Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Leaving Lukens made a List!

My novel, Leaving Lukens, made a reviewer's top ten list of best books read this year! I'm honored and humbled!

From New York Reviewer Fran Lewis
My picks for 2011: Here are my first ten picks for this year. I have read and finally tallied up over 500 books in two years. So, for those of us that do reviews for the joy of reading learning from others these are my first ten:

Stovepipe: Bonnie Virag
Signs of War: Gerard de Marigny
... A Quiet Vendetta: R.J. Roger Jon Ellory
Bad Signs: R.J. Ellory
Agent of Artifice :S Evan Townsend
Leaving Lukens : Laura Wharton
Red Hat Club: Haywood Smith
Silent Girl: Tess Gerritsen
Helpless soon to be released by Daniel Michael Palmer
Bone Rattler: Eliot Pattison
The 29 author J.M. Rob Richardson

YA books
The Calling of the Flute: Fran Orenstein
Kaptain Vamp;Joanne Lecuyer
just because I think they are great: A Fish Named Ed: Sam Oliver
Come Back to Me: Melissa Foster

Monday, December 12, 2011

Book Launch Party a Success by All Counts

I love parties, especially when they involve wonderful friends, incredible food, and my precious family. Yesterday's event was perfect on all counts. A steady stream of friends stopped by to visit and see my new book, Leaving Lukens, at Trio's - what a great place to hold an event! Chef Chris did a fantastic job, as always.

Thank you again to those of you who came - I realize this is a crazy time to come to one more event, but that's what makes the season special, right?

Friday, December 9, 2011

Interesting article in Wall Street Journal

It can be done. Says so, right here.

A self-published author of an e-book (no hard copy) wanted to test the waters with her work. Seems like the water was just fine for her. Surely there's a tip or two in here for the rest of us. Leaving Lukens is available for e-book readers as well as in paperback, and so far, the response from reviewers and readers alike is positive, wonderful "better than your first" kind of stuff.

Now, if you haven't finished all your Christmas shopping yet, I invite you to try out a low-cost option, and buy my e-book (Leaving Lukens) for your favorite person -- or yourself. I'd be happy to autograph a paperback copy, but if Kindle's your thing, go for it. Please, and Thank You. 

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Work in Progress: Mystery for Children

I love telling stories of all kinds. I especially love telling stories to my nine-year-old son. So when he asked me to write a book with him for children about children after Leaving Lukens was released, the wheels started turning. He helped me come up with traits for each character, developing each person's background, habits, reasons for acting, likes, fears, etc., until each character seems real enough to touch and talk to like a real child. I expected my son could have fun developing the storyline with me as we went along.

What I didn't expect was that these well-developed characters would "talk" so soon to me. They each have peculiarities we didn't plan, and yet they are as natural as a next door neighbor's kid can be. Putting enough twists and turns into a plot to keep the story interesting (without being too gimmicky) is fun for my son, too -- he's learning not to be too obvious so the clues can unfold one at a time.

I applaud his desire to help with the story, though I wonder if what I'm teaching him will come back to haunt me later when he's making up an alibi for staying out too late one night. I guess we all get to learn it somehow.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Giving Thanks Continues Well Past Turkey Day

Even though the big day with too much food and wonderful time with family has passed, I'm still giving thanks for the many good things going on in life now. It doesn't take much effort to look around and see what's good, what's real, what's true. For instance, we've spent a glorious weekend outside (working on a never-ending pile of leaves), and had warming fires in the evenings. Good books are all around us here at home, and funny stories told at last week'sTellabration still make us giggle.

December is looming with all manner of activities including two book signing events for Leaving Lukens before Christmas (hint: I'll even gift wrap your book purchases), and book sales are starting to show on sites like (e-books are outselling the paperback copies, for those of you hold-it-in-my-hands book lovers who want to even up the score). I can't wait to see what's in store for the new year!

Monday, November 21, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving

I am so thankful for family, friends, and readers who are giving me feedback about my newest novel, Leaving Lukens. I hope you all have a wonderful thanksgiving with the special people in your lives.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Satisfaction, again!

I just learned that my first novel, The Pirate's Bastard, has just been nominated for the N.C. Literary and Historical Association's Sir Walter Raleigh Award for Fiction! How thrilling to know that the years of research must have been sufficient enough to hold up against such scrutiny!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Satisfying the Adrenalin Junkie Within

I prefer romaction stories – a little romance set in a story with a whole lot of action. My first novel, The Pirate’s Bastard, was set in colonial times. A young orphaned boy escapes taunts of neighborhood gangs in Barbados by coming to the New World as a servant to a friendly minister who guides his spiritual growth and nurtures his professional interests. Our hero matures into a fine shipwright, working his way up in the world as he tries to forget about his notorious pirate father’s misdeeds. He falls in love with a young miss, and all seems destined for triumph until his dead father’s first mate comes into his life with a threat of blackmail if our hero doesn’t sail back to Barbados for hidden pirate treasure. I admit I was heavily under the influence of Inglis Fletcher, an incredible writer from the 1950s who wrote a wonderful series of a dozen 400-page books set in colonial times. She wasn’t well liked by her small-town neighbors because she wrote about their ancestors, but the books are collectors treasure now a-days. I didn’t consider them romance novels either because I had a pre-conceived notion of what a romance novel was: Harlequin formulaic pulp that followed a prescribed path filled with attraction, obsession, tragedy, and triumph, in that order. 

So with Inglis Fletcher’s characters firmly in mind, I sat down to write My First Novel. I didn’t set out to write a Romance Novel, but a swashbuckling tale of a young man’s attempt at overcoming his errant father’s legacy. Readers insist the book is a romance, not only between the hero and his lady love, but also between his parents whom he never really knew. He’s had to uncover, layer by layer, who they really were just as lovers discover secrets of each other. In the end, who is to say what a romance really is—or isn’t? 

I wrote from a man’s point of view, and also had a lot of fun writing dialog with a pirate’s voice for my favorite bad-boy character of all time, Ignatious Pell, the first mate to pirate Stede Bonnet. I chose a real-life setting in both time and place, visited the ruins of several historic sites and state archives for my research, and wove my fiction with facts for a tidy story. The bulk of the manuscript was written well before the age of the Internet (when dinosaurs roamed the earth), and took me six years to research and write. It wasn’t high literary style, but a story that I needed to write. The finished manuscript was a mere 56,000 words, and it took me four years to land a publishing contract. There was no six-figure advance, only royalties—and believe me, I was ecstatic to see the first royalty check be it ever so small! 

In my most recent novel, Leaving Lukens, the heroine learns that love isn’t always what it’s supposed to be, nor are people who they claim they are, either. Set in 1942 in a small coastal North Carolina town, the story includes facets of World War II and its impact on coastal regions, businesses, and inhabitants. Again, I’ve researched fact and mixed it with a strong dose of fiction, creating characters to fit the time and place, pacing my dialog to tease the reader to continue turning pages, and building up a stormy near-finale that questions everything that came before. It is historically accurate in every way possible, except that it’s fiction.  My male editor claims he “melted” at many of the passages and dialog conveyed by the male protagonist, so I guess you could say this story is steamy. Since I wasn’t under the influence of another novelist, this is very different than my first attempt at fiction (and a lot better, I admit). It too is a strong potion of romance and action, which I seem to need in my fiction addiction. I confess: I’m an adrenalin junkie. 

How do you know if you’re an adrenalin junkie? You’ll notice that the stories you gravitate toward are based in adventure of some sort. You look forward to diving in early and staying up way too late to finish because you’re caught up in the adventure. Look at the incredible success of Diana Gabaldon’s romantic adventure Outlander series. These sorts of books offer a few hours of escape from mundane lives (even if these lives are filled to capacity with activities). Routines and hectic schedules do not an adventure make. So I encourage you to think about romaction as a possible solution to hum-drumness. 

Exercise: I submit that all romance books are romaction stories. Let’s see if you agree. 

On a piece of paper (or in your computer), make a list of three columns. In column one, write the titles of ten to twenty books you’ve read recently and really enjoyed. This list is going to be important in later chapters, so keep it close by. In column two, categorize the kind of adventure it is—note, this isn’t the genre (cozy murder mystery, historical, young adult, or international intrigue), but an assignment of the adventure in the story, such as “World War I spy meets nurse on the battlefield”. This instantly tells you the adventure’s time period and setting (WWI battlefield). In the last column, identify a romance each story contains (in my example, spy and nurse), and give each romance a score of one to ten where one is “not terribly important to story line” and ten is “this is the story line”. Go ahead. I’ll wait. 

Now review your list. I bet there’s a variety of adventures and different types of romance on your list. Do you see any common traits? Time periods? Settings? Types of romances? What we’re doing here is identifying the kind of romance story that gets your motor started. This exercise should help point the way to what kind of story you are most familiar with, at least from a reader’s point of view. 

Now I’ll ask again: are you an adrenalin junkie? Your list should point you to your answer. 

Leaving Lukens is coming soon to and e-book format. Get it fresh off the press through or ask for it through an independent bookstore near you.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Holiday Shop Stop was Fun

Mixing with vendors of Pampered Chef and other "home show" types, I had a great time at the Holiday Shop Stop on Saturday. I did sell books, but was actually dismayed about the number of people stopping by to say, "I don't have time to read."

After a few too many like that, I had to respond. "Perhaps you should turn off your T.V."

Blasphemy. It was just like I'd said a really bad word! After all the reports of the negative influences of television, I was surprised to get this kind of reaction. I'm naive, I suppose. I haven't owned a television since 1989. Don't miss it. Don't want it back. Sure, I watch an occasional movie on the weekends on the DVD, and that's enough! Why ruin a perfectly good night sitting through commercials when one could read a book? Or better yet, write one?

Okay, I'm off my soap box for now. I'm getting dizzy from the height.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

'Tis the Season

With holidays quickly approaching, opportunities abound for writers and readers to come together. Yesterday, I had the opportunity to participate in a Holiday Shop Stop at my local community center. I brought books to sell. others brought jewelry, Pampered Chef, and other represented merchandise.

The day went quickly with a number of people stopping in the see what I had..."you wrote these?"  What a great opportunity to tell others not only of my books, but of North Carolina's coastal history! Yeah, I sold some books!

Next up: Speaking/signing at our fabulous regional history museum during Autumn Leaves Festival (Friday, October 14, 3-5 p.m.). If you're in town, stop by and say hello!

In November, I'm off to New Bern/Oriental for signing/book selling (and a little bit of run).

Then, December 11 will be my official book launch party at Trios Restaurant in Mount Airy (2-5:00 p.m.) -- come celebrate with me! December 17 I'll be in Winston-Salem for a signing at Barnhill's Books on Burke Street. If you need to do some holiday shopping, this is a great place to do it! Wine, books, and other neat gifts await!

'Tis the season for shopping! Enjoy!

Monday, October 3, 2011

Excerpt, Leaving Lukens

Coming Soon!

NC Maritime History Council Conference Wonderfully Seaworthy

I attended the NC Maritime History Council's Conference in Wilmington, N.C., Thursday through Saturday. What a treat that was! In addition to hearing great speakers talk about the significance of the Port City during World War II, we also toured the battleship, North Carolina. Climbing down into the belly of the ship, I was awe-struck with her immense size and how challenging it must have been to keep the men aboard fed, clothed, and healthy while the ship was at sea.

The dinner on Friday night was held at the Hannah Block USO building, a remarkable community center that was saved in large part by Wilbur Jones, Jr. Entering into the main doors was like stepping back in time.

Since my latest novel Leaving Lukens is set in World War II North Carolina, I was doubly impressed with the conference. Though my novel is set in Oriental, New Bern, and Ocracoke, it was great to see the real deal battleship and USO in Wilmington, and it wasn't too far a leap to imagine how similar the places would have been on the home front during the war.

When attending this annual conference, I've always come away with a nugget of an idea for a novel. Leaving Lukens was fortified by last year's conference in New Bern. I wonder if the next one will have Wilmington for a backdrop?

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

International Talk Like a Pirate Day Coming!

International Talk Like a Pirate Day is Sept. 19. I'm not kidding! But I am excited, because talking like a pirate is a fun thing to do for any lad or lass, if only for a day. So hoist up your sails and get your swagger ready ... the world is about to be filled with want-to-be pirates!

Friday, September 9, 2011

Monday, September 5, 2011

Leaving Lukens Advance Review Copies Mailed

We're getting to the fun -- if not slow -- part of book promotions: asking for reviews that might hopefully help promote and sell Leaving Lukens. I am so pleased with the way the book looks. I've been blessed with an excellent editing and design team. We'll see if the reviewers agree with me!

Friday, May 20, 2011

Leaving Lukens Finished

Well, at least the very rough draft of the manuscript is. It took me six months to write -- far better than the six years it took to research and write The Pirate's Bastard. (What a relief!)

The story took a few unexpected turns, and I am quite pleased with the work. The story is a bit of a roller coaster ride of an adventure tale. There's a bit of a love story woven in, too, for readers who like to see how relationships develop -- or don't.  There's an element of mystery, but not in the traditional sense. I wasn't meaning for it to be a mystery. Honestly, I don't know what I intended with this one, other than to tell a good story. That's what I think it is -- a good story set in 1942 coastal North Carolina.

New Bern and Oriental figure prominently, and I hope I've caught the essence of what these wonderful towns were like in 1942. Because New Bern is such an incredibly rich town in terms of history, information is abundant about what it might have been like back then. Oriental has always had a uniqueness about it -- and that continues today.

Special thanks go to the owner the The Bean in Oriental. He's allowing me to use an image of his delightful coffee shop on the cover as part of a design element. Other places in Oriental are mentioned as well, like Steamers, a great restaurant there. I look forward to enjoying the quiet quirkiness of Oriental in the future. 

That won't be today, though. I'm heading in the opposite direction for a book signing tomorrow in Banner Elk at the Banner Elk Winery. Author and friend Mary Flinn has invited me to this event, and I'm so grateful to be included. I only have a few copies of The Pirate's Bastard left in my "signing" stock -- wonder how many I'll come home with after this event?

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Sailing New Bern

Sailing New Bern -- well, the Pamilco. We had a blast touring New Bern this weekend, including a sail with Captain Malinda aboard her 43' center-cockpit Irwin. We were trying to get a decent photo of me for the back cover of my new book, Leaving Lukens (due out this summer), but I decided I didn't like any we took -- I was squiting into the sun without sunglasses, and with -- well, you can see what I mean. Anyway, we had a great time! Also, I had a book signing at the Hanna House Bed and Breakfast. This is the only place I will stay in New Bern!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

New Events Planned for April

I love springtime -- the flowers, the blooming trees, the vegies in my garden starting to sprout ... turning off the heat in defiance as we still hug sweaters around us and light another fire in the fireplace to take the chill off.

Now that winter is over, people are coming back out into the world. Therefore, it's time for book signings! I had one last night as a kick off to National Library Week (it's also National Volunteer Week, so go hug a library volunteer sometime and see what kind of weird looks you get). In New Bern, I have two scheduled for the same day -- one at Next Chapter Books, the other at Hanna House Bed and Breakfast. I'm thrilled about both! If you're in New Bern April 23, please stop by and say hello to me and to spring. Together, we'll wave a fond farewell to winter for good this year. In May, I'll be in Boone, just in case you won't be able to make it to the other side of the state. 

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Local Paper Covers Book - Nice Article

Well, I finally made the lifestyles section of the Mount Airy News. The article is a profile of my work at Habitat as well, so there is a mix of information. The author did a nice job tying it all together, though I had hoped he would have included my website or at least the local bookstore's name where the book could be purchased, but the angle of where I work seemed to take first place. Oh well. It's publicity.

I've not blogged in awhile, primarily because of my nutty work schedule as of late. The good news is that I hope to see my work hours get to the "normal" range after this week passes, and then I can get back to blogging, promoting, and writing my book. Speaking of which, I've had more great reviews of The Pirate's Bastard, and I've hit nearly 30,000 words of the work in progress. The working title is Leaving Lukens, and I really like the storyline so far. I'll tell you more about it later, but I have so little time to write this week, so I'm going to get to it!

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Shelfari book review thrilling

Now we're getting somewhere. My novel is getting great reviews! I'm just thrilled to read them, and then scoot around on Google to see where else the posts are picked up. When the next book comes out, I'll know exactly where to send it for an unbiased review.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Memories of place gone by

My son has taken a liking to Star Wars. He was so surprised to learn that when I was a kid of 15 or so, I piled into a Toyota Corolla with eight or so friends and we dashed for the downtown theater in Annapolis to see the opening night of Star Wars. It was an event not to be missed.

Now, I've never been a Star Trek fan, and am not really that into SciFi these days; but back then, Star Wars was a major happening, something akin to a Harry Potter release these days, I suppose. The funny thing is, I don't recall the sequels (Clone Wars) having as much fan fare as the sequels to Harry Potter's introduction. Or perhaps I'm not paying attention, anymore.

With an exhausting amount of Lego's around the house, my son can build anything he's seen in books, movies, and life. So, put Star Wars and Lego's together, and you have any number of sand cruisers, star ships, R2D2s, and dashing characters vying for attention. He is saving his money for a $72 kit to build ... Darth Vader's Death Star.

Ah, the days of childhood.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Book reviews starting to appear

On Amazon, I have two reviews of The Pirate's Bastard so far. I keep an eye out for them in other places, but if I hit five reviews on Amazon, my book moves "up" the ranking of favorites and will be suggested as a read to others interested in historical fiction.

Midwest Reviews is a national review organization, and I'm tickled the reviewer thought so highly of my little book. The other reviewer kindly equated my work to something she might see on PBS's Master Piece Theater!

If you buy the book through Amazon, I hope you'll take the opportunity to review it there.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

New year, new work

With the start of a new year, I finally sat down to continue working on a project I got really excited about in October. Holidays, life, and other projects found their way into my schedule for the last quarter of the year, and I had to put this project on hold ... until now. With a day off dedicated to writing, I made great progress; the manuscript isn't going the way I thought it would, though.

In fact, the characters I was peddling around with on the handlebars of my bike last fall have morphed, and the outline for the story is nearly upside down from how I "planned" for it to be.

Truly, it's a good thing. I don't want to give the story away, but I'll share with you a few of the surprises I discovered yesterday. My lead character, Ella, is much stronger than I gave her credit for last fall. She's remained calm (to a point) in a most harrowing experience that probably would have caused me to have a heart attack. This is the first story I've written from a woman's point of view -- go figure -- and it's proving insightful on many levels.

This isn't a love story, but there is a love interest or two. There's a mystery to solve, some deep-seated issues to resolve, and of course there's a boat. Set in 1942, the story dips a toe in the waters of the economic stress of the times, the social issues of a small North Carolina coastal town near New Bern, and the war that was encroaching upon the lives of the village's occupants.

With the strong running start I had yesterday, I have a better sense of where to go with the story next -- or rather, Ella is telling me what's going on ... it will be interesting to see how she wants to resolve it.

In this new year, I wish all my friends and family (and those of you reading this who haven't made yourselves known to me yet) a prosperous and productive new year. May the characters in your lives prove insightful to you, as well.