Sweet Thursday

John Steinbeck is one of my all-time favorite authors. While Sweet Thursday is completely different from a novel like The Grapes of Wrath, it contains the magic, joy, humanity, and wisdom that he infuses into his novels so well.

I love the way Steinbeck shows community life, especially in Cannery Row and Sweet Thursday. It doesn’t matter that the characters are down on their luck because they all know each other and look out for each other. Sweet Thursday made me want to live in a boiler or at the Palace Flophouse. It made me want to seek these characters out and go to a Hooptedoodle to celebrate life and friendship.

Sweet Thursday was first published in 1954. Doc comes back from World War II and attempts to resume his life at his Cannery Row laboratory. Mack and the boys at the Palace Flophouse notice that he’s not quite the same after the war and they try to cheer him up.

There are so many hilarious and insightful scenes in this novel. One part that made me laugh was when Doc went out on a date and talked about octopi the whole time. The story goes on to say, “the subject of her eyes, her feelings, her skin, her thoughts, did not come up.”

Then there’s Hazel, known as the densest of all the characters living at the flophouse. Fauna reads his horoscope one day and tells him that he’s going to become President of the United States. Hazel doesn’t want to be President, but he reluctantly tries to take on the responsibility.

One of my favorite characters was Jingleballicks, a scientist friend of Doc’s who suddenly appears in his laboratory. He loves to rant and rave and argue with Doc. When he first appears, Doc accuses him of being seen outside on his hands and knees, pulling a worm out of the ground with his teeth. That’s probably one of the most unique ways of introducing a character that I’ve ever noticed.

I loved everything Jingleballicks said while ranting and raving, like this:

“Man has solved his problems. Predators he has removed from the earth; heat and cold he has turned aside; communicable disease he has practically eliminated. The old live on, the young do not die…It is a cosmic joke. Preoccupation with survival has set the stage for extinction.”

It’s amazing that this was published in 1954. The novel mentions that doing away with fishing limits during the war devastated the area’s fishing industry, while adding, “it was done for patriotic reasons but that didn’t bring the fish back.” You’d never think a story like this would contain such environmental messages.

Mostly though, this novel is a celebration of community life and friendship. The day of Sweet Thursday, the day everyone anticipates, is perfectly described in all kinds of ways. Here are a few:

“There is no doubt that forces were in motion on that Thursday in Cannery Row. Some of the causes and directions have been in process for generations. There are always some people who claim they felt it coming. Those who remember say it felt like earthquake weather.”

“Old people sit looking off into the distance and remember inaccurately that the days of their youth were all like that.”

“Miss Graves, who sings the lead in the butterfly pageant in Pacific Grove, saw her first leprechaun up in back of the reservoir – but you can’t tell everything that happened every place on that Sweet Thursday.”

Of course, I’m not going to say what happens on Sweet Thursday. You’ll have to read the book to find out. Happy weekend – I hope you’ll find a Hooptedoodle out there somewhere!

A huge thank you to Patsy from Patsy’s Creative Corner and BJ at My Book-a-logue for the latest reviews of Ocean Echoes. You can find beautiful paintings and drawings at Patsy’s Creative Corner and excellent book reviews at My Book-a-logue. The latest ocean life paintings by Patsy were inspired by Ocean Echoes. That means so much to me. Please visit and follow if you’re not familiar with them already.

Thank you to everyone for reading Ocean Echoes. It’s so nice to know that the book has touched a few lives out there – that makes it all worthwhile.

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Books Across the Miles

My mom, my brother, and I have been in a book club for a few years now. We live miles apart, but we still meet whenever we can to share our love of books.

My brother lives in Michigan and my mom lives about an hour away so we share our thoughts on each book through email. We take turns suggesting the next read. The only rule is that it should be a book that none of us have read yet. Because of this book club, I’ve read some pretty strange stories that I probably never would have read under normal conditions. To give you an idea of the strangeness, here are a few recent ones:

Mort: A Novel of Discworld by Terry Pratchett

The Impossible Fortress by Jason Rekulak

News of the World by Paulette Jiles

Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman

A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

The Blackbird House by Alice Hoffman

Breakthrough by Michael Grumley

Anansi Brothers by Neil Gaiman

The Atomic Weight of Love by Elizabeth J. Church

My brother loves science fiction and he’s introduced us to some great ones from that genre, but we might throw in a classic or historical fiction every once in a while.

We try to follow the same guidelines as a Goodreads book club by talking about each book as we’re reading it. To make sure there are no spoilers, the book title and the last chapter read are added to the email’s subject line. If the others haven’t gotten to that chapter yet, they don’t have to read that message until they do.

A bonus is that my mom and brother are funny. Here’s an example of a comment on one of the books we read:

“I struggled with it a bit at first. I think it was due to the excessive use of commas, with random thoughts interjected, which can make you wonder what the hell that sentence was about, like a stack of pancakes with butter dribbling down the side, or the way a stranger looks at you.”

With our electronic book club, we can meet and laugh at each other at any time. Then when we get to see each other in real life, we’ll talk some more about the books we’ve read together.

Happy World Book Day! The first person to figure out which book (from the list above) the quote is describing wins a copy of Ocean Echoes.

Are you in an electronic book club? Do you have any suggestions for our next book club read?

Cape Cod Scenes, Reading Adventures, and Neighborhood Turkeys

“Live in the sunshine. Swim in the sea. Drink in the wild air.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Summer rushed on by in a whoosh of heat and humidity. We try to capture it in pictures, to somehow hold the light, but it still dissolves into the past with a chill. Now that we can feel that chill in the air, here are a few scenes to warm us by.

Cape Cod can get pretty overcrowded in the summer so instead of reading on the beach, this is my usual warm weather reading spot:

That way, I can look up from my books and watch the squirrels, chipmunks, hummingbirds, and neighborhood turkeys while trying not to think about all the yard work that I should be doing.

I’ve made a dent in my summer reading list while adding a few from my book club. The ones that I didn’t get to over the summer will have to become cozy autumn reads. Of the ones that I did read, I highly recommend Swimming Lessons and The Art of Chasing Normal.

A huge thank you to Millie Thom, D. Catalini, and William McCaskie for the latest reviews of Ocean Echoes. I really appreciate it whenever anyone takes the time to add a review. Millie Thom writes exciting Viking/Saxon adventures set in the mid ninth century. Check out her books here. Her blog includes modern day adventures while seeking out those special places where history can be felt and imagined.

It’s about time to announce the winner of a signed copy of Ocean Echoes. And the winner is…BJ. I’ll get that right out to you.

I’m sorry I haven’t been around for a while. Every time I tried to make it back, life had a way of getting in the way. I’ve missed everyone and will look forward to catching up with you!

What was your favorite summer/autumn read? Do you have any neighborhood turkeys?

Summer Reading and a Giveaway

beach reading spotIt’s finally summer on this part of the planet and that means it’s about time for some reading in the sunshine. For those in the Southern Hemisphere, I hope you’ll find a cozy fireside nook to snuggle into for some winter reading.

Here are the books I’ve been looking forward to reading for a while, so they’ll become my Summer (or Fall) reads. (Click on any picture for a description):

                                 

Thank you to Book Club Mom, Milka, Carrie Rubin, Christy Birmingham, Ally Bean, and Goodreads friends for recommending some of these.

And a huge thank you to Kate Johnston for her review of Ocean Echoes. Kate is a freelance writer and environmental crusader. We share a love of writing, nature, the ocean, and probably hundreds of other things. Her blog, 4 AM Writer, is filled with advice for writers at all stages in their careers. If you haven’t visited her yet, please make sure to stop by and check out her books in the last row above.

Goodreads Giveaway: To celebrate the summer, there’s a Goodreads Giveaway going on now for signed copies of Ocean Echoes. Feel free to enter if you live in the U.S., U.K., or Canada. The Goodreads giveaway ends on July 21. For blogging friends, if you leave a comment here by the end of July you’ll be in the running for another signed copy. There’s also a Kindle Countdown Deal for more summer celebrations – Ocean Echoes will be half price at only $1.99 starting today until July 20.

Have you read any of the above books? Do you recommend any others for summer reading? What will you be reading at the beach or by the fire? 

Kindle Countdown Deal to Celebrate Ocean Echoes Finalist Award

Just when I thought I’d give up on writing to become a goat herder, Ocean Echoes received finalist awards from the Next Generation Indie Book Awards in the general fiction and e-book categories!

I might still become a goat herder, but I’ll never consider giving up on writing again.

Thank you to everyone for cheering me on through years of revising and thank you for reading, reviewing, and supporting Ocean Echoes once it was finally published.

A huge thank you to these wonderful authors for taking the time to read and review it: Carrie Rubin, Britt Skrabanek, Kourtney Heintz, Jill WeatherholtCharissa Stastny. And thank you so much to book reviewer Mary Jo Malo for such a kind and thoughtful review. If you don’t follow them through the blog, Twitter, or Goodreads, you’re missing out on a lot of humor, advice, and inspiration. I highly recommend their books.  

A Kindle Countdown Deal starts today: Ocean Echoes will be 99 cents for a few days, then the price will go up a bit depending on the day. The Kindle Countdown Deal will end on May 18 when the price goes back up to $3.99. For Amazon UK, the Kindle Countdown Deal will go from tomorrow, May 12 – May 17. Ocean Echoes is also free to Kindle Unlimited members.

Remember – never give up!

(Photo courtesy of Top Design Magazine)

 

 

 

Versions of the Self

To celebrate International Women’s Day, I’d like to share this amazing book by Christy Birmingham with you. I highly recommend it to men and women, to people who love to read poetry and to people who have never read poetry. To everyone who has ever been filled with doubts or regrets, love and joy.

The poems found in Versions of the Self resonated with me when I read them, and they’re still resonating. There are so many feelings that can be found here, so many relationships, so many selves.

I loved the poems that celebrated freedom and could at times feel my soul soaring along with the words. Then different poems made me stop and think while bringing me back to Earth.

The poem, “Within a Few Feet,” shows the regrets that hold us back and keep us earthbound, all while freedom is only a few feet away in the form of seagulls tempting the author to fly.

Some poems show the gradual process of healing before being able to move on, then we come to, “Made to Write,” where the writer discovers her purpose and “I Stand Here,” showing her growing confidence with this last stanza: “I stand alive,/Healthy and complete, as/My branches extend into fresh air around me.”

We also see the joy of new love and the fear of that love diminishing or disappearing. Questions and disappointments surface, but then there’s always that chance for freedom and soaring again. “You, Colors, and Realization” shows this perfectly after stating “You were once a masterpiece”:

“Today, your colors fall to a wooden floor,/While I run a paintbrush under the kitchen tap/To clean the bristles and/Paint a new day,/Made of colors that I alone choose.”

Anyone who has ever had doubts while in a relationship, and I’m guessing that’s everyone, will find themselves here. Times of insecurity and despair combine with a blooming confidence and an ecstasy for life, giving the reader an overall feeling of positive energy and tingling inspiration.

We see the friendships we form with different people, how we push each other, help each other, inspire each other, and push each other away.

The theme of freedom floats through the pages, and it’s not always meant as freedom from a particular relationship. There’s a stronger sense of freedom from fear, freedom from anything holding you back from what you’re meant to do.

We see this in “Flight Path” with these lines: “You are more than your drenched feathers…You are meant to fly, I know you can, and/It is the moment when you turn can into will/That I will savor the most.”

With all of these poems and inspiring words, we see the bravery it takes to step forward into each day and the exhilaration that’s felt when we leave our fear behind. Everyone who reads this collection will see different versions of herself or himself, the effects we have on each other, and all the energy that can be felt when we find a way to be true to ourselves.

Happy International Women’s Day – and thank you to Christy for your inspirational poems!

How will you be celebrating International Women’s Day?

Jellyfish and a Giveaway

jellyfishI’m not giving away jellyfish, but there is a Goodreads giveaway going on now for signed paperback copies of Ocean Echoes. If you live in the U.S., click here to enter.

jellyfish

Ocean Echoes is about a marine biologist who gives up on love to study jellyfish at a Cape Cod research facility.

jellyfishHere are a few jellyfish details to celebrate the giveaway:

Jellyfish have roamed the world’s oceans for at least 500 million years. They were here before dinosaurs and long before humans.

More people are killed or injured each year by jellyfish than by sharks.

Jellyfish are 95 percent water and they live without a heart or a brain.

A group of jellyfish can be called a swarm or a smack.

Jellyfish can sting when they’re no longer alive. In 2010, about 150 swimmers at a park in New Hampshire were stung by the 40-pound carcass of a lion’s mane jellyfish.

The giveaway ends March 8 – here’s another chance to enter (U.S. only for this one because I’m too cheap to pay for extreme postage these days).

What do you think of jellyfish? Do you think they’re beautiful, scary, or otherworldly?

Resolutions, Paperbacks, and a Thank You

sunsetThis year I’ll try to keep it simple. These are really more like guidelines to remember than resolutions (except maybe for the first one).

Write More – Mostly, I need to get back into the routine of writing after revising for years. I’ll try writing a scene a day. Even as I’m writing this I know I won’t do it. Maybe I should just try to write every day instead.

Read More – I might do a Goodreads challenge for this, but I’d also like to try branching out into reading more poetry and short stories. With that in mind, I’ll start the new year off with Christy Birmingham’s Versions of the Self, a book of poetry that’s been getting great reviews lately.

oceanWalk Along the Ocean – Sometimes I go for weeks or months without seeing the ocean, which is crazy because I live on a sandbar. Life and work too easily get in the way and so I’ll have to make sure to go to the ocean more often, even if it is freezing outside. Sometimes those are the best times to go there.

Give More – My favorite nonprofits are Oceana, the Environmental Defense Fund, and the Ocean Conservancy. Oceana and the Environmental Defense Fund will triple any donations and the Ocean Conservancy will double donations made by the end of the year.

Love More – A few years ago, Britt Skrabanek pledged to love more as a new year’s mantra. I thought that was a great idea and have been trying to do that too. The world will always need more love. This means loving not only those closest to us in the new year, but everyone we come in contact with.

Laugh More – I usually add this to my list of resolutions but it’s an easy one to forget. Last year I did at least go to a laughing yoga class with my mom and it really worked. If you haven’t been to a laughing yoga class, it could be something crazy to try in the new year. I promise you’ll laugh more than usual and feel good afterwards.

Ocean Echoes paperback and a thank you

The Ocean Echoes paperback is finally out! Thank you so much to everyone who supported, encouraged, commiserated, and laughed with me through all the years of writing and revising.

Wishing everyone a New Year filled with love and laughter!

Ocean Victories and a Thank You

ocean sunsetThese days we need to do everything we can to protect and restore the ocean. One of the reasons I love nonprofit groups like Oceana and the Ocean Conservancy is that they work with politicians, lawyers, and businesses from all over the world to create real environmental change. So for some good news, here are a few ocean victories that came about this year:

Cape Cod oceanDeep-Sea Trawling Ban Protects 4.9 million km2 in European Oceans: Oceana in Europe campaigned with the Deep Sea Conservation Coalition to prohibit deep sea bottom trawling in northeast Atlantic waters. Bottom trawling is an invasive fishing practice that rakes the seafloor while catching unwanted ocean life and damaging coral. The European Parliament, Council and Commission reached an agreement that bans all trawling below 800 meters while halting bottom fishing activity below 400 meters if the presence of vulnerable marine ecosystems is demonstrated. These actions protect an area that’s larger than the European Union.

Offshore Drilling: The Obama administration removed Atlantic and Arctic Ocean areas from a five-year program (2017 to 2022) for oil and gas development on the Outer Continental Shelf. The decision protects Arctic wildlife found nowhere else on Earth, including polar bears, bearded seals, walruses, and bowhead whales.

Cape Cod oceanHabitat Protection in the Strait of Sicily: Three Fisheries Restricted Areas were created in the Strait of Sicily, protecting 1,493 square km between Italy, Malta, and Tunisia from bottom trawling and preserving nursery areas for hake and deep-sea rose shrimp. The commission also prohibited commercial harvest of red coral. These decisions will help protect vulnerable habitats and allow fisheries in Mediterranean marine ecosystems to recover.

No matter how huge or tiny the victories, these days we need to keep fighting for the causes that are important to us. Because of that, a percentage from the sale of Ocean Echoes will go toward nonprofit organizations working to protect and restore the world’s oceans for future generations.

Thank you to Carrie Rubin, Britt Skrabanek, Charissa Stastny, and Review Tales for your reviews of Ocean Echoes. It means so much to me that you took the time to write a review. If you’re not familiar with their blogs (or their books), please check them out. I highly recommend their books.

Congratulations to Annika Perry for winning the recent drawing held at Jill Weatherholt’s blog for a free Ocean Echoes e-book. To anyone who didn’t win, if you’re a member of Kindle Unlimited you can download it for free until January 10. I’m hoping the paperback will be out next week.

Wishing everyone a holiday season filled with love and hugs

NanoWriMo Insanity and a Giveaway

cape-cod-oceanI’m visiting Jill Weatherholt today to talk about the writing process for Ocean Echoes and we’ll be doing a giveaway over there. The picture above has nothing to do with that, unless the boardwalk could take us from Cape Cod to North Carolina, but it’s probably easier to go there virtually.

It’s always fun to visit Jill because her posts remind me of all the good that can be found in everything. One of her posts about childhood even made me remember the fun of Pop Rocks. If you’re not familiar with her blog, make sure to follow for inspirational, fun, and nostalgic posts. I always leave there with a smile.

She’s participated in the NanoWriMo insanity a few times now, including the one that just ended. Her debut novel, Second Chance Romance is scheduled to be released by Harlequin in February 2017.

So, I’ll close comments over here and will hope to see you over there for a chat and a giveaway…

Cape Cod Scenes & Settings

It always helps to live or work in your novel’s setting. While walking through town on my way to work, every once in a while I try to capture a sentence from the air. Here are a few scenes from my new novel, Ocean Echoes:

Woods Hole marina

This is the small pond and marina near the main character’s workplace. Ellen’s falling apart houseboat is out there somewhere.

Woods Hole research vessel

The picture above is of a typical research vessel like the one that brings the characters to remote islands in the South Pacific. The vessel used in the book was older and a bit rustier. Here’s the scene when it arrives in port a few days before the research cruise:

“The ship docked behind Ellen’s work building and dwarfed it entirely, even though the building had often swallowed her whole. The Eagle resembled a small offshore city complete with smokestacks, flashing lights, and towers reaching into the sky. Crew members scurried around on deck like puppets on an oversized stage. The Eagle also hummed. Ellen could hear the metallic humming from inside her office, a constant whirring reminder that she’d better be ready soon.”

woods-hole-stone-building

Above is a stone building where candles were made from whales in the 1800s.  Whenever a whale beached on the shore back then, people would run down there with knives and buckets to take the whale’s oil and whatever else they could use. Now we try to save any beached whales. Maybe some things have progressed at least a little.

Woods Hole whale sculpture

This sculpture is across the street from the stone building. Here’s how it’s described in Ocean Echoes:

“They walked out toward a park bordering the ocean where a sculpture of a whale’s fluke dove into rippling grass. Children hung from the fluke and used it as a slide. Paul smiled and watched as if they could be his own kids. Ellen looked out toward the waves.”

So now I can wander through my novel any time (or whenever I’m not working away in the building near these scenes).

Do you wander through your novels or visit places you’ve read about?

New Novel: Ocean Echoes

ocean-echoes-final-kindle-version300It’s hard to believe after years of revising, but the e-book version of Ocean Echoes has finally been published. I’m hoping the paperback will be out soon.

This is my first published novel even though I’ve been a writer all my life. Before this novel took over, I wrote feature articles for local newspapers and magazines. I’m looking forward to going back to those for a while.

I had a hard time deciding on a specific genre for this novel. It could be called contemporary fiction, but it’s rapidly turning into historical fiction because it takes place in 2010. It could also be called science fiction, but most of the science in it is real. I guess that’s how it is with some science fiction – the label just doesn’t sound very real. Mostly, I think of it as an ocean adventure. I’m not so sure that’s a real category though.

Here’s a brief description – this also happens to be the bulk of my query letter:

Marine biologist Ellen Upton gives up on love to study jellyfish at a Cape Cod research facility. Her ultimate goal is to make a difference through her research, but the ocean would rather mystify than reveal its secrets. When her funding is threatened, her future will depend on the success or failure of an upcoming research cruise.

During the cruise, she discovers what could be a new species. Every discovery only leads to more questions. She is driven to learn the truth behind its existence, even as the truth continues to change. Either her dreams of recognition are within her grasp or her research is slipping into obsession.

Reverberating with mysteries of life and love, Ocean Echoes is a journey into the unknown.

By now, most of you know how much I love the ocean and I know we all share that love. A percentage from the sale of this book will go toward nonprofit organizations working to protect the world’s oceans for future generations.

Thank you to Mario Lampic for designing a book cover that shows the beauty and mystery of jellyfish. I highly recommend working with Mario for any design project.

I’d like to send a huge thank you out to Carrie Rubin for recommending 99 Designs for book covers. Thank you Carrie!

Thank you to the goat club on Twitter: @readinterrupt, @BrittSkrabanek, @carrie_rubin, @TWDittmer@mary_jo_malo. You’ll be happy to know goats do make a few brief appearances in this book, which was hard to do in an ocean novel.

Thank you to everyone for your advice, encouragement, and the needed laughs through the years! I’ve loved sharing the writing adventure with all of you. And the adventure continues…

The Everything Theory: Combining Adventure with Ancient Mysteries

everything theoryI’m always looking for novels that will make me look at the world in different ways. The Everything Theory does that while entertaining readers with a fast-paced plot and memorable characters.

Theories on everything from how the pyramids were constructed to Stonehenge to Atlantis abound through this novel as the characters search the far reaches of the Earth for answers.

The adventure starts in a small town in Australia when an amateur astrologist is found dead after an apparent suicide. Luke, his assistant and cohort, doesn’t believe his friend killed himself. Then someone tries to kill Luke and he wonders if they stumbled across information that others want to keep hidden. While on the run, he meets a group of researchers who know why he’s in danger.

The result is a chase full of twists and turns and learning along the way. The theories shown in this novel made me wonder about the truth behind the ancient knowledge that we dig up and try to explain. Are we seeing the truth when we look at history in this way or are we seeing what we want to see?

Stonehenge

Dianne Gray delivers descriptions that put you right in the middle of the action:

“Seira Kanahele scrambled from the tunnel and into the dying light where the colours of dusk and shadows of dark clouds moved like sharks through the mountains. As she looked behind for the others, her long, black plait flicked like a snake at her back. She covered her head with her gloved hands as the mouth in the mountain spewed dust and rocks and millions of years of history across the remote, uninviting slopes…Only humans could have created the beauty of the caves and only humans could have destroyed them.”

Character descriptions like this reminded me of Dickens:

“He pulled back his hood to reveal hair like black feathers styled by his pillow, a youthful complexion with rosy cheeks like fresh slap marks and a small mole between his bottom lip and strong, square jawline.”

“All his life he had thought of the Earth as nothing more than the ground beneath his feet. He never imagined ancient cities below, or the tons of rock and dirt that has been laid down through the ages like the pages of a book holding the records of a forgotten history.”

I didn’t want this novel to end. I wanted it to go on with all the theories of the world, making me wonder about what we like to call the truth. But the ending was absolutely perfect and the epilogue really made me smile. Recommended to anyone who loves to wonder about the world.

Click here to order The Everything Theory. You can connect with Dianne Gray, the author of The Everything Theory, through her blog or on Twitter.

What do you look for in a novel? Do you have any theories on ancient mysteries?