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Me and the ALA Convention

I don’t do a lot of book signings these days, but when I was invited to sign my soon-to-be-released book The Love of Divena at the American Library Association convention in Anaheim, I couldn’t say no. I mean, librarians would be there. City and county and school librarians.  Some of my very favorite people in the world!

The Love of Divena is the third and final book of my Blessings in India trilogy.  The series follows two families through 20th century India: one a family of “untouchables,” the other the high caste Christian-in-name family that owns them.

Okay, back to Anaheim (home of Disneyland, for those not in the know). The Anaheim Convention Center is huge!  So when I saw that Abingdon Press’ booth was at the far end of the hall, my spirits sank.  Books, books everywhere.  How many people would keep walking the aisles until they got to me? 

Well, as it turned out, lots of folks did. I started signing at 9:30 a.m. and didn’t stop until the last book was gone at 12:10.  And people were still in line. 

I met library folks from all across theU.S., and from many other countries, too: Ireland, England, the Virgin Islands, Nigeria, Bangladesh, Kenya, India…  People were so excited to see that the series was set in India.  And everyone asked if I had been there.  Fortunately, I have, because  many knowledgeable people wanted to engage me in discussions. 

Most frequently asked questions: 

  • How many times have you been to India?
  • Answer: Eight.  Ninth time this coming October.
  • Is this a Christian book?
  • Answer: “Yes, but not tacked on Christianity that hits readers over the head.”
  • Is it suitable for young people? 
  • Answer:  “Absolutely! Acceptable and also historically accurate.”  

Sign me up for next year!”




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On Writing: This and That from Here and There

Do you like writing info? Sound bites?  Stats?  Bullet points?  Then you are sure to love this post.  Since the info compiled here has been gleaned from various sources, I won’t bet the rent on it.  Still, it is interesting.  And thought provoking.

  •  Over 70 percent of books published in the world are in languages other than English
  • About 1.5 million books are in print in the U.S. at any one time.
  • The top 10 book publishers in the U.S. control about 88 percent of the market.
  • The New York Times reported that “According to a recent survey, 81 percent of people feel that they have a book in them…and should write it.”
  • This means that over 200 million people in the U.S. want to write a book.
  • Last year, according to Bowker, 764,448 titles were self-published. That’s a mind-boggling 181 percent increase from the previous year.
  • California has approximately six times the number of small presses as anywhere else.
  • Colorado and Minnesota are the self-publishing runners-up.
  • Religious books represent a significant share of today’s publishing market.
  • More and more spiritual and religious titles are crossing over into mainstream bookstores.
  • Women buy 68 percent of all books sold.
  • Most readers never get past page 18 in a book they have purchased.

Interesting, huh?  Do you have any stats to add to this list? 

“When I want to read a good book, I write one.”

Benjamin Disraeli

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Before Freedom… The Better News

Okay, I promised that in my follow-up post on human trafficking, I’d pass along some good news. Here goes:

  • Myanmar (Burma) not only has a significant traffic problem, but also trafficks girls and women to other Asian countries. The positive? The government finally acknowledged the problem and is trying in significant ways to address it.
  • The Czech Republic has introduced a series of anti-trafficking laws and is actively convicting traffickers.
  • Iceland, Israel, and Nicaragua all made progress this last year in facing up to their countries’ trafficking problems, and all are taking major steps to fight it.
  • Lithuania gets high praise for punishing trafficking criminals, for improving its system of identifying victims, and for actively investigating crimes and prosecuting the criminals.
  • United States State Department’s just-released report on Human Trafficking ranks it as one of the most active countries in combating human trafficking.  Still, it needs to better collect local, state and federal data so it can better monitor trafficking trends.
  • Finland prohibits buying sexual services, but only from trafficking victims.
  • Sweden has a unique law that criminalizes the ones who purchase sex. Passed in 1999, the law targets only the purchaser, not the victim. The penalty is a fine or up to six months in prison.  As a result, the country’s trafficking problem is small.
  • Norway, seeingSweden’s success, is preparing similar legislation.

Yea forSweden!  Its approach has proven to be the most effective by far.

How can sex trafficking be defeated?  By severely punishing the ones who profit form it. By arresting its customers. By offering a way out to those held in its bondage. By creating good alternatives for at-risk girls and women.

“We need to ensure that all survivors have that opportunity to move past what they endured and to make the most of their potential.”

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton


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Before Freedom…

Human trafficking statistics:

800,000 people are trafficked across international borders every year.

50% are children, 80% women and girls

1 million children are exploited by the global commercial sex trade, every year.

70% of trafficked women and girls are trafficked into the commercial sex industry.

$32 billion–Yearly profits brought in by the human trafficking industry.

$15.5 billion of that is made in industrialized countries.

244,000 – Estimated number of American children and young people estimated to be at risk

12-14 years – Average age of entry into prostitution

In 2009, the Human Trafficking Prosecution Unit in the U.S, along with theU.S. Attorneys’ Offices, charged 114 individuals, and obtained 47 convictions in 43 human trafficking prosecutions (21 labor trafficking and 22 sex trafficking).  This is highest number of prosecutions and defendants charged in any given year.

That’s all??

That’s the bad news.  Next post, better news.

 “If to be feelingly alive to the sufferings of my fellow-creatures is to be a fanatic, I am one of the most incurable fanatics ever permitted to be at large.”

William Wilberforce


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You Go, Egyptian Girls!

“No!  We can’t let men do these things!” an exasperated young teen exclaimed after yet another girl told of the sexual harassment she endured.  They all had stories of harassment: at home, at school, on the street. 

I had gone to Cairo to observe a cutting edge  program being introduced into public schools.  It both taught girls to say no, and fostered sensitivity in boys.  That was before Arab Spring hit Egypt.  Afterward that teen emailed me: “Now everything will be different.”

Well, things are different, though not in the way she expected.  In Tahrir Square last week, some 50 women held a march demanding an end to ongoing sexual harassment.  An even greater number of supportive men joined hands to make a circle of protection around them. No one expected the mob of hundreds of  men who descended, forcing their way through the protective circle. The guards fought back, punching and swinging their belts, but the mob of intruders was too big.  The mob pushed the guards aside, then turned on the women.  First they heckled, then they attacked.  And I don’t mean just with mass ridicule, either–although that would have been bad enough.  They really attacked. Shocked witnesses called it “terrifying” and “ferocious.” 

The mob groped the women, then they forced their hands down the women’s clothes.  They separated small groups of women and forced them into a corner where they proceeded to assault them.  When the women finally managed to escape to a nearby building, the mob still wouldn’t quit.  They gathered outside and shouted insults at the women.

So, has the standing of those brave Egyptian women who fought so hard for freedom really changed?  Don’t bet on it. 

What has changed are the women themselves. Instead of slinking home, beaten and scared, they hold their heads high and sign up for self-defense classes.  Even better, they teach their children that there is another way.  A better way.  Ask one of those women and she will vow,  “No!  We cannot let men do these things!”


“The Egyptian girl says it loudly, harassment is barbaric!” 

Chant at Tahrir Square rally


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Defining Moments

Many of us have a defining moment in our lives. Mine is the fire that roared through my neighborhood and destroyed my home on June 27, 1990, at 6:35 p.m.  I think I will forever mark time as BF and AF—before the fire and after the fire.

It happened during a perfect storm of events.  My husband was ill, and the fire seemed to be the tipping point. He went steadily downhill until his death seven years later.  My children, such an important part of my life, went away to school that fall.  My income as a writer had been an important part of our family finances, but I lost three books in progress and another just completed but not yet submitted, as well as a screenplay a movie producer had asked to see.  It took two full years to redo what I had already been paid for.  And because of my husband’s condition, I had the daunting task of replacing a house and everything in it by myself. 

That’s the downside.  But defining moments also have an upside. BF, I had no idea of my own strength.  How could I?  It had never been testing. Idiscovered that I could handle the finances and rewrite a book in less than a month and hire an architect and builder.  I could care for my husband and be his advocate.  BF, I had no idea of my children’s strength, either. I watch them today and wonder how much of who they are was seared into them by that fire. I learned the importance of perspective.  It was, after all, just a house.  I learned the difference between people you know and real friends.  And I learned the truth behind the words from the Apostle Paul: 

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?  No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.  Romans 8:35-39

Yet every year as I turn the calendar page to June, I remember.

“There are two ways to live: you can live as if nothing is a miracle; you can live as if everything is a miracle.”

Albert Einstein


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7 Steps to Writing Historical Fiction

I just got two more books in the mail today. That makes six books on various aspects of a murky time in Ireland’s history, the subject of a book I’m just starting. I love writing historical fiction because I love to read it. Getting totally immersed in a rollicking good story, then discovering you’re a quasi-expert on a particular era in history?  What could be more fun!

But the only way historical novels work is if the story is rollicking good, and the history is accurate.  These 7 steps will get you off to a good start:

  1. Read the kind of books you’d like to write.  Historical romance?  Historical mystery?  Historical adventure? Each is different in pace and approach.  Also read about the period of history that interests you.  A book on the crusades will much different than one set during the Roaring 20s.
  2. Consult many different sources.  Authors make mistakes. They also tend to tweak facts to fit their stories.  But readers of historical fiction expect you to know what you’re talking about, and to get your facts right. If you don’t, you will hear about it.
  3. Know your setting. I personally make it a rule not to write about places I haven’t been.  True, Ireland has changed since the seventeenth century.  But it is still Ireland.  I can describe the green hills in spring, and the baby lambs gamboling through it, far better for having spent time there.  And since I’ve pretty much traveled the entire island, I have an idea of the difference between the east and west coast, between the north and south.
  4. Lay out your story.  Your story doesn’t really have to be rollicking, but it must be compelling.  All your research will mean nothing if you fail to build a good story.
  5. Gather reference pictures.  What do your characters look like?  What makes a ship of the era unique?  If you refer to something in particular—a locket, say, or weapon or a unique toy—have a picture of it before you.
  6. Decide on the manner of dialogue.  It’s important to establish and hold onto the flavor of your characters, but I can tell you from experience, it is really hard to tell a story in dialect.  Telling your story from third person will help.  Also, decide on a few patterns of speech you can use consistently, then let go of the rest.
  7. Keep your story moving. I know, I know, the history tempts you to slow down and throw in a few more interesting tidbits.  But your story must continue to be engaging. If you lose that, you’ll just be writing another history book. 

 Write on!

 “To see the years touch ye gives me joy,” he whispered, “for it means that ye live.”

Author Diana Gabaldon, Outlander


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