Thank you for the memories!

Today I had the opportunity to talk with two people who gave me the gift of time with some great memories. First, I spent some time with a friend who has been part of our lives since our youngest was about five, and has shared many, many Otter Valley Walking Stick Theater moments with us. We talked theater, and we talked grief, and we teared up, and we laughed. The second was a professional with whom I shared a case many, many years ago. I shared with him a recent note I had received about our shared student, we laughed, we mourned, and after our conversation, I had the gift of the time driving home thinking about that student, and that group of students, and smiled at the memories.

Giving others the gift of the time to share memories is such a wonderful thing to do. Thank you!

A Give-Away!!!!!!

With help from some literary friends, we have organized a give-away of Of Grief, Garlic and Gratitude. To enter, you write a post on Facebook about gratitude, with a couple of caveats to formally enter you in the contest. Full rules are listed below.

The post explaining the give-away says:

Good morning all, hope you enjoyed the holiday weekend.

Women’s fiction author Kris Francoeur (aka Anna Belle Rose) would love to share her new memoir, Of Grief, Garlic and Gratitude. This is the story of how Kris faced the loss of her son Sam to a drug overdose and how the practice of gratitude helped her heal.

Of Grief, Garlic and Gratitude comes out May 21st from Morgan James Publishing. She’s offering to give away five copies of her book to people who share stories from their lives, something for which they are grateful. This book can be a wonderful encouragement for Mother’s Day for mothers where the day is complicated. It can be ordered here: https://authorkfrancoeur.com/anna-belle-roses-books/

She’s glad to send a free copy of her book to every fifth person who makes a Facebook post that contains these three items:

1. The tag #garlicgratitude

2. A mention of Kris Francoeur’s new memoir Of Grief, Garlic and Gratitude (say the author’s name and book title and include this link: https://authorkfrancoeur.com/of-grief-garlic-and-gratitude/)

3. Write something (any length, a few sentences or a few paragraphs are both fine!) to let us know something for which you are grateful. Can be about how you faced tragedy or just something you’re thankful for in general.

We’ll go out and look for these pieces by searching for #garlicgratitude (so please don’t forget that!) and then Kris will privately contact each fifth person (#5, #10, #15, etc) for address information so she can mail you a paperback.

Sending love and hope and light to all who read this.

About Kris Francoeur:

My name is Kris Francoeur, and I am an author, educator, speaker, wife, mom, grandmother and farmer living in Vermont. I love to spend time with my family, travel, hike, kayak, knit, spin (fiber), garden, cook, and love time with my bees, alpacas and chickens.

Currently, I have published three romance novels with Solstice Publishing, and have one in its early stages. All of my romances are written under the pen name of Anna Belle Rose, and they can be purchased in paperback format through my Book Store page on this website, or in e-book or paperback on Amazon.

So — please go onto Facebook, and post away, following the instructions, so you are entered to win!

Love, Music, Gratitude, Grief and Forgiveness

Last night, we went to Middlebury to see a local band, Hamjob, perform. Now, if you follow my social media fairly regularly, I post about them a fair amount, because they write a song about Sam, aptly entitled, “Sam’s Song.” We’ve listened to the song a lot, but missed the official launch party for their first studio album, because I had a book event. Last night was going to be the first time we’d seen the band perform, and therefore, the first time we’d seen the song performed in person.

The lead singer of the band is someone we’ve known a long time. He was friends with Sam in high school, and they shared an apartment the year prior to Sam’s death. But this was the first time we’d seen him in person for a long time.

So, leaving the house to go see them perform last night, about the same time we would normally be getting ready to call it a day, we were a bit emotionally charged. Not nervous, but churning in our own emotions. We were meeting one of our sons, and three good friends there, and we were so glad for the company.

We got there, and got to spend a few minutes before the band played visiting with that lead singer, and then with his bass player, who we’d gotten to know via social media. Then we hung out, listened to great music, waiting to hear “the song,” and in my heart, I wasn’t sure how I would react. Suddenly, we realized that one of Sam’s good friend, one of the ones involved in the great sheep trip, was there. We hadn’t seen him in years! Hugs, a few tears, just the joy of holding the hands of this wonderful young man for a moment was such a joy.

Then the song started. And while the band played this fabulous song, which so many there clearly knew, I realized that Sam’s spirit had made its appearance again. In that room were people who had falling-outs, all of whom love Sam, and (thankfully!) love us — and they were all there, and as that song played, there were hugs, tears, more hugs, and it was as if those angers and hurt feelings disappeared. As that song played, many of the people Sam cared (and cares) about most were in that room, and they were together, and the love he shared so broadly was clearly in view.

The night was perfect. Great music, love, laughter, shared grief, shared gratitude for the community Sam gave through his friendships.

Wow!

It’s been a bit of a whirl-wind lately. The end of winter (hopefully), all of our work and school schedules getting busier, and then lots of book logistics and events. All of it is exciting, and keeps us busy and looking forward.

This week also saw an uptick in activity about Of Grief, Garlic and Gratitude being released next month in stores. The kindle version of the book vaulted to #85 on the Grief list on Amazon, which was amazing. Then I was interviewed for an upcoming article in VTDigger, booked several radio interviews and several podcasts, and was invited to several more book events.

All of it is so exciting. Obviously, I would much rather have Sam coming home for Easter dinner on Sunday, then preparing for an interview about losing him, but I still hold onto the idea that he is proud of our commitment to love, the earth, great music, and gratitude.

Let’s welcome Lynne Marino!

Today I am thrilled to welcome fellow Solstice author Lynne Marino!

Please tell us about yourself. 

I was born in north county St. Louis, which is part of where “Five Things” takes place. My grandparents were German immigrants who had a small bank account and an enlarged work ethic. My father’s side of the family have an amazing sense of sarcastic humor. I lucked in the marriage department, as my husband is a far better cook than I am (it’s an Italian thing). I have two children that we tried to instill a sense of humor into regarding life and all its vagaries.  Like my characters in “Five Things”, I strive to find something good in every day. As Mel Brooks might say, “Hey! You’re alive! Shut up and quit your complaining.”  Oh! And I could easily spend the rest of my life touring Roman ruins. Do you know of any in Ohio?

What are some of your favorite things to do?

Sleep! Just joking. I like to walk dogs, dance with my husband, read, read, and read some more. Did I mention reading? I also like to hike, if it’s a flat path. Seriously, one of my goals in the next few years is to walk the length of Hadrian’s Wall, although I hear there’s a bus that will take you to every spot along the wall, so faking it for Facebook is also a possibility.

Why did you decide to write novels?

To empty out all the “wouldn’t it be funny” and “what if’s” running around wreaking havoc in my head. You know, people really stare at you when you laugh out loud in public settings.  

How much of your personality and life experiences are in your writing?

More than I want to think about. My characters do some crazy things.  And, they can never keep their mouths’ shut.

When did you first think about writing and what prompted you to submit your first ms?

I won a contest for best story in the fourth grade. After that, I think I was hooked.

Do you have a set schedule for writing or do you just go with the flow?

No, I’m half German. There is no flow, there are only schedules.  Really, just joking. I try to write every other day for at least four hours.  After that, I try to put in some time studying marketing.

What about your family, do they know not to bother you when you are writing – or are there constant interruptions?

Are you kidding? They haven’t a clue, but I love them so I will put down anything to help one of them out – if they need it.  And there’s the rub.

What do you do to relax and recharge your batteries?

My husband and I do ballroom dancing. No laughing. Seriously (and I really hate being serious), there is not a time when I haven’t come out of a dance class or a dance party when I haven’t felt happier than I did before I went in. I also love to people watch, and walk dogs.

Where do your ideas come from?

I think they’re a mix between watching people, hearing stories, reading the news, and incidents in my own family life.

Do you feel humor is important in your writing, and why?

Humor forms the basis of everything I write. The drama comes second.

What kind of research do you do?

Whatever is necessary. For example, when I wrote the “Cha-cha Affair”, I had to research Medicare fraud and cheating the IRS. That was interesting. With “Five Things”,  I researched public health campaigns and academic tenure, as well as Italian hand signals. Researching the meaning of those hand signals was a blast. It’s amazing the things you can tell someone with those hand signals, and they don’t even know it.

Do you have a favorite author? Favorite book?

Frederick Backman is my favorite right now, but he didn’t write my favorite book. Probably, “The Book Thief” is my favorite, and I will confess to loving the Harry Potter series.Who are some of your other favorite authors to read?

Carl Hiaasen, Jennifer Weiner, Markus Zusak, Gillian Flynn, Jojo Moyes, Susan Elizabeth Phillips, Charliane Harris, and every author at Solstice Publishing.

What do you think of critique groups in general?

My critique partners are necessary evils. Just joking. You are a lucky writer if you have a small group of writers who will tell you the truth. Sometimes you don’t want to hear it, but if more than one of them is saying the same thing, you’d better listen up.

Where do you see yourself in five years?

Hopefully, not in the mirror. Seriously, I intend to write several more books that I hope bring tears of laughter and joy to people.

How many books have you written, how many have been published?

I’ve written five novels, and only tried to publish two.  I am half way through a third comedy romance that I like enough to try and get it published. It’s called, “The Third Time’s The Charm”.

After you’ve written your book and it’s been published, do you ever buy it and/or read it?

A one-word answer. No.

Among your own books, have you a favorite book? Favorite hero or heroine?

I like all my protagonists, or I wouldn’t have been able to finish the books.

What is the most rewarding thing about being a writer?

Ha! Finishing the book.

If you weren’t writing, what would you be doing?

Thinking about writing.

What is your greatest desire?

I’m living my greatest desire.  I’m writing things that make people laugh about life.

Are there any words of encouragement for unpublished writers?

Make sure you enjoy the agony of writing. Have your writing professionally edited prior to submission. Do a cram course in marketing before your first few books come out.

Please tell us about your latest book.

I had two comedy romances published within months of each other, both by Solstice Publishing. The first was, “The Cha-cha Affair”, and the second was, “Five Things.”

What can we expect from you in the future?

More humorous novels with all too human characters, and a short story collection called, “Tales Of The Tucson Almost-Angel”.

How do we find out about you and your books?

Go to Solstice Publishing online to find out about me, as well as the publisher’s other authors. I also have an author page on Amazon and Facebook, as well as a website.  Click on the links below to find out more.

https://lynnemarinoauthor.com/

https://www.facebook.com/lynnemarinoauthor/

https://www.amazon.com/Lynne-Marino/e/B07G2Q86FS?ref=dbs_p_pbk_r00_abau_000000

http://solsticeempire.com/

 

 

 

When is a tree more than a tree?

This past Saturday, a day I long had dreaded arrived. It was the day to finally take down the old wild apple tree on the side lawn.

Now this tree was there long before I met my husband. One of the earliest memories I have of going to his house when we were dating, was sitting on the edge of the sandbox under that tree while Ryan played with his cars and trucks in the sand. Over the years, all four kids played there. The box had to be replaced, so Paul built a new one, then that one was replaced with plastic turtle sandbox with cover. The swings were under that tree. Each fall we picked the apples, and in the winter, the deer came and ate the drops. That tree was part of the family.

Last year, the tree was almost dead, but we kept it. Then a wind storm last month ripped a large branch off it, and even I had to admit it was time.

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Saturday morning came, and I walked outside to look at it one more time. In the gray, cloudy, damp weather, it looked tired and old. It was time for it to come down. As I went to do some raking, tears flowed as I heard the crack of the branches as they dropped to the ground.

Later in the day, as we started to clean up the branches, and bring the larger pieces to be split for firewood, our oldest son and I realized that a big piece of the trunk made a nice seat, and we all decided to keep it there, as a place to sit and rest for a while. Our son made a comment that it was our very own Giving Tree, just like the book we read to him as a child. The tree had given us shade, apples, beautiful flowers, and now firewood and a place to sit.

Even as I sat, I couldn’t quite explain why I was so sad about the tree coming down, then it hit me. Early on in our marriage, I had operated a small daycare. Each day, the children played outside under that tree, laughing, talking, creating, sharing. Two of the children from that daycare have passed away since that time, and then our Sam played there too. Three young lives enjoyed the tree, enjoyed the sandbox, enjoyed life — and they are all gone.

Then, I cried. And as I cried, I also remembered the good times. I remembered Jenna, who so loved her friendship with Ryan, so much that when I saw her as an adult, she always asked how he was. Jenna who always was kind to the younger kids, who always offered to help me cook or clean. And Frankie, who I later had the pleasure and honor of teaching in middle school and high school. Frankie who had a such a temper, but was so very loyal and protective. Frankie who would sit with our daughter each day at lunch time when she was struggling in high school, and who so carefully protected Sam when he played basketball (at five years old) with the high school students. I thought about how Sam loved that tree, climbing up in it to pick apples, even when we told him the tree wasn’t safe. I remembered when Sam was so proud and excited when Paul built the boys a playhouse on top of the swings, and named it Camp Sbeckles (after their cat).

I remembered the laughs under that tree, the nights snuggled up watching movies eating apple pie made from those apples. And I mourned for those lost, and mourned that we don’t get to make more memories with those three young people who we love so much.

A couple days have passed, and the lump in my throat isn’t quite as big now as it was on Saturday. Now we will make new memories there, and tell the stories of what was before.

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Introducing Author Marie Lavender!

Today, I am so excited to introduce fellow Solstice Publishing author Marie Lavender! I as so happy to share Marie’s thoughts about her own writing journey, as well as information about her books.

 

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An Author’s Identity

by Marie Lavender

Who am I? First of all, I’m a fiancée, a daughter, a sister, and the proud mom of two fur babies. I am also the great-granddaughter of a full-blooded Cherokee Indian, a woman who married an Irishman. Diversely, on my father’s side, there’s a mix of cultures, French and Norwegian among others. But I digress.

Identity is everything to a writer, and being a writer is at the core of my being. Writers define themselves a certain way. They may stray for a while at times, but they’ll always come back to writing. This is my habit as well.

I write to give a voice to the characters who want their stories told. I write because I can’t imagine any other career that suits me more, or anything that would be as satisfying. I write what the muse leads me to – all the unknown paths. I write fiction because it’s as naked as my heart can get, when it’s conveyed on the page through the actions of the characters I represent.

The call has always been there. As a child, I portrayed stories through the interactions of dolls. Later, when I could finally string a sentence together, the pen was scrawling across my one-subject note books and decorative journals until my hand ached. I had something to say, and this was the only way I knew to accomplish such a task. From the time I was nine, I wanted to be a novelist. To see one of my books in a bookstore someday. It was never about fame or fortune. No, this was about passion. Pursuing the one thing that felt so natural, and I just knew I could never walk away.

I’d always wanted to find a traditional publisher on my writing journey, but in 2010 I decided to try my hand at the indie approach. It took a few years to get the hang of it, to figure out that editing, compelling cover art, and a good book description were a must. In 2011, I finished a historical romance manuscript. I began querying literary agents and publishing companies. By August of 2012, I’d landed an official book contract with Solstice Publishing, and when February of 2013 came along, the Victorian romance was released to the public. I’ve been with the same publisher ever since, but I haven’t given up producing books on my own. To date, I have 24 published titles in the genres of historical romance, contemporary romance, romantic suspense, paranormal romance, dramatic fiction, fantasy, science fiction, mystery/thriller, literary fiction and poetry.

Was it easy? Not at all. I would be nothing without the ups and downs that pushed me to persevere despite the naysayers and moments of discouragement. All of it made me who I am.

Recently, the cover for my Victorian maritime romance boxed set was updated! The Heiresses in Love Series has a special place in my heart, with characters that readers have loved again and again. I hope you think so too…

So, who am I? A writer with more works in progress than I can count on two hands.

Why do I write? It’s because I’m following the call of the muse. Beyond that, I write for the readers who could use a unique character to root for. Maybe they’re reminded of themselves , or someone else in their lives.

Through my work, I just hope to touch people in some way.

Blurb for Heiresses in Love Trilogy (boxed set)

An unforgettable, sweeping saga of romance, passion and history rooted in tales of maritime suspense…

Three heiresses…three novels like no other.

UPON YOUR RETURN

Fara risks her heart every time she’s with him, but she cannot deny him.

UPON YOUR HONOR

Chloe never imagined that the man she deceived would be the one man she can’t stop loving.

UPON YOUR LOVE 

Adrienne must decide whether to succumb to desire or fight for love.

 

…Will these remarkable women at last find what they’ve always wanted, or lose more than they can bear?

Genre: Historical Romance – Victorian, maritime, family saga

Book Links:

Universal reader link: https://books2read.com/u/4EMMPe

Publisher: http://www.solsticeempire.com/products.aspx?categoryid=262

Goodreads:  https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/43819892-heiresses-in-love-trilogy

So excited!

I am thrilled to announce that the first of our “Do A Sam” items are now posted on the “Do A Sam” Products page on this site. Here’s the link: “Do A Sam”

There, you will find our rainbow and black/white buttons, and our rainbow magnets. Each item ships free of charge, and the profits will go to our “Do A Sam” fund.

Right now, when you add the products to your cart, it shows two shipping options, “Flat Rate” and “Free Shipping.” Please check “Free Shipping” so you won’t be charged for the shipping.

More items will be added soon!

L.K. Simonds — welcome!

Continuing with the idea of welcoming fascinating new authors, I am proud to welcome fellow Morgan James Publishing author L.K. Simonds! Read carefully, dear friends, as she is offering you a free book!
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L.K. writes:
To begin, thank you, Kris, for generously giving me space on your website.
Back in the 1990s, I was vacationing in NYC with my buddies. We got out the phonebook—as we often did while traveling—to see how many people with our last names were listed. In that thick Manhattan phonebook was one listing for a person with the same name as my friend’s. Two initials and a surname, as a single woman might’ve listed her number in those days. The address was only a few blocks from our Midtown hotel, and we joked about calling to see if she was a long-lost cousin, who might take us to her favorite shops and restaurants. 
We didn’t call, but the “what if?” stuck with me. What if you did call? What if the person you called was in crisis? Or about to face a crisis? What if that serendipitous phone call resulted in a friendship that became a lifeline? That notion was the inception of ALL IN.
I toyed with the idea of writing the novel from the viewpoint of the Christian who made the phone call, Kate Davis. I quickly realized the story would be more interesting from the viewpoint of the young woman Kate called. Thus, Cami Taylor was conceived. When you read the novel, you’ll probably think Cami is selfish, promiscuous, sarcastically funny, and undeserving of devotion . None of this is news to Cami. She knows she doesn’t deserve to be loved; she just doesn’t know what to do about it.
The epigraph at the beginning of the book is Isaiah 65:1, which pretty much sums up the narrative arc of ALL IN.
I was sought by those who did not ask for Me;
I was found by those who did not seek Me.
I said, ‘Here I am, here I am,’
To a nation that was not called by My name.
I wrote the original manuscript almost 20 years ago. After a lot of rejections and a foray into self-publishing, I put aside writing for the sake of my career in air traffic safety. Years passed, and I retired in 2012. The unknown future felt the same as it had when I graduated from high school. What was I supposed to do with myself? 
I’m an instrument-rated pilot. I love to fly, but airplanes are expensive and time-consuming. So, I got the bright idea to flight instruct, a job that doesn’t pay much, but the flying is free. Besides, the joy of teaching others something I love seemed priceless. I took the required written exams, and I even went as far as telling everyone I was getting my flight instructor certificate. A few friends expressed interest in flying with me, and I enthusiastically agreed. Then a funny thing happened. I remembered all the knowledge a flight instructor has to impart about things I’ve long forgotten and don’t want to think about anymore. Then I imagined sweating out the Texas summer heat in a Cessna 172, with some frightened primary student who was trying to kill us both. All of a sudden, flight instruction didn’t sound like very much fun at all.
I turned back to writing, and I spent a few years drafting a sprawling manuscript for a historical novel inspired by my aunt’s life. I got involved in writers’ groups again. I read craft books again. I worked with a writing coach. I read. And read. Good work and not-so-good work. I found reading was the most valuable thing I did to help my writing.
Then, at the beginning of 2018, I remembered Cami.
In his Masterclass on storytelling, author Neil Gaiman talks about having an idea that’s better than our ability to write it. I believe that’s what happened to me with the manuscript that would become ALL IN. I needed to learn more about writing in general and my writing in particular. I needed more life experience. I needed to grow up. Most importantly, I needed to write for the right reason, which isn’t money. I brought all of this to bear on Cami’s story. I rewrote the book and hired an editor, Leslie Karen Lutz of Elliot Bay Editing. Leslie is a writer too, and she edited ALL IN beautifully. Then Terry Whalin, an acquisition editor at Morgan James Publishing, expressed interest. By the summer of 2018, I had a contract.
So, finally, after a long journey, after many detours, I am a novelist.
Now, I’m in marketing season. If you follow Thomas Umstattd’s podcasts—he posts weekly on the Steve Laube blog—you’ve heard him say that you have to sell a book twice. Once, when you get it in the hands of a reader. The second time, the book has to sell itself by keeping the reader engaged. By the second sale, the book is on its own, out of the author’s hands. 
Over the coming months, you’ll see me post frequently on social media, trying to make that first sale. Sometimes, the first sale isn’t a sale at all; it’s a gift. Such as donating copies to Bookmates4inmates, a non-profit that distributes books to women incarcerated in Texas prisons. Such as sending a book to you, who are reading this now. I’ll mail you an autographed advance copy paperback, no charge, while my supplies last. All you have to do is let me know where to send it. There’s a contact form at www.lksimonds.com or you can email me at lisaksimonds@gmail.com. Stay turned to Facebook to learn how you can use the book with your beautiful face to win $100 and help me spread the news far and wide.
Why give away so many books? Simply to make the first sale. That’s my job. The second sale belongs to Cami, and she has never once let me tell her what to do. 
Thank you for reading. Grace to you!
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