Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Welcome 2017, Novel #4, a new beginning in Eleuthera

Book #4: What's it all about?

Next month, I take my first trip to Eleuthera, an "out island" of the Bahamas, with an amazing history. I am researching my fourth novel, currently untitled, but for the sake of this travel adventure aspect of my blog, we'll call it The Preacher's Cave. It was in 1684 that Captain Sayles and his band of Puritans sailed west from Bermuda in search of greater religious freedom, only to shipwreck off the coast of Eleuthera on a reef called the Devil's Backbone. Sayles named the island after the Greek word for freedom: "Eleuthero." 

The island's original inhabitants, the Lucayan Indians, had been forced into slavery 100 years prior and taken to work the gold and silver mines in South America by the Spanish. Thus, the island was empty when Sayles and the others shipwrecked.

The Preacher's Cave, Eleuthera
I became interested in Eleuthera after reading a non-fiction book on the fate of 60,000 British citizens/loyalists who supported British rule during the American Revolution. The British supporters were forced to leave America following the revolution. Some went to England, an unfamiliar country for most. Many went to New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, but those who wanted to keep their slaves (plantation owners) chose to attempt life in the Bahamas. Because they had lost their land and possessions, they thought that they should keep their slaves. Of course, the Bahamas is mostly rock, and not suitable for the kind of farming the southerners wanted.

Nothing would be easy for the loyalists. First, they decided to settle in British-owned Northern Florida. This land was ideal for them, but then King George, whom they had vehemently supported, gave Florida to the Spanish King in exchange for Gibraltar so these American Loyalists felt trapped. They were Americans without their America. 

My novel is about the dispossession of women, all women, but in particular, an African woman, Mbali, her slave name Mary. When Mbali is sold in Savannah, she curses her owners, praying to her gods that they lose everything, their land and loved ones, how she has. When her owners are forced from their land, their loved ones forever changed by the revolutionary war, her prayer has come to fruition. What fate, what reversal of fortune awaits Mbali in Eleuthera? 

Friday, February 5, 2016

How the birth of my son changed my life as a writer, & 5 tips for making it work

I even had another MFA student tell me that I couldn’t do both--motherhood and novelist.  “You can’t have it all,” he said. 


After my son was born, I realized that my former view of the world was incomplete.  I had only thought about my characters from the perspective of the child, but after I had my son, I understood the fears and complexities of motherhood.  I had never loved another person as much as I loved my son.  I was terrified of what the world might do to him.  I understood “mama bear”.  I understood that I had to protect him, that he was my responsibility.  I revised my first novel manuscript with this new perspective.  Mind you, before his birth, this ms. had been rejected by hundreds of agents, and it took me a long time to fully understand and revise the book based on the gravity and miracle of this new perspective.  (I hardly had time to take a shower.) 

My revised novel had a depth and perspective that had been lacking in earlier drafts.  
            My son opened my eyes.  He made me a better writer and human being.  I remember first talking to an agent in 2006, walking back and forth with him in my arms, hoping that maybe this agent would be the one.  (She would be, but not for another two years!  ... long story, and lots of rejections along the way.)  

When I got my first book deal, my son was just three, and we were
Fun in NYC with my former editor, Sarah Knight.
at the beach together.  He was screaming, "Yay, Mom!"  We spent a lot of time at the library, so he was thrilled at the idea of seeing my book in our library.  (As was I.)  Then, we went to New York City and he met my editor.  That was pretty amazing!  At my first book-launch party, he came up on stage with me while I read from The Handbook for Lightning Strike Survivors.  Today, he's a voracious reader and creative writer in his own right.  At ten years old, he's gotten to meet scores of writers; he's also had the opportunity to listen to panels on setting, character, and everything in between... and he enjoyed it.  He also read my second novel, Above Us Only Sky, and I'm relieved to say that he liked it.  Having my son read one of my novels is a "pinch me" thing.  Unbelievable.  
         My second novel, Above Us Only Sky, is dedicated to him.  He gave me new eyes with which to see the world.
            I had thought and I'd been told that motherhood would be a hurdle to being a successful novelist.  I even had another MFA student tell me that I couldn’t do both.  “You can’t have it all,” he said.  "You won't be able to do it."  He was wrong.  I can.  So can you!  Today, I'm published, and he's not.  Today, I balance the worlds of writer and mom.  They’re intertwined. There is nothing better than being my amazing son's mom, and I wouldn’t be the writer I am if it weren’t for him.  

Five Practical Tips for Being Mom and Writer
1. It seriously does take a village.  In order to write, I had to leave my house so that I wouldn't be distracted by everything: even if someone was watching my son, I'd start thinking about laundry and dishes and the two-hundred other things I needed to accomplish.  

Find a quiet retreat.  I had some neighbors who let me work in their house while they were at work.  It was free.  I was a half block from home, and I didn't have to buy anything or reek of coffee to work there.

2.  Don't beat yourself up.  You can only do so much, and your baby is only going to be a baby for so long.  It goes by way too fast.  Chances are, you won't be able to write every day, maybe not every week, and that's okay.  Family comes first!

3.  Whether you have postpartum depression OR you're the
happiest new mom on the block, make some mom friends.  Seek them out.  You'll sift through and find some keepers, and those keepers will end up saving you in a million ways, and if you're like me, your friendships will last a lifetime.  As your child gets older, maybe all the kids will have a playdate at Kim's house, and the next day, it's your house, and the next day it's Annie or Marie's house.  The fact is that you'll have some time to write, and your son or daughter will have lifelong friends.

4.  When you have time to yourself, WRITE.  Don't do the dishes.  You can do those later.  Don't write bills.  Do those later.  You're the ultimate multi-tasker.  You know it!  You got this!

5.  As a professor once told me: If you only write one page a day, you've written 365 pages that year.  That's a novel.  Don't stress.  Write.  Revise. Query.  Repeat.  Write.  Revise.  Query.  Repeat.    

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Happy New Year: the birth of THE BOOK; OBX oddities and observations

Drum roll, Christopher!  (Santa brought him drums for Christmas.)

In less than two months, ABOVE US ONLY SKY, will be born into the world: March 3, 2015.
Coincidentally, my son was also born on March 3, but in 2005.

You can preorder the book through any of your favorite Independent Bookstores: I like Downtown Books in Manteo, NC, Island Books in KDH, NC, and Chop Suey Books in Richmond, VA.

Book Launch Party
March 1, 2015
Big-Ass Book Launch Party, 2-5 pm, Northside Grille, Bellevue Avenue, Richmond, 23227; this is your chance to buy the book two days before it's available to anyone else.  Go Indie!

And whoop whoop: For a full list of upcoming book events, like my April 2nd signing at Downtown Books in Manteo, check my website:  

OBX OBSERVATIONS: As I enter my third year living on the Outer Banks of North Carolina, I have many observations to share.
PBR is NOT just the official beer of Richmond, VA.  People here drink the shit out of the stuff.
For some unknown reason, Food Lions down here are currently selling Red Stripe beer for $8.99 a twelve pack.
There is a magic mailbox at one of the public beach accesses for letters, prayers, and hopeful wishes.
The Jolly Roger is open 365 days a year.
There are itty bitty ducks who stop here during their migration in Dec. and January.
We have snowy owls and white pelicans.
If you're a tourist, don't be a dick about it.  Those of us who live here, live here on purpose.  Be friendly.  Drive safely.  You're on vacation.  Take a chill pill.  K? K?
Look up.  The stars are spectacular.
Beach Clean-Up is for everybody, everyday!
My #1 observation is that everyone on the OBX is equal.  The semi professional surfer is no better than the young woman cleaning your room at the Ramada.  She used to be a business executive.  There is equal footing in the sand.  Get your feet wet, stay a while.

Friday, June 20, 2014

"Here comes the sun, and I say, it's all right!!!!!!!!!"

The tourists are back, and this year with their arrival, I have also received my FIRST PASS Pages for my novel, ABOVE US ONLY SKY.

This is the final step before the book goes to print for the first time for the Advanced Reader copies, also known as galleys.  These first soft printings will be sent to independent booksellers and other important folk in the book industry.  We'll also be hoping to garner reviews from other novelists and reviewers.

I still do not have a set publication date, but we should have galleys soon, and I am looking forward to enjoying this summer.  Relaxing, working on something new!!!

This is my third year living at the beach.
I have finally become a "summer loving" girl.  When I write

on the beach, I am really focused, my mind is clear (unless some asshole is blaring a boom box or climbing on a sand dune or flicking cigarette butts on the sand).  But when it's good and clean and pure, it's phenomenal.  I guess that "clean" is the word.  I can focus.  Clear my cluttered mind.  Ahhhh.

READ MORE ABOUT Above Us Only Sky at

Thursday, September 5, 2013

The Tourists Are Gone (mostly). The symbiotic relationship of a tourist destination.

That is my handsome son catching a small ride on Labor Day afternoon.

I was so excited, anticipating an uncrowded beach on Monday afternoon, as most of the kiddies have to go back to school the day after Labor Day, and boy oh boy, I was not disappointed.

I ran down to the water screaming, "I got my beach back!"

I like living in a tourist destination because if it weren't for the tourists driving to the Outer Banks from locales as far away as Kansas, we'd have no economy.  All summer, I meet visitors from New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, West Virginia, Virginia (of course), Ohio and even New Mexico.    I've met tourists from France and other European countries.  It's amazing how far people travel to experience where I get to live!

Those of us who live in the OBX have a symbiotic relationship with the tourists.  We need them to come here and spend their hard earned dollars, and they need us to cook their food, take them deep-sea fishing, ring their groceries, and clean their hotel rooms.  

Today, most of the tourists are gone.  The beaches that were five families deep from dune to wave, are crowded with sand and birds.  It is incredible!

Sunday, August 11, 2013

The Treefrogs Are Back

photo by JD Wilson
I wish that I had a better, more scientific understanding of nature, but my understanding is more artistic and intuitive than knowledgeable.  

That said, last year, our first summer on the sound, we had hundreds of tree frogs with their cute sticky legs and pulsing translucent chests, arranged like stickers on our glass doors.  This year, not so many until just recently.  The odd thing is that the frogs aren't lime green this year, not most of them.  They are more eggplant and brown, and there are definitely fewer of them.

I was on my way to work today and three had hitched a ride on my car.  Not wanting to strand them off the 158 Bypass, I stopped in a greener area and unloaded my little hitchhikers.  I wish that I knew more about these "suckers".  They are one of my favorite things about summer on the sound.

If you know anything, please share.  My fear is that they've changed color because of pesticides.  I also fear that pesticides are why there are fewer of them.

The photograph is from the Green Treefrog Website:


Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Three Random Sick (in the surfing way) Publicly Funded Places in Dare County

These are three of my favorite things about Dare County, and they all happen to be publicly funded!  (And they are all within eyeshot of where the Wright Brothers took flight in 1903--and within view of the memorial that stands as testament to their achievement in flight.)

Number One:  Dare County Parks and Recreation:  Small town living OBX style means affordable
after-school and recreation for Dare County residents.  Locals can experience everything from soccer, tea party manners' socials, cheering camp, archery, tennis, football, baseball skills, surfing, arts and crafts, golf, volleyball, French, gymnastics, Modern Art, Mosaics, Etiquette, Toddler Camp (How to be a toddler), fishing, and more! 

Last summer, my son and I took archery together.  I was the oldest participant, the only participant above the age of 16 (other than the instructor), and it was a blast.  I had never taken archery before.  Earlier this year, I took tennis lessons.  I had never played tennis!  Parks and Recreation is phenomenal!  

Number Two:  Conveniently located on the same street, Dare County Water and Desalination Department.  On a thin peninsula, Dare County desalinates (takes the salt out of the brackish water), making the cost of drinking water affordable to its residents.  More importantly, unlike many public utilities' departments, I've never had to wait in line!  Water is billed quarterly, every three months!  They have cute little collapsible cups for free!  There are two nice ladies who work there!

Number Three: Smack dab between the Water Department and Parks and Recreation is the Dare County Public Library.  I love this place.  I met one of my OBX friends there last summer.  I always
see people I know there.  And, this is going to blow your mind: Last month, I thought that I had returned a book, and I told the librarians.  They made a note in the computer.  Yesterday, I found it.  When I returned it today, I said, "How much do I owe?"  It was my mistake...  "Nothing," she said (because I thought I'd returned it).  Huh?  Where does this kind of thing happen?  Who doesn't want to take your money?  How nice is that?  Children can also opt to read their library fines away!

At the thrift store where I volunteer, there is a framed portrait of
Andy Griffith behind the register.  He spent the better part of his years right here.  When he died this past year, I was brought to tears by the local radio station's tribute to him.  In so many ways, this is Mayberry.