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Better Than Blurbs: Much Ado About Mother by Celia Bonaduce

Catherine Ryan Hyde

Photo by William Christoff

Photo by William Christoff

Because I no longer write blurbs, but still very much want to help other authors, I've launched a blog series called Better Than Blurbs. The authors and I have in-depth discussions about their books, which I hope will help readers identify whether they'd enjoy reading them.

This is the ninth post in the series. The author is Celia Bonaduce and the book is Much Ado About Mother: A Venice Beach Romance. But before the word "Romance" causes you to tune out, please give us a chance to adjust your thinking.

Me: Celia, will you please tell my readers about the book in your own words?

Celia: Much Ado About Mother is the third book in my VENICE BEACH ROMANCE Trilogy.  If you’re now frantically mousing away from this page because you are not a fan of romantic novels, please hang around.  When Kensington Books (a highly esteemed publisher of romance) told me they wanted to buy my series, I was stunned.  Grateful to be sure, but stunned. Because I didn’t think I was writing romance.  I thought I was writing comedy.  Book One: The Merchant of Venice Beach is probably the closest to a classic romantic novel as this series gets, since the protagonist is very focused on seducing a mysterious dance instructor in and around Venice Beach, California. But it’s very tongue-in-cheek. While the emphasis of the story is Suzanna’s maniacal pursuit of an emotionally unavailable man, the theme of the book is about a woman finding herself.  Book Two: A Comedy of Erinn is about Suzanna’s older sister, Erinn, a had-been Broadway playwright who moves to Southern California ostensibly to be near her sister, but basically because she has no where else to go.  She is jobless and friendless.  If Suzanna refuses to face adulthood, Erinn is old before her time.  While there is a romantic element – actually, several romantic elements -- once again, the point of Comedy of Erinn is that Erinn has to come to terms with herself. It’s not about the guy.  Which brings us, finally, to Much Ado About Mother.  In this third book (the characters appear in each other’s books, but each book can be read as a stand-alone.)  Erinn, Suzanna and their mother, Virginia each have a say in “ADO”.  In this book, I was writing in all three voices, and named each chapter ERINN, VIRGINIA or SUZANNA as a way for the reader to be clear who was speaking. I learned that from you at that seminar in Big Sur a few years ago.  

Much Ado About Mother is the story of three women – a mother and her two grown daughters – who all feel that life has been good, but not great.  I thought it would be interesting to look at life from three different age groups (Suzanna is in her early thirties, Erinn in her early forties, Virginia is just turning seventy). Each of the woman is thinking “Is That All There Is” – which of course, is flawed thinking.  Unless you’re dead, it’s never all there is.  This book is about family. It’s about how, when all is said and done, no matter how the dynamics change, your family can be the greatest joy – while being the greatest thorn in your side – in your life. And yeah, there is some romance.

Me: I’m actually not a fan of romantic novels. But I’m a fan of this one. And I agree that for a romance it’s very much not a romance. How do you feel/how does it work to have your work put in a box that may not quite fit? It opens you up to new readers, yes. Does it shut you down from others? Or do people see that the book transcends its genre, so no problem?

Celia: I’ve tread lightly into Romance territory.  The description of my books “not quite fitting into a box” is accurate.  That’s one of the reasons I am so grateful for Sharon Bowers – my agent and Martin Biro – my editor at Kensington – for taking a chance on me.  I’d like to think there are readers out there who normally wouldn’t touch a romance were happy when they stumbled upon my books.  To be honest, though, from the few really stinko reviews I’ve gotten on Amazon, there were those romance readers out there who felt tricked by the covers and description.  Frankly, I think they had a valid point.  If you order a soufflé and someone serves you Eggs Benedict – it doesn’t matter if the Eggs Benedict are terrific or not.  You wanted a soufflé, you ordered a soufflé and that’s what you were entitled to get.  On the whole, though, my reviews have been very positive – although a goodly number of those reviews said “This was not what I was expecting, but I really liked it.” Next series out, I’m hoping people continue to like my work, but won’t be surprised.  The Eggs Benedict crowd will already be with me!

Me: Talk to me about quirk. I found this to be delightfully quirky, encompassing characters who are, among other things: 1) named Dymphna; 2) a herd of Angora rabbits; 3) a not very likable Chihuahua named Piquant, whom we tend to like anyway; 4) a man who runs into a burning building to save his ex-wife’s moose head art sculpture, and 5) a large tree. Do you purposely infuse quirk, or is your mind just naturally quirky?

 Celia: I guess my mind is just naturally quirky!  I will say that I am always on the lookout for the unpredictable!

Me: What do you like to read, and is humor a big factor in what you look for as a reader, or do you read different tones for different moods?

Celia:  I read all kinds of stuff – humor, classics, non-fiction, travel books.  One favorite genre is “southern women writers” – from Flannery O’Connor to Fannie Flagg to my new favorite Joshilyn Jackson.  These women rewrite true, believable characters infused with humor and love.

Me: In your own opinion, are you funny in person, in the spoken word, or more so on paper? Do you speak easily and comfortably in front of a crowd, with this same lighthearted manner you use when you write?

Celia:  Well, this is certainly a “toot my own horn” moment, isn’t it?  I humbly submit that I am funny in person, on paper and in front of a crowd.  While I long to be an introspective artist, who is quietly pondering big questions when not “at work”, sadly, I attempt hilarity 24/7.

Me: Will you please tell my readers, many of whom are writers, about your road to publication? 

Celia: My road to publication was long and filled with rejection.  I expected that, though.  My parents were both professional writers, so I knew from a very young age, that rejection was part of a writer’s life and you couldn’t take it personally.    I also had the great good fortune to go to a writers’ conference early in my foray into novel writing – where I met you, Catherine, and Jodi Thomas.  I’m sure the readers of your blog can visualize what a boost it was to have these two wildly successful women take the time to tell me that my “voice” was unique as well as funny.  You both encouraged me to get in touch if I felt stuck or frustrated (and I don’t have to tell you, I availed myself of that more than once!)  Both of you warned me that my style “didn’t fit on a shelf” – and there would be rejections from agents and publishers, but to believe in myself and my work.   Also, my feeling has always been “ You only need ONE.  ONE agent. ONE publisher. I just needed to stay true to the process.  As each rejection came it, one new submission went out. Sharon found me.  Kensington found me.  I knew they were out there and I just needed to hang on until they did.

Me: Please write your own question, and answer it.

Celia: Do you “cast” your characters, either with actors or with people you know?

I actually don’t have a physical sense of my characters at all.  I HEAR them.  It’s actually one of the most intriguing parts of writing for me.  I’ll create a character and I can suddenly hear them speaking to me.  Currently, I am writing a character who sounds exactly like Johnny Mathis.  It’s awesome!

Me: Thanks, Celia. Those who want to know more about Celia and her work can visit her website and/or find her on Facebook and Twitter.

Let's Give Away Another 365 Days of Gratitude

Catherine Ryan Hyde

I promised I'd give away one of these a month for the foreseeable future, and I'm staying true to my word. This is the huge, full-color softcover coffee table edition of 365 Days of Gratitude: Photos from a Beautiful World. (The other books are only there for scale.) And a new giveaway for August starts now.

I'll collect entries for a week or so and then choose a winner at random. If you don't win, don't despair. Read my post about the new "No Losers" seven entry rule.

As always, I ask only that you read a few guidelines below so this giveaway goes smoothly: 

Leave a comment below to be entered. Please DO leave your email address in the comment form (even though it will say it's optional). I promise I won't use it for any other purpose but to notify you if you win. Please DON'T leave your email address in the body of your comment unless you want everybody to see it. 

Those familiar with my website might be a little confused by the new comment system. It will seem there is no place for your name and email. But when you hit "Post Comment," you'll see those fields come up.

***One very important addition: If you're reading this blog on Goodreads, please click through to the original post on my website and leave your comment there. Otherwise I'm afraid I'll forget the Goodreads people one of these times when I go to draw names***

Good luck!

Notice Anything Different?

Catherine Ryan Hyde

Just putting this photo front and center might be worth the price of admission for creating this new site. People are already telling me they're discovering books they never knew about.

Just putting this photo front and center might be worth the price of admission for creating this new site. People are already telling me they're discovering books they never knew about.

Happy to announce that the brand new site has launched. With a great deal of help from my friend and tech mentor Bob DeLaurentis (thanks, Bob!), I've come up with something that I hope will be simpler, yet provide you with all the information you need. 

I'm happy to hear any feedback you might have. After all, you are the ones who will use it.

One quick apology: I realize that everyone who subscribes to this blog got an email announcing... well, every single blog post I ever wrote (all in one email, I'm happy to say). That must have been confusing. When the site went live, in a sense those were all published at the same time. But I don't launch a whole new site often, so it's not something you're likely to encounter anytime soon. And I think the new browsing experience will be worth that slight inconvenience.

I hope you'll look around and tell me what you think.

Last Giveaway for July

Catherine Ryan Hyde

It's been at the back of my mind that I promised one more giveaway for July. The goal is to give out one of these big softcover "coffee table" editions of 365 Days of Gratitude every month for the foreseeable future. (I picture it here with two other books just so you can see the sheer size of it.)

Then I got all wrapped up in the new Take Me With You release and its incredible numbers (like #3 and #4 in Kindle). And it's a bit of a distraction.

But July isn't over yet. So let's go ahead and do this right now. I'll collect entries for three days or so and then choose a winner at random on the first of August. If you don't win, don't despair. Read my post about the new "No Losers" seven entry rule.

As always, I ask only that you read a few guidelines below so this giveaway goes smoothly: 

Leave a comment below to be entered. Please DO leave your email address in the comment form. I promise I won't use it for any other purpose but to notify you if you win. Please DON'T leave your email address in the body of your comment unless you want everybody to see it. And remember the "author" in the comment form is the author of the comment, not the book. In other words, you. In each of these giveaways one or more people comment as "Catherine Ryan Hyde" because they see "author" and think it means me. Please use your own name, otherwise I can't enter you, because I'll have no idea who you are!

***One very important addition: If you're reading this blog on Goodreads, please click through to the original post on my website and leave your comment there. Otherwise I'm afraid I'll forget the Goodreads people one of these times when I go to draw names***

Good luck!

Pay It Forward Book for Children

Catherine Ryan Hyde

This is a giveaway. But I'd like to do it a little differently.

While I was away on vacation, Simon & Schuster sent me a big handful of advance reader's copies of the new Pay It Forward: Young Readers' Edition.

It's scheduled to release on August 19th. It's the same book, edited by me, just pared down to a solid G rating. And it's suitable for kids as young as eight.

I want to give some of the ARCs away.

But rather than draw names out of a hat, I'd like it if you'd tell me why you want one, and one you'd do with it if you had it. You see, this book is for kids, and the people who read and follow this blog are adult readers. With any other of my books, the answer to that question would be you'd want it to own and read. But all who are reading this post would be better suited to the adult edition. The idea of this edition is to get the Pay It Forward idea into the hands and hearts of kids, kids who weren't even born when the book and the movie first came out.

So what would you do with one of these? Are you a teacher? Do you have kids of your own whose lives you shape every day? Do you have other ideas for how to get this book into the hands of kids?

Just let me know in the comment section. I'm not deciding yet how many of these I'll give away. I'm going to wait and see the responses and then decide. I probably don't have one for everyone, but let's try it and see what happens. And if you don't win one, read my post entitled "No Losers." This giveaway counts toward that magic number seven.

As always, please read some basic instructions for entering:

Leave a comment below to be entered. Please DO leave your email address in the comment form. I promise I won't use it for any other purpose but to notify you if you win. Please DON'T leave your email address in the body of your comment unless you want everybody to see it. And remember the "author" in the comment form is the author of the comment, not the book. In other words, you. In each of these giveaways one or more people comment as "Catherine Ryan Hyde" because they see "author" and think it means me. Please use your own name, otherwise I can't enter you, because I have no idea who you are!

***One very important addition: If you're reading this blog on Goodreads, please click through to the original post on my website and leave your comment there. Otherwise I'm afraid I'll forget the Goodreads people one of these times when I go to draw names***

I'll run this for about a week. Good luck!

No Losers

Catherine Ryan Hyde

I've been doing giveaways on my blog for years. Pretty regularly. Right now I'm giving away six of the ten Take Me With You audiobooks the publisher sent me. I enjoy it. I don't mind the postage costs (it's a tax-deductible promotional expense, after all). And I know avid readers struggle with book budgets. And I like rewarding the readers who are so faithful to me and my books.

There's just one thing I don't like about it.

Every time I pick winners, a few of my wonderful fans who did not win leave comments, here or on Facebook, that quietly say something like, "Congratulations to the winners." You can hear the sigh. Some are more directly honest and say, "I never win." Or just sigh.

I don't want readers signing up for giveaways over and over and over and coming away feeling like they never win. That it's always somebody else's name coming out of the hat.

So I've come up with an idea. I sat on it a while. And the more I sit with it, the more I like it.

If you enter seven giveaways and don't win a book, just point out to me the seven you entered. And I'll send you a book. For the dedication of that continued effort. For being someone who's so closely involved with my blog and my books. You can even pick which book you want me to send. Just don't pick an audiobook, please, because I don't keep extras of those lying around the house.

This can be retroactive, too. Think you've already entered seven giveaways? Look back and see which ones they were and then email me. (Hint: There's a blog index in the right-hand sidebar of the blog page. All the giveaways are under "Announcements.") Count them up and only get five or six? Well, I have a giveaway going on now and at least one more for the month of July. Won't take you long to get there.

No more sighs. More reading, less sighing. 

July: The Giveaway Month

Catherine Ryan Hyde

As some of you may know, I was just away on vacation. While I was gone, quite a few fun things turned up on my doorstep.

First of all, I got my author copies of the brand new Take Me With You, due out from Lake Union/Amazon Publishing on July 22nd. In the box were both MP3 and CD audiobooks. Five of each. And as you know if you follow this blog, I archive two of each. Send me five and I give three away.

I also got advance readers' copies of the new Young Readers' Edition of Pay It Forward, due out August 19th. So that will be the next giveaway.

And of course I have to give away another 365 Days of Gratitude photo "coffee table" book in July.

I thought about doing it all at once, but it made me tired to think about it. Too many ways that could get complicated. So I'm going to start with these six audiobooks.

As always, I ask only that you read the following to know how to enter:

All you need to do is leave a comment to be entered. Please DO leave your email address in the comment form. I promise I won't use it for any other purpose but to notify you if you win. Please DON'T leave your email address in the body of your comment unless you want everybody to see it. And remember the "author" in the comment form is the author of the comment, not the book. In other words, you. In each of these giveaways one or more people comment as "Catherine Ryan Hyde" because they see "author" and think it means me. Please use your own name, otherwise I can't enter you, because I have no idea who you are!

***One very important addition: If you're reading this blog on Goodreads, please click through to the original post on my website and leave your comment there. Otherwise I'm afraid I'll forget the Goodreads people one of these times when I go to draw names***

And if you have a preference between CD and MP3, please state it clearly in your comment.

I'll run this giveaway for about a week and then move on to the next. Good luck!

The ARCs Keep Coming!

Catherine Ryan Hyde

Most of you know I have another brand-new novel releasing in December. Yesterday, just a week or two after receiving the advance reader's copies of Take Me With You, my July release, the UPS guy brought me these.

Must. Give. Away.

Now. There's just one catch. I'm going off on a two-week trip in the new camper van (photos to follow). So I won't be around for this giveaway. Which doesn't really matter when you think about it. It just means I won't answer your comments with my own. You just have to trust that when I get home in the first week of July, I'll have them all in one place and draw names.

I'll give away four of these. As always, I ask only that you read the few simple directions below:

All you need to do is leave a comment to be entered. Please DO leave your email address in the comment form. I promise I won't use it for any other purpose but to notify you if you win. Please DON'T leave your email address in the body of your comment unless you want everybody to see it. And remember the "author" in the comment form is the author of the comment, not the book. In other words, you. In each of these giveaways one or more people comment as "Catherine Ryan Hyde" because they see "author" and think it means me. Please use your own name, otherwise I can't enter you, because I have no idea who you are!

After the 4th of July holiday, I'll draw four names.

Good luck!

You Really Can Buy the 365 Book in Paper

Catherine Ryan Hyde

I made this change fairly quietly, but a lot of people are asking me about it, so I'm going to make a bit more noise. Yes, 365 Days of Gratitude: Photos from a Beautiful World is available as a big, full-color coffee table book. If I may be allowed to say so, it really turned out well. (This is more praise for the print-on-demand printing process than for myself.) If you look for it on Amazon, you won't find it. You'll only find the $3.99 Kindle. But it's available to buy. You just have to have the link.

I've placed the link on the right-hand sidebar of its book page on this site, where it will live forever. But of course I'll offer it in this blog as well. It's HERE.

As you can imagine, the book is not cheap. Because the production costs on 365 large full-color photos is huge. The book is for sale for $35 on CreateSpace, and believe me, there's not much in the way of profit there. It's basically production cost, plus CreateSpace's cut, plus pennies left over in royalties. It's a rounding-up to a nice round number from the very lowest price I could put on it. It would have been nice to sell it on Amazon. A lot more people would find it. But then I would have had to price it at $45 across the board.

Now for the good news: I honestly believe that when you receive your copy you will not feel overcharged. It really is a $35 book. It's 8 1/2 by 11, huge and heavy. Not hardcover, but still a genuine coffee table book. If I'm wrong, and you disagree, I'll happily buy it back from you.

The other good news is that there are cheaper ways to enjoy the book. The Kindle edition is only $3.99. And I'll be giving away a copy a month on this blog for the foreseeable future. I have a giveaway going right now, in fact.

I think you'll find it's a nice gift idea. I'm having a lot of fun giving them as gifts.

Feedback welcomed. 

Yet Another Giveaway

Catherine Ryan Hyde

On Friday I received a carton of these from Lake Union (Amazon Publishing). I was so happy to have them and so eager to give a few away that I posted to Twitter and Facebook that the first three people to say "I want one" would get one. They were gone in about a minute.

That was fun while it lasted, but of course only served to make many more readers feel bad because they didn't see my post in time. So I promised I would do a slower givewaway here on my blog. I am now keeping that promise.

I have three more to give away. All I ask is that you PLEASE read the instructions below:

Simply leave a comment to be entered. Please DO leave your email address in the comment form. I promise I won't use it for any other purpose but to notify you if you win. Please DON'T leave your email address in the body of your comment unless you want everybody to see it. And remember the "author" in the comment form is the author of the comment, not the book. In other words, you. In each of these giveaways one or more people comment as "Catherine Ryan Hyde" because they see "author" and think it means me. Please use your own name, otherwise I can't enter you, because I have no idea who you are!

I'll leave this open until Friday. Comment away!

Let's Keep the Giveaway Going

Catherine Ryan Hyde

I just chose (at random) my first four winners of the huge, gorgeous (sorry to be immodest, but I'm really crediting the printing process) coffee-table-size softcover edition of 365 Days of Gratitude: Photos from a Beautiful World. 

They are Kit Cooley, Rose Lamatt, Fran Simmons Schouten, and Claudia Robinson.

Now. I always feel bad for all the people whose names I didn't draw. But I have a lot more of these. So what I'd like to do is extend this to a monthly giveaway.

If you didn't win, but still want one, leave a comment below. At the end of June, I'll draw another winner, and we'll start again for July. That way everybody gets another chance. (And another. And another.)

As always, please do leave your email address in the comment form. I promise I won't use it for any other purpose but to notify you if you win. Don't leave your email address in the body of your comment unless you want everybody to see it. And remember the "author" in the comment form is the author of the comment, not the book. In other words, you.

More winners is better, right?

Better Than Blurbs: Lost in Transplantation by Eldonna Edwards

Catherine Ryan Hyde

Because I no longer write blurbs, but still very much want to help other authors, I've launched a blog series called Better Than Blurbs. The authors and I will have in-depth discussions about their books, which I hope will help readers identify whether they'd enjoy reading them. This is the eighth post of the series. The author is Eldonna Edwards, and the book is Lost in Transplantation: Memoir of an Unconventional Organ Donor.

Me: Eldonna, please Tell us about the book in your own words:


Eldonna: Lost in Transplantation isn't just a chronicle of a living donor, it's a book about life and the decisions we make when given difficult choices. The memoir is interwoven with stories about growing up as a Bible-thumping preacher's kid, my work as a massage therapist, raising children—mostly as a single mother—and the seesaw transitions of menopause. There’s a good deal of humor in the book to balance the serious topic. My goal is for others to relate to me as a real person rather than putting me on a pedestal for giving a kidney to a stranger, thereby dismissing me as an anomaly. I believe we are all capable of being someone's hero and you don't have to undergo surgery to achieve that end.

The memoir describes my journey as an organ donor but it also tells Kathy's (my intended recipient) story and hopefully the reader's as well. We all struggle, we all have dreams and hardships, but it's our attitude that alters one’s perception of those challenges.  Lost in Transplantation seeks to connect with that place in each of us that wants to make a difference. My hope is to inspire others to take steps—no matter how small—toward balancing the inequality and unconscionable inhumanity that persists in the world. You never know exactly how far the results of your actions reach— and the life it alters the most just might be your own.

Me: I want to ask a set of questions that will establish my focus on organ donation in the past. So I’ll ask you (and I suppose ask my readers at the same time): Have you read Second Hand Heart, which is about organ donation, but not living donation?

Did you know that one of the UK editions included a real-life living kidney donor story that I also wrote about on my blog? And for those who have no access to that UK edition, I also wrote it up for Positive Impact Magazine. (But I can't seem to establish a direct link, so readers can use the link to their home page and search for Betty Ann and erin or organ donation). 

I’m also wondering if you’ve heard about Garet Hill and the National Kidney Registry. They form donation chains that start with an altruistic donor like yourself, and just keep going. (He was kind enough to be in contact with me, because the Pay It Forward connection is easy to see). They even made it into the New York Times.

Yes, I realize this is a long question. I also realize that no two living donors are alike. So can you tell us how you feel when you read these stories? How much are they like you, and in what ways are they different? How much change do you think we might see in the world if this kind of giving gets a foothold?

Eldonna: I have read Second Hand Heart. What interests me most is the cellular memory aspect of the story. I’ve communicated with many transplant recipients who voice a strong desire to reach out to the families of cadaveric donors. I think that in addition to gratitude, recipients feel a connection beyond what can be explained or expressed. My recipient claims to have lost an appetite for a few things that I don’t care for, like lamb and ice cream. I’m still waiting for my former kidney to switch the recipient’s political parties. ;-)

In answer to the second part of your question, my surgery was the very first at CPMC (California Pacific Medical Center) to occur as a result of a National Kidney Registry match! I was the initial domino in a series of surgeries beginning December 16, 2010. Fortunately transplant chains have since become the norm. I recently had the pleasure of meeting Dr. Alvin Roth, who won the 2012 Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences. The algorithm he co-developed increased NKR matches by up to 167% over the previous method.

Me: Of course the best way readers can get this question answered is to read your book. But it’s on everyone’s mind. So please give us a sneak peek at the answer to the big question: Why?

I get this a lot. Here’s how I explain it in the book:

Wealth might make you comfortable but it can’t save you from eventual death. Education might keep you from poverty but it can’t prevent disease. Geography might help protect your civil rights but it can’t protect you from unpredictable tragedy. Where we’re born and most of the opportunities we’re born into all come down to chance. Some disease is generated by bad habits like smoking or diet, some is environmental like chemical exposure or lack of available prenatal care, and some is just wonky DNA.

Perhaps one day science will figure out how to prevent or cure a lot of the diseases that are inherent in our society. I recently heard NASA has invented a 3-D printer that can print “food” for astronauts so it doesn’t take up valuable space. Maybe printing a human kidney isn’t that far off. But for now, beyond one’s belief in a higher power, all we have to sustain our hope is the grace of our fellow human beings to help us through our struggles.

A logical or left-brained person might look at the data, decide the evidence is overwhelming against self-sacrifice to aid others, and leave it to politics or science to determine another's fate. And here is where I invite Captain Obvious into the conversation to state that I am not left-brained. In fact I am so right brained that I sometimes wonder why my head doesn’t rest on my right shoulder. I’m a touchy-feely, tree-hugging, artsy-fartsy human being who truly believes we are all brothers and sisters in this world, and that by helping one person you help the collective. I believe each of our deeds, good or bad, creates a ripple. Birth might be about circumstance but life is about choices within the events that occur year to year, day to day, and most importantly, moment to moment.

The encounter with Lucy might or might not have been chance—I don’t know. Had I not moved to California with my son, had he not attended Cuesta College, had I not chosen one class over another, I never would have met her. What looks random in the immediate moment might seem like fate for those that believe in predestination. For me, it was merely an encounter with another human being who raised my consciousness about a particular form of suffering and I chose to act upon it.

No matter how hard I try to communicate the need for donors, people remain skeptical. No matter how deeply I underscore the extraordinary sense of purpose in helping another human being, I continually bump up against fear. What I’ve gradually come to understand is that it’s naïve to presume anyone’s motivations for donating or not, other than my own.

Me: I know you have a writing background that predates this book. Will you please tell my readers more about how you came to the written word and what else you have done?

Eldonna: I love language and have always taken great delight in the satisfaction of stringing together a tapestry of words that results in a good story or poem.  I used to facilitate journal-writing workshops and later turned the exercises into a couple of journaling workbooks. Loose Ends and Journaling from the Heart were published in 1999/2000 respectively.  I currently have other works-in-progress but I set the novels aside to work on this memoir. Living donation is a timely subject and I'm compelled to get it out there ahead of the fiction.

Me: I have no idea if anyone reading this is considering becoming a living donor. But I know it must be a big decision. And I know that, no matter how sure the donor may be, it’s often a hard subject to broach with family members. Any advice to someone considering this gigantic act of selfless giving?

The best thing a potential donor can do is to become informed. I regularly participate in several living donor and kidney patient forums where people like me offer support, encouragement and advice to potential donors. In terms of sharing plans with loved ones, you have to stay centered in your intention and not let well-meaning family members pull you off course. When challenged, I would usually say, “I hear your concerns and I appreciate you supporting me in my decision.

Me: Can you sum up for us how this act and this book changed your life? Yes, I do know it’s hard to compress it. But if you had to write a paragraph or two about it, what seems like the most important thing to say?

Eldonna: Having witnessed their pain and suffering up close, I am truly humbled by the strength and determination of all the people on dialysis who don’t know if they’ll get a kidney in time. The act itself didn’t change me so much as it reinforced my belief that when you help others it takes you out of yourself and your own struggles. But I definitely came away from the donation with a deeper sense of purpose and believing my life had more meaning. People talk about what an amazing gift I’ve given but I feel equally blessed by the experience.

As a donor, my goal was to inspire people. As a writer, I hoped to inspire readers in an entertaining way. Since writing the book I’ve been overwhelmed by enthusiastic support not only from the standpoint of living donation, but from readers who reported that they were moved to “be a better person” after reading Lost in Transplantation.  I can’t tell you how much it means knowing this story has had such a profound an effect on people. I’m unable to read the reviews without tearing up. It’s one thing to tell a story that touches people, but to be acknowledged for the art of the telling itself is icing on the proverbial cake.

Me: Please write your own question, and answer it.

Eldonna: You were the subject of a documentary titled “Perfect Strangers”. What was that experience like?  What’s next? (You meant two questions, right?)

While researching living donation I couldn’t find a single film on the topic so I contacted Jan Krawitz, the Director of the M.F.A. Documentary Filmmaking Program at Stanford. I told her someone needed to make a film about this so that the tragic need for donors would reach more people. We met in a coffee shop and talked for four hours. By the time the meeting ended she’d decided to make a film and I’d agreed to let her follow my journey. Her crew was amazing and I often forgot they were in the room. (Word of advice to anyone thinking of being in a film: Turn off your wireless mic before using the bathroom!)

Over the course of four years Jan and I became dear friends. I’ve attended several screenings of the film, which has played to enthusiastic audiences all across the country. I think she did a fantastic job of artfully capturing the experience of both donor and kidney patient. We’re hoping to show it locally again soon but I also host public and private screenings. The DVD will be available this summer. You can view the trailer at www.perfectstrangersmovie.com.

As a result of the film and the book, I’ve been invited to book clubs, film Q&A’s, and conferences to speak about my experience. I realize not everyone is a candidate for living donation (but hopefully some of you are!) so I tend to talk about altruism in the grander sense of how one can find happiness through kindness and compassion.

I love my work as an advocate for living donation, but I’m also making time to write. What’s next is a coming-of-age novel set in the sixties about a psychic little girl born into a fundamentalist Christian family who feels threatened by her paranormal gifts. The opening of This I Know recently won the Lillian Dean Award for fiction.  The novel is planned for publication in 2015.

Thank you so much, Catherine, for all that you do to promote kindness through your non-profit and to support other authors through this blog. In hopes of inspiring others to offer hope to desperate patients, I’m asking your readers to spread the word about Lost in Transplantation. You can find me on Facebook and on the web at my website, where I’ve just started a blog. I’m available to answer questions about how to donate as well as inquiries about speaking engagements.

The book is availableon Amazon as an eBook and in paperback, and at Barnes & Noble. It’s also available for Kobo and iTunes.

Cover Reveals: The Backlist Gets a Big Makeover

Catherine Ryan Hyde

My wonderful agency and I took a look back recently. When we first put out our own independent ebook editions of my backlist novels Funerals for Horses, Electric God, and Walter's Purple Heart, we didn't really know what to expect. We didn't know how much interest there would be for these titles. Plus, I was working on a shoestring.

The titles are doing quite well, I'm happy to say, due to a great number of wonderful new readers (thank you, wonderful new readers!) who are going through the full body of my work.

We all agreed it was time to give these ebooks a makeover. Help them stand right up there with my newer titles.

So here are the wonderful new covers. If you haven't read the backlist, maybe this is a great time to start. The ebook editions are affordable at only $2.99. And they will give you something to read while you are waiting for my two brand new novels to come out this year.

Hope you like the new look!

The 365 Photo Book is (Almost) Here!

Catherine Ryan Hyde

This is actually the proof of the huge, gorgeous coffee-table-size softcover edition of 365 Days of Gratitude: Photos from a Beautiful World. This is the one I promised to give away lots of copies of. (Bad sentence, but good sentiment, right?) And I plan to keep that promise.

I wanted to show it to you so you could get some idea of the size and quality of the book in question.

My next step is to order several cartons of them. And start giving them away on this blog, and maybe also on my Facebook author page.

As always, all you have to do is comment that you want one. Do leave your email address in the comment form. I promise I won't use it for any other purpose but to notify you if you win. Don't leave your email address in the body of your comment unless you want everybody to see it.

I'm not sure when I'll have more copies, but let's start the giveaway now for three. It will end when I have the books in hand. I'll choose three commenters at random.

I'll give away a lot more. Maybe one a month. Maybe I'll get more creative. But I'm excited, now that I've seen how well the paper book turned out. So let's get started!

Walk Me Home is a Kindle Monthly Deal

Catherine Ryan Hyde

All this month my novel Walk Me Home is being offered as a Kindle Monthly Deal for May. The promotional price is $1.99. That's a fifty percent savings.

I always want to make sure my readers know about price promotions, because I honestly believe that faithful readers deserve book bargains.

This is also a great month to suggest Walk Me Home to your book group, especially if the people in your group have ereaders. It's a book that lends itself well to group discussion, and the price is good.

Hope you'll give it a try if you haven't already, and I hope you enjoy it! 

Don't Let Me Go is $0.99

Catherine Ryan Hyde

I'm guessing that about 95% of the people who see this blog have already read the book in question, Don't Let Me Go. Then again, I could be wrong. Either way, I want to let my faithful readers know that the book is on a Kindle Countdown Deal right now. The Kindle ebook is $0.99 today, tomorrow, and Thursday (April 29th and 30th and May 1st) before going back up to its normal price in daily increments.

If you haven't read it, I'm happy to offer it to you at this discount, because I firmly believe that people who buy and read books deserve bargains now and then.

If you have read it, I hope you enjoyed it enough to tell your friends about this deal. Or your book club! I know book clubs like to read books that not only come recommended, but can be bought inexpensively.

In either case, if I'm going to put a book on special price promotion, I'll always make sure my faithful readers hear about it. Word-spreading is always much appreciated. 

To Celebrate International Pay It Forward Day...

Catherine Ryan Hyde

Did you know International Pay It Forward Day is today this year, April 24th?

Here's how I'm celebrating. Actually, I'll celebrate a number of different ways, most involving acts of kindness. But this is cool, and I wanted to share it with you.

Simon & Schuster has put out a press release announcing that the book will soon be released in a young readers' edition, suitable for middle grade students.

I'm linking to the press release HERE and it should download when you click the link. If not, you can view it HERE. Please feel free to repost anywhere and everywhere. It's all about spreading the word.

Can you imagine a world where kids read Pay It Forward in school when they're eight, or ten? I can. But let's not imagine. Let's have that world and see what changes. Things can only get better from here.

The Bet: We Still Crazy

Catherine Ryan Hyde

California ChromeNo, that was not a typo in the title of this post. I'm practicing my trash-talk voice.

For those of you unfamiliar with the concept of The Bet, it goes a little something like this. Well, actually, it goes a lot like this. Author Brian Farrey read an article somewhere about Steven King making a bet that involved, rather than money, the writing of a short story. The "winner" got to dictate the title to the "loser." (Now I ask you, how can you be a winner if you don't get to write a story and a loser if you do?) He proposed the idea on Twitter to see if any authors were crazy enough to take him up on it. Fortunately for Brian, authors are nothing if not a crazy bunch.

The call was answered by authors Andrew Smith, Kimberly Pauley, and yours truly. But I'm pleased to say that this year, year four(!), we are being joined by the wonderful author David Lubar.

Here's how it works: We each pick a horse in the Kentucky Derby. For the purposes of The Bet, they are--or might as well be--the only horses running. In other words, they don't need to win. They just need to beat each other. The person whose horse comes in first dictates a title to the author whose horse comes in second, and so on. The "winner" doesn't get to write a story, and the last place "loser" doesn't get to dictate a title.

My horse this year is the very winning California Chrome. I'd tell you their horses, but two have already been scratched and the bettors will have to choose again.

Stay tuned on derby day. And if you want something to read in the meantime, here are some links to my stories from previous years: The Art of Being Stuck Here, Uncle Mo Hold a Grudge, and Even Pidgeons Can Sing. Wish me luck. I haven't won yet. Then again, I like to write stories. So I'm not complaining. 

Better Than Blurbs: Long Live the Suicide King by Aaron Ritchey

Catherine Ryan Hyde

Because I no longer write blurbs, but still very much want to help other authors, I've launched a blog series called Better Than Blurbs. The authors and I will have in-depth discussions about their books, which I hope will help readers identify whether they'd enjoy reading them. This is the seventh post of the series. The author is Aaron Ritchie, and the book is the brand new YA novel Long Live the Suicide King.

 

Me: Let's start in the usual way. Aaron, please tell us about the book in your own words.

Aaron: Long Live the Suicide King came out of my own experiences with addiction, depression, and suicidal ideation. 

Well, that’s not a very happy way to start, but I did get to use the word “ideation” which is cool.  Yes, it’s a contemporary YA novel with addiction, depression, and suicide in it, but it’s more of a young man’s search for meaning in this beautiful, broken world.  And the book is funny because the world is funny and good.  A bad world wouldn’t have donuts, and we have donuts.  I could say don’t read it for the deep, spiritual themes, read it for the donuts.

Uh oh, now I’m talking about spiritual themes, which leads people to think I’m talking about religion, which is going to alienate readers.  Dang.  What was the question again?  My own words.  My book in my own words.

Friendship, meaning, desire, kindness, selflessness, compassion, sorrow, death, divorce, mocha lattes, and race relations in America.  Oh, and Christianity, Buddhism, atheism, and Geddy Lee from the progressive rock band Rush.  These are a few of my favorite things.

Okay, now that I’ve confused everyone.  I’m ready to start the interview.

Me: You strike me as someone who could write just about any damn thing you please and do it well. What drew you to YA fiction? It’s okay to be honest if the answer is the health and fitness of that genre in an otherwise ailing industry. But if there’s something that draws you to YA, I’d like to hear about it. Will you always write YA, or is this just one of many directions you see yourself going?

Aaron:  Gosh.  Thanks, Catherine.  Gosh.

About genre.  Genre!  Why do you task me so?

Short answer is that I spent the first ten years of my writing working on  doorstop-sized multi-genre masterpieces no one could read.  Part sci-fi, part epic fantasy, part Russian novel, part lost Gnostic gospel.  I couldn’t pitch these books.  I didn’t know how to talk about them.  They were too epic!

And then I read Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.  And I said, hey, what about doing a book like that?  Then I sarted reading YA, and boom, I could write cross-genre novels, call them YA, and they would have  a shelf to sit on.   

But more than genre, having young adult readers is awesome and talking books with teens is fun, and there’s just so much excitement there.  My YA books have an edge, though.  They’re not happy angels or lovesick werewolves.  At the same time, they aren’t full of eviscerations and R-rated skinny dippings.

And I like that.  My parents can read my books, grandmothers can read my books, I’ve cornered the YA market for octogenarian nuns (I have two such fans), and I don’t have to be embarrassed by what’s inside.  

Will I always write YA?   I think so.  I like the characters, I like the conflict.  I like the coming of age themes.  Someday I’ll come of age.  I have faith.

Me: What do you say to Meghan Cox Gurdon? For those (fortunately, in my opinion) unfamiliar, she is the author of the Wall Street Journal article “Darkness too Visible,” criticizing YA fiction for not being cheerier.

Aaron: I wasn’t familiar with the article, but I’ve thought about all of those things while I was working on my books.

I think there is a line drawn between YA and adult books.  A definite line, and I would argue that line is more about rating than genre.

I approach that line, but I don’t cross it. My books are rated a solid PG-13.  In real life, all of my characters would walk around cursing with staggering grammatical displays of vile genius, but what’s the point of that?  To show I can cuss?

In some ways I agree with her.  If someone is throwing F-bombs and going into graphic details about sexual abuse, is that YA?  Yeah, I’m thinking the author crossed the line and it becomes an adult book with YA characters.  Most readers read up, so really, a lot of the YA readers are in middle grade.  Something I  keep in mind.

So rating is one thing, genre is another. 

Darkness, violence, despair, troubling sexuality, all fit perfectly fine in the YA genre. 

For example, I found adolescence horrific.  Suddenly, the fairy tales of my youth were stripped away and I was presented with reality, where people do cut themselves, people are sexually abused, and bad stuff happens. 

I couldn’t run back into the fairy tales.  Once you know the world is broken, you know. 

Instead, I read lots and lots of Stephen King because I had this passion to try and understand the gore, the horror show, the nightmares.  Which I think is why teens are drawn to darker themes in YA literature.

As a writer, I’m still trying to understand the suffering, sadness, and sorrow in the world.  And what’s a better way to do that than walking with someone who is in the middle of suffering, sorrow, sadness? [Me, note: I agree completely. You don't pretend there is no darkness. You light a path through it.]

Jackie Morse Kessler’s Riders of the Apocalypse series is brilliant.  In Hunger, an anorexic teenager becomes Famine.  Is it all prettiness and sparkling vampires?  Uh no.  Is it real, gritty, gruesome?  Yes.  Is there hope and salvation?  Yes.  Because a key component in many YA novels is change.

One last F-word on this subject.  In Long Live the Suicide King I use the F-word once.  I debated long and hard if I should keep it in.  Then  I talked with a fourteen-year-old hardcore homeschooled Christian kid about it, and he said, “Keep it real, man.  If you can’t curse God, who can you curse?”  So it stayed.  It fits.  And I use it once.

Me: You said a few things to me that suggested that the road to publication didn’t go the way you expected. Of course you realize that doesn’t make you stand out much among your fellow authors. It really just makes you… a writer. Please tell us as much as you are willing to tell about your writer’s journey. The brick walls, the eventual breaks. (Breaks in the wall, breaks in you—we’re wide open here.)

Aaron: Oh, Catherine, oh me, oh life.  I wanted to be rich, famous, lauded as a genius, given keys to cities, honorary degrees, lear jets.  Instead, I write words, unagented, ignored by the big huge publishing industry, and really without a lot of external praise and certainly not the adoration I want. 

Which is probably good in the long run.  I can totally see me Lindsay Lohanning into flames.

I’m like a guy who couldn’t find a prom date.  I went around and asked all these agents and editors to go to the prom with me, and they all said no.

I went to prom anyway.  I might be out on the dance floor by myself, but I’m publishing books I adore, and I’m dancing.

And I’m not alone.  I’m dancing with editors from small presses, I’m dancing with other writers, and I’m dancing with readers.

But make no mistake, I’m dancing.

Me: I love Inga Blute. And her dog. I think she makes a great counterpoint of light to play off JD’s darkness. And I think she’s a wonderful way for the reader to see the value of life, even if the protagonist currently can’t. Okay, that’s a comment. It’s not so much a question. But if you wanted to speak to her character for a bit—what she means to you, how it felt to write her, what part she played in the development of the story in your head—that would be a good thing.

Aaron:  Inga in a very real sense saved the book.  Thanks, Inga!  But guess what?  She wasn’t in the first drafts.  After getting feedback from beta readers and contest judges, I knew some people just didn’t like JD, my main character, my POV character!  So I knew I needed to add someone who would let the readers know that JD is a good guy.  He’s a hot, suicidal mess, but he’s still a good guy. 

That’s where Inga comes in.  JD takes care of her, worries over her, and in the end, is transformed because of some of the things she said. 

Inga wrote herself.  I would sit down, and she would tell me things, and I would write them down.  Not to spoil anything, but I had no idea that she had a long history of mental illness before I wrote her scenes. 

Yeah, I love Inga too.  And Schatzi, her very happy dog.

Me: I’m interested in your choice of an overtly Christian teen character, Marianne Hartley. Her religion is, of course, at predictable odds with your protagonist. But as the books goes on, she becomes more and more layered and human. Refreshingly so. There’s such an enormous rift this days between the religious and the secular. Talk to us, please, about your choice to bring her into the story.

Aaron:  Yes, there is an unfortunate rift between the religious and the secular.  Not to make a gross generalization, but too often the religious can be ignorant and the secular can be narrow-minded.  Gross generalization.  Ew. 

Both sides should remember that trying to understand God is like trying to pour an ocean into a thimble. 

While Inga has rebellious, heretical theology as far as God is concerned, Marianne Hartley seems like a goody-two shoes Christian girl who prays to Jesus at night, does her homework, and reads Sweet Valley High novels.  No dark YA for Marianne Hartley. 

JD think he has her all figured out.  Except one of the major themes in the book is the Grand Canyon gap between our perceptions and reality. 

Marianne is human.   Painfully so.  Between her and Inga, they give JD the answers he needs. I have lots about God in my book, which I know will push some readers away, but these are the books I was born to write.

I love being an atheist. I can’t accept any sort of god running the universe.  And I love being a Catholic, because how can there not be a God?

If God can’t be bigger than that paradox than he’s like some crappy Walmart god and shouldn’t exist.

I’ve known lots of girls like Marianne Hartley. Not in the biblical sense either. So that was some of my own history shining through.  And I’ve learned, as JD does, don’t compare your insides with other people’s outsides. 

Me: I won’t do spoilers, but when we find out more about what has this guy in such a dark place, it feels very textured and honest and real. There was another very successful book on teen suicide; I’ll let it be nameless. I never bought the suicidal reasoning in that one. I think that, unless we are suffering from overwhelming depression already, we don’t want to kill ourselves because we blame others, or because of our opinion of others, or because of what others do. I think the problem is with ourselves. How much did your personal experience inform these choices? Or is there a place early on in the writing process where imagination kicks in and Jimmy is just different, just himself? Or both?

Aaron: My book really is an autobiographical novel. 

And I had trouble with that other nameless suicide book as well.

If you haven’t been in front of a mirror, trying to slash your wrists, I think the average non-suicidal person likes the idea that people kill themselves because of some specific reason.  The Ordinary People reason for suicide.  I let my brother drown, so now I want to die.

It’s clean.  It’s tidy.  It makes sense.  I couldn’t write a suicide book like that.  That wasn’t my experience.  Like JD, I had all the outside stuff, but I needed meaning.  I needed answers.  My brain doesn’t work sometimes and I needed help to manage my thinking, which can be horribly negative. 

There’s an old joke about two kids on Christmas morning.  One wakes up to a roomful of toys, and one wakes up to a roomful of horse poop.  The first kid plays with some of the toys, gets bored, gets angsty, and wanders off.  That’s me.  Give me a roomful of toys, and I’m going to tell you in great detail, which toy is missing, why the toys aren’t right, and why life sucks.

The other kid?  He is playing around in the horse poop, running around, all happy.  Someone finally asks him, “Hey kid, what’s your damage?”

He replies, happily, “With all this manure around, there must be a pony in here somewhere.”

That’s who I want to be.

Me: What’s next? Do you have another novel “in the can?” If so, how much are you willing to tell us about it, and when do we get to find out for ourselves? In what ways is it like Long Live the Suicide King? In what ways is it unique? If you don’t have anything else finished, you can just imagine where you’ll go from here and answer anyway.

Aaron: Actually, I’m juggling four different projects, all so much fun.  I got a contemporary romance (very different), I got a YA sci-fi romance (Blade Runner meets Twilight), I have a YA steampunk family drama (very Firefly), and I have what I hope will be my next published book, Elizabeth’s Midnight.  I’m in talks with another small press, but I haven’t signed a contract yet.

Elizabeth’s Midnight is a contemporary YA with fantasy elements.  Oh, it’s so great.  It has France in it, and treasure hunting, and love, and doing the impossible.

It’s about an overweight, emotionally handicapped teen who finds herself on the run with her grandmother.  Both are being chased by the teen’s mother, who wants to stop them from travelling to France to see the grandmother’s lover from World War II.  You don’t know if the grandmother is crazy and lying, or if she is telling the truth about her lost love, since yeah, she claims he’s a sorcerer-prince from another world.

It really is a sweet book, solid PG, and Meghan Cox Gurdon would approve.

However, there is some darkness in the book.  Elizabeth starts out so shut-down, so out to lunch, and her mom is such a monumental dragon lady.   But those are the characters I like: real, hurt and hurting, dragging themselves through their days until that special something happens, that spark, which drives the wounded character forward until they find healing.

And we can be healed in this world.  Perhaps, that is exactly why we are here in the first place.  To find healing.  To find a home.

So we can dance and dance.

Life is sweet.

Me: (Everybody gets this one:) Please write your own question, and answer it.

Aaron: Your questions were so good!  I couldn’t add another one!  Perfect interview!

My bio:

Aaron Michael Ritchey's first novel, The Never Prayer, was published in March of 2012 to a fanfare of sparkling reviews including an almost win in the RMFW Gold contest. Since then he's been paid to write steampunk, cyberpunk, and sci-fi western short stories, two of which will appear in a new fiction magazine, FICTIONVALE. His next novel, Long Live the Suicide King, will give hope to the masses in April of 2014. As a former story addict and television connoisseur, he lives in Colorado with his wife and two ancient goddesses posing as his daughters. 


For more about him, his books, and how to overcome artistic angst, visit www.aaronmritchey.com. He's on Facebook as Aaron Michael Ritchey and he tweets - @aaronmritchey.

My First Photo Book is Here!

Catherine Ryan Hyde

It's here! The ebook edition of 365 Days of Gratitude: Photos from a Beautiful World. It's a big file, so don't be surprised if it doesn't show up on your computer/Kindle/tablet as instantly as most ebooks. But it's available for purchase.

I'll be honest and say that in the not-too-distant future it will be discounted for a few days of promotion. Probably to $0.99, probably mid-May. So if you buy it now for $3.99, it should be because you want to, or because you don't want to wait. It shouldn't be because I kept that to myself so you didn't have the option.

As I mentioned in my previous blog about this book, the paperback will be along soon. It won't be for sale, because you wouldn't like the price I'd have to put on it. But I'll be giving quite a few away on this blog. 

So, just to recap, ebook HERE, large 8 1/2 x 11 format paperback, watch this space for more news!