A Momentous Occasion!

A batch of paperbacks for Monkey’s Wedding arrived today!

Now I can finally send the book to my brother, Garth, who lives back home in South Africa. He’s been waiting for a copy for twenty-two years, ever since I told him I was writing a book about us. A book that started out as a memoir (and ended up as a mystical, political, historical, family story, with him as a fictional character). You can read about it here.

“Where is your book,” he’d ask in every letter over the years. You could almost hear his slow deliberate way of talking coming through his barely legible text. The couple of years he spent in that small classroom at Frederick Knapp School with all the other “slow” kids in Nkana, Zambia, where we were raised, hadn’t taught him much beyond his letters, which in his dotage has regressed to mostly scribbles. Soon, I would tell him.

It wouldn’t have helped to tell him about all the near misses Monkey’s Wedding had gone through on its way to publication. From being picked up by an agent to a near miss with Time Warner Publishing, to enthusiastic interest from the editor of Harper Collins (until she had to get smart and back off from this niche title that didn’t promise a big payoff). Nor could I have told him how I’d relegated Monkey’s Wedding to a fantasy of being a #1 NYT bestseller (the newspaper clipping I pinned to the wall with Monkey’s Wedding’s blurb pasted over the top bestseller at the time now brittle and yellowed).

“Maybe they will never publish your book,” he finally wrote a year ago.

I’d come to the same conclusion. His health was deteriorating. This was the guy who wasn’t supposed to live past twenty anyway. It was time to fulfill my promise to my brother. I would self-publish. I had the book professionally edited and set about researching the whole self-publishing route. But it was hard giving up my dream of having the book published by an agency. I made one last mad dash and submitted Monkey’s Wedding to Kindle Scout–the American Idol of publishing–with hope in my heart, yet believing that there was no chance in hell my novel would get selected.

Against all odds, Monkey’s Wedding was selected by Kindle Press for publication (of the Kindle), along with more popular titles like Necrospect, Cowboy Sanctuary, Devil’s Glen, Trapped in Love, Eternity Prophesy. Books so unlike Monkey’s Wedding it’s laughable. And wonderful.

With the might of Kindle Press/Amazon Publishing behind me, I went ahead and self-published the paperback. Garth will finally get his book.


Great News, Bad News & Even Better News

I just looked at the date of my last posting: October 24th, 2014. Well, at least it was in this year. Here’s what’s been happening since then. Good news first.

I Finished My YA novel,  Monkey’s Wedding!!!

Zimbabwe sunset

In my last posting, Weirding OutI wrote that I was thirty pages from the end and that I wanted to get it done by that Thursday, which was November 1st. Well, it didn’t happen. Instead I got the shingles. That’s the crappy news.

Overnight, a gang of little gremlins carrying blowtorches and hat pins took up residence on my left hip and my stomach, and have been burning and stabbing me for most of the day, and with all they’ve got after midnight. Oh, and then there’s the itch. The rash isn’t even there anymore. It’s all the nerve endings under the skin, which those little bastard gremlins are playing like a harp, discordantly of course. I’m told this can go on for two years. I’m all nerved out. I can’t concentrate. Everything hits me wrong.

Except for Monkey’s Wedding. Working on it gave me a focus I couldn’t find doing anything else. It made me feel less helpless. It gave me back some of my power. The only thing, though, I found myself changing the story completely. Now, the ngozi, you know, those powerful fire spirits in my story, instead of being controlled by the witchdoctor Anesu, and vanquishing evil Karari at the end, they take her over and set him free. And then they kill Elizabeth and Tururu and take over the world. Wait a minute! Those aren’t gremlins under my skin with blowtorches! It’s the ngozi. They must’ve disguised themselves as shingles and have taken control. Oh, well, I think this new version sounds a helluva lot better than my stupid, family/political/mystical/coming-of-age drama, don’t you?

News From The Front

Okay, so next up on my agenda is a reading at “{pages}, a bookstore,” in Manhattan Beach on June 19th at 7 pm. This has to be one cool bookstore, what with the name listed in small letters along with those fancy brackets, right? I’ll be joined by fellow She Writes Press authors, Dawn Blume Hawkes and Jessica Levine, along with our publisher, Brooke Warner.

In case you haven’t noticed I’m workin’ all the angles to get a little love for Loveyoubye: a skywriter endlessly puffing out the name of my book across the heavens; my two little granddaughters trudging around Davis, day after day, lugging sandwich board ads; a full page ad in the Los Angeles Times (where Donald Sterling’s ad used to be). Oh, and announcements on Facebook and Twitter.  Never thought I’d be this “forward,” if you know what I mean.

I’m also about to create an audiobook for Loveyoubye, with me reading. Memoirs need to be read by the author.  Hopefully, my friends will have their sound booth set up in time so I can use that. Meanwhile, I’m reading Loveyoubye out loud to Fergie and Jake, getting a feel for the words, figuring out where to take a breath, where to pause, and where to change the wording so that it flows when I record.  And then while I’m at it, I think I’ll do the same for my Young Adult novel, Monkey’s Wedding, only the first chapter though. If all goes well, I should have the recordings done by the end of July.

Meanwhile, it’s off to the cool bookstore in Manhattan Beach I go, along with dinner beforehand at Little Sister in Manhattan Beach with my fellow authors. Make a plan and join us at the bookstore.


Hint Fiction

The following is my friend Jayne Martin’s fault. She urged me to write something for this week’s Hint Fiction challenge, something to kick start my writing. Always a good thing. But what this challenge did was even better, it got me into a Monkey’s Wedding mode, which is where I need to be. (I’ve been promising to get it all shiny and ready for publication, plus I’m going to record the first chapter. More on this later).

So here’s my challenge: Write a story (beginning, middle and end) that hints at a larger story, but is complete within itself, in 25 words or less. The most famous piece of hint fiction was written by Hemingway:

For sale: Baby Shoes. Never worn.

Hint Fiction demands reader involvement. “Why were the baby shoes never worn?” we’re left to contemplate.   It hints at much more, yet is complete in and of itself.

Okay, here goes:

“Monkey’s wedding!” Elizabeth blinked against the sunshower. “Make a wish, Tururu. Something’s about to happen.”

Tururu shivered. How long before Karari caught up with them?

Want to give it a try. Go here to learn more.

Have fun!

BLOG HOP: Write On!

I was chuffed when sister She Writes Press author L G O’Connor asked me to participate in this blog hop, a terrific opportunity to connect with her and the fabulous bloggers you’ll read about below. Meet L G…

L.G. O’Connor is a member of the Romance Writers of America. A corporate strategy and marketing executive for a Fortune 250 company, she writes adult urban fantasy, paranormal romance, and contemporary romance. Her debut novel, Trinity Stones, the first book in her Angelorum Twelve Chronicles urban fantasy/paranormal romance series published by She Writes Press, launches on April 22 and will be available wherever books are sold. She is currently preparing the second book in the Angelorum Twelve Chronicles, The Wanderer’s Children, for publication at the end of 2014. In addition, her adult contemporary romance will launch later this year. A native New Jersey girl, she lives a life of adventure, navigating her way through dog toys and soccer balls and loaning herself out for the occasional decorating project. When she’s feeling particularly brave, she enters the kitchen.

As for me, I’ll be at Chaucer’s Bookstore in Santa Barbara on May 8th at 7 pm giving a reading, I’d love to see you there if you’re in the area. Okay, so on to the question and answer portion of the hop. Please visit the three writers’ blogs following the Q&A.

1) What am I working on?

I’m completing a final sweep through Monkey’s Wedding, my YA novel set in Zimbabwe. It was almost published back in the late 90s, but my publisher merged with another house and I was dumped. I went on to write the sequel, Mine Dances (set in Zambia), which I’ll spiff up next. Then on to getting them both published.

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

Hmm. That’s a tough one. I would say that in my memoir, Loveyoubye it’s my “voice” that distinguishes it, because that’s what readers first remark upon when they talk about it. But then a writer’s “voice” is something uniquely their own, no matter what the genre. However, in memoir this seems especially true.

As for the uniqueness of Monkey’s Wedding and Mine Dances, both novels started as a memoir. But then I realized I wanted to make the story “bigger,” so I created two protagonists, a white girl and a black boy and gave the story political and spiritual overtones and lots of action. But essentially it’s a story of family and friendship.

3) Why do I write what I do?

I write to discover. The poet William Stafford says it best: “I don’t see writing as communication of something already discovered, as ‘truths’ already known. Rather, I see writing as a job of experiment. It’s like any discovery job; you don’t know what’s going to happen until you try it.”

4) How does your writing process work?

So far I’ve been prompted to write by a need to resolve some issue deep inside me, to scratch an itch I can’t quite locate.  I’ve done this without an outline, without a particular direction. I’ve “pantsed” it (actually the term is “pantser”): this means to “fly by the seat of your pants,” discovering as you go. However I would love to have a go at outlining a story, seems the smart thing to do.

That’s it for me. So, let me introduce my three writer friends who will be the stops on this tour next Monday, April 28th.

Jessica Winters Mireles

Jessica Winters Mireles is a late bloomer who rediscovered her love of writing in her late forties after raising her four children while simultaneously teaching a studio of forty piano students. When her youngest daughter survived a cancer diagnosis, Jessica decided that life was too short not to pursue her own dreams of becoming a writer. She has since been published in Greenprints and Mothering Magazine as well as starting her blog: Allegronontanto.wordpress.com which is a musical term that means “Fast, but not too fast.” Jessica is currently working on a novel.

Linda Rosen

Linda Rosen lives in New Jersey with her husband.  When she’s not teaching fitness classes or working with private clients, she enjoys creating stories for readers to devour curled up in a comfortable chair with a cup of tea.  Her unpublished novel seeking representation, FLOURISH, was a semi-finalist in the 2012 William Faulkner-William Wisdom Creative Writing Competition. She has been published in 201 Family Magazine and The Dying Goose. She is a member of the Women’s National Book Association, NYC chapter, co-coordinator of Great Group Reads for National Reading Group Month, and has a website, www.linda-rosen.com, which links to her blog, The Literary Leotard.

Tracey Baptiste

Tracey Baptiste is an author and editor of children’s books. Born on the island of Trinidad, Tracey became interested in fairy tales and told her mother at the age of 3 that she would grow up to be a writer someday. She wrote her first novel at the age of 13, a twelve-chapter future fantasy that she only shared with her best friend. At 15, Tracey and her family moved to New York where she discovered Rosa Guy’s novel The Friends, which set her on the path to writing books for teens and younger children. She Attended New York University for a B.A. in English and Comparative Literature and then again for a M.A. in Elementary Education.

After teaching 2nd grade for several years, Tracey left to work for McGraw-Hill, developing Reading and Language Arts programs. Teaching (shockingly) did not allow her lots of time to write. Tracey wrote her first novel on the commute to work–a YA that follows 13 year old Grace as she visits Trinidad and searches for a mysterious man in a photograph who she believes is her real father. Her debut was published by Simon & Schuster and was well received, earning her a place on the 100 Best Books for Reading and Sharing in 2005. She left McGraw-Hill to freelance so that she could stay home with her two young children, and worked for several publishers including her favorite assignment, working on Scholastic classroom magazines. During that time, she also wrote 7 middle grade non-fiction books including a biography of her fantasy hero, Madeleine L’Engle.

Tracey has recently returned to full-time work (though she happily works from home) as an editor for Rosen Publishing, where she edits non-fiction books for kids. Her second novel, a creepy middle grade called The Jumbies will be out from Algonquin in 2015.

Tracey is represented by Marie Lamba of Jennifer De Chiara Literary and is currently at work on a chapter book for younger kids, and a middle grade novel. She can be found at www.traceybaptiste.com where she blogs a weekly-ish roundup of publishing news. She also helps other writers with their fiction and non-fiction manuscripts via Fairy Godauthor (www.fairygodauthor.com). You can find Tracey in person at the NJSCBWI conference in June. She will be giving two presentations: non-fiction writing, and the author/agent relationship. She will also be critiquing non-fiction proposals.


Latest News on Monkey’s Wedding

About a week ago I posted the first chapter of my Young Adult novel, Monkey’s Wedding on Jukepopserials. It’s a site where you, the reader, can read for free books, stories and serials, every genre possible. For authors, it’s where they can upload their chapters and ask readers to vote on them, with a cash prize going to the most popular works in fiction and nonfiction categories.

The reason I’m doing this is to test the waters, see what kind of response I get. No matter what though, I will get this bloody book published before I die. I already announced I was going to self-publish not too long ago. But then the events that prompted my memoir, Loveyoubye, interfered and I shelved the idea. I’ve had some heart-breaking near misses with getting Monkey’s Wedding published by a traditional publisher, agent and all; you can read about my travails here. I also want to get the sequel, Mine Dances out into the world, a coming-of-age for the sixteen-year-old white protagonist (there’s also a black protagonist).

These two books were my first tribute to Africa and the African boys and men who worked for us. So. Here I am trotting it out for your perusal. Whatever the reaction, I shall be publishing both books within the next year. Hopefully, my memoir, Loveyoubye, will give both books a leg-up in getting a little bit of notice.

One Week Later

I’ve got to tell you, not having to blog every day is not a good thing. It was a relief for the first couple of days and then I lost track of time, and here it is already an entire week since I last blogged! I’m realizing that I need to blog, it forces me to stay focused and to think on my feet; it forces me to extend myself, to move beyond my writing insecurities. But the thing is, I really do need to get my YA novel Monkey’s Wedding ready for publication.

And now that I’m in there with fresh eyes after finishing my memoir, Loveyoubye, and all my blogging adventures–which really gave me a handle on immediacy and brevity–I’m seeing flaws I hadn’t noticed before. There’s that information download on the third page, that I can parse in later, that labored description of one of the characters. And then worst of all, a time issue. A time issue! After all my plotting, all those charts. Well, it’s a good thing I love to edit.



Last day of my June blogathon. I was going to head into another one, but instead I’m going to focus on getting my young adult novel, Monkey’s Wedding, edited and published. Again. I’m embarrassed to report. One of the things I’ve vowed to do to make this happen is to seriously limit my forays onto the web: that tempting daily headline on my home page–CNN Top Stories–The Daily Beast, all those emails with social media tips, writing contests, words of inspiration, writing prompts, Narrative Online Magazine. Facebook is a whole other rabbit hole of distraction.

Adam Gazzaley, a neuroscientist  at the University of California, San Francisco contends that our brains are adapting to handle the many inputs of digital stimulation. Not my brain. I thought perhaps I had Attention Deficit Disorder–something I’d wondered about before because of my hyperactive mind. Maybe some drugs could fix the problem? But then I researched the symptoms and checked with a psychologist friend of mine. Nope. I’m just not the amazing multi-tasker I used to be nor as focused. So, even though I have gained a certain immediacy through blogging, a boldness if you will, and confidence, I’m heading for my friend’s mountain cabin for some serious focus-time.

But I shall be blogging as often as I can, because I’ve grown to love it.



The Big One

I awoke this morning with a “feel” for the memoir I’ve been meaning to get to, after my initial attempt twenty years ago turned into a 500-page door-stopper of flashbacks. That in turn became two YA novels, Mine Dances and Monkey’s Wedding (loved but ultimately rejected by Harper-Collins–not high concept enough). Five years later, I wrote Loveyoubye, a memoir, but this was not the one I initially set out to write.

This is the first “feel” I’ve had for that original concept. Nothing big, an inkling, but this time the idea was contained as it were, not some vague sprawling inundation of memories, of game reserves and out of the way bush hotels and attacks by rebels. A possible start on the shores of Lake Nyasa, Malawi, our first stop on a three-month motoring holiday up to Kenya from our home in Nkana, Zambia. This was where I fell in love with a twenty-year old man–I was thirteen–who paid me the slightest attention and where I won a Bingo round.

I lay in bed regretting throwing away that flash-back monstrosity that had been gathering dust in my old studio, chucked when the ex flew the coop and I had to move my writing studio to its present location at the front of the house. My memory was a tad better back then, and as bad as this account was, it had all the dates and events I’d need if I’m to write the Big One. But I do have a truckload of old 3×5 floppy disks with the entire manuscript on them. Now to find a way to extract that information, given that my computer doesn’t accomodate those relics. And are the disks still workable?

Z is For Zyzzyva

Zyzzyva – A genus of tropical American weevil often found in association with palms.

Pronounced ziz-e-va, it is a yellowish snouted beetle, no longer than an ant. It was first discovered in 1922 in Brazil, and named by an Irishman Thomas Lincoln Casey, Jr.  An entomologist at New York’s Museum of Natural History thought that, because there was not a Latin name or Brazilian name associated with this weevil, it was probably named Zyzzyva as a practical joke to place it in a prominent ending position in many guides and manuals, where the word itself is found in many English-language dictionaries.

Zyzzyva is also the name of a literary magazine–“The Last Word: West Coast Writers and Artists”–first published in 1985.  At a Writer’s Conference in San Diego in 2000, I found myself sitting next to the editor of the magazine, which would be great today, I could pitch some of my stories to him, but in those days I was finishing up my YA novel, Monkey’s Wedding. Not his cup of tea.




Click here to read others’ A-Z blogs or to enter your link to join in the fun for the month of April.