Farewell, 2017

Fairy Bridge

Fairy Bridge at the Overland Park Arboretum.

Once in a great while, a calendar year comes with a singular message; a lesson that seems to start on or near January 1st and come full circle by the end of December.

If I were to articulate the big lesson of the last 365 days, it would be this:

We must work hard to achieve our dreams, but we must also learn to accept what life gives us.

This is a difficult balance to strike; a terrible contradiction in so many ways. Nothing hurts more – and few things are harder to accept – than lost dreams. The bigger our dreams, the harder we work to achieve them, and the greater the disappointment when we fail.

But not every dream is meant to be realized, and not everything is under our control. Sometimes that’s okay. Sometimes the failure of one dream opens up other options or allows a greater appreciation of the blessings we have. But sometimes failed dreams are just failed dreams, and there’s nothing we can do except face the loss, process it, overcome it, and let it go.

I know this is a lifelong lesson that can never be mastered, but I’m trying to more conscientious about it going forward; to remember to enjoy the life I’ve built and not dwell so much on dreams lost along the way. To never give up and yet, occasionally, to give in. To relax once in a while and enjoy what is, instead of stubbornly forcing circumstances toward what I want them to be.

Not that it’s a bad thing to want, but sometimes I think we could all do a better job of controlling our wants rather than letting our wants control us.

It’s been a good year in so many ways. I’ve made new friends and reconnected with old ones. I’ve had a lot of wonderful time with my family. I’ve traveled to new places and finished publishing a trilogy. I received some great editorial reviews, and I’ve successfully taken on new challenges at work.

At the same time, I had to come to terms with important dreams that didn’t work out or come together as expected. There’ve deep disappointments along the way, and processing them has taken an extraordinary amount of time and energy. Uncertainty has reasserted itself as a constant companion in my life. In past years, uncertainty has been a most unwelcome companion, but in 2017, I started to make peace with it.

Tomorrow is a new day and a New Year, and 2017 has given me the strength to step forward into the unknown. I’m not really sure what lies ahead, but for the first time in a long while, I’m okay with that.

Happy New Year to everyone! Thank you for walking this path with me. I look forward to more adventures with you in 2018. Wishing you and your loved ones all the best!

Publishers Weekly reviews Daughter of Aithne

doa-2b-copyI’m very excited to report that this week’s edition of Publishers Weekly includes a review of Daughter of Aithne!

The review caught me a little by surprise. I’d submitted the novel at the beginning of 2017 using BookLife, the independent author platform managed by Publishers Weekly. My hope was to score a PW review in time for the novel’s release in May.

PW reviews are free, but there’s no guarantee they’ll select your novel. So when months went by without any news, I assumed that Daughter of Aithne had been passed over in favor of other books in the slush pile.

Then, about six weeks ago, BookLife informed me my novel had been selected for review. Woohoo!! Imagine my joy – and my angst!

It’s a great privilege to get the attention of PW, but nothing tweaks an author’s nerves like the prospect of an editorial review. I’ve long since learned to let reader reviews wash over me, but editorial reviews matter, because they are guaranteed to be seen by people – librarians, publishers, agents – who could play a significant role in getting your novel out to more readers. Editorial reviews are also critical to building a professional resume as an author.

And this editorial review is a good one.

PW describes Eolyn as a “standout character,” and states, among other positives, that “the best elements of love, war, and plotting” have been retained from my previous novels. The conclusion? “Fans of the trilogy won’t want to miss this hard-hitting finish.”

Did you hear that? My novel is hard-hitting

You can read the complete review on Publishers Weekly’s web site. 

This is a very exciting moment for me, and also one of deep satisfaction. I now have a complete set of editorial reviews from two highly respected sources. Both Kirkus and Publishers Weekly have considered all three novels of The Silver Web Trilogy, and both of them have been consistently positive in their analysis.

It’s a nice note to end the year on, and great way to start holidays. The closest feeling I can compare it to is drinking a cold beer at the end of a long days hike. Sure, the hike itself was rewarding, and I don’t really need anything more than that beautiful sunset over a mountain lake to believe the intense pain in my muscles was worth it, but hey, if someone wants to hand me a cold drink to top off the day?

By all means, pass that bottle my way!

It doesn’t get any better than this.


Let’s talk about sexual harassment

Anita Hill Testifies on Clarence Thomas Nomination

Anita Hill bears witness to the truth in front of an all white, all male Senate Judiciary Committee.

Like many women I know, I have an extraordinary capacity to internalize anger. Maybe I was born this way; maybe this is how I was trained. As a proponent of the phrase talent gets you nowhere without training, I’m guessing it’s a little of both. 

The point is, I let things wash over me. The daily affronts of being a woman – what I’ve experienced myself and what I’ve seen happen to friends and family, what I read in history and what I watch on the news – get buried under an instinctive resistance to open complaint. After all, why would I want to upset anyone with my opinion? So my anger is kept deep inside, where it is processed and transformed into fuel for an internal oven that keeps me working quietly – though never meekly – toward a better world.

Once in a while, something happens that triggers an overload inside that system. Heat builds and bursts out like a solar flare, and I find I’m no longer able to ignore my anger or hide it from anyone else. I am compelled to speak and to make others listen.

One of my earliest experiences of this sort of conscientious anger was in 1991, when Anita Hill testified to the Senate Judiciary Committee regarding the harassment she suffered under Clarence Thomas. I was appalled at how Anita Hill was treated, appalled that so many chose not to believe her – or more cynically, tore down a testimony they knew to be true out of political expedience. Because those senators chose to be complicit in a culture of sexual harassment, we now have a sexual offender sitting on the Supreme Court and deciding on the constitutional rights of all women.

Among my most recent experiences of conscientious anger – and there have been many the past couple years – was the November 2016 election. During that long and torturous campaign, I found no shortage of reasons not to support the Republican nominee for president. But to see sexual harassment come up again – and be ignored again – was particularly infuriating. Now, thanks to every single voter who chose to be complicit in our culture of harassment, we have a sexual predator sitting in the White House and wreaking havoc on our nation.

In recent weeks, we have confronted a multitude of allegations that expose – not for the first time – the environment of harassment that characterizes congress, including a pedophile who may be elected senator in the not-so-distant future. While members of Congress cynically cut investment in education, healthcare and other important public programs, they use our tax dollars to settle claims of sexual harassment.

Concurrent with this, a rash of sexual harassment accusations have rocked the entertainment industry. With each new story that has emerged, murmurings have ranged from “Yup, I figured” to “What? I’m shocked!” peppered by the occasional, “Don’t let this turn into a witch hunt!” I’m sure you can guess, and have even observed, how these comments tend sort out among gender lines.

By the way, if you are at all fuzzy on the difference between a witch hunt and an accusation of sexual harassment, I invite you to read Lucy Huber’s wonderful essay on the topic.

There’s also been a fair amount of teeth gnashing and weeping over whether we can continue to admire the work of an artist once we know the awful things he has done. For examples of that discussion, check here and here. For my part, I’m not troubled by this question. I have plenty of artists to admire without digging to the bottom of the barrel and giving my hard-earned money and valuable attention to sexual predators.

But for those struggling with what to do about the artists you once considered heroes,  remember this debate is not only about where we’ve been, it’s about where we are going.

We are all victims to and participants in a perverse system that for too long has favored this kind of behavior on all levels. It is on us to set the past aside and look forward to a new standard, one of zero tolerance that we all honor and enforce.

The ability to treat every single person – women and men, young and old, of every race, ethnicity, and creed – with respect and dignity should be a point of departure, not an afterthought, in defining the career of an individual. To argue anything else is to cling to a perverse ideology; one that has hurt too many people for too long and in so doing, has undermined our society as a whole.

To reach our full potential in every aspect of the human endeavor, we must support the women at the forefront of this battle. We must make certain sexual offenders meet with justice, and we must put an end to sexual harassment now and for generations to come.