Sunday, May 26, 2019

13 Reasons Why You Should Read Clover Blue

At first glance this photo looks like most any author talking up her new book on a tour of multiple radio shows, media interviews, bookstore signings and library events. She's trying not to look tired, despite having flown in from across the country late the night before and getting up on her west coast body clock's 4:00 AM to drive almost an hour for a ten minute segment on local public radio. The truth is she's exhausted, and yet she'd do it again. And again and again and again. Not because it will sell tons of books (although she hopes so) or because she enjoys being in the limelight (soft light, maybe) or even because it makes her publisher happy. The reason she invests so much time, energy, and, yes, her own money, into promoting her book is because she prays this new novel finds a home within the heart of a hungry reader. After all, she spent the last two years creating a patchwork of diverse characters, building their unique outdoor world, and weaving a story about a free-spirited tribe of seekers who reject cultural norms in order to live in nature and follow what they call The Peaceful Way.

On my way back to California from Michigan last week, I had a freak-out moment. With so many fabulous books releasing every single day, why should readers choose my book? I started doubting myself, all the time I'd spent crafting this story and how it might slip through the cracks along with all the other wonderful books that never make it from the store shelves into readers' hands. Why on earth did I quit my job? How would I survive financially and emotionally if the book failed? Who was I kidding, thinking people would want to read about a bunch of hippies in a 1970s commune instead of a thriller or a sizzling romance or a People magazine? 

And then something wonderful happened. The passenger next to me closed her paperback, so I offered her one of my bookmarks. This led to a conversation about books, and that led to us exchanging tidbits about our lives. She shared memories of her time spent in Borneo with the orangutans, including the time when one named "Princess" stole a canoe and hand-paddled her baby to the other side of the river toward a fruit-laden tree. We chatted for over two hours, exchanging stories and eventually, emails. By the time the plane landed in Denver this woman and I were no longer strangers. I promised to watch the orangutan documentary she'd recommended. She said she was headed straight to Tattered Cover to pre-order Clover Blue. Much like the lilting movements of the airplane, my emotions had swung up and down and back up again. 

It was nearly midnight when my last plane finally touched down in San Luis Obispo. I thought about my new friend driving through several inches of fresh snow to her cabin in the mountains over Denver. I couldn't help but smile, remembering some of the outrageous adventures she'd shared. I suddenly felt like Princess the orangutan, that I'd courageously paddled my way across this river of uncertainty to reach the fruit, my nascent novel in tow.

As I rolled my suitcase toward the parking lot,  it occurred to me that people don't buy books, they buy experiences. A story is an opportunity to escape into other worlds where we might recognize ourselves and others within the pages. Reading allows us to ponder the character's choices and connect with the emotions they feel. A good book takes us through hope, fear, sadness and joy via tragedy and triumph, just like in our own lives. My greatest success as an author is not determined by sales numbers, but by the number of people who are moved by the experience of reading my stories. 

I grew up in a preacher's home where we were raised to be modest and humble. Tooting your own horn was considered boastful. But we creatives need to start owning our talents. I wrote a damn good book and I'm really proud of it. Over the past few months I've slowly introduced the characters in Clover Blue here in this blog.  I wanted you to recognize your young selves in their youthful, idealistic ambitions. I hoped you'd begin to care about what happens to them. And now I'm asking you to take a chance on this story, their stories, with an assurance that your reading experience will be worth the cover price, about the same as a movie ticket and snacks.

I promised thirteen reasons why you should read Clover Blue. They are Goji, Willow, Wave, Jade, Coyote, Rain, Doobie, Gaia, Sirona, Harmony, Moon, Aura and Blue. A guru, a yogi, a surfer, beekeeper, an army deserter, a runaway teen, a pothead. a deadhead, a midwife, a friend, a son, a daughter, and a boy searching for his place among them. And here's a couple more reasons. If you pre-order the book from Amazon or your favorite Indie Bookstore,  I'll email you the link to a themed Clover Blue Playlist with over 120 song titles and send you a signed bookplate for your book, along with my deepest gratitude.

Don't miss my Facebook Clover Blue Online Release Party! You could win a signed book, a Kindle PaperWhite, or one of several fun prizes! And if you're local, I'll be at Barnes & Noble in San Luis Obispo this Saturday, June 1 at 2:00 PM. 

AND...I hope to see you on my West Coast Summer Book Tour!

Sunday, May 12, 2019

Meet Lotus: The Prodigal Farmer's Wife in CLOVER BLUE

"Life gets mighty precious when there's less time of it to waste." --Bonnie Raitt

I remember when my mom turned fifty and all hell broke loose in our house. She shuffled off the yoke of her existence as a devoted pastor's wife and went back to college to expand her horizons. Mom would stay up late, poring over books and homework. She eventually graduated with honors, using her degree to become a financial aide counselor at the same college she'd attended.

My mom with my dad and me in 1961
Although he lovingly supported my mother's educational aspirations, I think on some level my dad mourned the loss of his dutiful wife, and realized that her going back to school was likely the first step of his beloved's path to asserting her autonomy. And he was right. My mom was barely twenty when they'd married. Forty years and seven children later, they separated. My dad was heartbroken. My mom, on the other hand, bloomed like a rose, until the piercing thorn of cancer took her permanently from all of us at the age of sixty-four. 

Saffron Freedom Community, the 1970s commune in CLOVER BLUE, is full of youthful people who aspire to create a Utopian society free from the constraints of social norms. Except for a couple of trusted neighbors, outsiders are forbidden from entering SFC. One of those exceptions is Lois Fuller, the farm wife who buys eggs from the commune that borders their property. Mrs. Fuller is a former school teacher who once had aspirations of studying art. She loves spending time with the Saffrron children, encouraging them to explore their interests in art and literature. The more time she spends at SFC the more envious she becomes of their lifestyle, eventually going so far as to want to join them:

“Look, I know I’m a lot older than all of you, but I’ve been every age you are.” She turns toward Goji, who listens thoughtfully. “Every time I set foot in this community it feels like coming home to that idealistic version of myself, the dreams I lost somewhere along the way.”
Goji leans forward, resting his elbows on the table and his chin on his hands. “You are like a flower, opening. So very beautiful. I think we should call you Lotus instead of Lois.”

Lotus reminds me a little of my own mother and a lot of myself. Today, on Mother's Day, I want to honor all those mothers who made huge sacrifices to care for the children and those who chose to pursue their dreams, simultaneously or eventually. I also want to honor the women who either couldn't or chose not to have kids. Mothering isn't about giving birth so much as it's about nurturing. We are all mothers in one way or another. Some of us plant gardens. Some of us protect and care for the planet and her creatures. Some of us make art. And some of us write books.


Only two weeks until the release of CLOVER BLUE. If your mother grew up in the 1960s/1970s she might enjoy this book. And you might learn a little something about her...
 Available for pre-order now. 

Sunday, May 5, 2019

A Good Doobie: The Lovable Man Behind The Cloud of Smoke

"Wherever you are, and whatever you do, be in love." --Rumi

I once briefly dated a man who I later learned carried an expensive engagement ring everywhere with him, wanting to be good and ready if the right woman came along. He scared several women away with his impulsive wedding proposals, myself included. He was a sweet guy, but his gaping need to find a partner felt like a bottomless wound, one so deep that no woman could possibly fill it without losing herself.

One of my favorite characters in Clover Blue is a softhearted pothead called Doobie. (Okay they're all my favorite characters; I'm their mom so I love them equally, nudge-nudge, wink-wink). We don't know much about how Doobie ended up at Saffron Freedom Community but it's implied that he drifted northward from Haight Street in San Francisco sometime around the Summer of Love. What we do know is that he is a lover in the true sense of the word. He's openly affectionate and loves everyone, and yet, like that man I once dated, he's the one member of SFC who finds romantic love the most elusive. 

From the outside, Doobie is the most "typical" hippie in the family, sporting long hair, dirty clothes, and a ready joint tucked behind one ear. He's always first with a smile, a hug, or an offer to share a smoke when one of his brothers or sisters are feeling down. Doobie loves weed; smoking it and growing it. He cultivates marijuana in the community garden, concealing the plants between rows of sweet corn. But you can't help but feel a little sorry for the man who wants so badly to find a partner to receive all the love he has to give.

It's not that Doobie has never enjoyed the company of women. He and former member Gaia
used to be lovers before she abandoned the commune (and her daughter) to follow The Grateful Dead. Later, Doobie sets his eyes on a runaway called Rain who joins the community in the fall of 1974. It doesn't take long for Doobie to realize the new girl is already under leader Goji's spell, and his chances with Rain are zero to nil. As Clover Blue's story progresses, we learn that Doobie has developed a mad crush on Stardust, a tarot card reader who lives in town and occasionally buys a dime bag from Doobie. Stardust is in a relationship with the controlling owner of the head shop where her readings take place, but Doobie hopes to woo her away from him.

Deeper into the story, Doobie falls in love again, this time with an older woman who flees her rural farming life to live at Saffron Freedom Community. But, you'll have to read the book to see how that turns out. ;)

We've all know people like Doobie. They're sensitive guys who wear their hearts on their sleeves. Women are initially drawn to the silliness and charm, but eventually go looking for a more "challenging" relationship, one that doesn't feel so lopsided. When this happens to our Romeo Doobie, he slinks away, heartbroken. And yet ever the optimist, he continues his search for the one woman who will open her heart to receive the gift of love he so desperately longs to share. 

What about you? Have you ever known someone like Doobie? I hope you'll share your story in the comments. And if you haven't already, I hope you'll consider pre-ordering CLOVER BLUE, now just 23 days from our launch date of May 28!