12.08.2014

On Green Frogs For Christmas, Feminism, and Difficult Families.

A snippet from my short story “Christmas in Montana,” in the Our First Christmas anthology.


Our home—which was no longer ours—was all lit up with Christmas lights. The weekend before Thanksgiving, every year, all the lights and decorations went up.

My aunt and my mother, to my acute embarrassment when I was a teenager, could not be normal with their Christmas lights, as they couldn’t be normal when they decorated the five Christmas trees in our house, either.

An electrician friend had been paid to build an eight- foot- tall frog with green lights, blue lights for the eyes, and a red bow.

“It’s our Christmas frog, Gary,” my mom said.

“You’ve named the frog, Gary?”

“Yes. We met a sanctimonious, misogynistic, sexist man named Gary recently, so we thought the name fitting, although it is rather insulting to our frog.”

In front of the frog was a five- foot -tall giant dragonfly in pinks, reds, and yellows. The frog had a red tongue pointed at the dragonfly.

“The dragonfly’s name is Tilge.”

I didn’t even ask.

There was another display with a seven- foot- tall gingerbread house. It would have been a sweet Christmas display except for the green-faced witch on top, aka Hansel and Gretel.

The house was lined with colorful, twinkly lights, as were a few trees.

My mother grabbed champagne.

“Merry Christmas, Laurel, darling,” she said.

“May you live your life as you wish it, not as anyone else wishes it,” my aunt said.

“May you always hold your chin high, like the strong woman you are,” my mother said, “and follow your dreams.”

My mother lit a firework.

Each year they light off two fireworks to celebrate the season. It’s an odd July 4th–Christmas tradition. They like to blend their holidays.

My mother kissed my cheek, between explosions. “The family will love the lights.”

“What?”

“Everyone’s coming here for Christmas Eve this year.”

My jaw dropped, I’m sure, to the snow. “Everyone?”

They both turned to me. “Everyone.”

I picked my jaw up. “All the wives, the kids, Dad?”

“You bet,” my aunt said. “I hope we all survive.”

“Should be exciting,” my mother drawled. “Hopefully there will be no serious injuries.”

“You’ll have to serve hot buttered rums then,” I muttered, as my mother lit another firework. “Because I’m going to need a bunch of them.”

12.04.2014

My First Newsletter. Finally.

If you would like to sign up for my newsletter, I have a  NEWSLETTER SIGN UP tab right above this.

Cheers and happy reading to all of you.

 

Happy Holidays from Cathy Lamb
View this email in your browser
         
Hello everyone,I have been threatening to write a newsletter for seven years. Well, here it is. Finally. I hope you find it relatively amusing or, at the very least, I hope you find a book or two that you might like to read over the holidays.Speaking of the holidays, I would like to remind everyone to take care of themselves during this semi – chaotic, Santa – filled time. These are the things I do to Keep Cathy In The Christmas Spirit. One, eat chocolate. Two, drink mochas. Three, read books. Four, my favorite, hang out with Innocent Husband and our three reindeer. Five, take time off to daydream (This is how I write my books. They all start with a daydream.) Six, see number one.

Happy Holidays, and happy reading, to all of you.

Cheers.

Cathy

Shopping, Writing,and Blog Posts
Talking To Myself While Shopping

Yesterday I went shopping.

I hate shopping. The crowds, the lights, the noise, and all these pant sizes that I am SURE have shrunk in the last year.

I am not into fashion and I can’t find anything unless my daughters pick it out and tell me what to wear. … Read More

Inside A Writer’s Messy Mind

I thought you might like to see a glimpse of my writing process.

I wrote my next manuscript, due in December, in non – chronological order.  In other words, I wrote any scene whenever I damn well felt like it, no matter if I was writing the last scene of the book in the middle and the first scene at the end. … Read More

For Writers: How NOT To Write A Novel

1. Write only the scenes that you “feel like” writing, as if you are some zen loving hippie and will do what the wind calls you to do, what the rainbow requests, what the chirping birds inspire you to write.  You will then have a giant mess, in non – chronological, senseless order, that you will have to cut and paste and cut and paste until you want to bash your head through a wall, like me.

2. Spend all your time daydreaming about other things that are pleasant and delightful and not writing your book, and then tell yourself that you were doing “research.” When your deadline is looming like a sharp toothed pterodactyl, you will be working sixteen hours a day, chugging coffee and ice cream. It’s ugly.  Avoid it. …Read More

On Puzzle Pieces That Run Off With New Lovers

A few weeks ago I went on a hike with Innocent Husband and Youngest Rebel Daughter.We hiked into the gorge here in Oregon to a place called Devil’s Punch Bowl. It is unclear to me whether or not the Devil has ever drunk from the punch bowl, but I did not dwell on the Devil’s drinking habits. … Read More

Tiny Stories

Yes, I went to Target today with my t shirt inside out and backwards. A very nice woman politely told me so. What a special moment in my life. Wanted to share it with all of you. It could have been worse. At least I had a shirt on.Pigs do not need to wear shirts because they are pigs so they do not have to worry about getting dressed correctly before going to Target, as we do.

 

I’m confused.
I feel like this cow.

 

I am working on my ninth novel titled, My Very Best Friend.  I have just completed the fifth edit. Three more to go.  If you hear a banging sound, that is my head on my keyboard. This is what I call “The Pathetic Stage,” where I whine and whimper and then plow on through…

For Book Groups
I would love to come to your book group
and discuss any of my books.Please contact me at CathyLamb@frontier.com.
Excerpts
Read an excerpt from
WHAT I REMEMBER MOST
Read an excerpt from
CHRISTMAS IN MONTANA
from Our First Christmas

Read an excerpt from
IF YOU COULD SEE WHAT I SEE
In a new novel rich in grace, warmth, and courage, acclaimed author Cathy Lamb tells of one woman’s journey of reinvention in the wake of deep betrayal.

Grenadine Scotch Wild has only vague memories of the parents she last saw when she was six years old. But she’s never forgotten their final, panicked words to her, urging Grenadine to run. The mystery of their disappearance is just one more frayed strand in a life that has lately begun to unravel completely. One year into her rocky marriage to Covey, a well known investor, he’s arrested for fraud and embezzlement. And Grenadine, now a successful collage artist and painter, is facing jail time despite her innocence.

With Covey refusing to exonerate her unless she comes back to him, Grenadine once again takes the advice given to her so long ago: she runs. Hiding out in a mountain town in central Oregon until the trial, she finds work as a bartender and as an assistant to a furniture-maker who is busy rebuilding his own life. But even far from everything she knew, Grenadine is granted a rare chance, as potentially liberating as it is terrifying–to face down her past, her fears, and live a life as beautiful and colorful as one of her paintings…

            

“It’s that time of year when the world falls in love…”

Join four of your favorite authors for tales of Christmas romance to remember forever.

“Christmas in Montana,” Cathy Lamb

Laurel Kelly has just quit her job as the manager of the hard rock band, Hellfire. She is going home to Kalulell, Montana, for Christmas to figure out Plan F, which stands for Laurel’s Future.  But all is not well in Kalulell. Her mother and aunt,who live in the charming farmhouse that Laurel’s great granddad built, have sold their land to her ex – boyfriend, Josh Reed, the love of her life, whom she is determined to avoid.  The rest of her crazy family, including her father, who has had a total of four wives and many children and step children, are all coming for Christmas dinner. Zelda the cat keeps scaring the dogs and Laurel has found out that her mother and aunt’s apron business is floundering. Luckily, she can fix that, and the three ladies embark on a new venture making romantic, sexy aprons. She can’t fix her problem with Josh, though, that problem started on an icy, snowy road many years before. But it is Christmas. Perhaps there’s a miracle in the making?

“Under the Mistletoe,” Lisa Jackson

“A Ranger for Christmas,” Mary Burton

“A Southern Christmas” Mary Carter

            

My next novel,
My Very Best Friend,
set in Scotland,
is out in August, 2015.

               
                                       
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12.03.2014

Author to Author Interview: The Ladies Of “Our First Christmas,” An Anthology For All Elves Who Need A Break This Holiday Season

I love writing short stories for anthologies. 35,000 words, quick and sweet, quirky characters, believable plots with a twist and a skip, and a happy ending.

In “Our First Christmas” I am delighted to be in the same book with Lisa Jackson, Mary Burton, and Mary Carter.  If  you need a Christmas treat, of course I would highly recommend this book to you and any of your elf friends for a little cheer, a little escaping, and a little Christmas literary magic.

I recently interviewed Lisa, Mary, Mary, and myself…Yes, as strange as that sounds, I interviewed myself.  Here we go.

Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night. May you always have the perfect book to read.

Cathy Lamb

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

LISA JACKSON

Cathy Lamb: Tell us, Lisa, the title of your story in Our First Christmas and what it’s about. 

My story, UNDER THE MISTLETOE is about first love. Originally the story was about teenagers, Megan and Chris, and how they met at Christmas, but I modified the original tale, adding a beginning and end set in “real time”, so that the reader could see what happened to the characters years after they first met and are dealing with a family crisis. Their first Christmas happened years before.

Do you believe in Santa? Why or why not?

I believe in the spirit of Santa and the fantasy surrounding him. I love the idea of Santa and his reindeer at the North Pole. The myth and mystery of Santa creates such joy and magic for children, so yeah, I believe.

If you could skip Christmas, would you? Be honest. Where would you go and with who? If you wouldn’t skip Christmas, why not?

Oh, no, never (though I love Halloween much more than Christmas.) In my fantasy world, I’d spend the weekend around Christmas without all of the trappings. My kids and grandkids would hole up in a cabin in the mountains playing games around a fire while snow falls outside. We’d have a tree and each person would get one present. We’d eat, drink and be merry, sipping hot spiced wine and cocoa while nibbling on cookies.

Do you have any Christmas traditions? What are they?

When I was a kid, Santa came to our house on Christmas Eve Eve, on the night of the 23rd. Our little family had places to go on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day so Mom and Dad decided Santa would arrive a day early on Berkley Street. Of course our tradition was confusing to the neighborhood kids. My best friend, whose house was next door, rationalized that the line separating the night’s nocturnal visits from Santa was between our houses and it bummed her out that she had to wait a whole day before Santa resumed his ride and started sliding down the chimney at her house.

What are your writing goals for 2015? Do you have a book coming out?

Oh, gee, I don’t even want to think about it. I have to finish a couple of books in 2015 and write one with my sister, Nancy Bush. NEVER DIE ALONE, the 8th book in the New Orleans Series with Detectives Bentz and Montoya, will be available next summer, in August. AFTER SHE’S GONE, featuring the characters in DEEP FREEZE and FATAL BURN will be in the stores at the end of the year. (I’d better get crackin’!)

WICKED WAYS is on sale as of today!

www.lisajackson.com

 

MARY CARTER

Cathy Lamb: Tell us, Mary, the title of your story in Our First Christmas and what it’s about. 

My novella is A Southern Christmas. Reporter Danielle Bright returns to charming Wilmington, NC, to do a feature on a Southern Christmas, and hopefully reconcile with the love of her life. But Sawyer, the sexy photographer who accompanies her, has other plans to make her season bright.

Do you believe in Santa? Why or why not? 

I believe in the spirit of Santa. He represents, giving, magic, joy, and reliving Christmas through the eyes of children.

If you could skip Christmas, would you? Be honest. Where would you go and with who? If you wouldn’t skip Christmas, why not? 

I’ve always loved Christmas, but have had loved ones who at times wanted to skip it. I used to be the one “forcing” everyone to enjoy Christmas. One year I even dragged home a tree as late as Christmas Eve. As I get older, I’ve let go of pressuring others to celebrate and have even spent a few Christmases alone by choice. But now, no, I want to spend every one I have ahead of me with the people I love. The years I skipped Christmas were too lonely.

Do you have any Christmas traditions? What are they?

My mother, sister, and I used to go to a movie every Christmas afternoon. It was just the three of us, and after opening presents and eating, we’d be off to the cinema. I really loved it, mostly because it was the three of us making the best of the day. There’s always a bit of a letdown after all the hoopla is over, so the movie was always a nice topping. Even picking out our “Christmas movie” and discussing it afterward was fun. Now that my sister has kids and a husband we don’t do that on Christmas day anymore, but I’ll always cherish the memory.

As kids we also were allowed to open one gift on Christmas Eve, and my mother often gave us a gift from “Santa Mouse.” Of course decorating the tree was always a thrill, and setting up the Lionel train from my grandfather. Ah, I really do love Christmas!

What are your writing goals for 2015? Do you have a book coming out? 

My next novel will come out in August of 2015, it’s called London From My Windows. I will also be working on two additional novels, an Irish murder mystery, and ironically, my 2016 novel will be one with a Christmas theme.

Thank you for the interview, Cathy, and thank you, readers! I wish all of you a wonderful Holiday season!

Cheers,

Mary Carter

http://www.marycarterbooks.com/

https://www.facebook.com/MaryCarterBooks

https://twitter.com/marycarterbooks       (@marycarterbooks)

 

MARY BURTON

Cathy Lamb: Tell us, Mary, the title of your story in Our First Christmas and what it’s about.

My story is “A Ranger for Christmas” and tells the story of  Texas Ranger Lucas Cooper and anthropologist Marisa Thompson. Smugglers are using an ancient language as a code and Texas Ranger discovers Marisa is the only one who has the expertise to decipher it. When the smugglers realize Marisa is working with the Rangers, she’s injured and Lucas must come to her reuse.

Do you believe in Santa? Why or why not?

I sure do believe in Santa! He is the spirit of giving.

If you could skip Christmas, would you? Be honest. Where would you go and with who? If you wouldn’t skip Christmas, why not? 

I would skip all the hype of Christmas. I’ve never been a fan of the chaos and the extra stress and work we put on ourselves. But I do love having a day when I can give gifts to others. That’s always very exciting to me.

Do you have any Christmas traditions? What are they?

My husband, kids, and I always open presents and then we head to my mother’s house for lunch. Mom is a gourmet cook so each year it is always a treat to see what exotic meal she will be serving. Thanks to Mom’s influence, my kids are adventurous eaters and so far the favorite meal for the kids at Mom’s was bouillabaisse.

What are your writing goals for 2015? Do you have a book coming out?

I have two suspense novels out in 2015 including BE AFRAID in May and I’LL NEVER LET YOU GO in November. And under the name Mary Ellen Taylor I’ll have a women’s fiction novel AT THE CORNER OF KING STREET in May.

www.maryburton.com

 

 

CATHY LAMB (This is where I’m interviewing myself. Argh. Well, first time for everything!)

Cathy Lamb: Tell us the title of your story in Our First Christmas and what it’s about. 

My story, Christmas In Montana, is about a woman named Laurel Kelly. She has recently quit her job as the manager of the hard rock group, Hellfire, and is returning home to Kalulell, Montana to figure out Plan F, which stands for My Future. She has a crazy family and they are all coming to Christmas dinner, including her father, who has had a total of four wives, and many children and step children.  

Laurel has a huge regret, a past she struggles with, and memories that she can’t let go of. She needs to help her mother and aunt launch a new and budding business selling sexy aprons, and get the land and her family’s home back from the man she’s loved her whole life.  That man, Josh Reed, is going to be the impossible part. She’ll need a Christmas miracle. 

Do you believe in Santa? Why or why not?

No. I don’t. But he sure is a lot of fun.  When I was a little girl I asked my mother if there was a Santa and she said no. She didn’t want to lie to us. We still loved all things Christmas. What kid doesn’t hyperventilate at the thought of Christmas presents, no matter who’s hauling them in?

Oh, wait, in real life that actually did happen. My brother, Jimmy, who is now a strapping firefighter, was so excited one Christmas, he couldn’t sleep the night before. He hyperventilated and passed out in the bathroom.  Gave my mother a huge fright. I have been teasing him about it ever since. Hey, Jimmy – are you going to be up all night Christmas Eve again?

If you could skip Christmas, would you? Be honest. Where would you go and with who? If you wouldn’t skip Christmas, why not? 

I would never skip Christmas. I love the entire season. I love the parties, food, lights everywhere, and buying presents. I love going to my brother in law and his husband’s house on Christmas Eve, (they cook soooo well) being with my kids and Innocent  husband, other family, including the Fainting Jimmy, and Christmas day itself.

Do you have any Christmas traditions? What are they?

Every year Innocent Husband and I buy the kids, and each other, an ornament. This tradition started when I was still dating my husband.  We also give the kids a book. We let the kids open their stockings and one present before breakfast, then the gift getting resumes after we eat. NO ONE is allowed up before nine on Christmas morning. We do not do “early” in this house. Is that a tradition? Probably not. No one wants a cranky momma in this house.

What are your writing goals for 2015? Do you have a book coming out?

I do have a book coming out in August of 2015. It’s called My Very Best Friend. Here are a few hints: It’s set in Scotland. Kilts. Tartans. A romance writer who has no romance. Best Friends. Letters. Lies.

Merry Christmas everyone!

https://www.facebook.com/cathy.lamb.9

CathyLamb@frontier.com

12.02.2014

Book Group Fun

I think this book group I visited recently may have had too much fun. They read Julia’s Chocolates. (Breast Power Psychic Night. Your Hormones and You: Taking Cover, Taking Charge Psychic Night, etc).

They kept their shirts on.

For those of you who have read Julia’s Chocolates, you’ll know what I’m talkin’ about.

Email me if you’d like me to join your group. I can visit if you live in the Portland, Oregon, area or we can SKYPE or talk by speaker phone.

Happy reading!

 

 

12.01.2014

My 10 Favorite Ways To Procrastinate While Writing What I Remember Most

I love writing my stories. Okay, most of the time I love writing my stories. Except for maybe, RIGHT NOW, because I am on a deadline.  At all times, though, I sparkle in the procrastination department.  Here were my favorite ways to procrastinate when I wrote, What I Remember Most:

1) Daydreaming. Some of my daydreams had something to do with the book, most didn’t.

2) Watching Dr. Phil and telling him what he should say to his guests, and telling the guests who are appalling idiots that they are appalling idiots, said in a loud voice, and frightening KC The Cat, poor thing.

3) Watching Suze Orman give advice on money and telling her if I followed all of her advice on how to save money, I would never have any fun. She did not answer back.

4) Taking long drives in the country with country music on full blast and singing loudly, and quite badly.

5) Lingering over long coffee breaks, which then morphed into daydreaming. See Number 1.

6) Calling Sister #2 on the phone and talking about everything, including her dogs, who are in love with each other, and her horses who have their own power structure, and why I can’t cook but she can.

7)  Taking photos of nature. I tell myself I need the photos for my blog. This is generally a lie. Here’s a blog photo.

8) Throwing stuff out. For some reason, drawers need to be cleaned IMMEDIATELY, instead of working on my book, as if someone was coming to inspect where I keep my notepads.

9) Convincing Innocent Husband we should take the drift boat out and explore one of Oregon’s rivers. He brings the oars, I bring the chocolate. He rows, I eat.

10) MY FAVORITE WAY TO PROCRASTINATE: Always, always, always, my kids. They want to talk, I want to listen. They want mom to come with them to coffee, I’m out the door. They want to watch a movie, I’ll make the popcorn. Love you, Darling Laughing Son, Rebel Dancing Daughter and Adventurous Musical Daughter!

And one more – extra credit – READING. Looove to read.

 

What are your FAVORITE ways to procrastinate?

11.27.2014

My Thanksgiving Thankful List

WHO, or what, are you thankful for? This is my Thanksgiving Thankful List.

1) My late parents, Bette and Jim, who said, “I love you,” first, and “You can do it, Cathy,” next. I will always miss them.

2) Innocent Husband and our three turkeys, Darling Laughing Son, Rebel Dancing Daughter, and Adventurous Musical Daughter.

3) My late mother in law, Doris, who was one of the best friends of my life.

4) My sister and brother who are funny and fun, and a blessing to walk through life with.

5) My “in” laws – Matt, Trevor Scott Lockwood Dave Lamb and Wendi, who are not “in” laws but brothers and sister.

6) Noah. Excellent nephew.

7) Girlfriends. Now what would I do without you? How does one keep a brain straight without girlfriends?

8) My work, agent and editor, and people who read my books. Grateful every day, for all of them, indeed I am, and I never forget it.

Happy Thanksgiving! Wishing you all love, joy, an unburned turkey, and desserts with no calories

November 24 2014 129

11.19.2014

Author to Author Interview: Lesley Kagen, Part 2, and Keanu

Here’s a little secret: Lesley Kagen, wonder author, and I have a running Keanu Reeves joke between us. We pretend that Keanu visits one of us for a little while, then we, generously, send him back to the other person. We joke that he is madly in love with both of us, two middle aged women who spend much of their lives in their imaginations and try not to eat too much chocolate.

(That’s a lie. We eat all the chocolate we want.)

Look at these earrings Lesley sent me. Yes, they are Keanu Reeves earrings!!

November 17 2014 041

We’re ever so slightly crazy. You get like this when you spend too much time with a whole bunch of people running around in your head.

Anyhow, in between our Keanu Reeves  jokes, we write.  Lesley, a New York Times best selling author, wrote an incredible book,  The Resurrection of Tess Blessing. I read it in about three days. I related to Tess, and to her life, and I think you might, too.

So, let’s begin.

Cathy Lamb: Lesley, give us the summary of The Resurrection of Tess Blessing.

Lesley Kagen:  After forty-nine-year-old Tess is diagnosed with breast cancer, she sets forth on a mission to complete her final TO-DO list before, what she’s sure is, her impending death. She needs to make peace with her sister, Birdie, scatter her mother’s ashes that she’s been keeping in her kitchen cupboard, rescue her daughter, Haddie, from an eating disorder, guide her teenage son, Henry, through a bumpy adolescence, and reignite the spark in her almost thirty-year marriage to her hubby, Will. A daunting task.

lesley 2Thank God, she has help from Grace, the narrator, who may or may not be an imaginary friend, a wiser part of Tess, or her guardian angel.

As I see it, Tess is at that place in life, where so many of us get to at some point, where everything has fallen apart.

You then tell part of Tess’s story through her TO-DO list. Very clever. Why?

Like you, I’m a TO-DO lister from way back—I wrote my first one on papyrus—I think a lot of women are, given all that we have to deal with, so it seemed like a natural way to help organize the story. Especially since Tess is also wrestling with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. The flashbacks she experiences on a daily basis, along with the panic attacks, can sweep her away. And menopause isn’t helping either. The list helps keep Tess focused on the task at hand.

Ah, menopause….you curse me, you do, but back to the book.

Tess has an invisible friend. The invisible friend is the narrator. Where did that idea come from? 

Some of the story is based on my experience when I was diagnosed with breast cancer twelve years ago. I desperately needed a friend, but due to my need to keep what I was going through on the down-low, I conjured up a warm, wonderfully nurturing, and all-powerful pal by the name of Grace.

And now you’re a twelve year survivor. Congratulations, Warrior Woman. 

Why did you want to write a character in this time of life? (That would be, OUR time of life.)

There are so few books about women struggling to come to terms with middle-age, a time I think most of us find incredibly challenging. Our bodies our changing, our family structure, we’re experiencing empty-nest syndrome, and a score of other difficulties that I found perplexing and un-grounding. It’s a good time to come up with a resurrection list.

Lesley Kagen 4I’m all for that.

What are three things you love to do most in life?

1. Spend time with my family. My grandchildren are incredible.

2. Hike with my dog, the Amazing Gracie, in the woods and along the shoreline of Lake Michigan.

3. As an actress as well as a writer, I adore movies!

 

You are on an island. What are five things you’d bring along with you?

 

1. Pictures of my family and furry friends.

2. A boatload of books.

3. Yummy smelling candles.

4. An intergalactic cell phone.

5. My yellow umbrella.

(Keanu Reeves would be wonderful company, but I guess he’s not a thing, right?)

No, Lesley, Keanu Reeves is not a thing and he’s very offended that you said that. He’s sitting right next to me and wants to remind you that he’s a man.  A REAL man, with sensitive feelings. Sheesh.

He also told me to tell you that he’ll see you on Thursday for Thanksgiving and he wants to know if you can please make him pecan pie.  He loves your pecan pie. I get him for Christmas.

Thanks, Lesley, for the interview. Keanu says thank you, too.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

11.17.2014

Author To Author Interview: Pam Jenoff

Cathy Lamb: Pam, I am on a tearing deadline. I need to write and write and write, but I cannot put down your book “The Winter Guest.”  I am cheering for the five orphaned children of the Nowak family, their father dead, their mother dying in the Jewish hospital in Krakow. The deprivation and truly frightening times of 1940 Poland, after the Nazi’s  brutally overran it, has also had me hooked.

But you’ll tell this story better than me. Give us a synopsis.

Photo Credit - Dominic Episcopo

Photo Credit – Dominic Episcopo

Pam Jenoff: Eighteen year old twin sisters Helena and Ruth are struggling to raise their three younger siblings in rural Poland as the war rages.  Things become infinitely more complicated when Helena finds a downed Jewish American paratrooper lying wounded in the woods and shelters him in an abandoned chapel while not telling her sister.

Why Poland? Why 1940? Why this family?

My interest in Poland comes from my years as a diplomat in Krakow for the State Department, where I worked on Holocaust related issues.  I became very close to survivors and was moved by my time there.

I’ve written about the era previously in books such as The Kommandant’s Girl and I was excited to return to it with a very different story.  The Winter Guest is inspired by two reali-life events.  First, when I worked at the Pentagon many years ago I had the opportunity to travel with my boss, the Secretary of the Army, to WWII commemorations around the globe and one was in a small cabin in the Slovak mountains where a young girl had aided the paratroopers and the partisans.  In fact the actual story happened later in the war in 1944 but I wanted to set it earlier, before the Americans had formally entered the war, in order to explore some fictional aspects.

The other bit of history has to deal with bones.  The Winter Guest opens in the present day with the mystery of some human bones that have been found at a development site in Poland and then goes back in time to see what happened.  This is based on my experience where sometimes in Poland bones have been found, either from where the Germans killed people in unmarked graves or where cemeteries have been plowed under.  This raises complex questions about whose bones and what is to be done.

Finally, I loved writing about twin sisters.  In an earlier book, The Things We Cherished, I had explored relationships between brothers and I was excited to turn to sisters.  I have 4 year old twin girls myself, though I can’t remember if I conceived them or the story idea first!

9780778315964.inddI have seventeen year old twins and I have had twins in my books, too. Hard to resist writing about that relationship, isn’t it?

You have degrees from the University of Pennsylvania, Cambridge and George Washington University. Which degree did you most enjoy earning, and which has helped you the most with your writing?

All of my educational experiences have contributed in different ways.  GWU was the spring board – I went to Washington and was so excited about government and international affairs that I literally felt the ground shaking under my feet.  Plus GWU was the springboard: at GWU I worked a part time job that would give me the contacts to work at the Pentagon and GWU paid for my scholarship to Cambridge.

Cambridge was the most magical time of my life before having kids.  It was Camelot or, as my brother called it, “A party school in a castle.”  Hands down, my most beloved alma mater and classmates to whom I am closest.  Plus it was when I lived in the UK that I began traveling in earnest.  I took the Foreign Service exam when I was in London.  And my Master’s in History helps with the research.

Penn was my law degree and the single biggest thing being a lawyer has given me for writing is the ability to revise. As a young associate, senior attorneys were forever marking up my work.  The same is true about editors now, and they don’t give you solutions, they give you problems to fix.  I believe in the ability to take feedback from others and incorporate it in my own work with my own voice.

You’re an attorney. What do you teach at Rutgers University?

Pam Jenoff 4I was an attorney for many years, both at a large firm and inhouse.  Now I teach full time on the faculty of Rutgers Law. I teach legal writing, employment, evidence and professionalism.  I adore it – my students are hard working, with no sense of entitlement, and I will do whatever I can to help them succeed.

Many of my (our) readers are mothers. I hate the word ‘balance’ because I have never found balance between raising kids and working, so it makes me impatient. I seem to operate with my hair on fire most of the time, especially in summer.  You have three children. How do you do it? What’s your philosophy on teaching law school, writing, children and making it work without your own hair setting itself on fire?

I joke that I do too many things and none of them well.  But Anne Lamott said it better, something like (paraphrasing here) before kids I couldn’t write if there were dirty dishes in the sink; after kids I could write with a corpse in the sink.  Funny but apt.  You just leave the house messy and get the writing done.  I work like crazy but I don’t mind because I love it all.  I like to say that if I hit Powerball I would still to the same things, just more slowly.

All writers write their books differently.  How do you start?  Outlining? Free form?  How many times do you edit the book before sending it to your editor?

I start with an idea and I throw down 150 pages of the worst junk – vomiting on the page, someone called it. And then after many months, when the document becomes unwieldy, I go back and start organizing with charts and chapters.  It is the very messiest way to write a book and I don’t recommend it.

That’s a hilarious way to put it. Alright, all wanna be writers, don’t write like Pam!

Pam Jenoff 3What is the hardest part about writing books/publishing for you?

Creatively there is always this part I call the “dark middle” when you are trying to make it all come together.  There is always a moment of light when you say “aha!” and realize that it really will be a book.  But this past year, that moment was months later than usual and I was stressed out waiting for it.

On the publishing side, I just feel that so much has changed with ebooks and Amazon that no one really knows what it takes to reach readers anymore. That, and I would love to know how to reach more book clubs.  I love to skype with them and they are so decentralized.

I agree. I love book clubs. They are all so different, too. 

Quick questions….favorite dessert…favorite Saturday plans…three favorite classics….

My perfect Saturday would involve getting up early, writing and getting in a run, going somewhere outdoorsy with my kids and then dinner with the whole fam.

Thank you, Pam, for your time and for your excellent book The Winter Guest, I highly recommend it to you all. 

www.pamjenoff.com

http://www.amazon.com/The-Winter-Guest-Pam-Jenoff/dp/0778315967/

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-winter-guest-pam-jenoff/1115951595?ean=9780778315964

http://www.indiebound.org/book/9780778315964

 

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11.14.2014

Darling Laughing Son And The University of Oregon

You don’t know how fast twenty five years goes by until they’re staring back at you, unblinking.

I had this experience on Tuesday when I took my son, Darling Laughing Son, a senior in high school, to the University of Oregon. U of O is my alma mater. I graduated about 25 years ago.

November 2014 161I walked into U of O, at eighteen, a gawky, insecure, somewhat brainless girl. I had had a lovely, sheltered childhood, in the same town I live in today, and was completely unprepared for real life. Now, one can argue that college is not “real life,” and I will go trotting with you down that lane and agree in many, but not all, areas.

Either way, if you could find a more immature girl on the planet, I would be surprised. When I toured the campus with Darling Laughing Son, so many memories hit. Some good, some hilarious, some bad, a few very poor ones.

I remember that I was unprepared for how lonely I was going to be. I missed my parents, the dogs, and various siblings. I had come from a loud Catholic family. We were bored to death in church once a week, said grace before every meal, and had three rules that were NEVER to be broken, “God first, family second, hard work and academics third.”

Everything else was a very distant fourth.

November 2014 162 Well, the God first/hard work part didn’t really work while I was drinking screwdrivers and tequila, nor going to parties all night. Dancing ‘til three was probably not in there, either. The hard work mantra was broken, too, when I decided that hanging out with boys was, of course, going to take precedence over studying, and my 8:00 class was optional.

I loved the U of O. I loved how liberal it was, how opinionated, and how everything I thought and believed was turned upside and sideways and I had to think again. I had to learn how to think. I didn’t know how to think critically. I didn’t know how to see all sides, I didn’t know how to analyze, listen, and I certainly didn’t have my emotions in control enough to make reasonable, rational decisions, which was on glorious display now and then.

U of O was a lightning – quick, multi – cultural, speech making, protest happy, bastion of a whole bunch of intellectuals, and a few not so intellectual, people, all thrown together. It was like being shaken in a padded science beaker and when you rolled out of the beaker you were a whole new person that you liked a lot more because you’d had to find yourself and figure out who you wanted to be.November 2014 168

Darling Laughing Son and I walked by the place I used to work raising money for U of O….past the steps I sat on when a young, smart, interesting man and I had a sad conversation. He wanted a relationship, I was too immature, see “brainless” above…I remember one of the girls in my dorm, which we actually toured, having an abortion. She dropped acid before it, and was a total wreck…we walked by a building where I got a C in geology and the teacher scared me death….and by the library where I studied and realized I was nowhere near as smart as I thought I was and all this school work was very, very hard for the daydreamer in me…and past buildings where I had met so many fun friends, from ages twenty to fifty, and we’d laughed and talked, and I’d learned something from each of them…

I’m biased. I know that I want Darling Laughing Son to go to U of O. I don’t know if he will. Wherever he goes, I will happily attend Parents Weekend and smile and laugh and be grateful to be with him, as I am with our daughters, too.

But U of O, like most people’s colleges and universities, will always have a rockin’, special place in my heart. Towering trees, old brick buildings, new ones built to look old, brain boggling academics and the arts…and the memories of hundreds of thousands of alumni, strung together through the swaying branches, waiting to be remembered when they come back with their kids and stroll through the campus and wonder how twenty five years could possibly go by so…very….very… quickly.

November 2014 174

11.13.2014

My New Short Story “Christmas In Montana.”

Merry (almost) Christmas! I have a short story titled “Christmas In Montana” in the Our First Christmas anthology with terrific authors Lisa Jackson, Mary Burton, and Mary Carter.

“Christmas In Montana” is about a woman named Laurel Kelly with a crazy family, a huge regret, a man she’s loved her whole life but can’t be with, and a new, sexy apron selling business.

Here’s a snippet…

Our First Christmas 350Chapter One

I am, currently, the manager for the hard-rock band Hellfire.

I am quitting tomorrow. My boss, front man Ace Hellfire, real name Peter Watson, son of a pastor, will be unhappy.

It’s going to be a sticky situation, but it doesn’t change my mind.

I have been traveling the world for ten years with Ace, his band, and crew. I have listened to more eardrum-splitting concerts and head-banging rehearsals, and been witness to more temper tantrums and wildness than I ever wanted to see. My nerves are shot, my exhaustion complete. I don’t think I want to travel again unless it’s to a remote cabin in the woods.

I love to sew but I haven’t sewn in years. I love to embroider but I don’t know if I remember the cross-stitch. I love to cook, but haven’t followed a recipe in way too long. I love to ski, garden, and ride horses, but I never do any of those things.

I have lived out of suitcases for much of every year, my outfits a collage of color, but now I want to find a home, stay in it, and set up a sewing room.

I am a country girl from Kalulell, Montana, who has been working with hard-core rock musicians out of Los Angeles and I am done. I am headed home for Christmas, and then I will figure out Plan F, the F standing for my Future.

I miss small town life. I have always missed it, especially during the Christmas season. I did not miss, however, what happened on a snowy, dark night on a curvy road. It still haunts me.

Some might say I ran from small town country life, that I wanted the twinkly lights of the city and the excitement.

They would be wrong. I was never running from it. I loved it.

I was running from him.


Cathy Lamb
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