Small but tantalizing morsel from “Return to the Outer Banks House”

February 23rd, 2015

My inspiration for the character Eliza Dickens had a lot to do with the Heart song “Crazy on You.” She’s a rifle-toting, britches-wearing woman that does not suffer fools, does not crack smiles, does not forgive and forget. And the kind of love she had for Ben Whimble still lives, will always haunt her, despite her efforts to forget. When she sees him again at a funeral in Whales Head, that love rears its powerful head once again. (Now cue the song: “Let me go crazy, crazy on you….ohhh…”)

“The sky above was all cloud, but even so it was like someone had shined a sunbeam on this face, just for me. I tried not to stare his way, but I couldn’t help myself. A brass band and gypsy parade could have marched us by, and I wouldn’t have even looked away from him.

He stood there, Ben did, and I hadn’t even seen him come. His face had thinned out since I’d seen him last, but he wore a coat I remembered from the old days. His britches were finely made, the collar of his wool shirt under the coat clean. He had on some leather boots too, not the shiny ilk that the Yanks wore, but nice enough. His yellow hair was combed back off his clean shaven face, and I reckoned he was more handsome than even before. But more than that, he stood so straight now, black slouch hat in his hands. He was a man full grown.

No sign of his wife, I saw.

Had he seen me too? I lowered the ugly black shawl from my head and smoothed out my hair. I knew my cheeks were red from the cold so I wouldn’t have to pinch ’em. I licked my chapped lips good, then looked down at my beat-up boots and Union coat and homespun dress. He’d see I hadn’t changed a lick, be bored with me and we hadn’t even said two words to one another.

Then, as the uncle kept on, I saw those blue eyes meet up with my brown ones. I saw that he saw it was me. He made me a smile, kind of a sad smile for Ben, and tipped his head to me. I kept my face flat though. Didn’t want him to think I was happy to see him.

Which I was.”

Do Eliza and Ben have a reunion of sorts? Or do they go their separate ways, once and for all? I think you know the answer, or there wouldn’t be much of a story to tell! You’ll have to read on to find out who wins Ben’s love in the end…his depressed yet steadfast wife Abigail, or the hot-mess, Eliza Dickens.


The sequel to The Outer Banks House is here!

January 14th, 2015

image004I am so happy and excited to share that my sequel to The Outer Banks House is here! It’s called–and I know this is creative genius–Return to the Outer Banks House, and it’s available on Amazon.com as both a paperback and an ebook. I started writing this book even before the first book got a publishing contract, mostly because I couldn’t let Ben and Abby and all of the other characters, especially Eliza Dickens, go! (And I was able to travel to the Outer Banks, circa 1875, whenever I felt like it…)

I hope you enjoy it as much as I loved writing it! Thank you very much for your support…and let me know your thoughts on the novel! If you are ever in a writing mood, please also consider posting a review for the book on Amazon. I would very much appreciate it!

Here is a very favorable review from Kirkus:

KIRKUS REVIEW

A heartbreaking yet uplifting novel that explores the destruction and beauty of love.

Set between 1875 and ’76, Ducharme’s story—this being the sequel to The Outer Banks House (2010)—is about love and its many faces, from young and reckless to unrequited. Specifically, she explores the unlikely passion that forms between smart, affluent Abigail Sinclair and uneducated, penniless Benjamin Whimble. The people of this tightknit island community on the Outer Banks, off the coast of North Carolina, are connected by their collective poverty and abiding love for the sea. Outsiders are generally unwelcome. When Abigail’s family visits for a summer, she starts teaching Ben, her father’s fishing guide, how to read. His love for literature and for his teacher grows, and slowly he drifts away from longtime girlfriend, Eliza Dickens, eventually leaving her to marry Abigail. Although this new love is strong, tragedy tests it. Seven years later, the worst behind them, the couple picks through their past separately, putting together the pieces of themselves they lost along the way. Meanwhile, all these years later, plucky and independent Eliza has never fully recovered from losing Ben. She fights for his return and learns much more about herself in the process. Supporting characters, many with equally interesting lives, float in and out of the story as well. Ducharme beautifully shifts among love stories, weaving lives together. She also daftly expresses the tensions between economic classes. In her fog of love, Abigail joyfully leaves behind the security of her life at home so she can be with a man who could never financially provide for her in the ways she’s accustomed; only after the wedding does it hit her. “Words had failed us that night, and I’d welcomed the silence,” she thinks. “Words had escaped me the next morning as well but in a different way, when I came to realize that I was married to a fisherman for the rest of my days.”

A study in love, class, and the profound ways people grow and adapt to life’s challenges.

 


Ireland…home of fairies and long lost birth-ancestors!

January 10th, 2014

I can’t say why I’ve always been drawn to the country of Ireland. I chose it as the setting for my second novel, Chasing Eternity, without really knowing why. Often in my writing, things like plot lines, character traits, and settings choose themselves, regardless of my best intentions. I usually just roll with it, knowing that my subconscious is where my true intellect resides. Those islands off the western coast of Ireland seemed the perfect spot for my very, very, very elderly characters: remote, entrenched in the old, Gaelic culture, removed from the whims and niceties of modern society. I did a ton of research on those islands…the Aran Islands, Inishbofin, the Blasket Islands.

I never traveled there, although I really wanted to, mostly because I believed that an author needs to truly know an area if she’s chosen it as a setting. But alas, life with a family has a way of rendering international travel a Santa-list wish, so I contented myself with the internet and books…besides, those islands had become almost fictional in my mind. Craggy, foggy, lonely, magical, pure of soul. Actually setting foot on one of those islands seemed outlandish, like stepping back in time or into the pages of a book.

If you’ve been following my adoption journey, you’ll know that I’ve recently connected with my birth mother, Lori. It has been a life-altering, heart-warming experience for me. Since our face-to-face visit (with her awesome sister Darla!) last March, I’ve been toeing into the waters of a family and heritage I didn’t know I had. I’ve been exchanging letters and photos with my birth grandmother, Winona, a stunningly pretty almost-90-year-old living in Indiana! Lori also helped me to connect with my birth father’s sister, but unfortunately their family hasn’t communicated with him a very long time and no one knows where he is. He is a Vietnam veteran, and it sounds like the war did a number on him, post-combat. This is in fact a primary reason he and Lori chose to put me up for adoption, and soon afterward, divorce.

But I am now a Facebook friend to his sister, another lovely birth-aunt. She has given me some much-appreciated information about their family’s heritage and medical background. For instance, (drum roll please) my ancestors were very much IRISH! I just knew it. You only have to look at my blue-eyed, red-haired, freckly son Dorsey to see that there must be some luck-of-the-Irish in the blood, and now we know. In fact, my birth great-great-grandmother was from County Clare, Ireland, on the west coast, and married a fellow Irishman, a man whose last name (the same last name I would have had had I not been adopted) now adorns many spots in his Ireland hometown, not the least of which is a book shop. Now my husband and I are in the process of planning a trip to Ireland with the kids for the summer, completing a large and stretchy circle that began back in the 19th century. Isn’t it amazing how life really can be as magical as an Irish fairy tale?


Knock knock, who’s there? Your brain, dummy! We met once, years ago.

October 24th, 2013

My memories of parenting are overlaid with a thick film of slop. When I try to dig around in the trough in an attempt to extract something concrete and useful, my neurological hands get sticky and confused and eventually pull out, memory-less.  I forget which child did what, when, how and why. Trying to recall certain events is kind of like trying to remember a night of bad-beer shecanery in college–the late morning “I did what?!” response, followed by hearty disbelief and a vague sense of amusement. Apparently, when it comes to both parenting and keg nights, the brain punches “delete.” This is why I was excited to recently come across some writing that shed some light on my earlier mothering self.

I had written a couple of chapters for a new novel sometime after my first novel, The Outer Banks House, was published. The ideas for the novel have been marinating for years now, and I’m looking forward to revisiting the material again. Here’s a hint: it has to do with deer hunting, a disfigured woman, and urban sprawl. It’s supposed to be a thriller, a genre I’ve never touched before. I scanned over the (poorly written) chapters yesterday, and who popped out at me from the murky depths of the long, long years? My nine-year-old daughter Katherine, who must have been around four years old at the time I wrote the chapters. (My son, now 13, also makes an appearance.) Yes, it was some Harry Potter-Dumbledore-and-the pensieve kind of magic, to read about my sweet Katherine, apparently having done the same exact things that my third child Ellery is now doing. But it was also vexing to realize that I am repeating myself, over and over again, with no memory of it. I’m like a hamster on her wheel, rolling steadily and happily into nowhere. Warm keg beer anyone? Enjoy part of the (flippantly toned) chapter below:

It is morning. I hate mornings. We rush around, strapping on ammunition and checking our weapons.

“Mommy, I need help!”

“Do it yourself! You’re a big girl now, remember?”

Almost-four-year-olds should know how to wipe their own asses. How hard is it, really? You rip some toilet paper off the roll, reach behind your back and wipe the hole. It’s not like I’m asking her to darn a doily or aerate the lawn. It’s a crack. You wipe it. You flush.

But she really does have a phobia of ass-wiping, it seems. I often find crusty skid marks on the insides of her balled-up Hello Kitty underwear. Which leads to complaints about her sore butt hole. Many times it has brought her to tears, and I have to run for the cream. You’d think the chafing would reason with her, if nothing else.

I have seen this same girl climb up the longest curly slide at McDonald’s, wearing shiny red clogs. They are the opposite of sensible climbing shoes. Similarly shod, she rides a bike with training wheels and even straps a helmet under her chin without pinching the skin. She draws big-headed, smiling stick people, with arms sprouting from the sides of their circular heads. Little potato people. I have heard that these vegetable families are quite a feat for her age.

But she can’t grasp the wiping thing.

I trek down the hallway to the bathroom and stand in the doorway, hands on my hips. She sits on the toilet, completely naked. She is afraid of getting poo on her clothing.

“Let me see you try it, Edda. Just pull some paper off and wipe.”

She paws the roll of paper, unfurling it to the floor. She stops and whines at me.

“You can do this.”

She shakes her head and rests her face in her hands, elbows propped on her bare thighs. She looks tired.

So I do it for her. This is my life now, I think. I wipe asses. I clean up everyone else’s messes, all day every day. Shit, urine, vomit, spit-up. Spills, stray marker marks, scuffs from boots on the hardwood floors, bits of egg in the table cracks.

It is not how I thought things would go for me. But here I am, knee deep in the mess.

I pull her turtleneck over her head for the second time today. I put her legs in the pants holes too.

“Mommy, you have to unbutton my pants.”

“You mean button them. Not unbutton them.”

She blinks at me.

Edda also says the opposite of things. “Close my window!” means to open it. Off means on. And red is green, and vice versa. I thought a few months ago that she was colorblind. But now I think she just has an opposite problem, for lack of a more medical-sounding description.

I understand this, on a deep level.

I attempt to drag a wet brush through Ethan’s hair. Every morning, his strawberry-blonde hair looks like he has been standing on the edge of a pier all night in the middle of a hurricane. Every morning. Even a wet brush doesn’t tame the beast that lives atop his head. He needs a good dunking.

“OOOH, NOOO! Mom! You got my picture wet!” he groans. He lifts up the paper to show me its complete destruction. It is a drawing of a witch, with little cobwebs in the upper corners of the paper. The witch’s face is deformed, because of the water droplets. I think it looks cool.

“I’m sorry, buddy. I didn’t mean to. But look how spooky she looks now.”

He doesn’t buy it for a second. “Now I’m going to have to start over. Jeez, mom. Thanks a lot.”

Ethan is a perfectionist, even this early in the day. He wants to be an artist when he grows up. Every picture could be a masterpiece.

“Oh, and mom? Could you double-knot my shoelaces?”

I squat, and my knees snap like green beens. “You really need to learn how to do this. You are seven years old. This is getting ridiculous.”

My words are punctuated with small pulls on the shoelaces.

“But I can’t do it! I’ve tried, and I just can’t,” he moans.

I stand slowly, fighting off a head rush. I picture my son, sitting in a job interview, wearing a nice gray suit and crisp white shirt, a red, silk tie. And his shoe laces hang pathetically, untied. It could happen, and it would be all my fault.


No, I’m not dead, just a mom

October 10th, 2013

No, I’m not dead. You didn’t miss my obit in the paper or anything. I’m just a frazzled mom of three who tries to cram in some fiction writing here and there. Blog writing kind of falls by the wayside, even though I do enjoy it. I swear I do! Probably about as much as I’ll enjoy penning my own obit one of these days! Because my life will have killed me…

But good news! All of my hectic, squirrel-like industriousness has resulted in a stockpile of words–the sequel to The Outer Banks House is now revised and complete and in the hands of my agent!

Ah, happy endings. Don’t you love them? Like in those Ephron movies with people like Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks. You actually cry at the end, you’re so relieved and giddy and full of goodwill and optimism. Then you go about your life and you’re like, “Why isn’t my life so lovely and rosy and so darned easy? Where is the jazzy piano music and gorgeous autumn leaves and perfect springtime flowers? Why are people mean to me?” Because despite your best intentions, your whistling while you work, your spring in your step, your perma-smile on your face, life will smack you down anyway and crush its cigarette on your bruised head with its spurred cowboy boot-heel. Happy endings? Only sometimes, if we’re really really lucky and we are sentient enough to realize that something happy has actually happened to us.

Which brings me to the sequel, tentatively called Return to the Outer Banks House. (Clever, right?!) It was gently suggested to me by my agent and a colleague of his that I sort of change my happy ending into a sort of hmmm, shall I say this? An unhappy one. I don’t want to spoil things for you, and let me just say that I balked at the idea at first. Poor Ben and Abby! They have suffered enough! I worked up some tears for them. Happy endings are so…happy.

But just consider this brilliant hypothesis for a moment: think of the times where you’ve read a book that didn’t end quite as nicely as you’d wanted, but even so you put it gently back down on your bedside table and sat back on your pillows and wept for the god-awful truth of it, the way it broke your heart with its damnable accuracy, the way it nailed both the beauty and mess of life in only 250 pages or so. Think of those books, and think of how fondly you remember them, like loved ones that have died or have moved far away, but who still  live on the edges of your consciousness and whisper to you, remind you of the marvel that is life, that you are not all by yourself after all.

Now that I’ve made you cry, do you really need a happy ending? Or do you just need a truthful one? I’m not saying that Return to the Outer Banks House is one of those books–the kind of books that made me want to start writing in the first place–but I am saying that you will want to read it. With a box of tissues. Alone.

 


Summer break…yeah, right!

July 21st, 2013

So I decided to take a little break from writing this summer. In early June I finished the sequel to The Outer Banks House (now in the hands of my agent), and I felt I needed a breather. I write when I can, usually when my two-year-old is at preschool or napping, and the hardship of fitting writing into such a confining schedule had worn me down. I thought about plot and character and theme and dialogue and sentence construction all day, even when not writing. It’s enough to make a person go insane. Come to think, it’s very much like living with a toddler who badgers her mother all day for 1) milk, 2) water, 3) another episode of Caillou, 4) Cheezits, 5) potty assistance 6) cookies 7) “stuffing” (which is the actual bag of stuffing from her favorite bunny, torn out and emptied of stuffing. Said bunny is a forgotten carcass in the crib) 8) “mommy carry you” (translated, means “pick me up and hold me, mommy) 9) sunglasses (requested inside or out) 10) shoes, her own or her mother’s…you get the idea. When Ellery is awake, I don’t have thoughts of my own. It’s like my brain has been hijacked, my body put to use only to serve this one tiny and demanding person. Toddlers could really rule the world someday. They would sit on small, fuzzy-animal thrones (that also doubled as potties), their mothers on leashes crouching in fear beside them, boxes of Goldfish and sippy cups of milk at the ready.

So to let go of the novel, to put it in a professional’s hands, was something I’d been looking forward to for a while. Just to give my tired old multitasking brain a rest. I couldn’t wait to curl up during naptime with books written by other people. My very own summer reading list! Or watch movies that my husband would scoff at. Or take a Jacuzzi bath in the dusty master tub. Paint my nails. How decadent! There were also pantries and drawers and closets to organize, digital photo albums to create on Snapfish, cars to wash and vacuum, blogs to write on. Things that I always meant to get to but just didn’t have the time because of my writing. I have already crossed off most of the things on that list and it is only mid-July. Other than the reading, the tasks were not very soul-satisfying.

What is more, I’ve discovered that summer is really about my honing my driving skills for the upcoming school year. I am an underpaid chauffeur, constantly shuttling my children to summer camps, the pool, friends’ houses, tennis matches, while at the same time fitting in frazzled and unplanned trips to 3 different grocery stores, the gym, etc. I must say, I drive by retirement homes with a jealous and wistful eye. Ever since I completed my third novel, I just haven’t felt myself. Kind of depressed even.

Drumroll and trumpet blast, please. I missed writing! Let me rephrase that, because actual writing is difficult, on the best of days. What I missed most, I think, was having a project that fueled my passion. And making up a story, getting to know characters, researching topics, especially historical, is all I ever truly want to do. In a life full with Big Ben pendulum swings, writing a novel is something I can control, do for myself, get right. I’ve found myself thinking about the next project, just little stirrings of wispy ideas, but I’m still forcing myself to go through the stack of books on my beside table before starting to write again. God, summer is hard.


A literal face-to-face with the woman who birthed me

March 31st, 2013
meand my birth mom Lori

me and my birth mom Lori

There was nothing I could really do to prepare to meet my birth mom, a women with whom I’d connected via email (and Facebook!) a little over a year ago (see previous posts!).

Forty-one years had passed since Lori had given birth to me, and after saying goodbye to me, dutifully handed me over to the nurses of the Indiana hospital for my upcoming adoption. Afterward, she joined the Navy, divorced my birth father, traveled the globe, remarried, had a son, and worked for the U. S. Postal Service for many years. She endeavored to put her past behind her, and very few people, outside of her family and closest friends, knew about me.

She’d been scheduled to come to my house in January because she’d planned a trip to D.C. with her younger sister Darla (from Bloomington, IN) to see Obama’s inauguration. They’d made reservations at a hotel in Short Pump the night after the Washington festivities. But while in D.C., Lori tripped over a barricade that had been set up for the events and fell squarely on her nose, which she thought might indeed be broken–it was painful and bloody and bruised, so she and Darla headed home for Indiana without even seeing Obama’s inauguration! Our visit was postponed to a later date, to occur around her and Darla’s vacation to Myrtle Beach in March.

 I like to prepare. I didn’t used to be that way when I was younger, and my college grades prove it. But now I know that I perform more successfully if I’ve given matters some thought, put a consistent amount of work into a project, etc.  Just a little bit here, a little bit there, is how I usually get things done. It’s how I wrote my first novel, actually, during my second-born’s nap times and preschool hours. But preparing to meet my birth mom proved impossible to get ready for.   

I tried to do what I could. I found a comprehensive photo album (wondering if she’d even want to see an album full of pictures from my childhood!), made reservations at a restaurant where I felt comfortable, planned the day around Ellery’s naptime, worked in a possible visit by my sister, cleaned the house, chilled some bottles of wine, bought a Key Lime pie, planned an outfit (neutral colors). But it was like I had a mental block–laced with periodic spasms of both dread and excitement–about the meeting itself. I’d never been in a comparable situation before. I couldn’t see past it, couldn’t possibly imagine how it would turn out.

When she pulled into our driveway with her sister, I peeked out the window to watch them walk up our walkway. She smiled, she looked the way she looked in the photos on her Facebook page–tall, pretty, friendly. Sean stood grinning next to me, our kids perched anxiously on the steps. And when I opened the door for her, we smiled and laughed and embraced, every single one of us exchanged hugs and greetings, and from then on, the day went more smoothly than I ever could have anticipated.

Once we settled next to each other on the sofa, I wanted to sit there and stare at her, but certain social conventions sort of prevented me from oggling her so I snuck little glances here and there, worked it into the conversation. And yes, we do resemble each other physically. She is tall (she has shrunk just a bit from her 6 foot height!), and blonde (of course we both color now!), and fair-skinned (we’ve both had skin cancers removed–apparently it runs in the family!). Dorsey and Sean said we resembled one another facially, and my sister teared up pretty bad when she saw us standing together to greet her. She said it was so obvious we were related.

But our similarities definitely go beyond the physical. It’s hard to explain, but we both laugh a lot. Guffaw, giggle and grin as well. Those of you who know me know that I laugh…some would say too much, and often inappropriately (when I’m nervous, excited, bored, frustrated, asleep, etc.). Well, I think Lori sometimes suffers from this affliction as well. It’s quite lovely, actually, to know that she is so good-humored. In fact, I could distintly imagine us having a great time hanging out together, on an occasion other than our very first meeting. My adopted mom and dad weren’t necessarily known for their ability to let it all hang out, though they were perfectly happy people. But it makes me wonder…is this particular personality trait genetic?? Also, we both enjoy a good glass of wine. We both like martinis and beer. And my adopted mom and dad hardly drank at all. Hmmm…genetic as well? And there were lots of smaller things…we both gravitate to the coast. We both like to read. Snoring bothers us. We both enjoy walking long distances in nature, preferably at the beach! Suffice it to say, we seemed extremely blood-related.

Grinning and giggling

Grinning and giggling

Lori brought along a photo album full of lots of different relatives going back to the mid-19th century. This, to me, was the one of the best gifts I’ve ever received, because I’ve never been related to anyone by blood before, except my own children. There is something very magical to me about looking at these people, and learning about them, and piecing together the past. I want to know these people some day.

I’d like to thank Lori, and the very lovely and fun Darla, and my own family and friends for all of your support during this whirlwind of a time. There have been times that I’ve wished for a “normal” family life, where blood relatives and histories are known and difficult personal reunions are minimal. But now I see that there is hidden magic–and an unknown and abiding love–in this life of mine. And I am one more step closer to discovering just who exactly I am.

A group shot, minus sleeping Ellery!

A group shot, minus sleeping Ellery!


Outer Banks House sequel almost finished…synopsis included!

February 25th, 2013

I am ashamed. (Picture my toddler Ellery doing a strange sort of cross-eyed look that she does when I use my mean-mommy voice with her, usually after she’s pulled the dog’s tail too hard–well, that is what I am doing now, in my shame. It is a  look that suggests that I am not quite repentant, but it doesn’t scream defiance either.)  I call myself a writer,  yet I haven’t posted on this blog in a very long time. But the good news is I have been putting all of my writerly efforts and very precious time into completing the sequel to the Outer Banks House! I am so happy to say that it is almost finished! I am in the revision phase and hope to have a final manuscript ready for my agent to read by the end of May. It is tentatively called The Whales Head House. Yes, I like to work a theme.

Here is a little synopsis: Now married and living in a prior missionary’s house on Roanoke Island, Ben and Abby have fallen upon hard times: poverty, miscarraige and weakened family ties have eroded their love and passion for literature. Ben has gone to isolated Whales Head on the northern Outer Banks to take a job as a surfman with the Jones Hill Lifesaving Station, while Abby remains on the island with Asha to continue to teach the freedmen and women in the Eljah Africa schoolhouse. Lonely and lost, Ben finds familiar comfort with his old flame, Eliza Dickens, who is working as a housekeeper at the newest hunting club on the Currituck Sound. But when Abby travels to Whales Head to surprise Ben on Christmas Eve, she discovers just how precarious their marriage has become and endeavors to rediscover her history, foster her lost family connections and consider a possible departure from the Outer Banks for a normal school in Nashville, Tennessee. Ben must win Abby back the only way he knows how…by reading literature long ago thrown by the wayside, literature that just might prove too difficult for him to understand without his favorite teacher to help him through.


James River Writers Conference celebrates 10th anniversary

October 22nd, 2012

Writing is a solitary profession. That’s why it’s so nice to have James River Writers. The nonprofit group has been hosting its annual writing conference for the past 10 years, and I think I’ve been in attendance for at least 9 of them.

I recall being super excited the first time I went to a conference. I had just started writing fiction, so I was eager to learn, to be a part of an organization that encouraged creativity. I had never taken any creative writing classes, although I was an English major in college, so it was great to hear about the craft from people who actually wrote for a living. I took pages and pages of notes and applied what I’d learned at home. My book slowly came to life, but getting it published always seemed like an impossibility. Getting an agent to represent my work seemed more difficult than winning the Tour de France seven times without performance-enhancing drugs.

And yet, the James River Writers Conference has always put on a little session called “the first five pages critique,” in which a panel of agents and editors listen to an actor read the first five pages of miscellaneous authors’ works and then offer their feedback. I worked up my courage–and jazzed up my writing–to send in the first five pages of my novel for the 2006 conference. After a cringe-inducing five minutes, in which the actor read my submission with a thick Southern accent, the work was received favorably by the panel. One of the agents particularly liked it, so I introduced myself (in a stumbling and awkward monologue) to him after the session. He asked if the novel was complete–it wasn’t!– so he said that he wanted me to send it to him when I finished it. And to make a very long story short, that is how I got my agent, Byrd Leavell. He went on to get my novel, The Outer Banks House, published by Crown (2010), and my e-book, Chasing Eternity, published by Diversion Books (2012).

The James River Writers Conference became like a home to me, much like a vacation home where I could take time off from my hectic life and just devote myself to engaging with other writers and reigniting the muse. The folks that were, and still are, involved with the organization were genuinely happy for my success. They invited me to speak at one of the weekly Writers Wednesday events, then invited me to serve on two panels at the 2010 conference. I had come full circle, and it was quite a satisfying feeling to be able to offer to other writers my own knowledge as well as the hope of success.

I gave birth to my third child soon after that conference, and my life took on a misshapen size that still baffles me. There was a point when I considered not going to the James River Writers conference; there was so much to do on the weekends that attending yet another writing conference–especially after my “full circle” experience–seemed like a waste of precious time. But I knew that there was still much for me to learn, faces to see, muses to tickle. And this year, I wasn’t disappointed. The 2012 conference (at the Greater Richmond Convention Center instead of the usual location of the Library of Virginia) was well organized and peopled with talented panelists and bright-eyed attendees. The cake at the end was the exclamation point following the idea of “Tenth Anniversary”!

And to make the experience even more special, my friend Liz attended the conference for the first time. She is trying to get her first novel published, so she pitched one of the attending agents about her book. I wasn’t in the least surprised (I’ve read the synopsis) that he asked her to send him the entire manuscript! I think I teared up when she told me, because not only was I so happy for her, but I was also reliving my own excitement at getting my foot in the very heavy publishing door. There is nothing quite like affirmation for a writer. It’s also the possibility of reaching an audience, and of seeing your own book–your own hard-won words–bound up in hardback or glowing on a Kindle screen, an offering to the world, both present and future.

Thank you, James River Writers, for giving a physical home to so many of us that live too much inside our own heads. Can’t wait for 2013!


Some autobiography in my book Chasing Eternity

July 22nd, 2012

I haven’t yet mentioned the fact that there are some significant autobiographical elements in my e-book, Chasing Eternity. I have been holding out, mainly because I recently connected with my birth mother, and I didn’t want to write anything here that might concern her! She is, I believe, currently reading Chasing Eternity, and she has likely figured out how I came upon the idea of a character who was adopted at birth and knows nothing of his background, which compels his overwhelming interest in the magic of genetics and the mysteries of aging.

At the time I wrote Chasing Eternity, I too was an adopted child from birth, and had no real information about my ancestral or genetic background. I was a happy person in general, but I always felt pieces of my puzzle were missing. This  blank slate was, I thought, a perfect canvas for creating my geneticist character Ryan. He too wished that he knew more about himself–where he came from, who he really was genetically. As much as the field of genetics intrigued him, he knew nothing about his own genetic makeup! A perfect set-up for dramatic tension, I thought.

I find it kind of strange that now I know much more about myself than when I wrote the book. (See previous blog entries for more info!) Most of the maternal pieces of the puzzle have fallen into place, and I am very grateful. There is a peace, a settling, a connection inside me now, where before there were shadows and closed doors. But if I’d have know all that I now know before I wrote the book, I doubt that the angst inside me would have propelled me to write the character of Ryan so convincingly.

I’d love to know what you think! Chasing Eternity is now available on Amazon, B&N.com, Kobo and iBooks for $2.99! Happy summer e-reading!