Take My Hand

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“Take my hand.” A simple request with the power to change everything.

Artist Clay Cahill retreats to her hometown of Pine Cone, Georgia, when she’s betrayed by a woman she thought cared and the pressure of the New York City art world becomes too much. Setting paints aside, she takes a job at her grandfather’s garage seeking the restorative comfort of small town life where women are sweet and life flows as slow as molasses.

Manhattan art gallery owner River Hemsworth is preparing for a show when she’s informed her aunt has bequeathed her a local gallery in Pine Cone, a place where the idea of fashion is anything with a Carhart label. En route to review inventory and unload the property quickly, River wrecks and Clay comes to her rescue.

If River can convince Clay to start painting again, she may be able to pull off the show that will make her career and quench the desires she never expected to feel again.

Welcome to part one of the sweet, romantic adventures of Pine Cone, Georgia. I was super excited to write this trilogy with two of my favorite authors: VK Powell and D. Jackson Leigh

Trilogy wallpaper

 

Getting started

Isn’t that the hardest part sometimes? Just sitting down and putting the first lines on paper. I can’t seem to move forward until I get a first paragraph that I feel good about and the very first line needs to feel just right. I’ve realized that many of my books begin with taking a first step, crossing a threshold, which is usually a signal that things for the main character are about to change.

For my newest work in progress, Spencer’s Cove, there is no first step. There’s a cat, who has no concept of how much he weighs (18 lbs.) and a mystery to be solved… oh, and a painfully shy heiress.

Now, back to work on that first chapter.

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The Wisdom of Rocks and Making Time to Create

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Some rocks from  my rock collection. That white rock is from a writing retreat I did in Spain.

I was driving home last night from work thinking of what I’d say in an end-of-the-year blog post. It didn’t take long for me to circle back to early 2017 when I began research for my current work-in-progress, Proxima Five. One of the main characters in the novel is a geologist named Leah Warren. So, first things first, find a geologist to talk to. Plans were laid to meet my friends Darlene and Peggy for dinner at a local restaurant named Sweet T’s. Peggy is a geologist and we share an active love of rocks. We talked over dinner about the geological clock and how slowly it moves. How the youngest rock is tens of thousands of years old. And over the past year as the pace of stories about debacles in our nation’s capital have glutted the daily news cycle I’ve longed for a bit of that geological pace. Wouldn’t it be nice if things just slowed a bit?

But that isn’t exactly where my thoughts ended up on the drive home. Thinking about time came later. What immediately came to mind was the fact that Sweet T’s, a local favorite, is gone. Completely leveled in the Tubbs Fire that raged through Santa Rosa during October. So much happened in 2017. One small crisis after another, culminating with an inferno in October. And this was before the intense fires in southern California later in the year.

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Sweet T’s after the Tubbs Fire of 2017.

Repeatedly during the year, I was grateful to be able to find a respite from reality while writing fiction. However, as I look back, the story of Proxima Five evolved over the last few months, influenced by the reality of our times. A story that began as an examination about what happens when power rules unchecked, became a more nuanced narrative about power dynamics, sex, and culture, about the mechanisms that come to exist in society as a result of those factors.

It’s fortuitous that I would have the opportunity to write Proxima Five. It gives me a place to put thoughts into something constructive. But Proxima Five is an epic shift from my newest book, Love at Cooper’s Creek, due out February 1 by Bold Strokes Books.

LoveAtCooper'sCreekLove at Cooper’s Creek is a meditation on small town America in the Deep South. It’s sweet, hopeful, funny, and heartfelt. The story is partly about running away and at the same time, being found.

“A sense of connection, a sense of belonging washed over Shaw. She looked at Kate who had covered her mouth with her hand. The wet paths of tears were on her cheeks. Shaw didn’t have the language to explain the emotion that crowded her chest. It was as if Charlie had sent her a message of kinship from some other place, some place beyond knowing, beyond words. She couldn’t explain it. The moving monument was like some secret presence of the divine, and in that instant, she knew she’d been loved.” (from Love at Cooper’s Creek)

I guess the moral of this end-of-the-year blog post, if one exists, is that 2017 made me realize how important it is to give ourselves breathing room, breaks from reality to create, in whatever form that takes.

Our studio has a holiday lunch to celebrate the end of the year. As the host of the gathering I always try and have some inspiring quote that I share with the team. This year’s quote was from Mary Oliver and I intend to make it my goal for the New Year. I always tell people, invest in yourself. When I say that I don’t mean financially, I mean, give yourself time.

“The most regretful people on earth are those who felt the call to creative work, who felt their own creative power restive and uprising, and gave to it neither power nor time.” ― Mary Oliver

Happy New Year.

Provincetown schedule, see you there!

IMG_7336Here I am, in one of my signature plaid shirts, in front of Recovering Hearts preparing for a signing in 2015. This year, I’m aspiring to wear solids, but I might not pull it off.

Okay, so it was summer for like a minute, and then I blinked… and now it’s October. Which means… Women’s Week in Provincetown, Mass!

My first visit to this charming coastal village was in 2015 and I’m excited to be back this year to meet up with old friends and a few new ones. I’m doing a quick post here to share my signing and reading schedule:

THURSDAY, OCTOBER 12TH:

2:00-3:00 PM @ GABRIEL’S: I’ll be moderating a panel titled “Out of This World.” Panelists include: CJ Birch, Jane C. Esther, M. Ullrich, Ali Vali, Brey Willows, and Barbara Ann Wright.

5:00-7:00 PM @ HARBOR LOUNGE / 102 BRADFORD STREET: Bold Strokes Books Meet ‘n’ Greet. All are welcome to attend.

FRIDAY, OCTOBER 13TH:

10:00-11:00 AM @ LIBRARY: Author Q&A: Genre, What Genre? Moderated by Melissa Brayden. Panelists include: Missouri Vaun (aka: me), Jean Copeland, Jackie D, M. Ullrich, Ali Vali, and Barbara Ann Wright.

SATURDAY, OCTOBER 14TH:

2:00-3:00 PM @ LIBRARY: Pivotal Moments, moderated by I. Beacham. Panelists include: Radclyffe, Missouri Vaun, Mickey Brent, Robyn Nyx, Aurora Rey, and Emily Smith.

3:45-4:15 PM @ RECOVERING HEARTS: I’ll be there signing books with Radclyffe, Aurora Rey, Mickey Brent, Robyn Nyx, and Emily Smith.

For more information about all these great authors check out the Bold Strokes Books website.

 

 

My New Release: Crossing the Wide Forever

Crossing The Wide Forever 300 DPIIt was hard not to get lost in the research for this book. Not the technical data or anything like that, but rather the personal stories of the women that migrated west during the mid-1800s. Many of whom were white and from middle-class economic backgrounds. Slavery and massacres were prevalent during this time period and gravely impacted the lives of black and native women. Conflicts between anti-slavery and pro-slavery factions in the Kansas territory required farmers to carry firearms to the field with them. The heated debate over the extension of slavery into the territories west of Missouri were being hotly debated in Washington D.C., while in the Deep South succession was in serious discussion. A lot was going on in the 1850s. I tried to be strategic about where I placed this story because of that.

I hadn’t realized until I started this book how many first-person diaries were available. Many of the story details that might seem far-fetched, like the electrical storm on the plains, or the ghoulish skulls of long dead buffalo, are taken from first-person accounts. The women who made the journey west didn’t so much write about how they felt, maybe they kept those feelings private, but they did describe the day-to-day challenges of managing a traveling home (wagon) on the open prairie.

I also didn’t realize how many white women dressed as men to migrate west. I had this idea that one of the characters in Crossing the Wide Forever might disguise herself as male but I wasn’t sure how plausible that was. It turns out there were lots of reasons for white women to disguise themselves as men. Some were fleeing abusive relationships or hoping to avoid an unwanted marriage arrangement. Some found themselves in situations where they had to feed and care for their children alone. Many white women during this time had two options, get married or resort to prostitution. The third, more radical option was to dress as a man and find work. Only men had the luxury of finding decent paying jobs on the frontier. In many cases free black men and white men worked side-by-side.

One of my sources for the historical setting of Crossing the Wide Forever was a book by Peter Boag titled, Re-Dressing America’s Frontier Past. Boag’s book contains stories of both men and women who cross-dressed. I can only assume that some women also cross dressed so that they could marry the woman they loved, as many of them did. Sex was not viewed as binary at the time and there was no real word for homosexuality so newspaper stories about these cross-dressing women rarely made any mention of sexual orientation or the role that may have played in the woman’s decision to dress in masculine clothing. Sometimes the undertaker was the only one to discover the true identity of many of these women when he prepared their body for burial.

Winslow Homer’s work as a watercolorist during the mid-1800s provided some of the basis for Lillie’s career path as a landscape painter in Crossing the Wide Forever. Lillie’s experiences as a woman in the male-dominated field of art were inspired by Georgia O’Keeffe’s early life. O’Keeffe overcame many obstacles to succeed as a painter. Some of what she had to say about art critics and how they interpreted her work through a misogynistic lens is heartening to read, especially if you’ve ever received a bad review.

This novel is not intended as a history lesson and it was my goal not to let historical detail bog down the story. But context is important. All of the research was simply to put the reader in Cody and Lillie’s world. The story is about adventure, about charting your own course, about believing in yourself, and ultimately about falling in love.