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Month: September 2013

Are you a good person?

Are you a good person?

You are a good person. Very good.

Back CameraHow can I say this with such conviction when most of my readers are strangers? Because I read the statistics, I follow the studies and I know in my bones. You and I are so much more than the world at large leads us to believe.

We are humans that struggle each day to do the right thing. We show up for jury duty when we have no time for it. We feed the pets before we feed ourselves. We stop for the old woman in the crosswalk. We kiss our children goodnight. We cry during the SPCA commercials. We care and we act.

If your waking hours are tethered to the mainstream media, you might doubt the goodness of humanity. You may think we are coming undone as a society. Read this and I dare you to tell me that is the truth.

We believe in God

The most recent Gallup poll says that 92% of Americans believe in God.

We are selfless

There was a 700% increase in volunteer organ donors the day after a Facebook campaign, according to Donate Life America.

We are generous with our money

65% of Americans contribute to charity each year.

We are generous with our time

Nearly a third of us volunteer each year.

We smash stereotypes

Teens, YOU have the second highest volunteer rate in America at 27.4%. You are amazing teens!

We invest in the care and keeping of our planet

In Seattle, 53% of the waste produced is taken out of the waste system and recycled.

We give at record rates in spite of a recession

Providence Hospice of Seattle Foundation has received a record amount of corporate donations this year.

So, my friend, you are made of the good stuff.  I want you to be the headline today because your life matters, your actions count, your kindness is profound.

And I love you.

The Research Behind Four Rubbings

The Research Behind Four Rubbings

Four Rubbings began with a dream. Not an “I want to write a novel” dream. More like a vivid mental movie followed by the overwhelming feeling when I woke that this was too good a story to let crumble away.  I wrote the dream down on a wrinkled piece of paper I pulled from my nightstand. In sleepy, crooked scrawl I wrote something like, ‘Kids rub tombstones on Halloween night and their simple action causes a ripple effect in their lives and the spiritual lives of those buried beneath the stones.’ The story felt hopeful and terrifying all at once.

Carmel GraveyardOver the months to come, life happened. I raised kids, tended pets, volunteered, created art, keeping the dream close at hand, and it whispered to be nurtured, too. I bought a notebook and wrote the book title across the first clean white page. I printed off images of what the ghost forest looked like in my head (lichen dripping off of low-hanging oaks.) I sketched. And then life interrupted again. Four Rubbings had to wait.

When I was finally able to carve out regular time for my project, I began by identifying the tombstones the kids would rub. I traveled to the Mendocino coast in northern California and toured a handful of old cemeteries with my father and our dear family friend, Jerry. Jerry, I found out as we drove from place to place, as a former minister had buried a few of the people we were visiting. I snapped pictures, and my father snapped better ones.

At the end of those days, I made a handful of sketches and noted names that stood out to me. Ettore and Kujala were among them. I wrote out the infant chapters of the book and called them ‘scenes’ because I am a visual creature. The book unfolded for me like a reel to reel movie of old.

Home again, I continued to visit cemeteries, twenty-five in all. Every time our family traveled I coaxed my husband and kids into a visit to the local boneyard. Each one was distinct, a personality as tangible as yours or mine. Some were austere, cold and prim. Others were neglected places, screaming for me to roll up my sleeves and push back the layers of brambles and moss that hid the gravestones. A few made me feel uncomfortable. And one I found inaccessible, but I promise to try again soon.

The research became the thing with me. The cemeteries taught me so much.  I saw how people honored the deceased, what customs were culturally and religiously significant, what things were considered taboo and mostly how we attempt to preserve the memories of our loved ones for future generations. What I learned became the backbone of my novel. I found the story would only progress at the pace of the research. As the stories behind the cemeteries were revealed, the novel  progressed.

Back CameraI’m an expert on burial customs now. I can tell you which cemeteries had the same stonecarver shaping tombstones for which families. I can tell you why the grass refuses to grow on some plots and flourishes on others. I can share with you the significance of the symbols etched into the stones. I can weep with you over the graves that lie unmarked. I can tell you of the cemeteries that locals are fighting to save and preserve after lying overgrown for centuries.  I have come to know so much. But, what I’ve learned reveals as much about the dead as it does the living. And that is the stuff Four Rubbings is made of.

Four Rubbings, My Third Child, Is Published

Four Rubbings, My Third Child, Is Published

84_0.478284001377119273_9781620151631-thumbnail-bpfbtAs of last week, my first novel, Four Rubbings is available for purchase. Order the book at IndieBound.com or request it at your local library or independent bookstore. Click here for Wikipedia’s list of national indies.

Set in the rainy Pacific Northwest, four teens set off a series of events when they visit a cemetery Halloween night to rub graves. Born out of a nightmare I had a few years back, this spooky, suspenseful read sticks with its readers long after the last page has been turned. One reader said, “I can’t explain how, but this book healed something inside me.”

If you are looking for your next good read, look no further!