Road Warriors for The Summer Wind

Vero Beach
Pawleys Island
Ocean Isle Beach

Big cities, small towns.  That's a short list of all the places my sister Ruthie and I heading over the next few weeks.  We're burning up highway miles right now for a 30-city book tour to celebrate this week's release of THE SUMMER WIND.  This is a special time for me, magical even, as a writer--meeting fans, re-connecting with booksellers, swapping stories and celebrating together another published novel.

We are all in this together.  Readers make it possible for me to live out my passion as a profession.  I'm grateful everyday.  Booksellers have the extraordinary power of paring their customers with the perfect book.  Titles they believe are interesting, memorable, thought-provoking, even life-changing.

Thank you for your literary support.  Thank you for turning out in big numbers at these special events.  From luncheons, to receptions, and after-hours gatherings. I hope you can join me at a book tour event.  Meet my sister too!  The complete tour schedule is on my website.  Let's toast together...celebrating the arrival of THE SUMMER WIND and the official start of the summer season.

If this book tour is nowhere near your neck of the woods this go-round, feel free to recommend your favorite bookstore to me for a future book signing event.  Maybe it'll be on my list of stops for the 2015 summer book tour.

I'll write more from the road soon.  Thank you!


What Makes a Fairy Tale Endure

All children, except one, grow up. ”
                                                            Peter and Wendy, by J.M. Barrie

This is the first line from my most favorite children’s story--Peter Pan.  I have always loved the cocky little boy with a “shortish name” and the funny address “second to the right, and straight on till morning.”  I’ve lost count of the times I’ve read this beloved classic…as a child, as a mother and now a grandmother.  When I was little I dreamed of flying off to Neverland with the Pan and imagining what it would be like to see the Lost Boys and Hook and of course everyone’s favorite fairy Tinker Bell.

What is it about the story of Peter Pan that endures all these years after J.M. Barrie penned the original in 1911?  I’m not the first person to write something inspired by the tales of Peter Pan and I won’t be the last.  What makes this fairy tale timeless and relevant more than a century later?

I believe the secret lies in the innocent charm of Peter Pan's enduring youth, his invincibility and endless quest for adventure.  And, too, his boyish conceit.  He really is to this day just too adorable.  He steals the hearts of young girls, and makes adult women either want to mother him or wish they were young again. 

I’ve mentioned before that the spark for writing SECOND STAR TO THE RIGHT came from a dream… one about Wendy.  I awoke wondering what became of the girl who had to grow up? 

I felt young again as I brought Wendy to the page, this time from a different perspective.  In SECOND STAR TO THE RIGHT, Wendy is a ninety year-old woman living in a converted nursery in London who believes she is Peter Pan’s Wendy.  Even as an old woman, Wendy's faith in magic, the Neverland, and Peter remained as immutable as the stars.  Wendy had grown up--had become quite old-- yet she'd kept the innocence and joy of youth alive in her heart. 

Years ago when I wrote the book, my mother lay dying in the room next to my office at home. She had cancer and it had been my honor to nurse her. I didn’t realize it at the time, but writing the novel was my personal way of coping with my mother’s final days. As one reviewer wrote: "While the original Peter Pan story revolved around Peter's attempt to delay Wendy's transition to womanhood (he took the children on her last night in the nursery), in Second Star we find Peter Pan (the Guardian of the Dead and the Lost Souls) is pivotal to the now aging Wendy's transition to the next life - which as the book suggests, may also be in the Never Land."

Only years later, when I revised SECOND STAR TO THE RIGHT, could I see in retrospect what I had not realized while writing the book: the parallels between the fictional story of Wendy's transition to the next life and the reality of my mother’s anticipation of death.

One of my favorite lines in the book comes from Wendy telling the heroine, Faye, a story about how Tinker Bell had given what-for to a sulking Wendy.

"Whatever it was inside of me, whatever kernel deep within that enabled me to believe in fairies, in Peter, in the Neverland itself, this was my source of strength. No one could ever take that away from me. As long as I believed, no matter where I was or with whom, I'd always belong. Because I was at home in my own heart." Wendy reached out to cup Faye's cheek in her palm. "Knowing that I have a fairy on my shoulder, I have nothing to fear."                 -Second Star to the Right

Like Wendy, my mother's eyes could sparkle with mirth and she'd love to have a little fun. It brought me comfort to write the ending of the book. By the time I finished it, my mother had passed. In retrospect, I wonder if perhaps she was the fairy on my shoulder. 

Maybe we all need a little magic in our lives. To keep the innocence and joy of youth in our hearts--especially during times of stress.  Even if you don’t believe in fairies I hope you'll entertain the possibilities of stars while reading SECOND STAR TO THE RIGHT.

CLICK HERE to watch a video about why this novel is so special to me.  



Day of the Dead Memories

Is it really Halloween tomorrow?  Has the first fall holiday already descended? Where has the time gone? When my children were at home, we had such fun decorating the house.  We carved pumpkins and baked the seeds in soy sauce, worked tirelessly on costumes (always last minute changes), planned the trick-or-treat route--it was all engrossing. 
Now that Markus and I are alone, Halloween is, well, a bit lame. Yesterday I went to my storage bins and pulled out my electrically lit pumpkin, dusted it off and plugged it in.  Done. I sent off Halloween books to grandbabies.  And I bought the necessary bag of Snickers candy bars "just in case" we get a trick or treater, knowing full well we haven't had a ghost or monster at our door in over four years and I'm just going to eat the whole bag myself.  

Even still... I get that glow that always comes on the eve of a holiday.  The air grows thick with anticipation.  I am a confessed holiday nut. I love to decorate my house for all of the major holidays, saving the big guns for Christmas, of course. Even then, however, with the children gone, and with them some of my energy, I'm now taking a more relaxed approach.  My children are no longer at my heels pointing to their favorite decorations, oohing and ahhing with excitement at seeing the decorations again and pleading for me to put it on display.  There were years there wasn't an empty space in the house for one more decoration.  Instead, now I enjoy being selective.  I choose my favorites, those that carry special memories. 

In the box marked "Halloween" I spotted a raggedy scarecrow at the bottom.  A sad, neglected thing.  My heart clenched at seeing it again.  This decoration once belonged to my mother.  Late in life, in an uncharacteristic gesture, (the mother of ten children, after we all left she rarely decorated) she had purchased this scarecrow at some local store.  For some reason I can't fathom, she really liked it and put it out every fall in the small condo she'd retired to after Daddy died.  When she came to my house to live for the final months of her life, she brought this scarecrow with her.  I inherited it by default.  It wasn't an antique or coveted piece of silver or jewelry.  I don't know why I kept it.  I'm a pack rat, I suppose...  I got teary eyed, of course, seeing it again as memories rushed.

 I always get a bit emotional this time of year.  The trifecta of holidays are approaching: Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year.  This year we have a wedding to boot.  The season of family gatherings, good food, laughter.  A time memories are as vibrant and bittersweet as the colors of the leaves outdoors. 

Halloween, and more, Day of the Dead, is becoming for me not a time for costumes or trick or treat, but more a time of remembrance.  I look to the Day of the Dead and its connection with the Christian triduum of Hallowmas: All Hallow's Eve, All Saint's Day and All Soul's Day for a meaningful holiday.  When I wrote The Butterfly's Daughter, I wrote about what that holiday included for the Mexican culture-- building private altars called ofrendas decorated with marigolds, honoring the beloved departed by displaying there photos of loved ones and their favorite possessions, eating their favorite foods.  We celebrate the lives of our beloved departed.  Those whose memories brush against our hearts and minds like the gossamer wings of the migrating monarch butterflies on their journey to sanctuary.  This time of year is an opportunity to educate our young ones of family members they've never met but whose memories still live on in our hearts and minds.  It is also a time to remember the best of the living as we prepare for the great celebrations with family and friends to come.  

I retied the sagging bow of that scarecrow, stitched a slight tear, and put it in a place of honor by the front door.  I set beside it a photo of my parents, thus making my own simple ofrenda.  I think of mama each time I pass it.
This year it's time for me to pull out some of my holiday treasures from my storage boxes and pass them down to my children.  To give them the joy of the memories the now raggedy and chipped decorations carry in each nook and cranny. Perhaps they'll share the stories with their children.  As the earth blankets itself in preparation for winter, what better way to keep the home hearths warm than sharing memories?