In case you missed the Opera House book party, I'll be at BLUE FROG BOOKS in Howell, MI on Saturday October 25th from 12:30 - 2:30.
Stop by and check out this great book store, they carry just about everything, the owner is super helpful and the atmosphere is unique and inviting!
I'll soon be stopping in at several fantastic book blog sites to chat about THE FALL OF OUR SECRETS.
Click the CLP tour button to see dates and itinerary.
And enter to win an Amazon gift card!
Many thanks to the bloggers who will be posting interviews, reviews and excerpts from the book. I can't wait to get started!
Part 3 of 3:
Longview is more than just a Green Day song.
My books are full of strong female characters. Some are strong from the beginning and have to find a way to use that strength to improve their circumstances. Others have lost their strength under the weight of life, all the stressful, bad things that happen to us as we move from childhood to adulthood. Or even from idealistic young adulthood to middle age. Our strength can get buried under the debris of "shit happens."
Finding our longview can help uncover our lost strength. I believe it's there in each of us, even if we haven't seen it in a long time. Most of us can identify at least one person who believed in us as kids, one person who saw what we might accomplish if we stayed the course. That was Part 1. Staying the course involves drive. Drive is vital to any kind of goal achievement. Drive is that voice at the end of the day, no matter our failures and shortcomings, that says, "It's okay. Try again tomorrow. And tomorrow after that." That was Part 2. Both those qualities only take us so far without the longview.
Longview is what keeps on course. Longview isn't so much picking one goal and sticking to it no matter what. We all know that things change. Life changes us, and sometimes we needed to be changed. We often don't realize it at the time, but many changes we weather end up being exactly what we need in order to become the people we were meant to be. Longview is simply believing that our future is bright. That our aspirations aren't for nothing, that there are several destinations along our journey and we WILL make it to the ones that reward us for our great efforts to get there.
This might sound pretty vague. Longview is looking forward, constantly moving forward, toward whatever it is we know we want--not some material, concrete thing, but a place in our life when we can look back, just for a moment, and realize that it was all worth it. Climbing out from underneath the obstacles that tried to crush our goals and dreams, continuing to focus on one thing. Just this: the life we imagined, as children, we could one day live. No specifics here. No "but I always wanted to be an astronaut." I'm talking about becoming the kind of person we want to be, no matter what profession, what role, what label we put on ourselves. As long as we possess the fortitude to do it, we should. How sad if we lose the ability to imagine that point in the future, lose the longview, and accept that this--this here and now, if it is not where we wish to stay--is our end destination, and that we are done trying to move forward toward a future we could once see.
I'll go back to Garth Stein's book, The Art of Racing in The Rain. Yes, I'm using a dog as my point of reference. Enzo knew what he wanted. He had Denny Swift, his person who believed in him. He had drive, that compelling need to work toward the future he wanted. And Enzo had the longview. He knew that somehow, some way, he would one day achieve his goal. He believed it wholeheartedly. Sure, Enzo had dark days, he got discouraged, just like every one of us. Those are moments. We can let them drown us, or we can see them for what they are: moments. Moments pass. And then we open our eyes and find that point in the future, one of our hallowed destinations, and we get back on course, moving forward once again. "Your car goes where your eyes go"--the lasting lesson I learned from Enzo, probably one of the greatest lessons in life (more on that in an earlier blog post).
A last thought: having the longview does not equate with being miserable in the here and now. The here and now is precious. The here and now, this spot in which we stand this very moment, used to be a bright point in our future that we were striving toward, even with the negatives that may come with it. We are here, now, living this moment. We must savor it. Embrace it. And look forward while we do.
Life is short. But life is also long, with so many opportunities to really live. We should never underestimate what we are capable of. What would be the point in that? I hope I never lose the longview, no matter how far down the road I get. After all, it's a vital tool I'll need for this journey that is life.
Just the facts:
See you tomorrow!
ONE day left until the release of THE FALL OF OUR SECRETS. Less than a year ago, every time I saw a shooting star, I’d make a quick wish that I would someday have my book published (no I’m not kidding, go ahead and judge). I know it wasn’t the stars that made it happen. It had more to do with persistence and good fortune, and some advice my dad gave me a while back. And with a smart, dynamic woman taking notice and giving me a shot. I’m filled with gratitude toward the awesome agents at Literary Counsel, Frances Black and Jennifer Mishler.
If you’re reading this and are curious about the book, check out (and share) one of these links:
THE FALL OF OUR SECRETS BOOK PARTY (October 2nd, 2014)
REVIEWS on AMAZON
BARNES & NOBLE LISTING
Part 2 of 3:
Women are strong. We’re resilient. Whether we know this of ourselves or not, we possess the amazing ability to succeed against staggering odds. We do. The trick is in recognizing this as truth and using it. Drive is defined as energy and determination that helps us achieve a goal.
In part 1, Strong Beginnings, I asked what makes for strong female characters. And what it is that makes us strong. Even when we have a good foundation, even with someone who believes in us from an early age, without drive, we flounder.
We all get tired. Worn out at the end of the day, the work week, maybe too many difficult days or weeks in a row. Sometimes we don't want to keep fighting the good fight, we just want to curl up on the couch with a bowl of ice cream and leave the laundry, bills, dishes, homework, fill-in-your-own-here, for another day. There's nothing wrong with that. Drive is the difference between waking up the next day with renewed resolve, or staying on the couch. Okay, we're all human. Maybe the couch is warm and comfy and faces the TV playing endless Friends reruns. Maybe it takes a little longer to rediscover our verve, our energy and determination. But when we do, or at least when I do, I find I am happy to see that version of myself again. I knew she was still there, she just needed a nap.
One of my favorite books is Garth Stein's The Art of Racing in the Rain. The book embraces the concepts in both part 2 and 3 of this series. That little book is dense with themes that apply to every one of us. Well worth the read. In terms of factors that contribute to strong female characters, and women with strong character, I'm talking about two specific things: Drive, and the Longview. We'll talk more about the Longview in the final installment of this series. For now, let me tell you what I learned from The Art of Racing in the Rain's Denny Swift and his dog Enzo:
Set a goal. Work toward it. Don't quit.
That's all. Deceptively simple yet incredibly hard. In order to follow those instructions, we have to find a way around countless obstacles. There are much bigger roadblocks than laundry on the highway to our goals. Nobody said this would be easy. But worth it? You bet. Because what's the alternative? The idea of not going for something we really want, a goal that we know is attainable, somehow, someday, eventually, seems kind of crazy.
I remember a saying from when I was a kid: "If you can imagine it, you can achieve it; if you can dream it, you can become it." I'm sure it's a meme now. When I was 12, it was a poster over my dresser of a ballerina on pointe. At 12, I honestly thought it meant that one day, if I wanted it enough, I could be a famous ballerina. At 44, I know it meant something much more important (I figured that out a while ago, don't worry). Seeing that phrase every day of my tween years planted thoughts in my head. Thoughts about my future self, about that big, wide-open when everything will be wonderful because I will be a GROWN UP. What I wanted to be, what I wanted to do, where I'd want to do it, the type of guy I'd want by my side, and a little of how I'd get there.
Obviously, there's a long road between 12 year old girl wishes and adult reality. The road is fraught with danger, setbacks, rejection, naysayers, mother nature stepping in with an illness or worse, but we also encounter rewards, small miracles, little wins, HOPE, and the joy that comes with knowing we gave it our all. Goals change as we change. Drive isn't throwing every effort into becoming a ballerina when you're clearly a non-ballerina. That's something else--delusion, maybe? Drive is this: when we've tried as hard as we can, exhausted every resource, pushed ourselves beyond any limits we thought we had, and find we still fall short of our goal, we muster the strength to keep trying. As many times as it takes.
Part 1 of 3:
What makes a strong female character? Better question: What makes a female strong? I believe the answer is a combination of factors. Part 1 explores foundations.
When building a house, a good, sturdy foundation is key. The same is true of character building. I've been thinking a lot lately about the women in my current and upcoming manuscript. It's true I tend to write women who have a sense of their place in the world, whether it's as an amazing full time mom, RN in a busy ER or CEO of a global company (the full time mom gig is often the most challenging of all--just saying). Not all of my characters start out strong. They're each flawed in their own way. Some have a long road ahead of them in the quest to better their situation and discover their strengths. But they all have something in common.
Within each, whether deeply buried or just beneath the surface, is a tenacious will to be the person they really want to be. You know, the grown up woman you imagined yourself as when you were nine or ten. When possibilities were limitless, money wasn't an issue, and there was no ceiling on all that you could accomplish. I hate sounding jaded, and I know I do here, but I'm talking about the difference in expectations between a nine year old little girl and a twenty-nine year old woman. If we're lucky, we retain at least a shred of that childhood belief that anything is possible, that if we just believe in ourselves enough, we'll succeed. When we have someone believing in us, modeling for us what it means to believe in ourselves, we do succeed.
The person who believes in us, who gives us a living example of strength, integrity and independence, isn't always a parent. I was blessed with two parents who were great examples. Not everyone is so fortunate. I'm not sure "mentor" is the exact right word, but a key factor in how satisfied we are with our accomplishments as adults is the presence of someone in our early lives who not only recognizes what we're capable of, but makes sure we see it too. This person can be anyone: an aunt, a sibling, a friend, a teacher.
Something I've worked at in the years I've been writing is seeing my characters as real people: multi-dimensional people with fears, hopes, failings, triumphs. I develop each character's history, which lets me know what their reactions and responses will be, and how that history has shaped their personality traits. Most of the character development does not make it into the story, but it's a vital step that I can't skip. I'm always mindful of how my characters got to be the way they are when we meet them, and who helped contribute to the people they've become.
As my kids become teenagers, I'm increasingly aware of how the seemingly small things I do, the choices I make and actions I take, can affect the development of their future selves. That's some pressure, right? We spend a lot of time making sure we will not make the same missteps with our children that we feel our parents made with us. We make all kinds of new mistakes instead. Nobody's perfect. Parenting doesn't come with a handbook. The best we can hope for is that we've given our children the confidence to reach for that person they want to become, and the belief that they can accomplish what they set their minds to (within reason, of course; I always knew I wouldn't really grow up to be Wonder Woman).
It's pretty cool when you stop to consider how you got where you are today, and which people in your history were instrumental in helping you along that path. Aside from my own parents, I found an unlikely friend and mentor in a fellow waitress when I was seventeen. Stephanie was at least 15 years older than I, had an exciting and mysterious past, a Ted Nugent-haired biker boyfriend of several years, and this incredible energy that was impossible to resist. She exuded a kind of calm, peaceful confidence; she was just one of those people who is very comfortable in her own skin. To this day I'm not sure how she did it, but in the short time I knew her, she gave me the gift of finally trusting my own instincts. From my parents I'd learned to be honest, responsible, resilient, smart; but from this friend, I learned I was actually capable of creating for myself the future I imagined. I could make it happen.
If I treat the characters in my books as real people, then I figure they each had, at some point, their own version of my Stephanie, whether simply in parent form or some other incarnation. Even Nicole, the main character in the soon to be released THE FALL OF OUR SECRETS, gained support from the few people who believed in her, both in her early childhood and later, as a young adult. Without that, her story would have been a very different one.
However ... the presence of a supporting, guiding force in the development of strong female characters--and people--is just part of the equation. It's not enough. Stay tuned for part 2 next week!
It's research time again. I am working on an article and need your help!
An entire generation of men and women recognize this iconic superhero instantly. Every little girl I knew, myself included, wanted to BE her. Every boy imagined her as his fantasy girlfriend. Wonder Woman could hold her own against any number of bad guys, bank robbers, jewel thieves or assassins. She wasn't a sidekick or cutesy arm candy for the real hero. She was IT.
Before I go any further, let me just admit it: I'm a super hero geek. I love comic books, really love seeing the movie incarnations of so many cool heroes, fangirl over Ironman with the best of them. But I am really getting tired of waiting for the sorely needed ass-kicking female super hero headliner movie. There's been much recent discourse in the media over this, with all kinds of excuses and conjecture attempting to either explain the deficit or deny it altogether. It's not like there's a shortage of female super heroes. There's Lara Croft, Black Widow, Rogue, Storm, Mystique, Elektra, Resident Evil's Alice, Katniss Everdeen, Divergent's Beatrice Prior (yes, they count, at least to me), to name a few (and no I am not including Batgirl or Supergirl). It's that they are always relegated to the background, rescued by the bigger, stronger male superhero, and generally assumed incapable of carrying their own movie.
So here's my question: if someone asks you to name a female superhero or two that you love, what would you say? And why? Please help me out and leave a comment below. I need to get into the collective minds of the women -- and men! -- out there. Thank you in advance for your thoughts!
I love my local bookstore. My daughter and I stopped by Blue Frog Books today with a few copies of The Fall of Our Secrets and my press release. I started with, "I live in town, and I have a book coming out next month." The proprietor smiled, glanced at the gorgeous book (it really is, thanks to Martin Blanco) in my daughter's hands, and said, "Well, then, let's set you up to do a signing!" I thanked him for making things easy and saving me the song and dance I had planned--which he said I was welcome to do if I liked (I declined).
We talked about time frames, and I learned that James Brown's son, Daryl Brown, will be at the Blue Frog next Tuesday August 12th on his national book tour with his book, Inside the Godfather, Never-Before-Told Stories of James Brown by His Inner Circle. Pretty cool. Sounds like I'm in good company.
We decided on Saturday, October 25th, 12:30 to 2:30, for my signing. This might end up being a nice alternative for those who can't make it out to the release party October 2nd. Today was a very productive day, as I also learned I'll be participating in a fun ladies night event at another local business (more details soon!). Man, I love it when I have a Saturday off from my dayjob!