Friday, January 27, 2012

Maine, Rain and Someone I Want You to Meet

Man, I don't know about the rest of this state, but here in the lower coastal section of Maine we're sure having a mild winter. As you probably already know, I grew up in Chicago and lived in the 'burbs and then also about 90 mi south of the city, down along the Kankakee River, for a few years. Except for a wild year in my youth when I lived in Florida, I've never enjoyed such a mild winter (and actually the winter I was in Florida was a chilly one; I remember the smudge pots out in the citrus groves and Floridians scrambling to find warm clothes).

I understand why so many Chicagoans and Midwesterners are living in this part of Maine: to us this winter weather is down right balmy (really, is there anything colder than a Chicago winter? I think not.) This part of Maine is a cool winter in Florida without the tourists -- which makes it especially wonderful (I don't dislike tourists but in Florida they never seem to totally go away). At this time of year, Mainers have the state to themselves and oh it's glorious indeed! And if balmy and mild isn't your cup of tea (or chowda'), then just head a wee bit north or west and you'll have as much winter as anyone could ever desire. I was reading the other day about dog sled races in Bridgton, ME. One of these days I'm going to check it out but right now this southern coastal pocket of New England bliss suits me just fine.

We had some beautiful snowfalls in January but the snow never seems to last very long; it keeps warming up and the snow disappears. It seems to be a cycle. I don't mind the rain because it's never as violent as it is back in Illinois; I've been here since the end of September and haven't heard a single clap of thunder. The rain also gives my eyes a break. Our son mentioned that winter is brighter here than anywhere else he's ever been; he said it's not as "gray" as it was back home. It's true. I've never worn sunglasses in winter as much as I've worn them here -- not even that one winter in Florida. When the sun is out here in Maine we're talking BRIGHT. Could it be the lack of pollution that makes the skies so blue and the snow so brilliantly white?

Today we're getting a persistent but gentle rainfall. Shadow and I just wandered through the slush and mud (you do need superior field gear to live here, I'll say that) for a walk over in the woods (just out my door; what glory!) and I could smell both pine and ocean. The air here is a heady ambrosia, an oxygen high of the first order.
This is the kind of day that also begs for a fresh cup of rich coffee, a comfy couch, a cuddly afghan and a great book -- all after an invigorating walk outside, of course. Did I mention I have a pot of homemade chicken soup simmering on the stove? There's bread in the bread machine and I just sprinkled some cinnamon on my coffee.

Are you with me? Just feel the love!
Shadow's snoring loudly now at my feet. He's actually smiling; I think his dreams must be wonderful. He used to cry out in terror because monsters haunted his sweet soul. No more, thank God. It gives me such joy to have been a part of his rescue.

So, let's talk books. What are you reading right now? Fiction? Non-fiction? Do you read both? Do you read both simultaneously?

I've always been a person who could multi-task and I've always been able to do things like read 3 or 4 books at the same time. I once read 3 Grisham books while poring over every word in Doris Kearns Goodwin's "No Ordinary Time" and (I swear this is true) slogging through the mud of Durkheim's "The Division of Labor in Society." People find this bizarre but I don't know why. When you were in HS or college didn't you take multiple classes in one semester and have to work through a variety of textbooks more or less at the same time? I guess I was in college for so damn long (because I was an adult student going part-time, not necessarily because I was imitating Bluto in "Animal House") that reading a small library at the same time became a survival skill.

But some books, obviously, deserve to be savored... and one of them is Kathleen Valentine's third novel, "Depraved Heart," which I'm reading as a beta reader. She's hitting it out of the park with this one. My husband read it before I could start it; he enjoyed her two other books, "The Old Mermaid's Tale" and "Each Angel Burns," but said he thinks "Depraved Heart" may be her best yet.

Kathleen's lyricism blows me away, as well as her strong story telling skills. I think "Depraved Heart" is an outstanding achievement.

I have other friends who write great stories (my friend Nicole Daines Gibeaut comes to mind) and I've learned wonderful things from each of them, but Kathleen is teaching me something special about focus and discipline. She's been laying it on me pretty thick... chiding my ass for spending too much time on Facebook and not enough time writing fiction. I'm very flattered that she thinks I'm a gifted writer -- which is part of the reason she rides my butt (and we're going to talk more about that in another post!). Today, though, I want to direct your attention to Kathleen.

Kathleen's Kindle sales are soaring and I can't think of a writer who deserves success more than Kathleen. Last summer she decided to hunker down and get very, very serious about finishing "Depraved Heart" while also devoting herself to promoting herself as a writer.

Kathleen's as gifted with short stories as she is with full length novels. In a blog post she wrote this past Wednesday, January 25th, (link below), Kathleen describes how she's unbundled some of her short stories from their prior book formatting and sold them separately and how that has proven very successful; those short stories have driven sales for all of her books. Kathleen's determination to focus on her career as a writer, eschewing almost all other distractions, coupled with her talents as a writer and keen business acumen have all come together. In her post on Wednesday, Kathleen wrote that so far in this month alone (3 weeks!) she's seen over 9,000 books fly "off the digital shelves...."

I spoke with Kathleen last week and we discussed in more detail how her shorts have enjoyed explosive sales and those sales continually beget more sales. I have at least twenty short stories in various states of completion -- some have been in my files for thirty years and I never even showed them to anyone. Now I'm eyeing them like possible buried treasure.

Kathleen Valentine is going to be one of those highly successful indies who prove indies are a mighty force to be reckoned with -- gifted writers who not only write beautifully but have also mastered the business end of the deal and found clever ways to market multiple talents. 

All successful indies (and there are beginning to be so many now!) have their own unique stories but I haven't heard anyone use the short story as a marketing tool.

But maybe you have... if so, please share.

Oh, and if you're not a writer but just love to read... I'd like to know what you think. Do you prefer short stories over full length novels? C'mon... share your thoughts.

And one more thing... don't forget to stop over and meet Kathleen at her Parlez Moi blog. I just called her and told her yuo're stopping by...

OK, gotta' go... there's some delicious hot soup calling my name....

Happy Friday!

1 comment:

  1. Thanks, Maureen. I respect your opinion so this is especially exciting for me.