Archive for the ‘Good On Paper’ Category

Today’s the last day to download Past Lives: A Journey free. Tomorrow, November 24, we’ll have a complete change of pace, when Redeeming Stanley: Redeeming Stanley: A Savage Little Tale of True Love, Old Gods, Bitches, Bestiality, Burnout, and Above All, Payback becomes the free download. Stanley’s been popular since he first met the public way back in 2009 (and won Audiolark’s Best of the Best e-books award, incidentally). Stanley is, of course, available in paperback and Kindle (and for free from November 24 to 28!), but he’s also available as an audiobook from Audiolark. He’s not free there, regrettably, but he’s still a darned good deal. So go on, download…download…

Available in paperback and on Kindle from Amazon

November 19-23: Past Lives: A Journey
This is a tiny little collection of short stories that grew out of a series of past-life regression exercises. The stories are poetic, evocative, and thought-provoking, from the girl trapped in the desert to prove a point to the mistress who has discovered too late that relationships can be transforming to the milkmaid who lacks the courage to fight back to the woman who discovers that she has lost something she never realized she had–and in redeeming her present rewrites her past and her future, these are stories about love, what it means, and how we find it, lose it, and sometimes, if we’re lucky, discover it again within ourselves.
Reviews Download FREE November 19-23 (it’s always free to Amazon Prime members)

November 24-28: Redeeming Stanley: Redeeming Stanley: A Savage Little Tale of True Love, Old Gods, Bitches, Bestiality, Burnout, and Above All, Payback
This little book right here is the reason I sometimes am startled to find myself turning up on Alternative Porn Sites. I think it’s the “bestiality” in the title. Which is warranted, but it’s the sort of warm, fuzzy bestiality that sort of slips by, only later provoking a double-take and a “Whoa, did she really go there?” Why yes, this book does indeed go there. It’s a fun, unlikely story about a collection of characters who really should have mutual restraining orders–old gods, the born-again christians who try to Save them, self-described Babe Magnet and armchair explorer of the female psyche Weldon Frame, The Freak, Satan, the Whore of Babylon, the Coppess (body by Frigidaire) and some trucker in a Peterbilt and a gimme John Deere cap. It won a “best of the best e-books” award back in the day, and has continued to sell steadily ever since. Also, reviews keep popping up from time to time, so word on the street is that it’s still a fun, funky, “guilty pleasure” sort of book, ideal for anybody who has discovered that she’s been dating in the shallow end of the gene pool, decides to stop, and learns that sometimes things can get a little messy. But funny. Book clubs like this one. I think you will, too.
Reviews  Download FREE from November 24-28 (it’s always free to Amazon Prime members)

November 27-December 1 Good on Paper
Once upon a time, a king named David got the hots for a steamy little number named Bathsheba. Lucky for David, Mr. Bathsheba was busy being one of David’s best generals, so Bathsheba was home all by her lonesome…

See where this is heading? Of course you do.

So does Sarah Conrad, reluctant Bible scholar and unwilling paramour of televangelist Pastor Jimmy Jay Rayburn. It’s a destination she knows well. But the destination is only the beginning. Sarah doesn’t wind up sleeping with an aging “man of God” by accident. Eldest sister Elaine’s minister husband isn’t divorcing her on a whim. And middle sister Elizabeth doesn’t vanish in a fit of pique, leaving a dead dog, a roomful of blood, and Sarah and youngest Conrad DJ behind.

The Conrad children survive by keeping up appearances. But it costs them. When family patriarch Dan Conrad is diagnosed with terminal cancer and the children come home to help appearances are no longer enough, and tensions rise. When somebody winds up murdered the Conrads are forced to unravel their past in order to survive their present.

Set on a family farm in a fast-disappearing slice of America, Good on Paper is first and foremost a story in which to lose one’s self–readers consistently comment that they “couldn’t put it down.” But beyond that, the story raises questions. How do we determine who is “good?” How do we decide what is real? Do we respond to the victimization of others, and if so, how? How do we integrate a painful and abusive past into a vibrant and creative present and future? Above all, this story leaves readers wondering, with DJ Conrad, “…what it is about our family, our church, our society, that allows abusers to not only survive, but thrive.”

By turns infuriating, hilarious, magical, frightening, and lyrical, the Conrads’ story captures the paradox lying at the heart of abusive relationships, as well as the courage, honesty and humor that the Conrad children use to survive.

Tracing the Conrad children’s journey to healing and resolution makes for a powerful and haunting read, one that should appeal to a many, particularly those interested in understanding how the pain of an abusive past can become the fertile soil from which a rich, meaningful future can spring.

Reviews  Download FREE November 27-December 1 (it’s always free to Amazon Prime members)

So that’s what’s happening–don’t be shy about downloading, and if you like the books, we’d love it if you’d post a review or response on Amazon–or even write about it here! I’ll be reposting this from time to time, to just keep everybody updated on what’s going on, free-wise. Happy holidays!

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I’m going to blow my image as a reasonable, sane, comparatively mature woman here and admit, right out in front of [insert deity of your choice] and everybody that I love pirate movies, and of all of the pirate movies I love the one I love the most is Muppet Treasure Island. I love Mrs. Bluberidge’s tardy efforts at political correctness. I love Tim Rice doing Long John Silver. I love the music. I love the way the movie plays with words and pirate conventions. Most of all, I love Billy Bones’ drunken ramblings that invariably end, “Now isn’t that a story worth the hearing?”

A story worth the hearing: the words are magic to me, maybe because I love telling stories. But here’s the thing: the jury’s still out on whether the stories I tell are “stories worth the hearing.” I hope they are, of course, but the world is full of people like me–people who looked inside themselves, spotted a story lurking somewhere (possibly behind a kidney), and at the cost of considerable pain, effort, and often money, had the story removed, pickled, and put up for sale.

The idea, of course, is that others will see the story and fork over cash to make it their very own. This doesn’t often happen; the market for things removed from one’s innards and preserved–be it ever so carefully–is not great, unless you’re an oyster. Something is inevitably lost in the journey from inside to outside and up for public view.

But there are those few, though, those pure souls who, like the oyster, can take the story lurking inside, bring it out into the light of day, and reveal not a shriveled, stinking, and somehow embarrassed-looking pancreas, but a pearl, glowing and lustrous and infinitely desirable.

You’d think it would be easy to tell the difference between pancreas and pearl, but I’ve never found it so. Because they are my own, I of course consider every one of my books pearls–some perhaps are slightly irregular freshwater pearls, but others, well, others are so wonderful they defy appraisal. But that’s me. I considered each story worth the telling, and I worked years, in most cases, to tell it as well as I could.

But are they stories worth the hearing? I don’t know. My sales to date would answer, “No.” Redeeming Stanley sells–slowly–on Kindle. It’s won an award, and it’s been done by a local book club, so there’s some consensus that it’s a story worth the hearing, but Good On Paper has yet to sell anywhere except at signings. Surely that should tell me something. And it does. I cushion the blow by reminding myself that I haven’t been marketing it properly, that I don’t have an agent, that when I get all the press kits sent out, it will of course go gang busters.

There’s just enough truth to that to make it comforting. It’s true I haven’t been marketing. But why not? Could it be that, all my protestations to the contrary, I myself have doubts not about whether the story was worth telling, but about whether it’s worth hearing? I don’t like to think so, but I suspect I’m too close to it to know if I’m looking at something better left inside, or a pearl.

I need some perspective. Maybe you can help. If you’re up for it, send me an email and I’ll send you an e-book version of Good On Paper. Before you make up your mind, you might want to check out the tab at the top of this page and read the book information and excerpt. Read as much or as little of it as you like, then send me a note with your opinion. Is this a story worth the hearing? Why, or why not?

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Just to shake things up a little, I thought this week I’d serve up a little snippet of my newest novel, Good On Paper. In this excerpt, Elizabeth describes a day spent picking blackberries.

We tumbled out of the Chevy station wagon into the sweltering, buzzing morning. Our swimsuits, faded and snagged, lay tangled up with ragged bath towels in the back of the car. Momma had said that if we picked enough blackberries we could go swimming in the river. The sun stung my shoulders and nose, but shadows still lay blue and cool on the fine sand under the shaggy trees. A breeze ruffled over us. Momma handed out tin buckets and gloves—one of each for each of us—and pointed us toward the brambles along the river.

She followed, staggering under the weight of grease-stained, splintered plywood sheets, her slender, muscular arms tight and golden in the sun. She tipped the boards into the brambles, making fragile, unreliable bridges into the tangle’s mysterious depths and pulling the glistening, berry-laden top branches down within reach. We were alone in that pocket of sunshine, a universe away from the house, and even farther from Daddy.

In an unprecedented act of bravery and overall saneness, Momma had driven us back home while Daddy stayed behind in Illinois to help Grandma. It had been a month, and already Daddy seemed like ancient history. We didn’t know Grandpa. He had lived in Illinois, after all, and we had never visited him and Grandma before that summer. It was hard to feel sad about losing him when it meant that for the first time in my life I felt safe. Momma made us be quiet for the first day of the trip back, out of respect for Grandpa, but then even she caught the giddiness of it, driving through those long summer days with her arm out the window, the wind ruffling her short, wavy hair, the radio crooning songs by a man named Elvis Presley. She ignored us unless we asked her a question, and then she’d just answer quietly. Sometimes, later in the trip, she smiled.

At home, the house felt different. Momma walked faster, and she, not Elaine, supervised our baths at night and got us breakfast in the morning. We woke late and came downstairs to find Momma making us special breakfasts or out weeding the garden in the morning sunshine. Once Sarah and I even saw her sitting at the table, a brown grocery bag in front of her, a pencil in her hand.

“What’cha doin’, Momma?” Sarah asked.

“Oh, nothing,” she said, and went to fold the laundry.

“Look,” Sarah said. “It’s a tomato.”

Sure enough, Momma had drawn a tomato. The lines swept and flowed, circled into the tomato’s round, glossy body, curled out into delicate leaves and tendrils. Momma had drawn that. Momma. I hadn’t known she could do such a thing. Sarah took the bag, tore out the picture, and stuck it up on the refrigerator next to Elaine’s last picture of Harry, the one that had been there before we left, that nobody had the heart to take down now, even though we all knew Elaine was carefully not looking at the refrigerator these days.

That beautiful tomato signaled a change for us. We ran through the days and laughed at the supper table. We had pillow fights, dashing from room to room in the moonlight. I didn’t think about Grandpa at all, or about Daddy back helping his own Momma sort through their past, apportioning memories among his brothers and sisters.

Momma was better. I knew it was true because she’d drawn a tomato. And because she had decided to make jam, which was why we were at the river picking blackberries. A blue heron flopped heavily overhead. Blackbirds creaked nearby. A lark warbled.

Sarah pushed me. I pushed her back. DJ stood with his finger in his mouth, his white hair shining in the sun, his knees chubby and brown above his boots. Momma worked a glove over her hand, slipped the bucket handle over her belt, and began stripping the high brambles, leaving the low ones for us.

She picked quickly, gracefully. This was not the Momma I had always known, the woman who stumbled through her life. This was a mysterious woman whose hair had grown out to spring thick, golden, and wavy, concealing the scarred patch on her head, a woman who wore clam diggers and crisp, sleeveless blouses instead of shapeless housedresses, who listened to Elvis Presley and smiled when my sisters sang along, who drew graceful, elegant little pictures.

Elaine grabbed a bucket, tied it to the tail of her shirt, slid the stiff, greasy leather gauntlet onto her left hand, and stepped onto the rocking, tippy board. She jumped a few times, forcing the board down into the brambles.

The gauntlet slipped down and she shot her arm above her head, catching it before it slid off, then reached out and grabbed a sagging bramble with the glove and stripped the berries, dropping them by handfuls into her bucket. She was almost as fast as Momma.

Burning to be big girls, Sarah and I grabbed buckets and tied them to our shirttails, too. We snatched for brambles and tried to strip the berries with Momma and Elaine’s easy grace, but it was beyond us. Our gloves were too big, too stiff to bend with our hands. The knots holding our buckets to our shirts kept slipping. Our picking hands were soon full of scratches and punctures. “Gol dang it,” Sarah swore when a bramble dug into her calf. I sucked in my breath and shot a look at Momma. She should have whipped Sarah for swearing. Instead she just said, “Careful, honey.” Sarah let out her breath, then bent and carefully pulled the bramble loose.

DJ staggered into a bramble hidden in the grass and curled up, howling. Momma went to pick him up and kiss the angry red scratches streaking his legs. DJ’s head fell back against her shoulder and his eyes closed. The day lay sultry and peaceful upon us. A snatch of music rippled from somewhere far away. I cocked my head to listen.  Momma sat in shade, leaning against a tree, her berry bucket and glove by her side. DJ, still little more than a baby, slept in her arms. The sun struck golden sparks off the delicate hairs on her arms. “Bring me the car quilt, Sarah honey,” she finally said, and her voice was just another river sound, low and burring like the bees’ hum of the bees and the far-away music.

Sarah turned. Her bucket, sagging below her knees, bumped her shins. She tripped, staggered toward the edge of the board, teetered, caught herself, and kicked out impatiently. The bucket flew up and smacked her in the face, scattering a hail of hard-won blackberries around us. “Ow!” she whispered angrily, rubbing her nose, tears standing in her eyes.

“Don’t kick the bucket, Sarah,” Elaine scolded softly.

Sarah hopped off the board and limped toward the car and the car quilt while I gathered the scattered berries. And then I heard it. A soft, rough sound. My eyes flew up, seeking the source, and settled on my mother’s face, glowing in the dappled shade, her eyes gentle on Sarah, her mouth curved.

My mother was laughing. I stared, awestruck.

“Let me see your bucket,” Momma murmured. Sarah limped over, angry tears sparkling in her eyes. Momma leaned forward, careful not to disturb DJ, and peeked over the edge of Sarah’s bucket. A few berries rolled forlorn in the bottom. “That’s real good, honey,” Momma said. “Go get your suit on.” She lifted a thin brown hand and smoothed Sarah’s bright white hair back from her sweaty red face.

“But what about the jam?” Elaine asked. “We don’t have enough berries.”

“Who needs jam?” Momma asked. “How many of these days do we get? Hurry, now. Nobody should have to work after they’ve kicked the bucket.” She laughed again.

We stared at her, not getting the joke. She looked back at us, and then she smiled a beautiful, peaceful smile and even though she was a stranger, we fell in love with her.

“Come swimming with us, Momma?” Elaine whispered.

“When DJ wakes up.” And then she leaned her head back against the tree and closed her eyes. The sun poured over her delicate ankles and flickered on her face and slender golden arms.

We ran for the car, set our buckets on the tailgate, scrambled into our suits, and dashed for the river, toe-tipping over the rough grass, wincing and pulling goat head thorns out of our bare feet, hotfooting it across the scalding sand. And then the water poured cool around us, and Momma sat up to watch over us. “Don’t go in too deep,” she called softly. Sarah and I splashed in the shallows. Elaine waded deeper, standing up to her thighs in the slow-flowing water. She raised slim tanned arms, bent her head with its shining cap of white-gold curls, and dove under the surface, swimming against the current. Her head broke the surface in silver splashes and she rose, gasping and laughing. For once she wasn’t thinking about Harry. I could tell because she had forgotten to be holy.

Sarah and I dug a tadpole corral and filled it with hapless tadpoles fished from a nearby mossy puddle, then paddled near the river’s edge. DJ finally woke up and Momma brought him down to wade in the hot, shallow pools between the white, dry rocks. Elaine lay on her back, floating with the current, a pale saintly mermaid with a wavering platinum halo. I heard it again—faint music. I looked at my sisters, at Momma, at DJ. They were laughing and splashing, so I guessed they didn’t hear. The sun sparkled on the river and flashed bright on their wet, tarnished-platinum heads. Leaves rustled gently in a treetop breeze. My skin stung, then cooled as Sarah and I raced through sun, through shade, into the river, and back into sun. As the afternoon waned we settled on the shore, letting the water lap around our feet. Elaine came and flopped down beside me. I lay back between Sarah and Elaine and pillowed my head on my arms. Effortlessly, thoughtlessly, the tune I had been hearing all day vibrated rustily in the back of my throat.

Sarah and Elaine’s heads jerked around. “Bethie’s singing, Momma,” Elaine said, shocked.

“What?” asked Momma. She knelt beside the river, holding baby DJ so he wouldn’t fall in.

“She’s singing.”

“She can’t be,” Momma said. “Bethie can’t talk.”

“She is, too,” Sarah insisted.

“Bethie?” Momma turned and peered at me, eyebrows raised.

The tune withered in my throat. Momma stood and hurried over. “Watch DJ, Lainie,” she said, thrusting him into Elaine’s arms as she leaned over me. “Bethie, honey, were you singing?”

I stared up at her, my throat locked and aching.

Momma’s eyes got soft in a way I had never seen them before. And then she did a strange thing. She sat down beside me, and pulled me into her lap, even though I was a big girl, and she put her arms around me and rocked me gently in the sunshine. And I felt tears, warm and wet on my shoulder.

I closed my eyes and listened to the music and felt it trembling in my throat, and I wanted more than anything to let it out, but I knew better, though I didn’t know why. The knowledge that survival depended on silence stretched beyond memory. My eyes drifted shut. I laid my head on my mother’s shoulder, felt the sun on my back and the trembling in my throat, and just let her rock me. And all the while the music drifted over us.

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