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 short stories and feature articles for local newspapers. 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…

It’s About Time to Stop Dreaming and Start Doing

Cape Cod oceanI’ve been off dreaming again. I can’t seem to help it. I start dreaming and then before I know it, months have gone by and blizzards have turned into heat waves. Now it’s already time for fall shadows and golden light.

Cape Cod oceanLike you, I’ve been dreaming of a better world. A world without violence or hate. An unpolluted world with clean water and clean air for all. I know, I’m dreaming again.

Lately, I’ve also been thinking, “Why bother?” Why bother trying to do anything  when everything is such a mess? Why bother writing or reading or dreaming? Why bother signing petitions or joining conservation groups or marching in the streets?

The answer to all of that is – because we have to. Dreamers are the majority, but we’re not heard often enough. Sometimes we need to stop dreaming. If we did everything we can, every day, to make the world around us better then it would be.

I haven’t been out in the world much lately, except to go to a day job that gets crazier with every passing day. For the past few months, I’ve been attached to my computer while trying to use every spare moment to work on my novel Ocean Echoes. The e-book should be published soon and that’s a terrifying thought, but it’s about time to stop dreaming and start doing after all.

I’ve missed everyone more than I can say and I’m looking forward to catching up with you again.

How’s everything going? Have you been dreaming lately? What do you dream of?

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?

Memorable Characters in David Copperfield

David CopperfieldCharles Dickens once said of all his books, David Copperfield was his favorite. I had to read it just for that reason.

It’s known as one of his most autobiographical novels. The story travels through the main character’s life from childhood into adulthood while showing the choices he makes and the ramifications of those choices.

It’s the story of a relatively normal life in early 1800s England and because of that we get to be immersed in all the sights and sounds and expectations of the time.

The best part of his life turns out to be the people he chooses to spend it with. All kinds of characters appear and disappear and then appear again. They truly color his life and make it worth living.

London

From the eccentric aunt who yells out, “Donkeys!” whenever a donkey dares to wander into her yard to Mr. Micawber, who distributes IOUs as if they were real money, to the infamous Uriah Heep, who’s always described as slimy, the characters bring so much to the novel and the reader never knows when they’re going to appear. Whenever I’d start to get a little bored with the story, another character would wander back in and I’d be entertained again.

LondonDavid Copperfield was first published in 1850 and the story takes place from the 1820s on. In some ways, it was ahead of its time, mostly because Aunt Betsey Trotwood speaks out against the way women and children were treated. I loved that character’s spunk.

She takes care of Mr. Dick, who has been working on a speech for years and makes kites out of his drafts because his obsession with King Charles the First keeps slipping in. He flies the kites as a way of diffusing the words and clearing his mind.

And then there’s Uriah Heep. He’s one of those people you love to hate and he’s described perfectly with passages like this:

“His damp cold hand felt so like a frog in mine that I was tempted to drop it and run away.”

“I found Uriah reading a great fat book, with such demonstrative attention, that his lank forefinger followed up every line as he read, and made clammy tracks along the page (or so I fully believed) like a snail.”

I think my favorite Dickens novel is still A Tale of Two Cities because it’s more story oriented, but the characters in David Copperfield have stayed with me long after reading it. Recommended to anyone who wants to spend time with some memorable characters.

Have you encountered any memorable characters lately? What made them memorable?  

All the Light We Cannot See and the Power of Imagination

hedge rabbitCreativity lurks in unexpected places. Instead of trimming these bushes into the usual rectangle or oval, someone decided they’d look better as a caterpillar and a rabbit.

hedge caterpillarEncountering these animals on a quiet side street made me wonder why we don’t do this kind of thing all the time.

The wonderful thing about reading and writing is that both are chances to use our imagination.

In All the Light We Cannot See, Marie-Laure and her Uncle Etienne turn a couch into a flying machine  to escape France during World War II:

“They visit Scotland, New York City, Santiago. More than once, they put on winter coats and visit the moon… ‘Here, try some nice fresh moon flesh,’ he says, and into her mouth goes something that tastes a lot like cheese.”

My brother and I used to do that kind of thing all the time. We’d hop from the couch to the coffee table to a rocking chair because the living room rug would suddenly turn into an ocean or a lava pit.

Then we grew up and the rug was just a rug. We forgot that we could turn it into something much more fun and interesting.

In All the Light We Cannot See, when Werner and Jutta hear radio broadcasts like this, the world opens up for them:

“The brain is locked in total darkness, of course, children, says the voice. It floats in a clear liquid inside the skull, never in the light. And yet the world it constructs in the mind is full of light. It brims with color and movement. So how, children, does the brain, which lives without a spark of light, build for us a world full of light?…Open your eyes, concludes the man, and see what you can with them before they close forever.”

After hearing those words, their world is transformed:

“…and then a piano comes on, playing a lonely song that sounds to Werner like a golden boat traveling a dark river, a progression of harmonies that transfigures Zollverein: the houses turned to mist, the mines filled in, the smokestacks fallen, an ancient sea spilling through the streets, and the air streaming with possibility.”

Unless we’re constantly reading or writing, we’re probably not using our imagination enough in daily life. After reading All the Light We Cannot See, I’ll try to imagine more often. Maybe the next traffic jam will turn into a parade full of characters and clowns.

I’m enough of a dreamer to believe if we change our perception of the world, the world will change. I know that’s a silly thought but silly thoughts might be the best kind.

“Imagination is the only weapon in the war against reality.” – Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland

What do you think the world would be like if we used our imagination more often?

Summer Reading Giveaway

beach reading spotIt’s about time for some beach or patio reading in the sun. I’m looking forward to diving into these books almost as much as the ocean: The Shell Collector (because Letizia reminded me of that one), Slaughterhouse Five (after reading this review by Ste J), Tinkers (because of reviews from Goodreads friends), All the Light We Cannot See, and a million others.

I’m grateful for the friends I’ve found and I’d like to thank everyone for taking the time to stop by and visit. So to celebrate you and the summer reading list, it’s time to do another giveaway. If you comment on this post by Wednesday, June 24, your comment will put you in the running for a $25 Amazon gift card. The winner will be announced here on Thursday.

In case you’re hunting around for a few more beach or fireside reads, take a look at these books written by blogging friends. Just click on the book cover for a description of each:

seneca-scourgeeverything theory      sixtraincover

btsg-sidebar-cover     nola-fran-evie-cover-large     enb_sidebar_cover

     2-SecretKeepers_ebookRGB_2     3-HandsOfMercy_ebookRGB_2

tgwig     the_artemis_effect    comebacktome-amazon51vfLeJncVL     lauren     lauren2

licia    11question     soul

Books are by: Britt Skrabanek, Carrie RubinDianne Gray, Kourtney Heintz, Charissa StastnyKasia James, Coleen PatrickLauren Scott, K.C. Tansley, and my friend from UMass Amherst Licia Sorgi.

There’s also a Goodreads giveaway going on for K.C. Tansley’s The Girl Who Ignored Ghosts. And don’t forget to nominate Eating Bull on Kindle Scout within the next four days for the chance to win a free e-book.

What’s on your summer (or winter fireside) reading list?

Books as Traveling Companions

Barbara Kingsolver is one of my favorite authors so when the time came to choose a traveling companion for a trip to Arizona, I chose her words. Her novel Animal Dreams takes place in Arizona and her descriptions became the perfect background music.

Arizona canyonsI read this description while on the plane and couldn’t wait to get out there:

“The canyon walls rose straight up on either side of us, ranging from sunset orange to deep rust, mottled with purple. The sandstone had been carved by ice ages and polished by desert eons of sandpaper winds.”

canyon wall

Once I finally stood near the canyon walls, I made sure to notice the colors threading their way through the rock and all the layers representing centuries of creation.

After hiking up a steep path, ancient cliff dwellings came into view. From down below, the dwellings couldn’t be seen at all. They blended in with the canyon to the point of invisibility. Everyone figured they built their homes that way for protection against potential enemies. Later, I read this passage and saw the cliff dwellings all over again but in a different way:

“The walls were shaped to face the curved hole in the cliff, and the building blocks were cut from the same red rock that served as their foundation. I thought of what Loyd had told me about Pueblo architecture, whose object was to build a structure the earth could embrace.”

cliff dwellings

Tucked away in a crevice between the cliffs where sunlight acted as a calendar, petroglyphs told their own tales. They spoke of the people who lived there high above the ground, of hunting parties, and of women with Princess Leia hairdos.

petroglyphs

DSC03868_2

Kingsolver describes petroglyphs as a record of progress through the generations:

“There were antelope, snakes, and ducks in a line like a carnival shooting gallery. And humans: oddly turtle-shaped, with their arms out and fingers splayed as if in surrender or utter surprise. The petroglyphs added in recent centuries showed more svelte, self-assured men riding horses. The march of human progress seemed mainly a matter of getting over that initial shock of being here.”

Now that I’m back home, I can revisit the red rock canyons any time with a turn of the page.

(And the Twitter goat club will be happy to hear there’s a goat in Animal Dreams.)

Related Post:
Writer…Uninterrupted – during Vacation

Do you choose novels based on setting? Have you ever taken a favorite author along on vacation? 

Snowbound Reading through the Decades

snowWhen the snow is up past your knees and you can’t open the door, then all you can do is stay in and read. That’s why I love the snow.

I’ve been wandering through the decades with a chronological short story collection and I’m stuck in the 1950s for now. The collection begins with a story published in 1915 and goes up to the end of the century. I’ve seen farming communities replaced by city life. Writing styles have become more rushed. Now I’m stuck in suburbia surrounded by themes of society’s expectations and restrictions. I’m looking forward to the 60s.

My favorite story from the 1930-50 era is “Resurrection of a Life” by William Saroyan, published in 1935. The character remembers being a newspaper boy in 1917, roaming the streets, shouting disastrous headlines. It beautifully shows what that might do to a young boy. Not only does he see the coldness of the city, but he repeats and sells stories of war.

“There he is suddenly in the street, running, and it is 1917, shouting the most recent crimes of man, extra, extra, ten thousand huns killed, himself alive, inhaling, exhaling, ten thousand, ten thousand, all the ugly buildings solid, all the streets solid, the city unmoved by the crime, ten thousand, windows opening, doors opening, and the people of the city smiling about it, good, good, ten thousand, ten thousand of them killed. Johnny, get your gun, and another trainload of boys in uniforms, going away, torn from home, from the roots of life, their tragic smiling, and the broken hearts, all things in the world broken.”

DSC01831_2We see and feel the city, the people bustling by, and the boy there in the middle of it all. While others think of war as abstract, he breaks it down to individuals. He sees their faces caught up in something large and monstrous. Toward the end, he still manages to find beauty in it all:

“And all that I know is that we are somehow alive, all of us, in the light, making shadows, the sun overhead, space all around us, inhaling, exhaling, the face and form of man everywhere, pleasure and pain, sanity and madness, over and over again, war and no war, and peace and no peace, the earth solid and unaware of us, unaware of our cities, our dreams, unaware of this love I have for life.”

Sometimes I take a break to read The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce. It’s a great one so far.

Are you snowbound or enjoying the sunshine? What have you been reading lately?