemporary fiction author Kaylin McFarren, author of Flaherty’s Crossing.
On a Personal Note from the author
Kaylin sat before her computer writing FLAHERTY’S CROSSING as a source of personal therapy after losing her beloved father to colon cancer. You might say she was angry at him, at God, at the world in general. However, after writing this story, she had the opportunity to really look into her soul and consider the fact that so many other sons and daughters have had to deal with similar and even worse situations. Rather than a memoir, her novel evolved into a fictional journey which brought about the resolution she needed to find. She never expected this exercise in writing to go to press, touch lives, or win literary awards. But as a result of her good fortune, she has arranged for proceeds from the sale of this book to go directly to the Providence Medical Foundation’s colon cancer research department in her father’s name. She’s now convinced and proudly shares her belief that good things can grow out of the worst times in our lives if you just take the time to open your heart.
Welcome to Paperback Writer
Q: Will you share with us how you came up with the idea for this book?
A: After losing my father to colon cancer, I needed a vehicle to vent my anger, heartache and frustration. There were so many unanswered questions, blanks in my father’s life. I believed that aside from being my dad, I had no idea who this man truly was. Writing Flaherty’s Crossing became my outlet – a source of personal therapy. But instead of a memoir, my novel evolved into a fictional journey which brought about the resolution I desperately needed to find.
Q: Do you plan your stories first with an outline or does it come to you as write it?
A: I’m totally a pantser and perfectionist, writing and editing as I go. I guess I must have an outline tucked away in the back of my mind, but have never been compelled to write it down. As for my synopsis, I write it after my story’s completed. Would that be considered a bit backwards?
Q: Do you know the end of the story at the beginning?
A: I have a general idea of what direction I want my story to take and am always thinking about how to bring it around full circle. But that’s not to say it ends exactly as I initially planned.
Q: Do you have a process for developing your characters?
A: The funniest aspect of my creative style is I’m obsessively visual. Before I put a single word together, I need to know who I’m writing about. So out come my scissors, movie magazines, advertisements. I create a pile of interesting characters, picking out the ones that match my vision. After attaching them to form core board, I name them and begin making notes about their history, their habits, flaws, birthdays…you name it. They often need conflicts, so I design them with opposing values, beliefs and interests.
Q: It is said that authors write themselves into their characters. Is there any part of you in your characters and what they would be?
A: I suppose there’s a part of me in Kate Flaherty. Like her, I had a father who found it difficult to communicate his thoughts and feelings. I grew up wanting to be an artist and at one point in my life dated an attorney. And a lot of the emotions Kate experienced in this story were shared in my life as well.
Q: What is your most favorite part about this book?
A: Without giving too much away, I think it’s the revelation Kate experiences at her father’s funeral.
Q: When in the process of writing your book did you begin to look for a publisher?
A: Actually, when my book was close to completion, I queried agents first. With a contract in hand, it then became a matter of submitting to various houses and coming to terms with the best avenue for publishing Flaherty’s Crossing.
Q: What struggles have you had on the road to being published?
A: I learned the difficulty of marketing a book that is “out of the box”…so to speak. Flaherty’s Crossing inadvertently crosses a few genres. And although it was truly a labor of love and the editors who read it consistently loved my voice and writing style, they weren’t sure how to represent it or where to place it on the shelf.
Q: What has been the best part about being published?
A: The feeling of completion – setting a goal and seeing it realized. And knowing that my story will be read, shared and enjoyed by so many people.
Q: What do you want readers to remember and carry with them after reading your novel?
A: I’m hoping readers will be inspired. That they will realize you should never wait until it’s too late to let people know how you feel about them. How sometimes it’s necessary to set aside pride in order to pave the way toward forgiveness.
Q: Do you have plans to write another book?
A: Yes! I’m presently working on Severed Threads, an action/adventure romance which could be described as Indiana Jones meets the Deep Blue.
Q: Would you care to share with us how the virtual book tour experience with Pump Up Your Book Promotion has been for you?
A: Absolutely great so far. Dorothy Thompson is amazing! She’s incredibly detailed and has lined up all kinds of engagements for me. I really can’t imagine organizing or participating in this tour without her.
Q: Where can readers find a copy of your book?
A: Flaherty’s Crossing will be available on February 1st – initially in an ebook format, at http://www.champagnebooks.com, Amazon and B & N.
Q: Do you have a website for readers to go to?
Thank you, Kaylin, for sharing your book and characters with us today. It has been a pleasure and I hope you have had a successful virtual book tour.
About the Book:
From Pacific Northwest’s award-winning author Kaylin McFarren comes a powerful novel about love, loss, and the power of forgiveness…
Successful yet emotionally stifled artist Kate Flaherty stands at the deathbed of her estranged father, conflicted by his morphine-induced confession exposing his part in her mother’s death. While racing home, Kate’s car mishap leads her to a soul-searching discussion with a lone diner employee, prompting Kate to confront the true reasons her marriage hangs in the balance. When her night takes an unexpected turn, however, she flees for her life, a life desperate for faith that can only be found through her ability to forgive.
Read the Excerpt!
The last grain of sand was about to drop in her father’s invisible hourglass and there was nothing Kate Flaherty could do to stop it. The realization launched a shudder up her spine.
She’d known this day was inevitable. Yet it still came as a shock when she’d learned only hours ago that his final days had arrived. She should have come back sooner.
No–it was his fault, not hers. She’d had every right to stay away after discovering the truth. So why did she feel remorse encroaching on her anger, his gurgling breaths draining strength from her limbs?
In his curtain-drawn bedroom, she perched on the edge of the mattress, a few inches away from what had become a mere sketch of a man. The lamp’s amber glow cast shadows across his features, accentuating how much he’d deteriorated in just under a month.
Surgery, chemo, radiation therapy, for two years, she’d watched his heavyset frame shrink with every trip to the hospital, his sixty-three year old body blast through a time warp, but never ravaged to this extent. She barely recognized the sheeted man beside her. Mussed strands of thin, ghost-white hair, matching jagged mustache, and stubbly chin were all that remained of the father she knew. He was more of a stranger than ever before.
Slowly, he lifted his eyelids and turned his face. When their gazes met, a spark of recognition flickered. “You’re here,” he rasped as he reached for her hand.
She accepted reluctantly. His palm was cold and clammy, his skin sallow and tissue-thin. She swallowed hard, wanting to pull away, but the child in her resisted, the part of her that had never stopped longing for his affection.
“Where’ve you been?” He inhaled a labored breath. “I was waiting for ya.”
“I…” A lump of guilt formed in her throat, blocking any answer.
“Is the baby ready?”
She stared at him, shocked. His words made no sense. “What, Dad?”
“We gotta go. Don’t wanna hit traffic, Iris.”
Kate’s heart plummeted before she could remind herself of what he’d done. She slipped her hand away and clenched her fists, her nails biting into her palms. She tried to reignite the rage she was entitled to, but he appeared so defenseless, she summoned only the foreboding of imminent loss.
She leaned toward him. His gaze fixed on the ceiling. All she had to do was say good-bye, just as she’d done countless times throughout her youth. It would be a relief– for both of them.
Read what reviewers are saying about Flaherty’s Crossing!
“Be warned: do not start this novel if you anticipate any pressing obligations – a need to sleep, say – or without a handful of tissues within arms reach. Flaherty’s Crossing is a compelling and imaginative story, not just about death but about life and emotional growth, a broken woman’s journey towards learning to trust again. Beautifully written, heart wrenching yet inspirational, this is a ‘must read’ for anyone who has loved and lost.”
Read what reviewers are saying;
–ELIZABETH JOY ARNOLD, USA Today bestselling author of Pieces of My Sister’s Life
“A skillfully wrought tale.”
“Sometimes, the deepest darkest moments allow us to finally recognize the light in our lives. Only when we face our pain can we move onto something better. So it seems for Kate Flaherty. Kate was at a crossroads. From the moment her mother died, everything changed. Her father became distant. As she watches her father succumb to cancer, Kate realizes that she was very much her father’s daughter. She’d lost her mother, would soon lose her father, and if she wasn’t careful her husband would give up on their marriage. She had to make some changes and fast. Flaherty’s Crossing is an inspirational story about learning to let go and love fully for the sake of love. Who are we under our masks of pain? How would it feel to have those burdens lifted?”
Paperback Writer welcomes today an author Karen Harrington as she continues on her virtual book tour with Pump Up Your Book Promotion. Her novel, Janeology is in the genre suspenseful, mainstream, women’s fiction. Join us for her interview to see how she came up with the idea for the novel.
Tom Nelson is struggling after the death of his son at the hands of his wife Jane. While Jane sits in a Texas mental hospital for her part in the crime, prosecutors turn their focus to Tom. They believe Tom should have known Jane was on the cusp of a breakdown and protected his children from her illness. As a result, he is charged with “failure to protect.” Enter attorney, Dave Frontella, who employs a radical defense strategy – one that lays the blame at the feet of Jane’s nature and nurture. To gather evidence about Jane’s forbears, Frontella hires a woman with the power of retrocognition – the ability to use a person’s belongings to re-create their past. An unforgettable journey through the troubled minds and souls of Jane’s ancestors, spanning decades and continents, this debut novel deftly illustrates the ways nature and nurture weave the fabric of one woman’s life, and renders a portrait of one man left in its tragic wake.
Welcome to Paperback Writer
Will you share with us how you came up with the idea for this book?
Two things, actually. First, I have a passion for genealogy, mostly because I never knew any of my grandparents. I had their pictures and many of their belongings. I looked at these objects and thought, “What if these pictures could talk? What if this necklace could tell me something about my grandmother?” So I wanted to write about a character from the perspective of her genealogy.
Second, as a new mother, I felt a deep bond to my children. So when I read the grim headlines about mothers who killed their children, I had to ask “What would make a woman take the life of her own child?” I knew that would be the central question of my novel.
Do you plan your stories first with an outline or does it come to you as write it?
I wrote screenplays for many years before trying my hand at a novel. I tend to work out a screenplay outline for my stories to jumpstart the conflict and begin the brainstorming process. Sometimes I stick to the outline and sometimes I don’t. It’s a great starting point.
Do you know the end of the story at the beginning?
No, that hasn’t been my experience, which I must say, I like. I like to be surprised.
Do you have a process for developing your characters?
It’s not so much a process. It’s more like me being a therapist and they being my patient and I keep pulling information out of them by asking why would you do that? What were you thinking? What happened to you in the hour before you made that choice? Would you do that again?
It is said that authors write themselves into their characters. Is there any part of you in your characters and what they would be?
Let’s say there’s a scene in which a character is being dumped by her boyfriend at a train station. She leaves the train station and goes to a bar. Then what? I think a writer usually brings her own set of questions and experiences to the page at first and asks, How did I feel when I got dumped? How would I feel in that situation? Would I go to a bar? Would I scream at the boyfriend or would I walk away? I think these questions are the initial research a writer puts into a character. Sometimes they might follow the writers’ own sensitivities. Sometimes the character reacts opposite of how the writer would in real life. For me, I love to observe people and make note of how they contradict themselves over and over again. If there’s anything from myself in my characters, it’s that ability to contradict myself and not have a rational reason for doing so. I’ve never met a person who hasn’t acted this way, but I still want to know why we do it. And the great thing about being a writer is trying to unearth answers to this question.
What is your favorite part about this book?
The chapter that shows Jane at age nine is probably one of my favorite pieces. It shows the tender age at which her innocence was getting chipped away. There’s a seminal event in this chapter. Her life could have gone either way right then. Left or right, and despite her crimes later in life, this chapter endears me to her.
When in the process of writing your book did you begin to look for a publisher?
I didn’t seek publication until I felt satisfied that I’d taken the story as far as I could. I had that “aha” moment several times that I had something special within this story and I hoped it would resonate with someone else.
What struggles have you had on the road to being published?
Like most writers, it’s a matter of perseverance. I sent out countless queries to agents and publishers and received as many “no’s.” But it only takes one yes. That’s what I kept telling myself.
What has been the best part about being published?
The whole process has proved wonderful. It’s a bit like finding out your pregnant and then having to wait almost a year with breathless anticipation for the end result. And now that the book is actually here, I’m still awe-struck that the ideas and thoughts once private to me are now out there in the world. It’s like finishing a race. There’s knowing you can cross the finish line. And there’s the feeling of the finish line ribbon breaking as you cross. That’s what it feels like.
What do you want readers to remember and carry with them after reading your novel?
You’ve heard the story that just calling someone to invite them for a cup of coffee saved them from something horrible. That’s one of the seminal truths I found from researching overwhelmed mothers who were in decline mentally and emotionally. So I think I’d like people to remember to be more compassionate and observant towards those they love. Small gestures make a difference. Noticing signs about someone’s well being makes a difference.
Do you have plans to write another book?
Yes, I’m working on it now. It’s a modern take on the prodigal son story from the Bible.
Would you care to share with us how the virtual book tour experience with Pump Up Your Book Promotion has been for you?
This has been an invaluable experience for me! The best part about this tour was knowing I had a partner in promotion. It’s a big, big world out there and writers need as many resources as possible.
Where can readers find a copy of your book?
It’s available on Amazon, Barnes&Noble.com and in most major retailers.
Do you have a website for readers to go to?
Yes, it’s www.karenharringtonbooks.com
Thank you, Karen, for sharing your book and characters with us today. It has been a pleasure and I hope you have had a successful virtual book tour.
JANEOLOGY VIRTUAL BOOK TOUR ’08 will officially begin on May 1, 2008 and continue all month. If you would like to follow Karen’s tour in progress, visit http://www.virtualbooktours.wordpress.com/ in May. Leave a comment on her blog stops and become eligible to win a free copy at the end of her tour! One lucky winner will be announced on this tour page on May 30!