FRIDAY SERENDIPITY: FINDING COMMON GROUND…

Can I tell you how much I am loving my new blog header here?  Yes, I go a little obsessive with redesigning them.  On the left is the loft in my 1980s townhouse (1988-1994), and the middle image…well, peace and happiness.  And most people know how much I rocked the VW bugs and vans in the 1970s.

These days, I have to dig into the past for images and moments…to help me cope with the events in our world.  Need I say more?

I had such a great Skype chat with my eldest son on Wednesday.  He and his wife live in Prague, but before that, they spent five years in Berlin.  He went to Prague the first time in 1997, and he met Gabi shortly afterwards.  He had been in London, Ireland, back to Sacramento…and then his European expat. days began. 

We chat for more than an hour each time…the difference in time keeps us from impulsively chatting, so we have to schedule these events.  He is the only one of my adult children with whom I can say anything at all.  We agree about almost everything!

Not that I don’t enjoy my other kids, but sometimes I have to scrounge around for common ground.  LOL

My daughter is the only one who lives in this area…a village on the outskirts of our city.  She has been providing weekly hairstyling to me, so we do have that in common.  And, of course, she is a bubbly person loved by everyone, with lots of friends.

Whereas I am a bit of a bookish introvert.  But when I connect with my eldest, I am a real chatter freak.  It’s funny how that happens.

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This blog was created after I published my first novel, An Accidental Life.  Even the cover reflects the life I was living back then…in the foothills in an A-frame house.

On my website, Laurel-Rain Snow Creations, you can find links to my other creations.

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How has your week unfolded?  Adventures, books, food?

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THE A-FRAME HOUSE: THE STORY BEHIND THE STORY….

It has been a while since I’ve written about my A-frame house in the foothills, the setting for the creation of my first novel…the one with themes from my life and my career, which you can find in detail in  A House That Inspired a Story.

An Accidental Life portrays characters whose lives just seem to happen to them…almost accidentally.  I acquired the house almost accidentally, too, when funds appeared unexpectedly.  The A-frame is depicted on the cover of the book with the face it wore back then, a redwood brown.  I later painted the house this sage green color (above).

 

 

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To revive the images, I created a blog button today that mimics the shape of the A-frame house, wearing an approximation of its final color….

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Do you sometimes choose your path accidentally, or does life seem to happen while you’re making other plans?  Perhaps you can relate to some of these characters.

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EUREKA! CREATING MY NEW HEADER

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After finally creating the above header, I think I’m satisfied…for now.

There’s a story behind it, of course.  The previous banners hadn’t really resonated with me, for whatever reason.  They didn’t call out “Serendipity blog.”

The name of this blog sprang from the creation of my first novel, An Accidental Life (see it pictured above).  Which then transported me back to where I was living when I wrote it.  In the A-frame in the foothills…

 

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The A-frame is also pictured on the book cover:

 

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The photo on the right side of the header depicts the corner of my dining room that was my creative station,  and where I produced the first five books I now have on Amazon.

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It made sense to me to create the newest banner as a nod to the book that started this blog.  Of course, I’ll probably find a reason to change things up again at some point…but that’s okay, too.

Change is good.  Well, not always, but when it’s something I initiate, it’s perfectly fine.

Do you find inspiration for your blog design and headers from something unique in your life?  I’d love to hear your stories.

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HOW A NOVEL CAME TO BE: “AN ACCIDENTAL LIFE”

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Tonight when I found myself distracted from the book I was reading, I decided to peruse the archives in this blog, and found this post from 2010.  The photo (above) is one of me back in my early social work days:

In my novel “An Accidental Life,” I focused on a local phenomenon in the Central Valley of California – methamphetamine abuse. In the early nineties, I was working in child welfare services for the County of Fresno, and a proliferation of substance abuse cases (related to methamphetamine or “crank” abuse) became a regular aspect in the life of the social worker.

Years later, when I decided to pen a novel that featured these issues, I chose to zero in on characters that were composites of those I met during this time in my professional career. I also added my own personal take to the story by creating characters from my own history.

As a result, we have a bird’s eye view, as it were, into the lives of social workers and their clients.

To spice things up a bit, I added a subplot that featured a stalker/murderer, a nod to another aspect of Central Valley life – homicides. We have had our share of unsolved mysteries in this Valley city, but in my novel, I chose to reach a solution to the stalker/homicide that focuses on one of my characters.

Finally, because I do not believe in “happily ever after,” I did make one concession to this familiar theme: I chose what I call a “hopeful ending.” The characters are left with the faith that the “journey” in life is really what it’s all about. Finding themselves on the path of self-discovery, with its complexities and obstacles, allows the characters to persist – to believe.

In the end, that’s really all we have.

 

WHEN AUTUMN SLIPS TOWARD WINTER: MEMORIES & AN EXCERPT

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Fall is the season of new beginnings.  For me, that has always been the case, starting back in childhood when the season brought release from the long hot summer days…and the endless chores.  Living on a farm was like being on a treadmill of continuous chores.

Above is a photo of my second son and his daughter Aubrey, years ago when I still lived in my house in the foothills.  This snap was captured at Thanksgiving.  Aubrey is now in college, so you get the sense of the passage of time.

In the background, note the climbing device…my youngest son built that, and the grandchildren all clamored to it.

In my first published book, An Accidental Life, one of my characters lives in an A-frame house with a guest house next door.  Like mine.  Here’s an excerpt:

 

Autumn slipped toward winter, its days beginning with that hideous, low-hanging fog that characterized this part of the valley.   But Melody woke in the mornings feeling something akin to happiness.  Taking her large mug of coffee over near the tall side windows, where she had set up a little table and wicker chair, she would spread out the newspaper.  Reading, sipping her coffee, and occasionally glancing toward the guesthouse, waiting for the first sign of Hugh so she could invent some excuse to saunter on over.

Since their first encounter a few months back, the two of them had established a more or less regular routine.  One or the other would initiate contact, they would chat for a bit, and then they would end up in bed.  Melody still felt wonder when she reflected on their moments together.  What an unlikely pairing they were.

She felt the heat rising in her face as her thoughts raced backward and she quickly fanned herself with the front page of the paper.  Despite all the passion the two of them generated, however, she sometimes walked away afterwards wondering who Hugh Kincaid really was…They never really talked about anything substantive.  Oh, they had shared the superficial biographical sketches.  He knew that she had been in Haight-Ashbury in the sixties and on the road for awhile in the seventies.  He knew about the trust fund that had brought her this house.  She knew that he’d retired from a state job as an engineer, that he loved photography as art, and that he had been married once…But had no children.

Her brow furrowed as she tried to focus on the newspaper.  Her thoughts refused to cooperate, continuing instead to ramble in Hugh’s direction.  She realized that she wanted to know more.  And she was even willing to share more of herself.  The realization surprised and worried her at the same time.  What did it mean?

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What does Fall bring to you?  Family moments?  New beginnings? 

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WAITING ON “ANOTHER FORGOTTEN CHILD” — JAN. 9

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Welcome to another Waiting on Wednesday event, hosted by Jill, at Breaking the Spine. 

Today’s feature is a book I’m eagerly anticipating, due out on 2/5/13.  Not long to wait!  Another Forgotten Child, by Cathy Glass, spotlights issues with the child welfare system.

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Eight-year-old Aimee was on the child protection register at birth. Her school repeatedly reported concerns about her bruises. And her five older half-siblings were taken into care many years ago. So no one can understand why she was left at home to suffer for so long. It seems Aimee was the forgotten child.

The social services are looking for a very experienced foster carer to look after Aimee and, when she reads the referral, Cathy understands why. Despite her reservations, Cathy agrees to Aimee on – there is something about her that reminds Cathy of Jodie (the subject of ‘Damaged’ and the most disturbed child Cathy has cared for), and reading the report instantly tugs at her heart strings.

When she arrives, Aimee is angry. And she has every right to be. She has spent the first eight years of her life living with her drug-dependent mother in a flat that the social worker described as ‘not fit for human habitation’. Aimee is so grateful as she snuggles into her bed at Cathy’s house on the first night that it brings Cathy to tears.

Aimee’s aggressive mother is constantly causing trouble at contact, and makes sweeping allegations against Cathy and her family in front of her daughter as well. It is a trying time for Cathy, and it makes it difficult for Aimee to settle. But as Aimee begins to trust Cathy, she starts to open up. And the more Cathy learns about Aimee’s life before she came into care, the more horrified she becomes.

It’s clear that Aimee should have been rescued much sooner and as her journey seems to be coming to a happy end, Cathy can’t help but reflect on all the other ‘forgotten children’ that are still suffering…

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Why am I waiting for this one?  Having worked in the child welfare system for many years, I am all too familiar with those cases that fall through the cracks.  This one sounds like a must read.

What are you waiting for?  Come on by and share….

 

 

SERENDIPITOUS FRIDAYS: BOOK BEGINNINGS & THE FRIDAY 56 — AUGUST 10

Welcome to some serendipitous fun today as we share Book Beginnings, hosted by Rose City Reader; and as we showcase The Friday 56 with Freda’s Voice.

To join in, just grab a book and share the opening lines…along with any thoughts you wish to give us; then turn to page 56 and excerpt anything on the page.

Then give us the title of the book, so others can add it to their lists!

Today’s excerpts come from Small Damages, by Beth Kephart.

Blurb:  It’s senior year, and while Kenzie should be looking forward to prom and starting college in the fall, she discovers she’s pregnant. Her determination to keep her baby is something her boyfriend and mother do not understand. So she is sent to Spain, where she will live out her pregnancy, and her baby will be adopted by a Spanish couple. No one will ever know.

Alone and resentful in a foreign country, Kenzie is at first sullen and difficult. But as she gets to know Estela, the stubborn old cook, and Esteban, the mysterious young man who cares for the horses, she begins to open her eyes, and her heart, to the beauty that is all around her, and inside her. Kenzie realizes she has some serious choices to make–choices about life, love, and home.

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Beginning:  The streets of Seville are the size of sidewalks, and there are alleys leaking off from the streets.  In the back of the cab, where I sit by myself, I watch the past rushing by.

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P. 56:  In the kitchen, Estela’s gone all battle fierce with her knife, banging oranges apart, swiping halves into a bowl.  There is steam on the window and in the room.  There is steam on Estela’s face and on her cheeks.

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I like the sound of this one so far.  What are the rest of you sharing today?  Come on by and tell me about it.

TUESDAY INTROS./TEASERS: AN ACCIDENTAL LIFE — MAY 8

Welcome to another Tuesday celebrating bookish events, from Tuesday/First Chapter/Intros, hosted by Bibliophile by the Sea; and Teaser Tuesdays hosted by Should Be Reading.

Just grab your book and share the opening lines; then find another excerpt that “teases” the reader.

Today I’m sharing again from one of my own creations.  An Accidental Life is a story that begins during one long hot summer in California’s Central Valley.

Summertime is hot and dull in the Central Valley of California and four teenage girls from very different families are determined to spice it up. With a single-mindedness that foretells disaster, they push aside all the rules and explore the underbelly of valley life. Drugs, sex, alcohol, adventure, anything to challenge the norm, yet all experienced without the benefit of maturity. As the girls become increasingly uncontrollable, their mothers–from dramatically diverse social backgrounds–are forced to work together to save their daughters. Like a tornado moving across the landscape, lives are wrenched from their foundations…

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Intro:

Once upon a time, Karin Larson had believed in endless possibilities.  In her childhood, all the adults had asked her the same question: What do you want to be when you grow up?   Picturing a giant list from which she could choose, Karin had played with the task, picking out one thing or another, while watching the reaction of the grownups to help her know if her choices were right or wrong.

Much later, Karin had come to realize that selecting one thing meant giving up something else.  A possibility lost…perhaps forever.  Sometimes, not making any choice at all was just a different way of choosing.

Karin often wondered about those alternate paths.  As a single mother and a social worker for the past fourteen years, she was a responsible and professional person.  She had achieved some expertise in her field.  On the surface, an observer might see her as a calm, reasonably attractive woman in her mid-to-late thirties.

So why did she wake up every morning of her life wishing she were somewhere else and anyone else?

Today was no different from any other.  Karin heard the alarm and cringed.  Then, to stave off the inevitable, she pretended to be on vacation in some tropical island.  She could almost feel the breeze off the ocean, and the scent of suntan lotion wafted toward her.  She could feel her body relaxing into the chaise lounge, while a handsome man approached with a tall, cold drink with one of those little umbrellas on top.  “Mom!” Bridget’s voice interrupted her reverie with its irritatingly teenage quality, that tone that demanded immediate attention.  As she pushed open the bedroom door, she continued.  “I can’t find that book I’m supposed to take back today!  Have you put it somewhere?”  Her tone, almost accusing, brought Karin rudely back to reality.

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Teaser:  He watched angrily as Molly sat there in the dimness of the bar, talking to that man…that creature who had swooped in and picked her up.  She was turning out to be a regular whore!  That night in the bar in Clovis, and now, this.  What had happened to his beautiful Molly?  She was becoming someone just like all the other women who had disappointed him.  He must take action, and soon!

His agitation increased, but he hovered near the edges of the pub, staying out of sight, blending into the woodwork.  That was his best quality, being able to render himself virtually unnoticeable.  In the end, though, they would all notice him, and then they would be sorry for everything!  p. 316

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What’s the verdict on this opener?  Are you teased by the “teaser”?  Come on by and share your thoughts.  Meanwhile, I’m off to check out your snippets.
 


TSS: READ-A-THON WEEKEND — APRIL 22

Good morning, and welcome to another Sunday Salon event, during which we share what’s happening in our lives, bookish and otherwise.

Some of you may have joined in on the Dewey’s Read-a-Thon, so you’re probably pretty tired right now.  I know I am!

I fizzled out before it was even over, but I feel like I accomplished enough….

Here are some books read and/or started:

1.  Heiress without a Cause, by Sara Ramsey (Read the final 209 pages)

2.  The Return of Edgar Cayce, by C. Terry Cline, Jr. (Read whole book – 160 pages)

3.  The Accidental, by Ali Smith (still reading it!  Have read 60 pages so far)

So, to sum up:  I finished two books and started another, for a total of 429 pages in 7.5 hours.

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As for the rest of the week, I did some major blogging, with too many posts to list, so here are some highlights:

Check out my Fourth Blogoversary Giveaway over at Story Corner, where there are some ARCs, among others, on the list.

Then I posted about Yvonne’s Socrates’s Cozy Mystery Giveaway – ending tomorrow!  So hurry!!

At my writing blog Forest Journey: Where the Journey Sometimes Takes Us shines a light on the writer’s life, along with an excerpt from my novel Embrace the Whirlwind.

Along the same lines, here is Where Does Creativity Happen?

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What was the rest of the reading week like?  Well, click the titles/covers for reviews:

1.  Come Home, by Lisa Scottoline

2.  On Their Own, by Martha Shirk, et. al

3.  Mimosas, Mischief, & Murder (e-book) – by Sara Rosett

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And that’s it…except, of course, for the Read-a-thon books listed above!

Another “happening” this week was my rediscovery of Pinterest.  This time I’m enjoying it!  Okay, I’ll admit it, I’m obsessed!  But when have I ever done something without getting obsessed?  lol

That was probably why I was reluctant to dive in….do I really need another obsession?  What about the rest of you?  Do you have passions/obsessions/fun habits?

 

SHE RAISED OUR CONSCIOUSNESS — A REVIEW

In M.G. Lord’s new book, The Accidental Feminist: How Elizabeth Taylor Raised Our Consciousness and We Were Too Distracted By Her Beauty to Notice, we explore, from a different perspective, the life of Elizabeth Taylor. Beneath the beauty and sexy sultriness is another kind of woman. A woman whose roles in her movies mirrored aspects seldom shown in beautiful women: independence, toughness, and the willingness to take on unpopular causes.

From her first big role in National Velvet to Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, and through all the roles in between, we can see the iconic Taylor inhabiting those parts that take on social injustice, as well as roles that showcase independence, rebellion, and, yes, feminism.

While Taylor would not have described herself as a feminist, according to those who knew her, she was definitely unafraid, independent, and a champion of unpopular social causes. All the qualities that could define a feminist.

From the first chapter to the very end, the author deconstructs the movies that made up Taylor’s career, and illustrates for the reader how each role could be construed as a “feminist” one.

Probably the most “conscious” gift the actress left behind, as part of her legacy, was her fight to fund research and treatment for HIV/AIDS. Like no other role in her life or in her movies, this role in real life was one that showed her true spirit.

Four stars.