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Random Musings

The perfect Valentine's Day Gift

Free tomorrow, February 12 through Valentine's Day, the kindle edition of The Scent of God. click here: http://tinyurl.com/lch4kao. "An exalted and terrifying examination of what it means to love with your whole heart." --Ann Patchett, author of Bel Canto, State of Wonder, This is the story of a Happy Marriage
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Scent of God on Sale at $1.99 for 7 days

The Scent of God (kindle) will be available for $ 1.99 (list $7.99) — part of a 7-day countdown sale during which the price will remain $1.99. Don’t forget that books make great gifts. This sale will enable you to get that last minute Christmas gifts for your loved ones and friends at a greatly reduced price. Have blessed holiday and peaceful New Year. Travel safely, avoid too much eggnog, savor your favorite foods and delight in shared friendship. Thanks for your support of this book and ongoing encouragement.  Read More 
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Beryl talks about her upcoming book.

FROM THE AUTHOR Do you find the term “tagging” confusing? I do. Most often you've probably been “tagged” in a photo or a post, yet you fail to find yourself either in the photo or in the post. Thanks to my dear friend Christin Lore Weber, I've now experienced a form of “tagging” that does make sense. It’s called The Next Big Thing in which writers “lift up their Next Big Thing for the entire world to see . . . most often right in the midst of writing it.” So, thanks to Christin for tagging me. Please check out Christin’s Next Big Thing . Christin is a brilliant blogger and scintillating author whose work you will not want to miss. In the next couple of days, I’ll post links to the Next Big Thing bloggers I've “tagged,” for this project. Beryl’s responses to the Next Big Thing interview: What is your working title of your book? The title, besides the cover, is often the writer’s most important tool for drawing the interest of the reader. My current project has born several titles. The most recent comes from the creative mind of the woman who bestowed the title -- The Scent of God -- on my first book. She drew the title The Glass Chrysalis from a chapter in my current work which refers to Butterflies and the emergence of their offspring. Where did the idea for the book come from? After my memoir The Scent of God was released, I was inundated with queries asking why I had stopped the book when I did. They asked for a sequel. Even more pressing was my desire to tell the story which burns in my heart and demands release. I've been working on the sequel ever since. “When can we buy it?” readers constantly ask. I have no answer. I’m still working on it. What genre does your book fall under? I don’t believe there is a defined genre for this work. I would call it a literary memoir in fictional form – in other words, a true story told as fiction. I assumed this format recently because I felt trapped within my own voice and vision. I needed to step outside myself in order to find the truth beneath the story. What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book? This is the story of a mother’s search to understand and forgive the choices she made that might have contributed to her daughter’s violent death; a mother’s effort to free her child as she could not do during life. Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency? While my first book received national acclaim, it did not become the best-seller the publisher expected and has still not earned back the substantial advance royalty it was awarded. The current publishing environment is a difficult one for new and mid-level authors. As a result, many have turned to self-publishing as a friendlier and more financially lucrative option. I might eventually choose this route, though I will probably run this work by my agent first. How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript? I've been through so many drafts that I've lost count. As I only decided to take the book into fictional format within the past month, you could say I've just begun the first draft. This draft, however, feels more rewarding and exciting, so I think I’m on the right track. What other books would you compare this story to within your genre? The Lost Years: Surviving a Mother and Daughter’s Worst Nightmare by Kristina Wandzilak and Constance Curry Come Back: A Mother and Daughter's Journey Through Hell and Back by Claire and Mia Fontaine. The Lost Child: A Mother’s Story by Julie Meyerson. My Daughter’s Addiction: A Thief in the Family – Hardwired for Heroinby Marie Minnich. Who or what inspired you to write this book? I actually began writing this book many years ago in daily journals which became my most trusted confidants during the years of anguish and fear that followed my first husband’s death (where The Scent of God ended) and that leads to my daughter’s death and its aftermath. What else about your book might pique the reader's interest? Those who read The Scent of God will be the first to seize on this book. Parents of children suffering from depression and mental torment and those whose children are addicted to alcohol and drugs will find their stories in this work. The damage inflicted by those who disguise abuse as love, and the anguish and confusion that result from the sudden violent death of a child or loved one, add other engrossing dimensions to pique interest. It will conclude with the letters I wrote to my daughter after her death. Read More 
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Writing my way to healing

Our lives often remind me of small boats riding the currents of life. When things go well, we skim safely along the surface without encountering danger. We make choices to try to maintain control over the direction in which we are sailing. Some of these choices are good ones. Some not so good. Unlike the choices that result in tragedies at sea, the choices we make seldom doom us to total shipwreck. Nevertheless, the choices we make often have an uncanny ability to surprise and wound us. Our home overlooks Lake Superior. It has a great view of the lake with it ever changing moods: reflective, agitated, violent, soothing. Our lake view also contains a monster rock that hides around 50 feet offshore. I've nicknamed it Nessie, after the Loch Ness monster, because it appeared suddenly one day as I sat watching the lake. I heard a gurgle, saw a wet black back emerge to shimmer briefly in the sunlight then watched it disappear again under the waves. The water level in the lake was then several inches higher than it is now. Nessie no longer hides under the lake’s surface. She can’t. The water levels are too low. She’s been exposed because of drought. While most of us prefer our journeys smooth, life does not cater to that desire. Circumstances can so stress and disturb us that our spirits enter a drought of sorts, revealing the rocks we'd inadvertently encountered. It was during such a period of drought that I overheard my son say that he thought he was damned. Why? Because his mother had been a nun and his father a priest. I was stunned. Yes. Life had been hard since their father died when they were toddlers, but why had they drawn such a conclusion? While they'd know about life "after daddy," they knew nothing about "before daddy." I wanted them to know about the love that brought Vittorio and me together, the love with which we’d greeted each of their arrivals. It was a complex story, one impossible to tell in a few sittings. And so I began to write what I thought was a love story and discovered that beneath my surface competence, I harbored the same doubts my children did. Was Vittorio's painful death from pancreatic cancer and the suffering that followed in its wake punishment for the choices we'd made? As a teenager, I’d experienced God in such an overwhelming, unforgettable way – a love so consuming and unconditional – that I pursued it into a monastery thinking I’d be lifted to the heights of sanctity within that hallowed atmosphere. I was so wrong. Rather than saint in the making, I discovered the same compulsive/obsessive behavior that I’d condemned in my father. He was an alcoholic. I became an anorexic. I discovered that I could get as ragingly angry as my mother. That rather than disappearing into the cloister, I wanted to be noticed, to be special. What a shock that was. And when I was sent home to Puerto Rico to help my invalid father, rather than the devout and retiring nun everyone thought I was (including myself), I discovered I was sensual. That freedom intoxicated me. And that yes, I could fall in love. It’s interesting how we learn to live with and to cope with ambiguity without really understanding or examining what is happening. When I was in Puerto Rico falling in love with Padre Vittorio I became two selves at war with one another. One wanted to stay faithful to my vows. The other wanted to be loved. To survive I called a truce. I would view our love as God’s gift. We would love one another utilizing all the proper channels. We sought dispensation from our vows, waited until the church accepted our request, then married. When our little girl almost died at birth and when Vittorio simultaneously began his death journey through pancreatic cancer, I buried the doubts that maybe we’d deceived ourselves. That maybe our love was not God’s gift. And I’d kept those doubts buried until writing revealed them. In writing a memoir, I'd had to dive under the surface waves of my story, and, in doing so, I discovered that the rocks I found there had transformed from hidden dangers to islands of refuge and rescue. I discovered that far from punishing us, God had been with us throughout our journey. I encountered the goodness radiating from within my parent’s tormented lives, touched Vittorio’s anguish as he struggled to live for his children, and passed from my own loss to enter the children’s grief. The deeper I went, the more tears I shed, but eventually those tears cleared the murky waters in which I swam. I discovered that by reconnecting with my past, I can move more honestly and bravely into the future, no matter what that future holds. The late Thomas Merton, famed author and beloved spiritual guide, wrote that "When we live superficially, we are always outside ourselves, never quite ‘with’ ourselves, always divided and pulled in many directions … we find ourselves doing many things that we do not really want to do, saying things we do not really mean, needing things we do not really need, exhausting ourselves for what we secretly realize to be worthless and without meaning in our lives." Thanks to writing, I continue the journey to an ever deeper awareness of who I really am. Writing opened a channel leading to my inner truth and I bless the gift it has shared with me.  Read More 
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Favorite New Spiritual Memoirs

I'm a besotted book-lover. I have heaps of books piled on tables throughout the house waiting to be read or in the process of being read. Many of these books have been recommended to me by friends whose reading preferences I respect. When these books are spiritual, it makes sense to recommend them ona blog dedicated to spiritual living? These are not exactly reviews. They are meant simply to share what I've loved. They are a get-to-the-point-and-do-it-quickly type of review that will perhaps inspire you to check them out and maybe buy a copy. My two newest spiritual favorites are both memoirs and both were written by Jesuits. When a Jesuit writes, you can usually count on the work being erudite. Some Jesuit authors are also darn good story-tellers.The authors of the next two books are erudite and they know how to engage the reader. I have numerous books on the lives of the Saints. I've recommended some of them here, in the past.While all of these books introduce us to saints and their lives, I've not found one that combines both the lives of the saints with a personal experience of these saints. Father James Martin's My Life with the Saints >is a perfect blend: a personal spiritual memoir combined with the lives of the saints. This book is a delightful journey with a self-effacing, articulate, and often funny Jesuit as he meets and “befriends” saints both modern and ancient. Martin is a gifted story-teller and guide to those seeking to know the great friends of God. This book has instilled in me a new curiosity about my own and other's relationship with the saints. I question whether I've ever considered them friends. I wonder if reverence for their lives and the inspiration they offer qualify as friendship. I wonder what is your experience? Are you friends with particular saints? (you can link to publisher site by clicking the book cover) I received Tattoos on the Heart from one of my best friends: a nun who spent the money I'd given her to buy books, to buy me a book! Actually, she bought several copies to share; she loved it that much. (click title link above to access publishers website) Tattoos on the Heart is a spiritual memoir of Father Gregory Boyle's work with the “homies” in Los Angeles. As we follow him into the heart of the LA ghettos, we travel with a priest who has dedicated his life to restoring hope and a sense of self-worth to hopeless lives. He introduces us to gang members who want more than anything to "to get a job." It is having a job that instills a sense of dignity to their lives. But even more than that, these young people need to be loved and it is love, unconditional love, that Father Greg offers. For the past twenty-years, Father Greg has run Homeboy Industries, a gang-intervention program in the Boyle Heights neighborhood of Los Angeles ( the "gang capital of the world.") The lives of these young people, as told by a wise and courageous priest, propel this book with such urgency that you will find it hard to put it down. Some of the stories Father Greg tells will make you laugh. Others will break your heart. To my mind, they are certain to enlighten and uplift you.  Read More 
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Author updates

For the past six years, I've been working on a manuscript tentatively titled Looking for Francesca, the sequel to The Scent of God. In a recent post, I mentioned that I was waiting for news from my agent in New York. Sad to say, the manuscript is once again on the drawing board. Rather than despair at my agent's comments, I sent it to five more readers and received their feedback soon after. I even enrolled my 13-year-old granddaughter in the effort who is here visiting for a week. Seeing her head bent over the book, pencil in hand, every free moment she can seize from our busy schedule, floods my heart with gratitude. This afternoon, she finished reading it. I remember the awe I felt while reading my children’s creative endeavors. It was as if they’d allowed me into a sacred place: an encounter with the unique persons they were becoming. I expect that Cassie's comments will trigger a similar emotion. We return to our beautiful Lake Superior home in early May, where I look forward to reconnecting with you, my readers and dear friends, and of course, to the restructuring and strengthening of Looking for Francesca. Just goes to show you, (especially you budding authors) that just because you've had two fairly successful books published, there's no guarantee that your third manuscript will find instant acceptance.  Read More 
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Tale of Two Books

For the past few months, I've been skirmishing with several giants. The battles began with the launch of my latest book, A View of the Lake, published by Lake Superior Port Cities Inc. this June. A View of the Lake is the saga of my husband and my impulsive move to the Lake Superior’s North Shore and how it changed us. The primary market for this book is the Twin Cities and greater metropolitan area. It’s also of interest to anyone who loves lake living, or dreams of following a dream. I was surprised, then, when my email box was inundated with people in the Twin Cities asking why they couldn't find the book at Barnes & Noble. The publisher launched an investigation and learned that the regional buyer for B&N’s had ordered only 40 copies, one for each Twin Cities store. Those books were not in the stores but in B&N’s warehouse. Now, I don’t know about you, but I wander bookstore aisles and buy what looks interesting. If a book isn't there, I can’t pick it up and decide to buy it. Following the Barnes & Noble debacle, Amazon sent notices to all those who’d preordered A View of the Lake claiming the book was not available. “ How can that be?” I asked the publisher. The publisher was as amazed as I was. They been filling Amazon’s orders every week since the book was released in June. A search discovered that Amazon’s website had the book listed on two separate pages. One had the wrong ISBN number. Orders placed there could not be filled. The good news is that those who have bought and loved A View of the Lake want to buy my first book, The Scent of God (Counterpoint 2006 hardcover, 2007 paperback). The bad news is that independent bookstores where I've been doing readings and signings for the past several months have been unable to get copies of The Scent of God. I knew books were available because I’d just ordered a full case of The Scent of God in soft cover from Counterpoint’s distributor Perseus. I emailed Perseus to ask why bookstores should find it difficult to get copies. Perseus did not understand why, either. They had 800 plus copies in their warehouse. I forwarded these messages to the concerned bookstores. “What distributor do you use?” I asked. The reply was consistent: “Baker & Taylor.” Ah, I thought. I’ll just contact Baker & Taylor.” I went online, found the Baker & Taylor contact for the Midwest, and sent her an email. She wrote back saying she only handled customers (i.e. bookstores and libraries). She’d been kind enough, however, to check on the matter and found that Baker & Taylor had received a delivery of The Scent of God at their regional warehouse in Momence, IL on September 9. If the regional warehouse had received a shipment, why couldn't regional bookstores get copies? Not knowing what higher up to contact at Barnes & Noble who might work with authors and publishers, I contact Perseus asking if they could help. They were, after all, the primary distributors of Counterpoint books. “Unfortunately, no,” they replied and suggested that the “accounts in need of your title are more than welcome to call in to customer service and create an account with us for direct delivery.” So I fired off another email to the concerned bookstores. By now, the bookstores are probably sick of hearing from me. And what of those other independent bookstores who might want to order? I guess I’ll just have to leave it to their ingenuity. Here’s a question for all you authors out there. Do you have a similar story? Were you able to resolve the situation to your satisfaction? And, if so, how? There are probably others like you pulling at their hair and wondering what to do next. Read More 
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Travails of the small publisher's author

i wonder how many small publisher's authors encounter difficulties getting attention for their books. Every sale is critical for an author's survival. Sales determine the success of that writer as an author. Poor sales make it difficult to get their next book, which could be a block-buster, published. Amazon and Barnes & Noble probably account for the majority of book sales. My newest book, a View of the Lake, has had problems with both. I liken its difficulties to a prolonged labor. The book is still undergoing birth throes. At first the difficulties consisted primarily in getting the book listed online properly. Photo covers, product description, authorship and the like. I won't deal with those issues now. What concerns me is the difficulty my readers are having getting my book. Since the book was published in June, I have received numerous cries of distress from readers complaining that Amazon is cancelling orders due to supplier issues. The supplier, in this case, is the publisher who insists that they have plenty of books in stock and have been filling orders for Amazon ever since the book was released. Barnes & Noble is another giant, but when Barnes & Noble whittles down their sales force to one regional buyer for the entire east and east central regions of the US, the problems multiply. How can one purchasing agent accurately read the pulse of the reading public in such a huge territory. Case in point is my book. Anyone who lives in the vicinity of Lake Superior knows that metropolitan Minneapolis and St. Paul are the predominant markets for regional books. My book, A View of the Lake, while of interest to many throughout the nation, is a predominantly regional book with the Twin Cities as the major market. The Barnes & Noble buyer, however, purchased only one book per Twin Cities store, claiming that the book did not qualify as one of Metro-Interest(or some such jargon). Now, I ask you: As a reader, if a bookstore has only one copy of a book, and that book is not even in the store but in the warehouse (as happened to my book with B&N) how would you know whether or not the book is one you'd like to read? When I go to bookstores, I look first at the books that are featured. In local independent bookstores, these are often highlighted by staff recommendations. In larger stores, they are displayed on tables for the browsing public and are most often limited to books by publishers willing to finance a prominent display. Curious readers, looking for good new books from smaller publishers, hit the shelves by genre. One book on such a shelf remains hidden. If the book is not there, it does not exist.How can the reader discover whether or not they'd like to read it? I feel totally frustrated right now and I'm making noise about it. Maybe you'll join me as a reader or an author.  Read More 
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So much to do. So little time.

Francesca age 19
"Remember to breathe," my ex used to tell me, the one piece of good advice he ever gave me. Oh yes. Stand straight was another. I remember this midst the flurry of marketing activity surrounding A View of the Lake,my newest book. Meanwhile, the sequel to the Scent of God: Looking for Francesca the story of the search, after her death, for the daughter I lost when she was a teen, has moved to its next important stage. I received a $1,500 McKnight/ACHF/ARAC Career Development Grant for an editorial critique of this manuscript. This manuscript, after a frenetic rush to receive and incorporate first readers' insights, is now with Alison McGhee -- Pulitzer Prize nominee and NYT best selling author -- who plans to return the manuscript next week and has already sent me great suggestions about tightening the structure. Meanwhile, the weather here on Lake Superior shimmers in summertime glory and tempts me outside and away from my computer. A glorious excuse to catch my breath, stand straight, and open my arms to life. Read More 
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Launching a new book

It's out and officially celebrated. Last night the publisher held a wonderful party for me at their offices in Duluth. I was nervous at first, not knowing what to expect. I wonder if it's always like this, the author and event coordinators hoping and praying that people show up. I had one reading in Chicago (for the Scent of God) that was attended only by staff and 4 readers. Oh, the inner distress at having to give this news to the publicist. I felt as if it were my fault for not being the hot author they'd envisioned. All that money spent on sending me to Chicago and putting me up at a swank hotel. The launch party was FUN. While not attended by hundreds, it was a roaring success and the book (and I)got mentioned on Duluth TV. Here's the link should you be interested. http://www.wdio.com/article/stories/S2139758.shtml?cat=10335. There's a short ad first so don't give up. Read More 
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