Paranormal Romance: The Moonseed Trilogy
Bridge to the Past (vol. 1), Borrowed Promises (vol. 2), and Into the Mist (vol. 3) Two young women born a century apart, restless, and desperate for different lives, each escape death only to awaken in each other’s bodies. Gentle Victoria has become Katherine Kamarov, a brash young widow living in rural California circa 1890 and accused of murdering her husband. Meanwhile, the sensuous Katherine has come forward in time to assume Victoria’s identity as a beautiful and wealthy heiress in modern-day San Francisco. Expecting to be snatched back to their own times at the end of one year, each woman tries to resist investing her heart in her borrowed life but ends up falling hopelessly in love. As the story accelerates toward the magical night of the new spring moon, Victoria, and Katherine both question whether they must remain victims of fate or can find some way to keep the lives and the loves that have captured their hearts.
What inspired you to write this story? My heroine came to me when I was on holiday in beautiful California wine country, which became the setting for my story. Victoria materialized in my imagination fully formed. The first thoughts she shared with me told of her longing to escape her meaningless life and to find love and a sense of belonging. Intrigued, I began to follow her into a story that troubled me, challenged me, and ultimately gratified me as she found answers to questions and solutions to problems we both shared.
What brought you to writing? My first memorable writing project was a short story I wrote in first grade about a poodle. It was reprinted in the school newsletter—my first publishing success! Later I was fascinated by my aunt’s old Underwood typewriter. I would tap out sheets and sheets of meandering stories just so I could staple them together to make “books.” I don’t recall a definitive moment when I decided I was a writer. I just always felt like one.
Where do you write? What, if any, distractions do you allow? My favorite place to write is at my desk in my little home study, surrounded by books and pictures of the people and places I love best. I need quiet when I write, so I don’t play music or write in busy places like coffee shops. I am by nature so single-minded that I can hardly talk and drive a car at the same time. I write the same way, totally immersed in my story or essay. I prefer using a computer to writing longhand because it’s faster and easier to change or correct. Some authors complain that computers are too artificial, that one loses fluidity between the brain and the pen moving across the page, but that’s not a problem for me.
Do you have any advice for new writers? If you’re writing fiction, think about how you will eventually market your work. For example, choose a setting or a profession, or talent for your character that will generate photos you can post on social media. Also, read other authors in the genre you like. Learn what makes their books work. Take notes. Diagram story and character arcs and try to see patterns you can imitate. Don’t worry about copying style. As you write, your own voice will emerge. Trust it. Let it take you where you want to go. Finally, join a local writers group and network with others who are invested in learning the craft and helping each other succeed.
What else have you written? My first published book was inspirational nonfiction, A Devotional Walk with Forgiveness. From that platform, I launched a weekly devotional blog on forgiveness that I’ve kept going for seven years. In 2019 I indie published a collection of these devotionals in Forgiving Day by Day: Practicing God’s Ways in Our Relationships. I’ve published true stories about forgiveness in anthologies by Christian publishers and most recently in Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Forgiveness Fix. I’m currently researching a historical novel set in first-century biblical times as well as attempting to write my first screenplay.
Who is your favorite author, and why? Although I admire many modern authors, two who remain at the top of my list are Dean Koontz and Daphne du Maurier. They are both brilliant storytellers and expert wordsmiths. Koontz sometimes gets too weird and dark for me, but his writing is flawless, every comma in place, every paragraph honed to a precision edge. Du Maurier is pure pleasure. I would love to trade places with her for a day and feel the magic of her genius flow through my fingers to produce a manuscript as enduring as Rebecca.
Final thoughts? I believe we read stories to discover ourselves in a character’s reflection or to learn something new and interesting about how life works. Although it’s true that we can’t travel through time to escape our troubles, we can follow a character into her story, adopting her reality and caring about how things turn out for her, and in that imaginary escape discover real relief, pleasure, and satisfaction for ourselves.
For more about me or to purchase my books, please visit my Amazon Author Page at https://amzn.to/2NIpWCN
Many thanks to my CWC friend and colleague, George Cramer, for posting my thoughts on your blog!
The Birth of The Mona Lisa Sisters
Ten years ago, I was managing Safety and Security for Palm, Inc. A few months later, Hewlett-Packard acquired Palm in what is often referred to as a disastrous acquisition. Not long after, H-P began the layoffs. I got a weekly list of those to be laid off the following week. When the notice came for my team, I gave them the week off to start on a job hunt. A few weeks later, I learned I would be terminated the following Monday. I cleaned out my office but hung around in case there were any problems.
Then began my introduction to how rampant age-discrimination had become. After three months, it was so obvious; I started a spreadsheet. I recorded 140 applications after that. Often, I could swear the hiring company had used my resume as the requirement for the position. My mistake was being honest. I included that I was a Vietnam War Veteran. Any H/R person in the world would spot that and know I was at least sixty years old. I got one interview. I walked in, business suit, tie, and white hair. The two people I talked with were wide-eyed twenty-somethings. They were polite in their T-Shirts, torn pants, and sandals . . .for about five minutes. Then, “Thank you for coming in, George. Have a good day.”
Early 2012, I saw that the local senior center was offering a writing class. I figured it might help with a new resume—wrong. It was a fiction writing class. I was learning creative writing, and I loved it. After a month or so, the instructor passed out random pictures to each student. The assignment: “Study the image, take fifteen minutes, and describe the scene.”
I took one look at my picture, two girls looking up at the Mona Lisa, and ignored the assignment. In those fifteen minutes, I knew I would write a novel. I had notes on paper, the story in my mind, and the title. And it all came together to form the genesis for The Mona Lisa Sisters.
That began an eight-year journey.
I enrolled at Las Positas College and took writing classes. Unlike my earlier college years, it was no longer drudgery. I earned straight As. The assignments lead to multiple revisions of my novel.
In a class taught by Karin Spirn, I read about a fantastic instructor at UC Berkeley who did not have a doctorate. Instead, he held an MFA. In another class, I was introduced to the work of Native American poet Joy Harjo. She was recently appointed to a third term as the U.S. Poet Laureate. I began following her on social media. I saw that Harjo was a guest lecturer at the Institute of American Indian Arts, MFA Program. An enrolled descendant of the Karuk Tribe of California, I called IAIA and applied. Five days later, I received an acceptance notice for the Low-Residency MFA Program. IAIA, Santa Fe, New Mexico.
For the next two years, my manuscript was my thesis paper, The Mona Lisa Sisters. I rewrote, revised, and learned. My mentors were terrific and have, over time, become much more to me. One area that I got dinged on was when I brought my characters to the dinner table. The settings often lacked enough detail to draw the reader into the scene. Ismet “Izzy” Prcic, roared “People don’t go to dinner and leave. They eat. What the “F” are they eating—saying?”
Mona Lisa is set in the early 1890s. So, I had much research to do before bringing food to the table. I did it—overdid it—added several thousand words. Izzy, “I don’t need to know every single effen thing they ate and how it was prepared.” I subtracted words to please him.
Each addition or subtraction required rewrites.
The program required a great deal more than working on my manuscript. I attended lectures, readings, workshops, and read and wrote critical reviews of over forty books. Two authors I had held extreme distaste for became favorites—Albert Camus and Joyce Carol Oates. Most of those forty books are full of underlining, highlighting, and writing in the margins. My mentors and I collaborated on the selection of books. Native Americans wrote at least half our choices. I was introduced to the work of such great authors as,
- Debra Magpie Earling (Bitterroot Salish) – Perma Red
- Louise Erdrich (Chippewa) – The Round House
- David Treuer (Ojibwe) – Little
- Leslie Marmon Silko (Laguna Pueblo) – Ceremony
I met many who shared their world and writing. I met Joy Harjo and chatted over cafeteria dinner. Tommy Orange, There There, was a contemporary, as was Angela Trudell Vasquez. Angie is the Poet Laureate of Madison, Wisconsin.
When I faced the challenge of my thesis/manuscript, one of the questions came from another, fantastic teacher and author, Pam Houston. Her first question had to do with the scenes set in . . . the dining room. I shouldn’t have, but I laughed. I know Izzy put her up to it.
This year, I finished the twenty-third revision of The Mona Lisa Sisters. Agent queries had been returned with polite rejections. I sat back, told the manuscript, “I’m starting to hate you. I’m finished.”
I reached out to Paula Chinick of Russian Hill Press and told her I was done and wanted her to publish the bloody thing. She agreed. I figured my work was done—wrong.
The cover design took months. Getting back-cover reviews became urgent. I was stuck until I recalled a talk where a young author mentioned he sent out requests to known authors and asked them to read and write reviews. “What have I got to lose?” I asked myself and sent out four requests. Three agreed to write reviews. I even had one person, out of the blue, offer to write one.
I used two. Ramona Ausubel wrote one. I love her novel No One is Here Except All of Us. The other, by playwright, editor, and UCLA instructor Victoria Zackheim. I also used a Kirkus review.
Violet (Vi) Moore came on board as the editor. She forced me to pick up the manuscript and read it line by line and make corrections before she would touch it. I’m glad she did. Over two months, we made more corrections and changes than I will ever admit.
Then the galleys came, and Paula made me do it all over again. The editor is usually done by then–nope. Vi called and ordered me to reread it. I know we missed at least one typo. One of my readers sent me a note informing me of my oversight.
Paula, Vi, and the cover design team were all very reasonable in the charges to bring the project to fruition.
Amazon released The Mona Lisa Sisters on August 14, 2020. A little over eight years after the instructor handed me a picture of two young girls looking at the Mona Lisa.
I met and have become friends with so many fine people as the result of my diving into the world of fiction writing. I have been and will forever be blessed for having started the journey when I couldn’t find a job.