Events, General, Journal

New! WriteWords Press is Expanding

NEW!  WriteWords Press is set to launch two more books in 2011!  In addition to Sundagger.net, WriteWords Press will publish:

Dreamers, an interracial romance of the ’60s, by  Margaret C. Murray

Floating Point, Endlessly Rocking Off Silicon Valley, a memoir by Shelley Buck

WriteWords Press began on a gray day four years ago.  It was January 19, 2007 and I was in Martinez, CA. I had just walked into a small old brick one-story office to register the fictitious business name of WriteWord Press at the County Clerk Recorder’s office.

The quaint town of Martinez lies on the water’s edge where the Sacramento River meets the San Francisco Bay. In the goldrush days, it was a ferryboat transit point across the Carquinez Straits on the way to the gold fields.

There were many birds in the wetlands near where I had parked my car. A few gulls followed screeching as I walked the two blocks down Main Street to the County Building.

It was a new moon in the sign of Capricorn, signifying a goat who climbs mountains.  I had the planets of Mercury (mind) and Mars (energy) in the sign of Capricorn when I was born and I was going to need that mountain goat energy now.

Ahead of me were two couples applying for marriage licenses. One couple was young with both sets of parents as witnesses, the other couple  past middle-age, like myself. We all stood in a straggling line that ended at a glass-windowed linoleum countertop.  On the other side of the glass, a harried clerk with touseled hair sat hunched over her computer.

I felt focused, clear-headed and resolute. Why was I taking on this Olympian task of launching WriteWords Press? Simply put, I was ready. I was ready to put my novels into the world.

You might say I’ve been addicted to good books since I was seven and could read. I had studied the great works of English and American literature as an undergraduate and graduate English major.

I practice the art of fiction reading and writing as a way of seeing beyond myself, into the meaning of my life, the way one might practice meditation to gain awareness. I had written at least five unpublished novels.

What’s more, I was sick and tired of hoping I’d write the perfect query letter to the understanding publisher. I was sick and tired of mailing out novel manuscripts with the accompanying SASE (for Self-Addressed Stamped Envelope).

No, I was finished with all that. No more did I want to spend my time frightened of the big, brown, stuffed envelope with my returned manuscript that sooner or later would appear in my mailbox.

No more did I want to spend my time praying for the agent who would recognize my work and take me on despite the overwhelming odds. The truth is I HAD that agent decades ago, a famous agent from New York City.

All that long ago, water under the bridge, and I was not looking back.

But neither the couples to be married at the registrar’s office, my planets in Capricorn, my publishing hard knocks or my literary expertise would have kept me in that line I was standing in. No, I owed my courage to more.

A lot of it had to do with my children, especially my oldest son who complained loudly in no uncertain terms, “I don’t want to have an failed novelist as a mother!” I couldn’t let him down! I deserved to give Chris a better image of his mother than that.

Then there was an educational program I had begun a year before.  I did it to come to terms with myself as a writer. But an amazing thing happened. The terms I assigned to myself disappeared. Instead I was coached to strike out into uncharted (and up till then unacceptable to me) territory.

But was it really unknown–this new independent publishing world? From my years as a technical writer, I knew well the nuts and bolts of writing, editing and putting a book together. With each contract job, the documentation, user manuals, white papers, and procedures I was hired to write took shape and direction on my watch.

I would not wait any longer for someone else to take me by the hand. I would make it happen myself. Why not take a leap into a new land and birth a small press? Yes, I was ready to become a small press publisher.

And now, four years later, WriteWords Press is expanding!

Uncategorized

The Luckiest Mom in the World

It’s a family affair, these coming holidays. And I am thankful, very thankful. When I want to feel even more grateful, I count my blessings.

Blessing #1: You, my reader.
Blessing #2: Selling my novel, Sundagger.net as a bundle with my son’s CD, Waterfall, Original Piano Music

How many mothers have a chance to sell their novel with their son’s CD?  Maybe no one. Maybe I’m the first?

I’m not Random House. I’m not Alfred Knopf or Penguin Books. Not Houghton-Mifflin. I’m one woman, a mother, with one novel and one small publishing company, WriteWords Press. But hey, this holiday bundle is testimony to one mother and one son’s best work done with their hearts wide open.

This is special. I’m lucky. Beyond lucky, I’m fortunate. The music CD Chris created and produced is haunting and lyrical and I love listening to it–whether or not it was my son who had composed and performed the piano pieces. Still, yes, it’s even more sweet knowing I am his mother.

To hear sample of Chris’ music and see the world of Sundagger.net, watch this video, Stones of Chaco Canyon.

So here’s what you get in our exclusive (and rare!) holiday special:

  • Sundagger.net, by Margaret Murray, a novel of one family, two worlds, and many lifetimes.
  • Waterfall: Original Piano Music by musician artist, Chris Goslow  (wwww.chrisgoslow.com).

Only $24.95 (plus  tax) for both book and CD.
Extended Savings! 20% Off if purchased by January 8th..
Pay with Paypal (which also accepts your debit or credit card.)
Buy NOW.

May your holidays be full of blessings.

Uncategorized

Sonoma County Book Fair

BookFestival09

Meet me at the fair! Mention this email and purchase my book at 20% off list price.

Where: Sonoma County Book Fair
Old Courthouse Square
Santa Rosa, CA
When: September 25th, 10am – 4pm

I love to talk to people who talk about books. (This reminds me of the chorus in the Broadway musical, Music Man, “talkalittle talkalittle, talk talk talk talk talk”).

I haven’t met one person who wants to talk about books that I don’t somehow feel a connection to. That’s why I’m  manning (womanning?) a booth at the Sonoma County Book Fair.

Of course I’ll have copies of my novel, Sundagger.net, available for sale. But whether or not I sell a lot of books, I know I’ll be glad to be there. It’s like I’m at a testimonial to all the authors of all the books I’ve loved. I feel like I’m an important witness to the art of the written word. It’s exhilarating to be acknowledged by other writers and readers who like me, are somehow and often in love with self-expression through language.

What’s more, I’m asked great questions of the passersby. I get to talk about my experience writing and publishing. It’s energizing and exciting to reach out and connect with people who want to talk about books.I’ve had intriguing, deep conversations with the old, the young, the erudite, the simple-at-heart, even babies! Maybe a dog or two. It doesn’t matter what their age, race, or background is. Everyone tells a story and every story has a deep core of  sweetness; let’s call it truth.

So, I’m looking forward to the 25th of September. It will be a beautiful Indian Summer Saturday, deep in the heart of the wine country at  Old Courthouse Square in downtown Santa Rosa.

It’s a new beginning for me too, since I just moved to Sonoma County myself from the East Bay.

I’ll be introducing myself to all of you. Come talk to me.

General

Books by Dead Guys

Margaret Murray at California Authors boothGreetings from a ragged writer at the California State Fair Author’s Booth.

Across from me I see a banner announcing “Books by Dead Guys!”,

showcasing a series of Gold Rush history books, written in the 1800s

and compiled from primary source documents.

Perched in my chair like a chicken in her coop, I’m tired from a day of teaching,

yet jazzed by the “big fun” fair around me.

Right now I’m bemused by a life-size plastic cow across the room.

The cow is turning round and around on a platform of painted grass.

Above the revolving cow is a fish-shaped sign that says “Glenn”.

I ask the young writer of historical and fantasy novels to my right

if there is a county named “Glenn” in California?  He doesn’t know.

People are walking by; some stop and talk, check out books and buy them.

A congenial-looking man ambles by and looks at my Sundagger.net flyer.

“Is there a county in California called Glen?” I ask him.

“Yes,” he says “Glenn County is about 50 miles north of Sacramento.”

“Oh,” I say.

Here comes an older man driving in an electric scooter. He’s sporting a straw hat with a brown brim.

He stops to pick up a book describing the history of the Sacramento fair.The author comes over, eager to

make contact. The man looks up, flipping the pages of the book on his lap.

Now he is taking out his wallet.

My eyes go back to the circling cow. This seems to be a very popular cow since groups of families, couples,

and single fair-goers are congregating around it. I notice it is revolving counter-clockwise and wonder why.

I think about cows, having come from a family of dairy farmers in County Cork, Ireland. My grandfather,

Jeremiah McCarthy, left over a hundred years ago to follow his elder sister to America. The 2nd son of eleven children,

he wouldn’t inherit the farm and so became a steelworker in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

I believe there’s a family story he wanted to get away from the cows too.

The congenial man who told me about Glenn County picks up my novel.

“Would you like to have my postcard?” I ask. He takes the postcard with a picture of my book

on the front and a quote by famed mystery writer, Tony Hillerman. I watch the cow.

Round and round it goes. It’s white and brown, with brown ears and cheeks–do cows have cheeks?

I wonder if a real cow was a model for it.


“What kind of a cow is that?” I ask. A fellow writer to my left who grew up on a farm in Sacramento

says it’s a Guernsey cow.

The congenial man looking at my book takes out a twenty. He puts the money down on the counter,

saying he loves Tony Hillerman. He says he buys a book at the California Authors booth every year.

I give him change and autograph a copy for him, flattered and pleased.

A woman with a big green sticker on her T-shirt walks by with a friend. I comment on her sticker that reads,

“Change the World for $28. Save Our School Libraries”. Her name is Sally Eversole. It turns out that nearby

Elk Grove Unified School District just laid off their librarians and the library technicians, 73 in all.

The librarians were rehired, but not the technicians. Sally explains this means only school principals

–not the children themselves–will be able to check out books in elementary school libraries.

If every parent in the district pays $28, the library technicians will be able to work a four-hour day,

thus saving their jobs and their benefits. Most importantly the libraries will be open for our kids, explains Sally.

Want to support young readers and dedicated library employees? Go to the Elk Grove district website.

Yeah! for the California Authors Booth. Yeah! for book lovers everywhere.

It’s after 10pm. I’m walking to my car in Lot Z while fireworks light up the night. The moon is waning.

I pass the livestock pavilion, still lit up, and hear the cows lowing, their sound primitive and deep like a woman in childbirth.

Someone turns off all the lights. The cows stop mooing.

How peaceful everything is, so quiet. I imagine the plastic cow has stopped revolving too.

It’s great just to be here, right now. I’ll be back on Sunday, August 1st, the last day of the fair.

I’m glad.


Events, Journal

Once upon a time we were in Yosemite

My solstice writing workshop at Yosemite was sweet! We sat on huge granite boulders outside the Sierra Club’s Le Conte lodge, beneath the hot afternoon sun. I began by drumming, mimicking the sun. (Did you know the sun’s center acts like a huge pulsing drum? See the recent KQED special, Journey into the Sun.)

The participants and I conjured up images, words, phrases and paragraphs about the sun, the earth, and we humans who measure and make meaning from the solstice and the heavens itself. Our imaginations flowed like the Merced River across the road.

As the sun crossed the sky and the wind came up, we moved from the wooded, rocky hillside behind the lodge to the river’s edge and then back to where we began. I ended by drumming. We all had written something we wanted to tell.

Two high points for me were the creative writing skills of the participants and the opportunity of having my books for sale at the Ansel Adams Gallery in Yosemite Village. As I told one of their cheery employees, I am honored to have my novel in a gallery named for the great nature photographer and friend of John Muir. Plus the place is jumping!

GREAT NEWS! Now you can buy Sundagger.net to download to your computer, Kindle, iPhone or any other e-reader.
Buy my book for $4.95

Events

Solstice Writing in Yosemite Valley

Where we begin our journey
Where we begin our journey

At the beginning of summer, when the sun is at its highest point and the day is longest, I’ll be leading a Solstice Writing event in Yosemite Valley, California.

At the solstice writing event, you will have the opportunity to write a story or a poem, and we will all be there to listen.

We will leave from Le Conte Lodge, built by the Sierra Club in 1904 to honor Joseph Le Conte, Sierra Club founder and friend of John Muir.

We’ll hike to a spot where we can be comfortable and make a circle, calling in the four directions and the four elements, accompanied by drumming.

Our focus begins with the sun, source of all our power. We’ll listen to a story and together we’ll conjure up words used  to describe the sun. You’ll talk about your experiences and view images that ancient artists carved and painted. You’ll draw a sun, claiming it for yourself, and write words and phrases to describe it. You’ll share your work with other partipants.

Now we turn to the earth, for the sun shining alone in the universe is meaningless.There is no solstice without the receiver, the earth. I will read a poem or story featuring the earth.We’ll talk about how we see the earth. You’ll make your own image of the earth, write down words to describe it and share with others.

Now we’ll focus on the human characters who give the solstice meaning and significance, who measure the moment when the day is longest and record those differences through time. What is their story? We will explore together. You will use your notes to write a story in prose or poetry. You’ll focus on what matters to you, writing close to your heart.

As with the spiral, half-hidden on Fajada Butte and pictured on the cover of my novel, Sundagger.net, you too have secret access to the sun’s energy at the summer solstice. Taking on that power, you become like the prehistoric Anasazi man who carved the spiral, thus recording a precious moment in time.

In this workshop, you’ll harness meaning through self-expression.

Why not make plans to come on this journey with me?  It’s an opportunity to listen, write, and have your work be appreciated.

What: Solstice Writing Workshop
Where: Le Conte Lodge, Yosemite Valley, CA
When: Sunday, June 27th, 2010. 2-4 pm
Cost: Free

Sundagger.net, “a mystery in another dimension”–Tony Hillerman.

Events, Readings

Celebrate the Summer Sun! Bring Your Drum!

sun dagger by Michael Goslow

Summer Solstice Reading
June 14th, 2010, 7PM
Hercules Library
Hercules, CA  94547

You’re invited to a book reading I’m having of my novel, Sundagger.net, “a mystery in another dimension”, at the brand new Hercules Library. Please come! It will be held on a bright Monday evening, one week before the actual solstice on June 21st.

What is a summer solstice? It is the longest day of the year and occurs when the earth is tilted closest to the sun.

My novel begins and ends with a solstice ceremony. The title is based on an actual phenomenon that occurs at the solstices. In Chaco Canyon, New Mexico, the sun “pierces” a spiral petroglyph carved by the Anasazi at the top of a butte. The stone slabs through which the sun shines shape the light into dagger(s). One dagger shines down the center of the spiral at the summer solstice and two flank the rim at the winter solstice.

The reading will also include drumming and Native American ceremony. It will be held in a beautiful large white room in the Hercules Library with all the latest electronic equipment one might ever need. I’ll be showing slides of the amazing and colossal Chaco Canyon ruins.

As we approach the summer solstice, our energies will be high and our intention strong. Together we will manifest ourselves. Come celebrate. Bring your drum!

Sun Dagger Piercing Spiral Petroglyph, Chaco Canyon, NM
Sun Dagger Piercing Spiral Petroglyph, Chaco Canyon, NM
General

“Keep writing. Stay healthy.” —Tony Hillerman

The famed mystery writer of the Southwest wrote that advice to me the last year before his death at 83 in 2008. In a note to him, I  had been complaining, whining really, about my writing life. “Keep writing, stay heathy,” he wrote back. This is my mantra when I feel confused, at loose ends, or discouraged with my work.

I wonder if renown writer J. D. Salinger had taken this advice, he would have experienced life differently. When he died at 91 in 2010, Salinger was possibly the world’s most renown and most successful literary recluse. “Hermit Crab,” Time magazine dubbed him. Here was somebody who was up there with the Grammy winners in star power and prestige, yet seemed cursed with the dismal personality of old Scrooge.

Back in the ’60s when I read Catcher in the Rye, my teenage heart beat along with Holden Caulfield’s. I was the catcher, those sheep; I was the rye too. J.D. Salinger was my writing hero along with Dylan Thomas, Oscar Wilde and Dostoevsky (No females in that short list, alas, but that is another story.)

Unlike Tony Hillerman who wrote 29 mysteries set in Navajo country, Salinger wrote one novel, a phenomenal success that he disdained, and three small volumes of short stories–then nothing else for 45 years.

By all accounts, J.D. Salinger was a phenomenal writer who refused his success. Was he was sick with self-loathing of his own genius, his own work? He must have felt he had no choice. He must have done his best from inside the worm of his illness.

But he did take one piece of Tony Hillerman’s advice. His wives and daughters say he wrote all that time. What did he leave us? I am dying to read it. Maybe that’s all he wanted–fans dying to read him. Maybe that’s why he shunned his fame and adulation. To keep us hungry.

Life is strange, wouldn’t you agree? Keep writing, stay healthy.
Thank you, Tony Hillerman.

Events, Journal

Why didn’t I ask Sherman Alexie to endorse my book?

When I showed my friend, Josh, Sherman Alexie’s new novel, War Dances,and explained the nationally recognized Native American author had signed his latest book for me at the Northern California Independent Booksellers Association Trade Show, Josh wanted to know if I asked him to endorse my book, Sundagger.net. I was amazed to realize the question never entered my mind.

Not then, not in October, 2009. But the truth is three years ago when I was finishing my novel, Sherman Alexie was the first writer I thought of to review it. I admired his work and had read it all. He is a master craftsman of  language, excelling in hauntingly vulnerable, funny, appealing characters, a unique, authentic writer who takes chances. Three years I checked out his website, looking for a way to reach him but got discouraged. There was no point in contacting him I decided, indulging in self-pity. He would not be interested in a white woman writing magical stories of prehistoric mysterious indigenous tribes entangled with hi-tech netcom capitalists.

Yet here I was at the NCIBA holding my novel as I forced myself to walk over to the long table where Sherman Alexie was signing copies of War Dances. There was a lady in front of me who had been at his overflow reading in an Oakland church the night before and was telling him how much she loved it. Sherman was smiling up at her. I was enjoying her too, imagining how exciting that experience had been and how great it was to hear such positive feedback.

When it was my turn, Sherman Alexie had already opened up one of his brand new bright blue hard cover books to sign. But I was holding out my book, bent on presenting it. I blurted how Sundagger.net was a story of magic realism with a Native American theme, set in the Southwest of the ancient Anasazi and in post-9/11 Silicon Valley. I talked about my book cover, the electric digitalized shot of Fajada Butte in Chaco Canyon framed by two flying silhouettes. I talked about myself. I told him how much I admired his work.

He took up his pen.  “Good luck, Margaret, with your book,” he wrote. That was when I should have asked him to endorse it! But I was bemused with my own satisfaction. I’ll definitely ask Sherman Alexie for his endorsement to the prequel to Sundagger.net. I promise.

Events, Journal

The Author in her Author’s Booth at the California Expo State Fair

Look at the great poster too!
Look at the great poster too!

The Author in her Author’s Booth at the California Expo State Fair

Around Labor Day I appeared twice at California Expo State Fair Author’s Booth in Sacramento, CA. There were 38 of us writers scheduled to appear over the two-week period. I was thrilled because a year before I had been on the other side of the booth, listening to other writers talk about their books. And now I had the chance to be one of them.

The booth was in the center of the first floor of a building overflowing with enticing displays from all the California counties. It was an old barn of a warehouse in fact, without lighting, wireless access, enough electrical outlets or sound insulation. I sat with four other writers looking out long picnic tables where fairgoers devoured chocolate-covered berries, sticky cinnamon buns, thick pizza, sourdough chowder bowls and funnel cakes. Our job was to talk to people, sell our books, and read our work if we chose.

I learned from the other authors how to take charge no matter what the environment. The engaging journalist-historian and a children’s writer on either side of me wooed the crowd in different ways, using their passion for their books to fuel one-time intimate conversations. When not talking, the journalist took copious notes from an old book about Sacramento, his next history project. In a very soft voice, the children’s writer prompted passers-by to lean over the table to better hear her.

The experience of carrying on conversations with strangers about my book or any book was fascinating, if nebulous. The second time I appeared was a Thursday and a slow day for the fair. Some people stopped to look, some to talk. I met a man who worked for the National Park Service and was the planner for Chaco Canyon National Park during the 1980s. He actually got the rare chance to go to the top of Fajada Butte and see the sun dagger during the solstices. After our enthusiastic conversation about the primitive terrain into the canyon, he bought my book.

Unlike opening day when there had been no microphone, this time there was one and I was determined to read. I had signed up to appear at 3:15 PM, allotting a little over a quarter hour for my appearance. My young friend, Josh, was there to accompany me with his Native American singing and drumming. Still I felt challenged, knowing my audience was hit-or-miss, random folk milling about. Would I be able to attract their interest enough to stop and sit down on the folding chairs and be caught up in my story?

I did find an audience. There was one family of four, including children, who sat near the front. The father listened intently as I read about the Navajo and Hopi views of a vision quest. I remember a few single people sitting at the end. There was at least one couple toward the back. An intent young man near the center. Who else? My good friend, Rose, from Concord was there to support me. I felt so grateful.

I had practiced all the previous week, talking into my tape recorder, writing out an outline. But looking out at the people wandering by, only vaguely aware of me on the stage, I became distracted. Rushing past my own confusion, I started reading from Chapter 16, Vision Quest, where a group of people from a San Francisco Bay Area sweat lodge ends up in Chaco Canyon.

I held the microphone to my lips as Josh drummed four different times while the scenes changed and then finished by singing a Sundance song. His song was great. But there was so much noise in that cavernous building! So many distractions; for example, a rock climbing demonstration area was located right next to the stage.

Time flew by. From my proceeds, I wrote a check for California Sales Tax to Naida West, the Author’s Booth organizer and an outstanding novelist of California history with a Native American point of view. I won’t forget those people who talked with me, who listened to my story, and I to theirs. My spirits were high when I drove home.