Homemade gravy and hand-built furniture

Authors note: My third novel z2 is currently on blog tour through the fine folks at Reading Addiction Virtual Book Tours. The post below is part of that tour and it appeared a week or so ago on a wonderful blog called Coffee Break.  My thoughts were inspired by a post I wrote on my x0 blog back in 2013, two whole books ago. A lot has changed for me since then, but apparently other things haven’t changed much at all.

We are a thousand miles from home, traveling to visit my husband’s family in a part of the country settled by Italian immigrants. A confluence of scheduling has left us with one night on our own.

Buca“Italian food,” he insists. “Absolutely,” I agree. He’s heard of a new place and we head over eagerly. What do we find? Buca di Beppo, a good Italian chain restaurant that also has a place about five miles from where we live in Texas. We have to laugh. No way.

As we go off in search of more interesting food, I think about my writing. Traditionally published novels are like chain restaurants, I think. Some are okay and some are great but they are seldom awful. You have a pretty good idea of what you are getting. Self-published novels are more like tiny mom-and-pop restaurants. Some are really bad and some are absolutely fantastic and there is no good way to tell the difference from a distance. Good or bad, the contents are always something of a surprise.

We stumble on a tiny place where the menu is hand typed, and the Pollo Maria Teresa that catches my eye is described with honesty as being a pasta dish served with chicken and “some lobster”.  I smile at the lack of polish. It’s like homemade gravy or hand-built furniture. One makes both with love and with all the skill that one can.

handmade furnitureEach of my self-published books has been similarly created, edited and rewritten to the best of my ability at the time that I wrote them. Then, because I wanted the product to be better, each was professionally edited with what I could afford. Although both I and my editor have gotten better with each one, my books don’t have the polish provided by industry experts. They are homemade gravy and hand-built furniture. They make no pretense to be otherwise, even though I hope that they can be enjoyed by those who also appreciate the style and predictability of chain restaurants.

The Pollo Maria Teresa arrives and it is wonderful. I smile as I enjoy some of my “some lobster” and I think that it is good to have variety in ones life.

handling the difficult delicately

Think Real 2c3 is a book about an important topic  It describes a typical sixteen year old American girl who is confronted by the sale of girls and women when she studies abroad for a semester in India. To all appearances, Teddie and her friends are helpless. They have no way to aid each other, much less any resources with which to stop the larger horrors that they see.

I had a few unusual challenges in writing this book. The first was the age of my main characters and the difficult subject matter. I intended this story to be aimed at adult fantasy lovers of all ages. I didn’t want to gloss over truths, and yet I wanted this book to be appropriate for those as young as sixteen. As a result, the book contains oblique references to sex, both consenting and not, but no direct descriptions. I’ve cleaned up the language from my previous books, although I have included an occasional crude word to convey a sense of reality. Others helped me work this problem to the point where I would be okay with my own sixteen year old daughter reading this book.

The subject matter presented another challenge. Stories need bad guys, but this stuff can get really ugly quickly. I had to be careful not to make this tale so distressing that those of any age would not want to keep reading it. It was important to interject a little humor and some good times and hope early on, both for the girls in direct danger and for Teddie as she begins to discover her powers to help them.

One of my favorite parts of this novel is not in the story at all. It is a mere two sentences in the front matter where I explain the title.

“This book is not just about sex crimes. It is also about the people who find ways to light a solitary candle in the darkness, and it is about how the resulting light they produce makes its way outward in every direction.”

I ended up with a story about how even the most vulnerable can be courageous and can hold the power to cause great change. I’m very proud of my theme and of the way it is handled. This is a book born of love.

 

 

Inspiration in the worst of places

raising 4When I first outlined the stories for 46. Ascending, I knew that c3 would be about a group of young women who would thwart a sex trafficking ring, because I wanted a venue to explore the extreme edges of the way we as a society pretend not to see the many ways in which young women are exploited. I fully expected that my research would take me to some horrifying places, and it did. An internet connection is all one needs to visit ping pong shows in Bangkok and to peruse ads for “sexy and willing” Russian women. I still get them. I need to wash out my browser with soap.

SomalyWhat I did not expect, however, were how many inspirational stories and websites I would encounter as well. I stared my research with Somaly Mam’s book The Road of Lost Innocence: The True Story of a Cambodian Heroine and I highly recommend it.

My browsing then took me to the Sisters of the Good Shepherd, a group of Catholic Nun’s who have spent the last couple of centuries reaching out to women in unfortunate circumstances. I liked what I read so much that an imaginary nun worked herself into my story even though she wasn’t even in the outline. I hope that members of the order would not be offended by my spunky Sister Teresa-Marie, as she turned out to be one of my favorite characters in the book. Please read about this fine group and their efforts to help victims of human trafficking at goodshepherdsisters.org/trafficking.htm.

word porn 4Next I found several non-profit organizations dedicated to stopping human trafficking, each one with an inspiring story. I will likely blog about them all individually here over time. One of the first that I encountered was an organization called Shared Hope International, founded by U.S. Congresswoman Linda Smith after she traveled into the heart of the brothel district in Mumbai, India where “she witnessed the brutal exploitation and sexual slavery of women and children.”  She has been trying to do something about it ever since.This group also has a Facebook page well worth visiting and liking.

I expected to be disgusted at some of what I found, and I was. I expected to believe that this was a problem with no solution. Instead, I found brave women and men of all nations, ages, and belief systems working for positive change. I did not expect to walk away from my research marveling at those who fight every day to shine a bright light into the darkest of corners. But I did, and I am marveling at them still.

(Please drop by and like the Facebook pages of Raising Ecstasy and Word Porn for the great images shown above.)