Wednesday, August 13, 2014

The anatomy of a disease. . . .

I have thought long and hard about acknowledging publicly that I suffer from a disease, but after hearing the sad news of Robin Williams's death earlier this week, I've felt compelled to come forward.

The disease I'm talking about is mental illness. In my case, Bipolar I. In Williams's case, he was seeking treatment for severe depression. I had often thought Robin Williams was bipolar, based on his manic behavior. As this "World of Psychology" article states in its "Editor's Note," he never publicly acknowledged being diagnosed with bipolar disorder, but he exhibited many of the symptoms, two of which are mania and depression.

Manic depression or bipolar disorder is a chemical imbalance of the brain that, when left untreated, leads to severe highs which can morph into full-blown manic episodes. In these manic episodes, a person can experience the inability to sleep, feelings of grandeur, hallucinations, rapid speech, and agitation. A manic episode is often preceded by a period of severe depression. It can also be followed by a period a severe depression. When left untreated, a person can literally feel like they're on a roller coaster of emotion. The disease is genetic, and there is no "cure." Thankfully, though, there is medication that can treat the illness.

Manic depression usually rears its ugly head when a person reaches their early twenties. In my case, I believe it started in high school where I battled depression throughout the four years. I also struggled with sleep, some nights only getting four hours of sleep. When I was nineteen, I had my first manic episode. It was preceded by a severe depressive episode that lasted for months, at which time I slept hours and hours each day and gained a lot of weight since I turned to food for comfort. In the spring of 1981, the manic episode hit and didn't pull any punches. As for my "feelings of grandeur," I was convinced I would become President of the United States. As I often joke to my loved ones and friends who know I'm bipolar, manic depressives don't aim low with their achievements. Nope. We go for it all. I eventually came out of this episode, not by medication or treatment, but because it simply ran its course after a few weeks. Afterward, I did what I always do when I want to find information. I researched it and self diagnosed my illness. I later started seeing a therapist, a man who I can in all honesty say I owe my life. After telling him about my "breakdown," his first question to me was, "Is there a history of manic depression in your family?" When I answered, "yes," he said, "Manic depression is no different than diabetes. It can be treated with medication." To which I said, "I'm sure it can, but I prefer to take care of this with help from God."

So. For the next ten years, I did just that. Tried to control something that I had no control over because, again, it is a chemical imbalance in the brain. I would experience highs and lows. "Hypomanic" periods where I was functioning on very little sleep, but I was still functioning. At that time, I didn't write, as I do now, although I finished with a degree in journalism and went on to work as a general assignment reporter and sportswriter. To attempt to ease my mind when I couldn't sleep, I sketched, staying up for hours late at night, leaning over a photograph of the Rocky Mountains and sketching it onto my sketchpad. When the lows would hit, I would usually be okay. But, along with the severe depressive episode I suffered when I was nineteen, I suffered through another one in 1990. This was debilitating to the point that I contemplated suicide, even to the extent that I knew how I'd do it. The next thought, though, was that my parents would find me. And I couldn't do that to them. I still believe that was God's way of keeping me alive. During this period, I would spend hours on the phone with the woman I call my "second" mom. Jackie was there for me, listening to me, gently asking me if I thought of seeing my therapist. I was so depressed, I didn't even have the energy to make that phone call.

Just as in 1981, this led to a full-blown manic episode. The week that it hit, I had probably gotten four to possibly six hours sleep the entire week. At the time, I was a student at IUPUI, attempting to finish my degree that I had started right out of high school at IU in Bloomington. I was working on the school newspaper when this one hit. Since I was working on a story at the time, my mania convinced me that I'd won the Pulitzer Prize. Again, nothing but the best--not a winner of a local writing contest, but a winner of the highest honor in journalism. I also became very sick with bronchitis. So sick, in fact, that I decided to check myself into a hospital for treatment. I thought, after all, that's what Pulitzer Prize winners do after winning the award--go to the hospital to recuperate. While there, my parents found out where I was because I called Jackie. They were able to tell the doctor about my manic depression, and despite their misgivings, he approached me and asked if I would agree to a transfer to their psychiatric unit on the north side. I thought, okay, sure. While I'm in here, I might as well get on the medication to treat my illness. Because before all of this happened, I had made an appointment to see a psychiatrist for later in January 1991 to start on the meds.

The psychiatrist told my parents to expect me to be in the hospital for at least six weeks. I was there for two. It wasn't that I was rushed to get out of there. It's that I responded that quickly to the medication. I also participated in group therapy, talking with the nurses, and also with my psychiatrist. I don't know what you may picture when you picture a psych unit. This place reminded me of living in dorm life again. I had a roommate. There was a community area to watch TV. I just couldn't leave. Not until I came out of the manic episode and not until the psychiatrist was convinced the treatment was working.

Since the day I left that place, January 28, 1991, I have been on my meds and have never even thought of going off of them. Because of this, I've never suffered a "relapse." I call it "staying sober," because really, it is. At least for me it is. In 2001, I switched from lithium to Depakote to treat the manic part of the disorder. I also take an anti-depressant to control that part of the illness. I see my psychiatrist who prescribes the medication twice a year and am tested for my liver function (since Depakote can affect your liver) and for my level to make sure it's in therapeutic range. I try to avoid stress when possible, but as we all know in life, sometimes it's unavoidable. I'm blessed with Phyllis who looks after me and makes sure everything stays as even as possible in our lives.

Why am I writing this and sharing my story with you? Maybe it's because I want you to at least have an idea of how this disease works. I am blessed that I've found a medication that works for me. I am blessed that I have a remarkable man as a therapist. A man who is more like an uncle to me now after seeing him for almost thirty-five years. I know some bipolar patients struggle to find the right combination and continue to suffer with the highs and lows.

Another reason I'm sharing is to ask you to reach out to anyone who talks about suicide, regardless of whether you think they're serious. Please try to get them to seek professional help. Also, reach out to anyone who may not talk about suicide, but who's been feeling low. Even a phone call or a quick email can raise someone's spirit. I can't tell you how much my friends, my Facebook friends, and others in my life kept me going with a simple note, saying, "Hey, I was thinking about you today and wanted to say hang in there."

But I'm also sharing my story so that you may think before you let go with a flippant remark, or, if you're an author, that you may think before you write a flippant remark about bipolar disorder or manic depression--any mental illness, for that matter. There have been at least two occasions when I've read a romance where I've come across such remarks. I literally felt like I'd been slapped in the face and seriously considered not finishing the books. But then I thought, no, the authors are uninformed. They don't have anyone in their family who suffers from this disease. They simply don't understand.

The news that Robin Williams had committed suicide really didn't hit me hard until yesterday. I started thinking about my life. I started thinking about my struggles with manic depression, and because Williams was fighting severe depression at the time of his death, I started thinking about when I had felt that low. Then I cried. I cried for his family. His friends. His colleagues. I cried for those of us who enjoyed his humor and the fact he could take us away from our troubles, if only for a while. And I cried because "there but for the grace of God go I."

Two of my favorite Robin Williams's movies are Penny Marshall's Awakenings and the comedy, Birdcage. This weekend, I plan to watch Birdcage again. Because I want to remember and honor Robin Williams in the best way I know how--by laughing....





Thursday, July 24, 2014

Saying farewell to a good friend and hello to a new adventure. . . .

Five years ago, I was privileged enough to have my debut novel, Playing for First, published by Blue Feather Books. Four novels would follow, usually within a year of each other, longer if "life" issues made an unwanted appearance.

In 2008, on a "hunch," I contacted Jane Vollbrecht. Over a series of emails, we discussed my manuscript and whether it would be a good fit for Blue Feather. In September 2008, I submitted the first draft to Emily Reed. In the interim, Jane returned a critique of Playing for First. Along with the typical newbie author mistakes, Jane included this little missive: Your three main characters are cardboard stereotypes and if you don't fix this, your novel is doomed. I remember when I read those words, I leaned my elbows on my desk, grabbed my head, and said, "Oh. My. God." When I told my wife, in her typical, optimistic Phyllis Manfredi fashion, she said, "Oh, that will be easy for you." I think my voice hit a new high that day when I launched into a diatribe on just how much work this would entail. A few weeks later, Em returned a similar critique. Although she didn't use Jane's exact words, it was clear I had some work to do. After much rewriting, pulling of hair, cutting out of the 327 uses of "smile," "laugh," and "grin," I resubmitted the manuscript. On December 9, 2008, Playing for First was accepted for publication. Thus, began one of the greatest experiences of my life.

With the publication of each release, I learned more about the craft of writing--first, under Jane's steady guidance. Then, after Jane's departure from Blue Feather two years ago, I worked with the amazing Nann Dunne. Both women have taught me so much about the nuances of the craft. Like all authors, reaching the next level in my writing is a never-ending goal, one that I strive for with each publication. Jane and Nann have instilled that desire within me, and I'll always be in their debt.

I'll be embarking on a new adventure with To Love Free, my next release due out in September. With this release, I've decided to try my hand at self-publishing. While it's a little scary, it's also exciting to be "dipping my toes" in uncharted waters. But I wouldn't have reached this point without the invaluable experience I gained with Blue Feather Books.

Emily Reed is a remarkable woman. Along with her busy, full-time job, she ran and maintained a publishing company that released quality books each year. Jane Vollbrecht later joined Blue Feather and became a partner in running the company. Blue Feather authors were finalists for Lambda Literary Awards and almost every year, Blue Feather authors were finalists and winners of Goldies. This week, Blue Feather closed its doors. Just as I had a difficult decision to make in whether to go indie, Em also agonized over her decision in closing Blue Feather. There's a deep sadness, a sense of loss, but there is also an overwhelming belief that Blue Feather will always be remembered as a place authors could call home, knowing their books would be treated with infinite care by Em, Jane, and Nann. Jane told me in 2008, "Blue Feather Books is a family." She was right, because I feel that way about the author friends I've made at Blue Feather. We're a family and we always will be.

Emily was much more than a publisher when she emailed me each week to ask how Phyllis was doing in her cancer treatment, how my father was doing as he fought Stage IV lung cancer. Jane was much more than my editor and publisher when she called me each weekend to check in on Phyllis, my father, and my ailing mother. Em and Jane were there for me, just as they were there for the rest of the Blue Feather family. It wasn't about selling books. It was about how you were treated as a human being. Their actions spoke volumes about who they were and who they are still to this day.

Blue Feather Books may no longer be in existence as a publishing company, but it will forever be in existence in my heart. I am friends and will remain friends with Em, Jane, Nann, and all the Blue Feather authors.

With Blue Feather Books as my foundation, I hope to build upon everything I learned there as I start on the next stage of my writing career. But just as Emily said to us this week... I will always be "a Blue Feather author." It's something I will take with me for the rest of my life.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

My writing process and my next release, "To Love Free" ...

I was recently tagged by Clare Ashton for the "Writing Process Blog Tour." I fell in love with Tig's writing with her debut novel, Pennance. She continued enthralling readers with the Goldie award-winning After Mrs Hamilton. Her latest release is That Certain Something. If you haven't read the book yet, you're in for a real treat. While Pennance was a darker romance and After Mrs Hamilton was more mysterious with a nice dose of erotic romance, That Certain Something is a fun, romantic comedy that will make you laugh and tug on your heartstrings.  And apparently I'm not the only one who was anxiously awaiting Tig's latest release. That Certain Something is at the top of Amazon's Lesbian Romance charts in both the US and UK... as it should be! Please read about her writing process in her answers to the blog tour.

We've been given four questions to answer about our process and our work. So, here I go!

1.  What am I working on?

Last night, I finished writing the final pages of my latest romance, To Love Free. Now, it's on to the hard work of editing, polishing, editing, and more polishing before I read it out loud to Phyllis to get her invaluable feedback. After that, I send it on to my publisher Emily Reed at Blue Feather Books. I'll also have some author buddies look it over and offer suggestions. It's scheduled for release this summer.

To Love Free has an intriguing storyline. One of the main characters, Madison Lorraine, is a renowned artist who lost her Muse when her wife Callie died of cancer over three years ago. Madison lives in Islamorada, located in the Upper Keys of Florida, with her nine-year-old daughter, Montanna ("Mo"). Enter a precocious dolphin who appears one morning in their cove. The leader of his pod has given him the quest to bring joy and love back into Madison's life. They arrive in the person of Gabrielle Valenci, a supermodel, who moves into her family vacation home next door. She's in Florida to finish her last treatments for uterine cancer and to recuperate--away from New York City and away from a failed relationship. Madison is instantly drawn to her but is hesitant to get involved because Gabrielle's battle with cancer is a reminder of who she lost three years before. There are a cast of secondary characters, the strongest being Mo and Cyndra, Madison's sister. Some old friends from Come Back to Me make a reappearance. All try to play matchmaker for Madison and Gabrielle, but none can compete with the antics of the dolphin they've named "Free."

It's been quite a journey writing this one. But I hope I've written an uplifting story that will touch readers' hearts. And although I just finished typing "THE END" last night, I already miss Free.

2.  How does my work differ from others of its genre?

This is a question I think readers can answer better than I. With each book, I try to write from my heart... to write about what I know, sometimes experiences that I've had. In my writing, I sprinkle humor in the dialogue because I believe humor makes living so much easier. With Playing for First and Two for the Show, I wrote about my passion for baseball and my belief that a woman could one day make it to "The Show." Come Back to Me had a main character in Angie Cantinnini who was a published author. Meryl McClain in that story suffered through and, in adulthood, came to grips with the same trauma I had experienced as a child, which is why that book is so personal to me. Survived by Her Longtime Companion touched on my love of Hollywood and, in particular, old black and white movies. In my last release, And a Time to Dance, I was able to revisit one of my favorite places in the world... Grand Lake, Colorado. And in To Love Free, I wrote about cancer, cancer treatment, and cancer survival because of my partner Phyllis's surgery and subsequent cancer treatment and my late father's battle with lung cancer. In To Love Free, I wanted to write about the strength of the human spirit to overcome and triumph, the hope and promise of tomorrow, and the mystical powers of a certain dolphin.

3.  Why do I write what I do?

I write what I do so readers can get lost in an enjoyable story that hopefully will stay with them after they close the book (or turn off the e-reader!). I hope even as they finish reading the last word of the book, they'll want to revisit the story. I also write what I do because it's my passion. I think most authors would agree.

4.  How does my writing process work?

I start with an idea which usually comes to me out of the blue--it can be while I'm in the shower, driving to work, listening to a song, having a conversation with Phyllis over dinner... Once I have an idea, I start thinking about how to build a story around it--about characters, their lives, their issues, the major conflict they face. I think about setting because sometimes the setting is a character all on its own. This was definitely the case with my description of the Rocky Mountains and the town of Grand Lake in And a Time to Dance. Typically, once I have the story in mind, I immediately focus on the opening scene and not too long after that, the closing scene. Then I think about the scenes in between the first chapter and the last. That is the only time I jot down a very loose outline, more like bullet points of each major scene. And I proceed to write from scene to scene. Usually, when writing, another scene will pop up and I'll add it to the story. If pieces of dialogue spring into my head, I'll jot those down. Often, they're funny lines I don't want to forget. For example, in And a Time to Dance, it was Tess saying to Erin, "And what about you, Ms. Samsonite?" when Erin said she was afraid of Corey's "baggage." I typically write until I feel I need to go back and read the beginning to refresh my mind. With To Love Free, I haven't gone back to read it since I reached 25,000 words. Right now, it is at 80,500 words, but I know I have a LOT of self editing to do before I send it to Em and Nann Dunne, my editor. Rarely does a book remain at the same amount of words as when I initially finished it. Sometimes it dips a few thousand words, other times it increases, as was the case with Survived by Her Longtime Companion. I edit out a lot of words in my initial read-through. When Nann performs her first edit, she will inevitably find places where the story needs strengthening, which is when the book may jump a few thousand words.

That's my writing process in a nutshell! I already have another book in mind, but before I get to that one, I owe the fans of the Playing for First series the next book, From Third to Home. I apologize to those who've asked me about the book and when it'll be out. It will get done! I have about 25,000 words written so far, but I've had a hard time going back to it. I associate the series with my dad because he loved baseball so much, and he loved the story. Once I get past that hurdle, I'll finish the book. From Third to Home will hopefully be out by the first pitch of Spring 2015. I want to honor my father's memory by finishing the book. He wouldn't want it any other way.

Next week ...

I've "tagged" a fantastic author to answer these questions, an author I'm proud to call a friend:

C.P. Rowlands
Cathy and I became friends when she first wrote me about Playing for First. We both love baseball, albeit we're fans of different teams--hers, the Milwaukee Brewers, mine, my beloved Cincinnati Reds. However, we do cheer for the other's team when the Brewers and Reds aren't playing each other. I loved Cathy's first book, Lake Effect Snow. It was a taut suspense with a very nice romance. Then, I fell in love with the characters of her romance, Collision Course, and what they each had to overcome. Her last novel, Jacob's War, was shortlisted for a 2013 Lambda Literary Award in the Mystery category. It's an excellent book with rich characters in ATF Special Agent Allison ("AJ") Jacob and small business owner Katie Blackburn. I'm glad Jacob's War is the first in the series because I can't wait to see what AJ and Katie have been up to. I believe Cathy has a romance coming out before the sequel to Jacob's War, but I'll let her fill you in on the details.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

What a time....

Phyllis and I returned from Dallas and the Golden Crown Literary Conference around 2:00 AM Monday morning. Our flight was to get in to Indy at 11:00 Sunday evening, but after being delayed in Dallas and later in Kansas City, we didn't drag our bags into the house until the wee small hours. But we still had a fantastic time.

I don't know if you've ever been to the GCLS Con. If you're like me, the Con officially begins with the first sighting of GCLS folk--in this case Mercedes Lewis and Lizz Gibson when we pulled in front of the Double Tree Hotel. Lizz came to our rescue in dealing with the shuttle company. Later, Nelda Ireland reeeeeally got the shuttle stuff straightened out for us so there would be no more questions on our return to Love Field. We were tired and dragging and a little irritable, but then I heard a "CHRIS!" shout-out when we entered the lobby from Jeanine Hoffman. That lifted my spirits. We later came down from our rooms to chat with friends we'd not seen in two years.

We rested up in time for Wednesday when our taskmaster, er-uh, fearless volunteer leader, Pam Sloss, imparted her instructions to us on what was needed. We immediately set about cutting out nametags, and cutting out nametags, and... you get the picture. It was still a lot of fun. That afternoon, we went out with friends to Twisted Root where we were given food tickets with such imaginative names as Chaka Kahn and Annie Oakley, among others, to pick up our food at the counter. I wasn't adventurous and went right along with Phyllis's request of a hamburger of "beef from a COW" for my sandwich (instead of elk, or buffalo, or other more exotic meat).

Thursday, Phyllis and I saw my publisher at Blue Feather Books, Em Reed, for the first time in two years. It was an emotional hug fest. We always love to see her, but a lot had happened in those two years. The Con "officially officially" started with Executive Director's Patty Schramm welcome. Then it was on to a romance coffee chat with Georgia Beers, Rachel Spangler, Mary Griggs, and Lee Lynch. It's interesting to listen to other authors speak about their characters and writing process, and I love interacting with the readers who asked excellent questions. Later that afternoon, I participated on a "Creating Series Characters" panel with Mary Vermillion, J.M. Redmann, and Ali Vali. Linda Kay Silva, our moderator, asked some hard questions. I think I provided semi-intelligent answers.

Friday, I felt like I hit a brick wall of fatigue. I don't know if I'd used up my adrenaline or what, but numerous people said, "wow, you look exhausted." That's not good. lol Carsen Taite did help in pepping us up with her speech that morning. Later that day, I had the pleasure of finally handing over my latest release to good buddy, Rach Spangler, while she handed me hers. We'd started this tradition long ago where we'd send each other our latest release. It was so special to do it in person.

 
 
We then read from our books right after the infamous book exchange. Rach's latest romance sounds like a winner. Can't wait to read it. Friday afternoon was the autograph session where you interact with the readers and your friends. That's always a blast. I had a good time chatting with fellow-Blue Feather authors Bev Prescott and Erica Lawson and with Lynn Ames. Friday night, we sang and boogied at the karaoke festivities. Phyllis and I were in our cowboy and cowgirl get-up. I had never worn cowboy boots in my LIFE, and I think it showed. lol

Saturday, Georgia Beers gave her excellent keynote speech. Her video, "A Day in the Life of a Romance Writer," had us all rolling--especially the authors who saw so much of themselves in the video. I was laughing so hard, I missed some of the best lines and just watched it again to catch them. Very very funny. Visit Georgia's blog to catch the video: http://www.georgiabeers.com/. In the afternoon, I again participated on a panel, this one on marketing, with Georgia Beers, Carsen Taite, and Marianne K. Martin. It was interesting listening to the other authors talking about their methods for reaching readers and when to know "enough is enough." I'm still learning with the help of a very good friend. It's not easy when you're introverted, as many of us authors are.
 
The awards ceremony was Saturday night. I'd already gone through the drill of how to handle the presentation of the Romance/Suspense award with Linda Kay Silva. She read this wonderful description of the category. My contribution was, "I agree." I don't think I could put a coherent sentence together even if I had been reading from a piece of paper. Linda sounded marvelous. She had told me what she was going to do. I think she was ready for me to say, "well, I'll say this and this." Heck no! Hence, "I agree." lol

Later, the final award, the Ann Bannon Popular Choice Award, was announced. When Jessie Chandler announced, "Survived by Her Longtime Companion," and my name, it was so surreal, I stay seated for I think five seconds until Karen Badger urged me to stand up. Then I hugged my wife and couldn't stop kissing her. Phyllis finally got through my fogged-up brain and said, "Honey, you have to go get your award." Since we were the last table in the room, it took me some time to make it to the stage. After Patty hugged me, she said, "don't cry." Which was a useless piece of advice. lol Because of course I did.  Even though I couldn't see her through the glare of the lights, I looked to the back of the room where I knew Phyllis was sitting and I spoke to her. She's the reason I'm writing. She's in every romantic moment I write between my characters. My characters even speak words she's spoken to me. I tried to thank her, but I don't think I can ever thank her enough.  As for my father, I know he was there, too. Good friend Pam Sloss captured the moment on tape.
 

 
The only person I failed to thank, but got too flustered to say more than the words I did speak, was Ann Bannon. She is the inspiration to so many of us authors because if it weren't for her, authors like Lee Lynch, and Trailblazer Award-winner Marijane Meaker and others, organizations like the GCLS would not even exist. I look forward to next year in Portland so I can thank Ms. Bannon in person.
 
It was a magical night and a magical Conference... one I'll never forget.


Monday, June 3, 2013

the city that doesn't sleep,,,,

Phyllis and I arrived in New York City yesterday at noon for the Lambda Literary Awards, held tonight at 7:00. After getting up yesterday morning at 2:30 a.m. to get going and to the airport by 4:00 (our flight was at 5:15... don't ask me what I was thinking when I booked the flight), we came to our room and crashed for about an hour. Then I had the pleasure of finally meeting fellow-Blue Feather Books author and friend, Kelly Sinclair, who is a nominee for In the Now, a finalist in the sci-fi, paranormal, speculative fiction category. We had the additional pleasure of meeting Facebook friends Michelle Brooks and Linda Fleischer at Becco's Italian Restaurant. What a great two hours of sharing a bottle of wine, some fine food, and even more laughs with our friends. We'll be seeing them again tonight at the Lammies.

Then today, Phyllis, Kelly, and I went to Katz's Deli for bagels. Oh... my... God... I don't think I'll ever eat another bagel unless we're in New York. Yum. From there, we went to the West Village and scoped it out. The bookstore, Three Lives and Co., wasn't open yet, so we walked on down to the Stonewall Inn and took pics, plus pics of statues in Christopher Park. We decided to mosey back down to Julius', the oldest gay bar in NYC, and hang out to wait for the store to open. We had THE best burgers, a few drinks, and chatted with the friendly bartender, Tracy as we passed the time. Then it was on to Three Lives to buy some books and head back to our hotel.

Now, we're chillin' until 5:00 when we take a limo for the pre-awards red carpet/cocktails stuff. After the awards, we go on to the after party. Actually, we'll start getting ready at 3:30... I'm wearing my tux and it takes forever to get dressed. lol Phyllis bought a spiffy new outfit but hasn't let me see it. I especially can't wait for us to get ready so I can see my honey all dressed up. I know she'll look beautiful because she is beautiful.

It's been a long journey. We've both been through so much these past sixteen months. Tonight is a night to celebrate, not just being named a finalist for Survived by Her Longtime Companion, but to celebrate Phyllis's battle over cancer. And tonight, I'll say a prayer for my father and for all he meant to me... and still does.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Slowly approaching the release of "And a Time to Dance". . . .

I don't think it will ever grow old--the excitement of a new release. My latest novel, And a Time to Dance, should be out by the beginning of June, if not by the end of this month. I have it back from my editor, Nann Dunne, for the second time (after I made Nann's suggested changes in my rewrite). Now, it's time to make the last changes before it's on to Emily Reed, my publisher.

This book was a journey. All books are, but this one in particular was for me. I wrote it over a course of approximately fourteen months--actually, probably longer, since I started it before the release of  Survived by Her Longtime Companion in January 2012. I was plugging along nicely. But it came to a screeching halt as I was faced with Phyllis's and my father's cancer and treatment. Then, I was in a "start and stop" mode. It was a story I believed in, and it's not that I lost faith in the romance. I simply couldn't focus. What made me finish writing the novel was the gentle prodding of Phyllis: "Honey, please don't stop writing" and my father: "Sis, how's your writing coming along?" Having my father ask me that gentle question while he was dying of terminal lung cancer was the final inspiration I needed. He passed away April 3, but it's a blessing I was able to tell him at the end of March that I'd sent the book to Emily for review and was offered a contract from Blue Feather Books.

I had the pleasure of reading two excerpts from the book on Liz McMullen's "Lizzie's Bedtime Stories" show. Here is the YouTube presentation of that reading. I hope you enjoy listening.




I'll keep you posted the closer we get to release date!

Sunday, February 17, 2013

The Next Big Thing Blog Hop


Fellow author Syd Parker tagged me in “The Next Big Thing” blog hop… a month ago. The blog hop allows lesbian authors the opportunity to share with readers what they’re currently working on, plus answer some fun questions about their book. One author tags another author, tags another… you get the picture. With everything going on in my life, I’m just now finding the time to write my blog about my work in progress. Thanks, Syd, for tagging me! Please visit Syd’s website, www.sydparkerbooks.com, to find out about her books and link to her blog to read about her work in progress, Someone Like You, which sounds like a great romance.
 
I’m excited to tag new Blue Feather author, Barbara Valletto, whose debut novel, Pulse Points, will be released soon. I’ve had the pleasure to read it. For those who love paranormal romance, you’ll love this book. Although it’s not at all about vampires, the love shared between two of the main characters reminded me of Count Dracula and his love, Lucy. The big difference in Barb’s book is her main character reads like a kick-ass Catherine Zeta-Jones—at least she did for me. J
 
Here is the information for my book to be released by Blue Feather Books this late spring/early summer.
 
Questions & Answers:
 
1. What is the working title of your book?
 
The title is And a Time to Dance. I took it from the Old Testament’s book of Ecclesiastes 3:1, 3:4:

 “To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:
A time to weep, and a time to laugh;
A time to mourn, and a time to dance…”
 
2. Where did the idea come from for the book?
 
I love Bob Seger, and my favorite song of his is “Roll Me Away.” On a drive one day, I was playing his Greatest Hits. The song came on, and I started thinking about a woman who loses her partner to death. She feels the need to get away from her memories and decides to move to Grand Lake, Colorado, to start her new life. Here is the link to a YouTube performance of the song: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TEBwq4A1wsU. Of course there are many differences, two of which are that my main character isn’t riding a Harley to the Rocky Mountains, and she doesn’t meet up with another woman to take with her. But the song still resonated with me and sparked the idea for the book.
 
3. What genre does your book fall under?
 
Lesbian Romance. This will be my third lesbian romance. My other two releases, Playing for First and Two for the Show, are sports books about a woman breaking through the gender barrier into major league baseball.
 
4. What actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?
 
Syd said she loved this question and seemed to effortlessly pick the actors to play her characters. I needed to think about it.
 
Corey: Picture Mariska Hargitay in her “short cut” days with premature gray hair: http://tinyurl.com/a3cj77y.
 
Erin:  Hmm… Okay, let’s stick with SVU. Stephanie March. She definitely has the right look and beautiful blue eyes: http://tinyurl.com/bee2g2w 
 
Aunt Tess:  Definitely Frances Sternhagen to play Tess, Erin’s aunt. Here’s Frances if you’re not familiar with the actress: http://tinyurl.com/bjmr9bo.    
 
There are of course other characters, but Corey, Erin, and Aunt Tess represent the core of the story.



5. What is the one-sentence synopsis for your book?
 
In a hope to leave behind the painful memory of her partner’s death, a grieving woman travels west only to rediscover love at a Rocky Mountain lodge.
 
6. Will your book be self-published or released by a publisher?
 
Blue Feather Books will publish And a Time to Dance, as they have my other novels.
 
7. How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
 
This is a tricky question for me. I started this book after I finished Survived by Her Longtime Companion. But I had to step back after dealing with serious health issues with my wife, Phyllis, and with my parents this past year. I’ll finish with the first draft soon and the “final” product will go to Emily Reed, my publisher, by April 1.

8. What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
 

There are excellent books out there that deal with a lover's death. One of my favorite romances, Bold Strokes author Ali Vali’s Carly’s Sound, comes to mind, but in And a Time to Dance, there is no ghost of Corey’s partner to guide her along the path to healing. Corey works through her emotions and grows on her own, sometimes stumbling along the way. Meeting the beautiful Erin is the impetus, of course.
 
9. Who or what inspired you to write this book?
 
As I said earlier, “Roll Me Away” sparked the idea, but as always, the love I share with Phyllis propels the romance in my books. I couldn’t get the storyline out of my head, and when that happens, I simply have to write.
 
10. What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?
 
Anyone who’s traveled to the Rocky Mountains, particularly to the western entrance to Rocky Mountain National Park, will appreciate the locale in And a Time to Dance. I had the pleasure of visiting for a week in 1984 and stayed at Grand Lake Lodge, the inspiration for “Rainbow Lodge” in the book: http://tinyurl.com/bfzh7z5. And yes, there truly is a thundershower every afternoon, followed closely by a rainbow. It’s magical. I only hope I convey that in the story.
 
 
As I said at the start, And a Time to Dance will be out in late spring/early summer. As we draw nearer to the final edit, I’ll post and provide a firmer date. Also, in the coming months, I'll post a link to my website where you can find an excerpt.
 
Barbara Valletto, http://www.barbaravalletto.com/, has written well-received short stories in the paranormal, mystery/thriller, and horror genre. Pulse Points is her debut novel. Here is information on the book: http://www.barbaravalletto.com/coming-soon-pulse-points/. Barb, I’ll let you take it from there!